Contract; Chapter Eight
Somewhere water was dripping.
Ami listened to it, half interested, wondering when exactly she'd fallen asleep, and why someone had left the water on. It would be just like Wren, she thought absently, reaching up to tuck a stray strand of hair from her face and yawned. The yawn cut itself off somewhere in the middle, though, and she was left with her mouth hanging limply open, because a second before she'd opened it she'd noticed there was still some hair in her face. Usually, this wouldn't have bothered her at all, her hair being short and always managing to fall into her eyes. This hair, though, was blonde. Usually, though, the hair in her face wasn't blonde. Ami stared at it for a while, mental processes still dull. Blinking, she began to process that information, noting as she did that she seemed to be thinking extraordinarily slowly this morning; fortunately, she was saved from wondering whether some one had decided to dye her hair in the night by a hand that was defiantly not hers reaching up to push it aside. Ami watched the hand with interest, noting long pale fingers and rather ragged finger nails, then its delicate curve as it secured the hair behind an ear. An ear, further, that was not her own, attached to a head that, logically, also did not belong to her. In the head were a pair of bright green eyes, watching her with a slightly nervous glint–cautious.
It was the caution that she saw there that brought her mind from the slow, sleepy realms of half-awareness to its usual sharp, cutting conscious. She immediately recognized Zoicite's face, and his golden hair tickling her face. She saw that he was afraid of her reaction, and almost as quickly knew why.
She was sitting in his lap, one of his long, thin arms wrapped across her hips, the texture of his jeans pleasant beneath her fingertips. It was as if she had suddenly realized she was sitting in a fire. She yanked herself away from him, standing and spinning at once, so that in a moment she looked down on the man, who stared up at her, his face seeped in a curious regret.
"Ami" he murmured, and his voice was like icy water running down her back–she shuddered, then tightly closed her eyes. Her first instinct, burning anger directed at everything around them, ebbed away and she was left with nothing but cool reason, lightly lapping at her feet. She sighed.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have jumped like that. Did I wake you?"
He blinked, confused, then shook his head. "No," he said, voice scratchy, "no, I was already up."
"Well" she sank to the floor across from him, pulling her knees to her chest and leaning her head against the dishwasher, "it doesn't seem to me that you're brilliant idea worked so well."
He smiled ruefully, still nervous, but more relaxed. She noted his bloodshot eyes and inwardly made a note to go buy some tomato juice, a liquid she knew would be necessary from experience curing Rei's and Minako's hangovers. "No, I guess it didn't." He peered at her, and Ami self-consciously ran a hand through her mussed hair. "How bad's your hangover?"
She pulled her back very straight and felt an affronted expression come to her face. "I" she said, voice austere, "never drink enough that I get a hangover." He winced at the volume of her protest. She smiled very slightly, quirking one eyebrow, the tight, insulted tension running out of her body. "Yours looks pretty bad, though."
Zoicite sighed and leaned his head back, pulling her gaze to the exposed veins in his neck. "Guess I can't hide anything from the would-be doctor, huh? Probably chapter one of the pre med. text book, Methods for the Recognition and Treatment of Hangovers."
She tilted her head softly, still staring at his neck. "How do you know I want to be a doctor?"
He looked at her suddenly–Ami, blushing at being caught staring, looked away. "You told me, remember?"
She blinked, and gave up her determined quest to not look at him again. "Did I?"
He smiled, a little smugly. "Looks like someone can't stand their alcohol."
Ami felt herself turn a pale red as she frantically searched her memory for any hint as to the events of the night before. She knew, logically, that her first instinct–the one that had made her jump startled from his lap–had to be incorrect because of circumstantial evidence. But, other than that reasonable conclusion, she had no way to gauge what they had done last night, what had been said, and, if he remembered, what he knew about her. It put her at a disadvantage, which made her edgy.
Then a very evil smirk came across her face, and she looked at him.
"Well, at least I wasn't dancing on the counters signing 'Bad to the Bone' at the top of my lungs."
He blanched. "No I didn't!"
She looked at her companion-turned-victim with a perfectly straight face, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief. If he wasn't sure, then he didn't remember everything of the night before. They were even. "Yes, you did. That was a stunning air guitar performance, by the way."
She stood up, ran a hand through her hair, and made her way out of the kitchen, wrinkling her nose at the empty bottles of alcohol strewn everywhere, some dripping dispiritedly into augmenting puddles on the floor.
Behind her, she heard Zoicite get to his feet. "Where are you going?"
"First" she said, stepping carefully around a puddle of Budweiser, "I'm going to find my shoes."
He came up beside her, she felt his arm brush hers for half a moment, before it's natural swing and momentum carried it away. "We look like a right pair of alcoholics, you know."
She was about to respond when she saw one shoe lurking behind a bottle labeled vodka. Hurrying over, she slid her foot in, making a face when she found the toe to be slightly damp. Gingerly, then, she picked up the bottle, and, holding it as far from her body as possible, carried it over to him.
"That's why I'm delegating to you the pleasant privilege of cleaning up."
He sighed. "Should've known."
"If you don't want to clean up a messy kitchen, then don't serve alcohol," she said sweetly, as he made his way over to the sink.
"Where are you going?" he asked, choosing to ignore that last comment.
"The store. We need tomato juice and aspirin, some decent food wouldn't hurt either." Finding her other shoe, she made her way to the door.
At the threshold, she turned back to him, as he scooped some bottles off the floor. "By the way, it wasn't Methods for the Recognition and Treatment of Hangovers, it was Methods for the Recognition and Treatment of Alcohol-related Syndromes."
Smiling cheekily to herself, she slipped over the threshold, not waiting to hear his response.
Wren came alive, awareness dimmed by the contented, fuzzy feeling that had spread throughout her body, after the first good sleep she'd had in weeks. She smiled at the warmth on her bare arm and the yellow of glow of sunshine against her closed eyelids, and raised one hand to her face, brushing a static mess of hair away behind her head. Her fingertips were cold and shocking against her cheek, she blinked, and squinted at the brightness of the day. She swallowed, throat dry, and sat up, head emerging from the pool of sunshine into stinging shade. Shivering at the sudden cold, she slipped her legs off the bed, found her slippers, pulled on a bathrobe and stuck a chopstick through her hair. Prepared thus for the day, she left her tepid refuge behind.
Her guest, as she identified him mentally, was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper with interest. He did not notice her as she entered, and she was allowed to observe him, reflecting on the events of the day before. They had spent it in isolation, never once leaving the house, and seldom leaving each other's company. That would not bothered her, per say, she found him a pleasant companion enough, except that he had hardly spoken two words together to her in that space of time–her throat had begun to get sore near noon because she had been in constant monologue all day. She had told him about every aspect of her life, and he had listened with an interested expression, and made comments when it could not be avoided–which was rare. She could not recall the exact sound of his voice he had spoken so little, in fact, her only memory of him was his smile, when she had amused him. Frowning, Wren moved towards the table, determined for things today to be different.
He heard her approach and looked up. He smiled and gestured toward the chair opposite his. "Good morning."
She smiled, though not as widely as she would have had she not been preoccupied, "Morning."
His eyebrows came together as she sat down, obviously noticing the aberrations in her behavior. "Sleep well?" She glanced up at him, and he grinned. "I need to know. Doctor's privilege."
She smiled more genuinely, and grabbed a piece of toast off his plate. Cramming half of it into her mouth at once, she managed to say, "Fabulous."
"Well, at least we know you're eating well enough." He said, sarcastic, and took a sip of coffee.
She smiled archly, and took another bite of toast.
"Go on, then. Take that piece. I didn't want it anyway."
She smirked around the food, with considerable difficulty, and reached for his other piece of toast. While the bread was in transit, and her mouth was empty, she asked, "How about you, Mamoru, did you sleep well?"
His face was quickly barren as the desert. "Well enough. Did you dream?"
The toast she was holding stopped scant inches from her mouth, and she smiled. "Uh-uh. Not today, buddy." She smirked at the rather shocked expression that crossed his face as she started to speak, it was one she'd seen before often, when dealing with old, male politicians that thought she was a figurehead, successful by of her friends. They were always surprised, to say the least, when she pulled out what Makoto liked to call 'the big guns'. "Yesterday, all we talked about was me, me, me. I feel that I, as your house-mate and future friend, have a right to know something about you. So. Spill the beans, Mamoru, you have in me a willing audience."
His shocked look faded into one of rueful chagrin. "Caught red handed, I'm afraid." He glanced at her, obviously hoping for a reprieve, but Wren maintained a perfectly stoic facade. "Fine. You want to know about me, huh?"
He rubbed his jaw, expression contemplative and introverted, and she realized concretely what had been an abstract imagining until then. This man was an intensely private, introspective person, one who had probably never had relationships as she was used to them. He was very much different from her, more so than she had thought.
"Not much to tell, really. I was born in Chicago and grew up there. When I was old enough, I left and went to Cambridge. I met some friends, got into Med School, life was going along smoothly, until I got a letter with a ticket in it, and next thing I knew, I was here." He watched her very carefully as he spoke–she noted his gaze, and the slight presence there, the need for validation. It was masked very well, behind years of imposed masculine supremacy and assumed, authoritative strength.
His last syllable hung in the air for several moments, and he still looked at her, and she back at him. He knew, she could see in his eyes, that his answer had been far from satisfactory, but she did not quite feel like bringing it up. She was content–surprisingly content–to sit and watch him from across the table, as if this was routine. She was peaceful here, without feelings of happiness or sadness or a need for those sensations. The world had relinquished her, until she was only Wren, sitting across the table from this man.
The oneness with herself, the separation from all the stresses constantly weighing on her person, was pleasant, a suppressed headiness that fizzed beneath the surface of her mind. She smiled.
When he spoke again, he did not look at her, but beyond her, at the view from the window behind her back. "I was born in Chicago. We lived in the city, in a little apartment, that my father had bought because it was close to his practice. He was a lawyer–he met my mother at law school, where she had been studying to become an attorney. When they got married, though, and had me, she gave up on her career and became a stay at home mother, she was with me every day of her life since I was born." His brow wrinkled then, a slight sorrow that was gone before it touched his eyes, and Wren did not notice.
"I have very few memories of my early childhood. My mother smelled always of cherries; she made the whole house smell like an orchard, because we so rarely opened windows or went out. My father, when he came home, brought this exotic, other worldly scent with him, just from spending the day in a court room. I never played outside, but we made up for that. We would play board games, hide and seek, even tag every now and then, and they were never too busy for me. Looking back, I guess I had a hallmark childhood."
He focused on her, very suddenly, and Wren was suddenly embarrassed by his gaze. She tucked her hair behind her ear and studied the table.
"They got divorced when I was seven. No prelude at all, I just came home one day and my mother was gone. A year later, I went back to live with her, because my father was drafted for the war. My mother, at the same time, came down with skin cancer. They both died within a year of my eight birthday."
Wren looked up at him in shock, and saw defiance in his eyes. She felt sick and washed out, the grief that had been his stung her like a slap.
The kitchen was very quiet.
He had been gone that morning.
She still couldn't believe it, even now, half the day later, she was still shocked. The moments of the morning still ran through the static of her mind, over and over, like film on a broken reel, skipping and jumping and confused.
She had woken up, though even that was a blurry beginning, for her dreams had been both tortured and vague–the only impression she retained was one of woven spider silk being laid across her face and twined about her neck, the grainy smooth sensation of it barely pressing against her skin. She had dressed in a half-aware stupor, splashed water on her face, brushed her teeth and come out the door, to find a silent living room.
It had taken her a moment to realize he was not there. She chewed her lower lip in puzzlement. There was no reason he would not have been home, she could think of nothing, and the cool touch of panic was seizing at her throat. Her breath quickened, it grew raspy, she heard it every time she inhaled, ragged and frightened.
She had calmed herself, told herself not to worry, pressed cold hands against her neck. He probably wasn't up yet, she had only to look for him, he would be there. She had searched, quickly, her hands fumbling against door knobs in the early light. She had called his name–"Kunzite, Kunzite!"–and the echoes through the empty rooms had made her stop, her fear quite tangible then.
He had not appeared. He was gone. There had been no trace of him, except the depression in his bed, which had long before lost its warmth. Minako, shocked, had returned to her bedroom, sat on her bed, and stared at the wall for several long moments. She was not given to panic–and could think of at least ten explanations for why he was gone offhand–but being suddenly alone, her last tie to humanity severed without apparent cause, was frightening. The isolation she felt, being alone in this apartment, had been bad enough when he was there, and now that she was gone, it saturated her, choked her, pressed at her until she thought she would die.
The events of the day before passed before her in a tangled mass–she recalled the want that had pulled her into thick depression–she had spent all day lost in a cloud of twisted desire. He had not noticed–at least, she thought he had not noticed. The choking sensation suddenly intensified as she thought that she might have pushed him to leave.
Outside her room, a door clicked open.
Minako stood, upsetting her balance in her sudden rise, she fell onto her bed, and the springs screeched in protest. She gasped at the fall, lay stunned on the mattress, heard footsteps approaching the room.
Kunzite entered, wearing a neatly tailored suit and blue shirt–his long silver hair had been drawn behind him in a ponytail. She stared up at him from her position on the bed–her own hair spread around her, the silk nightgown she still hadn't changed out of gentle on her skin. He looked down at her, and she could not read his gaze.
He crossed the room, came to the side of her bed and sat down on it, the shift in pressure made the springs squeak and her legs fall against his. Minako's breath rushed out of her at the contact–the first time she'd ever touched him. His pants leg was smooth and rough at the same time, it danced against her skin in counterpoint to the silk. He turned to look at her, and perhaps she saw something of her own expression in his eyes, because the next thing she knew he was over her and his chest bore down into hers. His weight, on her, made her dizzy; pressing against her stomach and chest and one of his large hands exactly on her waist, it clenched about her slim form, she felt the ridges of his fingers through the thin gloss of her gown.
His mouth was near her ear–she felt his breath against her neck several times before he spoke.
"I want you to come to dinner with me tomorrow night."
They were so close Minako knew he had heard her strangled gasp. He lingered against her for several moments more, almost wistfully, before withdrawing. When he did move, it was sudden and brusque and he was at the door before she realized what was happening.
When she saw that he was about to leave her, she called out. "Where have you been all day?"
He didn't look at her as he responded, instead staring straight ahead, and, though she did not think to look at his hands, they were clenched with the effort of self control. His voice, though, was perfectly level and normal. "At work. Where else?"
The door before him loomed.
Jadeite stared at it reproachfully. He'd never seen a door loom before, and in his present state of intoxication, the effect was heightened and dizzying. He sighed. "Well, if I'm going to get my head bit off, it might as well be while I'm drunk, that way, it won't hurt as much."
He found the handle with little difficulty, and fumbled the key into the lock. The bartender's advice rang in his head–'Just say you're really sorry for what happened this morning, sit her down and have a talk, and for god's sake, please try to be understanding.' He groaned and leaned against the cool wood door. "Understanding my ass" he muttered dully, before pulling the key out and falling into the room.
Cool night air hit him like a slap to the face, he drew back, startled, then paused as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
She had opened the balcony door, and was leaning within the frame, her long, pale legs pulled to her chest in a way that reminded him of a small girl. She was wearing only her under things, which were pale, glossy purple, and glowed faintly in the shifting light. Her hair hung around her face and down her back, silky and shining, pulling the whiteness of her skin into clear relief. Her eyes were wide and she stared at the stars, and the universe was mirrored in her gaze, and her expression was infinite and inscrutable.
Jadeite breathed–gasped, really–and it must have been louder than he thought, because she turned to him. Their eyes made contact, and he felt something of himself slip away, never to be recalled.
Then the moment, the sense of loss, was gone for both of them, and they spoke at once.
She sighed and smiled and looked down, an invitation for him to continue.
He took a deep breath, with her in front of him, whatever preparation he had had disappeared, and there was only a longing to make her look at him, because her downcast eyes seemed to scream of pain.
His hand was beneath her chin before he realized what he wanted to do, and his arms around her back and he pulled her toward him with none of the intent of the night before. "Rei." Her name from his lips was like cool fire, it burned and stung and he was instantly addicted to the sound. "Rei." She buried her face in his neck, and her skin was cold against his veins and the smell of her sang to his senses.
Her body shook beneath his hands. He reached across her back and clutched her shoulder, feeling the protrusion of her collarbone beneath his fingers. She was shaking and crying, her tears grainy and soft against his throat. "I promise" she murmured, the words torn from her throat, soft and tortured. "I promise to be–to be what I need to be now..."
"Rei, Rei" his voice sounded alien to his ears; comforting her, he kissed her ear, ran his hands through her hair. What had been innocent was quickly developing another dimension, he held her to his chest, knowing that if she looked at him, he would not be able to resist her. Her choked sobs continued, but she had moved closer to him–now every time her body shook, the movement came to him and he convulsed as well, and the delicious friction was like fire bathing his skin.
She began to pull away, and he let her, knowing that holding her to him any longer would be like keeping a hungry tiger pressed against him. She met his eyes, and he saw in hers what all day he'd thought to have vanished.
She wanted him, and wanted him to want her–needed him, though she would not say it to him, and he would never hear it from her lips. He saw something else, something more shielded in them, and it saddened him. She had been defeated in an inner battle, had lost resolve in the face of her desire, the greatest foe she would ever face. She had been torn from within, ripped herself apart, and her strength, her spirit, had left her. The woman that wanted him now was not the Rei he'd met in the airport, that person had receded for the moment into physical attraction.
He sighed and she kissed him, pushing her body against him in a way different from moments before, thrusting and aggressive.
"You're going to hate yourself for this, darling" he murmured, just before her lips met his.
She didn't say anything, instead pushed him toward the bed that would see so much use with this new Rei. He let her, though a guilty voice whispered that he shouldn't, because he knew she would be torn by her actions and the conflict might permanently break her. He needed her though, as passionately as she did him, and if this was the only way he could get her, he would have to let her, or he himself would not survive.
When did I give myself, he wondered, a question that would ache in his mind for long after this encounter, when did I give myself so completely to her?
There was nothing but a hot, pressing body to respond to him, lit by moonlight and more beautiful than the stars.
End Chapter Eight
Whew. That took forever. I've been working on this since before I posted the last one, which, I know, was milenia ago. Oh well. Here it is, and longer than most! I'm so happy this is over. Thanks for all the lovely reviews–you don't know how many times I was tempted to give up, and thought of you guys that give me such great feedback, and decided to keep going. You're such an inspiration!! I want to finish this mostly because of all of you.
That being said, I'm not sure how soon another chapter will come out. I'm working on it, of course, but not for a while. I want to do another piece on Hotaru, on something that came up in Sensation of Death. I'm not sure whether or not I'll give that precedence over this, but I might. Please don't get frustrated. Things are very busy for me right now. I'll write when I can.