Warning: This story involves two women together. Don't like? Don't read.

Commentary: For marine cathedral.

As always, I hope you—and the rest of you out there—enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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

Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endures its torments willingly.


Haruka will do anything for Michiru.

The weather has burned and boiled into high summer, and the marine-haired soldier has music rehearsal in the afternoon for hours on end. Despite the hellish inconvenience it is to find parking nearby convenience stores in this district, Haruka manages: every day. She does it so she may provide her partner a chilled peach tea when Michiru drifts to her car and its waiting passenger seat post-practice, her shoulders slumped, her violin case clutched in weary hands. Parallel parking woes and traffic-obstruction tickets are worth seeing Michiru's grateful smile as she wraps her worn fingers around that cold, perspiring can.

Per the area's housing standards, the apartment they share now only has one bathroom and it is an incredibly tiny bathroom. While Michiru is not as vain as some, she is stylish, and maintaining said style requires copious amounts of preparation. For this reason, every drawer in their bathroom is full of hair care products, shades of eyeliner, foundation masques, body crèmes, and a myriad other cosmetics Haruka can neither pronounce nor comprehend. Her own cologne, soap, and shampoo have been relegated to one cramped corner of the shower stall, and sometimes even they are usurped by curvy containers whereupon French inscriptions gleam. Though she is accustomed to being a queen, this kingdom is one she has sacrificed to the dominion of another—if only because it affords Michiru comfort.

The rest of their apartment is just as modest as their bathroom. They have learned to limbo around one another in the narrow hallway; their kitchen endeavors lend a necessary synchronicity to their steps. What they cannot do within their walls, however, is laundry: their unit lacks a stackable washer-dryer. In the interest of preserving Michiru's wrists for violin-playing, Haruka carries their dirty clothes down to the communal laundry room in the building's basement at least twice weekly. She peruses wrinkled sports magazines there, her heels propped on her claimed machine, her eyes darting above the pages of her reading material in neverending suspicion of underwear thieves. To save time and money, she washes their clothes together. She sorts and folds them too, and carts them back upstairs, diligent to the point of pride. She is not as apt at the task as Michiru might be, though, and more than once she has opened her gym bag to an aqua pair of satin panties and the snickers of her peers. She would rather the small embarrassment, of course, to any pain on Michiru's part.

Their visits to the ocean increase in frequency as their conflict tightens its noose around the attempted normalcy of their daily doings. They go because Michiru needs to, and because Haruka needs to see Michiru soothed. Whether noon and skipped classes or night and sloughed sleep, they slip to the shoreline and step in the surf, and their hands twist into knots between them. It is the thought of their sweaty, sand-stiff fingers, not the growing rime of salt-rust on her bumper or the mileage ticking up her speedometer, that flits through Haruka's mind most days.

Now she shifts on the diving board and winces as her shoulder puts forth a protesting crackle. She flexes her fingers, thrust behind her head in a rough cradle—the knuckles scrape and grind. Her elbows pop. She is incredibly uncomfortable and she is also, she thinks, allergic to poolwater purifier: her nostrils are on fire and her eyes feel like golfballs. Were it any other person paddling in the lanes beneath her, no potential plea or demand could hold her fast to this place. Because it is Michiru, however, and because Michiru asked her to stay, she reclines on the high dive and counts the ceiling tiles and muses to herself that love is sometimes a cold, cruel, chlorinated mistress.

Michiru has been swimming for an hour and a half. She began slowly: Haruka watched her and thought her beautiful as she swept through stroke after stroke, each movement a careful measure, every particle of the marine soldier's body as liquid-slick as the water surrounding it. Over the past few minutes, though, her motions have become more frenetic, almost desperate. Haruka listens to Michiru make a rare splash and knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that her partner is having a terrible day. Worse, the swim has done nothing to assuage her anxieties.

Moments later, Michiru climbs from the pool and trots in silent disgust to the bench whereupon her towels are waiting. As she wrings out her hair, she calls up to Haruka, "I'm ready—are you?" She makes no mention of her lingering stress.

Sitting up, Haruka dangles her elbows between her crooked knees and gazes at Michiru from on high. In her partner's backbone resides the rigid rod of resignation. Her hands tremble, both fatigued and fed up, in their sluggish patter across sodden locks. Michiru is the picture of misery because she is miserable, and why not? While others might seek solace from such exhaustion in slumber, Michiru has no other way to spend her dreams but bearing the burden of a looming apocalypse. Haruka might share this burden—indeed, she has similar nightmares of a cool, creeping death—but she cannot rid Michiru of it entirely.

On the other hand, she is perfectly capable of providing a distraction.

It is not uncommon for lovers to attempt to cheer up saddened mates, and Haruka is no exception. Various methodologies exist in the instigation of the practice: some, for instance, offer chocolates or comparable romantic treats. Others provide foot massages, sensual back rubs, tender touches. Haruka could do all of those things and more: admirably, oh yes. In looking at Michiru as she dries off, though, the taller soldier sees that no footrub or candlelit meal will shatter the other woman's gloom. The time has come for the exaction of a greater effort on Haruka's part.

It will cost her dignity, pride, and prowess, but Haruka knows she must make Michiru laugh.

"I'm ready," she assures her partner. She climbs to her feet. Her socks rasp on the board's rough surface and she wishes she could take them off, but that would ruin the show, wouldn't it? She bends her knee. "My foot's asleep," she complains loudly enough that Michiru is certain to catch it. "I'll be down in just a-a-AGH!"

She cants the knee she bent seconds before in a sweep outward to give the impression of a stagger. She hears Michiru gasp and pinwheels her arms: first for effect and then because her balance really is gone. Momentum carries her backward and slightly sideways. Her buttocks smack the tail end of the board with a resounding shmut! The strength of the vibration rattles up through her in a vigorous shock—she yelps, a very sincere, high-pitched sound she was unaware she could produce at all. The board bows, shudders: slingshots her out into space.

She unwillingly somersaults. The lights in the rafters blind her like a peppery camera flash and she sees her feet and then she is falling, falling hard and fast and spreadeagled and ten meters feels like ten years and when she hits the surface of the water at last, she does it face first.

Her cheeks, breasts, belly, and knees take the brunt of the impact. Her lungs compress and she wheezes out her breath in a burst of bubbles. Water jets up her nose. The loose ends of her tie flutter up around her face. Startled, stunned, stupefied, she sinks.

The need for oxygen shatters her reverie soon enough, and she paddles weakly to the surface. "Ha-aaaah!" she blasphemes the instant she breaks through the shiver-ripple barrier. Pins and needles crawl across her face. Her chest burns. She feels like she has been punched in the stomach. She flounders, furious, bobbing like a buoy in the bloated confines of her uniform: but a glance to the edge of the pool makes every indignity worthwhile.

Michiru has dropped to her knees. Arms wrapped around herself, she is laughing so hard that tears stream unchecked down her face. Her teeth flash; her shoulders heave. She sucks in a great whooping gasp of air, looks up at her flailing lover—chokes on it, retches in pure delight, falls onto her side on the tile. She pushes her face into her hands and the laughter starts again in earnest.

Haruka drifts to the pool's boundary and hooks her numb fingers there. Her neck barely above the water, she gives her head a repulsed canine shake. A wobbly-wet echo pulses in her ears. She is almost certain she has gone down a cup size.

A pale hand plunges into her vision. It curls about the sopping ends of her tie. Haruka finds herself jerked aloft into a kiss that is clumsy and crooked and sweet because Michiru is laughing still, will be laughing in fits and starts for days. "Oh," she whispers when she finds the words, "oh God!" and their cheeks scrub and their lips brush again, and then once more, and Michiru's other hand folds under Haruka's wet chin to keep her close, and somewhere between the giggles Haruka manages a small, smug, secret smile.

Haruka will do anything for Michiru.