This story started out with serious intent and just got more and more ridiculous as it went along. I don't know what happened, but I apologise. I really do.
Haruka and Michiru's Super Special Vacation
It was nearly two years now since Haruka had first met Michiru. Just how much Haruka had changed in that time was brought home to her early one afternoon when she pulled the car over onto the side of the highway and glanced at the woman sitting beside her.
"I think you're going to have to drive, Michiru. This damn fever…I can't concentrate."
"Of course," said Michiru lightly, and Haruka was grateful to her for not saying what she could have when it was obvious to both of them that Haruka never should have insisted on driving in the first place.
They switched places, and Haruka allowed her eyes to drift closed, lulled by the smooth movement of the car beneath her and the feel of the wind in her hair. Michiru was a good driver, but then of course she would be, since Haruka was the one who'd taught her. It was one of the things they'd done last year when they were students at Mugen Gakuen to try and keep some semblance of normalcy in their lives. Every Sunday they could they'd gone out driving, rarely with any destination in mind, just gotten out of the city and driven, along miles and miles of coastline, through tiny villages, across plains, over mountains. Forgetting about the stress of their lives for a little while, and just being two girls in love.
On one such venture, early in the morning when they were still negotiating their way through the city, Michiru had asked Haruka if she'd mind teaching her how to drive. Surprised and (looking back) embarrassingly eager to be able to share her passion for cars with the one person whose opinion mattered to her Haruka pulled over on the first quiet stretch of road they came to and gave up the driver's seat, reminding Michiru to take extra care since this was an elite car that was more like a work of art than a machine.
Thereafter, Michiru's driving lessons were an essential part of their Sunday ritual, and, being the sort of person she was, it didn't take her long to become proficient. Haruka suggested they move onto motorbikes next, but Michiru demurred at that, saying she would never be able to concentrate with Haruka pressed against her back.
"I don't know how you manage to concentrate when I ride with you," she'd said, a slightly flirtatious smile lingering on her lips. "Perhaps you're starting to get bored of me?"
"Never Michiru," Haruka had replied valiantly. "It's just that I like the feel of a bike between my legs more."
It was a completely outrageous thing to say, and Haruka would have cringed at the thought of expressing anything so vulgar to anyone else, but somehow with Michiru, outrageousness seemed to come naturally. They were always teasing each other, flirting, daring, playing, and of course they'd both known that Haruka's statement was only a challenge to Michiru to prove which of the two was really more desirable.
But even that, Haruka thought, wasn't the most significant change in her. How easily she'd been able to admit to Michiru that she wasn't well enough to drive, trusting her partner to take over, to look out for both of them. Before she met Michiru, Haruka would have died before letting anyone know she wasn't at her best, hating the thought of others seeing her in a weakened state. She'd tried to maintain that standoffishness with Michiru too, at least at first, but the nature of their work was too intimate to allow it, and eventually, Michiru had taught her that faith was a strength just as important as independence.
And there was no one in whom Haruka placed more faith than Michiru.
Haruka started as Michiru touched her lightly on the shoulder, realising she'd been asleep. They'd pulled into the car park of a grand European style hotel that stood on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, with no other habitations of any kind visible nearby.
"This is it?" said Haruka. "This is where the dark energy is coming from?"
"It is," said Michiru positively.
Closing her eyes, Haruka tried to focus her own senses, to feel what Michiru did, but her head was dull and heavy and the only awareness she had was of her own aching body. "I can't feel anything," she said in a frustrated voice.
Probably because you're ill," said Michiru, giving her a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry. Whatever it is, I'm sure I can take care of it. You should rest, and concentrate on getting better."
Haruka didn't bother trying to argue; they both knew she was too weak to fight. Once, that would have filled her with something akin to self loathing, but now, she only reached out to take Michiru's hand for a moment.
"Be careful, okay?"
Michiru laughed. "I'm always careful, Haruka. You're the reckless one."
"Ah, of course. That must be why it was you who dived off a fifteen foot cliff last week straight into the ocean."
"You followed me," Michiru reminded her.
"Only to see you were all right."
Their banter was interrupted as an uneasy wind picked up, reminding both of them of why they were there.
"We should go in," said Michiru, her voice suddenly serious.
Haruka lowered her head with a sigh, hair flopping into her eyes. "Yes," she agreed, "we should."
As soon as Haruka and Michiru walked into the hotel, the bored eyes of the receptionist lit up. It wasn't surprising, Haruka thought. Even when they weren't recognised as being celebrities, their aura of prosperous and attractive youth was quite enough to make most people eager to oblige them.
"Ah, sir, madam. Good evening to you." The receptionist gave them a rather toothy grin as they reached his desk. "Do you have a reservation?"
"No," said Michiru. "We'd like to make one for…" she glanced at Haruka questioningly for a moment. "Three nights?"
Haruka nodded slightly in agreement.
"Certainly," said the receptionist, though he glanced down covertly at Michiru's bare ring finger.
"Will that be for, ah, one room or two?"
"One," said Haruka firmly. She gave the receptionist a sweet smile. "Don't worry, despite my appearance, I'm a girl."
The receptionist did not exactly look reassured by this, and, toothy grin wavering slightly, quickly took refuge in his booking register. "Very well," he said after a moment. "We currently have both twin and double suites available. Do you have any preference?"
"Twin," Haruka said, at the same moment that Michiru said "Double."
"Ah…" said the receptionist.
Michiru turned to Haruka with a frown. "Twin?" she queried.
"We're not sleeping together," said Haruka. "I'll make you sick."
The receptionist's ears turned red and his eyes began to flit about nervously as he anxiously sought some escape from the two anomalous women who appeared so completely and rudely oblivious of their own iniquity. Finding refuse neither in the overdone artworks decorating the lobby nor a laughing couple (a normal couple) coming down the stairs, he finally, like a pious monk, turned his gaze towards the ornate plastered ceiling, looking as if he was about to have a serious philosophical debate with the universe that ran something along the lines of why me?
"If that's your attitude," said Michiru, her voice playful rather than annoyed, "perhaps I'll find a handsome man to take care of my needs while we're here."
With an amused smile, Haruka replied, "I'd be more worried if you started looking for a handsome woman."
Hearing a strangled noise from the receptionist's direction, Haruka and Michiru ceased their teasing and looked at him in surprise. His face was an unhealthy purple colour, and he kept opening and closing his mouth without getting anything out besides a series of inarticulate croaks. After hastily gulping down some water, he managed, in an almost normal voice, "have…madam and madam come to a decision about which suite they would like?
After glancing over at Haruka and rolling her eyes, Michiru turned her attention back to the receptionist. "We'll take the twin suite," she said, though the tone of her voice indicated that this decision was not necessarily final.
"Ah, very good," said the receptionist, sounding rather relieved. He selected a key and handed it over. "Dinner starts in half an hour. We also have some entertainment in the dining room this evening; a talented ventriloquist who has performed all over Japan. Large numbers are expected, so you might like to book a table."
"Yes," said Michiru, "we'll book a table." No doubt, Haruka guessed, Michiru was thinking the same thing she was; that an event like that would be the perfect opportunity to observe the hotel's population and see if they could figure out who their enemy was.
The receptionist nodded and made another note in his book, and then, obviously glad to be rid of them, called a porter to take their bags and show them to their room.
"It's a nice suite," said Haruka, standing in the bedroom before glass French doors that opened out onto a balcony overlooking the sea. She could hear Michiru moving about behind her, fresh from the shower, and smiled as two arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her into a sweet smelling embrace.
"I want you in bed," said Michiru firmly.
"Ah, so cruel Michiru, to be taking advantage of me in my weakened state."
Ignoring this comment except for an amused sniff, Michiru slid her hand over one of Haruka's. "You're too hot. I think you should have a cool shower and lie down. I'll have some dinner sent up to you. I'd stay with you, but…I think I should go and see this ventriloquist. If there are a lot of people there, I might be able to tell which is the source of the disturbance I can feel."
"No, you just want me out of the way so you can flirt with handsome men."
Michiru giggled. "And handsome women."
"Yes, and you said it yourself; I'm too hot. If I'm there, I'll get all the good ones and you'll have no chance at all."
"Just when I think your ego can't get any bigger, you go and prove me wrong," Michiru said dryly. She gave Haruka a slight push. "Go have a shower."
After her shower, Haruka did feel a little better, though no less tired. She picked one of the beds and climbed under the covers, closing her eyes and trying to focus again on whatever Michiru could feel. There was nothing.
Giving up, she opened her eyes, just as Michiru entered the room carrying a large bowl of iced water in which floated several clothes. "To keep you cool," she said, wringing one of the cloths out and placing it over Haruka's forehead. "There's a pitcher of water there, too, in case you get thirsty."
"Thanks," said Haruka, smiling and briefly covering Michiru's hand with her own to show she meant it.
Michiru returned her smile, then sighed. "I'd better go down." Following their usual farewell routine, she kissed Haruka lightly on the lips, though Haruka protested and told her she shouldn't. "Try and get some rest. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Which, as it turned out, was rather sooner than Haruka expected. Lying in bed with nothing to do, she hadn't been able to help herself; the maid was cute, and Haruka was fully aware of the fact that there was no chance she'd respond to her flirtatious advances. Probably if she thought there was she would have behaved more reasonably, because the thought of being intimate with a stranger was not something that actually appealed to Haruka.
But still, it was more than a little embarrassing that Michiru caught her behaving so childishly, especially when her only response was an annoyed and indulgent shake of her head, as if she could expect nothing better.
And she felt even worse about it after Michiru saved her life.
But, on the positive side, they'd defeated their enemy and Haruka's transformation seemed to have cured her illness.
It was also necessary, of course, to change rooms after the damage wrought by the battle, which luckily, the hotel management did not in any way associate with them. The manager was actually quite anxious to accommodate them, since a large number of his guests had decided to leave after the night's events, and already he could see future numbers plummeting when stories began to circulate about possessed puppets that drained people's energy.
"Please," he said, leading them over to the reception area, "allow me to upgrade your stay to one of our very best suites at no extra charge."
"That sounds enticing," said Michiru. "What options do you have available?"
He handed over a brochure. "This outlines our different luxury packages. If you would like further information on anything, just ask."
Haruka and Michiru looked through the pages of the brochure. Nothing appealed very much to Haruka, who thought that most of the deals sounded cheap and tawdry. Like the Ocean Adventure package:
Stay in our very best waterfront suite and enjoy an ocean discovery tour where one of our experienced tour guides will take you out on your very own cruise ship to experience the undiscovered wonders of the sea. After a two hour adventure with opportunities for swimming and beach walking, kick back and relax in the afternoon with complimentary beer tasting and feed the dolphins at sunset in a pristine and unspoilt bay!
Regimented and controlled, Haruka thought it sounded like anything but an adventure; doing what every other unimaginative person did who came to this place.
She was glad when Michiru turned over that page with a frown, only to pause a few pages later at a package ominously titled Romantic Getaway Indulgence. Haruka glanced at Michiru with an expression that said please no, but Michiru only smiled at her coquettishly.
"Doesn't this sound wonderful, Haruka? A heart shaped bed with red satin sheets, champagne breakfast every morning, private dinner served on a secluded cliff overlooking the ocean…"
"Can't we just have a normal room?" Haruka asked, without much hope.
Michiru blinked innocently. "But think of all the fun we could have in such an unusual bed!"
The manager and the receptionist both suddenly looked horribly embarrassed.
Knowing Michiru was trying to make her blush, Haruka resisted the urge and instead raised an eyebrow thoughtfully, allowing her gaze to travel lingeringly over Michiru's form. "Well," she said in a sultry voice, "I am feeling better, but we might end up perspiring together all night if you insist on climbing into bed with me. Even a bed as hideous as that one sounds." She couldn't resist a small smile of triumph when her tactic succeeded and a deep flush spread all the way down Michiru's neck, leaving her decidedly flustered.
Both were distracted, however, as a loud thump met their ears, and looking towards the source of the disturbance, discovered that the manager and the receptionist had both fainted dead away.
"Oh," said Michiru, recovering her composure, "we seem to have upset them. Shall we wake them up and tell them of our decision?"
"Your decision," Haruka insisted. "I am doing this under protest."
"Ah well, next time don't book us twin beds."
Sighing in defeat, Haruka helped Michiru to shake the hotel staff awake.
"We've decided to take the Romantic Indulgence Package," said Michiru.
"Ah," said the manager. "Ah…I'm not sure that would be appropriate."
Michiru raised a dangerous eyebrow. "Why not?" she asked, in a voice that was suddenly as icy as an army of Snow Dancers.
"Well, because. Because you're – you're both—"
"Girls?" supplied Haruka, no less coldly.
"In that case," said Michiru, "perhaps we had better leave. We wouldn't want to tarnish the name of your establishment, after all. It's a pity, really, since I was planning to tell my agent to recommend this hotel to all the best musical circles, but naturally, if you have a problem with us…"
Michiru's use of italics could be deadly, Haruka reflected.
The manager was looking more and more confused. "Agent…recommend…best musical circles…" he repeated faintly, as if in a daze.
"Don't you recognise her?" said Haruka, faintly mocking. "She is Kaioh Michiru, one of the leading solo violinists in Japan. Come on, Michiru. We don't want to stay somewhere with such ignorant people anyway."
"Wait!" squeaked the manager. He stared at Haruka with dawning recognition. "If she is Kaioh Michiru, then you must be Tenoh Haruka."
"Correct," said Haruka, her voice still cold.
"But – but –" the manager was nearly crying. "Why wasn't I informed that we had two such important guests staying with us?" He looked daggers at the receptionist.
"I didn't know!" the receptionist protested. "I didn't recognise their names. I still don't know who they are."
"Young man, are you not alive? These young ladies are two of the most talented we have living in Japan! Prodigies! Geniuses! We are honoured to have them staying with us!"
Quite a remarkable turnaround, Haruka thought cynically. No doubt he was anxious that they give a favourable account of his hotel to all of their (theoretically) rich and famous friends. Already she thought she could see the sweet dream of money multiplying in his eyes. Then she smiled, imagining how he would react if their real friends came to stay – Usagi and the rest of them. Perhaps they would recommend this place after all.
"Please." The manager bowed deeply. "Allow me to show you to your room. One of the very best in our establishment – the Romance Suite. Based on a design created by one of Japan's leading sexologists, it contains everything you need to generate that special atmosphere and keep the flame of love burning bright."
He ushered them over to the lift and took them all the way up to the top floor, leading them down two hallways before stopping at a door and opening it with a flourish. Standing back, he bowed again, allowing Haruka and Michiru to enter before him. This suite was even bigger than their last, with an ornately decorated sitting room, fully equipped kitchen (who would come on holiday to cook, Haruka wondered) and a bedroom so horrendously ugly that every fibre of Haruka's being recoiled in horror when she stepped through the door.
The manager coughed delicately. "I hope the arrangements are to your liking?"
Michiru smiled at him graciously. "Yes, thank you. Everything is lovely."
Haruka was too dumbfounded to say anything.
"Well, er, goodnight then. Don't hesitate to call our friendly staff if you should need anything."
Michiru smiled again. "Yes, thank you. Goodnight."
Once they were alone, Haruka hurriedly left the bedroom and went into the kitchen, pulling a bottle of wine out of the fridge.
"They'll overcharge you for that, you know," Michiru cautioned, poking around in the lavish sitting room.
"Don't care," said Haruka, uncorking the bottle and pouring a glass. "I need a drink after being in that room."
"Oh honestly, Haruka, it's not that bad."
"You can't tell me you actually want to sleep in there?"
"Where else are we supposed to sleep?"
Haruka thought for a moment. "How about the grounds? We could get some sleeping bags, bathe in the moonlight…It would be nice," she finished wistfully.
Michiru laughed suddenly. "Hey Haruka, come and see what's in this cupboard."
Knowing she would never get Michiru out of the suite while she was having so much fun, Haruka took another gulp of wine in resignation and wandered over to where Michiru was standing, finding herself looking into a cupboard that contained three whole shelves of books on how to make love. "Hmm," she said. "All these books are about men and women. Does this mean we can't have sex?"
"Clearly," said Michiru in an amused voice. She closed the cupboard door and turned to look meaningfully at Haruka. "Come on, it's been a long day. I want to go to bed."
It wasn't a scenario Haruka had ever imagined; that she'd be reluctant to follow Michiru into any bedroom, but she really did have to force herself to re-enter this one. Every aspect of the room reflected with great obviousness and crudity the purpose for which it had been built, and unfortunately Haruka had even more time on this longer inspection to notice its many unpleasant details. Only a soft glow illuminated the room, arbitrary mood lighting that could not be altered no matter how much its occupants might want to be able to see properly. As threatened in the advertisement, the space was dominated by a huge heart shaped bed spread with a crimson coverlet under which resided, presumably, the matching red satin sheets. The walls were painted a deep burgundy slightly darker than the bedding, and covered in ornately framed paintings of great lovers from mythology, many of them in various stages of undress. Since they were all heterosexual couples, Haruka found the sight quite traumatic. In keeping with the hackneyed theme, luscious red velvet drapes framed the French doors, which led onto a balcony considerably bigger than the one in their previous suite.
Overall, the effect was garish in the extreme, and Haruka wondered what sort of strange logic would lead a person to conclude that a room smothered in reds of every shade and texture was exactly what was needed to create a romantic atmosphere. It was probably just as well she didn't know that the sexologist who designed the suite theorised that a dimly lit red room would unconsciously remind the ensconced couple of being in the womb, and consequently stimulate the primal desire to create new life.
Being a pragmatic individual, however, the hotel manager had made his own arrangements with regards to this possibility and filled the left hand beside drawer with condoms, which Haruka was unlucky enough to find. "Huh," she said, picking up a pack of the glow-in-the-dark variety and showing it to Michiru. "Condoms. Very romantic."
"We could fill a few up with water and drop them on the manger's head if he happens to walk underneath our window," Michiru suggested.
"About all they're good for," agreed Haruka, throwing the pack back in and shutting the drawer with a snap. Moving away from the bed, she gave a heartfelt groan. "I can't believe you're making us stay here, Michiru. This is almost as bad as a love hotel."
Michiru raised her eyebrows playfully. "Oh? And when did you stay in a love hotel? It certainly wasn't with me."
"What? I've n-never stayed in one," Haruka stammered. "I just…think the whole idea of them is cheap. I mean, if you need so many trappings just to be with someone, there must not be much feeling underneath. Otherwise, why would you need to bother with all this?"
"You don't think romance has a place in a relationship?"
"This isn't romance, Michiru. Romance is when you do something special for the other person that you know she'll like. This is just a façade that has been put together by strangers to tell us how to act and feel."
With a smile, Michiru took Haruka's hand and drew close to her, close enough that Haruka could feel the heat coming off her body, smell the fresh, clean scent of her hair. After two years, these things should have become routine, but they weren't. Even after two years, when Michiru touched her like this, with that expression on her face, Haruka's heart still sped faster than it did at the starting line of a Grand Prix rally.
"You're so sincere," said Michiru softly. "It's one of the things I love about you. But, even if our surroundings are a little…extravagant, you surely are still glad to be with me?"
Looking into fathomless blue eyes, there was only one response Haruka could give. "I would be glad to be with you anywhere," she whispered, running the fingertips of her free hand down the side of Michiru's cheek. "Even in a love hotel."
Michiru tilted her head up as Haruka bent hers, in anticipation of the kiss that was coming, but before their lips could meet, Haruka suddenly turned aside as she felt an odd and unpleasant prickle on her skin, almost definitely emanating from the direction of the bed.
"Did you feel that?" she asked Michiru.
"I thought I sensed something dark, coming from the bed." Haruka stared at the bed suspiciously, as if expecting it to make a move and give itself away, but it remained irritatingly inert, continuing to squat, domineering and ugly, like the supreme monarch of a kingdom of kitsch. "I don't know if we can trust it. It might be another enemy. It might be in league with the puppet."
"You're imagining things," said Michiru, her fingers skimming lightly over Haruka's body; shoulders, breasts, ribs, lower. "I think you're just trying to put off the inevitable."
"The inevitable?" said Haruka, her voice slightly unsteady in spite of herself.
"Making love in a place 'almost as bad as a love hotel.'"
"Who says we're going to make love?"
"It's the Romance Suite, Haruka. That is what it is for."
"I'd never have guessed," said Haruka dryly, looking at the bed with distaste. "Really though, Michiru, why did you want to stay here? No matter what you say, I know you find all this as disagreeable as I do."
Michiru smiled wickedly. "In truth? Because I wanted to see the look on the manager's face."
That made Haruka laugh. "I might have known." Her words ended in a gasp as Michiru touched her – there – and on suddenly shaky legs Haruka found she was tugging Michiru towards the bed, no longer caring what shape it was nor how irredeemably tasteless.
"You've changed your mind then?" asked Michiru breathlessly, her eyes dancing with amusement as she took in Haruka's flustered condition.
Regaining a small measure of control and raising an eyebrow slightly, Haruka pointed out, "I seem to recall that downstairs I was the one who promised to make you perspire all night. Have you taken into account the possibility that my apparent reluctance could merely be part of an elaborate plan to seduce you by letting you think you're seducing me?"
"I don't care who is seducing who, as long as you kiss me right now."
A request that Haruka was more than happy to comply with. In a tangle of lips and limbs they stumbled closer to the bed, until, through an ever-increasing haze of arousal, Haruka realised her legs were pressed up against the mattress. She put out a hand to steady herself as she fell back, meaning to bring Michiru with her, but the moment she touched the red velvet coverlet several things happened so quickly she barely had time to take them in.
A wave of dark energy suddenly rose out of nowhere, overwhelming her, choking her senses, and she felt something – something soft and red and sinuous – twisting around her limbs, twining tightly about her legs, her arms, her chest, her neck, making it almost impossible to breathe.
She tried to scream, but couldn't; there wasn't enough air in her lungs, and whatever noise she made was drowned in a horrible, high-pitched wail that sounded in her ears like the cry of a banshee. A vicious wind was circling her, almost like a tornado, and managing to squint her eyes open, she saw through the whipping strands of her own hair a vision of Michiru being swept into the air and slammed against the far wall of the room, destroying several of the amorous paintings as she hit.
"Michiru!" Haruka mouthed the word but nothing happened. Her voice was gone and she could barely even stay conscious with the ever increasing constriction on her throat and lungs. Whatever was holding her had stopped screaming and now cackled maniacally, apparently in triumph, and that made Haruka angry enough to fight off the encroaching blackness for just a little longer as she tried to reach for her henshin stick, but it was no good. Her bonds only got tighter and she felt herself slipping into unconsciousness.
Strange, the things you think when you're about to die. Fear, regret, surging anguish welling up from the heart at the unfairness of it all; these are perhaps the emotions one would expect, but mostly, what dominated Haruka's fast dimming awareness was an overriding feeling of annoyance. I'm going to be killed by a bed, she thought hazily. A repulsive heart shaped bed. I never should have trusted it. I should have known something so tacky couldn't be anything but evil. An ending of such humiliation! No glory, no purpose, just…
Death. But even as the word slithered through her oxygen deprived brain, seductive and final, a welcome sound came to Haruka's ears, a familiar and beloved sound that made her ebbing will hold out just a little longer. It was the crashing of the ocean, of a great swelling wave coming closer and closer. When it reached her it would hurt, she knew that, as much as getting caught by a tsunami on the shore, but she drew in what little breath she could and braced herself for the impact.
The water hit her like a wall of falling bricks, and then she was a swimmer in a wipeout, able to do nothing except let the current take her, blasting through hair, skin and clothing, trying its hardest to beat out of her body the tiny bit of air that was all she had left. But, as painful as the experience was, Haruka knew it was not in vain. All around her, she could hear the enraged and gurgling screams of her enemy as Michiru's power hit, and slowly but surely, the bonds that held her were loosening, until at last, the wave fell away and Haruka was left lying on the floor, drenched, salty and spluttering.
"Haruka!" With a worried exclamation, Michiru rushed over to Haruka and knelt down beside her, gently placing her hand on Haruka's back. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I think so," Haruka managed between coughs, pushing her sopping hair out of her eyes.
"I'm sorry – there was no other way to fight the creature. I—"
"It's okay," said Haruka, managing to stumble to her feet with Michiru's help. "You did the right thing. The monster had to be destroyed." She quickly checked her aqua haired lover over with her eyes, looking for signs of injury. "What about you? Are you hurt?"
"No," said Michiru reassuringly, "I'm fine."
With a slight sigh of relief, Haruka turned her attention to the tangled mess of shattered beams and shredded fabric that was all that was left of the bed. "Then there's just one problem – what are we going to tell the manager?"
Michiru cautiously prodded an inert scrap of red velvet with her foot. "That we have a very vigorous love life?" she suggested.
The two women looked at each other and burst out laughing.
In the end, they spent the night curled up together on a generously sized chaise longue in the sitting room, both far too tired from successive monster battles to consider reviving their previous passionate intentions.
Haruka didn't find it easy to fall asleep, though. She was too uneasy for one thing – she'd nearly been killed twice in this hotel now, and didn't particularly fancy letting her guard down so that some nasty or other could try yet again. And then there was the unresolved matter of the maid, which was lying even heavier on Haruka's conscience than it had before, especially since Michiru seemed already to have forgiven and forgotten when she should have still been cold and frosty and making Haruka sleep on the couch (or at least a different couch).
"Michiru?" she tried, not sure if her partner was still awake.
"Mmm? What is it Haruka?"
"I'm sorry. You know, about the maid. I never should have—"
"No, you shouldn't have, but I know you were just teasing her." Michiru paused. "It would pay you back if one of these days some girl actually responded to your flirting. I'd be very interested to see what you would do."
"M-Michiru, I would never…not with someone I didn't even know!"
"Yes, that's why it would be funny. How would you manage to extricate yourself, when you'd already come onto her?"
"I'd ask you to rescue me, of course."
"And I would laugh at you," said Michiru heartlessly. "And then I would go and find a nice gentleman to keep me company."
"No you wouldn't."
"We'll see. Don't be surprised if after a concert someday you walk into my dressing room and find me with a handsome man of fame and fortune who is about to unzip my dress."
"What?" said Haruka, bewildered.
"Never mind. Anyway, I owe you an apology too. I shouldn't have made you stay in this ridiculous suite when I knew how it made you feel. And if we hadn't stayed of here, you wouldn't have gotten hurt again."
"True, but sooner or later someone else would have. It's better that we dealt with it."
"Mmm, I suppose you're right."
There was a short break in conversation, filled with the endless sound of the sea. Sweet and sad and forever, it made Haruka move just a little closer to Michiru, to hold her just a little more gently in her arms.
"Goodnight Michiru," she whispered.
"Goodnight Haruka," came the soft reply, and soon enough they were both asleep, the deep, dreamless sleep of exhaustion from which neither of them woke even once.
The scene that transpired the next morning was both tedious and unpleasant. The manager bemoaned at great length the destruction of the heart shaped bed and the amorous paintings which he rather optimistically called works of art, and the fact that Haruka and Michiru found it difficult to conceal their mirth at his dismay did not help matters along.
Things were settled satisfactorily, however, when Haruka's agent (whom the manager insisted on contacting by telephone in order to discuss reparation) stepped in and promised to hold a high profile conference at the hotel sometime in the near future. Blinded once more by the glint of money in his mind's eye, the manager after this quite cordially bid his troublesome guests goodbye, and Haruka and Michiru were free at last to drive away, far down a winding road until hotel and manager and the wrecked remains of a heart shaped bed were lost from view, and it was only the wind and the sea and the sky that they saw, taking them into the distance.
Haruka glanced across at Michiru, recognising on some level how strange this was, that she, who had once known only solitude, now looked for and expected to find this remarkable woman always by her side. And, given last night, given everything that had happened to them, Haruka realised there was something she needed to say, something terribly important that she should have said long before this.
"Michiru?" she ventured.
"Next time we go on vacation, let's go camping."