Rain fell from the angry sky, drenching Sumi from head to foot but she refused to stop looking for Souichiro. It was a sense of desperation that kept her going, as though if she quit searching she'd never see him again. Tears burned in her eyes as she continued calling for him, hoping he would hear her and come back. To take her in his arms and ward off the chill that the rain had soaked through her skin.
"Souichiro?" She called but he didn't answer. The tears she'd tried to hold back welled up higher and she fought back a sob. Was it really her fault? But he'd told her not to fall in love with him! It was his rule. His law! That's what she was supposed to tell him! Never mind that it wasn't true!
She paused and brought her hand to her chest, surprised by her own thoughts. 'Wasn't true'? Her breath hitched and her hands flew to her mouth. Sumi couldn't believe it but there it was, uncovered at last after…how long exactly? When did she start to love him? When she played shogi with him? When she first cooked for him? When they went to see her family together?
No, she realized. It was long, long before that. In that first month when she and Souichiro had visited Nozomu's house for dinner and she'd seen that photo. How sad he looked. How alone. She hadn't recognized it then, but now she knew exactly why it was she refused Nozomu that night.
She was in love with Souichiro.
And now he'd never know it because he wasn't coming back. Because she'd lied and said she didn't love him. No! She couldn't accept that!
Sumi's heart fluttered for only a moment at the sound of her name but she knew right away that it wasn't Souichiro. The voice was too high and didn't hold the same hard edge with those ever present soft undertones. Still she turned back, hoping it was someone who could help her.
"Nozomu-san," she said, not entirely surprised but definitely not pleased. Why did he always seem to appear at those times she wanted to see him the least?
"What happened?" Nozomu said, his face genuinely concerned. Deciding she had no reason to doubt his motives, Sumi turned to face him fully.
"I'm looking for Souichiro…" She almost blushed at the name. Since when did she start calling him so informally?
"Looking for Souichiro?" Nozomu said. "Did you have a fight?"
Sumi looked away, not wanting to confirm this but having no way of denying it either. Nozomu was quiet for a moment but seemed to pick up on her reluctance to talk about it. Instead he stepped forward and lifted the umbrella over her head, shielding her from the rain.
"You're going to catch a cold like this," Nozomu said. "Come to my house."
She was naturally reluctant but he motioned her towards a large townhouse just a short ways away. She looked surprised as she stared at it, obviously knowing he lived much further than just two blocks from her home.
"Here?" she said and he nodded.
"This is one of my other houses." Nozomu pushed open the gate and Sumi couldn't help but think it was wasteful for a person to have more than one house. What would they use it for? "Change your clothes, and we'll go find Souichiro together."
Sumi was grateful for the offer but was worried about the implications of removing her clothes in a strange house with a man who was most certainly not her husband. Not to mention he'd already made his interest in her abundantly clear. On many occasions. Still, he looked nothing but sincere in his insistence of looking out for her health, so she graciously accepted his offer.
The clothes he lent her surprised her since they looked too small for Miu, but she supposed she was just thinking too much about it.
It was definitely awkward to shower in a home that wasn't hers, but the door had a sturdy lock and she'd seen at least one servant when she'd entered the house. Making sure the door was suitably bolted she stepped out of the changing room and into the shower room. Being in Nozomu's house reminded her of that disastrous party where Miu had been so upset and Sumi couldn't help but feel bad. Was she still ill? Had she and Nozomu fought?
'If I see Miu-san,' she thought, 'I'll have to apologize to her properly.'
Finishing up her shower as quickly as she could, Sumi wrapped herself in a towel and stepped back into the changing room to dress. A sense of foreboding filled her stomach when she realized her clothes were missing and a definite thrill of terror ran down her spine when she heard the door open. Somehow she knew who it was but she was still shocked when Nozomu actually walked through the door and into the bathroom.
"Nozomu-san?" she said as he stepped closer and she clutched her towel to her chest in fear as he said nothing. "N-Nozo…mu-san?"
The look on his face was one of pain and desire and immediately Sumi's mind flashed back to that time he'd held her trapped in that burning inn. She took two steps back for every one Nozomu advanced until her foot slid a bit on wet tile and she realized she'd backed into the bathroom.
"N-Nozomu-san, stop! That's quite close enough!"
"Nozomu-san, Nozomu-san," he said, his tone bitter as he still continued forward. "Why am I still Nozomu-san when he—" the word was spat like a curse "—is simply Souichiro?"
"Nozomu-san," Sumi said, trying to be stern but still gripped by fear. "I-if you come any closer I-I'll s-scream…"
"Sumi-san," Nozomu said while stopping reluctantly; obviously stung. "I don't understand…You love me, so why are you so distant from me? Why are you so close to him?"
"I told you before Nozomu-san," Sumi said, clutching the towel tighter to her chest as her whole soul screamed for Souichiro to save her. "I don't love you. I never did love you and I never will love you. I only love Souich—."
"Don't say it!" Nozomu screamed, slamming his fist against the mirror. It shattered from the blow and the fractured glass rained down on his bare hand, cutting it. "Why Souichiro?! He treats you so badly! He hates you! I can see it! Everyone can! So why can't you? Has he trapped you? Are you afraid of him? Please know Sumi, I'll protect you from him for—!"
"I don't need you to protect me! Souichiro protects me! He's my husband and it's his duty, Nozomu-san. I have no need of you!" Sumi was practically pleading now but after she'd finished she knew it would have been better if she'd said nothing at all. Nozomu was furious.
He crossed the bathroom in only two steps, too fast for her to react, and grasped her arm in a vice like grip. She cried out in pain but his hold didn't relent, in fact it only grew tighter.
"Look at me Sumi!" Nozomu said. "Look me in the eye and tell me that again!"
"Don't call me Sumi so easily!" she said. "Only Souichiro can say my name that way!"
The slap caught both of them off guard and Sumi put her hand to her stinging cheek in shock as Nozomu stared at his palm in horror. Both were silent for moment before an angry flush spilled across Sumi's cheeks as she glared at Nozomu through her tears. How dare he strike her? Regardless of his feelings he was supposed to be a gentleman! What kind of gentleman hit a lady? Souichiro would never hit her like that, no matter how angry he was! It was something she knew all the way down to her bones.
"Ijuuin-sama?" came the voice of a maid just down the hall. "Ijuuin-sama are you here?"
Sumi was about to call for help when she realized that doing so would put her at the center of a very awkward situation. The last thing she needed was to cause a scandal for Souichiro when he was already angry with her.
"Please leave, Ijuuin-san," Sumi said, lifting her chin haughtily in an attempt to look calm and composed. "I do not wish to file harassment charges on my husband's oldest friend, but I will do so if necessary."
Nozomu flinched at the abrupt name switch and backed away from her two steps before he abruptly swung around and vanished from the room. Sumi waited, listening hard, for a full minute after he'd left before she sunk to the wet ground with a sob. She'd been so scared. He was so much stronger then her and if he'd wanted to he could have made her consent to him. Her hand wandered to her slowly bruising cheek. He could have made her consent far too easily. She was no match for his physical strength.
After crying herself out, Sumi splashed some water on her face and stood, securing her towel in place once again. Stepping into the changing room, far more cautiously then she'd done before, Sumi looked for her clothes but still found nothing. Not wanting to leave the room in just a towel she tentatively reached out and rang the call bell. She waited, shivering slightly, for several long moments before there was a light knock on the door.
"Ashida-sama," said the same voice from before. "May I help you with something?"
"I-it seems my clothes have been m-misplaced." Sumi said through the door. "Would you mind locating a replacement set for me?"
"Of course, Ashida-sama. I apologize for the oversight."
Once she was dressed, Sumi hurried from the imposing mansion only pausing to politely recognize the maid who opened the door for her. It was still raining and she was quickly drenched a second time as she ran down the street, ignoring the questioning looks she received from passers-by. She practically threw open the front door to her home and felt just the slightest bit guilty as she dripped puddles of water on the marble floor.
Sumi started a bit at the sudden voice and looked down to see Atari's worried frown. "A-Atari…sorry, I'm late…"
"Oh Sumi-sama!" Her maid Yuiko said, rushing forward with a towel. "You're so late getting back! Souichiro-sama was worried!"
Her chest twinged at the mention of her husband and she looked at Yuiko with a mixture of fear and hope. "Souichiro…came back?"
Yuiko looked confused. "Of course Sumi-sama. He's been here for almost half an hour."
"W-where is he?"
"I believe he's in the study—Ah! Wait Sumi-sama! You're still wet!"
But Sumi didn't wait. Instead she rushed past Yuiko and up the stairs, her heart pounding the whole way to her husband's study. She didn't even pause to knock as she threw the door open with a bang and rushed inside.
"Sumi?!" Souichiro said in surprise only to grunt as his soaking wife launched herself into his arms. "What are you…?"
"I-I'm sorry Souichiro!" Sumi said, sobbing as she clung to his now sopping suit. "I d-didn't mean it before! I…that is…S-Souichiro…"
"Calm down Sumi," Souichiro said, pushing her back so he could look at her face. "Why are you all wet?"
"I-I went l-looking for you…"
His eyes widened in surprise. "It's raining outside!"
"I-I know but…I didn't want you to think…I-I thought you…wouldn't come back…"
"What are you talking about you irritating woman? This is my home. Of course I'd come back!" His voice and expression were stern but it didn't last long as he let out a short sigh and lifted her into his arms.
"Relax Sumi. I'm taking you to get dry—." He stopped suddenly, looking down at her in surprise. "W-what did you call me?"
A nervous blush burst across her nose and cheeks as she looked anywhere but at him. "S…Souichiro…" She glanced at him, fearing rejection. "S-should I not call you that?"
Souichiro was stunned. "Sumi…" His expression softened even further and he shook his head. "No. That's fine."
Sumi was quiet as Souichiro carried her to their bedroom. It was partly out of embarrassment and partly to keep herself from shivering. Now that she wasn't so frantic the cold had caught up with her again and it took all of her will power to stop it from showing. Surprisingly though, Souichiro seemed to know regardless as he gently set her down on the bed.
"S-Souichiro, I'll get it wet!"
"It'll dry." He said, grabbing a fresh towel from the wash stand under the window. "For now we need to worry about you. You're soaking wet."
His hands were gentle as he dried her chilled skin and he was even kind enough to fetch her night dress before helping her untie the laces of her borrowed dress before turning around to let her change. Once she was dressed, Sumi sat in front of him on the floor and Souichiro gently dried her hair.
"I don't remember seeing that dress before," he said and Sumi stiffened. "Is it new?"
"I…I borrowed it…"
"Really? From who?"
This was not something Sumi wanted to talk about but she knew she had too. She finally recognized that she loved Souichiro and she didn't want to compromise their potential happiness by keeping secrets from him. She'd already kept enough to herself as it stood now. That reminded her that she needed to tell him what had occurred between her and Nozomu the day before as well. Something else she wasn't looking forward too.
"I…Ijuuin-san let me borrow it."
Souichiro's hands paused and she knew he was surprised. "Ijuuin? Nozomu's mother—?"
But Sumi was already shaking her head. "Not his mother. Nozomu-san."
"Nozomu leant it to you? Why? And why Ijuuin-san?"
"I…met him in the rain. While I was looking for you. He said it would be bad if I became ill and promised to help me look for you if I changed into something dry…" Tears lined her eyes as she turned to him, grasping his hands imploringly. "I swear to you Souichiro. I-I had no idea it would turn out that way…"
Souichiro tensed, his voice tight as he spoke. "Turn out what way?"
"I was t-taking a sh-shower and I know I locked the door Souichiro! I checked it three times! But when I got out my cl-clothes were missing and Ijuuin-san…"
"What?" Souichiro said, grasping her shoulders tightly. "What did Nozomu do?!"
Her voice was small, vulnerable. "…He came into the room. While I was in a towel."
His grip tightened. "He what?!" Souichiro hissed. "Did he touch you?! I swear if he did—!"
"No! I wouldn't let him! I told him to leave or I'd s-scream and he stopped but he kept telling me that he knows that I love him—" Souichiro tensed but she continued regardless "—but he's wrong! And I told him he was wrong! I told him I could only love you and he h-hit—!"
"What?" Souichiro croaked. "W-what did you say?"
Sumi gasped, her hands flying to her mouth in horror. She hadn't meant to say that. Not like this. She wanted it to be romantic and happy and special, not while she was sobbing on the floor still trembling from the cold.
"I…I…" She looked away, not wanting to see the rejection in his face.
"Sumi…" She tensed as his hand came up to stroke her tender cheek. The same cheek Nozomu had hit. "Tell me. What did you say?"
Sumi sobbed, leaning into his hand as she reached up to cover it with her own. "I…I didn't want to say it…Not that way…"
"Sumi." Souichiro said again, and this time it was more of an order. She looked up at him through hesitant eyes, chewing lightly on her lower lip as their gazes met. "Tell me."
His eyes lit up as his free hand came up to cradle her other cheek. "Really?"
Unable to speak, Sumi just nodded. Souichiro laughed, sounding elated as he jumped to his feet and lifted Sumi into the air, spinning her around.
"S-Souichiro!" Sumi squealed, her hands grasping tightly at his shoulders. "W-what—?"
But she was cut off by the sweetest, gentlest, most loving kiss she'd ever received and she leaned into it with abandon. His hands were soft as the rested on her back and hip, gently caressing her skin through the loose nightgown she wore. He'd discarded his damp jacket and vest leaving just his white shirt that was unbuttoned most of the way and she hardly hesitated before allowing her hands to slip into the opening and caress is bare skin. He was so warm.
He moaned against her lips as her hands began to wander, his grip on her tightening to an almost unbarable degree. But she didn't care. She loved the feel of his strong but careful arms, so different from the iron grip that Nozomu used on the few occasions he'd managed to hug her. His tongue snaked out and ran along her bottom lip and this time Sumi moaned as she opened her mouth to the gentle command.
The kiss grew deeper, hotter, and the next thing she knew she was lying on the bed with Souichiro's weight suspended over her. His hand had long since left her hip and had trailed down her leg to hike the skirt of her nightdress up over her thigh. For a moment she felt a hind of fear and tensed in his grip, but there was no feeling of pressure or force like there had been the night before. He was being gentle and understanding and Sumi somehow knew that, if she wanted him too, he would stop right there. But she didn't want him too.
This had been building for almost a year since they were first married and Sumi somehow knew that now was the right time. She wanted him. Needed him. She loved him.
"Souichiro…" she moaned as his lips wandered from hers to trail down her neck and shoulder. She arched into him as his hand slid up her thigh and past her hip to splay across her smooth back. She moaned again.
"Sumi…" Souichiro said between kisses as he trailed back up her neck. "Say it again…"
Say what again? Her mind was so clouded with thoughts of Souichiro she didn't have the faintest idea of what he could mean.
He groaned into her supple neck as his fingers anxiously worked at the gown's tie in an attempt to expose the smooth lines of her throat. "Sumi…Please…"
But she didn't know! What could he possibly want her to say? How could he even expect her to think as his lips trailed down, down, down…She threw her head back as a gasp escaped her throat.
He propped himself up with a grin and leaned down to place a gentle kiss on her lips as she whimpered. "Again." He said, and this time she knew.
He kissed her again.
Sumi was sore but satisfied as she lay curled up in her husband's arms, his large hand gently stroking her long hair away from her face.
"Are you alright?" he asked and Sumi nodded.
"I'm happy." She said and she felt him grin as he placed a kiss against her shoulder.
He tensed a bit and she carefully turned around to face him. His eyes were wary but he tried to hide it as he stroked his thumb across her cheek.
"What about it?"
"Something did happen with Ijuuin-san." She finally said. "In the shogi room." He didn't say anything so she continued. "The shogi pieces got knocked over and we were picking them up…He suddenly grabbed me and his grip was so tight…" she shuddered a bit. "I didn't think he would let go but then we heard your footsteps and I was able to push him off…" She looked up at him and reached out to gently trace his face. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner but I was so worried you be angry…Are you?"
Souichiro was quiet for a moment before he finally took her hand from his face and gently kissed her fingers. "No. It's my fault he was able to get so close to you. I know you don't like being near him and yet…I'm sorry Sumi. I should have protected you better. Yesterday and today." He pressed a full kiss against her palm, his eyes never leaving hers. "I'll never let it happen again. I swear."
Sumi smiled and placed a quick kiss against his cheek. "Thank you."
He blushed and flustered a bit while Sumi just giggled and brought her arms up around his neck. Souichiro tensed in surprise and looked down at her. "W-what?"
"Do you love me?"
Suddenly worried, Sumi dropped her arms and bit her lip. "I just…I was wondering since…y-you never actually said…"
"I-idiot." He said lifting her chin to look her in the eye. "How long will it take you to figure out?"
He scowled. "You're so dense, stupid woman. I've love you for ages."
Feeling slightly awed, Sumi looked up at him. Her mouth was agape for a moment or two before she finally remembered how to speak. "R-really?"
Souichiro looked away with a scowl and a blush. "Do I have to say it again?"
Knowing he was just embarrassed, Sumi laughed and snuggled into his chest. "No. I heard it. I love you too."
He coughed awkwardly and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Y-yeah…now go to sleep! I have work tomorrow!"
"Can I make you a bento?"
There was a slight pause until she felt him nod as he kissed her hair. "I'd like that."
Silence filled the room, but it was comfortable silence, and Sumi soon found herself growing tired. She sighed against his chest and snuggled even closer as a sleepy haze settled over her. She looked forward to the morning. She couldn't wait to see Souichiro's face when the first thing she said was 'I love you'. Maybe, just maybe, he'd even say it back.
End Say You Love Me
Kaliea: I don't know if this will be a one-shot or not but I purposely left it open so I could expand it if I ever had the inclination to. But that's not a promise, just a maybe. Don't forget to review!