“You okay?” Amaya asks, sounding concerned.
Opening my eyes slightly, the concerned look on her face catches me feeling self-conscious. Sitting up, I swing my feet off the couch in a rush, causing my head to loll with a little dizzy spell. Grinning sheepishly, I turn up to look at her squarely and reply, “I'm fine, why?”
“You're not sick or anything, right~?” she asks, a smile cutting away the look of concern.
“Nope, fit as a fiddle,” I answer, standing, “just laying around with my boyfriend.”
Hisao nods in affirmation, offering Amaya a complicit smile. The last five minutes were hardly time spent together, but he's apparently willing to agree with a white lie to save us from further inquiry.
“Good!” she exclaims, “c'mon, we have a date with the bottom of a bottle of wine.”
Nodding kindly, she waves her hand, beckoning us to follow, and heads for the kitchen. Reaching my hand out for Hisao to take, I help him to his feet, then retain his hand, pulling it up to wrap around my elbow as we follow Amaya. Misha and Nobuo stand by the cook-top, apparently putting the finishing touches on dinner, while everyone else, except Yoko, hovers around the island.
Seeing the two of us approaching, Kenta beams, “welcome to the party, pals!”
Sometimes his movie references are tiring.
Apparently he has recovered nicely from Misha's verbal stumble; that's good. Maybe he won't be completely awkward when we leave him alone with Yoko later. Shizune sees my slightly devious grin and nods knowingly, pointing toward Misha and Naoko as I approach, indicating they've been informed. Some dread passes over my expression as I recall I'll need to inform Amaya and Tadao still, but that shouldn't be difficult; I just hope they've worked on their acting since their little library trap.
Part of the smile on my face, truthfully, has nothing to do with Kenta, Yoko, or anything else happening on our little beach-side vacation, except the little choir of wine bottles arranged in a circle on the island. Mom actually introduced me to wine years ago, as part of her teaching me a bit about my fading Italian heritage, so it's something I've had experience with. Seeing my longing stare, I'm sure more than a few of my friends are wondering what kind of experience I've had with wine, or alcohol in general, but I think I'll keep that to myself.
They don't need to know.
“I think the birthday girl should pick the first bottle,” Tadao remarks, looking at me with a raised eyebrow.
“It's not my birthday until Wednesday,” I retort, meeting his raised eyebrow with my own.
“Can you pick anyway?” Kenta pleads, “we've been trying to decide since we got here.”
“What makes you think I know anything about wine?” I inquire derisively with a practiced, woeful shrug, feigning innocence. All eyes fall on him as my question also carries the weight of an accusation, and everyone seems to wonder what made him think something so sordid about me; or at least I guess that's what they're thinking.
I've been wrong before.
When he doesn't answer, Amaya perks up and replies, “because you've had experience~!”
Well, there goes that plan.
A chorus of somewhat shocked noises rises from around the group. Hisao looks more disappointed than shocked, though I'm not really sure why. Perhaps he thought I might get completely smashed drunk and he could have his way with me, though I'd like to believe he wasn't thinking that; at least I hope not.
Giving up the facade of ignorance, I scan over the sea of bottles with a more critical eye. Realizing after a moment that the selection probably doesn't matter, I let out a resigned sigh and reach for a bottle of merlot. Handing it over to Kenta with a confident smirk, I imagine he's probably harboring a bit of fear behind that facade of excitement. As far as I know, he hasn't imbibed any kind of alcohol before, but he probably thought the same about me until a moment ago, so I probably shouldn't assume anything.
Looking at me, and wiping the excited smile off his face for a moment, he glances toward the bedrooms and asks, “What about Yoko?”
“She'll be back out later,” I reply confidently, “she's just taking a nap.”
The disappointment written on his face makes my smile falter. “Oh,” he says flatly.
“Hey, she'll be fine~!” Amaya chirps, slapping Kenta's shoulder. “Now are you going to open that?” she inquires, raising a mocking eyebrow, “or do I have to send the brute squad?”
Tadao grins menacingly; apparently he's the brute squad.
Quickly recovering his grin, Kenta nods and starts trying to uncork the bottle. His left hand being weakened by his condition, it has trouble holding the bottle, so we're forced to watch him pawing at it vainly. Honestly, it's probably not something I should laugh at, but I can't help myself. Hisao hears me stifling the laugh and nudges me with his elbow, but that just serves to force out a loud guffaw.
Grabbing my mouth to stem the flow, I stare at Kenta apologetically, but he doesn't seem offended. Instead he sighs and hands the bottle over to Tadao, remarking, “Give it a go, brute squad.”
Tadao makes a show of wriggling his fingers, then grabs the cork and yanks it free, holding the open bottle out to Kenta. “You loosened it for me, I'm sure,” he says with a condescending smirk. Ignoring the barb, Kenta goes about pouring the wine into the glass stemware.
The first time she let me try wine, Mom was tentative about letting me drink too much, but didn't hold back, letting me decide when I'd had enough. The following morning was unpleasant, to say the least. On later occasions, I was more reserved, and managed to enjoy being tipsy without waking up to a thousand hammers beating on my brain. With that in mind, I have no plans to drown myself in alcohol; especially not with such dirty thoughts edging at the borders of my consciousness.
Alcohol plus hormones and opportunity equals bad decisions.
Being a mathematician-in-training, I know how to calculate that outcome; Mom would probably murder me. That might be a little extreme, but, keeping those consequences in mind, I'm terrified to go beyond my limits. Of course, I don't think Hisao is the type to take advantage of me, but, really, I'm not sure if I might end up attacking him, pinning him to a chair, or a bed, or the wall of a closet, and having my way with him; I'd rather not find out.
Spread equally among ten glasses, apparently setting one aside for Yoko, the single bottle leaves them less than half full, but that's plenty enough for a taste. Kenta carries glasses over for Misha and Nobuo, but our indentured cook refuses, saying he already sampled enough.
Rejoining us at the island, Kenta holds up his glass and says solemnly, “To Yamaku.” Smirking and shaking his head, he adds, “And our horrible luck!”
How appropriately inappropriate.
Sipping the dark liquid, and rolling it around my mouth to try enjoying the experience, I watch as the rest approach the floral-smelling concoction with various levels of ease. Amaya looks a little confused by the taste, I think, her brow furrowing as it passes her lips. Hisao reacts similarly, sipping tentatively and then looking confused by the disparity in odor and flavor.
Shizune seems the least unaccustomed to it, sipping it casually like myself, and holding it in her mouth before swallowing; she probably has some experience. Unable to see behind me, I don't quite know how Misha is taking it, but I can hear her giggling approvingly. Naoko appears not to like it at all, setting the glass down and making a sour face, looking like she wants to spit it out. Tadao and Kenta, on the other hand, toss the burgundy liquid back like the last remnants of a canteen, swallowing before the taste can even settle on their tongues.
Kenta nods and slaps the counter a few times, then screws up his face and grunts, “Yeah!”
Shizune scowls at him and signs, [You're supposed to enjoy it, not guzzle it, pleb!]
He responds with a toothy grin, signing, [I guess I'm just a pleb, then!]
Must resist the urge to comment.
Shizune comments for me, [Maybe you'd enjoy a nice boxed wine, then.]
Kenta scoffs and slaps Tadao on the shoulder, [We just drink like men!] Tadao grins and nods, apparently supporting the claim. Beside me, I hear a disapproving sigh coming from Hisao, but neither of them seem to notice.
Rolling her eyes, Shizune shakes her head and turns away, taking another sip as she walks over toward the window and sits on the bench. Misha joins her, apparently having drained half her glass, and is met with a resigned shake of Shizune's head; evidently they've done this before, and Misha is a bit less cultured where wine is concerned. Naoko leaves her glass on the counter and joins them, plopping down next to Misha, bouncing her braids absently. They slip into a somewhat covert conversation, the only word out of which I can pick out is 'karaoke', but that hardly makes sense.
Assuming I read the sign wrong, considering the source, I take advantage of everyone being distracted by the wine and motion toward Amaya. Pulling her into the living room, I explain the plan, making a point of reminding her not to act foolish and just slip out unannounced, rather than making a show of their exit. She pouts and protests, but relents eventually, promising to follow my instructions despite her claim that nothing would go wrong.
Soon after, Nobuo announces he's finished, and proceeds to set out his diverse selection on the dining table. Having grown up with a four-star chef, I'm used to seeing a spread like this, but I'm still a little overwhelmed by how much effort he put into creating such a feast. He wasn't kidding when he mentioned desiring feedback.
Introducing each dish separately, his eyes light up and he smiles more than I've seen since his arrival, but, just like with Amaya's creations, I'm completely lost trying to understand his explanations. Luckily, there are other people at the table who know more about cooking, namely Amaya and Shizune, so nobody looks to me for commentary.
Sitting beside me, I can tell Hisao is about as interested in Nobuo's explanations as I am, but he's faking interest to be polite. While he's nodding at something Nobuo said about a particular technique, something about wrapping fish in banana leaves, I shake my head at him and smile mockingly. Both of us know he has no clue what Nobuo is talking about, and I can't help but wonder if I've seen that phony expression before.
Leaning close, resting my chin on my palm, I whisper, “You're trying too hard.”
“At least I'm trying to look interested,” he retorts.
Taking a swig of wine, which is still the first one, I shrug and look back at Nobuo. He and Amaya are hung up on a discussion about cooking temperatures, or something equally mind-numbing, so I drain my glass and stand, patting Hisao's shoulder to indicate he should stay, and head over to grab another bottle. Rolling it over in my hand, I take a few extra moments, standing in the empty kitchen, before heading back to the table.
Evidently, that one glass of wine has already started its work, and I wobble a little as I sit down, giggling as I land in the chair. Nobody seems to notice, but the little rush of dizziness makes me reconsider pouring myself another glass right away. Passing the bottle over to Tadao, I remark, “take it, brute squad,” a little too loud.
Silence falls over the table for a moment, and although I can feel their eyes on me, I simply smirk in response. Tadao pops the cork on the second bottle and fills the silence with the sound of burbling liquid splashing into emptied stemware. When he's finished refilling everyone's glasses, he sits back down and holds up his glass as if to offer a toast.
Looking around the table nervously, he seems a little lost for a moment. Caught with nothing prepared, he pauses and smirks, looking toward Kenta. Over his shoulder, Naoko saves him by signing a quick suggestion that he quickly parrots, “To Nobuo, crafter of this feast!”
A chorus of affirming grunts and nods follows, while Nobuo bows silently. Finally taking his seat, our resident epicurean smiles and says simply, “Enjoy.”
Digging into the meal, the conversations come to an end, replaced by clattering silverware, munching and more than a few delighted noises. Culinary arts is still something that eludes me, but I can appreciate a well made meal, and Nobuo definitely knows what he's doing; everyone seems to agree. Once the initial feasting fades and conversations start bouncing around the table, I'm content just to sit and watch, and listen.
My second glass of wine drains slowly, though the same isn't true all around the table. Kenta and Tadao have almost made a competition out of gulping the wine as quickly as it's poured. Between them, I'm pretty sure they've finished off an entire bottle on their own, and it's starting to show in Kenta's cheeks. Tadao is much less effected, though his tongue has gotten more lax; the alcohol apparently wearing away his barrier between thought and speech.
Misha seems to enjoy the wine with almost as much gusto, but Shizune is there to stop her from going overboard. Despite that, Shizune is working on her third glass, and I can see her eyes getting a little leery, though she retains her posture. Eerily silent, her hands hardly contribute to the conversation, but she does keep looking over at me as if expecting a signal.
After one such hand wave, Hisao whispers in my ear, “You're sure about this?”
Smiling broadly, I turn and plant a kiss on his cheek. “I'll go get Yoko,” I say, picking up my glass as I stand.
Noticing my exit, and the direction, Kenta, who's slumped down against the table, holds up a hand and inquires, “You're not goin' to bed, are ya?” His speech isn't slurred, but there's a heavy quality to his voice, though I don't find that surprising.
He's a little sloshed.
“Just getting Yoko so she can get something to eat before it's gone!” I explain, smirking at his alarmed reaction. Walking backwards, I watch him sitting up and running a hand through his hair, apparently deciding to groom himself a little. Shaking my head, I don't bother suppressing the giggle as I turn around and head for the bedrooms.
Noticing the light is off, I approach quietly and calmly, not wanting to disturb her too much. Knocking lightly, and listening closely, I hear a groan through the door and take that as an invitation. Pushing through, I lean against the door-jamb and peer into the darkened room. Yoko is apparently on the bed, rather than one of the bunks, as I can just make out her slender shadow sitting against the headboard.
“Aiko?” she prompts.
“Have a good nap?” I ask, smiling toward the dark figure.
“Y-yeah,” she stutters, “i-is dinner ready?”
“How long have you been sitting here in the dark?” I ask, reaching for the light.
“Don't!” she protests, but my hand is already sweeping across the switch.
The light fills the room revealing Yoko, sitting against the headboard, blankets pulled tightly against her neck, her face flushed with embarrassment and shock. Staring for a moment, I realize the groan I heard probably wasn't an invitation; more an involuntary reaction to whatever she was doing under that blanket. Feeling embarrassed, I quickly turn the light off and back out of the room.
“I'm sorry,” I mumble as I pull the door closed. Closing my eyes, trying to reconcile what I just saw with some other explanation, I find myself leaning my forehead against the door, shaking my head.
Before I can ponder that, Naoko appears beside me, tapping my shoulder and smiling brightly. [Can I get by?] she asks, pointing toward the door, [I need to use the bathroom,] she explains.
Backing away from the door, I quickly stop myself, realizing that's probably not the best idea. Fumbling forward, I hold up a hand, stopping her from walking in and making things worse for poor Yoko. [Go use ours,] I say, [Yoko's still asleep,] I lie. Whatever she might think about the wince I'm making as I point toward the other room, she thankfully doesn't need any more convincing.
I'm sure Yoko will appreciate the deflection.
That is, assuming she ever speaks to me again. Watching Naoko heading into the room across the hall, I lean against the door behind me, wondering whether I might have just sent Yoko back inside her shell. Accidentally or not, I feel awful having caught her like that, assuming that's what she was doing. Maybe I'm just jumping to conclusions. Maybe she just likes sitting in the dark. Maybe it was completely innocent.
I'm probably just trying to fool myself.
A shy voice breaks my thoughts, coming through the door. “Aiko, you there?”
Well, she's still talking to me. That's a good sign.
“Yeah,” I answer, trying to sound chipper, “still here.”
A long silence follows, during which I drain the rest of my wine, deciding I need a little liquid courage. Pushing off the door, I turn and wait. Looking down I notice the light is back on, and I hear shuffling, so I imagine she's getting dressed.
Opening the door slightly, she peers out with an embarrassed smile. Seeing her lips starting to move, I can sense an incoming apology, but decide not to let her do that; she did nothing wrong. “My fault,” I say, stopping her words, “should have waited for an actual answer or something.”
The door across from us opens and Naoko bounds out into the hall, smiling blissfully. Waving at Yoko as she passes, her quickened gait seems to indicate she had a purpose behind the restroom visit; Shizune mentioned they wanted to head out first. Yoko is watching Naoko walk away, and I see the question in her eyes. “I'm the only one who-” I start to say, but stop myself, not wanting it to sound like an accusation.
“You did nothing wrong,” I assure her, “heck, I think everyone does that sometimes.” Now I'm just talking ahead of myself; which might be a result of the wine. “I've been down that road myself,” I admit, laughing nervously, “it'll be our little secret.”
Before I can dig any deeper into this conversational hole, Yoko pulls the door the rest of the way open and holds up a hand. “Not so loud!” she scolds.
Was I talking loud?
My eyes open wide and I look back along the hall, but there's nobody close enough to have heard me, I think. Looking back at Yoko, I smile sheepishly and shrug. She notices the glass in my hand and nods, raising an eyebrow at me as though leaping to a hasty conclusion. “I'm fine!” I protest, whispering loudly, “just two glasses! The first thing I lose control over is my voice, though, so... there goes that, I guess.”
She eyes me warily, but slowly nods and even giggles a little at my admission.
“C'mon,” I say, waving my hand down the hall, “Nobuo made us a feast, and you look hungry.”
Can someone look hungry?
Giggling at that thought, I start walking back toward the dinner party, Yoko in tow. When we reach the dining room, I notice there are four empty chairs; apparently Shizune, Misha, Naoko and Nobuo have already left. Tadao is standing as we approach, and Amaya gets up alongside, smirking at me; or maybe at Yoko.
Stop that, Amaya!
Seeing my glare, she turns away and grabs Tadao's hand, heading for the door. As they quietly make their exit, I notice Kenta straightening up in his seat, trying not to stare at my bashful companion. Their eyes lock anyway, if only for a moment. The awkward exchange doesn't last very long, but, for that brief second, I do wonder what Yoko was imagining in that darkened room. Perhaps I should avoid thinking about that, though.
Hurriedly sitting down across from Kenta, Yoko starts fixing herself a plate while I lean back in my seat and start pouring myself a third glass of wine. Offering a refill to Hisao, he shakes his head and nods toward Yoko. Frowning a little at his refusal, I turn and offer, “Wine?”
Her reaction is a little tentative, but she nods slowly and smiles; she could probably use a drink right about now. The glass Kenta poured for her got commandeered by someone, probably Tadao, so I'm forced to go find her another one, a chore that Hisao follows me to help with, despite it being such a simple one.
Does he think I'm that drunk already?
“Are you gonna finish that first, or should we slip out now?” he asks in a hushed tone as I'm searching through the cabinet.
Ah, right. We have a moonlit walk to take
“We can slip out now, and I'll finish this when we get back,” I explain, grabbing a glass and closing the cabinet; all the while making a conscious effort to keep my voice down.
Nodding, Hisao follows me back to the table but doesn't bother sitting. While I'm pouring for Yoko, I turn toward Hisao and smile. “Great idea~!” I say, misdirecting any suspicion they might have had about our brief interlude, “Hisao and I are gonna follow their lead,” I point toward the door with my thumb, “and take an after-dinner walk.”
Their reactions are priceless. Kenta looks around anywhere but at Yoko, while she stares at me, mouth agape, and starts absently twirling a lock of her hair. For a moment, I wonder whether they realize they're being set up, but it hardly matters now. Taking another sip, draining half the contents, really, to pull my eyes away and assuage some suspicion, I set the glass down on the table near Yoko and grasp her shoulder. “This one's mine,” I declare, “do not touch~!”
Letting out a giggle as I spin, I see Hisao is looking away, probably so they can't see whatever face he's making; that's probably for the best. Wrapping my arm around his elbow, I grin up at him and we start heading for the door. Part of me definitely wants to turn around to see the looks on their faces, but I know that would just break the illusion of coincidence.
If anything, this will get them talking.
Stepping outside, the first thing I notice is the expansive sky. No longer overcast, it's instead dotted with a million points of light, cascading across an indigo blanket that seems to go on forever in every direction. Staring off in wonderment, I see the moon resting just above the ocean, a bright white circle bathing the waves in sparkling reflections. Standing by the railing for a few moments, I feel like I've left the Earth, flying into the starry night.
The cool night air, still a little damp from the rain, rolls over me as a gentle breeze sends goosebumps up around my bare legs and arms. That realization brings me back down to the ground, but the smile remains as I turn and regard Hisao's similarly wistful expression. Feeling a shiver run through me, I regret, for a moment, not wearing a sweatshirt or something, but it's a little late to go back now. Noticing my shiver, Hisao pulls me closer, and I realize that the cold doesn't really bother me as long as he's here.
Feeling heat radiating from him, I smile gently and lean my head on his shoulder, which makes walking down the stairs a little awkward, but I don't think he minds. Reaching the bottom, I notice there are a number of sets of footprints leading through the wet sand. While I can't quite tell which set belongs to who, it's pretty easy to see one group took Nobuo's car, and the other pair headed down along the beach; toward the boardwalk. As I point it out to Hisao, he's already turning us in the other direction, apparently having the same idea.
We'll go our own way.
The sound of crashing waves and crunching sand, mixed with the rustling grass and a chorus of invisible insects, fills the air, but I'm too busy staring at Hisao to notice. Setting a pretty slow pace, neither of us speaks as we trace along the beach, but it's hardly necessary.
There's an ethereal quality to moonlight, and the effect it has on someone's face can be irresistibly alluring; Hisao's is no different. His tousled hair, pale skin, bright, narrow eyes and pointed chin all seem to glow, and his darkened irises, reflecting the dazzling star-field, look like they're seeing straight through me. Perhaps it's just the wine making me think that, but, right now, I don't really care.
Feeling lightheaded and hazy is the best part of drinking, I think, and it can make you more honest, which is often enlightening. Not that I'm a dishonest person, but I sometimes cloud the truth a little, if only to save myself from having to explain something embarrassing. Anything Hisao asked right now would probably be met with an unguarded answer, but he's a little tipsy himself, so I don't think he wants to push his luck.
My legs seem to be feeling the effects of the wine as well, and I feel myself stumble. Hisao reacts quickly, his strong hands keeping me level. Some of the grip he has on me seems to be for my stability, but I'm not offended; actually, I'm glad. Nudging his shoulder as we continue along, I can't help but feel a little safer having him around, and he should know that much.
“You're great at catching me,” I mumble, blushing with a little embarrassment.
He probably can't discern the blush, but he does nod and reply, “You've mentioned that before.”
I guess I have...
“It's one of your finer qualities,” I add, resting my head back against his shoulder and squeezing his hand for emphasis.
Feeling his arm wrap around my side, I grin broadly and giggle when his fingers trace along my ribs. Dulled a little by the alcohol, I'm still pushed into giggling by his gentle touch, though it doesn't bother me much. Reminded of the warm feeling I started to get while he was rubbing my shoulders, I push against him harder and sigh contentedly.
Distant bells indicate a buoy somewhere out in the darkened sea, its chiming acting as the only solid indicator that time has continued moving onward. The waves rolling in work similarly, but they're too constant to feel like anything other than white noise. The beach narrows, and we find ourselves stepping into the chilly surf for a short distance, but it doesn't cause our pace to quicken.
Instead, our pace slows even more, though neither of us complains, but I'm starting to wonder whether this was the best idea. Just the two of us out on a moonlit night, walking along a deserted beach, hanging on each-other for warmth and security, while both being slightly inebriated; this is exactly the kind of thing I had wanted to avoid. However, bringing that up might kill the mood. Seeing the look on Hisao's face is somewhat comforting; he looks a little terrified.
Is he thinking the same thing?
Considering how often that happens, I wouldn't be surprised. Despite the influence of the other guys, Hisao didn't drink terribly much; probably less than I did, really. Whether it's because he's new to drinking, he's worried about his heart condition, or because of some other reason, I think he wanted to keep his head relatively clear. The somewhat frightened look in his eyes as we walk makes me wonder if he avoided getting drunk so he could keep control of himself, perhaps only for my sake.
Thinking that almost makes me want to prove the whole thing wrong. Deep in my mind, there's a fiendish little voice encouraging me to ignore the potential consequences and take the next step. Like our first night together, so long ago it seems, under a starry night with fireworks blazing, I feel like I could tip the scale, sieze this moment the way I couldn't before, and end the suspense. However, I'm not quite drunk enough to lose those inhibitions.
Clearly my body is ready, though. The warm feeling from before has crept back through me and begun battering my senses. My mouth is dry, my breathing is a little ragged, my heart is racing, and I'm probably one well-placed hand away from giving in to that voice's demands. My body is begging my mind to ignore the terror, forget the questions and damn the consequences, but I must resist.
Mom would kill me.
That sobering thought causes me to pull away from Hisao a little. Still holding his arm, I lean far enough to break contact with his side, though I'm pouting at the same time. Thinking a little more clearly, I notice his erratic heartbeat has quickened as well, and I can't help but wonder whether he's even fit enough for what I was thinking; though the somewhat disappointed look indicates his willingness to try.
The sudden break in contact causes us both to stop walking and stare at each-other for a moment. Mentally, I'm resisting, but, physically, I'm a long way from feeling comfortable. One wrong touch could push us both into something I'm sure neither of us is prepared to handle properly. When my eyes shoot downward to avoid his gaze, I notice Hisao is just as physically ready as myself.
Should I be flattered or alarmed?
Turning up and away from that distraction, I smile sheepishly and quickly turn away, finding myself staring back at the light in the windows coming from the distant bungalow. For once, the lewd thoughts running through my head are entirely my own, rather than some horrifying reflection of someone else's assumed experience. It would be comforting if it weren't serving to make this moment even more uncomfortable.
Hearing him step up behind me, I can feel my whole body tense, and I almost twirl around to intercept his advance, but I've lost the ability to concentrate; that fiendish little voice is starting to win. Luckily, he hasn't completely lost himself. “Have we been out long enough?” he asks, his voice sounding strained.
Whether I think so or not, I'll take any excuse to stop whatever might be happening from happening. “Yes, I think so,” I reply, turning around to face him. Of course, not everything my body does is something I have control over. The fast spin combined with the warm feeling, and the partial drunkenness, causes me to lose my balance and I practically toss myself into Hisao's waiting arms.
There are worse things that could happen, I guess.
There's a moment of panic when I realize what just happened, but I also feel safe. Hisao knows enough about me to realize when I'm honestly throwing myself at him and when it's the result of my physical ailment. “Hello again,” he says sympathetically, “are you alright?”
My head is swimming with dizziness, my whole body feels hot, and I can't focus on anything, but I'm nodding. Apparently he doesn't believe me, though, and I feel a little strange as his hand runs down along my thigh. For a second I think he's doing something lewd, but then the world shifts and I find myself being lifted in a daze. Feeling his other hand come under my shoulders, suddenly I'm hovering off the ground, suspended in his arms, being held tightly against his chest.
The hand on my thigh slips down to grasp under my knees, while I toss my hands up over his shoulders and bury my face in his chest, trying not to laugh. Instead of prolonging our stay out in the moonlight, Hisao has decided to carry me back to the bungalow. The fiendish voice returns, suggesting all kinds of lascivious activities that could springboard from this situation, but I grit my teeth and close my eyes, forcing it away.
This is almost better.
With my ear pressed against his chest, I can hear his heart thrumming, but I'm surprised at how little it seems strained. Maybe I'm lighter than I thought, or Hisao is stronger, but either way is fine. My selfish side is siding with my being lighter, especially since there is reason for that to be true. Hisao being stronger is a comforting thought, though, and I can feel responsible for that, too; at least partially.
While he's carrying me, I can feel the dizzy spell subside, but I don't want to leave his arms just yet. Instead, I let the thrumming of his heart, the crashing of the waves, and the crunching of sand under his feet lull me into a state of peaceful comfort. With my eyes already closed, and the warm sensation spread all over, it doesn't take long before I find myself dozing in his arms. Evidently, he doesn't mind at all.
Maybe that should worry me, but I really do trust him.
Drifting off, I barely notice I've fallen asleep before I'm brought back to wakefulness by the sound of knocking on glass; or thudding, rather. With both hands occupied, Hisao is using his head to knock on the door; it's adorable. Apparently I missed the rest of the walk, but I'm not complaining. However, realizing the house is on stilts almost makes me open my eyes in amazement.
He carried me up the stairs, even?
Perhaps I shouldn't be so concerned about the condition of his heart, then. If he can carry me across uneven terrain and heft me up a long flight of stairs, I think he can handle some rigorous aerobic activity. That thought will have to wait, though, since I can hear Kenta's somewhat worried tone through the glass.
When the door clicks open, I hear Yoko gasp a little, but Hisao is on top of the situation. “Just had a dizzy spell is all,” he explains as he carries me across the kitchen. Sighing with a little bit of strain in his voice, he adds, “Apparently she fell asleep on the way back.”
He doesn't know I'm awake; good.
“You're sure it's just that?” Kenta asks, apparently following along.
“She'll be fine,” Hisao assures him.
As I'm being swung around, I can't help but smile, though I think he'll just assume I'm dreaming. When he starts lowering me down, presumably onto the couch, I tighten my grip on his shoulders, refusing to let him leave. Catching on to my plan, he reaches up to try and dislodge my hands, but I yank him downward.
“I guess she's awake,” Kenta remarks.
Hisao relents with a groan, and follows me down onto the couch. Some small part of me is embarrassed by the position I've trapped us in, but right now I don't care. Kenta starts walking away, chuckling to himself, and I hear Yoko giggle in the background, but Hisao's breathing is where my attention is kept. It's a little ragged, but that's to be expected; he just carried me all this way, and that would stress anyone physically. Lying down beside me, facing me, I don't quite know what face he's making, having my eyes still closed, but he isn't protesting.
“My hero,” I whisper, ending with a loving giggle.
“You're heavier than you look,” he chides, but I'm too tired to respond.
Instead, I retract my hands and turn over, facing away from him, toward the back of the couch. Reaching behind me, I get a hand on his side and beckon him to close the gap, which he does quickly, wrapping his free hand across my waist. His breathing is steady and slow, and I can tell he's just as tired as I am, though I know he's a little uncomfortable. This is probably not quite what either of us had in mind when we were staring at each-other a short while ago, but it's less frightening.
Even though there will be a whole group of people ushering by sometime in the near future, I'm simply not concerned. Kenta didn't seem to mind, Yoko's giggle didn't sound judgmental at all, and I'm sure nobody else will bat an eye at our predicament. There's a lingering thought that I'm disappointing myself a little with how evasive I've been, but losing control over myself would be worse.
Hisao seems content to wait, and I should feel good about taking this step anyway. Sleep, after all, is the most comfortable silence two people can share. Smiling contentedly, I rest my trailing hand across Hisao's and let myself drift into peaceful slumber.
Amaya is going to have a field day after seeing this.
Need I remind you that this section is for the discerning, intelligent and well-read viewers?
Spending three chapters on the same day has been a trying experience, but I'm happy with the result. I think between the three, this day has over 30,000 words dedicated to it, but a lot can happen on a single day.
Is that scene with Yoko what I think it was? Yes, probably. Maybe. I can say with 100% certainty that Aiko isn't necessarily sure, and we may never really know, but it may very well have been what you are all imagining. You all have dirty minds, by the way; I just thought you should know.
No doubt some of you are disappointed I'm still tugging on the sex thread (so to speak), but I rather enjoy drawing out the tension in that regard. The slow burn followed by the explosive conflagration. Perhaps I was a bigger fan of Cheers than I remember; though with that it was just a kiss... it was over 20 years ago, though.
Times have changed.