Notes and Disclaimers: The characters below and the circumstances in which they met and formed their relationships are the property of Konno Oyuki, Cobalt Shueisha and Geneon Entertainment. The city of Rome belongs to its citizens. The only thing I can really claim as my own is the sex.
This story is a "black lily" story and therefore is not suitable for those under the age of 18. If you have clicked on this story by accident, please return to the Marimite or Home pages for other, more suitable choices. If you clicked anyway, knowing you are not an adult, then you are not only committing a crime, but being a total prat. Go away and don't come back. If you are an adult, please go ahead. For an explanation of the Lily rating system, please visit the home page of "Worldshaking" Fanfic.
Comic artist Alan Moore has announced that he's going to write "intelligent porn," as if he's the first person in the world to come up with the idea that a good plot and charactierization makes a PWP story better. Pfft. I (and many, many other authors) been doing it for years, and my stories aren't typically as misogynist as his are. If you have liked any of my stories - but most especially the ones where there is a *story* to frame the encounter - please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know. I like getting fan mail that doesn't begin with "U R a gud writer." :-)
I want to thank Sean Gaffney for having inspired me to write a fair bit of "intelligent porn" and also dedicate this story to Ashara so she'll stop whining. :-)
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The cup was warm; the coffee was strong and bitter. She let it settle on her tongue, enjoying the sediment in the espresso. Her eyes closed as she swallowed; savoring the rich, raw taste and feeling the warmth move down into her stomach. She could feel herself sweating slightly from the heat inside and out.
It was a typical late summer evening in Italy. The restaurants and cafes were filled with people, noise, light and sound. She loved moving through the streets, feeling the excitement - the sheer joy - of food and drink and people. She also envied the Italians' ability to eat at ten, drink and dance until twelve, go home for a digestivo and be at work or school in the morning and not seem in the least tired. She stifled a yawn and a laugh at the same time. The first three weeks here had nearly killed her as one person, then another, feted her with Italian hospitality.
She could distinctly remember the day when she confused her roommate, her roommate's three friends, their boyfriends and at least two cousins, when she refused, point blank, to go out one more night. Pleading sickness was met by "Wine is good for you!" and pleading exhaustion was likewise countered by "Dancing gives you energy!" and she finally had to resort to tears and entreaties in Japanese in order for them to realize that she was serious.
Tonight she was alone, something not only unheard of in this city where friends and relatives were plentiful, but also moderately dangerous. She didnt worry too much, as long as she stayed in populated places and kept her eyes firmly on her purse. It had been a few years since she had come her to this country, and she was no longer unused to its ways. She was comfortable enough here to have moved out of her relative's home in Florence and come to school here in Rome.
She took another sip of coffee and sighed happily. She felt the slightest bit homesick, a little "stranger in a strange land" but she knew that would pass soon. It only came in short spurts and left her almost immediately. Although she was far away from home, she had learned to love this place. The one thing she did miss from time to time was the sound of...
"Excuse me, is this seat taken?"
She looked up quickly, surprised at the words. "You're Japanese!" she began to exclaim, but stopped mid-sentence as a second shock overtook the first. Not only was her unexpected visitor Japanese - it was a familiar face.
"How on earth...?" Kanina Shizuka stared at Satou Sei, her eyes as big as plates.
"It wasn't hard - just took a little research." Sei laughed at her, pulled out the other seat from under the table and sat as if she belonged there. Craning her neck, Sei waved down the waiter and gestured at Shizuka's cup, then raised two fingers. The waiter waved acknowledgement, and moved into the cafe's interior.
Shizuka took a deep breath and with some effort, made a smile appear on her lips. "Research?" she said softly. "That might get you to the Collegia, but how did you find me here?"
"Like I said, research. Your roommate told me that her cousin's friend, who works in the restaurant across the street, said that she's seen someone that looks like you come here a few times."
Shizuka boggled. "You speak Italian?"
Sei laughed lightly. "Not a word." She looked up at the approaching waiter and sat back as he set two cups of coffee and a plate with biscotti on the table. Sei thanked the waiter with a cheerful, "Grazie", then grinned at the other woman. "Okay, one word."
Shizuka shook her head, as if trying to clear it. "Then how did you...?" She watched Sei turn and look at the couple at the next table, her fair hair - now much shorter than it had been in high school - ruffling lightly in the night breeze.
"See them?" Sei asked casually. "She's saying that he's inconsiderate. He's trying to convince her that he loves her." She turned back to her companion with serious look. "Body language is really evocative. It's a language all its own." Sei blew across her cup and took a careful sip. "Wow, that's good. For instance," she continued, "your body language tells me that you are torn between being annoyed at me for showing up without warning and throwing your arms around me in a great big hug."
Shizuka laughed at that. "Is that reading my body language or just wishful thinking?"
Sei shrugged, unconcerned, in response. "Both."
They sat in silence for a moment, drinking coffee and nibbling on biscotti.
"I was just thinking," Shizuka admitted quietly, "that what I really missed most was the sound of someone speaking Japanese."
"And there I was, like something out of a dream."
"I suppose so."
"Aren't you going to say you're glad to see me? Because I," Sei set her coffee down and leaned forward, catching Shizuka's gaze with her own. "I'm very glad to see you again, Kanina Shizuka-san."
Shizuka's mouth was suddenly dry. Her eyes dropped. "I am glad to see you again, Satou Sei...sama." The last was said very softly, almost against her will, but Sei just laughed at the words.
"I think we can leave that part behind us, don't you think? That was a million years ago on another continent, right after the Roman Empire fell."
Shizuka looked up at this odd comment. Sei had an equally odd expression on her face.
You know, it's funny you should say that." Shizuka was glad that the lighting wasn't bright enough to allow her blush to be visible. "I always thought we must have known each other from another life. And for some reason, I wanted you to know me in this one, too."
"How could I forget?" Sei sat back and threw her arms wide open. "It was Ancient Egypt. You were Cleopatra and I was one of your handmaidens."
Shizuka grinned. "No, no, don't you remember? It was in France - I was a lady of Phillip's court and...."
"And I was a knight who loved you?" Sei's voice sliced through Shizuka and she blushed again.
"I doubt it," she said, amused at her reaction to this unexpected visitor. "More like the court jester."
Rubbing a finger across her cheek, Sei nodded. "Yeah, probably." There was a pause while she took another mouthful of biscotti and coffee. She looked remote for a moment. Then her smile returned at full wattage and she leaned forward once more. "Since I'm new in town, can you show me the highlights?"
"How long are you here for?" Shizuka asked, thinking rapidly.
"Just for tonight."
Shizuka's voice was louder than she expected. "Tonight? What can I show you in just one night?" She could see people turning their way, and was desperately glad she was speaking her native tongue. She sat back and blew out a heavy breath.
"I'm sorry - I'm really here on a trip with school friends, but I snuck away," Sei was saying. "I wanted to see if I could find you."
"Well there's not much I can show you in one night," Shizuka insisted.
Sei leaned closer, well across the table, extending one hand to take the cup out of Shizuka's grasp and enclose that hand in her own. "How about heaven?" she breathed.
Shaking, Shizuka called for the check.
"Why what?" Like a child, Sei was looking around her, taking in the sites. "Hey, Shizuka-san, what's that?" She pointed up at a distinctive shape against the darkness.
Shizuka laughed. "A Roman temple. I think it's to Jupiter."
"Oh," Sei seemed disappointed. "Are there any temples to Venus around here?"
"What a bizarre question." Shizuka didn't mean to say it out loud.
Sei stuck her hands in her pocket and pouted. "Is it?"
"Why did you skip out from your trip to find me?" Shizuka picked up the thread of the earlier question to avoid having to answer Sei's second question. "Don't you have friends who are worried about you?"
Sei smiled. "I do. They are. Worried about me, I mean. But the one friend that I like best, she really doesnt like me much, so I though she could use a night off." She shrugged again. "Anyway, when I heard that we were coming to Italy, I thought that I wanted to see you again, if I could manage it."
"I'm honored." Shizuka wasn't sure if she was being sarcastic or not.
"So, where are you taking me, Miss Tour Guide?" Sei grabbed Shizuka's arm, wrapping it through her own. "Somewhere romantic I hope?"
"Romantic? They don't have love hotels here." Shizuka laughed, then added, "Not that they're romantic, really."
"No, I mean something really romantic. Ruins in the moonlight, violins on a piazza, you know..." her voice became wistful. "It's Italy, after all. And it's summer."
"Time to make beautiful memories, huh?" Shizuka sighed. They stood in place, not moving, for a long moment. Sei didn't seem to mind, looking around with interest.
"Come with me." Shizuka took Sei's hand and pulled her along, walking as fast as she could. In a few minutes they had passed behind the piazza and were walking up a hill. Shizuka's took the most direct path she knew, which meant that it was bewilderingly labyrinthine. Sei was sure that they passed the same corner three times, but each time it appeared to be slightly higher up on the hill. She panted a little, but kept up with the dark-haired woman.
Shizuka stopped so suddenly that Sei actually slammed into her slightly. "Sor -..." she began, then all the breath in her body escaped her in one loud gasp.
The buildings below were brightly lit, while they stood in near darkness. Sei could see what seemed like the whole city unfold beneath her, glistening like a topaz in the center of a marcasite setting.
"Waaahhh..." Sei breathed.
"If I knew you were coming, I'd have baked a cake. But on such short notice...." Shizuka turned towards the other woman, to find her enrapt in the view. For a long moment, she stood and watched Sei gaze out over the city, her face unusually still. When she wasn't smiling, Shizuka noticed, Sei looked pensive. Shizuka turned away from Sei, trying to forget that face.
"It's a bad habit, I know." Sei's voice was behind her, slightly to the left. "I was so bored for so long, that I thought my face had turned into stone. When something...when Shiori happened...I learned to smile and I learned to cry. When she left, I was desperately afraid that I'd become stone again, so I smiled. It was a different kind of mask, but people seemed happier with it. Now, when I forget to smile..."
"You look lonely." Shizuka turned her back on the city, her face shadowed, her body backlit. Sei couldn't see her eyes, but she could picture them clearly. Dark, angled, cat-like eyes. Eyes that saw deeply into a person's nature.
"Thank you for coming to visit me, Sei-san."
Sei could feel Shizuka lean forward, hands hot on her shoulders, and the sense of pressure just at the corner of her lips. Sei smiled as the other woman pulled away.
"It won't do, Shizuka-san. I want a better souvenir than that." She held Shizuka's wrists, so the dark-haired woman's hands stayed where they were on her shoulder, and this time she leaned forward until their lips touched.
Sei was pleased with herself. She had hoped that Shizuka's feelings hadn't changed - she had hoped that she hadn't been wrong about them. When Shizuka's hands slid over Sei's shoulders and wrapped around her neck, Sei allowed herself a sigh of relief. She could feel the other woman's head laid on her chest. She wrapped her arms around Shizuka's slim body and sighed again, this time with satisfaction.
Shizuka pulled away, half-turning back to the city below, her eyes glittering. "I'm sorry I can't have you come back to my room."
"It's okay," Sei said, taking Shizuka's hand and heading back down towards the light. "You can come to mine."
They walked in a comfortable silence, punctuated by brief questions and answers about their location or the features that surrounded them. When they reached a main street, Sei hailed a cab, never letting go of Shizuka's hand.
They chatted amiably as they rode.
"It was hard at first," Shizuka admitted. "It's all so different." She chuckled lightly. "So frighteningly laid-back - and then even more frighteningly chaotic and crazy." Her head was tilted back on the car seat, her eyes unfocused. "Even the discipline is different. The exercises, the position I stand in, the breathing - everything. But every day I'm here, I feel like I'm becoming the singer I want to be. It's exciting and terrifying at the same time."
"Now I'm jealous," Sei admitted. "I like Lillian U., and my coursework, but I dont feel like I'm growing." She looked out the window. "No, that's not true. I feel like I've grown so much that Lillian is too small now. I'm becoming more myself every day I'm there. It's like every day I wake up and I'm closer to the person inside me, more honest, more willing to be open, and to be hurt. It's a very strange feeling."
"It sounds wonderful," Shizuka breathed. "Like a fairy tale princess waking from a long sleep."
"I guess so. But it scares me a little."
"I think that's what they call growing up."
Sei let her head roll back, agreeing with a soft, "Mmm." Her head rolled to one side, leaning on Shizuka's. She could smell the other woman's shampoo.
When they reached the hotel, Sei paid the driver unsurely, overtipping in her haste to complete the transaction.
"Before we go in, there's one thing I have to admit to," Sei said. "The only reason we have the room tonight is that my roommate is off visiting some distant relative who lives here. She'll be back early, so..."
Shizuka laughed into a loose fist. "What happened to giving her the night off from you? If you're going to lie, you need to keep your stories straight."
"It's not a lie!" Sei insisted as she approached the front desk. "She told me that she was sick to death of me and went off this morning. I just never got around to telling her that I was going out today on my own." She asked the clerk for her room key, then spoke over her shoulder. "I think she made up the relatives just to get away for a while."
Shizuka worried for a moment as the clerk glanced over towards her. Would he wonder why she was bringing in a strange woman to her room? But then she realized that, to a bored clerk working a summer job at a hotel, most female Japanese students looked much the same. Sei joined her and they entered the elevator together.
Shizuka's cat-like eyes narrowed slightly, but her voice was gentle. "You like her." It was not a question.
"Mmm. I'm not sure. Sometimes I do. Sometimes, not. I mean, I always like her, but..."
"What's her name?"
The elevator dinged and after a long moment, the door opened. "Katou Kei," Sei answered. "Isn't that odd - we sound like a comedy act."
Shizuka smiled at that. "You do, a little."
Sei led the way down a short, narrow hallway. The door unlocked with an old-fashioned key, attached by a ring of metal to a large brass plaque embossed with the room number. It jingled in Sei's hands as she opened the door.
Shizuka stepped in to find herself in an average European room. Two beds, one vanity with a mirror and a small chest of drawers, upon which sat a travel clock. The room was tidy, no clothes were strewn across the chairs or on the floor. On the desk lay a few books, and an open sketchbook.
Sei stepped up to the desk and took the sketchbook up. "You want to see something amazing?" She flipped the pages and held the book out. "A street artist did this for me."
Shizuka took the book. On the page was an extraordinary sketch of...herself.
"I was sitting there, one day, talking to an artist on the street. And for some reason, I started talking about you. He kept asking questions about you - how your hair was, what your eyes looked like, your smile. And I kept saying that I really didnt know, but after a moment, I did. When he was done, I couldnt believe how good it was." Sei looked up from the sketch with a crooked grin. "I never forgot your face. Not for a single second." Sei took the book back from Shizuka, and laid it back on the desk.
"Happy..." Shizuka whispered, her voice catching. "That makes me...happy."
There was an awkward moment, as both women looked at each other, dark eyes meeting pale ones. There was a quiet moment as they both lifted a hand, fingers reaching out, meeting, intertwining. And then a moment of fire, as their bodies pressed close to one another, lips and hands reaching for everything they could touch.
Shizuka could barely believe it. In her arms was the woman she had kept in her heart for such a very long time. It wasn't anything like the many scenarios she had dreamt up over the years, when she thought that she'd be the one to comfort Rosa Gigantea in her heartbreak, or the one to make Sei-sama look at her differently than she did all the other girls. And she understood, she really did, that the reason she stood here, her mouth pressed against the warm mouth of Satou Sei, and her arms full of the other woman's slim form, was because of a single girl who was now thousands of miles away and wholly unaware of the life she had given to this woman made of stone.
Sei's short hair was incredibly fine and soft. Her cheekbones were strongly carved, her pale eyes darkened with desire. Shizuka ran her hands along the sides of Sei's face, trying to indelibly imprint the feeling onto her palms. Sei leaned into her hands, her eyes closed. Shizuka was a little startled to see a small, content smile on the other woman's face.
When Sei's eyes opened, Shizuka shivered at the passion in them. She turned her face towards Sei and let the older woman take control of her.
Sei's mouth was hot against her. Searing heat that could be felt long after it had moved elsewhere. Shizuka did not resist, as Sei unbuttoned her blouse, or when her kisses moved down her neck and onto her chest. She let herself be moved over to one of the beds, her head falling backwards as Sei's hands covered her breasts. She smiled as Sei fumbled with her bra strap, laughing at the fact that even another woman had a hard time with that, then turned serious again as Sei's lips met the skin of her breasts. She let Sei kiss and nuzzle her, running her hands through that so-fine hair until she was overcome by the desire to kiss those ears that peeked out just slightly.
Shizuka half sat up, leaning forward. When her lips brushed Sei's earlobe, Sei made a guttural noise, and jerked away just slightly. Pulling her back, Shizuka leaned down and did the same thing, finding great pleasure in that noise that the other woman made. She kissed the edge of Sei's ear, trying to ignore the hands and lips on her, in order to hear that moan once again. Sei's hands stopped what they were doing, and her head pressed forward to meet Shizuka's lips - and her tongue, as it reached out tentatively to trace the edge of the ear, and the earring that sat in the middle of the soft lobe.
"You pierced your ears," Shizuka commented, between kisses. "It looks nice."
Sei muttered thanks, but when Shizuka's tongue slipped into the corner of her ear, it became yet another one of those groans that Shizuka could feel deep in her belly.
Quietly, just barely whispering, Shizuka began to speak. "I knew who you were, of course - knew you from the time we were in middle school. Every time I saw you, I thought that I wanted to get to know you better. And I thought, instantly, that I had known you in the past. That was why I followed you to high school, instead of coming here to Italy. The first time in high school I saw you close up, was the day of the Maria-sai, You were handing the medals to your onee-sama, looking bored out of your mind.
She punctuated her sentences with quiet kisses, just barely brushing her lips across the edges of Sei's ear. "And when it was all over, you turned to Rosa Gigantea and asked, loud enough that we could all hear it, if you could be excused."
Shizuka laughed - too loud, so she pulled away from Sei and pushed her off. Sei slid to the ground at the foot of the bed, looking up at Shizuka, dazed. "I did?"
Nodding, Shizuka leaned over and took Sei's t-shirt in her hands and pulled. Sei's arms lifted and the shirt came off. She had no bra on underneath. "You did."
Sei grinned sheepishly. "Sounds like me." She stood and sat next to the dark-haired woman on the edge of the bed. Tilting her head, she kissed Shizuka's shoulder.
"The thing is," Shizuka continued, "that I was bored out of my mind too. They had asked me to sing as part of the program, and I was glad to do that, but the rest of the service was horribly dull. And I hate standing in line. So by the time you said that, I was desperate to get out. And then you just said exactly what I was thinking." Shizuka lifted Sei's head from her shoulder with both hands.
"Then you met Shiori-san. I was her classmate, did you know that?"
Sei shook her head. Her hands moved up to stroke Shizuka's face and neck, running through her short, bluntly cut hair. "I mean, I do now. I didnt then. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. That was what I loved about you. You were totally committed to her, Blind to anything that was not Kubo Shiori. I thought, if just once, someone could look at me that way, I'd be the happiest person in the world."
Sei reached forward, kissing Shizuka softly. "You wouldnt."
"I know that now." Shizuka smiled. "I was younger then. Then you were left alone and I thought that if I could comfort you," she ran her hands down Sei's chest, smiling at the catch of breath when her hands passed over her nipples. "I thought that then you'd look at me like that. So, on Valentine's Day, I made you some chocolate. You were lovely. You smiled at me and thanked me kindly. You were so polite."
Shizuka kissed Sei slowly, open-mouthed, then pulled away. "But you weren't there at all. Your eyes looked at me, but there was nothing in them. You were a shell. Untouchable and empty. And that was when I thought that, even if only once, I'd like to see myself reflected in your eyes. Just once." She put her hand to Sei's mouth, preventing her from speaking. "You have nothing to apologize for. You gave me that, my one wish, before I left Japan," Again, Shizuka brushed her lips across Sei's, then looked deeply into her eyes.
Sei took Shizuka in her arms and they kissed without words for a long time. Shizuka moved out of the embrace only to be able to remove the remainder of her clothes. Then she pushed Sei backwards on the bed, climbed on top of her and leaned forward, her eyes even more cat-like that usual. Moving forward with a noise not wholly unlike a purr, Shizuka recommenced kissing the other woman, her hands stroking every inch of flesh beneath her.
Sei allowed herself to be carried away by this, her hands above her head, her body stretched out beneath the dark-haired woman. When Shizuka's mouth came near a nipple, Sei gasped and her eyes jerked open.
"Sensitive?" Shizuka laughed, kissing the aureole, working her way in as Sei began to move beneath her. "That's nice," she said, thrusting her pelvis forward to meet Sei's hips as they drove upwards.
"Mmm," Sei agreed, her hands in Shizuka's hair.
Leaving Sei's chest, Shizuka moved her body down on the bed, taking a few moments to unbutton Sei's pants, then sliding her hand inside, across the lower belly, until only a thin layer of material between her and Sei.
"Shizuka," Sei whispered. She sat up, reaching out for the other woman. Shizuka snaked her arms around Sei's waist and looked up into pale eyes. There was no emptiness now, just honesty - and pleasure.
"Kanina Shizuka," Sei leaned down over her. "You are very charming."
Shizuka closed her eyes, as Sei's hands stroked her, playing with her, teasing her, making her pant and beg. When Sei entered her, Shizuka went quiet, the room filled with her ragged breathing and soft pleading. Sei's thumb ran over her clit; Shizuka reached down to reposition it, then looked up into Sei's face, as she approached climax. When she came she could not keep her eyes open, but she would always remember the smile on Sei's face before she had closed them.
Shizuka recovered quickly, ordered Sei to strip, then lay between her legs. As Shizuka played with her, taking in her scent and the feel of her skin, and her wetness and all the other sensations she could find to experience, Sei kept that same smile on her face. But when Shizuka buried her face between Sei's legs, the arching of her back, the hands clenched in her hair and the rough groans that came from Sei let Shizuka know that the smile was gone, replaced by need.
Sei came loudly, thrashing, whipping one hand around, her body pushing forward to feel more. Shizuka responded by moving harder, deeper. With a scream, cut-off by an arm pressed over her mouth, Sei went rigid, the only movement inside her body. Shizuka could not stop moaning at the feeling. In all her life, nothing had ever felt as good as this. When Sei relaxed, Shizuka kissed her lightly, on clit, and inner lips, then outer, and laid her head on Sei's thigh.
"Give me a moment," Sei breathed, her chest rising and falling as she tried to clear her head. Waiting until Sei's breath was even, Shizuka moved inside her again, and again, brought Sei to orgasm. And again, was overwhelmed by the simple joy of bringing pleasure to another person.
They slept a little, but Shizuka was woken by Sei suckling her. Her eyes opened to see Sei's pale head on her chest, contented sounds coming from her, and Shizuka cradled the other woman in her arms as she nursed.
"You feel so nice," Sei's voice was sweet. "You smell..."she took a deep breath. "You're so soft."
Shizuka couldnt help but smile at this. "You too." She could feel Sei leave her breast, and lay her head on her stomach. "Sei-san," she stroked the fine hair, "thank you."
"Would you be offended if I say 'I love you'?" Sei asked. "Because right now, I do feel that I do."
"No, I wouldn't be offended." Shizuka thought about it for a moment. "Would it make you uncomfortable if I said it?"
Sei looked up at that, her face thoughtful. "I don't think so. Try it and let's see what happens."
"Thank you." Shizuka ran her fingertips over Sei's lips. "I love you."
Sei's expression became enigmatic. "At this moment, I love you too. Thank you." She pulled herself up to lie on Shizuka's arm. "But now it's hard not to feel guilty, saying that, and knowing that this was..." She thought about it again, visibly trying to come to some resolution in her own mind. "Will you be coming back to Japan soon...ever?"
Shifting to face Sei, Shizuka nodded. "There's holidays, and after graduation, I want to go to graduate school there."
"I want to see you again. I don't want this to be once."
"I can't make any promises," Shizuka smiled ironically. "And neither can you. What if your friend decides she does like you after all?" She closed her eyes and let herself be carried away by sleep again.
They fell asleep in each other's arms, waking only as the morning sun shone onto the mirror over the vanity, making the room much too bright. Sei got up, rubbed her eyes sleepily and set up the coffee maker for two cups.
"I'm sorry," she said, "the hotel restaurant isn't open this early."
"This is fine. I don't eat breakfast very often anyway. A cup of coffee will be fine." Shizuka spent a moment sorting her clothes, then dressing quickly. "I'll be back - I just want to wash my face." She ran her hand over Sei's head as she passed. Her last glimpse of the other woman as the door to the room closed, was of Sei, still naked, sitting quietly on the bed, lifting a hand to her face and smiling. Then the door closed and Shizuka turned down the hall to the shared bathroom.
When she returned to the room, Sei was dressed, and two cups of coffee sat on the desk. They shared a breakfast of coffee, a banana Sei found in her bag and two biscotti Shizuka had taken from the cafe the night before. They spoke of their current lives, and their near future plans, filling up the space with companionable chit-chat. They exchanged phone numbers and emails and planned for another time to be together. Once, when Shizuka had just finished swallowing a mouthful of coffee, Sei leaned forward and kissed her deeply, which she returned with great pleasure.
Shizuka stood, signaling her intention to leave. "I remember you saying that your friend is coming back early today. I think I ought to leave now, don't you?" She held up a hand. "Please don't apologize - I understand." She smiled and held her hand out.
Sei took it and stood. "Thank you, Kanina Shizuka-san." She kissed Shizuka lightly on the lips.
"Thank you, Satou Sei-san," Shizuka responded with a somewhat more intense kiss that threatened to go on for some time. "Will you walk me down to the lobby?" she asked, when she forced herself to let go of the other woman.
Sei nodded, "Of course! What kind of person would I be, if I sent you off from here?" Sei grabbed the key, held the door open and locked it, after a quick inventory of Shizuka's effects to make sure she had left nothing behind.
They took the elevator to the lobby. There was a different clerk, a young woman who looked sleepy. She did not look up as Sei and Shizuka walked across past her.
They reached the front door of the hotel. Sei was about to open it for Shizuka, when it opened of its own accord - and a young Japanese woman with shoulder length black hair, glasses and a very serious mien, entered.
"Kei-san!" Sei exclaimed. "Good morning. You're early." Shizuka could see the tips of her ears redden, but Sei otherwise gave away no sense of being embarrassed.
"Good morning, Sei-san," Kei said, her glance taking in Shizuka, then Sei, their rumpled clothes and the distinct look upon their faces. Her cheeks reddened slightly, but her voice was even as she said, "That's my line, isn't it?"
"Let me introduce you to a friend from Lillian High School," Sei grinned. "This is Kanina Shizuka. She's here in Italy studying music - she's a very accomplished singer." She turned to Shizuka, her smile natural, not at all embarrassed or discomfited. "Shizuka, this is Katou Kei - she's in some of my classes. We met because of Yumi-chan."
Shizuka and Kei bowed and introduced themselves, taking in each other's appearance and place in Sei's life.
Shizuka bowed again and said, "It's very nice to meet you, but I'm afraid I must run. I have classes all too soon." She smiled pleasantly at Kei, then turned to Sei and took her hand once again. "Thank you." she said, and leaned forward to place a very romantic kiss upon Sei's lips. "Thank you, for last night." With a pleased smile at the look of surprise that Sei gave her, Shizuka turned to Kei and took her hand in a sudden and unexpected gesture. "Katou-san...you're very lucky to have a friend like Sei-san." With a quick squeeze, she let go of Kei's hand and left the two of them staring at each other in awkward acknowledgement.
"I'll see you again when I return home! Bye-Bye!" And with a wave, Shizuka left them there, and headed back to her apartment, where she would shower, and change and head off to class, which was, as she had said, starting all too soon. As the hotel door closed behind her, she lifted her hand to her face and breathed in Sei's scent. And smiled.
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