For disclaimers, please see part one.

Author's notes:
Muse. Evil, she is. (And Cross, if you do bribe her, I will hunt you down and tickle you. She does not need any extra incentive!)

As a sidenote, White Nights and Speak Out Now by Oh Land were my chief, musical selections for this (although I was indulging my nostalgia and listening to Shubidua, too). They both work, somehow. The song actually referenced in this chapter, however, is Tamaki Nami's Brightdown, which isn't exactly inappropriate either.

And that... is probably the longest lemon scene I've written yet. Whoo, new personal best!

Thanks for reading.

The Night Before

The TV is on – animated characters dancing soundlessly across the screen in all their vivid, colorful glory. The computer in your lap is playing what has to be the gazillionth, random video today, although only the sound of electric guitars and pounding drums is evidence of that, as there's an electronic document being displayed now - not that you're actually adding anything to it. It's pointless to attempt homework when you're feeling like this and you know it, but you have to pass the time somehow, and glowering at the blinking cursor while your mind cheerfully chases its own tail is as good a way as any.

You've thought and thought and thought, and you still just can't pinpoint the time when you started thinking of her in a different way. It could have been when you passed your end-of-year exams after your first year of college with flying colors, when she was waiting for you outside – when there was suddenly a sunny grin that was reserved for you alone, a tight, fierce hug and a soft whisper of I knew you could do it in your ear that made you feel warm all over just from the sheer belief it held. It could have been on your very first day of college entirely, when she somehow understood your nervousness without you ever mentioning it, and met you at the campus borders; walking you to your first assembly and drawing your mind away from your worries and uncertainties with inane smalltalk that nevertheless made you smile – at the price of missing classes of her own.

It could even have been on the day when you finally graduated from Fuuka Academy. You weren't at the top of your class, but with your previous attendance, ranking at number 9 was certainly an achievement to both your and her credit. Not only had her tutoring been a cornerstone in your not having to repeat a year, but in spite of her own preoccupation with exams and the inevitable shift that – you now realize – comes with switching from high school to university – she was there for that, too. Fumi even made sure she was sitting directly behind you, and the hand that rested so briefly on your shoulder just when you were a heartbeat away from jumping to your feet and running did wonders when it came to calming you down.

You sigh towards the ceiling and let a few lines of the song playing wash over you.

Can't see the end of the days that we spent together
Even though we're this far away from each other
The shining light will arrive at where you are
And a miracle should make your wish come true

When? That you still don't know. 'Why' is so packed full of reasons that listing them all would probably take up the rest of the year – comprised of anything from how she's the only one you trust so completely that it should rightly scare you out of your sanity, to how she just innately seems to be there exactly when you need her the most. Not because she says a whole lot on those occasions, but rather because she doesn't – because she somehow just understands what you need or don't need, even when you yourself have no clue.

No, 'when' is definitely still up in the air. The closest estimate you can come up with is 'a long time ago', and at this point you want her so badly that it's effectively driving you to distraction. You're not entirely sure when that came about, either. Coulda been any number of times, really – like the time when you were studying together in her dorm. You'd looked up from your books to rest your eyes for a while and found yourself staring directly down the front of a fitted blouse that was clearly a lot more low-cut when she was leaning over her own work. The sight of smooth skin lovingly cradled in just the barest hint of wisteria-colored satin had made you have to swallow repeatedly against a suddenly parched throat, and the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she breathed had hypnotized you for several seconds before you'd jumped to your feet. Your chair had fallen to the floor with a bang that made her gasp in surprise while you made tracks for the bathroom, and you'd spent the next 20 minutes in there trying desperately to not freak out, while simultaneously thanking your lucky stars that Shizuru had somehow landed a single room and you thus didn't have to worry about curious roommates.

If that had been it, you muse as you watch the light from the TV send twisting patters of color across the white ceiling, you could probably have called the whole thing a fluke and been done with it. But no, it had kept happening - you had kept noticing her... in that way. It had shifted from her body to her smile to her eyes to her hair to her voice – all of those, many more and everything in between, and every instance had left you absolutely enchanted and not just a little flustered and frustrated. Especially when you tried to figure out how the hell you were supposed to approach the whole situation after telling her that you couldn't feel the same way she did.

Well... that much had been true at the time, at least. When you'd said that, you just hadn't had the experience needed to develop romantic feelings for anyone at all – you'd been entirely too focused on avenging your mother, and once that had fallen through, you'd been fighting for both your life and hers. With the end of the Carnival had come normalcy for everyone else, while you'd suddenly lost almost everything about your life that had been normal to you, and had scrambled to gain a grip on this new existence that suddenly consisted of nothing but just... living. Getting used to that had been no easy feat, but it was probably what let you start feeling the way you do now.

And it had been worth it, you decide as you shift the laptop onto the nearby table and lie down fully. The only real problem is that Shizuru seems to have taken your words from almost three years ago as the gospel truth – which is now both reassuring and frustrating in the extreme all at once. Oh, she still flirts with you – with damn near everyone, much to your annoyance – and while she certainly looked surprised when you first started flirting back, she took it in stride but obviously didn't take your intentions for what they were. Fruitless as that tactic has been in terms of what you really hoped to accomplish, you've at least become a lot more proficient in fleeting touches, coy glances and secretive smiles, because really, who better to learn from than the master?

It probably would have been a lot faster and a lot more efficient to simply tell her that your feelings had changed – subtlety was never your strongest point – and you even tried to work your conversation with her towards that at one point, when Shizuru had unknowingly and as gracefully as ever thrown a spanner in the works.

"What do you want in a lover?" you'd asked, and she'd paused with her teacup halfway to her mouth and sent you a curious glance through the gently rising steam.

"Aren't you full of questions this evening," she'd commented.

"Just answer," you'd returned with a scowl, because she was right, of course, and you really didn't want her to jump to any conclusions just yet.

"Hm." She'd sipped her tea and closed her eyes as she considered your query, and when she'd set the cup down and wiped an errant droplet from her lower lip with the swipe of a gentle finger, you'd thought that your heart was gonna burst out of your chest. "Inane as it may sound, I suppose I want someone who will treat me like a princess."

You'd goggled at her for several moments, until the sound of her giggling had broken you from it.

"Wha- don't you get enough of that from your fanclub?" you'd sputtered. "I've seen your desk at the end of a holiday – you need a machete just to get to your chair!"

"Natsuki..." Her voice had been halfway between amused and exasperated. "There's a distinct line between courting a woman to win her heart, and showering her with presents to get her attention."

"There is?" you'd wondered aloud as the axis of your world tilted a little again. Shizuru was very good at doing that, and while it was frustrating in the extreme, it always resulted in a useful lesson learned.

"Mm." Her lips had curved in a sly little smile, and she'd seemed entirely too amused at your confusion. "An expensive present without genuine emotion behind it is about as useful as a flashy car with no engine. It looks nice, but it isn't going anywhere."

At least she was using a simile you could follow easily. "So you don't want someone who gives you gifts?"

"I don't want someone who expects me to blindly fall into their arms because of a single moment," she'd clarified with a chuckle. "Rather, I want someone who's willing to earn my affections, selfish as that may sound. It's often the little things that hold the deepest meaning, and after all..." She'd looked into your eyes and smiled. "Doesn't every woman want to feel that she's someone's most precious thing?"

Wooing was another thing you had no experience with, but all the same, you'd found yourself wanting to make that dream of hers come true. Considering everything she'd gone through for your sake, she deserved that. You could certainly also sympathize with Shizuru in regards to her fanclub – even though she was showered with affection by them on a daily basis, it was a hollow affection based on their perception of her, with little to no basis in who she truly was as a person.

So you'd started keeping your eyes open on campus – started picking up on what the couples you encountered in your day-to-day life did for each other. It was a particularly entertaining bit of irony that the one you learned the most from turned out to be Kanzaki Reito, whom you'd never really gotten along with – something about him had just always rubbed you the wrong way - but the fact that he made Mai almost deliriously happy was undeniable. Moreso, he did it in exactly the way you were wanting to learn – by way of small, subtle gestures rather than overt, flashy ones. And as much as it tickled your sense of the absurd until it was writhing on the floor and howling in laughter, you started taking your cues from him.

Whenever you had the time to spare, you started making the trek from the engineering department to the buildings that housed the humane sciences; usually at a sprint, because the two were on opposite sides of campus and going in the other direction for your motorcycle would have cost more time than you'd gain back. If nothing else, the need to find shortcuts, jump the occasional fence and tear through unfamiliar buildings meant that you soon knew the campus like the back of your hand, and the physical exertions involved left you in better shape than you'd been in even during your HiME days.

Sometimes you got there in time to catch her just as she left her classroom and walk her to the next one, and at other times you had to wrack your brain for her schedule when you missed her at one room and had to figure out what route she would take to the next one in order to catch up. During lunch, you always sought her out, and while you definitely preferred it when the two of you ate alone, you also made a conscious effort to involve yourself in the conversation when you found her amongst her classmates. Initially, you mainly asked a lot of questions and felt pretty stupid, but the group Shizuru tended to spend her time with was a friendly bunch and eager to share what they'd learned themselves, and it mercifully didn't take too long before you'd grasped enough of the unfamiliar subjects that you felt confident in debating with them over such things as ethics and corporate law. The research you did online at night after finishing your own assignments didn't hurt, either.

"Kuga-san, are you a transfer?" Kumakura Yuriko had asked you one day a few weeks into the whole thing. "I haven't seen you around the past two years."

"No." You'd twirled your chopsticks idly and looked around – suddenly aware that the entire table was waiting for your answer – and the weight of ten sets of curious eyes didn't hold a candle to how you felt under the steady warmth of the eleventh pair. "I'm a sophomore in engineering."

"You're a second-year?" had come the question from one young man, and you took the shock in his voice as a compliment.

"What are you doing here, then?" another had wondered.

"Just spending time with someone I missed," had been your answer, and when you cut your eyes to meet Shizuru's, the smile on her face had made you feel so good it almost hurt.

You'd started doing other things too, of course, like picking her up and driving her home when her duties in the few clubs she took part in kept her at school until evening – even though having her pressed closely against your back and her arms wrapped around your waist now brought a whole host of new distractions. The fact that Shizuru's dorm wasn't that far from campus was both a blessing and a curse in that way.

When she had hefty assignments to do – and the extra time you spent with her made it easy to know when that happened – you took to showing up with some form of nourishment, both to made sure that she did eat, and also to talk her into taking a break before she studied herself to exhaustion, which she was prone to doing. You started out with whatever you could find at convenience stores that didn't smack of grease or 'just add water', but once Mai by way of a completely unrelated conversation told you how fresh greens and red meat were really the best brain-foods, you started rounding up the ingredients rather than the pre-packaged end product and bringing those with you instead. Shizuru, of course, then did the actual cooking which kind of defeated the purpose of getting her to relax, so you hounded her with questions on why she was doing this and how would she do that, and probably came close to making the poor woman pull at her hair several times. You, however, kept asking, she kept answering and explaining, and within the course of a month the two of you were either preparing the meal together, or she was gently but insistently shooed away to take a bath while you shouted the occasional question at her from the stove.

The whole situation certainly kept you hopping from one thing to the next, because not only were you keeping up with your own classes, assignments and your small group of friends; you were also spending no little time making sure Shizuru was taken care of – or at least taking care of herself - and slowly but surely making yourself a solid presence in her life. To say that it was exhausting would be an understatement, but the rewards were well worth it.

For one, the focus you now gave her allowed you to get to know her in a different way from before. You'd called her your best friend for a long time, but now started to realize that while you'd always felt close to her, there was much closer to get. The extra time you spent together was more often than not passed with talking – or rather with you asking about her day, her mood and her thoughts; a strong counterpoint to the instances of the past where it was mostly the other way around. You were taking an active interest in her life, her goals and what made her tick, and the two of you only grew closer as a result. The unexpected side-effect was that while you'd been what some would call crushing on her at the beginning, your efforts to make her feel cherished were also making you fall in love.

And maybe – in a different way – it was having the same effect on her. Oh, you didn't doubt that she was still in love with you – she never mentioned any other romantic interests, and even when you were together in a crowd, her main focus was always on you. But you were also very aware of the fact that your change in behavior around her gave her pause over and over again; that much was obvious from the surprised look that showed in her eyes from time to time.

Maybe, you considered, both of you had been attracted only to parts of each other initially. But now you were both learning new things practically every day, and you could almost feel the deepening in your relationship as a physical pull towards her. That certainly wasn't helping your efforts to be patient, because for someone as smart as Shizuru was, she also had a stubborn streak that ran a mile wide and two deep, and seemed completely incapable of reconsidering her opinion that the two of you were friends and that was all you'd ever be – period.

But there were instances that gave you hope. Such as one of the evenings where the two of you had shared dinner at the small table in her dorm. You'd been watching the rain patter against the dark window next to you, when you'd suddenly grown aware that Shizuru had stopped eating. Carefully and without letting your expression change in the slightest, you altered your focus so you could see the reflection in the window rather than what lay beyond it, and the sight had heartened you immensely. Shizuru, after all, had been sitting dead-still with the end of one chopstick held loosely between her lips; studying you with a wondering, soft look in her eyes that made a gentle warmth bloom in your chest.

That had given you the encouragement you needed to take things up a notch. You started hugging her whenever you met; not the 'a-frame' style hug that you'd seen between countless sets of female friends where they only touched at the shoulders and arms, but proper hugs not unlike the ones she'd spring on you whenever she was in a particularly playful mood. You also took to hooking your arm with hers when you were walking together, and when the two of you were alone and a few strands of tawny hair would free themselves from the updo she'd taken to wearing it in, you'd push them behind her ear with a casual touch that always lingered just a little longer than was strictly necessary.

During your musings, you've shaped a selection of your own hair into a long, slender braid, and now you use the end of it to tickle your own forehead as you eye the ceiling wryly. Shizuru still hasn't caught on, of course; or if she has, she isn't doing anything about it. Not even after you started altering your style of dress to be more formfitting than usual, as your current outfit of tight, black jeans and a sheer, figure-sewn white shirt over a deep green, V-necked tanktop bears testament to. Sure, you've felt her eyes on you several times – sometimes to the point of wondering if it's possible to set fabric on fire just by staring at it hard enough – but she hasn't actually done anything.

It's not that you mind having to make the first move – hell, that was the plan even way back when - but her lack of action is making you wonder if you're misreading her, and that makes you nervous and not just a little scared. At this point, your life is so entwined with hers that you honestly don't think you could take it if she were to reject you. When she's not around and you're waiting to see her, time slows to such a crawl that you swear the clock actually moves backwards, and you find yourself doing anything you can think of just to stop watching the damn thing. Hence why you've been ready for tonight for well over half an hour already – both her group of friends from university and most of the old HiME gang are meeting up for an evening out - and she isn't even due to pick you up for another 15 minutes. Unless she's early, which isn't exactly unlikely.

And as if on cue there's a knock at your front door, and you're in such a hurry to get up and open it that you trip over your own feet and almost fall flat on your face. You haven't seen her in a full week this time, and if you're honest with yourself, that's been causing some serious withdrawal on your part that would've been hilarious if it had been happening to anyone else.

The smile on her face when you open the door is genuine and warm, and you hope to all the gods (including the few hundred thousand available in Hinduism) that yours is as well, because your brain has gone into a state of shock just from the sight of her. Even though she's dressed in the style of elegant-mixed-with-classy-and-a-sprinkle-of-sex-appeal that always adorns her figure when there's a night out on the horizon, this is the first time it's ever made your heart stop pumping any blood north of your neck. Or your navel, for that matter.

"Is Natsuki coming?" she asks brightly.

You bite your lip and scratch the tip of your nose – more to buy time than anything else. Talk about your loaded questions.

"Almost," is what ends up leaving your lips as a reply, and you cringe inwardly. "I just gotta take off my top." Oh God, that's no better – why does she have to look so gorgeous and make you so tongue-tied? "...there's a hole in it," you finish lamely, and in proud tradition both scowl and blush when she giggles.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with your top or you wouldn't be wearing it in the first place, but if you leave the house the way you feel right now, you're liable to pounce on her in front of all of your friends, and that really isn't how you want things to play out. So the little while lie is your way of buying some extra time to hopefully calm down in – time you have, thankfully, you consider as you hug her and have to suppress a shiver at the feel of her body against yours.

"C'mon in," you manage to tell her evenly, and turn your attention firmly on closing and locking your front door, because if you don't, you're gonna find yourself staring when she removes her low heels and bends to put them aside, and that absolutely wouldn't help matters any right now.

You clear your throat and precede her into your bedroom – she's watched you change dozens of times at this point, but that hasn't done anything either – and keep your back turned while you unbutton your shirt and listen to her settling herself on your bed. It doesn't take many seconds before you're down to your jeans and your black bra, and you send a glance over your shoulder when you wonder if she's watching, but no – her eyes are turned politely to the ceiling.


"What do you think about this one?" you ask her on a whim; turning and holding up a wine-red halterneck, and gaining the satisfaction of the matching eyes settling your half-naked form.

"You can't wear a bra under that," she remarks.

You grumble under your breath and put it away. While that idea certainly holds merit, you'd really prefer to not have to strip any further to get your point across. You should've just worn a haltertop to begin with, but there's not much use in crying over spilled milk. Instead you keep pulling out random tops, shirts and blouses and asking her opinion just to get her to look at you, and grow progressively more frustrated that it takes that at all. It's not like you're standing there naked, so what's all the propriety for?

Were you wrong, you wonder as you pause and turn to look at her with one blouse forgotten in your left hand. Is she maybe just not attracted to you anymore? God, you hope that's not the case, and run your eyes along her exposed legs to where they disappear underneath her mid-thigh-length skirt – no hose; she doesn't need to wear them for her legs to look good – because you definitely want her more than you've ever wanted anything else in your life. It's not just a physical thing either, although seeing her lying there in that skirt and that collared blouse is enough to send a fist of need slamming full-force into your abdomen.

Then she's looking at you again – this time without prompting – and everything you're thinking must be showing on your face, because her eyes widen noticeably when they meet yours. You're both frozen in that instant, and you're trying desperately to read her reaction and praying fervently that you weren't wrong.

Confusion. Expected.

Realization. Oh, boy...

Disbelief. FuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK!

You're halfway to what feels like a minor panic attack when something finally clicks in the way you'd hoped to see. It's a subtle softening around the edges of her eyes, and a faint sheen of moisture that lends a different brightness to them while she draws in a hitching breath. It's a vision of a woman having her deepest wish finally granted, and she's never been more beautiful to your eyes than she is in that exact moment.

The blouse in your hand falls to the floor when you finally give in to the pull and take the first step towards her, and your eyes stay locked on hers until you're holding yourself on all fours above her and the curtain made from your own hair is casting uneven, shifting shadows across her face. You cup her chin with one hand and feel your throat close up on all the things you want to tell her, and when she blinks, a single tear slips from her eye and you carefully wipe it away. The action earns you a smile that draws your attention to her lips, and you watch them part slightly as she draws in an uneven breath.

It takes some doing, but you drag your gaze back up to meet hers. And silly as you feel doing this, you really do just want to make completely sure.

"Can I kiss you?" you ask softly.

Her answer is a gentle, trembling laugh. "I really wish you would."

So you do, and your heart stutters in your chest when you taste the soft sob she can't quite hold back when your lips meet. You hate it when she cries, and only the knowledge that this is merely a reaction to the sudden release of pent-up emotion keeps you from kicking your own ass over it.

It isn't your first kiss, of course. It's actually the third one for both of you, but with how everything's changed between you in the intervening years, it might as well be your first. It's sweet and light; a promise exchanged and apologies offered for things you've both forgiven each other for ages ago. It's immediately followed by your fourth, which is deeper and headier; with her fingers sliding through your hair to cup the back of your head and the honey-tinged taste of her breath in your mouth. The fifth kiss follows a trade of meaningful glances between the two of you, and is pure, unrestrained desire passing from her tongue to yours and back again when she pulls you down to rest fully on top of her and your hands find their way onto the skin of her waist.

Your sixth, unfortunately, is rudely interrupted by the drrrrrrrt of your cellphone vibrating its way across the nightstand, and you literally snarl when you wrench your mouth free and glare at the offending piece of electronics as you snap it up. Mai, probably – wondering where you are since you're now way more than fashionably late - and you consider answering for all of half a second before you send the buzzing phone flying out of the room. Sure as Sunday drivers, there'll be an interrogation at a level the Spanish Inquisition could only dream of achieving the next time you talk to her, but right now you're so far beyond caring that it borders on the ridiculous. You want her, she wants you and nothing short of a goddamn five-alarm fire is getting in the way of this.

Based on the way she pulls you back down and kisses you as if she's trying to drink the essence of life itself from your lips, you guess that she agrees with you on that. You groan into her mouth and feel her shiver in response, and the sensation of her ribs expanding sharply when your hands reach them is absolutely intoxicating; the fact that you have to break your... ninth? Twentieth?... kiss to get the blouse over her head and out of the way doesn't bother you too much, although you do have to suppress a very sudden urge to laugh when you see what bra she's wearing - just because it's a perfect example of everything coming full-circle.

The wisteria-colored satin is, of course, of the highest quality, but it somehow doesn't hold a candle to the feel of her skin under your hands – or the sensation of her hands on your skin, for that matter. There's a faint, clicking sound that registers somewhere in the back of your mind while she lays claim to your lips again, and then the world turns on its ear as she rolls you over and looms over you instead. The cool air suddenly meets more of you, and you arch into the warm hand that covers your breast and bury your fingers in her hair while she moans into your mouth.

Divesting yourselves and each other of the rest of your clothes takes a little while; looser jeans definitely have that advantage, because getting out of tight ones is hard enough and made no easier by the passionate urgency fueling everything between you right now. It honestly feels kind of like you're trying to line-dance in a turnip sack, but you manage to wiggle free of them somehow, and then there's finally no barriers left.

"Oh, God..." Your voice is a hoarse groan when your bare bodies entwine. Every inch of her is pressing against you in delicious emphasis, and you're drowning in the taste and scent of her skin.

"Nope," she murmurs against the side of your neck, and her breath against your sensitive flesh sends shivers down your spine. "Just me."

Damn, that's distracting, and if you're gonna have any chance of sticking to how you wanted this to go, you're gonna have to do something about it before the feel of her hands and the look in her eyes convince you to just let yourself drown. God knows you want to – oh, do you ever want to – but you somehow manage to get a hold of her wrists and flip the two of you over again.

"No... distracting me," you tell her between kisses, and feel her arch against your hold while she groans in protest. "You can have your turn when I'm done." The sound of your own voice is so deep and raw that you barely recognize it yourself, and when you pull back and meet her eyes, they've gone almost black with passion. It's a shot of pure heat directly into every vein in your body at the same time, and while you definitely want to succumb - even submit - to the promises you see there, you hold firm to your initial decision.

It's a very fifty-fifty moment while your eyes fence; hers stubborn and your own equally unrelenting.

"Please?" you then request, and gentle your expression. "Shizuru, you've been waiting for this longer. Let me take care of you first."

That strange, soft look takes over her eyes again – the one that you're starting to realize means I love you. The wrists under your hands relax significantly while she blows out a slow, shaky breath, and you catch on to the fact that she's nervous. It's something you can definitely sympathize with, you decide as you settle down beside her, and watch her eyes close when you trail the backs of your fingers over her cheek. When she opens them again, there's a vulnerability in there that you've never seen before, and the hand that captures your own and brings it to her lips is trembling ever so slightly.

It's beautiful. Hell, she's beautiful, and this new openness in her gaze is something you find yourself wanting to nurture – to protect. For that reason, you consciously slow your movements when you kiss her, and feel her fingers slide through your hair again while she half-sighs, half-moans into your mouth. You focus on pouring everything you feel into the kiss – on channeling the emotions she evokes in you into your own lips and hands as you slowly stroke her skin and feel her move gently in response.

Any sexual relationship is bound to include a bit of trial and error at first until people get used to each other, because even similar bodies have several, subtle differences. You realize that much, and yet, every spot your hands reach seems to be exactly the right one at exactly the right time. It feels like mere moments pass before slender fingers are pressing into the back of your head and neck; before her face is hidden against the side of your throat and a continuous series of low, breathless gasps are washing over your skin – her body moving sinuously against the sheets as you somehow... somehow play her like a finely tuned violin. Exactly how you know how to do that, you have no idea, but you go with it and let your instincts guide you as you dip into the source of her desire and feel her go taut against you.

"Na-tsu-kiiiii..." Your name is a raw, hoarse whimper leaving her lips, and your breath catches in response as you carefully move your fingers in exchange for a strangled moan. Her hips are moving insistently towards your touch, and you shift your position until you can set your thigh against the back of your own hand.

"Look at me," you whisper as you match her rhythm and move against her, and find a way to hold most of your own weight on one elbow that still allows you to brush the strands of damp, chestnut hair away from her face. When she does, there's a thousand colors swirling in her eyes, and in that moment when she's exposed to you in a way that she's never before been to anyone else, you fall in love with her all over again.

"Let go," you murmur into her ear, and shiver both at the sensation of her skin gliding against yours, the feeling of her hands clinging to your back and at how her voice breaks halfway through a cry when you find another sensitive spot deep inside her. "I've got you," you promise, and like everything else it seems to be exactly the right thing to say, because it doesn't take another five, thundering heartbeats before she's arching off the bed; arms and legs coiling tightly around every available part of you while a low, guttural cry is wrenched from deep in her throat. The shudders that wrack her entire body are almost violent – like the raw, hitching gasps she's muffling against your shoulder, and you cradle her with one arm as best you can while you wait for the convulsions to leave her.

Seeing her like this could easily become addictive, you decide as she practically collapses back against the pillows and you run your appreciative gaze down her body. If it hasn't already. There's a most alluring flush on her face that extends down her neck and chest, and you trace the edge of it with a fingertip without bothering to free your other digits from the velvety snugness encasing them.

"Natsuki..." Her voice is still a little breathless when she cradles your face in shaking hands, and you smile in reply. "That..."

"...was one," you finish, and nip one of her palms lightly.

If the sudden flaring of her nostrils is anything to go by, she understands exactly what you mean. In the event that she doesn't, you shift your hand enough to swirl your thumb around a sensitive little nodule, and drink in the sight of her eyes fluttering closed while her entire frame jerks in reaction.


"Oh, God..." she groans as you keep up the slow, teasing motion and use your teeth to good effect over her collarbone.

"Nope," you grin against her skin and echo her earlier words. "Just me."

Her chest bounces enticingly as she laughs, but that's cut off abruptly when you close your lips around a pebbled piece of flesh. Instead, she gasps harshly at the touch, and you swirl your thumb again to draw a low whine from her throat while her hands press into your shoulders. In a way, you decide as you continue to draw sounds from her with your hands and lips, it really is like playing a finely tuned instrument, and the noises you're making her emit are enough to make your head swim.

Addictive doesn't even begin to describe it, and it's no wonder that you keep up your attentions through a second and a third, after which you stop counting and just let yourself become lost in her taste and her scent, and just how right it feels to hold her in your arms when she's finally reduced to shivering at something so simple as a kiss to her cheek. You only stop when she practically begs you to, which is a good while after she first started sobbing when your touch sent her over that edge again, and even you're a little surprised at the fact that you really don't want to stop.

You do, however, and instead content yourself with drawing slow, soothing patterns on her back when she tucks her head under your chin, and her heart pounds against your chest while she tries to recover.

It's an extremely peaceful feeling. Although you are wondering what she's groping around the mattress above your faces for.

"... what are you doing?" you finally ask when you're unable to figure it out on your own.

"Looking for the top of my head."

"Ah." You muffle a snicker in her hair and feel yourself blush just a little. "Well, I... aim to please?"

"Natsuki has excellent aim," comes the dry retort, and if your chuckle at that is a little smug... well, who could blame you?

A comfortable silence settles between you while you listen to her breathing slowly even out and inhale the sweet, citrusy scent of her shampoo, and you're close to drifting off to sleep entirely when you feel a hand in a place where you definitely did not feel one a few seconds ago.

"I've created a monster, haven't I?" you ask rhetorically, although your voice cracks a little when her fingers explore gently.

"Did you expect otherwise?" she wonders innocently, and the smile on her face when she pulls back enough for you to see it is at once both familiar and new. It resembles one you've seen plenty of times – usually right before she does something that makes you blush – but now it's tinged with an affection she isn't bothering to hide.

"No, not real- mmph!" You're cut off by her mouth covering yours, and now there's definitely dominance in her kiss as she guides you onto your back again.

"Now," she murmurs against your lips as she nudges your legs apart and settles between them. "I believe that I'm allowed to take 'my turn', as Natsuki put it." Her eyes are boring into yours with an intensity that makes you shiver – all the same promises from earlier, as well as a few more that you probably only have yourself to blame for – and you curse softly and feel your head snap back of its own volition when her hips roll enticingly against yours. "Let's see exactly how thoroughly I can distract you, hm?"

Quite thoroughly, you fuzzily determine as her hands start mapping out your skin. Your eyes are fluttering closed almost irresistibly, but whenever you do manage to force them open, you find yourself staring directly into hers. She's watching your face as ardently as you remember watching hers only a short time ago, and you flush heavily under the want you see in that ruby-red gaze.

She chuckles and kisses you again while you press shamelessly into her wandering hands. "Thank you," she then offers softly. "I've always dreamt of seeing you blush so beautifully while I touch you."

That obviously only makes you blush harder, but you stop worrying about that when you feel a hand in your hair that pulls your head back, followed by even teeth scraping over your pulse point. After that, there's a sharp stab of pleasure when a gentle finger flicks over a very sensitive spot, and you couldn't stop the cry that pulls from you even if you wanted to. God, whatever it was that was guiding your attentions before, it's redoubling its efforts now. Every touch, kiss and nip is exactly where you need it, when you need it. Exactly the right amount or lack of pressure, and you're drowning in it willingly and trusting her to carry you through it.

Then there's a touch in a new spot and a sense of fullness that makes your eyes snap wide open, and you swear there's a warm, golden light surrounding both of you while you try to draw in enough air through a harsh, deep gasp. You blink and the light is gone, but you're so lost in the sensations she's bringing you that you don't even remember it anymore. All you're conscious of is the sense of heat building in your abdomen, and how she's stoking the fire with every single shift of her fingers and touch of her lips to your overheated skin.

The heat is building and building and you're scarcely even aware of the sounds escaping you now; knowing only the deep, adoring eyes that hold yours and the tender hands that anchor you to reality when you feel as if you're going to fall into a bottomless abyss. Finally, there's a clear, blindingly white light behind your tightly closed eyelids, and you cling to her desperately while low, wrenching sobs are torn from your throat to escape into the cool air.

So much for trial and error, you decide murkily as you try to regain your faculties and shiver relentlessly in the tight embrace she's wrapped you in.

"That..." you pant softly as your brain slowly starts to emerge from the haze she so expertly buried it in, but a single finger touches your lips to silence you, and you send her a curious glance through slightly blurry eyes.

"That was one," she determines, and quirks a single, tawny eyebrow at you.

Something about the amused look in her eyes makes you laugh softly, and you hear her echo it before her lips cover yours again. Somehow, you muse idly, you doubt that either of you is going to get much sleep.

Her hands deftly draw another, half-choked moan from your throat, and just before you become way too preoccupied to worry about coherent thought, you decide that that... well, that's entirely okay by you.


- END (really)