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The Lovers Arcana

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The heated rooftop pool seemed to be the kind of thing that should have been shut down in the dead of winter, but by some miracle it was in operation. The sky above was dark shades of purple and maroon and midnight blue (where there were divots in the clouds).

And the snow fell freely and slowly, each drifting down in their own little erratic dance to the time of an unheard song. It was an odd mixture of things: the heated pool, the distance cityscape, and the cold air with a column of steam rising up through it.

It made sense for the spontaneity sake and they had been spontaneous friends. In the past few days, since meeting they had gone to lunches and dinners and spent countless hours talking on the set of the commercial that they were working on.

Mounds of snow that was half turned to slush were heaped up all around the pool, but as they got closer to it the heat from its water warded off the cold and melted the snow into small puddles that dotted the surface of the roof. Rise trotted toward the edge of the water with Ann in tow, their fingers just hooked together by the very tips.

They stopped alongside the pool, the smell of warm chlorine was all there was this close. A wispy steam clung to their skin exposed skin. Ann rubbed her hands along her upper arms for warmth. “I mean, it was pretty cold coming out here, but you’re right, it is warmer than I expected up this close.”

A smile crept over Rise’s face. “I heard they even heat the ground up here, but I can’t really verify that,” she said. She was wearing an orange bikini that seemed to be just enough to cover her body. She was smaller than Ann, shorter and with thinner arms and legs. Everything was still proportional, but it made her feel more nymph-like. Somehow, it seemed that she was bigger in all the right places at the same time.

Ann wondered if this had been a bad idea. Rise jumped from the side of the pool, pulling her legs in quickly to ball her body up just before she hit the surface of the water. There was a massive PLOP as she splashed down in the pool and Ann reeled back to avoid getting wet.

Rise erupted from the surface of the pool, her dark hair floating up around her shoulders like an oil slick on the water’s surface. She spit a narrow stream of water at Ann and fell into a fit of laughter. “Come on, what are you waiting for?”

“Are you sure we’re supposed to be up here?” Ann surveyed the roof, looking for any signs that designated hours that the pool was allowed to be used. There was nothing of the sort anywhere.

“Come on, I wouldn’t push you to do anything illegal,” Rise said. “Unless it’s something really fun,” she added with a chuckle. Rise laid back in the water, kicking her legs to propel herself further into the middle of the pool. “You’re just going to have to get used to this kind of stuff. You’re probably going be famous—breaking some of the rules is just what being a celebrity is all about.”

Ann dipped her toes into the water and was shocked to find that it was the perfect temperature. “Oh,” she said, her eyes going wide at the realization. She stepped off of the side and dropped into the water, tucking her legs under so that the water slowed her descent until she was ready to stand up. Her blonde hair was still down from the photoshoot earlier, it clung to her skin in a wet mass as she moved toward Rise.

“See, it’s nice,” Rise said with a small hitch in her breath. She was barely able to stand up this far from the edge so she was forced to tread water to stay at a reasonable height.

“Yeah, how did you know about this?” Asked Ann.

“Whenever I’ve stayed in the city here we’ve used the hotel in the past. They were super nice to us and even comped a bunch of free food and drinks—I think that the general manager is a fan,” she laughed.

“I see,” Ann said. She turned toward the edge of the roof where the pool seemed to run right through the side of the building into the open sky. A shimmery, distorted version of the skyline was visible through the water where the wall of the poolside should have been.

Ann extended her body out and laid down on the surface of the water to swim toward the side. The pool looked normal until she was right at the edge and she could see that a semi-transparent glass portion of the pool jutted out from the side of the building so that you could look right down through the bottom of the pool into the city street below. For a moment Ann stood there imagining that she were floating it all.

Rise reached her, grabbing onto her shoulder and curling her arm around Ann’s neck for some support. “It’s amazing, huh?” Rise said. “She pointed to her arm around Ann’s shoulder and the back of her neck. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all—you’re pretty much showing me everything you know. I thought that living with parents who ran an agency had taught me something—but it really feels like there is just so much more going on out there than I had any idea about,” Ann said.

“Everything thinks they know what fame is all about,” Rise said. “But it’s better and worse than all of that—it’s just different, ya’ know?”

Ann nodded, though she still didn’t think that she understood it fully. The stillness of the night up here just made her agreeable and made it feel like Rise was so wise, at least when it came to things like this. They moved through the water for a while longer, swimming side by side and stopping to have hectic little splash battles.

This went on and on, back and forth until Rise rapidly slapped water at Ann with both hands, forcing the other girl to look away to avoid getting any in her eyes. In Ann’s distracted moments, Rise pounced on her wrapping her legs around Ann’s midsection and holding tight to her head with her arms.

“Oh, okay now—I actually can’t see,” Ann said, trying to keep her composure.

“Sorry, I had to fight dirty, you’ve got the height advantage,” Rise said.

“Well, now that doesn’t seem fair…”

Ann had never considered herself mature, but there were things about Rise that just made her feel old. Despite being four years younger it felt like Rise lived her life in a more carefree manner. As Ann stumbled through the water trying to figure out how to unseat Rise she wondered if she would be this confident and, what was the word that she had heard Tyra Banks use to describe it when she was little? Fierce.

Finally the problem solved itself when she lost her footing and toppled over to the side, dropping Rise into the pool as she went down. The two of them pushed up to the surface, Rise nearer to the side of the pool, holding onto the wall with one and coughing into the other.

“Did you do that on purpose?” Rise asked, her voice raspy.

Ann made a face at the taste of the water. “No. I’m just clumsy,” she said before wading closer to Rise. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just swallowed a bit more pool water than I think any one person should,” Rise forced a weak little laugh.

Pressed this close to Rise with her hand on the older woman’s back she could smell the floral scent of her shampoo or body lotion—it was hard to tell which with everything mixing together in the pool water. Despite all of the swimming the scent was still strong with an underlaying hint of something else—clean sweat.

As Ann grabbed onto the wall, Rise grabbed at her shoulder with one hand, bracing against the force of another fit of coughs. She was careful not to cough directly on Ann, though. “Sorry.” Rise’s eyes were red and her voice sounded defeated, but she smiled a little smile.

It had been some time since Ann had felt this way about anyone, let alone another girl and it might have just been that in appearance Rise reminded her of another person. Of course, everything else about Rise was nothing like Shiho. Next to Shiho, Ann was the brave one with the strength of will to do whatever she wanted. Rise seemed to invalidate that simply by existing.

Whatever it was that made her feel this sort of swelling need to act on impulses that she felt were better left dormant, she knee better than to speak the words.

Rise was in front of her now, their heads hidden along the side of the pool wall with the light from the water reflecting up off of the surface and shimmering with the movements of the water. They held each other’s gaze this way for such a long time that they both laughed, trying to find the correct reaction to what this was.

Was there something mutual here or was it imagined. Ann couldn’t tell if she was feeling the same thing as Rise or if it was just that Rise knew what she was feeling and that was making them both more nervous than they would have been. In the heated pool with the steam gathering around them and the water it felt like they were living in a dream and the dream became more vivid with each second of silence that passed between them.

For as long as Ann could remember liking anyone she had been aware that it wasn’t just tied to one sex for her. Ann liked a wide variety of people—some of them that weren’t conventionally in the way that society wanted her to find them. She remembered when she was little and her father showed her an old James Bond movie, A View to a Kill. She remembered the movie pretty well—it was stupid, really, but she remembered seeing Grace Jones and thinking she was the most beautiful woman ever. Not in the way that she wanted to look like her, but in a way that made Ann feel weird.

Ann didn’t like men or women—she liked people. Somehow that was a problem, so she kept most of that bottled up inside. But then she realized that she was clutching Rise’s hand and she didn’t remember grabbing it and that all she could think about was how Rise’s tongue would taste against hers. She wondered if Rise bit when she kissed, because those are the real geniuses. Whoever figured that out first deserves some kind of prize.

“Are you seeing anyone back home?” Rise’s voice seemed to part some of the mist and disrupt that trance-like dream atmosphere around them.

Ann jerked her hand away from Rise’s, grabbing for her own hair and pulling at the bottom of the tendrils and staring very intently at them as if she were checking split ends. “I’m not really the kind of girl that people want to date,” Ann started. “There were some rumors about me and this teacher that were…kind of true. I never did anything with him, but I let him think I entertained the fact because he was threatening to get my friend kicked off of the volleyball team.”

“And that made people not want to date you?” Asked Rise.

“People just think that I’m stuck up or that because I’m part American I’m stupid or something, I guess. And maybe I’m not all that smart,” said Ann.

Rise reached out and retrieved Ann’s hand, clutching it and using it to draw the other girl nearer to her. Everything moved in slow motion as Ann was drawn nearer to her and when Rise nestled Ann’s hand against her breasts Ann’s face reddened.

“Is this what you were wanting?” Rise’s voice was soft and comforting. Ann didn’t speak and just grabbed the wall with her free hand to steady herself and pushed her face toward Rise’s. Their teeth bumped slightly as they met, Ann felt Rise giggle into her mouth and pull back some. “Clumsy,” Rise whispered before Ann was on her again.

They were pressed together, their hands still clenched to one another’s and jammed between them. The pressure of Rise’s tongue pushing under hers and then moving to be slightly to the side of made Ann’s stomach skip until it felt like all of her insides were doing little flips.

Ann maneuvered Rise, using her their two hands between them as a rudder to steer her against the wall. Rise’s back pushed against the slick, cold tile and the continued to kiss. The soft sounds of water all around them and the dull roar of the traffic far below was mostly drowned out by their breathing and small moans.

Slowly Ann backed away, pulling her hand from Rise and giving the other woman a little space. When she opened her eyes Rise was still pressed against the wall, her dark hair had descended into a madness of wet, loose curls and she was biting her lip.

“That was not at all what I expected,” Rise said. She ghosted one of her hands down the side of Ann’s cheek, leaving a trail of water. “Are you okay with this? Like all of this?” Rise asked.

Ann nodded. She hadn’t thought of this from a legality standpoint, back home age of consent was murkier. Thirteen as a base age, but then things were different depending upon the severity of the relationship in question and parental permission. This trip had taken them to America, Texas to be exact. She didn’t know what the law was there and she didn’t want to know. She was on the cusp of eighteen and out of school. It didn’t feel like they had done anything wrong, but she liked that Rise cared enough to ask.

Then Rise reached up, slipping her thumb under the strap that held that small, orange bikini in place. The first strap slid off, revealing skin that had reddened from the pressure put on it, the color slowly started to ease up as Rise removed the other strap slowly, bringing it down over her shoulder and pulling her arm through.

For a moment Ann hesitated and then she moved, taking the bikini top away and slinging it up onto the side of the pool to safety before pressing her body against Rise and kissing her way into the softest part of her neck. A bit of hair got into her mouth and she moved to sweep it clear before continuing to suck at the nape of RIse’s neck.

Rise tilted her head back, resting it against the tile wall of the pool as kiss and bit and sucked her neck. She made a happy little sound that was somewhere between a giggle and and grunt as Ann moved down to the front of her chest.

Ann cupped Rise’s breast, thumbing the epicenter and expectantly looking for the reaction. She lowered her mouth down to brush the soft skin of the nipple against her bottom lip, gazing up and asking as casually as she could manage. “Is this okay?”

Something intense flashed in Rise’s brown eyes ands swallowed tightly as if fighting back a more erratic reaction. “Yes,” she said in a whisper that would have been lost under the sounds of the water lapping at their bodies around them if they hadn’t been so close together.

Ann’s eyes closed as she shut her lips around Rise’s breast, pulling at the soft skin gently. There was a sheen of lotion that had a chemical taste mixed in with the bleach-y pool water and something else underneath all of that which had to be just the taste of Rise.

The smooth tile wall of the pool had warmed from the heat of Rise’s back, Ann wiggled an arm in behind Rise, pulling her closer and away from the wall and in response to the change in sensation Rise let out a soft moan and bucked against Ann. They clumsily rocked against each other, Rise clutched tight to Ann’s head and at her breast and chest and neck kissing.

A metallic clang broke the relative silence of the rooftop. Someone pushed through the door leading out onto the rooftop. Then there were footsteps. Ann moved to pull away from Rise, pushing her up against the side of the pool and out of sight.

The splashing called the attention to who ever had walked out onto the roof. “Is anyone out here?” Asked a familiar voice.

Ann swim out to the center of the pool, keeping her body low in the water so that just her head and neck were above and treading water furiously to maintain her position. “Oh, is it not okay if I’m out here?” Ann asked. Thought she hadn’t interacted much with Minoru Inoue, she knew him to be Rise’s longtime manager. He had been with her since the idol days and was the one that claimed that she had the potential to become the next Utada or…there weren’t really many other Japanese pop stars who had found mainstream success in the US.

He chuckled. “I was just trying to find Rise,” he said. “She left before I the crew could give her something that they got for her.”

Ann eyed Rise. The other girl was still pressed up against the side of the pool, out of sight for someone who was standing near the door. “Oh yeah,” Ann said with a force laugh. “I think she went back to her room or something.”

Inoue scanned the area of the pool. “No, I checked there already. She’s not that heavy of a sleeper.”

“N-no,” Ann started. “But it’s been a bit of a long day. She’s probably knocked out,” Ann said. She thought back to the orange bikini top soaked down to the concrete around the pool where Rise had tossed it. It was luck that Inoue hadn’t noticed it, everything that she knew about this man told her that he was attentive and was the kind to know that it was his client’s clothing.

His eyes started to wander again. “Someone said that they saw you two come up here.”

“Uh, oh! I remember that she was saying that she wanted to hit the streets and find some local flavor—Ann said. There was a local barbecue place that I think someone mentioned by name that she had to try,” Ann said.

It was as if Ann’s words registered very slowly to him, his face was blank for a second after she stopped speaking and then he smiled. “Okay,” he said. “That does sound like her—I have to stop babying her, she’s a big girl.” He motioned with his hand in a very blasé way as he turned to head back to the door. “Don’t over exert yourself or stay out too late—big day tomorrow,” he added.

Ann glanced to Rise nervously. “Okay,” she said cracking a slight smile. “Good night!”

When the huge metal door closed behind Inoue Ann hesitated for a moment, weighted down by the almost certainty that he would pop back out and have some other small bit of wisdom to add.

There was movement in the water and Ann looked up to see Rise retrieving her top from the side of the pool. Carefully she slipped back into it. They had been together for most of the last few days and she had seen a bit more of Rise than most people, but there was something impressive about her arms. They were perfectly shaped and proportion and just smooth in a way that Ann couldn’t understand. It was really the same for all of her limbs.

When Rise’s legs had brushed against hers beneath the water and when they had been wrapped around her before that when they were playing…Ann couldn’t think about it without her head swimming through a sea of confusing thoughts.

Rise move toward her. “Well, it looks like the fun is over,” Ann said watching expectantly for any sign that this was over and that they’d never speak of it again. They’d be back in Japan in a few days and Rise would still be gorgeous and world famous and older—things just didn’t bode well for any of it. Ann knew that even before they kissed, but she wanted that brief shot at something amazing.

It was fine while it lasted.

“It’s over if you want it to be,” Rise said, her voice had dropped an octave in disappointment. “If you’d like we could go to my room. Inoue won’t dare bother me if I act like I’m in there with someone—I think he’s afraid that he’ll see too much,” she laughed.

Ann felt like her face was glowing it was so hot. Rise must have noticed because she patted her on the shoulder and kissed her cheek. “If you want to call it a night I’ll—“ Rise started before Ann cut in.

“No, I’d love to—I’d like to go to your room with you. If you still want to,” Ann said trying to keep the words from rushing out of her mouth all at once and tripping over her tongue in the process.

“Of course,” Rise said. “We didn’t even bring towels up here and you’re all wet. My room is just closer.”

“Yeah,” Ann said.

The trek back to the door of the hotel was more problematic than it had been to get out here. Snow still reached the ground where it was falling when you got out of the immediate area of the pool and there were heaps of it on the ground. Stepping anywhere near it put your foot in a puddle of frigid water. Each time Ann felt the icy touch of the snow near her feet, her leg muscles tightened up, but Rise pulled her along toward the hotel door.

The hotel halls were tile, but they felt warm compared snow ridden rooftop outside. The pair would switch between running and trotting along with wild steps, trying not to laugh as they moved. It was sort of late and there guests might be sleeping.

As they neared the double doors of Rise’s room she came to a stop. “Good thing this hotel has such tight security. Sometimes we have to put guards at my door,” Rise said.

“Even outside of Japan?” Asked Ann, slightly out of breath as they peeked around the corner.

Rise nodded. “Some guy flew to France and staked out a hotel Kanami was staying in once, he got the room above hers and dropped onto her balcony and was inside of the room when she came back. Claimed he just wanted a hug,” Rise said.

“Okay, that’s kind of terrifying,” Ann said.

“You get used to overzealous fans to some degree, but I’m not going to say I don’t miss my privacy.”

They moved through the doors, letting them shut quietly as they entered the darkness of the suite. The room was nice, but not in the gaudy way that some hotels seemed to have to try to be. A wall of thin frosted glass protected the bathroom from the rest of the room and inside of the bathroom was a standing shower with a glass door and a huge jacuzzi-style bathtub.

Ann hadn’t grown up poor by any stretch of the imagination, but this hotel had been impressive in its level of extravagance. Of course, the room went on from there with the things as you expected them: there was a large television mounted to the wall across from a king sized bed. It was way too much bed for even any two normal people. On the other side of the bed was s small desk with a little seating area that had a fake fireplace. The kind that just lit up with glowing orange light and blew out heat.

Rise pulled Ann’s arm around until she was stopped against the glass wall of a the bathroom. Her back making contact with it caused a hollow shudder as the glass vibrated. Rise pushed up onto her tiptoes to kiss Ann and let her soft upper lip pass between Ann’s own. As Ann relaxed into it, Rise bit her bottom lip playfully and tugged at it.

“Should we finish what we started?” Asked Rise.

It was as if the kiss drew the words out of Ann. The moment that Rise’s most parted with hers the answer escaped her like an impatient sigh. “Yes.”

They moved across the floor of the room toward the bed almost like they were sneaking with their breath hitched in their throats and walking only on the balls of their feet with small squeaks from their bare toes on the hard floor.

Rise backed Ann against the edge of the bed and traced the form of Ann’s hips with her hands. She gazed up into Ann’s blue eyes with a smile. “You’re beautiful,” Rise said with such confidence that Ann immediately believed it.

Something in that gaze and that touch said something else. Ann scooted her way onto the bed and sat down. She slowly laid back, both hesitant for fear of misinterpreting what Rise was saying for what she wanted her to be saying and excited for what this meant.

As Ann dropped onto her back, the memory foam cushioning in around her, she let her legs part enough for Rise to crawl up between them. She didn’t dare glance down the bed to see if Rise was making a move. Ann was still as a stone with her eyes searching for patterns in the static-dot texture of the ceiling.

The weight of Rise’s knee on the bed between her legs caused something at her core to tense up. Their lips moved against each others again, Rise pinning her hands to her side in a gesture that drove Ann wild for a reason that wasn’t clear to her. A thin layer of water meshed between the warmth of their bodies causing their skin to slide against one another’s. The chlorine smell of the pool was still fresh in Rise’s wet hair and Ann’s own soaked hair was now draining into the bed beneath her and causing a huge, cold wet spot.

She didn’t care.

Rise sat up and laced her fingers through the sides of Ann’s bikini bottom, pulling the damp fabric away from the skin. Ann pushed off of the bed with her back, lifting her legs into the air to help the process. There wasn’t much room on the bed and Rise had to crawl off to the side to finish slipping them all the way off. Ann reached out blindly swiping for Rise’s leg, hoping to maintain contact with the other woman as she watched the white bottoms slide down her long legs.

“You okay?” Rise asked.

Ann nodded vigorously. She wanted to lift up and kiss Rise again. She wanted to strip Rise down too. It only seemed fair she thought. She imagined that even that part of Rise was just as perfect as the rest of her. Then Rise moved her fingers inside of Ann. The whole thing was subtle at first and just exploratory. A sigh escaped Ann as two of Rise’s fingers made slow circles just inside of the opening.

“Someone’s excited,” Rise said.

Ann laughed a nervous laugh. “Yeah.”

Rise moved to sit up on her knees and pulled Ann around by the legs so that she was laying long ways with the bed. Using the backs of her hands, Rise spread Ann’s legs open wide and Ann complied by moving them as far apart as she could in this position. Rise flopped down on her belly, her feet hanging off the head of the bed and moved toward Ann. Ann watched, just picking her head up enough to see over her own body, as Rise scooted further between her legs.

“Your scent…it’s really getting me going,” Rise said through a fit of giggles.

It feels like Ann’s whole body is blushing as she waits for what comes next. Rise’s breath is the first thing to come in contact with her, the warm air pushes into her like the gusts before a storm. There’s a pause where Rise is just breathing against her, waiting for something. Rise placed her hands side by side with her thumbs and index fingers forming a sort of triangle that caught the top and bottom of Ann’s slit and used slowly spread it open.

When Rise’s tongue touched her it was different than the fingers, softer and spongier. There was a huge difference in how Rise used it, too. She had been a cautious explorer with her first couple of fingers, but she licked Ann with an insatiable need.

Ann pressed her back into the bed so that she could bounce body against Rise and push the other woman deeper into her body. Some muscle deep inside of Ann’s body tightened and she let out a guttural, deep groan in agreement that ended in her stammering. “Yes. Ugh-ye-yes.”

Wrapping an arm around Ann’s thighs, Rise did all she could to keep her steady as she moved her nose up and down against spot where Ann’s folds met. Rise’s tongue traced it’s way up to find the little bump of nerves before wrapping her lips around the spot to kiss it.

This drove Ann into a frenzy of spasms that caused her to turn her head side to side frantically and rake her fingers over the bedspread. One of Ann’s hands found its way onto the back of Rise’s head. She dug her fingers into Rise’s thick, dark hair as a fit of short breath escaped her.

Things went on like this for an amount of time that Ann couldn’t accurately measure. Thoughts passed through her head in blips and flashes. She was really having sex with THE Rise Kujikawa. Her ears were ringing and for some reason the sound of her own frantic breaths and whimpering drowned out everything else in the room. The vibration as Rise murmuring into her folds rippled through her in waves of warmth.

The feeling seemed to last so long and somehow not long enough. When she finally reached her peak her body bucked against Rise and the bed as her legs kicked. Her body moved as if possessed and the thing inside of her could only free itself through the jerking motions in her limbs and pelvis.

Everything subsided and Rise was resting her head against Ann’s thigh, gazing over the bed at her. A hollow kind of pain rested in the lower part of the pit of Ann’s abdomen and her breathing was still rushed. It was like for the first time she noticed how wet she was with just sweat and water from the pool and other things. She stroked Rise’s back and they lay there in a stunned silence as color and sound returned to the world around Ann.

“Hey,” Rise said finally. Her brown eyes looked black in the dim light of the room and they were half closed in this too-tired-too-drunk manner.

But they hadn’t been drinking at all.

“I want you…” Ann said weakly, her voice still in the tone of those final uninhibited whimpers she had let out. She tried to grab at Rise and just pull her up onto her side, but there was no way for her to find a handhold.

Rise rose and crawled up to her, holding Ann at the wrist with one hand. “Tomorrow,” she said before lowering herself closer to Ann’s face for a kiss. “I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble.”

Ann could taste herself in Rise’s kiss and though she didn’t say it, she knew that when they left Texas and were wherever this tour took them next, they’d indulge this again. And somehow, Ann knew this was trouble—though she supposed it was the kind that she didn’t mind getting into.