"Unending KISS"

3 years after Vol 5. Goshima's return.

Notes: I usually don't like opening notes, but KISS isn't a very well known manga, and I want people to understand. KISS is about a girl, Kae, who is in love with her piano teacher. He is almost eight years her senior (at the start she is sixteen and he is 24, but her 17th birthday comes pretty quickly – when he became her teacher she was 11 and he was 19). She kisses him after class one day and then avoids him after. Then one day he sees her coming up to the piano school and when she is almost there she starts to leave but he calls out to her and says she came all the way so she should stay. She apologized for making things awkward with her kiss and confession and then gets the shock of her life when he says that he won't be able to treat her as a child anymore and then he hugs her. From that moment on they are a couple. Most of the manga deals with the difficulties caused by their age difference, and also their stubbornness. Plus there's the fact that her piano teacher is a much sought after, absolutely brilliant, pianist and he's gorgeous to boot. Plus he's just got that cool, almost arrogant, completely in-control personality that women love. Their relationship is a long list of frustrations as he sways between the inclination to parent her and the fact that he is truly attracted to her (See title… KISS… lots of kissing in this manga, though he keeps it chaste-ish…) And she is frustrated because he tends to hide his emotions and he still mocks her and flirts with other women (mainly his cousin), and he's always working and not spending time with her. And then, just when they start to really work things out her Uncle shows up from America. He's a little protective of her, and not particularly a 'nice guy' when it comes to women. He recognizes some of himself in the piano teacher and makes it his business to break the two up. And ultimately he succeeds. The teacher takes a job which makes it impossible for him to continue teaching and, even though he hasn't moved or anything, he cuts off all contact with the Kae. He never says anything to her, but it's clear that he misses her, and we get the impression that he thinks this is the right thing to do.

Some quick notes that may be important to understanding the story… the teacher's parents died when he was 19, at which point he became a completely changed person. When he was a teenager he was quiet, sensitive, thoughtful, and kind. After his parents died he became afraid of being close to people. He became arrogant, mocking, and distant. For a time he dated older women (and slept with them) because he figured they would give him a good time without expecting any real attachment.

Sensei, Goshima, and Masayuki are all the same person… The piano teacher. He was her teacher, so she calls him Sensei. His name is Goshima (family name), Masayuki ('first' name).

Nobuyuki is Goshima's younger brother. He is the same age as Kae.

Tamaki is Goshima's cousin. She is his age and a model. The two are very similar and were very close growing up. In the manga she blatantly flirts with him, and even kisses him, in front of Kae. It turns out that she's just envious because Goshima has found someone to be happy with and she hasn't. She ends up being in Kae's corner, taking her to see Goshima and trying to talk some sense into him sometimes. But she still likes to play around and cause them trouble sometimes.

Uncle, Uncle Ryuu, Ryuu, and Niki (san) are also all the same man. He is Kae's uncle who took care of her when she was a child. They were very close and even when she was little her family knew she would have a hard time if she ever got a boyfriend. Ryuu is a famous photographer – he photographs models, including Tamaki.

Uchida works at the piano school Goshima used to. He knew Goshima's father who was a piano tuner, and he met Goshima twice before his parents died. It is through him that we learn how much Goshima has changed since his parents' deaths.

Things in italics are actual direct lines from the manga. (or a summary of actions that happened…)

And now, on to the story!

Kae stood in front of the mirror, focused as she turned the little tube in her hand, revealing shimmering pink color. This was her favorite lipstick and she reserved it for only the most special of occasions – like tonight. As the color glided across her lips she felt tears begin to prick in her eyes and pushed them back resolutely. Such a simple thing, but it evoked such strong memories. 'Can I try it on? Please? Is it too much? Then I'll take some off.'

The sweet brush of lips on lips.

Almost three years…

She remembered the night he had given her this lipstick – their first Christmas "together". Their only Christmas together… And she remembered kissing him and praying 'God, please let me be the only person who will ever leave lipstick on this man's lips…'

That had been before he'd left.

She remembered that day as well, but with far less joy. This memory pricked her heart painfully.

It happened five months after he'd quit teaching in order to take the job her uncle had recommended. In all that time he had not once called her and she'd given up going to his house. He was never there. And so it had surprised her to find him waiting for her outside the piano school after her lesson one afternoon. Despite the pain it had caused her she was happy for the chance to be near him again.

"Hello, Kae." It was one of those rare times where there was no arrogant self-assurance in his tone and he actually sounded gentle and sincere. She looked into his face and his the look in his eyes was almost tender, but before she could read it he had looked away, making the movement deliberate and still somehow casual. She noticed then that he was leaning against the railing and his hands were in his pockets. Watching him she missed him so very much that she almost forgot that he had left her without a word. And then he crossed his right foot over his left and leaned back on his elbows, looking up at the sky.

"You don't want to know why I'm here?" he was watching her from beneath lowered eyelids and she didn't have the presence of mind to respond. After a moment he continued anyway. "I'm going to be leaving Japan." He said, and it was like a physical blow. "I'm going to America to work with a recording company. I won't be back for a few years."

If he came back at all. She heard it, unspoken, behind his words. Or perhaps it was her own cruel imagination that read those words in his tone and his stance.

He brought his chin down to look at her. "I won't be able to contact you." And he almost sounded apologetic. There was a moment of despair as their gazes held and she thought she read regret in his eyes. And then the memory of the last five months came crashing back and she was filled with white-hot anger. Her fists clenched as she remembered her Uncle's words.

'What if someone very close to you suddenly dropped all contact with you, what would you think?' she asked quietly.

'It's probably because that person got sick of you.'

Five months. Not once in five months had he spoken with her, not once had she even seen him on the street. She knew he still stopped by the school, but he always did it when she wouldn't be there.

She turned her back to him, suppressing hot tears. She hadn't cried over this in five months, she wasn't going to start now. She was almost eighteen, practically an adult, she didn't need to cry over an insensitive ex. Because, as much as it hurt to admit it, that's what he was. They'd never broken up, but it was obviously over.

And he hadn't had the decency to tell her, to make a clean break.

"What do you care?" she was surprised by the anger in her own voice, but she didn't care. She was too emotional to be mature.

"Kae…" she heard him right himself and the sound of his even footsteps approaching her and she stiffened, but didn't walk away.

"It's been five months, Sensei," her voice was heavy with the weight of her pain, "You haven't bothered to contact me in all that time. In fact, I think you've actually been avoiding me. So don't pretend you're sorry just because you're leaving. You left me a long time ago."

The tears were threatening to spill over and she didn't know if she could stop them.

"Kae." His voice was too close, his tone too tender. How dare he? How dare he sound so gentle when he was ripping her apart? "Don't cry." He murmured, and she remembered what Uchida had said when he had stopped teaching – that he didn't know how to tell her because he knew it would make her unhappy, and men didn't want to see the woman they cared for cry. Well it was too late for that now – if he even truly cared for her. Strong, slim, fingers wrapped over her shoulder and she pulled away roughly. The last thing she wanted right now was an embrace from this man - even if it was what she longed for more than anything else in the world.

She could almost feel him go rigid behind her.

"Fine." The hard edge with which she was so familiar had made its way back into his voice and she knew he was angry, but she forced herself to stay strong. She had expected him to walk away and so she was surprised when he spoke again, a clipped, single word. "Goodbye." And then there was only the sound of his retreating steps and the breaking of her own heart.

He had left her months ago, but as long as he had been near she had been able to pretend that he was coming back. Now that vain hope had at last shattered.

She held herself stiff until she was sure he was gone and then sank against the cement wall, succumbing to tears for the first time.

At least this time he had told her goodbye.

It had hurt so badly she'd wanted to die.

She hadn't seen him or spoken with him since, but she hadn't been able to escape him either. And, painful as it had been, in the end it was probably best for her. It helped her to understand…

A week after he had left she had run into Nobuyuki on the street and he had somehow convinced her to come over to his apartment. She still didn't know why she had gone. Maybe she had wanted to say goodbye. Goodbye to a dream that had always been too good to be true.

Nobuyuki had made dinner for them and insisted she stay to eat it. He had joked that he was just lonely and she had replied that Sensei had hardly ever been home anyway. They had both looked away then: she because it hurt, he because he was sorry to have brought it up. When she'd gone home that night he had thanked her sincerely and she had seen apology in his eyes. She had smiled to reassure him and thanked him, then she had impulsively given him a quick hug. He hadn't quite known what to do and they had parted after an awkward silence.

It had been the first of many such evenings.

It wasn't anything romantic. It never could be. He would always be the brother of her first love, and she would always be the crazy girl who had loved Masayuki. But it had been strangely comforting to sit in the home he had once lived in and talk to the little brother who was so unlike him.

One night Tamaki had dropped in unexpectedly. She had seemed surprised to see Kae there and for a moment there had been sympathy in her eyes. It seemed so out of place in that woman's eyes, but it was genuine. Then she had smiled her strangely mocking, superior, smile and stated that she was taking the two of them – Nobu and Kae – out to dinner. At the end of the night she had asked for Kae's phone number. Two weeks later Tamaki called her and asked her to go to coffee. After that the woman called about once a month or so when she was in town and they would go out. Sometimes it hurt, because Tamaki reminded her so much of Sensei, but there was comfort in that as well.

Piano lessons were harder. Uchida sensei was very nice, much more encouraging than Sensei had ever been. He didn't bait her, or mock her. His instruction was always gentle and kind. Somehow the obvious difference between them made her miss him even more – even if he was a jerk. No one could ever have accused Uchida of being a jerk…

Her playing improved under his tutelage and she supposed that should have made her happy. But she had never really liked the piano. She was only continuing her lessons because Sensei had told her to practice. 'Make sure you practice it before we meet again…'

And she often found herself wondering if they would ever meet again. Did she even want them to?

Everyone tried not to talk about him in front of her. She could see it in their faces; they were trying to spare her feelings. But sometimes things were said.

Uchida let it slip that Goshima had tried to call her once, from the school a week or so after he had quit. After he said it he immediately looked regretful and refused to tell her the rest, but that fact latched onto her heart and refused to let go.

He had tried to call her?

It had taken her a few days to gather her courage and steel her heart before she had asked Nobuyuki about it. Whatever the answer might be it would still hurt. He confessed that Masayuki had started to call her several times, but usually ended up putting the phone down before it rang through, and sometimes he didn't pick up at all – just sat staring at it. The few times he had gotten through she hadn't been at home. The behavior seemed at odds with everything she knew about him. Had he been uncertain? But he was always so confident.

Then she remembered his confession, long ago, that she made him feel insecure. She had been too surprised at the time to question him, and now she was confused. Why did she make him feel that way?

When she had wondered aloud why he would do that, Nobuyuki had looked at her as though she were crazy.

"You honestly don't know?" he shook his head at her blank expression. "He used to talk to you when you weren't here." He said quietly and at her shocked expression he quickly continued. "Not on purpose. But, every once in a while, we'd be doing something and he'd ask you a question, like he still wasn't used to the fact that you weren't around. He did it the morning he left Japan too."

It was strange to think that he might have missed her. It hadn't seemed that he had regretted his decision at all, but Nobuyuki wouldn't lie to her. And she remembered that moment of regret in his eyes, in his tone, when he had told her goodbye, remembered how gentle his last kiss had been the time he hadn't.

Maybe he hadn't been avoiding her after all. Was Uncle wrong?

She decided to ask her sister.

Her sister had called her naive and then told her Uncle hadn't been wrong, he had lied. And she reminded Kae that she had said all along that Uncle didn't like Sensei and would try to break them up. Kae had trouble believing such a thing. Sensei and Uncle Ryuu had been so much alike, and she had thought they got along. But Nae reminded her that men who were similar often did not like one another. And Kae remembered the strange looks the two men had exchanged; looking back they seemed like unspoken challenges. Nae seemed to think that Uncle had run Sensei off, but Sensei didn't seem to be the type of man who was pushed around by others.

In the end the questions those conversations raised would not stop plaguing her and she had been driven to Tamaki.

Tamaki and Sensei had been very close, so close that she had been jealous even after Tamaki had admitted that she was only trying to start trouble by flirting with him. She wasn't always comfortable with Tamaki, but she knew that if Sensei had talked to anyone about his decision it would have been her.

It was still hard to ask her, and it made her feel like a child again even though she was now nineteen.

Tamaki had laughed at her and she had almost walked away, but then a hand on her arm had pulled her back and the older woman had surprised her by apologizing.

"You want to know why he did it?" she had lit a cigarette and was taking long drags, not looking at Kae as she spoke. "He told me that usually he backed down from challenges, but that in that case he couldn't. And then," she shrugged, "And then a few days later he shocks the heck out of me by doing just that – backing down." She had looked down at Kae thoughtfully, "but, you know, looking back, I don't think he was backing down so much as rising to the challenge. He has something to prove to Niki-san." Another long drag on the cigarette and a thoughtful glance, then she grinned, "and, personally, I think he was giving you some time to grow up." She must have looked offended, or indignant, because the model had lifted an elegant hand and then leaned over her, her voice lowering as she ran her fingers through Kae's hair. Kae shifted uncomfortably, but didn't pull away. "Not because you were immature, but because you weren't." Kae blinked in confusion and Tamaki sighed. "He was an adult and you were underage, and he was attracted to you. If you think a few kisses were enough to satisfy him you're more naive than I had guessed." She finally backed away, allowing Kae the space to think.

It took Kae a moment to process this, and even then her brow wrinkled in confusion. What did that have to do with anything? Tamaki rolled her eyes, "I'm saying he wanted more than he could have at that time. Goshima was never very patient, and he'd already been waiting a long time. I think he's trying to give you both some time and space so that he doesn't do something you'll both regret."

Kae watched the smoke drift into the air as Tamaki exhaled, staring thoughtfully out into the cityscape. A moment later the older woman had turned with that strange grin again, "of course, I could be reading too much into this," She shrugged, "but I've never read Goshima wrong in my life."

"But then, why…"

"Goshima's not very good with people." Tamaki interrupted quietly, "Not good with relationships. Ever since his parents died it's like he's afraid to love because he's afraid to lose. All his relationships were flings, just some fun with no emotion or strings attached. That's why he always dated older women… until you. He cared about you and he didn't know how to deal with that. He protected himself by acting like it was all a nuisance, but you had to see that wasn't true. If the things he had said were true he wouldn't have stayed with you. He could have gotten a few kisses anywhere. Could have had a lot more than that, but he stayed with you, a girl he couldn't ask that of. That has to mean something"

And Kae knew she was right. Women were always watching Sensei, flirting with him. One look was all it would have taken and he could have had a mature woman ready and waiting. But he never had.

Waiting for her? He was waiting for her to grow up? And not because he thought she was immature, like he had always said, but because he was… protecting her from himself? Protecting himself from her? Which was it exactly?

She had seen it in his eyes a few times, a look of heat she hadn't been experienced enough to understand. She had seen it that night in the kitchen the day before he'd quit teaching, when he'd nearly kissed her.


So she hadn't been too much a child, she had been too much an adult, and yet… not quite enough. Looking back she understood how difficult, how dangerous, that had been for him. It wouldn't have been right. It wouldn't have been legal. And she had been too incautious, too inexperienced, to know that she was tempting him, testing the limits of his restraint.

'You think that'll solve everything?' he asked her, after she pulled away from a kiss. And she blushed painfully. One kiss hadn't been enough of an apology? What more did he want?


His eyes flickered with an emotion she couldn't name. 'Again.' Another press of lips.

'Is that enough?'

'No.' an intense look, 'More.'

'M-more?... Sensei you're a big lech!' he let her go then.

'Mm…Actually, I don't like this part of myself either.' He confessed.

Hadn't liked what? Hadn't liked the part of him that wasn't satisfied with what they shared and wanted more? The part of him that wanted to forget society's little rules and all the social niceties and just do what his heart and body said he needed? Hadn't liked that he wanted a teenager?

Had she made him feel guilty for wanting more?

And suddenly all the pieces fell together and she felt like such a fool.

So Uchida had been right. He hadn't told her because he hadn't known how. And then he'd tried to make it up to her, to tell her goodbye and she'd treated him so coldly.

And that was when she had decided: if there was even a chance that he was waiting for her, she would wait for him too.

And if he found someone else, she would be mature and accept it. After all, she had pushed him away. If he thought she didn't want him she would have no one to blame but herself.

She had looked up at Tamaki, suddenly very grateful, but very curious. Tamaki was always playing games. Why was she suddenly so serious?

"Why are you telling me all this?"

Tamaki shrugged, flicking her cigarette over the side of the railing she was leaning against. "I'm just trying to help my cousin out." Her gaze finally met Kae's, "He's too stubborn for his own good. If he doesn't watch it he'll lose you."

That had been more than a year ago…

Now, standing before the mirror, lost in her own memories, Kae ran the hairbrush through her hair. It was long now. Tamaki had remarked casually once that the long wig had looked good on her. Her eyes had that look in them, the look they had when she was trying to tell Kae something about Sensei without actually saying it. Kae had decided that if she didn't like it she could always cut it easily, so she had let it grow.

Did he like long hair?

Finishing, she finally reached back for her dress and slipped it on. She'd grown into red, it was a good match for her pale skin, and the cut showed off her legs and arms without being revealing. The neckline was modest, cut wide across her collar bones.

Sensei had beautiful collar bones…

She smoothed her hands over the ensemble before snatching up her heels. She touched the earrings that twinkled in her lobes, reflecting the bathroom light, and gave herself a final once over.

Tonight she was going to the club.

It was the club Tamaki had played with Sensei, the first night Kae had dressed like a woman – the first time he'd openly shown his possessiveness. She had been so certain he was angry with her that night, but she'd still felt a rush when his hand had come to rest on her shoulder and she'd felt his breath at the nape of her neck as he snagged the tag she had forgotten to remove from the dress between his teeth.

She tried to make it back a few times a year to sit and listen and remember. Sometimes she went alone; sometimes Nobuyuki or Tamaki would go with her. Sometimes it was planned far in advance, and sometimes she just felt the urge because she missed him. And somewhere deep inside she always hoped to turn around and find him there.

But she knew it was impossible. He was in America, and not even Tamaki would tell her what was happening in his life.

Grabbing her purse she headed out the door. There was no one at home to explain herself to, which was a relief. Her mother and her sister understood. They thought it was romantic. But Uncle Ryuu always seemed unhappy. She knew that what her sister had said would explain that, but some small part of her still thought that maybe he just didn't like to see her go out alone at night. She didn't want to believe that he hated the man she loved.

She didn't have a car, so she walked to the train station. It wasn't too far, and she arrived at the club a short time later, still as fresh as when she'd walked out the door. People were looking at her, but she ignored their stares.

The host at the club greeted her with a nod and led her to a small table near the piano. The staff knew her by name and they never had to ask to know where she wanted to sit. She always wanted to be able to see the pianist's hands.

"The performance is extra special tonight." The host told her as he held out her chair. "Two pianists. There's a famous Master here tonight. He dropped in unexpectedly. His next set is in about half an hour." She nodded and settled to watch the stranger at the piano.

As she watched the man's hands glide over the keys she couldn't help but compare them to her Sensei's and she felt the familiar pang of disappointment. Maybe he was never coming back. Could she live without him? Would she never again hear him play? Sensei's playing was magic, better than anyone else, and she missed it almost as much as she missed him. After all, it had been his music she had fallen in love with first. Well, actually it had been his hands, but the music was a close second. His music told her who he really was, because he would never let his words say it.

As unrealistic as it was, she always hoped to find that the pianist was him.

After a few minutes she decided to go buy a drink from the bar. Alcohol had never held much interest for her, but club soda was every bar's staple. She only made it half way to her destination before she found her path blocked by two young men.

"Hey beautiful, you want to drink with us?" He was attractive, perhaps a year or two older than she, and she wished desperately that he'd go away.

"We'll even buy." The second man winked flirtatiously at her. No one noticed the man watching them from a few tables away. Quietly he excused himself and moved toward them.

"No thank you," Kae tried to duck between them, but the first one caught her arm.

"Aw, don't walk away. We promise to show you a good time."

"We'll be nice." The other chimed in, both of them grinned disarmingly and she wondered how rude she'd have to be before they would leave her alone. And then the smiles faded from both their faces, and the hand holding her arm went limp. Her brow furrowed in confusion and she opened her mouth, unsure whether she should ask what was wrong or tell them to back off. She never had the chance to do either because at that moment she found out what had startled them so.

Strong arms slipped around her from behind, wrapping intimately around her waist and drawing her back against a warm, solid chest. Kae stiffened and the two boys just stared.

The man behind her was tall with the looks and grace of a model, and the air of someone used to getting his way. He was confident, and dangerous, and clearly possessive of the woman in his arms. He watched them evenly from beneath dark bangs, his eyes somehow steely cold and burning at the same time. Without a word the boys turned and left. The arms around her tightened.

Kae had stopped breathing when those arms had engulfed her. But now she took a deep breath, and the lingering smell of smoke confirmed what the familiarity of the embrace had already told her.

As if her body had a will of its own she leaned back into those arms. "S-sensei." Kei breathed in confused wonder. What was he doing here? How had he found her? How did he always manage to show up right when she needed him? And then she couldn't think because he had caught her chin, which had been turned over her shoulder to try to catch a glimpse of him, and pressed his lips hotly to hers. She melted immediately. Oh, she had missed this, missed him. A single kiss and the years melted away. It should have been impossible to do what he did with something as simple as a kiss, but she had always known that no one could kiss like he could. In his kisses were all the passion and gentleness and sincerity he could never seem to convey in words. 'Is it genetic, or is it from experience?' echoes of a question asked a lifetime ago. She had never received an answer… They broke only briefly for air before his lips caught hers once again, and then she was turning in his arms and pressing her palms against the smoothness of his dress shirt beneath his open suit coat, and it did not even occur to her that they were kissing in the middle of the club until his arm slipped down to catch her below the knees and he lifted her smoothly up.

She broke away from him then in confusion, "Where are we going?" she whispered, struggling to speak between gasped breaths.

He brushed the tip of his nose along the side of her face before stating clamly in her ear, "My dressing room."

She could feel her face heating at the suggestion in his tone, or had she just imagined it? And she suddenly realized what an incredibly awkward situation this was. They had not seen one another in two and a half years, and now here he was and without so much as a word they were making out in the middle of a crowded room.

Still, even if she had been able to she wouldn't have pulled away.

She buried her now flushed face in his chest and tried to focus on breathing, but he smelled familiar, and wonderful, and it reminded her of a time when she had been truly happy.

"Goshima-san?" they were in the back section of the club now, away from prying eyes, and the guard was more than a little surprised to find their special performer striding toward the dressing room with a woman in his arms.

"Good night, Takashi-san." he said firmly, and the guard took the hint and walked away.

His steps slowed and she felt him shift her in his arms, leaning her more fully against his chest so that he could open the dressing room door. Once inside he lowered her to a plush loveseat and gave her lips one last light brush before moving to the mirror and straightening his suit.

Kae bit her lower lip as she watched him, uncertain of what to do. What did he expect from her? Out there on the floor he had been kissing her, but now that they were alone he was standing across the room, fixing his tie and smoothing his hair.

Would he kiss her again? Did he just want to talk?

Had the kiss just been a heat of the moment sort of thing? Did he regret it?

Her fingers danced nervously along the hem of her skirt as she tried to bring some order to her wild and restless thoughts. What was she supposed to do?

She watched him from beneath lowered lashes and was stunned by how little he'd changed. He was just as she remembered him, smooth confidence and the looks of a model. He stole her breath, and her reason.

She caught his eye in the mirror and blushed, looking quickly away.

She had so many questions.

Why was he here? How long had he been in Japan? How long was he staying? Had he planned on trying to see her? To speak with her?

Had he missed her? Did he still love her?

… Had he ever?

Was he seeing anyone?

He was the sort of man women wanted - all good looks, cool confidence, dry wit, and enigma. She had never been anything special. Surely there had been other women.

A million questions ran through her mind, but she was determined to be mature. She would show him that she had truly grown up.

She cleared her throat, "So, umm… how long have you been back?" she cursed herself at the sound of her own voice, timid and uncertain.

He was adjusting his suit coat, even though she was certain it had looked fine all along. "I just flew in this morning."

"Oh," she couldn't hold his gaze. "Are you staying long?"

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him pause a moment before working at the collar again. "I'm back for good, I think."

She thought he seemed to be studying her in the reflection of the mirror, but when she turned toward him he averted his eyes.

"Umm… that's… that's nice."

What were they doing? This wasn't like them, these social niceties, this timidity and hesitation. If anything they had always been too blunt, too incautious of one another's feelings. They had never walked on eggshells around one another.

Well… almost never.

There was a moment of awkward silence, in which he seemed to check every button on his white shirt to make certain it was in place. If she hadn't known better she would have thought him nervous. She searched her mind frantically for something to say, something that would be safe, innocent, but not too childish. She could find nothing; her mind was a hazy blank.

It was he who finally broke the silence, but his voice seemed stiff, as though he was uncomfortable. "So, you're twenty now." It wasn't really a question and he didn't wait for a response as he continued quickly, "Are you in school?"

She shook her head. "No, I'm… I actually work at the piano school. Not teaching of course…" He didn't look surprised, and she suspected that one of their mutual acquaintances had told him. Had he asked about her?

More silence, and she was finding it hard not to fidget. He looked as though he wasn't doing much better and she wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. She had waited for him, missed him, and after all this time this is what they were reduced to – trivial, awkward, small talk. They were both too afraid to say what they were really thinking.

But hadn't they always been?

Perhaps they had not been as open with one another as she sometimes thought. It seemed that it had been too easy to argue, but they had always had trouble expressing the heart of the matter. She had been too afraid to tell him that she needed him… so certain he would laugh at her and call her childish. She was no longer a child; would he laugh now?

It surprised her when he spoke again after the long silence.

"Are you seeing anyone?" the question was quiet, but laced with an emotion she couldn't quite place, with tension as well, and she looked up at him, startled. He had turned now and was watching her intently. She almost averted her gaze, but managed to keep her courage as she shook her head.

He looked… relieved? Yes, that was it. And it gave her courage. If he was relieved that meant she still meant something to him. She stood to move closer to him, but not too close – not as close as she wanted to be.

"What made you think I would be?" she asked softly.

He nodded at her dress, "Women don't get all dressed up for nothing." He remarked.

She blushed and lowered her head, unable to meet his gaze, "I, I always dress up when I come here." She confessed quietly, "because, because this is the place where Sensei's cousin brought me to hear him play and she dressed me up." His eyes widened at the admission, realizing just how much it revealed.

He remembered how good she had looked that night, how surprised he had been – and how possessive. He also remembered what Tamaki had said to him then. 'This is how this child will look in three years or so…Do look forward to the days when your mind will be controlled by her all the time, just like how you were today.' And to his chagrin he found that she was absolutely right. At this moment he could think of nothing but Kae, would do anything for her. He had wanted to knock those boys' heads together just for talking to her.

He had been watching her from the moment she had stepped into the club, wondering if he should reveal himself, wondering if she had forgiven him, if she could ever forgive him. He hadn't meant to surprise her the way he had, but seeing how those boys hit on her, it had been too much. He had felt such a rush of possessiveness that he knew he had to hold her. The kiss had been pure instinct. The need to taste her after having been away so long was just too great. She had grown up so much.

He forced his thoughts back, maintaining his outward calm.

"I'm not your Sensei anymore, you know." He said with carefully held nonchalance, and she looked up at him in confusion. "I'm not your sensei anymore," he repeated, "So you should stop calling me that."

"Umm…" she worried her lower lip for a moment as she considered him and it was all he could do not to press her against him and kiss her. "What shall I call you then? Go-kun, like Owner, or, well, I suppose I should call you Goshima-san, shouldn't I…" And he couldn't take it anymore. In a fraction of a second he had her up against the far wall, one hand braced beside her head, the other tracing the smooth skin of her cheek.

"Masayuki," he whispered, surprised at the intensity of his own voice, "Just Masayuki."

"M-Masayuki." She whispered and he actually had to suppress a groan at the timid stutter.

"Kae." He whispered, and then moved to take her mouth with his own. It had been so long since he had felt her lips beneath his, her body pressed against him. And he was acutely aware that she was not a child anymore.

He felt her confusion, but he also knew that she wanted this. The thought made his pulse hammer and his skin grow pleasantly warm.

He had missed her.

When he absolutely had to breathe he pulled back reluctantly, nuzzling against her neck. The sound of her gasped breaths was like music to him and he pressed an open mouthed kiss to the soft, hot, flesh of her throat without thinking.

The harshly sucked in breath that she drew then was earth shattering, and he did it again, just to see if she would make that same, achingly wonderful, sound.

He was not disappointed.

Her hands came up to tangle in his hair, gripping tightly, but he did not complain.

"Se- Masayuki!" she managed, and he let out a low growl of pleasure at the sound. This was what he wanted. Her, here, pressed against him, and to never let go.

Had he ever felt this way before?

No. No one else had ever made him feel this way. He needed her.

He brushed his lips lightly across her heated flesh as his hands skimmed down her arms and across her back.


One of her hands drifted down to his shoulder as she moaned.

"You've never," a sharp gasp as he found the hollow of her neck and shoulder, she shuddered against him and he smiled against her skin, "You've never kissed me like this." She said breathlessly.

He pulled back the slightest bit and caught her gaze. His look was molten, filled with a desire he had always suppressed. She had always thought him unaffected, but she could not have known that the paternal habits that infuriated her were his only shield against his own desire.

He no longer had need of those barriers.

Now he didn't have to hold back, didn't have to feel dirty or guilty for wanting her.

"Always before," she continued, though it was clearly difficult to maintain her reason against his heated gaze and insistent touches. "Always before you only kissed my lips." She finally managed, and he smiled tenderly at her as he brought a hand up to frame her face, leaning so close that his lips brushed hers when he spoke.

"Always before you were too young." He whispered, and when he felt her stiffen he knew she didn't understand. He pressed tiny, soft, kisses to her lower lip. "I couldn't let myself get carried away." He explained, and he felt her relax against him. Relieved he kissed her more firmly, longing to slip inside her mouth and taste her, but before he got the chance she pulled away, practically panting.

"So then, Tamaki was right?" She had already thought so, but to hear it from him would convince her it was true.

He frowned. Tamaki? What was that trouble maker up to now?

Her hands twisting in his dark locks drew his attention back to the young woman pressed against him.

"Tamaki said that you were waiting for me to grow up… that you wanted things you couldn't ask for, and that it was too hard to stay while you waited."

His eyes widened. Darn that Tamaki - meddling where she wasn't wanted.

But then, as he looked down into Kae's loving, passion lit, eyes, he wondered if perhaps his annoying cousin hadn't done him a favor this time. He had hurt Kae. He had left her with no explanations and no apologies. Maybe Tamaki's interference had allowed her to forgive him.

He'd have to thank Tamaki – after he gave her a solid punch. Well, perhaps just a scathing remark, but she would definitely know that he wished she'd mind her own business.

"I'm done waiting." He whispered, and he hardly gave her time to assimilate this statement before he was crushing his lips to hers again. His kisses alternated between gentle, tender, persuasive brushes, and heated, passionate, hungry presses.

He stroked long, tapered, fingers down along her jaw, encouraging her to drop it, to open her mouth and let him in. And he wondered if she had ever been kissed like this before.

He knew she hadn't ever done this with him. He'd been too careful, too restrained, knowing that if he took this step he might not be able to pull back. His emotions had been too strong for him to trust himself, and she had already made it too difficult. She had been too trusting, too naive.

When he literally had to work his tongue between her lips before she parted them he had the answer to his question. She had never shared such an intimate touch.

He felt her gasp into his mouth and ran his fingers up her sides in a gentle caress. She tasted good. Sweet, and hot, and unlike any other woman he had kissed in his life.

How had he ever thought that older women and meaningless one night stands could satisfy? He needed Kae. He needed to know she would always be there, that he would never have to say goodbye. Even if it hurt, even if it was hard, he needed this.

Her tongue tentatively brushed his and he groaned, low and husky. Did she know what that did to him? Could she?

It had been years since he had been with a woman like this. And her inexperienced, shy, touches elicited more heat than any of his more skilled partners' bold caresses ever had.

He was intensely grateful that he hadn't touched another woman since the first time Kae had kissed him. He could enjoy this with no regrets.

"Kae…" he pulled his mouth from hers to whisper against her jaw, tracing kisses up to her ear lobe and then nipping gently at her skin.

She didn't have the presence of mind to respond, but when he brushed his fingers along her rib cage she hissed his name in a way that set his pulse racing.

She couldn't possibly know what her response did to him.

He buried his face against her shoulder in an effort to maintain what little control he still had.

This had always been the danger. With her all his careful control and his reason seemed to wash away. The smallest look, the lightest touch was enough to send his thoughts skittering away and allow instinct to take command.

But she wasn't objecting, and she wasn't forbidden anymore.

Another hard kiss and then he was nipping down her neck, brushing along her collar bone, tempted to push the material of her neckline askew so that he could reach more skin. His hands tangled in her hair instead, trying to bring her impossibly closer.

There was a loud banging somewhere nearby, but he ignored it, intent on the woman pressed so close to him.

The sound came again, louder, more insistent, and she pressed her head back against the wall, looking across the room.

"Door." She murmured and he grunted in response. "Masayuki?" her tone told him that she was concerned. He should really get the door.

He grabbed her wrists gently, pressing them to the wall on either side of her face, still ravishing her with hungry kisses.

"Let them knock."

Just let them go away! That was all he wanted. Finally, after all this time she was here, in his arms, and no one had the right to tell them it wasn't okay, because they were both adults, and it wasn't as though he was making her stay.

The person didn't go away though, and a moment later he could hear his name being called through the heavy door. He growled in frustration and lowered his forehead to rest against her shoulder. Her fingers sifted through his hair in silent sympathy. She didn't want it to end either.

"Goshima-san. Sorry, but it's time for your set." The voice called through the door.

He frowned against her, drawing a ragged breath before pulling away.

"I have to go." He murmured apologetically, running his fingers through her hair, loving the feel of it.

"I understand." She gave him an unsteady smile, lips swollen from his kisses, and he smiled back as he brushed his thumb gently along the line of her lower lip. He dipped his head down to brush his lips across hers in a last fleeting kiss.

"This is my last set. I'll be back in about twenty minutes. Wait for me?"

"Didn't I always?" she asked quietly, and his gaze locked with hers; in that moment a wealth of meaning was exchanged. Yes, she had always waited for him, even when he had told her not to. He was the one who always walked away, but not anymore, he thought determinedly.

"I'll be back." His voice was so low she barely heard him, but she knew that he meant it. He wasn't going to push her away this time. He wouldn't leave her without an explanation.

She nodded slowly and he reluctantly stepped away, straightening his clothing and his hair as he made his way to the door. He ran his hand over his face. He looked unmistakably affected, but there was nothing he could do about that now. Besides, it wasn't as though the whole club hadn't seen him kiss her and then take her into the back rooms. People would just have to mind their own business - they came to hear him play not speculate about his love life.

His eyes remained locked with hers as he opened the door and stepped out into the hall, and he did not look away until he pulled it fully shut, as though he was afraid that if he did she would disappear.

When he had gone Kae placed a trembling hand to her heart.

That had been…

She had no words to describe what that had been. She had never felt such passion, such need. And he had been fighting that all this time?

How carelessly cruel she had been, falling asleep at his home, seating herself on his lap, throwing herself into his arms on a secluded beach… if she had known… well, if she had known she would have probably called him a pervert. But maybe it would have helped her to understand. He had always been a grown man. It was only natural that he should have a grown man's needs.

Even now her face flushed at the memory of what they had just shared. She kept replaying it in her mind. How far would it have gone if that knock hadn't sounded at the door?

The possibilities filled her with equal parts anticipation and hesitation. She loved him, but there was so much she was still uncertain about.

An uncomfortable thought occurred to her then.

She had never gotten her answer. She had never asked if he had seen other women. For all she knew he was seeing someone now. She didn't think so, but she didn't know. Maybe this was all just passion. Maybe it was as overwhelming for him as for her and he just wasn't thinking straight. This had settled nothing between them, it only raised more questions.

So he wanted her. Did that mean that he loved her?

His touch said yes, but the words were unspoken.

She would only hurt them both by assuming, but she didn't know how to ask – especially after that.

Her nervousness increased as she waited for him, and it didn't even occur to her that she was missing out on hearing him play. She had always been entranced by his playing, but right now she wouldn't have been able to concentrate enough to enjoy it.

She was worried - worried that she had somehow misunderstood.

Still, she held on to hope. He had asked her to wait.

So she did, despite the trepidation that rose in her and told her to run now, while she still had a chance to keep her heart intact. She needed to go before she embarrassed herself.

And yet she remained, because she had promised, and because of the way he had held her gaze.

Those twenty minutes seemed agonizingly long, and yet somehow all too short. And then the door was pushing open and he ducked his head inside.

"If you'll toss me my coat we can go." He said quietly, and she looked around for his overcoat, snatching it up before joining him at the door. They walked in silence for a long while, out the back door and down the street, she a half step behind him and two to the side, watching his profile.

"Where are we going?" she finally ventured.

He smiled, and she thought for a moment that he seemed nervous, shy. The expression looked strange on his face, and she found herself relieved when a moment later it was replaced by his usual confident, almost mocking, grin. "I thought you might like some coffee."

"Oh." They continued walking, and she stared down at her feet. When they stopped at a light she bumped into his arm and pulled back, stuttering a nervous apology. He chuckled and told her that it was alright. A few blocks later she looked up and was surprised to see that she recognized this area of the city. It was far from the shopping district where restaurants and cafes abounded.

"Sensei," he looked down at her and she blushed, "Umm… Masayuki." She corrected and he smiled at her, a lopsided quirk of the lips. His smile was as perfect as everything else about him. "Where are we going?"

The smile widened, "I told you, to get coffee."

She nodded, her fingers catching nervously before her, "Yes, but, there aren't any coffee shops here."

Now that smile was truly devious, as though he was enjoying her discomfort; he nodded, "That's true. But I never said we were going to a coffee shop, I only said that I thought you might like coffee." He pointed out.

"But…" and then the words died on her tongue as he smiled down at her and she realized what he was saying, "Oh." She said weakly.

"Do you mind?"

Mind? Did she mind going to his apartment for coffee?

How could she mind?

But she was still uncertain. As much as she wanted to be with him she still had questions. There was still so much she didn't know. And most of what she thought she knew she had garnered from other people. She wanted to know what he was really thinking. She needed him to tell her that it was alright. He had practically admitted that he had left her because they were too close and she was too young, but was he ready to really come back? Was he ready to have a real relationship? Or was he still too afraid to open himself to all the heartache that could entail?

Sensei was so complicated.

She realized that he was still looking at her, waiting for an answer, and she shook her head. "No. No, I don't mind." She tried to sound confident, but she could hardly look at him.

His smile gentled and he reached to brush a strand of hair behind her ear, leaning close as he did so.

"I'm glad you grew it out," he murmured huskily, "It suits you."

She blushed prettily and looked down at her feet causing him to chuckle once more before straightening. "I don't remember you being this subdued." He teased, laughter still coloring his tone. An instant later the sound died on his lips and he stilled beside her. She looked up, curious what had elicited such a change, and found herself staring into the narrowed eyes of her Uncle.

"Uncle Ryuu." She gasped, and his gaze barely flickered to her before settling on the man beside her again. That gaze was hard and unmistakably displeased.

"So," she was shocked at the cold edge in his tone, "You're back in Japan." Had he come out looking for her? For them? The wonderful turn her evening had taken was quickly going sour.

Goshima nodded, moving closer to Kae, somehow managing to make it look both deliberate and accidental.

"And when will you be leaving us again?" that edge again, and Kae's eyes darted back and forth between them, taking in their rigid stances. Goshima saw her worry and took a more casual stance, but she saw the tension in his jaw and in his shoulders and knew that he was ready.

But ready for what?

"I've decided that I'll be staying in Japan." He replied confidently, and Ryuu's eyes flashed dangerously.

"Is that so?"

There was a long and uncomfortable silence, wrought with a tension Kae didn't want to understand.

What was her uncle doing here? Why was he being so rude to Sensei? And in the back of her mind she could hear all her sister's warnings. You can't talk about Goshima-san with Uncle…If things get really sore at the end don't you say I didn't warn you ahead of time. She had been right?

This was a side of her Uncle she had never seen, or perhaps it was only that she had never acknowledged it.

It was Goshima who broke the stalemate.

"Look." He crossed his arms, "I did what you wanted. I stayed away from her for three years. I gave her the chance to grow up, to know her own mind. And I gave myself the chance to see if I really wanted this or if I was just having fun." His eyes hardened and he dropped his arms, reaching to pull Kae against him. She came willingly, though still a little off balance. "I made up my mind, so now I'm back."

"Let her go." Ryuu snapped, and Goshima's hold only tightened.

"We're both adults now, Niki." He purposefully left off the honorific; he didn't owe this man respect. "You don't have a say in this."

For a moment Kae truly feared that her uncle would strike him, and she burrowed further into his embrace. He seemed to sense her anxiety and brushed his thumb against her arm in soothing strokes. Her uncle tensed, frowned, and seemed to reconsider his approach. He stilled, crossing his own arms as though asserting his dominance.

"And how many women have there been?" Ryuu asked, tone taunting, eyes cold. Kae felt her face heat.

"Uncle R-" she was cut off by the cool tone of the man behind her.

"None." And her heart skipped a beat.

Ryuu's eyes narrowed. "Never without women, right?" he mocked and Kae read in his tone and in his look that there was something behind the question, a history she could not understand.

The arms around her tightened, pulling her back against his chest and she could feel his heart beating, steady and even. "You have friends. Ask them."

Her heart raced at the admission – he meant it. She could feel it in the heartbeat against her back. If he was lying he was the most talented liar on earth. Was this the reason he had pulled her so close, so that she would know?

He had come back for her... and he had waited for her – really, truly waited for her.

And it could not have been for lack of opportunity, even now people on the street stopped to look at him twice.

So, then, he truly did care for her. And as she looked at her uncle, angry and tense before them, another realization came to her. All this time, he hadn't just been waiting for her to be old enough to be with him, he had been waiting until she was old enough to stand up to her uncle.

That thought gave her strength. And she had a feeling she was going to need it. What she was about to do would disappoint Uncle Ryuu, and she had always hated to make him unhappy. But she hated the thought of losing the man she loved even more.

And she did love him. And even if he never gathered the courage to say it she knew that he loved her too. Whatever his reasons for staying away, whatever his reasons for holding his tongue and never giving her the explanations she longed for, his touch said that he felt regret, and his kiss said that he cherished her, needed her. And she knew that his kisses did not lie.

Her heart flooded with warmth and all her hesitation, all her reservations, melted away beneath it. He had done what had needed doing, to protect her, to placate her Uncle. He had done the mature thing and let the relationship lie, knowing that if their feelings were true they would find one another again. Yes it had hurt, and perhaps he hadn't gone about it the best way. But she had been childish, she hadn't tried to understand, and she had long ago learned that he was a clumsy person when it came to relationships. All the pain, all the heartbreak could be forgiven.

"Masayuki," she whispered, leaning back into his warmth, and she could feel some of the tension leave his body. Had he been waiting for her response? She closed her eyes briefly, turning her head to press her cheek against his chest before bringing her attention back to her uncle.

"Uncle Ryuu," her voice was amazingly steady, strong and she felt the surprise of both men at her firmness. "I love you." Her Uncle's eyes softened and the arms around her squeezed her tighter for only a moment. "But I also love Masayuki."

Her Uncle's eyes darkened and there was an angry fire in them. "Kae, you don't understand anything."

She shook her head, holding her ground, "I do understand. I understand that the last three years have been miserable without him. I understand that I need him, and that he needs me." She was grateful for his warmth at her back, for the strength of his quiet presence, for the confidence that seemed to flow from him into her. "This isn't your choice to make. It never was."

"Kae, I won't let you do this. I know his type, you'll never be happy."

"I think that's for me to decide." She said gently, because she truly felt for him – he loved her, and he only wanted to protect her. "Goodnight, Uncle." Goshima released her from his hold, reaching down to clasp her hand in his own, entwining their fingers and they began to walk away.

"Kae, you're coming home with me. NOW." She felt her Uncle's fingers lock around her free wrist and she yanked away.

"No." she said firmly, eyes sparkling with conviction, "You've taken enough from me." It was the closest she had ever come to admitting that he had played a part in her heartache and she saw his frown deepen.

She allowed her voice to fall quieter, gentler, because she knew this next part would be hard on him. "I'm not going home with you." She held his gaze, "I'm staying at Sensei's tonight." Her Uncle's eyes widened and he seemed about to protest but she cut him off. "Even if I have to sleep on the doorstep." She maintained.

Goshima's hand tightened on hers reassuringly, and then he tugged her gently away, leaving her Uncle staring after them as though paralyzed.

"It's okay." Goshima murmured, "He'll be fine."

And Kae knew he was right, but it still hurt. After all, she loved Uncle Ryuu too, and she hated the fact that the two men in her life might never be able to tolerate one another.

But soon he was out of sight and she found her worries about him fading as her churning thoughts replayed their conversation and settled upon a whole new concern. She flushed with mortification at her own audacity.

She had just said that she was spending the night at Sensei's house.

She hadn't asked him. He hadn't said anything about it either. That could mean any number of things, but whatever it meant she had no idea what was going to happen.

Would he send her home?

Would he let her stay?

If she stayed, what would happen…?

The realization that Nobuyuki would be there relieved some of her anxiety. Nothing could happen with Nobu-kun there. And she found herself both disappointed and relieved.

She loved him, and she wanted him, craved his touch. But she was inexperienced, and she knew that he had had other women. What if she disappointed him?

She was still nearly eight years his junior, how could she possibly be everything he wanted?

She looked sideways at him and found no help there; she couldn't read his expression at all. He hadn't let go of her hand though, and he didn't seem upset or disgusted. She scolded herself in the privacy of her mind for being so anxious. What was it about him that made her feel like a child all over again? Or were all relationships so hazardous? She remembered saying once that she hated being in love. It was still true.

Peering up at his face though she knew she also loved being in love.

Why was she chasing useless fears in her mind when she should be enjoying this time with him?

She resolved to put her worries out of her mind, at least for the moment, and instead turned her attention to the city around them.

Now that she knew where they were going she recognized the landmarks that signaled their impending arrival. When they were only a few blocks away she felt a splash of wetness against her shoulder and looked up toward the sky and was surprised to see that it was dark with clouds. More drops fell against her skin and she shivered.

"Rain?" she said inanely, "It wasn't supposed to rain."

"Mm." he acknowledged, releasing her hand and placing his palm against the small of her back to urge her forward.

Though their pace increased they were still soaked by the time they reached the apartment and Kae, in her light dress, was shivering. He had stopped for a moment to throw his coat around her shoulders, but by then it was too late.

Water trailed down their skin and dripped from their clothes, creating a puddle on the hallway before his door. He reached over to her, and she almost stepped back in surprise when his hand brushed her skin through the material of the coat as he reached into a pocket and withdrew his key. He held it up displaying it to her, a silent explanation, before stepping away and slipping it in the knob. Quickly he turned the key and opened the door.

The apartment was cold, and the first thing he did after closing the door was turn up the thermostat. He disappeared for a moment and reappeared with a towel over his head and several in his hands. He dropped one on her as he passed and used the others to mop up the water outside the front door before he closed it again and locked it.

Then he turned and looked at her, eyeing her critically as he used the towel to soak the moisture from his hair.

"You should take a shower." He said pointedly, "You'll freeze."

She couldn't argue, she was already turning blue, and her wet clothes weren't helping any.

That thought stopped her cold.

Clothes. If she took these clothes off what would she wear? She glanced over at him and flushed. He was watching her and he chuckled. Without a word he walked past her into his bedroom and a moment later he came back with a neatly folded item of clothing. She realized that it must be one of his dress shirts.

"Just leave your wet clothes in the bathroom, I'll get something to hang your dress later." He told her, leaning into the bathroom to set the shirt on the counter. "Well," he looked at her expectantly and she started. Oh, yes, she needed to walk to the bathroom. He stood beside the door, watching her as she walked in, and then closed it firmly behind her.

"Don't be too long." He wasn't being condescending as he had so often been in the past, but the comment still irked her somewhat. Then she decided that he probably just didn't want to be away from her for long. Except for his set he hadn't let her too far out of arms' reach all evening.

She had to admit that it made her feel good to know he wanted to be near her. He had usually seemed so indifferent during their time together, and she'd always feared that he was just humoring her. She didn't think she had to be afraid of that anymore.

Her shower was purposefully short, a mere rinsing to warm her, and when she was finished she left her wet dress bunched on the shower floor, wondering briefly if it was salvageable.

Her eyes caught the door and she realized with embarrassment that she had not locked it, but then just as quickly wondered why it mattered. The only time he had ever walked in on her had been the one time he hadn't known that she was there. Even now that memory stained her cheeks red, and she wondered what he had thought, seeing her there in her underwear.

At the time he hadn't seemed to react at all, and she had wondered if he was angry with her, though she couldn't imagine why, unless it was that she had been so careless. The next day he seemed to have forgotten all about the incident, but she had been so embarrassed she couldn't even look at him, and she'd pulled away from even the most innocent of touches. Looking back, her behavior hadn't been fair to him. She was the one who had forgotten to lock the door, and he hadn't tried to do anything to her, he'd simply turned around and walked away.

Would he walk away now?

She was aware that she had not had much to offer a man at seventeen. She had been such a child then. Mentally, physically… she was neither now. She was all delicate feminine curves, and none of the tomboyish roughness. What would he think if he saw her now?

She blushed at the thought.

But if Tamaki had been correct, as she suspected, he might not have been as unaffected as she had thought that day so long ago. Heat rushed through her at the unbidden thought.

She finished toweling off and patted at her hair, wishing there was some way to fix the still wet locks. She leaned closer to the mirror and gave her face a critical once over. She looked pale but at least she had gotten all of her make-up off. She didn't want to look a runny mess. As she backed away she caught sight of the end of a cord hanging from a drawer and she bit her lip, wondering if it would be alright to take a look in the hopes that it was a hair dryer. She glanced nervously at the door, then, with a sudden infusion of courage, twisted the lock and opened the drawer. She was rewarded with the sight of a small hair dryer and she reasoned to herself that if her hair dripped down her back his shirt would soon be as soaked as her dress and she would be cold again, so he probably wouldn't complain. She sighed contentedly. At least her hair wouldn't be a mess.

She gave her hair a cursory drying, combing it through with her fingers, leaving it still slightly damp in the interest of time – she didn't want to drip everywhere, but a little moisture wouldn't hurt her.

She looked despairingly down at her damp undergarments and reached down to feel them. As she had nothing else they would have to do, she couldn't exactly wear his underwear, not that it would have done her much good if she could have. Fortunately her own weren't too wet, and she used the hand-held dryer to give them a quick once over before she slipped them on. After that she picked up his shirt, burying her face in it a moment. It smelled clean, but also unmistakably of him. She pulled it on and buttoned it quickly. He hadn't bothered to leave her a pair of pants, but they wouldn't have fit anyway, and the shirt fell to her mid-thigh, almost as long as her dress had been, so she supposed it was decent enough.

Catching sight of herself in the mirror she paused and flushed once more.

She looked good like this – in his clothes. And it made her feel closer to him, like she belonged to him somehow. She liked that thought and it brought a smile to her face.

Finally turning away she twisted back the lock and opened the door. At the small sound he looked up from the kitchen and she thought she saw appreciation in his eyes. He nodded to her before turning his attention back to the coffee he was making.

The sight of him froze her in place. His movements were deliberate yet still careless, with the casual, efficient, grace she loved, and her eyes focused on his hands as he moved them, before trailing up to his face. His hair was still wet, and clung to his face, and he looked as amazing as she remembered, sensuous, sexy, too good to be real. He had changed into simple slacks and a button down shirt similar to the one he had given her. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and the top two buttons at the collar were undone, revealing smooth skin and a triangle of white undershirt. And she found herself wishing that he had forgone the undershirt, and then blushed at her own thoughts. What was wrong with her? Suddenly uncomfortable she stepped into the main room a little self consciously and glanced around. His glasses were sitting on the counter and she couldn't remember seeing them on him that evening. But then he only wore them to read after all, so he hadn't needed them at the club. He had probably left them at home, because surely he had come to see his brother before going to the club. It was then that she realized that she hadn't heard Nobuyuki since they had arrived.

She tried to be surreptitious as she looked around the room for signs of his presence, but she finally had to give up.


He looked up at her timid call and she almost looked away. It was too strange to be here like this. She wasn't used to being his equal.

"Where is Nobuyuki?"

"Oh, he's at the University." He pulled out a cigarette and tucked it between his lips, striking a match and cupping a hand over the end as he lit the butt. She was so mesmerized by the fluid and familiar motions that at first she didn't understand what he had said. And then his statement hit her.

"What?" she cringed as her voice came out a nervous squeak.

He looked up at her from around his hand, then dropped it and straightened, flicking the now dead match into the sink and taking a long drag on his cigarette. His brow arched, no doubt curious. She was behaving rather strangely.

"I said he's at the University. He's been thinking about moving into campus housing, and since I'm back to take care of the apartment he thought he'd spend the night with some friends there." His expression said that this was the most natural thing in the world, but her heart was nearly beating out of her chest.

They were alone in his apartment.

And she was wearing nothing but his shirt and some damp undergarments.

She was suddenly very grateful that he had had the foresight not to loan her a white shirt like the one he now wore. At least the blue color of the shirt that hung loosely over her frame wouldn't allow him to see what was beneath it, even if it was now slightly damp.

She swallowed as she followed that train of thought – did he want to see what was beneath? Her cheeks went hot and she pressed her hands to them for a moment, both to hide them and cool them.

He was watching her inquisitively and it made her feel even more out of sorts. He did not comment, and instead turned to grab the coffee pot.

"You want some?" he asked around the cigarette in his mouth and she nodded mutely.

He poured two mugs and came toward her carrying both. He reached to place hers between her cold hands and she started when his skin brushed hers. He stared at her, a silent question that she could not answer, and then it was as though he had worked something out in his head and he gave her a small, almost mocking smile. The look in his eyes was almost predatory and she shivered.

"Cold?" she wondered if he knew his voice had dipped to something low and seductive. Probably.

She shook her head and fought the urge to step away.

"You're lying, aren't you?" his tone had that quiet edge of superiority he got when he was sure he had her figured out, and when he leaned closer and wrapped his free hand over hers around the mug she swore that she heard him chuckle. "Drink your coffee." He instructed, and she automatically raised it to her lips to comply.

Neither spoke as they drank the hot liquid, but he didn't move away, and she found it very hard to relax with him looming over her.

Ironically, as she grew tenser he seemed to become more relaxed. The soft looks and quiet presence were giving way to his usual aloofness and that was both comforting and unnerving. Had she missed something? Was he already having second thoughts?

After only a few sips he slipped the mug from her grasp and walked both cups to the counter, setting them down. She looked at him in askance and he smiled.

"Why don't you play for me?"

"W-what?" she stuttered, thrown off balance yet again.

He wanted her to play the piano?

Twenty minutes ago he couldn't keep his hands off of her, and now it was as though it had never happened.

"Didn't you promise me you'd practice while I was away? Let's hear it."

"You want me to…" why? What was going on in his head?

He gave her a hard look. "Play the piece I last gave you."

All this time and he wanted her to play the piano? What was this? And she'd been nervous? She would never understand him! He was infuriating, even more so than she remembered. Seething, but determined to behave like the adult she now was, she refused to be baited and looked pointedly around the room.

"There isn't a piano."

He smirked at her, that smirk she knew so well, arrogant and in control, as he walked to a door and pushed it open. "Did you forget? The piano's in here." She felt her face warm. The piano was in his bedroom. She remembered the first time she had been to his home and his younger brother had shown it to her. He had quipped that the piano had taken over the bedroom. Now she cautiously approached and peeked inside to see that the grand piano truly did take up most of the room. She swallowed nervously.

"Are you going to stand here all night?" he mocked her, and when she looked up at his face he looked bored, his cigarette between his lips. She growled and barely refrained from stomping as she made her way into the room and over to the piano. Smart mouthed, sarcastic, arrogant, cold, insufferable man! Those kisses and soft touches must have been an act because he hadn't changed at all; he still treated her like a child.

"Kae," he surprised her by speaking as she slid onto the bench and opened the cover. His voice was smooth now, even-toned. She remembered this as well, the way his mood would suddenly shift as he played the dignified adult. It bothered her just as much now as it had back then. She determined not to look back at him, sure that his expression would have softened, or at least become serious, and knowing that either change would throw her off balance. "Uchida told me you've been working very hard." His voice was smooth, soft, like silk and she felt her resistance melting. "I'm looking forward to hearing you play." That was all it took to wash away her irritation and leave her weak once more. It wasn't fair, he had always been able to play her so well, almost as well as he played the piano, working her up and then soothing her with a few words or a well placed touch.

She took a deep breath to calm herself; she was surprised at how nervous she was after all this time, but she wanted him to approve, to compliment her. In all his time as her teacher she could not recall him ever truly complimenting her playing. Of course, he was a master and she was a student who cared more for the teacher than the art, but she longed to hear his praise. He was always so harsh with her. Taking a moment to calm herself she drifted her fingers across the keys, closing her eyes, and then she began to play. He did not speak for a long time, and she opened her eyes to watch him from her peripheral vision. He was standing a few feet away, leaning against the wall, smoking his cigarette casually and watching her with an air of detachment. She wondered if he was really even listening. And then he shifted and took a long drag on his cigarette before exhaling and looking away.

"You're banging again." He remarked, and she was taken aback by his cold tone. Just like all those years ago, he was the sensei, and she was the student who fell short.

She felt tears well in her eyes and blinked them back determinedly, biting her lower lip. Banging? She had worked so hard, improved so much, waited so long, and all he could say was that she was "banging again" as if no time had passed and nothing had changed. She was too hurt even to be angry and her playing became muddied and riddled with errors as she struggled against the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. The hope she had clung to all evening was fading fast. It was useless, why did she bother? She was about to withdraw her hands when she felt his presence behind her. He leaned over her shoulder, slipping his arms around her, and she felt her breathing hitch as she wondered what he was doing. An instant later his hands came to rest over hers on the keys and she stared at them, transfixed, not even realizing that the cigarette had disappeared. She didn't even recall that he'd had one only moments before, she only remembered how she had always loved his hands; strong and slender, with long, tapered fingers; they were elegant, beautiful, artists hands which seemed to dance along the piano as he played.

"Like this." His voice was low in her ear and it made her shiver. Gently he ran his fingers over hers, pressing them down on the keys and causing the room to fill with soft sound. The song was simple, as he did not move his hands on the keys, instead only guiding her fingers gently, but the experience was undeniably the most intimate they had ever shared. Kae could feel her heart pounding unsteadily in her chest, and her body warming with his heat against her back and his light, caressing strokes across her fingers. His cheek was so close to hers that the slightest movement would have made them brush against one another and as she relaxed she saw that though he was not smiling he looked strangely content. It suddenly occurred to her that perhaps he had been teasing her. For in all the years he had taught her not once had he corrected her in such a manner, not even after they had begun dating. Was he looking for an excuse to get close to her?

All her pain and all her anger faded as she considered this. He had always seemed so mature to her before, but looking back much of his behavior had been far from it. He had baited her, ignored her, snapped at her… as though he never knew quite how he should behave around her. Maybe that was only because she was so much younger than he, but now she thought it might have been that he'd never really cared about anyone since his parents died. Perhaps he was just awkward in relationships. Maybe this guy is actually a clumsy person, so he puts on a mature face, masking his true feelings in his words, a meaningless false front…

She leaned back into him and tilted her head back when she felt him pause for a moment, as though startled, before his fingers began the slow movement once more. She turned her face sideways to rest against his chest and murmured, "I missed you." At this he truly did stop, his whole body going absolutely still. She thought his fingers tightened over hers and she smiled against him. Then her breath caught as his lips lowered to brush against her exposed ear.

"Would you believe me if I told you that I missed you too?" he asked quietly.

For a long time they were both still, and then she pulled away and maneuvered herself just enough to see him over her shoulder.

"You've changed." She observed quietly and he studied her with an intense look that made her wonder what he was thinking. He looked as though he wasn't sure if he should be pleased or angry with her comment.

"What is that supposed to mean?" his mouth had turned downward the barest hint and she almost smiled as she shook her head. He was beautiful with any expression.

"Nothing. Only… right now I think I can see the man Uchida says you used to be." She gently tugged a hand from beneath his and brought it up to brush along the side of his face. "I think I like that man."

He blinked down at her and she watched in awe as his gaze shifted from questioning to a burning desire that made her knees weak.

"That man wouldn't do this." He whispered against her, before lowering his head and pressing hot kisses to her neck and shoulder as his hands finally abandoned the piano in favor of stretching flat across her stomach. She shivered at the touch and leaned further into him, arching so that more of the skin on her neck and jaw line was exposed to him.

She moaned softly. "I," she gasped as he nipped at her ear before running a series of scorching, open mouthed kisses along the underside of her jaw. "I like this man too." She confessed breathlessly. And then his hand came up and caught her chin, angling her head back even as he leaned around so that he could press his lips to hers.

It was like fire, liquid heat that ran through her, warming every cell. And she wanted to lose herself in his touch.

All too soon he pulled back, nuzzling his face into her neck again.

"If you're going to leave, you'd better do it now." He murmured huskily, his breath eliciting shivers from the woman wrapped against him.

"I meant what I said." Though quiet, and a bit unsteady after all his attentions, her voice held an unmistakable determination. "If you won't let me stay I'll sleep outside the door."

At this he pulled her more tightly to him, pressing another hungry kiss to her skin before drifting his mouth back up to her ear. "You aren't sleeping in the hall when I could have you here with me."

She could not respond, but when his mouth found its way back to hers she didn't need to.

There was a promise in that statement, in that touch, and she flushed at the thought. How could it feel as though all their separation had washed away? How could all the hurt melt away under his touch? How could the brush of his lips against her flesh make her feel foolish for her doubts? How could his arms wrapped around her give her confidence in emotions he had never put into words?

She couldn't find a reason, and as she lost herself once more in his passion she found she didn't care.

She hardly noticed when his arms slipped from her torso, moving to rest beneath her knees against the bench, and up to her back between her shoulders. She only sighed against his lips as he lifted her and carried her out of the bedroom and back into the open front room. But when he sank to the couch and gently tugged her legs to either side of his waist so that she straddled him, she pulled back, eyes wide with a touch of uncertain apprehension. The look in his eyes as he watched her spoke volumes – intense and hungry, as if just tasting her had not been enough and he wanted to pull her to him and never let go. Smoldering had always seemed to her a silly word, but she found it was the only one that came close to describing that look. It made her heart race, her skin heat, and her breath catch. But there was trepidation as well as longing. She had not had a boyfriend since he had left, and he had never looked at her like this except tonight. What did he expect of her?

"Sen- Masayuki." She corrected herself breathlessly, looking down at their position with obvious embarrassment. The way they had fallen his shirt, already rather short on her, had hiked up to rest mere inches below her crotch.

"Shhh." He admonished her, bringing his hands up to frame her face tenderly before pulling her down to meet his lips. He held her there gently as he explored her lips, as though he were trying to reassure her. He kissed her softly but insistently, brushing his tongue against the seam of her lips and then sweeping inside when she allowed them to part. When she was lost in the sensation of his tongue moving against hers he allowed his hands to drift down, across her neck and down her back, in soft caresses that had her pushing to be closer to him. His mouth left hers to trail kisses across her cheek and along her jaw, up to her ear where he swirled his tongue against her before kissing his way back down.

"I love you." He whispered against the shell of her ear and she stilled against him, pulling back, head down, eyes shadowed by her bangs. He stilled as well, concerned. But then she looked up and she was smiling.

"I love you too, Sensei!" she threw herself into his chest and clutched his shirt between her fingers, and he didn't bother to correct her – to remind her that he was not her sensei any longer. "I thought you'd never say it." She whispered, and relief flooded through him. He ran his hands over her back and it was not a soothing gesture so much as a sensuous one.

"I do." He confessed, and then he tilted her chin up and pressed their lips together once more, this time with more passion, as though he no longer felt the need to be cautious. His hands trailed around to her front and down her torso, skimming past her hips and coming to rest on her thighs, the tops halves of his slender fingers sliding up under the shirt she was wearing. Once there he did not move them, but she could feel their heat radiating through her and the feeling was so intense she forgot how to breathe. Shyly she brought her hands to his chest and began to slip his buttons from their holds. When she had finished she slipped her hands under his t-shirt and leaned against him, sighing in contentment.

"I missed you…" she murmured again, and he pressed his cheek to the crown of her head and smiled.

"I missed you too." He whispered, before slipping his hands gently from her legs, caressing the smooth skin on his way, making her shiver, and wrapping his arms around her waist. They lay quietly, enjoying one another's nearness until her breathing became deep and even and he knew she had fallen asleep. He pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head and then rested his own against it once more, closing his eyes and tightening his hold on her.

He wanted so much more, but they had time enough for that later – they had all the time in the world. For now he was content just to hold her.

Author's Notes: Is it just me or is Fanfiction Document upload being weird? I had to load this 3 times before it finally loaded the whole story... is it just too long? It is rather long for a one-shot, 27 pages in Word, but one page is the summary of the series. If anyone wants a link to download it let me know, I'll send it to you. It's a great Shoujo manga, even if the ending leaves something to be desired, and leaves a lot open to interpretation. And now I must go to bed. Sorry Sanela, I totally forgot that I said I'd post this Friday. I had Easter musical rehearsals!

Even if you don't read this manga I'd appreciate a review. Writing style critique and/or compliments are always welcome.