For disclaimers, please see part I.

Author's Notes:
Since Natsuki got such a lengthy chapter, we're doing another POV switch here. Just to keep things even.

In other news, last night I had a dream where I somehow ended up in the Otome-verse 12 years younger and - while trying to find a way back – joined the school and became Natsuki's heyagakkari and later on Fourth Pillar. Uwah? At least I think my girl had a grand old time imagining me in a Meister Robe after I told her about it.

Thanks for reading.

Behind the Scenes
Part III


She looks so very beautiful when she sleeps. Her lips are always slightly parted, and she tends to breathe far more through her mouth than through her nose. I remember one time when I gently pushed her jaw shut, and she began snoring and woke herself up. I never did tell her exactly what I found so amusing.

And I really should be ashamed of all the things I'm thinking of doing to her. Even if the sheets have pooled around her waist and exposed her upper body to my very appreciative eyes. One arm is resting on the pillow above her head, and the other is curled loosely over her stomach. Her dark hair is fanning out lightly around her face, with a few of the locks sneaking their way onto her skin to stand in stark contrast against her chest.

Which is rising and falling gently with each breath that she takes.

Now, Shizuru... Natsuki had a long, exhausting day yesterday. Particularly the last part of it, I remind myself with a smirk. Certainly, she needs to rest.

I could, of course, take a shower. A cold one. A very cold one, if she's going to keep presenting herself to me in such an enticing manner. Only... I just took a shower, and it didn't help at all.

I really should let her sleep.

Then again, wouldn't it be possible for her to simply sleep on the plane on our way back to Fuuka? What I have in mind would certainly be a lot more enjoyable than just snoozing the time away, and it's not often that we have such a lovely suite at our disposal. Waste not, want not, isn't that how the saying normally goes?

And since we have only - I send the digital clock next to the bed a glance - a little more than five hours until check-out time... ara, but it would almost be a sin to waste those hours sleeping.

Quite. Now, how should I go about waking her up?

I consider that notion while quietly rummaging through the open suitcase laying on the low table in the sitting room. If I know my Natsuki like I think I do, she will have packed some... oh, dear. I feel my eyes widen as my hand closes around something that most certainly isn't the massage oil I was looking for.

Why, I wonder, didn't she bring that into play last night? Perhaps she was planning on it, and my little visit to her in the bathroom distracted her? I chuckle quietly. Yes, that is most probably what happened. Well, chances are that I can make use of it later on.

But for now... ah, there's the little bottle I was looking for. And she's turned over in her sleep, too. She's on her side now, one arm curled beneath the pillow and the other stretched out across the surface of the bed, away from the direction that her face is turned to. Judging from the cute little frown on her face, she seems to be looking for something. Whatever could that something be?

I smile as I let my robe fall to the floor and get back into the bed, reaching across my slumbering lover to set the bottle down on the nightstand on her side. Natsuki's hand immediately finds my hip, and she gives an irritated little murmur as she scoots back against me, grasping my wrist and pulling my arm around her with a grunt.

Adorable.

I press a light kiss to her shoulder, holding myself up on one elbow while stroking the fingers of my other hand over the skin below them. She has such a beautiful body, really, and I don't just think that because I happen to be more than a little biased. Broad shoulders give way to ribs that gently slope inwards along the curve of her waist in an almost V-like shape... silky, alabaster skin cast over a subtle, powerful muscularity that I can feel shifting under my touch as she breathes.

Another kiss, this one just below her exposed ear. "Natsuki?"

"Hrrmn?" The hand on my arm strokes my skin lazily. Oh, she's not quite awake yet, but she's getting there.

"I would very much like to do things to your body that would frighten a lesser human being."

Judging by the sudden, sharp inhalation that earns me, I believe that I have her attention. She shifts a little, opening one very green eye and regarding me over her shoulder. "Such as?" Her voice is rough with sleep, and more than just a touch amused.

"Ara, I wonder..." I reach across her again, and fight down a chuckle at the low hiss that passes through her teeth as she feels my chest press against her. "I suggest that we start with a massage." I pick up the bottle and hold it in front of her face, then open it and transfer some of its contents onto my hands. The fact that I have to wrap my arms around her in order to do this is, of course, simply a happy coincidence.

"After that..." I rub my palms together to warm the lightly scented oil up, and give the back of her neck a few light nibbles. "Anything you want, my darling. I'm back here waiting... naked and willing."

"Oh, God." She groans and presses her face into the pillow.

And I? Why, I simply smile and set about lovingly working the oil into her skin.

"Shizuru?"

"Hmm?"

"Isn't a massage usually given to someone's back?"

I pause in my task of rubbing her thighs and lower belly. "Natsuki is complaining?"

"Hell no." An amused little sound. "Just wondering."

"Well, you do have a point," I remark contemplatively, and know that I'm not even close to fooling her when I feel the chuckle rumble through her. "I suppose that Natsuki will just have to turn around then, so I can reach properly."

Of course, I could also move back a little myself, but that would entirely defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?

Thankfully, Natsuki doesn't seem to have any objections to my little scheme and easily turns around in my embrace, her own arms snaking their way around my neck.

"You are utterly insatiable," she murmurs against the top of my chest.

Perhaps so. But really... with this inspiration, would you not be? And believe me, she doesn't seem to mind it at all, especially not if I take the slight elevation in her breathing into account as her bare body presses against my own. She just has to get her little digs in somewhere. It's in her nature.

Besides... I feel my own breath catch as the hot velvet of her lips travels over my skin and up along the side of my neck. My Natsuki is every bit as much of a sexual being as I am. Birds of a feather flock together, after all. And she is such a fantastic kisser, which she apparently is only happy to remind me of right now.

Massage? What massage? Am I supposed to be doing anything but drowning in this woman?

I am, however, brought back afloat when I feel a hand pressing against my shoulder as she attempts to guide me onto my back. Oh, now that simply won't do. At least... not just yet.

She gives a soft, startled yelp as I flip her over and straddle her thighs. Apparently she didn't expect me to turn the tables on her quite so efficiently. A wonder, really, given how often it's happened this far.

"Oh no, my love," I tell her mischievously as I guide those impertinent hands of hers onto the headboard and fold her fingers around its edge. "I am the one behind the wheel this morning." I give her nose a little kiss. "And I have every intention of taking the long, scenic route."

Those brightly interested green eyes narrow as she growls softly, and when I slide my hands slowly up along the front of her torso, her hands grip the headboard a little tighter.

"Sunday driver," she grumbles.

xXxXx

"Do we have everything?"

"Yup." Natsuki emerges from the ensuite, juggling a bottle of shampoo – her own, I note – with a nonchalant air as she crosses over to the open suitcases that now rest on the bed. A flick of her wrist sends the grayish bottle sailing through the air, and with a little thump, it lands atop the jeans she traveled in yesterday.

Artfully ripped, she called them when I asked her if she really, truly did fly more than halfway across the country with that much skin showing.

Artfully. Hm.

Not that I mind the way she looked in them when she wore them around the room a little while ago – not at all. But I do not like others seeing that much of my Natsuki. She is for my eyes alone.

So maybe I should tweak her a little. Just to get even.

"Did you pack the-"

"Yes!" I almost – almost - laugh at her panicked expression as she very clearly cuts me off; blushing furiously. "Yes, I did. Nothing to worry about. Went to get it, got it, packed it. Okay?"

"Ara, but there's no need to be so shy, Natsuki." I click my tongue a few times and watch as the color on her face deepens even further. "Really, I don't see why you have such trouble with the word-"

"Shizuru!"

"Well, no. I've never known you to have any trouble with that word," I muse, and pretend to ignore her groan. "The occasional stutter, certainly, but for the most part you are capable of saying it effortlessly." And my eyes have got to be twinkling, because I'm getting a very impressive, brilliantly green glare at the moment. "Quite loudly and repetitively at times, too, if memory serves me."

"Wench," she growls, and glares harder when I'm unable to contain my mirth any longer. Honestly, that pride of hers. But she is so ridiculously cute this way, so I think I'll poke her a little bit more.

"So mean," I pout at her. "Just because Natsuki can't say the word di-"

"Will you hush, woman?" Oh, there's that intriguing little vein on her forehead again. That usually means I should stop before I really upset her.

Tch, not fair at all. Teasing her is the best source of amusement I've yet to discover.

But alas. I suppose I have to at least tone it down a little bit. We will need to leave our room in a little while as it is, and I really don't want any strangers to see her blushing so alluringly. So I desist, rise and kiss her cheek instead, whispering a soft apology against the shell of her ear.

She puts her arms around me in response, and I smile as our lips meet and I'm forgiven for my relentless teasing once again. Who else but her would endure it and yet love me all the more in spite of it?

She sighs when we part and touches her forehead against my own while her eyes twinkle at me with an odd cross between amusement and exasperation hidden in their depths. Then she kisses me again – very briefly – and pulls away.

"Jessica is waiting for us." She picks up the two larger pieces of luggage before turning back to me with a crooked smile. "We'd better go."

"Indeed." I agree peacefully and take one last look around to ensure that we haven't forgotten anything, then walk out with her... and of course seize the opportunity to discreetly pinch her behind while on the way down in the elevator.

Once in the lobby we meet up with Jessica, and Natsuki stubbornly fends me off at the front desk until I agree to let her pay the bill with her card.

It's silly, really, since both of our cards draw from the same account, but I suppose it's the principle of the thing. A minor source of competition and amusement for the two of us.

"You got a car, right?" she asks of our companion while checking the bill.

"Yup." Jessica nods and juts a thumb towards the front doors. "It's waiting outside. We just drop it off at the airport."

"Mm." Natsuki signs the bill with little fanfare and slaps it down on the counter, then flicks a small square of paper towards the young man behind the desk. He studies both sides of it briefly, then grins at her and pockets it.

"What was that?" I inquire of her as the three of us continue outside to the waiting sedan.

"Job offer," she responds evenly, and then lowers her voice. "I have a feeling he can't really be open with his guy around here."

I smile and shake my head outside her range of vision. And still, she continues to argue with me when I tell her how pure her heart is.

"I suppose we will need the extra hands in the future," I respond.

"And more yet." She settles the luggage in the trunk with a grunt, then takes what I'm carrying and does the same. "If they accept, we might have to offer up some relocation funds, too."

I get a questioning look from her at this, and resist the urge to roll my eyes. When has she ever doubted my approval when she wants to help someone?

"Of course." I tack a smile onto the end of my reply and get a grin in response, and those beautiful eyes are dancing as she catches the keys Jessica tossed to her.

"Great." She opens the door to let me in to the passenger side, then trots around the front of the vehicle and settles herself in the driver's seat.

"Sleep well?" our passenger asks from the backseat as Natsuki guides the car onto the road, and I don't even attempt to hide my smile.

"Very," I murmur, and catch Natsuki's eyes from the corner of my own.

And for a brief second, she and I are the only people in the world.

"Alright, you two." Jessica leans forward and waves one arm up and down between the front seats. "I'm sorry I even asked. Just keep it to a simmer until we get home, willya? Man, you guys had all last night and this morning to have fun, and you're still giving off sparks."

"Someone's jealous," Natsuki mutters as she retrieves a pair of sunglasses from the center console and settles them on her nose.

"And with good reason." I give her knee a little pat, and almost lose my train of thought when I get a sultry look from over the rim of the wraparound shades. Very unfair, considering that it'll be several more hours before we reach the privacy of our home. "Perhaps we should assist Jessica-han in finding a boyfriend."

"Either that or turn down the heat some between you," comes the dry response from the back seat. "Honestly, hanging around you two is like diving into a pool of perennially overactive pheromones. No wonder half of the guys back home have pregnant wives at the moment."

Even I blush at that, and Natsuki... I give her a glance and wince. My, that has to be almost painful. Goodness, but we have a reputation among our staff, don't we?

"Personally, I think the two of you should include a box of condoms with every issued paycheck."

"Jess!" My beloved almost rams into the car in front of us as we reach an intersection, and I cant even scold her for being an inattentive driver because I'm far too busy laughing helplessly.

"Hey, you know what they say: 'Only you can prevent unexpected population booms'."

Thankfully, we're waiting at a red light, so Natsuki dropping her head onto the steering wheel and groaning doesn't unduly endanger anyone. "Westmoor... you're fired."

"Again?" our passenger wonders.

"Yes," my bright red love growls. "Again."

If she had actually fired her every time she's made that threat over the past few years, the paperwork required would take up my entire office. On average, I believe my Natsuki fires her assistant about once a week. Twice a week whenever a deadline approaches. So I'm sure you can understand why Jessica-han only snickers in response.

"Now now, children..." I manage to let my previous amusement dwindle down to a soft chuckle. "Let's calm down and look forward to a relaxing flight home."

The light changes, and the cars begin moving again.

"Perhaps the pilot will even be willing to let us fly over Denver," I then comment casually, and shoot a quick glance to my right as I hear a strange, half-choking noise. Ah, yes; that got the little twitch in her jaw going.

And now I can't help but wonder exactly what state she'd be in if I teased her throughout the flight home. Perhaps I should attempt to find out.

I have a reputation as a troublemaker to uphold, after all.

xXxXx

END - "Behind the Scenes"