Wake Up to Love
by Naia Zifu

"So, Taiki-san, how long are you three staying this time?" Ami
asked.
"Just a couple of weeks."
"That's all?" she cried. "But that's so short!"
"I know, but it can't be helped. The longer we're away from
our planet--"
"I understand," Ami said. "And how much of those two weeks did
you plan on avoiding me?"
"Ami-chan, if I didn't want to see you I wouldn't be here!"
Ami went on tiptoe to give me a peck on the lips.
"Well, I'm glad you're here now, Taiki-san. I've missed you!
I swear not a day has gone by I haven't thought of you at least once!"
"It's been the same for us," I said. "I think we annoy our
princess, talking about Earth so much. It's ironic; all that time, all
we wanted to do was get home, but once we got there, all we could think
about was coming back here!"
"So have you got a place to stay while you're in town?" Ami
asked. "I know it's not much, but if you've got nowhere else, you
could always. . . stay here with me, if you like."
I was surprised she would be so forward! I knew she was eager
to get into my mind, but my pants as well, and so soon?
"Actually, yes," I said. "Yes, we have a place, I mean. We're
staying at Ten'ou-san's. I should probably be getting back there now,
in fact-- if I'm gone too long my friends will worry."
"They won't worry," Ami said, "they know you're with me. Don't
you want to stay and catch up, just for a while?"
"But the pizza--"
"It's better cold anyway."
"But Nami-chan will--"
"She'll understand," Ami said. "Now, if you're through with
the flimsy excuses, have a seat and make yourself at home."
But this wasn't the same homey place I'd picked her up at
before. Ami had moved out of her mother's place and now lived in a
small, sparsely-furnished flat near the university. There was a small
kitchen area on one side, with appliances so old they were avocado.
Her computer sat on a makeshift desk of plastic crates and plywood.
The green plaid sofa was made out into a bed, and the only other
seating in the room was a worn brown chair with an endtable and reading
lamp beside it. There were a couple of small paintings on the walls, a
poster of Einstein showing his tongue, and on one wall a large collage
of photos featured happy occasions with her friends. Our photos were
there, too, but only as men, and only Three Lights publicity shots.
Suddenly I heard the click of a shutter and saw a flash of
light from the corner of my eye.
"For my wall," she said. "I hope you don't mind. You're so
beautiful as a girl, Taiki-san, so statuesque!"
I blushed and mumbled a shy, "Arigato."
Ami smiled and snapped a picture of my demure expression.
"So what have you been doing with yourself these past few
years?" she asked.
"Helping rebuild cities and restore the ecosystem, of course,"
I replied. "In my spare time I work on my memoirs and publish volumes
of poetry. What about you?"
"Going to school year-round, doubling up on courses, trying to
get through as fast as possible."
"My stars, girl," I cried, "when do you sleep?"
Ami laughed wearily. "Very rarely."
"Oh, Ami-chan," I said, stroking her hair, "you'll burn your-
self out that way! You know it takes years to become a doctor. Why
the rush?"
"Because anyone can be a doctor in ten or twelve years," she
replied. "I'm supposed to be a genius; I've got to be able to do it in
half that!"
"Ami-chan, you don't have to prove yourself to anyone," I said.
"We all know what a genius you are already!"
"Easy for you to say! You're the main reason I push myself so
hard," she said, tears shining in her big blue eyes. "I had the
highest IQ in recorded history, and was quite proud of that, until you
came along. Not only are you just as smart as me, but you're
beautiful, talented, a great musician and poet-- you've got
everything!"
"Not quite everything," I whispered.
I gently lifted her chin and leaned in for a long, passionate
kiss to rival her own "good-night kiss" from our first date.
Ami seemed shocked. "Taiki-san. . .whatever happened to taking
things slowly?"
"It's a two-week trip," I replied. "I thought we should
accelerate the timetable a bit."
"Well, if that's how you want to play it. . ."
Ami smiled and went on tiptoe to kiss me again, while her
fingers fumbled open my shirt buttons.
I pushed her away and turned around to button up again.
"Don't. . .please. . .I'm not ready for that yet," I protested.
"Gomen. I just thought--"
"It's not your fault," I said. "I just. . .I'm. . .I should
go."
I started for the door, but Ami stopped me.
"Don't go!" she called. "I won't do it again, I promise. We
can just sit and talk like civilised people. I won't try to force you
into anything you're not ready for."
Then she pouted so sweetly I had no choice but to cave in.
"Well, all right," I agreed at last, "but just for a while,
then I have to get back, okay?"
So Ami produced a decent bottle of wine, and we sat on her sofa
bed for hours filling each other in on what happened since last we met.
"They cast her as a dead girl?" I asked in disbelief.
I was already tipsy at the time, so the idea of Minako in such
a role sent me into hysterics!
Ami didn't seem intoxicated at all.
"A zombie, yes," she replied, "the walking dead. You'd think
someone as pretty as her can't look dead, but those make-up artists are
amazing! To see her in full costume, you'd hardly even know her!"
"Well, everyone's got to start somewhere," I said. "What about
Kino-san? What's she doing now?"
"Trying to become the Japanese Martha Stewart!"
"Martha who?"
"Amerika-jin home and crafts maven," Ami replied. "Mako-chan's
done a pilot for a similar show, and if all goes well, it could be
picked up as a mid-season replacement. But you still haven't mentioned
your family, Taiki-san. Weren't they restored with the rest of your
planet?"
"Not everyone returned," I said quietly, "only those who died
when their Starseeds were stolen."
"And your parents?"
"At home asleep when their building collapsed," I said.
"Neither survived."
"I'm so sorry!" Ami cried, and threw her arms around me. "Are
you okay?"
I shook my head. "I still miss them, Ami-chan," I sobbed.
"We didn't always agree-- what family does?-- but I loved them. Their
last impression of me was as an angry, spoiled girl who stormed out on
her own family. They must've died thinking I despised them!"
"We've all said things in anger we didn't mean, Taiki-san.
Even if you argued, I'm sure they knew how much you really cared."
"I swore on their graves no more loved ones would die without
my telling them how I feel," I said. "I've told everyone back home
already, but. . ." I took a moment to compose my thoughts, while Ami
sat breathless, nervously biting her lip. "I've admired you so long as
a pretty girl, an academic rival, the girl who taught me the importance
of dreams and romance. . . If not for the mission and my damned
secrets, we might've had something before. Even now I'm not sure if
it's possible, given the distance, but I'd like to try."
"You mean exclusively?" she asked. "Like a real dating
couple?"
"Of course," I replied, "if you'd have me."
"Oh, Taiki-san," she whispered, tears sliding down her plump
cheeks, "aishiteru!"
"A-aishiteru," I replied, testing the word out. It felt right,
so I repeated it more strongly, and kissed her salty tears away.
My next clear memory was being awakened the next afternoon by a
ringing telephone. I found myself lying prone on Ami's sofa bed
without a stitch of clothing on!
The ringing sent shockwaves of pain through my head, and sun-
light streaming through the window hurt so I could hardly open my eyes.
Ami hopped out of bed from beside me and ran for the phone.
"Moshi moshi," she answered, too cheerfully for someone who's
just been woken up. "Yes, she's still here. We, uh. . .I was still
shaken up from the fight yesterday, so I asked her to stay the night
just in case. Would you like to talk to her? Okay, hold on.
Taiki-san? It's Nami-chan. She's asking for you."
I slowly sat up and rubbed my eyes. Ami waited patiently with
the phone while I pulled my shirt over my naked body and fumbled closed
a couple of buttons at my chest. Then I brushed my hair out of my eyes
and put on my glasses as I stumbled to the telephone.
"This is Taiki," I said sleepily.
"Taiki-san, you didn't come home last night!" Nami scolded. "I
was worried something had happened to you!"
"I was here all night with Ami-chan," I said.
"And you didn't even have the courtesy to phone?"
I couldn't help laughing at that. She was adorable when she
talked like a grown-up!
"Gomen," I apologised. "I'll remember next time, I promise."
"But you missed pizza and ice-cream and late-night Monopoly!"
"Gomen," I said again, "that does sound like fun. I'm sorry I
missed it."
Now if I could just remember what I missed it for. . .
Nami sighed. "Well, we're having a Senshi meeting at three.
Will you and Ami-san at least be there?"
"Senshi meeting?" I repeated. I never knew there was such a
thing! "Where is it?"
"Rei-san's place," she replied. "Ami-san knows the way."
I was tired. I was hung over. I felt like going nowhere.
Ami leaned in to answer, "We'll be there."
"Great! I'll see you then." I heard another voice in the
background, and Nami said, "Oops, gotta go now, Taiki-san; time for
lunch. See you at the meeting later. Ja!"
There was a blinding flash of light as I hung up the phone.
Ami had her camera back out and was taking photos of me dishevelled
and nearly naked!
"That's it!" I cried, lunging after her. "Give me that
camera!"
Ami giggled and ran from me. My longer legs should've let me
catch her easily, but she kept darting around the furniture to avoid
me! Finally I took a flying leap and tackled her onto the sofa bed.
The camera flew from her hand and hit the floor with a click and a
flash.
We looked at each other and burst into giggles.
"Now there's a photo that'll require explanation!" I said.
Ami smiled and stroked my cheek. "Taiki-san, people in love
needn't explain themselves to anyone!"
But there _was_ one explanation I needed to hear.
"Ami-chan, what happened between us last night?"
"Well, I found out you shouldn't drink," she replied. "You
were tipsy on just the second glass!"
"How many did I have?"
"We finished the bottle between us," she said.
"No wonder I don't remember much!" I should've told her we
Kinmokuseijin can't hold our liquor; our unique chemistry and extremely
low body fat ratio mean we get drunk easier than the average human. "I
hope I didn't make too big an ass of myself!"
"You were a sweetie!" Ami said. "We kissed and cuddled all
night, and you sang me love songs."
"Naked?"
"Silly, you had to get undressed so I could massage you!" she
said.
"Yes, massage, the obvious answer," I said sarcastically. "How
could I have missed it?"
"I found the sweetest little rose right here on your back,"
she said, slipping her hand under my shirt to stroke it. "How long
have you had it?"
"Exhibit 'A,' why Taiki Kou shouldn't drink," I said, blushing.
"First Kinmokusei New Year back; a few drinks, a bit too much nostalgia
for Earth, and I woke up hung over, with an indelible rose. It's so
embarrassing!"
"Don't be embarrassed, Taiki-san!" she said. "It's so
beautiful!"
"One of the things I miss most about Earth are the roses," I
said, "especially the white ones, with their perfect snowy petals and
glossy green leaves. . .sometimes I even miss the thorns!"
"Don't you have roses on your world?"
"We have a plant that looks similar, but it's a nuisance! It
grows on long, creeping vines, choking out all other vegetation, and it
smells kind of like rotten eggs. Nobody likes it."
"No wonder you miss roses so much!" Ami said. "So why be so
embarrassed of this one?"
"I hate not being in control of my own actions," I said, "it
frightens me! That's why it's important to know what happened between
us last night. If we had sex and I don't remember, how will I ever
forgive myself?"
"Don't worry, Taiki-san, you're still a virgin," she said
bitterly, "though not for lack of trying. . ." Seeing my relieved
expression, she realised, "Oh my god, you really _are_ a virgin, aren't
you? I had no idea! I thought you just didn't find me attractive
enough!"
"Ami-chan, I find you very attractive!" I said. "I just want
our first time to be special. I don't want to cheapen it by getting
drunk and forgetting it all in the morning."
"I understand. Take all the time you need; I won't pressure
you anymore," she promised. "But, Taiki-san, it would be much easier
to keep my word if you weren't lying on top of me."
I blushed as I suddenly became aware of the arrangement of our
bodies. We were a clothing layer and an intent away from sex!
I apologised profusely and rolled off her.
"But, Ami-chan, you've seen me drunk and naked," I said.
"There's no need for such formal terms anymore."
"Then can I call you 'Kou-chan?' " she asked.
No-one had called me that in so long it hardly felt like my
name anymore! But coming from her, it sounded just perfect.
I smiled and nodded. "I'd like that."
"I wish we could stay here all day, just like this," Ami said,
"but we promised Nami-chan we'd make that meeting, remember? We've got
to shower and get ready!"
"I hog the hot water," I confessed, "so you should go first."
"Actually, I thought we might save time and go together," she
said, starting to unbutton her blouse. "Don't worry, Ta-- Kou-chan, I
promise I won't make you do anything you're not ready for."
"You're evil!" I cried.
But Ami just giggled and undressed right in front of me, with-
out embarrassment, as if I weren't even there.
Though I knew it was rude, I couldn't help ogling the soft
curves of her body. Human girls may have more body fat, but they
certainly do store it well!
"I know I must look fat compared to girls where you're from,"
Ami said.
"Ami-chan, if the girls back home looked like you, I might not
still be a virgin!"
Ami blushed and giggled, and I was proud of myself for choosing
such a good answer. It seemed I'd already hurt her by rejecting her
advances the night before, and I couldn't bear the thought of hurting
her again under any circumstances.
"Come now, into the shower with you," she said, "and if you're
good, I may even help you wash your. . ." she stared at my breasts, but
instead finished, "back."
Despite my protests, she did both, and most of the rest of my
body as well. She even gave my hair the most thorough washing it'd had
in ages, taking time to scrub every inch of my long brown ponytail.
In my innocence, I could bring myself to wash little more than
her back.
Fresh from the shower, I started to redress in my own clothes,
but Ami wouldn't have it.
"There's no point in showering just to put on dirty clothes,
Kou-chan. Why don't you borrow something of mine?"
"Won't your things be a little small for me?"
"You wear a leather bikini and you're worried _my_ clothes are
too small?"
"One, I can't help its design; it comes with the henshin," I
protested. "Two, at least it's a leather bikini that fits!"
"And you do look good in it," she said, holding up dainty
dresses, all of which looked freakishly short for my body. "But I
think this will be just lovely on you!"
Her calf-length, yellow floral dress became a baby-doll on me.
And of all the things tall, conservative-looking people shouldn't wear,
it just had to have a Peter Pan collar with a little fabric rose at the
front!
"I'm not wearing this," I said. "I look stupid! My friends
will mock me, your friends will mock me; I'll be publicly humiliated!"
"Oh, don't exaggerate! It's a bit short, but you look fine!"
she insisted. "Now, sit."
I hesitated. "Doshite?" I asked, wondering what further
humiliation she had planned for me. "Anything but make-up; I look like
a drag queen in make-up!"
Ami giggled. "Do they even have those where you come from?"
"Well, no," I admitted.
Just one more thing that was hard to explain back home, to a
race with no concept of fixed gender or orientation!
"Don't worry, Kou-chan, it's nothing like that," she promised.
I complied, and Ami sat patiently detangling my hair with a
wide-toothed wooden comb. She knew how to work out the worst tangles
without pulling. She even knew enough to start at the bottom and work
her way up. I was impressed; even doing it myself, it always pulled at
least a bit!
"You have such gentle hands," I said contentedly.
"You've seen my friends; I get lots of practise!" she replied.
"Yours is nicer, though; baby-fine and soft as silk. You're so lucky!"
"I thought you hated it before."
"You never let me play with it before," Ami said. "Now what do
you say to some nice curls?"
"Too straight and fine," I said, "they never hold."
"Then maybe we'll leave it loose instead."
"Just my customary ponytail, please."
"Kou-chan, you're a girl this time! Have some fun; try some-
thing different for once!"
I shrugged. "Fine, then. Do what you want."
Ami squealed and thanked me with a kiss. Then she took a
glittery blue box full of accessories from a shelf, and hummed
cheerfully while she toyed with my hair.
"I'll venture a guess you've never had long hair."
"No, even as a child my mother always kept it short," she said.
"But I don't mind; even though I love to play with friends' hair, I'm
a low-maintenance kind of girl myself."
"You pull it off really well," I said.
"Arigato," she replied. "You, too, Kou-chan. Is yours a
common style where you're from?"
"Sure, if you happen to be a schoolgirl, nun, or Sailor
Senshi."
Ami laughed. "A nun? Seriously?"
"Yes. What's so strange about that?"
"Just another quirk that makes me want to visit your world,"
Ami said. "I keep meaning to ask, how do you fly unaided across the
galaxy so quickly?"
"Didn't you know? There's a giant space portal just past
Pluto," I joked.
Ami laughed and punched my arm.
"I'm being serious!" she said. "For the first time it feels
like we might have a chance as a couple, and you'll be leaving in two
weeks! I can't stand the thought of losing touch again at a time like
this!"
"We're Hoshi no Senshi-- our bodies are made for streaking
through space at lightspeed," I said. "How do you get around?"
"If we all work together, we can teleport, but we've never
tried a jump to the other side of the galaxy! I don't know if we could
make it to your world from here."
"No wonder your system's remained so isolated if, even
combined, you haven't the power to reach other inhabited worlds."
"So how will we keep in touch once you're gone?"
"We've got two weeks and the two sharpest minds in the galaxy
to find out."
"Well, when you put it that way, I'm sure the two of us will
figure out something," Ami said.
Neither of us spoke again for several minutes. For my part,
I'd already begun work on our problem, but I could only guess what went
through her mind while she hummed to herself and toyed with my hair.
Was she ignoring me for my insufficient answer, or did busying her
hands help her concentrate, the way it sometimes helped me?
"All finished back here," she said at last. "What do you
think?"
Ami draped my hair over my shoulder for inspection.
She'd actually woven it, like basket straw, for half its
length. Then she tied it off with thin green ribbons, the loose ends
of which hung the rest of the way, and placed little silk violets all
over at random. The whole thing was gaudy and not like me at all,
but. . .
"It's beautiful," I said, and rewarded her with a kiss.
"Arigato."
"I'll do something new with it every day, if you'll let me,"
she said. "Now, about the rest, have you ever considered--"
"No," I said firmly. "You may dress up the pony all you want,
but that's it."
"Touchy about the forehead, eh?" Ami guessed. "Right, I got
it!"
I opened my mouth to protest, but could think of no suitable
excuse.
"Let's just go," I said. "You know if we're late, Nami-chan
will never let us hear the end of it!"
"True," she said. "Should we arrive separately, do you think,
for appearance's sake?"
"Doshite?" I asked. "I have nothing to hide."
"But our friends--"
"If they don't know already, they will soon enough. Denying it
will only make things worse."
"So we should just waltz in there holding hands and trust them
to understand?"
There was a look of panic in her big blue eyes. I could tell
her friends' opinions meant a lot to her.
"That's exactly what we'll do," I said, taking her hand. "Your
friends are good people, Ami-chan. They'll understand." But still she
hesitated, biting her lip. "If it makes you feel better, I can change
and go as a boy instead."
"Oh, don't do that!" she cried. "I spent half an hour fixing
you up; it would be such a shame to waste it!"
"I'll go like this, then," I said with a shrug. Inside I
cursed my luck, having tried and failed to get out of being seen like
that. "But if your friends ask?"
"I'll tell them the truth," she said, "that I love you for your
heart, not what's on the outside. You're perfect to me, Kou-chan,
whether as a boy or a girl."
"That's all the response you need," I said. "Now, iko. It
won't do to keep the other Senshi waiting, especially at an important
time like this."



©2001 Naia Zifu, all rights reserved.
Unabara Nami is my own original character, but Taiki and Ami are SM
characters I don't own rights to. As always, I'm not trying to make
money off anyone else's ideas.
This was written to expand on the night Taiki went missing in "Nami and
the Night Visitors," so if you haven't read that yet, read it now and
parts of this may make more sense to you.