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A Tense Effort

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"Soi? Can I come in?" Her hands shook and she willed them to be steady; the tray held a steaming bowl and mug and it wouldn't do for them to spill. Not when she'd done her best to ensure the soup would be edible. Being a latchkey kid meant cooking her own meals, but the iron kettle over the fire was a far cry from a stove and a microwave.

"Lady Yui?" The voice sounded surprised, almost wary. "I thought Suboshi told you-"

"That Nakago said you weren't feeling well," Yui finished. "I know...so I thought I'd bring you some soup."

The tent's flap opened, and Soi quietly let her in. Yui set the tray down beside her bedroll, sitting at the far end of the tent.

"I hope it tastes okay." Soi really did look under the weather, she seemed tired and pale and it didn't look like the wounds from that last battle had healed yet. Soi quietly picked up the spoon and began to eat.

"It's fine," she said, almost flatly. "I didn't know you cooked."

"I'm not the best, but I'm used to doing it in my own world."

"Right." Soi paused, the spoon halfway to her mouth. "You've never told us much about your world, Lady Yui. Not that I'm curious, of course, but..."

"I just never thought of it, I guess." Unlike what she'd seen of Miaka, who'd won over all seven of her Celestial Warriors, Yui never spoke much to anyone besides Nakago and occasionally Suboshi. That usually suited her just fine, all she wanted was to summon Seiryuu and make her wishes so she could go back home.

But sometimes, she felt a little guilty. She'd seen the way Nakago treated Ashitare, and while his diet nauseated her she felt sorry for him. Tomo kept to himself, and once or twice she'd caught herself questioning whether it was his choice. Amiboshi...sometimes she regretted that she'd never gotten to meet the brother Suboshi loved so much.

And then there was Soi. The two of them had nothing in common aside from their gender. Soi regarded her with a distant respect, or the occasional suspicious glance if Nakago was nearby. Suboshi's spoken of Nakago spending his nights with her, and she behaves more softly towards him than the others...hmm, I wonder.

Did she love him? Did Nakago love her? If he does, I suppose I can't blame him...she's strong, and...beautiful.

Her heart leapt a bit. Beautiful. Nakago had once told her she was beautiful, and she'd been desperate to believe him, wanting to feel important and desirable after Tamahome went back to Miaka.

But it was a line, it had to be when Soi was right there and...well, absolutely stunning.

"Lady Yui?"

"Ah!" Yui's train of thought came to a screeching halt, and her face went hot. Soi was staring at her, and...smiling? Not quite, but it was a different expression from the usual cold suspicion. "What is it? Do you need anything else?"

"I'd like to know more about your world," Soi said, drinking the last of her broth. "If you don't mind, that is. Nakago has said you're not much for talking about the past after all you've been through."

"I don't mind. I mean...I can tell you about my family, and my studies," she said. Not about Miaka, not about the promise they'd made to each other that meant nothing. "Can I..."

"Sit down, please." Soi patted the bedroll, and Yui eagerly joined her.

"Well, I'm an only child," she began, and went on to talk about her parents, their jobs, the so-called glamour of being a latchkey kid. Soi listened eagerly, and when Yui unconsciously leaned against her, she didn't move. In fact, she felt Soi's hand reach for hers, and her heart skipped a bit.

It was the first time in months she'd felt like she mattered, that someone was interested in her beyond her role as Priestess of Seiryuu or falling over themselves trying to please her.

Like having a friend again. A strong, beautiful friend.

Soi fell asleep just as Yui ran out of stories to tell, and Yui found herself drifting off soon after. Against Soi's shoulder. Feeling the closest to content she'd felt in a long time.