Manami lay as still as possible in her bed. It had been six months since her husband had gone off to war with a rival clan. Every night she prayed that he would return to her, and every morning she woke up alone. It had been over two weeks since his last letter, and Manami was beginning to worry. She fought her body to be silent as her muscles itched to twist and turn in parallel with her anxious feelings. Her fingers tensed into her palms to form tight fists and her toes curled. Manami let loose a deep breath she wasn't aware that she was holding.
Relax. She told herself. Relax.
A rustle outside of her windows startled her and she bolted upright in her bed, clutching the blankets tightly to her chest. She saw the outline of a man making his way to the door that led to her private gardens. He stopped just before opening it.
"Kohaku?" She whispered, hoping it was her missed husband.
The door slid open to reveal a man with wavy brown hair, tied back with a blue ribbon. He wore a flamboyant pink haori over his broad shoulders and the small smile on his face was enough to take Manami's breath away. She finally looked up into his deep, chocolate eyes.
"What are you doing here, Shunsui?" She asked.
"I was out for a walk and thought I would come drop by." He said, stepping through the threshold.
"I don't remember inviting you in." She snapped.
He chuckled lightly, which caused Manami's stomachs to somersault several times over. "Now, now, Mi-chan, can't an old friend visit another?"
"This isn't an appropriate time to call on me, Shunsui. Come back in the morning."
"You know I'll be asleep by then." He mused, taking another step towards her. Manami pulled the covers up higher, as if they would protect her from his charm.
"Then I guess we won't visit at all. Stop coming towards me, Shunsui, and go back to where you came from."
Shunsui stopped and gave another smile, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "You've been so cold to me since you've gotten married, Mi-chan."
She took a deep breath to steady herself. Those chocolate brown eyes were always so easy to get lost in. Manami knew she became void of all reason and rationale if she stared into Shunsui's eyes for too long. "It's to be expected. I'm a married woman now, and you shouldn't be coming here. What if a maid sees? Or one of the servants? I would shame my entire family and my husband too."
"Ah, but I've heard your husband has been gone for some time, so I thought I would come to check on you."
Manami turned her head and dropped her arms, tears started to form in the corners of her eyes and she cursed herself for letting Shunsui have so much power over her. "That's none of your concern."
Shunsui took the few remaining steps still separating them and sat beside Manami at the edge of her bed. He took her black locks into his hand and let the strands fall through his fingers. Shunsui had always loved Manami's hair. Smooth and silky, it was the color of midnight and shined like a full moon. When they were younger, Shunsui would spend hours running his hands through her hair. He pulled another handful up to his lips and lightly brushed the tresses over them while inhaling her scent. Pear blossoms, she always smelled like pear blossoms.
"I'm sorry, Mi-chan, I didn't mean to make you upset."
"That's why I'm saying you shouldn't have come." Manami whispered, shaking her head a little so her hair would fall from his light clasp.
"… But it has been a while, hasn't it? I was afraid you'd become lonely." He whispered. Goosebumps spread across Miami's skin and a tickle ran down her spine.
He took her delicate chin in his rough hands and tilted her face up to look at his. "You've barely talked to me since you've gotten married. I've missed you Mi-chan."
Manami took a deep breath and pushed his hand away. "You should have thought about that before, Shunsui."
"Ah, you're right of course." He said while scratching the back of his neck. "But you were always too good for me."
"Don't say that. I was your fiancé, Shunsui. We were betrothed from birth. I would have been happy to be your wife, even with the flirting with other women, the drinking, the sleeping, and long hours at the Sereitei. I was just happy to be with you. But after all the rumors about how many women you had claimed, how often you would stay out at the pubs to all hours of the night… How could you expect my father to want to keep that contract?"
"I couldn't expect him too." He said, staring deeply into her eyes.
Manami lost herself in their warm depths before she noticed Shunsui leaning into her. She pulled away and fell back on her elbows. "Stop Shunsui. You had your chance. I belong to someone else now.
Shunsui, not easily deterred, leaned over her. Manami could smell the plum sake on his breath. "Yes, but he's not here. I would never leave you alone for so long. I would never go a day without telling you how beautiful you are. I would always let you know how much I wanted you." Shunsui got closer with every sentence, and soon Manami was flat on the bed staring up the man she adored. "And mostly, I would tell you every day how much I love you." Shunsui placed his lips on her neck and gave her a light kiss.
Manami's eyes fell closed as she reveled in his kiss. Shunsui laid several more on her jaw line before moving up to her lips. He had barely pressed his lips to hers when Manami stopped him.
"Shunsui, you can't do this. I'm married now. I made a promise to my husband." Manami whispered. She could barely catch her breath after his light kisses.
Shunsui allowed a smile to come to his lips, but he didn't move away. "Is that really what you want? For me to leave? It seems your body is saying otherwise."
Manami remained silent; she wasn't able to find the words to tell him to go, so she said nothing. Instead, she closed her eyes and hoped that he would simply go away without her saying a word.
"I didn't think so." Shunsui said as he pressed his lips against hers.
Manami's body responded as it always had when Shunsui kissed her. Goosebumps returned to her arms and tingles went shot down her spine, causing her to shudder beneath him. Shunsui, took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. He pressed his body against hers and teased her lips with his tongue. Manami whimpered in delight. She didn't want to fight her feelings; she simply wanted Shunsui to take her. Manami wrapped her arms around his shoulder and pulled her tightly against her. The weight of his body against her chest felt so good to her.
Shunsui, with the grace and swiftness from years of practice, slipped Manami's sleepwear off of her shoulder and ran his hands down the sides of her body. Manami's hands found their way to his waist and quickly untied his obi. The two of them took turns removing the other's clothes until only their bodies pressed against each other. It had been so long since Manami had felt a man's touch and Shunsui's was more pleasurable than she remembered. His strong hands teased her skin with a gentle playfulness. All she could tell him was more as she wrapped her legs around his waist in an attempt to bring him closer and closer to her. Her toes curled and her body let go of the tension it had been building as she and Shunsui found their pleasure together.
Shunsui pulled her into his chest and wrapped his arms, muscular from centuries of careful training, around her. He stroked her hair and whispered love sonnets into her ear until she fell into deep sleep.
The next morning opened her eyes, expecting to find an empty bed. Instead, a sensuous pair of russet eyes met her green ones. "You're still here, Shunsui?"
He kissed her on the forehead before getting out bed and dressed. "I'm sorry I let you down. But I meant what I said last night."
Manami sighed and nodded, not believing him. She pulled her knees to her chest and gazed at her linen sheets, a wedding present from her in-laws. They were pure white, like she had once been. She couldn't help but feel that she had soiled her bed with her deceitful behavior.
"Hey." Shunsui said as he tilted her chin up once more. "If you let me, I'll come back again tonight."
Manami knew she should say no. Her mind told her that it was wrong to see him, it shouted at her to remember her husband. She did love him, and he was a good man. But her heart, her body said yes. Once again she found herself unable to speak, so she nodded.
Shunsui left without saying he loved her and Manami spent most of it crying under a heavy blanket of guilt and shame. She finally allowed the maids to convince her to take a bath, though she felt she could never be clean of her deed. She loved Shunsui above all others, but her husband didn't deserve the betrayal.
Stepping out of the bath, Manami wrapped herself in a silk robe and walked into her bedroom. She gasped when she saw at the back of a man standing there. He had long wavy hair and strong shoulders. He turned around and his bright blue eyes shined at her.
"Kohaku! My husband!" Manami ran over and threw her arms around the man who immediately and enthusiastically returned the embrace.
"I'm so sorry, Manami, I couldn't write you. But we've a victory over the enemy and I'm home now. I won't leave you again."
Tears spilled over her eyes. Droplets of happiness and relief mixed with those of shame and guilt. Manami allowed herself to be taken by her husband over and over until he was satisfied.
Shunsui stood in the private gardens outside of Manami's bedroom, listening to the sounds of passion that she and her husband shared. How he wanted to be that man. Shunsui could honestly say that Kohaku was the only man he had ever hated out of pure jealousy. He looked at the moon and thought of the woman he loved, but couldn't have. As silently as he had arrived, Shunsui turned on the ball of his foot and flashed out of the gardens, leaving Manami to the life she deserved with a man that would treat her better.