by Mina Lightstar

Only members of the student council were permitted to wander around after hours. Miki was glad for that, because he wasn't quite ready to go home just yet.

His music sounded different.

Since leaving the dueling arena after his loss to Tenjou Utena, Miki had retreated to the music room, his typical sanctuary when not occupied with classes or student council business. He came to soothe his nerves after such an ordeal: Visions of Himemiya by his side, of Utena scattering the petals of his rose. After losing such an important battle, what else was he to do but flee to a familiar place, a familiar skill.

He couldn't concentrate.

Miki had lost in many ways. He had allowed Touga to seduce him, to lead him away to glimpse what was said to be the End of the World, to compel him to once again attempt to make the Rose Bride his own.

Deep down, he knew his desires. But to take them as he'd been told... Miki didn't... he couldn't....

A familiar voice, "Your tune," and a hand on his shoulder, "sounds... off tonight."

"Touga." The name fell from Miki's lips like a brick. His hands stilled; B-flat resounded through the room and faded into silence. Of course, Touga would be one of the few who would be able to recognize one of Miki's bad days. He wasn't bragging; it was simply the truth.

"You seem distracted." Touga was unruffled, uncaring. He was still mostly immersed in whatever little game he was playing with Kozue's "Long- legged Older Man." He didn't seem to care that Miki had lost -- had been successfully duped and then lost. "Isn't it a little late for you to be practicing?"

"I didn't get a chance to practice earlier." Miki hoped his tone conveyed his disinclination to speak with the council president. "I've been neglecting--"

"How is your sister?" Touga inquired. His hand moved to settle on Miki's other shoulder, going from the casual touch to something closer. "I heard that she was injured, rescuing a bird's nest from that doomed tree."

Miki tried not to stiffen when Touga's hand moved yet again, and his fingers stroked lazily up and down Miki's spine.

"Kozue is doing just fine," he bit out. Then he stood, breaking the contact, and gathered up his sheet music. "Though it's best I get back to her soon. She may be wondering where I am." He was halfway out of the room before he knew it.


Miki paused, winced at Touga's use of the nickname. When the other didn't continue, Miki took a chance and half-turned. "... Yes?"

Touga smiled at him, and Miki could not help but think that *everyone* Touga smiled at felt their stomach twist into a knot. It was just something about Touga: Naturally seductive, and accustomed to getting his way. "The End of the World... did you like what you saw?"

"What I... saw...?" Miki blinked, remembered: Akio, the open road, Himemiya, Kozue, the desire, and the roar of the engine.... "I..." he shook his head, his thoughts jumbled together. "Good night."

He expected Touga to argue, perhaps, but the other did nothing but chuckle. "Good night, Mickey."

He re-lived the duel as he exited the school building. He saw once again the sword Kozue drew from his body, heard once again the clang of his sword against Utena's, held his breath once again at the sight of Kozue descending upon Himemiya, felt his world shatter at the moment his rose petals scattered.

It wasn't that he thought Utena was bad for Himemiya. It was only that he... that he really....

The sight of a shadow in the distance made him stop, wondering briefly if it was another student. If so, he really should remind them that only the council were permitted to be out-of-doors during the night. Just as quickly he realized it was *not* a student.

Ohtori Akio. Kozue's Long-legged Older Man. No, not *Kozue's*, and yet....

He beckoned. Miki's heart skipped a beat.

The nights of the Ohtori Academy were dangerous. Around every corner, seduction lurked.

Another beckon. Another chance. Another opportunity. Another *something*. For himself, for Himemiya, for... for....

"You're spineless."

He was.

Miki fled.