Warning: This story involves two women together. If you're not fond of such things, you might not like this. There's also some innuendo here, so proceed with caution, ye wee innocent underage readers. I'm not responsible for searing out your retinas—though I would be honored if you'd grant me the privilege.

Commentary: This is for all of you who wanted more fun stuff from me, though I'd like to especially dedicate this to lostinhersong, because you always review my stuff and every time I see your little blue name on that list, I'm reminded of how fortunate I am to have kept you interested this long. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As always, I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

You might consider this short a prequel to Home Gym. This, at least, is where Michiru's obsession started.

Disclaimer: I do not own the BSSM franchise. It belongs to the goddess Takeuchi Naoko.


MEASURING UP

Michiru's feet hurt.

She sighs and lowers them slowly into a basin of heated water made for just that purpose, her head thrown back, her fingers curled tightly about the arms of her chosen chair. Her toes throb. Her arches ring the woes of ready rebellion. Her heels have knives in them. Every tendon screams.

The pain is no new phenomenon. After all, Michiru is well-versed in the stiletto sashay of the rich and famous. As a renowned violinist with a polished image to maintain, she possesses—and often exercises—the ability to stand for hours in ergonomically-challenged footwear. Her global travels have taken her to ballrooms, balconies, galas, and galleries in shoes more fit for filleting fish than finessing the finer points of a waltz. Her sailor soldier vigilante venue requires copious amounts of sparring, spinning, and sprinting in three-inch pumps.

The pain is definitely not new, no, but she encounters it far more frequently these days than she did even a few months prior. Because she has feelings for a woman who might as well be a giant.

Go figure.

Michiru, see, is accustomed to feeling in charge. Though a humble personality, she recognizes her own talents and has grown used to commanding the attention of whole auditoriums with the mere whisper of a bow over strings. Similarly, she knows how to ensnare the senses of the average person in the subtle smear of a color on canvas.

A few weeks ago, Haruka awoke as sailor soldier. Michiru watched it happen from the cold cement floor of a car garage, her arm and spine torn open, her lifeblood spattered beneath her, her eyes full of tears both ashamed and euphoric. Since then they have moved, changed schools, fought monsters, and found one another, bits and pieces and sardonic smiles and sunset seaside sojourns, and Michiru is happy. She is afraid too, of course: of the Silence, and the world ending. But mostly she thinks of how the wind touches her cheeks in the mornings as she and Haruka drive together, and how their eyes struggle to meet in the empty space above the clutch, and she knows—despite the threat of ruin—that there is nothing better than this.

Romantic as that all is, Michiru's feet still hurt.

She is not in charge anymore. She plays her violin; sometimes, yes, she paints too, the weight of her artpad as yet unchanged in the bag she carries daily in the dip of a shoulder. Her work continues to inspire reverent awe among her throngs of adoring fans. But all of it—her talent, her skill—has been eclipsed by the shine of the woman with whom she now shares her mission, her life, her secret heart.

Haruka is an excellent soldier. She runs faster than Michiru, of course; she fights harder. Her aim is better and, of the two of them, she is the one more likely to escape an encounter with the enemy unscathed. As a civilian too she is unparalleled: despite the looming menace of the end of the world at her back, she maintains perfect grades and a speed record on the Japanese circuit. New to this part of Tokyo, she has already made friends with the local mechanics such that she never has to go more than five blocks for a spare part for her car. She finds time, apocalyptic anxieties aside, to flirt with pretty girls.

And she's taller than Michiru by at least five inches.

For the first time in her life, Michiru feels outclassed.

She doesn't mind it much, because with this feeling of occasional inferiority comes the absence of loneliness. Michiru knows the emptiness of a solo performance on a sprawling stage, and the solitude of a silent studio: being with Haruka is nothing like that. The other woman fills her world with sunlight and sharp humor and the scent of the seabreeze, and never for pride would Michiru cast that away to return to the place where she once felt superior.

Still, meeting one's match is hard, and she supposes part of the reason she wears heels all the time now, even during her leisure hours, is a subconscious ploy to measure up to the mastery of her partner.

Mostly, though, she does it so that, when the time comes, the distance between their lips is as minute as possible.

She sighs again, fondly exasperated. She flexes her toes. She winces. Her feet really hurt.

The water in the basin has begun to cool when Haruka wanders by, clad in a towel and a pair of scant panties that Michiru momentarily fantasizes about tearing off with her teeth. "Thanks for letting me use your shower," the other soldier murmurs. She smiles at Michiru, her cheeks flushed from the heat of her cleansing, her hair agleam and ruggedly spiked.

Michiru watches her through slanted eyes, mouth quirked. "Mm." She wonders if Haruka used her expensive shampoo too. The thought both irritates and pleases her. Next: "There's fresh rice in the cooker."

Haruka perks and pads to the kitchen counter to examine said cooker. She licks her lips. "Do you have a bowl?" Her tone suggests that such a primeval apparatus is unnecessary, really, and she'll eat the stuff with her hands if Michiru will let her, but she is attempting to demonstrate some small shade of etiquette.

Remembering that Haruka nearly sliced off a finger the last time she went rifling through her cabinets, Michiru lifts her feet from the basin. She dries them on a waiting towel and rises so she may limp across the room to join her partner. Every step sends a sharp bolt of unpleasant, tingling heat up the taut lines of her calves.

"The upper right—" she attempts, and her ankle folds. She gives a small half-yelp of surprise, seesaws; her pale arm pinwheels. Haruka turns to look and their eyes meet, sea to sky, just before Michiru's other ankle gives way. She crashes unceremoniously into the other soldier. Haruka's arms snake around her and Michiru hooks her fingers into the woman's shoulders like claws out of pure instinct. She jerks the towel away without meaning to, and her face smacks into the shallow, sinful divot between Haruka's breasts. She opens her mouth to frantically apologize and her tongue brushes flesh, and Haruka's heartbeat ratchets up, and Michiru smells her shampoo on her partner's damp skin and—

She pulls away slightly, serene. She keeps one hand braced on Haruka's shoulder and reaches down between them to retrieve the towel. When she finds it, she lifts it, takes a tottering step back, and drapes it shamelessly around Haruka's neck once more.

"I'm sorry," she says, and looks up into Haruka's startled crimson face with an unrepentant smile, "but my feet hurt."

And she is so, so glad.