Episode Seven – Sleepover Part 1 : Morning

March 2004, Tama New Town

Shizuku opened her eyes and let the lovely warm cosy feeling come over her.

Belonging.

She belonged here. She and Seiji had lived in Cremona now for – hm, what? – four and a half years? Yet she felt that this was home. It was funny that despite living in Italy, speaking the language, eating the food and working there, it had taken only a few days – a week at most for her to know, completely and absolutely and deep within her heart, know her home was here. Right here in this place where she and Seiji had met in early September – that last year in middle school. Wow, ten years ago.

Ten years.

When they'd been fourteen.

Gosh. Children. They'd been no more than children. And yet, somehow, through it all, they'd stayed together. All through high school, got married, emigrated to Italy, he'd started working in the violin workshop, she'd got a great job as an interpreter and now here they were back again for a few weeks visiting their families.

Right here.

Home was right here.

In fact… right under this bed in the small back room of the house, two floors down pretty much exactly below her right now was where he'd had his workbench and where she'd seen him that evening she'd come here upset because of that lovely but dopey Sugimura confessing to her at the shrine. She'd come here, talked to that big fat stroppy cat, met Seiji and he'd shown her the doll and his violins and then… well, that was pretty much it. Thinking back, and being honest with herself, she knew that she'd fallen in love with him that very first evening.

Which is why, here in the Earth Shop (although it hadn't been a shop for nine years now) Shizuku felt she was truly home.

-o-oOo-o-

Yumiko, Seiji's mother, had invited them back to visit for a month. The Earth Shop was between tenants so they had stayed in it. They'd celebrated Seiji's 24th birthday two weeks ago along with his parents, Shizuku's parents and Yuuko and Sugimura with that amazing meal at the Shinjuku Keio Plaza Hotel. How much it must have cost Seiji's father she daren't think. A lot, anyway.

But heck, it wasn't often they all met up. And Seiji deserved it. He'd got himself the best wife in the world after all hadn't he? That had been a struggle. After all that arguing with his dad and that long traumatic talk with Shizuku's father. So he deserved it. Cut the guy some slack.

After that the two of them had spent a week on holiday with Yuuko and Sugi over near Niigata walking in the hills and discovering again how totally useless Yuuko was at holding her alcohol. Oh, yeah, that had been fun. A bit mad some nights but fun all the same. It was good too. Sugi was finally chilling out a little and becoming more relaxed around Yuuko. He'd seemed so nervous and hung up when they'd left for Italy five years ago. A bit of a prude even.

Shizuku lifted her arms and laced her fingers together behind her head, stretched and smiled. Yes, that crazy evening they'd slept at her house when her parents had been out and Yuuko'd got falling down drunk and taken her pyjamas off and poor old Sugi, red as a beetroot, had been forced to propose to her just to calm her down and get her back into her clothes.

And then last night. Ooh, wow, last night…

Shizuku chuckled. The person next to her mumbled in his sleep and turned over. His arm flopped across her stomach. It rested there a moment, the hand stroking the bare skin in small unconscious circles. Her monthly tummy rubs Shizuku thought of them. What a sweetie he was taking care of her when she got all grumpy and cross with him five days in every twenty eight. Shizuku began to count silently in her head.

One, two, three, four…

She thought it wouldn't take ten seconds, it hardly ever did. His record was four but he wasn't on form this morning.

Drank too much last night, that's why.

She got to six and the hand moved. She smiled again, here we go. At first the hand merely described slightly bigger circles but then it began to slide upwards, still circling. It traveled over the dome of her tummy and off the softest part of her and onto her lower ribs. Still lazily circling as though lost the hand swept around once more and the fingertips rose over the lowest curve of her chest and passed. They came around again, higher, this time sweeping over half her shape before sliding away again.

Next one, she thought, I guarantee it, next one.

The sweeping hand came around again. It swept onto the woman curve of her and stopped. For a second or two the hand was still, it merely held her gently. Then, as though following a script, the fingers moved, tested the tip of her and finding her soft gave her the lightest of squeezes, the lightest of rubs.

Her body reacted. As it always did.

Bingo! Mr. Predictable was back. Wanting some early morning fun.

"I know you're awake."
"Hmmm…?"
"Don't pretend to me, I know it's not an accident."
"Wha?"
"Look, we've been married five years, you can stop being shy you know."

He opened one eye. She shut one. Single eye to single eye they shared a brief Cyclops-style staring contest. He opened his second eye and so did she.

" 'Morning," she greeted him.
" 'Morning. Wha's happenin'?" furry with sleep he was like a big cuddly toy.
"I think I should be asking you that."

She pushed the duvet down to her waist, uncovering them both and looked down at his hand where it caressed her chest. The point of her was stiff enough now that his fingers were rolling it gently to and fro.

"Hm?"
"Did you want something?"
"Hm."
"Well ask nicely, don't just grope me like a dirty old man."
"Cuddles."
"Was that a noun, an adjective or a request?"
"Request…"

She turned on her side to face him. His hand slipped off her.

"What sort of cuddles are involved in this so eloquently articulated proposition?"
"Pardon?"
"Do you want nice cuddles or naughty cuddles?"
"Hrm…n…"
"Don't be shy, little boy, we're all grown up adults here. You can say the word, no-one will be offended."
"Naughty cuddles…"

She looked at him, his face tucked down against her neck, his mop of long black hair down to below his shoulder. She ran one hand through it, letting her fingers comb it's buoyant wiry mass.

"I see. And do you think you deserve naughty cuddles this morning? After what happened last night?"

His head pulled away from the fragrant hollow of her neck, eyes snapped wide open.

"Last night?"
"Was it that bad? You don't remember?"
"Uh…"
"You do remember."
"Hm, yeah… think so."

In her minds eye, if he'd been standing up he'd have his hand up on the back of his scalp now, running his fingers through his hair, thinking.

"You think so? Well I don't think so. I know so."
"Hm. Did I really kiss her?"
"Yes, you did. Really, really. Not just a quickie either. The tongue factor was way up beyond reasonable."
"Ah. Sorry."
"And I thought it was Yuuko who couldn't hold her booze. I'd never thought I'd see the day when sensible Seiji Amasawa got drunk and started snogging his wife's best friend!"
"You should've stopped me!"
"It happened so fast!"
"Sure it happened fast but after the first minute you should have said something!"
"So you do remember!"
"Yes, alright. I admit it. I said sorry."
"Seiji you were drunk. You should have known better. You know what Yuuko is like after the first bottle. She's totally… well, she's not a person to take advantage of. And take your hand off my bottom!"

His hand, lacking a breast to squeeze, had returned to her flank and slid down, over the curve of her hip and round and behind and under. At which point, feeling his fingers beginning to explore, Shizuku smacked the hand away, turned and sat on the edge of the bed.

"So why didn't you stop me?" he made the obvious comeback.
"Well…"
"Well, what?"
"I was…"
"You were what? What were you doing?"

Seiji tried to recall the details. The four of them had gone out to a bar, had a few drinks, got into a good mood, laughing and happy. Then – hm, yes, that was right – then Shizuku had said she was hungry so they'd gone for a meal, nothing fancy just an outside bench table and ramen but then Yuuko had ordered sake to go with it. Then more sake and then Shizuku had ordered some and then… well, then it had just got silly.

You know Yuuko was the worst but when Shizuku got together with her she was almost as bad. They'd left the noodle bar more or less vertical and tried to get down the road to the taxi rank but half way down the two girls were arm in arm laughing like idiots and staggering about so much they turned around and started lurching back the way they'd come.

So Seiji had looked at Sugimura (who was almost completely sober) and Sugimura had looked at Seiji and they'd sighed and shrugged and agreed silently that enough was enough. The two men had moved in to untangle the four-legged, four-armed, twin-headed pissed-as-a-lord monster that used to be Seiji's wife and Sugi's fiancée when things suddenly happened.

They just did.

They happened.

No-one intended it, no-one planned it.

It's the way these things just… happen.

The four-legged, four-armed, twin-headed pissed-as-a-lord monster suddenly became an eight-legged, eight-armed, four-headed half-pissed-half-annoyed "stop this childish crap right now!" monster, and Yuuko had swung at Sugi and caught him a really good slap. Very impressive. Sugi had gone flying backwards off in the direction of Okinawa and Seiji had moved in to both protect him from further violence and to calm Yuuko down.

Yuuko, for reasons known only to her tiny sake-and-Chablis-befuddled mind, had suddenly realised what she'd done and decided that a good kiss and make up was what Sugimura needed. Only by then he was passing somewhere over Kyoto and still accelerating and Seiji was (by pure chance, honest) occupying the piece of real estate that Yuuko assumed her fiancée was.

Which is why, in a nutshell, when a middle aged couple came past a moment later to see Sugimura sitting up on a pile of garbage bags rubbing his cheek and thinking he might need to check his dental records, Shizuku standing on the other side of the alleyway holding onto a power pole like it was the mast of a sinking ship, and the girl with long red hair in the blue dress hanging onto the boy in the Italian linen suit and kissing him deeply and passionately and apologizing to the boy she loved and wanted to marry, the lady had said something about how sweet it was to still see traditional lovers these days.

Yes, Seiji recalled, running his fingertips over his lips, that was about the size of it. That's what had happened.

"Well?" he asked his wife's bare back, "Why didn't you stop us?"
"Because…"
"Hm…?"
"Because I was watching."

-o-oOo-o-

"Oh."

Seiji was trying to work out what that meant. Was it good news or bad? Shizuku looked at him over her shoulder.

"What do you mean? What sort of watching?" he asked.

She went pink.

"I'm glad I married you."
"You're changing the subject."
"No I'm not. I was going to say I'm glad I married you because now I know how gorgeous you look when you kiss."

Seiji wasn't sure how to react to that.

"I'll buy us some mirrors then."
"You know I wasn't going to let you have naughty cuddles this morning," she said, speaking again to the floor between her bare feet, "because you should have stopped you know, shouldn't you? Once she found out she wasn't kissing the boy she thought."
"Uh, yeah, you're right. But it was just a crazy moment. Ah, sorry."
"No it's okay. I forgive you. Because..."

Shizuku turned around and gave Seiji such a strange look that he almost got up and kissed her on the spot. She looked guilty and (unknown for her) mildly embarrassed, but at the same time she wore that delicious hot teasing look as well, that look that once he saw it he just knew that any plans for anything sensible he might have had may as well be scrapped until she'd got her fill of whatever heat it was that was eating sweetly away at her centre. Yup, it was that look.

"You did look good. You and Yuuko. Together. It made me feel…"
"Uh…"
"That way."
"Aah… right…"
"I was going to demand breakfast in bed from you. Because of… you know… kissing her. But then I thought, well actually it was an accident. At first. And then the two of you did look like you were enjoying it. And I enjoyed watching you… Um."
"What are you saying?"
"Tonight." She became all eager and bouncy, "We were going to go to a movie with them weren't we?"
"Yeah, the Cowboy Bebop movie is being screened again at the Tama Plaza."
"Let's give that a miss. Let's invite them round here. Let's have a sleepover!"
"A sleepover? Like kids do?"
"Not just kids, like we did the day before we left for Italy."
"Uh, okay. But why… you're not thinking funny stuff are you?"
"I'll phone Yuuko this morning. We can go shopping this afternoon and get some more food in."
"Shizuku…?"
"Yeah?"
"Are you sure you're not planning anything… you know… strange?"
"But first," she jumped up, happy and kitteny, "tea. I'll make you some tea."

She threw on her yellow silk robe and dashed down the stairs. Seiji got up more slowly, put on his own robe more slowly and went down stairs more slowly too, his head turning over various odd thoughts, some of them just perplexing, some of them surprisingly attractive.

If Shizuku wasn't too upset about him kissing Yuuko. And she wanted to invite her and Sugi round for the night. And if she kissed him… and if they were all in the same room… Seiji stood on the upper balcony and visualized a scenario that while pretty far fetched, wasn't he discovered to his surprise, not that unattractive.

-o-oOo-o-

"So, let's get this straight. Sugimura gets walloped into the middle of next week. I go in to save him from further permanent disfigurement and meanwhile Yuuko realises she's done wrong, grabs him and kisses him to say sorry."

They were sat out on the upper balcony watching the distant Shibuya district wake up to an unseasonably warm Saturday morning. Shizuku sipped her tea.

"Only it wasn't him she grabbed, but you."
"But that wasn't my fault."
"I never said it was. It gets complicated only once she realised her mistake and you stayed there!"
"She wouldn't let me go!"
"So the bit I distinctly heard about "Oh, Seiji! It's you… Please stop…" followed by another 120 seconds of tongue gymnastics was my imagination, hm?"
"She wasn't exactly pushing me away. When a girl says please stop and grips onto you tighter… well you had to have been there."

He looked at her and saw a very odd look on her face. Like maybe she wished she had been there.

"You wouldn't?" he asked, incredulous.
"What?"
"Want to kiss Yuuko!"
"And I suppose you wouldn't want to watch?"

Seiji went back to drinking his tea. She hadn't answered the question, had she? He noticed his tea was shaking. It turned out to be his hands.

"I'm surprised you even remember what she and I were doing. Weren't you climbing the south face of Mount Sugimura by then?"
"I was not climbing him, I fell on him."
"Yeah right."
"I did too. You guys were playing cannibals for beginners so I thought I'd make sure Sugimura was okay."
"And was he?"

A pause.

A small voice.

"Yeah."
"Go on."
"He was sat in this pile of stinking garbage bags, so I gave him an arm to help him out and he pulled and I…"
"Fell. Hm, how convenient."

Shizuku looked at him over the rim of her teacup. He looked back. He was smiling though.

"It was not convenient, it was an accident."
"You mean in the way 'oh Seiji's hoovering out my girlfriends tonsils so I'll have a quick roll in the garbage with his wife' is an accident."
"There's nothing between us Seiji."
"There was. Once."
"Oh, good grief! Don't be so tragic! He said he loved me once. And I told him to get lost! He was fourteen!"
"Same age you were when you said you'd marry me!"
"Alright, alright," She put her cup down and stood up, "So he pulled me down. And I didn't get up. Not straight away anyway."
"And then?"
"Well I landed on him, sort of."
"Define sort of."
"His – you know."
"Penis? Is that the word you're looking for?"
"He was hard. I felt it. He said some stupid stuff, he got up at once."
"He got hard watching me kiss Yuuko?"
"I think so, unless he's into refuse sex and me with old orange peel in my hair was his ultimate fantasy."
"What did he say?"
"That should be us."
"Wow, so he does still carry a torch."
"Maybe. I don't know. Maybe he meant if you two could kiss then maybe he wanted to kiss me. We were interrupted by you two coming up for air for the third time and that garbage pile was pretty gross. But…"
"Oh, there's always a but."

She looked down, had gone pink again.

"I touched him. Gave him a quick squeeze. I don't know why, I just did. Probably just the booze and me being all hot and bothered from seeing you two."
"And you want to invite them both round tonight for a sleepover?"
"Uh, is that a problem? For you? If um, things happen…?"

He gave her a very long careful look.

"When we go out for that food, we'd better get more wine in as well."

She went even redder.

"Alright. And I owe you."
"What?"
"Naughty cuddles. You deserve some."

Shizuku untied the belt of her silk robe, opened it and let it fall. He sat there half mesmerized by how lovely she was and half stunned because they were out on the balcony.

She bent from the waist towards him and he watched the shape of her move and change. She took the teacup from his fingers and lay it on the table. She bent lower, and pressed her lips to his, opened him and entered.

He sat there, his mind already starting to overload and go with her to where she wanted to lead him. He lifted his hands, cupped her where she was soft and pretty, squeezed.

"Hmmm…"

She broke the kiss.

"Better?"
"Than?"
"Yuuko. Am I better than Yuuko?"

He nodded hastily.

"But then…"
"Yes?"

Her voice was already becoming hoarse and breathy and the softness his hands played with had grown stiff points.

"Yuuko stank of green onion ramen and sake and she had clothes on. So it wasn't really a fair comparison."
"You're mine," Shizuku smiled, and she bent her knees and gracefully descended between his legs, "do I look like a girl who gives a flying squirrel about fair comparisons?"

He sat and could only watch in wonder and anticipation as her fingers undid the belt of his robe and drew it open, folding it back off his shoulders.

"Now," she said, on her knees, her eyes lifted up to the face of the man she'd do anything for. Anything at all, "time for my naughty cuddles."

Shizuku opened her mouth and lowered her head.

-o-oOo-o-

Seiji closed his eyes, leaned his head back and let her take him away. It was only moments later when he was distracted by the heat of her, the wetness, the delicious tightness and her fluttering nimble tongue that he began to moan. And he continued to moan when she took him out of her mouth and used her slender strong fingers on him. In fact he made so much noise that he never heard her muttered comment at all. Never heard her say anything about:

"Hm, bigger than Sugi too…"

Before her soft mouth went back down and from the subsequent noises it was clear that Shizuku enjoyed her treat more than he did.

-o-oOo-o-

24 July 2007
Taken from Chapter 42 "Reunion" of "Other Side of the World"