Onsen

Shin smirked, his classmates had been shocked and dismayed when they discovered that Yankumi was in the same Onsen as them. Of course, he had organized this trip with that fact in mind. It was the perfect opportunity . . . to have some fun. And to see Yankumi in something other than a track suit. It was very difficult to have fantasies about someone when you had no idea what their body looked like. He'd even snuck into the nurse's office and looked at Yankumi's medical record, but it hadn't helped at all.

Of course, his fantasies generally revolved around Yankumi walking in on just him in the hot spring, not on her walking in on the entire class. Still, when her cheeks flushed from the steam and her glasses fogged, well, there was something appealing about her. He scowled and sunk lower in the bath as everyone else laughed at the flustered Yankumi.

Trips to the Onsen didn't just happen, it had taken a significant amount of footwork and logistics to get this thing together, but somehow he still hadn't figured out a way to accomplish his actual goal. Whatever that was.

He leaned back and eyed Yankumi's retreating figure. There were possibilities-that's what the onsen were supposed to be, after all, a nexus of possibilities. Hidden glimpses between leafy ferns or the slender blades of bamboo. The slip of a towel, a rescue from overheating, relaxed inhibitions and alcohol. If there was the slightest possibility of something happening, it would be at an onsen.

But then, with Yankumi, what could happen? Someone like her never needed to be rescued. She might pretend to be flighty, but underneath she was always in control. And if she decided to loosen her inhibitions, well, there was someone else who she had her eye on. Nothing would ever happen, not with him.

Of course, there were other alternatives.

Alternatives that he really shouldn't even consider.

Ridiculously easy alternatives.

Time honored alternatives.

Pathetic alternatives.


3 a.m.

He'd been wandering the halls, feeling restless. He was certainly not the only one up at this time of night. But everybody else had much more entertaining reasons for their insomnia.

He'd noticed that the slippers by her door were gone.

The idea that she would have insomnia too was appealing. Although it was too much to hope that it would be for the same reason.

Still, there was only one place that she would go at this time of night.

He padded quietly to the baths, staying in the shadows. There was something about this evening, an ephemeral quality, a feeling as if anything would happen.

The door hangings were still in the humid, summer air. Limp and lifeless as shrouds.

He entered the men's bath, slipping between the hangings without making a sound. He avoided the pools and walked into the deep shadows of the twisted pines towards the back of the baths.

What he was about to do was utterly despicable and utterly irresistible.

The pine needles whispered softly against his skin as he pulled himself up onto the lower branches.

The moon was bright, the stars were bright, but it was dark under the shade of the tree.

The men's bath had been deserted, but the women's bath was not.

In the solitary moonlight a lone figure sat cross-legged, leaning against one of the rocks.

It was her.

He froze. He'd known that she'd be here. But knowing was different from seeing.

Pale skin in the pale moonlight, long slender legs that disappeared into the water. A towel that showed more than it concealed. Long black hair hanging over one shoulder.

He sank down so that he was laying across one branch.

The loud chirping of crickets obscured any slight rustle that he might make.

The delicate arch of her throat as she lifted the sake cup to her lips. The glint of moisture, on her lips, on her skin.

Shin felt himself flush, he shouldn't have done this. It was cheating. It would disappoint her. Yet it didn't feel real, and there were no consequences in dreams.

Shin's eyes darkened. It was such a short distance. In the moonlight, in the darkness, in the night, couldn't anything happen?

Couldn't he walk softly to her side, crushing pine needles underfoot, rest an arm against the rock, lean down, and brush his lips against hers? Weave his fingers through her hair, gather her body up against his?

Wouldn't her skin feel like petals? Wouldn't her lips taste of sake and sweetness?

He opened his eyes and she was gone.

Kaguya-hime returned to heaven. While he was left on earth with his earthly desires.

Now the emptiness was melancholy, the fullness of the moon mocking, the chirping cicadas full of malice and longing.

He sighed and lay back on the branch. Closing his eyes, he replayed the scene. Picking out details. The red of a fallen magnolia blossom, scarlet petals against raven hair. He made a mantra of it, a thousand words for the image. The heat and the stillness made him drowsy, his eyelids drooped.

But a soft, whispering sound caught his attention and he looked more closely at the rock where she had been.

She was still there, she'd fallen asleep and slipped to the ground. Her hair had covered her. She was bathed in shadows and water.

It was dangerous, anybody could walk in on her. She could drown, overheat. Dangerous, certainly, to wake her. She would kill him. But he'd have touched her first. A brush of the shoulder, not even a caress. In the twilight in the darkness in the moonlight full of shadows and light, to touch the woman he loved for the first time.

He stepped down from the tree.

Pine needles and bamboo crushed underfoot. They smelled green, earthy, and wet, like his thoughts.

He crouched down beside her, hesitant now. It wasn't too late, no one would ever know. She would never know.

She would never know.

He was so tired, of her never knowing.

Somehow, the consequences didn't matter, it was too painful, these feelings. Like they'd burst and crawl out of him, exploding. Only they never did, the pressure simply built and built until it was all consuming.

He lowered a hand to her shoulder, his blood sang, his breath quickened. Now he felt like a pervert. But her skin was soft and her hair silken, tendrils grabbing at his fingers in invitation.

"Hey, wake up," the whispered words didn't rise above the murmur of the water.

He brushed a hand across her jaw, looking at the fan of her eyelashes against her cheek and the curve of her lips.

"Wake up, please wake up," the words were just as quiet, but now his lips were against her ear, so close that he was kissing her hair, so close that he could smell her, so close, so close, so close.

She stirred. She shuddered. She moaned and thrashed in her sleep, capturing him and dragging him down with her. He was half in the water, his yukata was plastered to his skin, her towel was only a memory.

Shin turned white. Tonight had not been an evening of restraint. Somehow, Yankumi was naked in his arms. Somehow she was slender, lithe, soft, firm, everything. She was everything. His skin was red now, as red as his hair probably. She'd definitely kill him, but oh god he'd die happy.

Her hair had created a curtain around them, not that he needed the screen. As it was, Yankumi was the only thing that he could see, the only one he could hear, the only thing he could feel. His fists were clenched at his sides. Otherwise, he'd do something that would definitely wake her up.

Her eyes were open, when had that happened? He couldn't bring up the terror he knew that he should feel. A very different emotion was reflected in his eyes as he looked at hers, still dark with sleep and other things.

"I thought you were a Tennyo," the words escaped him, "and I thought I would steal your shawl and hold you forever." His hands were winding through her hair, pulling her closer.

"Are you a dream?" her voice was soft and sleepy, "or a mirage of the heat and moonlight?" her hand came up to touch his face.

He swallowed. It was reaching the point where she might not forgive him. "If I can only be a dream, then I am a dream." he whispered, his lips approaching hers.

"If it's only a dream" her voice was breathy now, he could feel it against his skin.

"You'll wake up in the morning, but just for tonight, what's the harm in dreaming?" it was there in his voice, the hunger, the longing. Things that he'd always been so careful not to feel.

"Onsen were made for dreams." Her arms slid around his neck.

He crushed her to him, burying his hands in her hair. His mouth against hers then pressing kisses against her jaw, her cheek, as if he could devour her.

He bit her finger, tasting the tip with his tongue. "And now you'll dream forever," he murmured as blood and salt and sake mingled on his tongue.

Shin woke with a start, the bright light of the sun bathed the room in painful light and the incessant whine of crickets almost drowned out the whir of the fan.

He'd been dreaming.


A/N: At which point Shin was dreaming (or if he was even dreaming at all) is up to the reader's interpretation. I wanted to write this after watching the drama special, but that Shin just didn't strike me as being quite so bold as the manga Shin, hence the dream bit. I also wrote this as kind of a nostalgia piece for ryokan and onsen, the atmosphere in those places is like nothing else. I apologize if I used any Japanese words that people are unfamiliar with, but for some words there just isn't an appropriate English equivalent.

I also wanted to thank everyone who took the time to review my other Gokusen fanfic. While I don't write for reviews, it really does make my day to get them.