Ok... This is something I managed to scrape a while ago when I was bored, and I decided afterwards to tidy it up a bit and publish it. Hope you enjoy it. At least I like the pairing a lot.


The Birthday Girl

I was having a strange birthday.

The shrine was too far away from Tokyo for my friends to visit. After dark, my father had retired to his bedchambers, and so I was left alone in the temple, staring at the seemingly papier-mache walls and the numerous intricately carved statues lined around them. I did not feel exceptionally lonely – almost everyone had called me and sent their regards, and the tranquil statues gave me a sense of home and comfort not many other things could.

In the evening hours, there was little to do in the shrine. No visitors were to be expected anymore, and usually I would have went into bed without a second thought. But now, I decided to stay awake for a little while longer.

To keep the sleepyness away, I pulled a coat over my shoulders and walked down the stairs which led from the temple grounds to the highway. The stairway was surrounded by lush vegetation; the trees stretched their branches towards me, and many times I had to duck to avoid being scratched by them. The world had finally awakened from its slumber, and a strong scent of cherry blossoms lingered in the air.

Down on the highway, I walked along it to the bus stop where I had years ago been with Noriko, and I sat on the weather-worn wooden chair. It had not been changed in years, the moisture had gotten into it and the paint was crackling, but I did not mind.

Some cars passed me with a swoosh, and from the distance their front lights were like winking stars. The sporadic coming and going of the man-made machines was the only thing breaking the silence, and even they seemed to conform to the peaceful rhythm rather than disturb it.

I waited.

I waited

Before I noticed, it was past midnight. A chill had sneaked into the night air, and I wrapped my coat tighter around me.

Sighing, I rose up and trudged back to the temple.

ooo

The first day of summer holiday had arrived, and it was sweltering hot in my apartment, which was a tiny flat designed for students with just enough room to fit a small desk, a bed, a wardrobe and a miniature refridgerator. The room had barely enough space to hold one person, let alone two. Had the sudden visitor been anyone else, I would have felt more than a little claustrophobic.

"Long time no see", my guest quipped. "How have you been?"

She spoke casually, smiling broadly like a halloween pumpkin. There was little visible difference in her posture, and yet I knew something must have happened. Her visit was too sudden, and her ever-flirtatious tone on the telephone had been too tight-strung.

"I am all right, thank you for asking", I replied and gestured her to sit on the sole chair in my room. "Would you like some coffee? My aunt gave me a genuine coffee-maker as a present."

She nodded, and the next few minutes I spent operating the coffee maker. My back was turned to her, and neither of us spoke.

I had filled the machine with only enough water to cook one cup coffee, so it was soon ready. I reached for a mug from the shelf above my head and poured the dark liquid into it.

"I don't have milk right now, sorry."

But she only waved her hand and took a sip from the cup, and the fact that the coffee was still boiling hot did not seem to bother her at all.

I let her drink in silence. There were some things I wanted to say, but suddenly I did not feel like saying them.

The coffee was running out, and still neither of us said anything.

"Happy Birthday."

It came so out of the blue that I was at loss as to how I should have replied. In the end, I was satisfied to give a small nod and twist my lips in a semblance of a smile.

Yes, I had turned ninenteen this year, but it had been a month ago, and on my actual birthday my Onee-sama had not even sent me a text message to congratulate me. That she did so now… It was almost bizarre.

"If I may ask, has something happened?"

She sighed.

ooo

I did not remember when I had felt so sad.

My Onee-sama was slowly regaining her composure, although the hurt still loomed large under the small cracks in her mask of cheerfulness.

I had not guessed that I would spend the first day of my summer holiday wanting to cry. Now, it was hard for me to hold back my tears.

"You don't have to grieve, Shimako."

I shook my head. My Onee-sama understood so little.

ooo

"Have you ever loved someone?"

Another of her abrupt, out-of-context and inappropriate comments, like bits of sound from a broken receiver.

"Yes, I have."

"Have you ever loved anyone so much that the difference of you being either together or apart is like the difference between heaven and hell? So much, that you think of her in every waking hour, imagining over and over again how you would meet again?"

No, because such a feeling did not exist in real life. And if it did, it was little else than temporary infatuation.

I believed her to be sensible enough to disregard the more naïve pictures of love, so in a way I knew what my Onee-sama meant. But even then, I could not say that I truly understood. Longing, maybe, but I had never felt the difference between us being together and apart. Because it always felt as if we were destined to be close enough for her nearness to fill me with a pale warmth, yet at the same time far enough from each other for it to be impossible for me to cross the chasm.

"You know, it doesn't make any sense", my Onee-sama said deliberately, as if she was trying to weigh every word she uttered with utmost care. She was smiling, not bitterly, but there was a melancholy so thick in her voice that I could almost touch it. "One moment I am lying in her arms, and nothing could be better. Then she is gone without a warning, like a brief shower of rain in the sunlight. And there isn't even a rainbow. All I am left with is a fleeting memory of her lips -"

"Stop!"

ooo

She had been cruel, my Onee-sama. I wondered whether she knew just how cruel she had been by telling me what she had; as if all those times she had hugged Yumi, all those times she had playfully drew the younger girl to herself, all those times she had positively squirmed with satisfaction as Yumi had blushed in her embrace had not been enough. Had she truly believed I would not mind? Had she truly thought I would not notice?

But no-one was that perfect. No-one was that pure. We were soeurs, and she was supposed to hug me, she was supposed to love me, to pine for me. I never had said a word, but when I looked upon it now, sometimes I thought perhaps I should have. Perhaps she had only needed a nudge in the right direction.

"I really did not want to banalize my feelings in this ungraceful way, but you leave me with little choice, Onee-sama."

So what if I wanted just the same as everyone else?

"Are you serious?"

She looked surprised, and those were the moments when I just wanted to grab her face and bash it against the wall until some sense would be beat into her sexy little head. And the worst part of it all was that I could hardly blame her; if she truly had not noticed, what could I possibly say against her?

"Oh dear", she said when she saw the way I was trembling. I wrapped my arms around myself, but that feeble gesture did little to lessen the icyness within me. Again I was on the verge of tears, and it must have shown, because the surprise in my Onee-sama's face turned into an expression of sincere caring. "If you really wanted to be hugged so much, why didn't you simply say so? I could have hugged you as much as you ever wanted."

That was a lie, and a shameless one. How could I have voiced my desires, knowing as much I as I knew about her? I had not wanted to hurt her again, because she had been hurt enough already. Neither had I wanted to be a burden to her, just as she had promised not to be a burden to me.

"How can you possibly even think anything like that? You know how we were like: close, but never too close; we cared for each other, but you never let that grow into something more. And don't even try to tell me it was something you unconsciously did."

"You-"

"Yes, I played on in your little charade, but did you truly think I did it because I felt about it in the same way as you did? Did you truly think that I did not, once in a while, want you to fuss over me just like other grande soeurs fussed over their little sisters?"

I was shouting now, and I felt a kind of perverse pleasure as I saw the shock spreading all over my Onee-sama's face. It was clear as water, even as she did her best to conceal it from me by looking partly away. I almost wanted to hurt her for all the pain she had inflicted on me, but she would not grant me even that single, twisted pleasure. Because in her eyes, there was regret, and I could take little pleasure in punishing someone who had commited a crime without intent. And even if I were to continue to batter her with my words, the fresh, bloody cuts would seal themselves and heal when enough time had gone by, unlike my festering wounds which had sprouted from within, slowly, imperceptibly at first, but as the silent taint had spread like a cancer, it felt as if my whole soul had been maimed beyond repair.

"Sooorryyy", she said, grinning like an idiot, and she could have been apologizing for eating my share of sweets or for borrowing my pencil without asking permission. The shock on her face had disappeared like a drop of blood in the blue ocean.

And then, like a thunderclap from a clear sky, she pulled me against her.

She was so tall that when she held me, she had to lower herself to press her chin against the top of my head. She caressed my hair, thoughtlessly arranged my locks behind my left ear, and when it was wholly exposed, she abruptly leaned to give it a small nibble. It tickled, and I let out an involuntary burst of laughter.

She must have known very well that I could not be angry with her if she touched me like that, and I hated her for using my only weakness as her advantage in a situation where there was no other escape route for her. Then again, another part in me had already forgotten all about my pains as soon as she had lain her hands on me, and that part of me simply wanted to be held, and not only held, but also to be caressed more, to be kissed, to be fondled…

"This is not fair", I said in futile effort to break away from her, but she refused to let me go, and my resolve was faltering with every second I spent feeling her warmth seeping through my clothes straight into me. And I desired more of it, as intensely as a woman dying of thirst desired a gulp of the freshest spring water.

"Haven't you heard what they say? That in war and love all means are allowed?"

"No, I guess I have not. But thank you for telling me."

In one reckless move, I closed my fingers around her hair, and drew her face towards me. I rose to stand on my tiptoes, and I gazed into her face for a long while, my hands all the time clutching her hair so tightly that it must have been painful, but if it was, it did not show on her face in any way.

"So, are you going to give me a kiss or not?"

The surface of my Onee-sama's lips felt chapped against mine, and almost unconsciously I was sliding my tongue over them, as if I could have moistened them so. She moved her hands from my waist to hold my cheeks, and how long we stood there, me uncomfortably with my head raised, she awkwardly with her hair being pulled, I could not tell.

When I came to my senses, I was catching my breath, my heart beating like mad. I felt dizzy.

"I have wanted to do that since times immemorial", I said.

"Only that? Nothing else?"

"You embarrass me, Onee-sama."

"In love and war…"

"…everything is allowed, I know."

"For example, things like this."

And she kissed me again.

"You don't… You don't have to say you love me" I whispered. "I take no pleasure in hearing white lies. Just hold me, hold me, and…"

I was pleading, but I was no longer certain what was it that I asked for. Did I want her to stay where she was, or did I want her to burn away even the last vestiges of my self-control? The question soon lost relevance as she slipped her hands inside my shirt, making me twist as her palms pressed against my skin.

"But I love you, Shimako."

"Onee-sama…"

"You can think of this as a compensation for all the things I made you go through", was the last thing I heard her say. "Or maybe as a lately delivered birthday present."

ooo

Later, I stopped trying to hold back from crying. And so I wept, every sob sending spasms down my whole body and jerking yet another flood of tears from my burning eyes. And every time I had almost stopped sobbing, it started again as violently as ever, and all I could do was to bury my head in my Onee-sama's embrace and let her cradle me like a baby.

She rocked me, whispered soothingly in my ear, and stroked my hair until I had burned myself dry, until there was not a single drop of moisture left in my eyes to shed, and it was only then that I finally stopped crying.

My throat was as dry and raspy as if it had been rubbed with a sandpaper, my eyes were hurting and my whole face felt wet and dirty. It was the first time I had cried in someone else's presence for a long, long time, and I was ashamed and angry at the same time. Ashamed because I had totally lost control, angry because my Onee-sama had driven me into it.

"You look lovely even when you cry."

I swallowed loudly. Although I did not want her to see my ugly, tear-stricken face without any shelter, I forced myself to look straight in her eyes.

"Why, Onee-sama, why? Were you truly that oblivious? I was desperate, but I never wanted to put us through this… foolish, unnecessary farce."

She lowered her head. Suddenly she looked so old, with shadows falling on her face so that the small lines etched in her skin were highlighted, and then I wanted to take all my words back, to seal them in a dark chest and never open it.

But she still smiled, as she always did, and in an incomprehensible show of willpower, she even managed a half-convincing grin.

"I could tease Yumi to my heart's content, because she was just a harmless little girl. I could make love to Youko until she begged me to stop, because she was nothing but a meddler who thought she could save the world by meddling enough. But you, my little Shimako, you were too cute for your own good. You were too sweet and too angelic, too much resembling myself… And her…"

Fin