They lay next to each other in the narrow bed, their unclothed bodies entwined in the aftermath of passion. Lillet Blan's skin was hot and flushed, slick with perspiration that made the sheets cling stickily to her. There was a pleasant, almost delicious ache in her muscles from their exertion. Her hand lazily stroked her lover's ash-blonde hair affectionately, savoring the silken caress of the strands as they slipped between her fingers.

Amoretta Virgine's body, by contrast, was cool and satin-smooth against Lillet's own, and it was this that brought home to Lillet what her lover was.

She gave Amoretta a quick kiss on the tip of her nose.

"Happy one hundred and fiftieth birthday," she said, her voice lazy with a post-lovemaking weariness. Not one hundred and fifty years, but one hundred and fifty days, for Amoretta wasn't human. She'd been created in a lab by the Silver Star Tower's alchemy master, Chartreuse Grande, a homunculus with (literally) the soul of an angel.

Lillet's stay at the Tower hadn't followed expectations, that was for certain. She'd been caught up in a trap of time by the Philosopher's Stone, forced to repeat her first five days there over and over again. She only remembered five loops, twenty-five days in all, but knew there had been many, many more. Perhaps it was months? Years? Decades? Centuries? Millennia? that she'd been trapped. She'd entered the Tower as a rank apprentice, and she'd only freed herself from the loops by learning enough magic to shatter the Stone. In less than a week--from the world's perspective--she'd learned the skills of a great magician.

And she'd fallen in love.

She'd been focused when she came to the Tower, excited about learning magic, not only because she loved the arcane arts for their own sake but because it was a chance to help her family, to earn money that would help her parents support themselves and their farm, and to pay for her little brothers' schooling so that they'd have the ability to choose the life they wanted for themselves. She hadn't been thinking about love except as an abstract dream, something she definitely hoped for but wasn't actively seeking right now.

So of course, providence being what it was, she'd found it. The kind of love that made her heart melt, that made her want to hold and comfort her beloved and take away all her pain, that made her trust that she could lean on her lover in turn, that made her want to share all the happy moments, her laughter and joys, and to be beside her, too, in the sad times. Yes, too, that made her want to kiss and touch her beloved and be kissed and touched in turn, to be brought to the heights of passion together. The kind of love that poets wrote about and minstrels sang over and grand operas made the centerpiece of glory and tragedy.

The kind of love, in short, that Lillet's mother had told her daughter about when explaining what her own very happy marriage was like.

She hadn't been expecting to find it. She certainly hadn't expected to find it with another girl. She absolutely hadn't been expecting to find it with someone who wasn't even human. And she hadn't even believed it was possible to find it so quickly! Infatuation or a crush, of course, that could deepen into full-blown love, but not this, not the sensation of rightness deep in her soul that could only come from knowing a person over time, their thoughts, their hopes and fears.

Of course!

"Lillet? Is something wrong? You have such a strange expression."

Lillet smiled happily.

"No, something's right. I just figured out how I could love you."

"How? I thought people usually said 'why.'"

"No, not why. We could be here for years if I started in on why. Especially since I keep thinking of new whys each day."

"Then what do you mean?"

Lillet reached out and cupped the other girl's face.

"I think it's kind of like how I learned magic."

"Oh?"

"Well, from the five loops of time that I remember, every time I was taught or studied a new grimoire or Rune, I knew it instantly, got it perfect on the first try. But I wasn't really learning those things. I'd already learned them during all the trips through time that I don't remember. In effect, I was just being reminded of things that I already knew. So maybe it was the same with you. Getting to know you for loop after loop, seeing different sides of you as events played out in different ways. So maybe although I don't have memories of it, I'd already fallen in love with you and that's why it was so easy and natural for me to fall for you again so quickly."

Amoretta smiled.

"That could be true. But Lillet, do you really not believe in love at first sight? Since I haven't been traveling in time with you, the only feelings I have are from this last, final reality. Do you think that I don't truly love you?"

Lillet could have laughed or teased or said it was a silly question, but it wasn't silly. Knowing Amoretta, if the lovely homunculus had asked it than she genuinely wanted an answer, so Lillet thought it over before speaking.

"That's hard," she admitted. "Now, when we first met, you responded to my feelings for you, isn't that right?" As an artificial creation, Amoretta needed love to complete her existence, and her creator had not provided that. Thankfully, he'd also recognized his responsibility to his creation, if belatedly, and so had approved of Lillet and Amoretta's relationship rather than trying to fight it. "That is, you believed in my sincerity when I said that I loved you, and in how I acted as well."

"Yes, that's right. Oh, I think I see what you mean."

"Mm-hm. You felt the love I gave you, and you tried your best to return it. I guess that's kind of the homunculus equivalent of a crush. But now you're getting to know me as a person, not just as a girl who loves you but as Lillet, and since you still love me you must like what you've found."

"Very, very much," she said, stating it as plain fact. The pure simplicity of her answer made Lillet blush.

"So I think that it's similar for you, but a little different, too. I think that you feel stronger feelings faster than a human would, because you're acting out of the feeling of being loved, a real emotion, not out of an image formed in your mind like a human infatuation would be." She paused, then added, "Maybe that's the difference between infatuation and love: you get a crush on who you think a person is, but you fall in love with who they actually are."

Amoretta smiled, then leaned in closer.

"That's all right, then. I know who you are," she whispered against Lillet's lips, then kissed her lovingly. The soft caress of her mouth sent electricity tingling through her and made a twinge pulse between her thighs, an aftershock of sorts to what they'd already done.

"That's another thing," Lillet murmured. Apparently it was a night for relationship questions, because her mind kept asking them. "Why is it that you like...well, this?"

"What?"

Even in the dark, Lillet could feel herself blushing. Master magician or not, she still was a teenaged girl in the throes of her first love.

"The things we do together. L-lovemaking," she stammered out.

"Oh. I do it because you like it." Amoretta blinked, suddenly startled. "Lillet, what's wrong?"

Lillet had gone stiff as a board at her words. It actually took an effort to answer the question.

"You...only do it for me? You don't enjoy it?"

"What? Oh, no, Lillet, that's not what I meant," Amoretta said tenderly. "You asked me why I like it, not if I did. I'm sorry if I confused you."

Lillet let out a heartfelt sigh of relief.

"Don't scare me like that, Amoretta!" She pressed the other girl's hand to her chest. "Feel how my heart is pounding?"

"It is," Amoretta observed with some surprise. "Why does it frighten you so?"

"I don't ever want to make you do something you don't want to do!"

"Lillet, people in love do things for each other's sake all the time. That's an important part of what love is."

"Yes, but not about this, not sexually."

Amoretta slid her hand over to gently cup Lillet's breast. She squeezed softly with just the muscles in her palm, and Lillet could feel her nipple hardening, rising to Amoretta's touch.

"Lillet, have I ever seemed to you like I wasn't enjoying the things we do in bed?"

"Well...no, you never have." Amoretta was so blindingly honest in everything she did that it would have been obvious at once.

"That's right." She leaned in and flicked her tongue against the pulse in Lillet's throat, sending a shiver through the young magician. "It makes this body of mine feel good." She kissed the same spot, sucking gently. "It makes you feel good, which I like very much." The hand at Lillet's breast grew more insistent. "Most of all, though, it's a way to grow closer to you." Her teeth teased at Lillet's earlobe. "To be more intimately connected to you." She brushed the nails of her other hand down Lillet's back, feather-light, and Lillet moaned with mounting arousal. "To accept your love for me, all of it, in the way that you feel it." She pressed kisses along Lillet's jawline as her mouth moved down from Lillet's ear. "And to show you that I return your love in that same way."

Her mouth captured Lillet's own as her leg parted her lover's thighs. Lillet moaned again, deeply, as she pulled Amoretta on top of her. Their first coupling of the evening had been eager, almost frantic, but this was long and slow, tender and sweet. Lillet was left drifting in a blissful daze when they were through, which Amoretta's voice surprised her out of.

"That's what I mean when I say that I like making love with you because you do. I'm not like you in that I don't have a biological desire for sex in and of itself, but I do desire you because of our love."

Lillet had to suppress a yawn, but it was important to her that she understand. Sleep could wait.

"Does that mean that if I only liked boys in that way, you wouldn't desire me?"

"Lovemaking wouldn't be an appropriate way to express our feelings, then," Amoretta said. "It's the love that's the important part. Parent and child, siblings, friends, lovers...love is love. The other feelings are the ones that define the relationship. I don't mind letting you choose for us to be lovers instead of like sisters, because either one would give me your love." She smiled brightly. "You've taken me into your life and given me the most precious gift anyone could give me--no, that anyone can give anyone. So I'll be the kind of love you need me to be."

"Oh, Amoretta!" She hugged the homunculus close, her eyes brimming with joyful tears.

"Lillet, would you mind if I slept here tonight? I'd like to be next to you."

"No, I'd be glad. Just try not to knock me out of bed again, okay?"

"I'll try."

Lillet gave in to her sleepiness and yawned.

"When we're out on our own, we're getting the biggest bed we can find so you can squirm and toss all you want, okay?"

Amoretta beamed, probably from Lillet's implied promise of a future together.

"All right!"

And they laid their heads down on Lillet's pillow facing one another, and closed their eyes.