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           “My home is not a place, it is people.”
              —Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar



University was wonderful.

University sucked.

I sighed as I wearily contemplated that dichotomy on the bus ride back to my apartment after classes. It was almost two o’clock on Friday, and I had no more classes that day. Which in theory gave me almost two and a half day long weekends this semester, but all it really meant was I had a little extra time to study and work.

There was no denying that I loved learning, loved taking classes, loved gaining new insights into things I had long wondered about. In other words, as Hanako would have fondly put it, I was a nerd. That part of university was wonderful, and rewarding.

If only they didn’t try to teach me so damn much at once. If I had had one fewer courses per semester, I would have been a happy student. As it was, it felt like I was perpetually studying or working, and slightly under-slept.

The closest thing Hanako and I had had to a date in recent weeks was the evening she visited me at the game store where I worked and we chatted between times when I was helping customers. I was beginning to feel guilty about not having enough time for her. She never complained about it, but I had caught her gazing wistfully after Lilly as she headed out on a date last weekend.

I stared out the bus window, not really seeing the city passing by, as I considered the problem. I knew Hanako was sympathetic about my course and work load, she was studying and working hard herself, but somehow it seemed like it was always me who had just one more article to read, one more shift to work, one more paper to write. Hanako, and Lilly too for that matter, managed to keep up with their classes and jobs without destroying their social lives or sleep patterns.

I could, of course, have gotten more sleep if I didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn six days a week to go running. But given the choice between a little sleepiness now and taking an eternal nap if my heart weakened and gave out, I doggedly opted for the former. You can sleep when you’re dead, as the morbid old saying went. I had no idea how much longer I could force my heart to keep pumping, but I was doing everything in my power to make it last as long as possible. I wanted to have all the time in the world to be with Hanako. That notion kept me devoted to my cardiovascular exercise regimen more strictly than Emi ever managed.

If only I could actually spend more of that extra time with Hanako.

As I got off the bus and trudged toward our apartment building, I resolved to power through my weekend’s homework as quickly as possible. I only had one work shift this weekend, on Saturday evening. I could make time for us to do something together.

Maybe we could do a double-date with Lilly and her boyfriend, Toshiko Ogata—but no, Hanako deserved some time alone with me. As did I with her. Besides which, if I was being totally honest, I didn’t really care that much for Ogata. I wouldn’t have minded going out with just Hanako and Lilly, but unless I got lucky and he was out of town this weekend or something, we would have to invite him along too.

I knew, intellectually, that Ogata had to have some redeeming qualities, or else Lilly wouldn’t have been dating him for the past four months, but he always struck me as a bit plastic. Artificial. A bland smiling visage that didn’t seem to hide any real depths. He had similar manners to Lilly, very proper and buttoned-down, but without her warmth. Though I supposed he was warmer in private. I was just grateful that when they spent the night together they did so at his place.

As I entered our apartment, I called out “Hello?” even though Lilly and Hanako both had classes until five. But sometimes Hanako skipped out on classes early on Fridays, if the week had been too hard on her. I was grateful that my call got no response, which meant she was probably still in class. As I considered it, I realized that it had been several months since she had skipped class for anything other than physical ailments, and I smiled.

It had been a slow process, but Hanako had settled into university life. It had taken a few months for her classmates to get used to her appearance, and then a few more months for Hanako to finally believe that they had, but she was managing well, now. Better than she ever had at Yamaku. Her confidence was slowly increasing, her fears slowly fading, and it was delightful to watch. The first time she’d gone out to a karaoke bar with some classmates after class, I’d been a nervous wreck, waiting at home for her to return, but she’d breezed into the apartment shortly after midnight, humming softly under her breath, the night a success.

I pulled together a quick late lunch of leftovers and then dove into my books, determined to carve out enough time for a date that weekend.

Somewhere around five thirty, I heard a soft ding in the hallway outside our apartment, signifying that the elevator had arrived at our floor. Two sets of footsteps and Lilly’s gentle voice grew louder as they approached our apartment’s door. Lilly and Hanako managed to come home together most Fridays, which worked out well for both of them. Having Lilly with her made the bus ride to our apartment from campus less stressful for Hanako, and likewise it was easier for Lilly to have Hanako to guide her. Two friends, helping each other.

I stood up from the table and stretched a moment, the tension in my lower back reminding me just how long I’d been sitting there working.

“Hello, ladies,” I said, as they entered the apartment, and gave them a big smile. I was relieved to see that Hanako looked more than okay for a Friday, smiling back at me as she pulled her key from the door and shut it behind them.

“Hi, Hisao,” Hanako said quietly as she set her backpack down by the door in its usual spot.

“Hello,” said Lilly, also smiling. She likewise set down her book bag beside Hanako’s, and she left her cane leaning in the corner next to the door. She knew our apartment well enough that she never used it while at home. They took off their coats and shoes, and slipped into house slippers.

I crossed the room and gave Hanako a hug and a kiss. I crassly took advantage of our roommate’s blindness by giving Hanako’s bottom a gentle squeeze as I hugged her. She frowned reprovingly at me a little, but the frown was ruined by the tiny smile she was unable to repress. I buried my nose in her hair for a moment, just enjoying her scent and the way it relaxed me. My appreciative sniff prompted a small giggle from her.

“How were your days?” I asked them both as I let go of Hanako. She and Lilly sat down on the couch, and I stepped over to the kitchen nook to turn on the kettle for tea.

“It was fine, but I’m glad the week is over,” said Lilly. She turned sideways on the couch and let her legs rest across Hanako’s lap as she flopped back gracelessly against the armrest. I grinned as I watched her. She’s usually so very prim and proper, but even Lilly has her limits. Hanako isn’t the only one who gets more tired as the week wears on. The fact that she’s willing to look less than perfectly composed in our presence says volumes about our friendships, and how comfortable she is around us. Without being asked, Hanako removed Lilly’s slippers and began rubbing her feet.

Lilly made a soft whimpering noise of pleasure at Hanako’s attentions, then she said, “You should tell him your news.”

“News?” I repeated, intrigued. Given that Hanako was studying journalism, that term could be more or less literal, depending upon the context. I looked at Hanako, an inquisitive expression on my face. Hanako looked away from Lilly’s feet for a moment to give me a shyly proud smile.

“I g-got a ninety-seven on my ethics in j-journalism paper.”

“Ah! Excellent!” I crowed. I couldn’t help but grin at her. “Was that the one you were calling a ‘steaming pile of incoherent gibberish’ last weekend?”

She rolled her eyes and gave an embarrassed shrug. “Maybe.” I laughed.

“I want you to read the professor’s comments to me,” said Lilly. “Hanako refused to say anything other than ‘he was nice about it.’ ”

I stepped over to the couch and bent down to give Hanako another kiss. “That’s wonderful, sweetie. Good job.”

Blushing, Hanako turned the conversation away from herself. “And you? How was y-your day?”

I shrugged as I returned to preparing the tea. “Not bad. I only had quantum this afternoon, so I’ve been plowing through homework ever since.” I glanced at the table where I’d been working. “My notes and laptop are spread out all over the table, Lilly. I’ll tidy up before dinner.” Although we had a tiny table with four stools in the kitchenette area, we usually ate sitting on the floor around the low table in the living room area, the table that used to be in Lilly’s dorm room.

“Thank you,” she murmured quietly, apparently being lulled into a sleepy state by Hanako’s strong hands on her feet. I paused and watched them for a moment, smiling at the picture they presented. Hanako looked over at me and smiled back, and I blew her a kiss.

“I assume I’d be out of luck if I asked for any help in preparing dinner?” I asked Lilly and Hanako.

Lilly gave a little groan that was almost a growl and said, “If you try to pry my feet away from Hanako right now, you will have a serious fight on your hands.”

Hanako and I laughed. “I’m not feeling that brave tonight,” I said, as I started to poke through the cupboards to pull together a meal. Hanako and I had both learned a bit about cooking from Lilly over the past few years. Although I wasn’t as good as Lilly, I wouldn’t be accused of poisoning anyone with my cooking.

By the time dinner was ready, Lilly had finished returning the favor to Hanako, and my feet were feeling a little envious. As we ate, I said to Hanako, “I’m working tomorrow evening, but…I’m really trying to get my homework done early. Would you like to go out to lunch tomorrow, or maybe go see a movie Sunday?”

Hanako’s face lit up like I’d just offered her a free lifetime supply of chocolate. I felt a little guilty that such a small thing should cheer her so. I really needed to take more time to spend with her. Education may be important, but she was the most important thing in my life, and I needed to make sure she knew that.

“A m-movie would be nice, but…I think I’d like to do lunch, or d-dinner. So we could have some time to talk.” She smiled at me.

“There’s a new Thai place on Senbon that’s nice, and affordable,” Lilly suggested. “Toshiko and I have eaten there a few times. You might like it.”

“As long as they can make stuff not too spicy,” I said dubiously. I’d had my taste buds fried off at a Thai place last year.

“Toshiko’s taste in spice is about as adventurous as yours, Hisao,” Lilly said with a smile. “You’ll be fine.”

“I like Thai,” said Hanako

I smiled. “Thai it is, then.”

I dove into my work with single-minded focus after dinner, determined to be able to give Hanako my full attention on our date. I tottered off to bed just before midnight. Unless I had a pressing deadline, I couldn’t afford to stay up past twelve, since my tyrant of an alarm clock was always going to go off at six a.m. for my morning run. Thankfully, my cardiologist had adjusted my meds over the years so that insomnia was less of a problem for me than it had been when I’d first gotten out of the hospital.

I tried to slip into bed without waking Hanako, but she rolled over and snuggled up to me, mumbling something quiet and affectionate as she did. I kissed the top of her head, breathing in her scent, which warmed and relaxed me. “Good night, sweetheart. I love you,” I said.

“Love you, too,” she murmured.



A couple of Sundays later, Hanako and I were in the living room. I was studying, and she was reading one of her romance novels, when Lilly came home from a date. I was a little surprised at her return. Aside from the fact that she often spent Sunday nights at Ogata’s place, it seemed awfully early in the evening to be calling it a night. “Hi, Lilly,” I said.

“Welcome home,” said Hanako.

“Hello,” Lilly replied flatly.

The first thing I noticed was that she was wearing her dark glasses. I had never seen her wear them at home before. She mostly only wore them when she was out in a new and crowded place, and wanted to display a signifier of her blindness in addition to her cane for the strangers around her, to simplify interactions.

The second thing I noticed was her body language. Normally, she was fluid and graceful, moving with a poise and precision that I knew some viewed as affected. But her motions as she set aside her cane and took off her coat and shoes were quick and jerky. Her hands were trembling with more than the winter chill.

“L-lilly? Is…everything all right?” Hanako asked, just beating me to the question.

Lilly turned her head towards us and gave us the most unconvincing smile I’d ever seen, the dark glasses hiding her eyes making the expression even more odd and off-putting. “I’m fine, thank you.” She shoved her feet forcefully into her house slippers and headed towards her bedroom, her steps still over-quick, almost stomping. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m tired and nee—ow!

Apparently her jerky movements had thrown off her internal spatial map of the living room, because she slammed her shin full speed into the edge of the low table in the center of the room. She crumpled to the floor, biting her lip against the pain.

“Lilly!” Hanako exclaimed as she rolled off the couch and knelt by Lilly’s side.

“I’m…fine, f-f-fine,” Lilly stammered through her pain, rubbing her shin. As Hanako put an arm across her shoulders, Lilly repeated, “F-f-fine, fine, I’m fiii…” Her words disappeared in a sob, and she turned towards Hanako and buried her face in her hair, her arms coming up to clutch at Hanako. I could see her arms trembling, her grip on Hanako was so tight, and she continued weeping, the likes of which I’d never seen from her.

Hanako returned Lilly’s embrace, holding her tight. She rubbed one hand up and down Lilly’s back, and she stared at me over Lilly’s shoulder, her eyes wide and uncertain. She silently mouthed the word help! at me. I unfroze from where I’d been watching this meltdown and scooted over to Lilly’s other side, so we could both hug her. Lilly startled a little as I put my arms around her, which surprised me. I hadn’t been quiet, she would normally have known I was there. But after that first little flinch, she relaxed into our embrace, and Hanako and I hugged her tight, trying to console and reassure her, whatever the problem was.

“It’s all right, Lilly, we’re here, we’ve got you,” Hanako murmured softly, squeezing Lilly tight as she continued to whisper soft words of comfort and assurance to her best friend.

“We’re here for you,” I echoed.

Eventually, Lilly’s sobs trailed off, and she slumped against us, sniffling. Somewhere in the middle of the emotional firestorm, Lilly’s glasses had come off, and I could see her half-opened eyes. They were red and swollen—not a little bit, like they would be from a mere five minutes of crying, but more like she had already been crying for quite some time before she got home. No wonder she had been wearing them.

“Can you tell us…what’s wrong?” Hanako asked quietly.

“I…” Lilly paused, her breathing still ragged, then she said, “I need a tissue.”

I snorted at that and disengaged myself from the other two. I got a box of tissues from the shelf, and brought them back. Hanako slid over a little, so that she and Lilly could lean more comfortably against the couch. I sat down on Lilly’s other side and placed the box in her lap.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, then daintily wiped her eyes and nose, some of her normal poise returning. Hanako also took a tissue and wiped at her eyes. I hadn’t realized she’d been crying a bit, too.

“What’s wrong?” Hanako repeated. “You d-don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to, but…”

Lilly shook her head. “I want to. I…it’s just…” She abandoned propriety and blew her nose, then wiped at her eyes again. She balled up the tissues in a tight fist, her hand trembling a little. “Toshiko. He and I…we…”

“Fought?” I offered.

Lilly shook her head again. “Broke up.”

“Oh, no, Lilly, I’m so sorry,” said Hanako. “H-how—why?”

Lilly’s glowered, her expression bitter. She was silent for so long I wasn’t sure she was going to respond. Eventually, she spat out, “Apparently, I’m not Japanese enough. And I’m broken. And I’m fat.” I winced at the words, and the venom with they were delivered. She paused, taking a deep, hiccuping breath, obviously fighting back her tears again.

“He told me he was going to have dinner with his family next weekend, and I asked, when was I going to get to meet them? We’ve been dating for four months, after all. He danced around it for a few minutes before admitting, never. He had no intention of ever introducing me to his family. He had no long-term plans for us to stay together. I was just some exotic foreigner for him to dally with. A—a cripple to play with, to give him new experiences to write about.”

“Ohh, Lilly,” said Hanako softly, pulling Lilly close and stroking her hair. A few more tears leaked out of Lilly’s tightly closed eyes, and she held her breath for a few moments, fighting to maintain her self-control.

I fought down the urge to get up and seek out Ogata, just to punch him repeatedly in the face. I took a mental step back, and tried to focus on Lilly. This isn’t about my anger at him, I reminded myself. This is about Lilly. Besides which, if I ever got into a fist fight with someone, they would probably accidentally kill me. Which put an additional damper on my anger, even as I resented the fact. Some stupidly primitive part of my brain insisted I should be able to physically defend “my women.”

I pushed aside my own anger, and said, “What a jerk. But I’m glad you found that out about him before you wasted any more time on him.”

“What an asshole,” Hanako corrected, and I could tell from her flinch that Lilly was as startled as I to hear such language from Hanako. “He doesn’t d-deserve someone as wonderful as you, Lilly. I hope he lives a long and lonely life, n-never finding anyone to care for or love.”

Given that that had once been one of Hanako’s greatest fears for herself, it was a deep and meaningful curse. And heartfelt, judging by her scowl. I didn’t often see my girlfriend angry, and seeing her now, I was grateful that her rage wasn’t directed at me. Honestly, she looked a little scary.

Hanako also seemed to realize that she wasn’t being very comforting, and she visibly relaxed, also putting aside her anger. She pulled Lilly a little closer to her and kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry you’re hurting,” she said, more quietly. “Let me know what I can do to make it better.”

“Us. Let us know,” I amended.

Lilly gave a tremulous smile. “You’re already helping. Thank you.”

“At the risk of sounding cliché…would you like a cup of tea?” I offered.

Lilly and Hanako giggled at that, and Lilly, said, “Actually, yes, that would be nice. If nothing else, I need to rehydrate a little.”

I got up and prepared the tea. Living with Lilly for a couple of years, I had picked up the proper technique for brewing tea to her standards. As I worked in the kitchen, Lilly and Hanako talked quietly, mostly Hanako consoling Lilly, from the sound of it.

I brought the tea set into the living room and poured the tea, even though Lilly usually performed that task for us. Lilly held the cup of tea below her face for a moment, just inhaling the scent before sipping. “Perfect,” she complimented me, though her smile seemed a little sad as she said it. We drank in silence for a few minutes before Lilly broke the quiet with a question.

“Hisao? Do you think…am I fat?” Lilly asked. I’d rarely heard her sounding so timid and uncertain, and the way her shoulders slumped as she asked the question made my heart hurt.

I may be emotionally dense and oblivious at time, but even I knew that there was only one possible answer to that question. “No, of course not, Lilly. You…” I glanced at Hanako, then continued, “You’re beautiful.”

Lilly made a scoffing sound. “You hesitated. Do you really mean that?”

I sighed. “I hesitated because I was momentarily uncertain about complimenting another woman in front of my girlfriend. But then I came to my senses, knowing how Hanako feels about you. You are truly beautiful, Lilly, and don’t ever let any jerk try to convince you otherwise.”

“Hisao is right, Lilly. I know your standards for b-beauty are not…visually based, but trust us when we say, any random p-person on the street who saw you would think you beautiful. I’ve always th-thought you were beautiful, even before I got to know you.”

Hanako had given me a minute to gather my thoughts. “I think what that jerk”—I wasn’t willing to say Ogata’s name out loud at the moment—“meant was that you’re not a tiny porcelain doll. It sounds like he’s one of those shallow twits who’s looking for a perfect little model wife who will stand meekly in his shadow.”

Lilly sighed. “I know I’m of above average height for a woman, but…that’s not the same thing as fat.”

I shot Hanako a questioning look, and she smiled and nodded at me. I took hold of Hanako’s hand and squeezed it tight for a moment. “Lilly, you’re not fat, you’re…it’s not just your height that’s above average. You have a, a, lush, and beautiful body, with gorgeous large…well rounded…er, uh…”

Hanako giggled at my blushing babble, and after a moment Lilly joined her.

“You’re quite beautiful,” I finished lamely.

“Listen to the b-blushing idiot,” said Hanako fondly. “You’re s-stunning, Lilly. With beautiful large b-breasts and nicely rounded buttocks, as Hisao was unable to say.”

“Hanako!” I protested, blushing even more. I took some small solace in the fact that Lilly was blushing at Hanako’s words as well. Hanako giggled again at us.

I tried to recover a little. “Truly, Lilly, you’re beautiful. Almost as beautiful as Hanako, and that’s saying something.” Now it was Hanako’s turn to blush.

Lilly smiled. “If I’m only half as beautiful as Hanako, then I would be content. Thank you for…reassuring my foolish vanity.”

Hanako squeezed Lilly tighter for a moment. “It’s not foolish to want reassurance after that j-jerk tried to hurt you.”

I growled, “What kind of…cad insults a woman’s appearance as he’s breaking up with her?”

Lilly snorted. “Cad. I suppose that’s a politer term than…asshole.” The vulgarity sounded just as wrong coming from Lilly’s mouth as it did Hanako’s.

“Both apply,” said Hanako.

“I should have told him how bad in bed he really is,” Lilly muttered, then ducked her head, looking abashed.

I was momentarily struck speechless at such an intimate revelation, but Hanako said, “Yes, you should’ve. It’s n-not too late to tell him, you know.”

Lilly waved that away, “Sorry, no, I should not have said that. It wasn’t…polite.”

“Good riddance to him. Life is too short to p-put up with bad sex,” Hanako said.

Lilly chuckled. “And I know you’re an expert on good sex,” she said, sounding faintly envious.

“I w-wouldn’t say expert…” Hanako smiled, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye. “But…definitely an enthusiastic learner.”

I stood up hastily and said, “Well, it sounds like this is turning into one of those ‘girl talks,’ so I think I’ll head off to bed.” They both laughed at that.

“Good night, Hisao. And thank you…for everything,” said Lilly.

“Of course.”

“Good night, sweetie,” said Hanako. “I’ll be in shortly.”

“Try not to embarrass me too much,” I couldn’t help but ask, which just won me another round of feminine laughter.

“Oh, I’m sure you have nothing to be embarrassed about,” said Lilly with a smile.

After living with Lilly for over two years, I had grown resigned to the fact that Hanako and I couldn’t completely hide our love life from her superior sense of hearing, but I usually tried to repress that knowledge. I just mumbled another “Good night,” and beat a hasty retreat.



I changed into my pajamas and spent the next hour sitting in bed reading a textbook, trying to ignore the occasional laughter that drifted in through the door from the living room. Eventually, Hanako came to bed, smiling. I smiled at her.

“Did you have a good talk?”

She nodded “Yes. We haven’t had one of th-those ‘girl talks,’ as you put it, for quite some t-time. It was good to reconnect with her like that. I think it ch-cheered her up quite a bit, too, which is nice.” She began undressing for bed as she talked, and I smiled as I watched. If I ever failed to appreciate the sight of my beloved getting naked in front of me, it would be time to punch me in the chest and put me in a casket.

“Did you eviscerate jerk-face in absentia?”

Hanako shook her head. “We talked very little about that…cad, actually. We focused on more p-pleasant things.”

“Good.” I felt my breath catch as she unhooked her bra and slid it off her shoulders. Her breasts jiggled in a most delightful fashion. “Ahh, speaking of pleasant things…”

Hanako shot me an amused glance. “You are so silly.”

“Not about that I’m not,” I countered. “You are so sexy, my love.”

“I’m glad you think so,” she said, as she slipped into her night gown. I gave a sad little sigh to see her naked body disappear.

“I know so.”

Hanako smiled and gave me a kiss, before heading to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

I finished the page I had been reading then put my textbook aside. When Hanako returned from the bathroom, I took my turn at my nightly ablutions.

I turned off the overhead lights in our bedroom when I returned, and slipped into bed next to Hanako. I was about to reach over and turn off the bedside lamp when I heard Lilly tapping gently on our bedroom door. I glanced at Hanako, who shrugged, then nodded. “Come in,” I called.

Lilly opened the door, and took half a step forward, not quite entering our room. I swallowed hard, then looked away from her, blushing. I didn’t think she knew just how translucent her peach pajamas were; her lovely nipples were rather obvious through the thin fabric, and I didn’t dare look further down. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Hanako put a hand over her mouth, trying to hide a grin at my reaction. I kept my face determinedly turned away from Lilly.

“I…wanted to say, thank you again. For your support,” said Lilly.

“Of course,” I said, staring at the ceiling.

“No th-thanks needed,” said Hanako. “You’re our friend, Lilly.”

Lilly nodded, her unfocused gaze directed towards the floor. She took a deep breath. “I was wondering…if I could impose upon you…for one more favor.”

I frowned and gave Hanako a puzzled glance, uncertain as to what Lilly was asking for. But Hanako replied, “Of course, Lilly. You’ve done the same for me often enough.”

“Thank you,” Lilly whispered, and she stepped into the room, moving slowly towards the bed. Although she had the rest of the apartment thoroughly memorized, our bedroom was the room she was least familiar with.

As Hanako slid over in the bed, I realized what they meant. In the early days of attending university, Hanako had had some rough days, days where she was ready to call it quits and abandon everything. Several times, the three of us had ended up sleeping together, Hanako sandwiched in the middle, taking comfort and reassurance from our presence. We hadn’t had to do that in over a year, now, Hanako having come to realize her strengths and grown more assured as time went on.

And now Lilly, for the first time, was asking for that same comfort. It was hardly surprising that Hanako would want to return the favor, would want to support Lilly much as Lilly had supported her in the past. I was a little surprised that Hanako had simply agreed to Lilly’s request without asking me first—it’s my bed, too, after all—but it’s not as if I would have said no. She knew me well enough to know I would never turn Lilly away from us.

I stood up and placed a guiding hand on Lilly’s forearm (determinedly not glancing down at her chest), and lead her to our bed. She slipped into bed next to Hanako and wrapped her arms around her. As they embraced, I sat down on the bed next to them and realized that there could be certain…issues…that might come up with this arrangement.

It’s not about sex, it’s about comfort and friendship and love, the same as it’s always been, I scolded myself. But in the past, we’d always been holding Hanako between us. My lover, who was used to waking up in the morning being prodded by my…anatomy.

Now, I hesitated, blushing furiously, as I looked at Lilly’s lovely backside. It’s not about sex, it’s not about sex, but oh gods does she have a lovely ass. So soft and smooth and lush… The fact that her peach colored pajamas were almost flesh color, creating an illusion of nudity in the dim light of the bedside lamp, didn’t help matters any.

I shook myself and stood up again. “Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” I said. I hoped my voice wasn’t as squeaky as it sounded to me. I snagged a pair of underwear out of the dresser on my way to the bathroom. Maybe wearing underwear beneath my pajamas would provide another layer of insulation, help keep things a bit more restrained. I briefly considered masturbating just to cut down on the internal pressure, but, honestly, I wasn’t that horny just then, I was mostly worried about my morning wood.

I flushed the toilet to provided a cover story for my absence, washed my hands, and returned to the bedroom. Hanako and Lilly were giggling together as I entered the room. I paranoiacally wondered if they were giggling about me, and my blush returned. “What’s so funny?” I asked, in what I hoped was a casual tone of voice.

Their giggles ceased, but they were both smiling at me as I sat back down on the bed. Thankfully, Lilly was now under the covers, so she wasn’t providing me with any more distractions. Visual ones, anyway.

“We were just talking about what a gentleman you are, Hisao,” Lilly said.

I wasn’t sure why that should make me blush even more, but it did. “Um. Thank you? I guess?” I slipped under the covers next to Lilly and turned on my side, propping my head up on my elbow so I could see them both.

“It’s a g-good thing, Hisao,” said Hanako reassuringly.

I sighed, and decided to be direct. “I can be a gentleman. I’m more worried about…involuntary actions in my sleep.”

Lilly chuckled, and she reached out and found my shoulder, then my cheek, and patted it. Her hand drifted across my face as she “looked” at me for a moment. “I know that, Hisao. You’re always a gentleman. And don’t worry, I know men don’t have any control over their…responses while they sleep. I wouldn’t hold anything like that against you.”

Yeah, but what about when I’m holding it against you, I didn’t dare say out loud. Instead, I sighed, and nodded. “All right. I apologize in advance for any offense or embarrassment I might cause.”

“Would you rather Hanako sleep between us?” Lilly asked.

I shook my head, and for once, because of the position of her hand, she could read that reply. “No. This is for you. I’m sorry we’re getting distracted from that fact by my…biology.” Hanako and Lilly chuckled at that, and Lilly turned over again, wrapping an arm around Hanako. I hesitantly snuggled in a little bit behind her, and draped my arm across them both, my hand resting on Hanako’s shoulder. I gave her a squeeze, and she lifted her head to smile at me over the top of Lilly’s head. I smiled back and blew her a silent kiss.

Lilly gave a deep sigh, and I felt her relax into our embrace. I felt abashed that I had distracted us from comforting her with my own petty biological concerns.

“Good night, Lilly,” murmured Hanako. “We love you.”

“Good night. I love you too,” said Lilly.

“Sweet dreams,” I said. I did my best to ignore the scent of Lilly’s hair, and the soft, lush buttocks that my groin was mere centimeters away from. Some mental review of my physics homework was definitely in order.

Let’s see, quantum entanglement occurs when a pair of particles are generated or interact so that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other particle, even when they’re separated in space…



Far too soon, my alarm went off at its usual time for my morning run. I stretched an arm over my head to slap at the snooze button without opening my eyes. I groaned and wrapped my arm back around Hanako, my hand cupping her breast automatically as I pulled her close and rubbed my groin against her ass.

Hanako’s breasts…aren’t this large. Nor is her ass this soft, I fuzzily realized, then I opened my eyes to a mass of blonde hair filling my field of view. I was instantly awake as I recalled last night. I let go of Lilly’s breast and sat up, pulling away from her. I managed to refrain from cursing out loud at myself, hoping against hope that neither woman was awake. Lilly was not a morning person, so perhaps she had slept through the alarm?…

No such luck. As I sat up, I realized that I was now in the middle of the bed, between two sleepy but unfortunately awake women. I vaguely recalled Hanako getting up in the night to go to the bathroom; she must have just slipped back into bed next to me instead of trying to squeeze back in between Lilly and the wall. I silently cursed my luck—why couldn’t I have been facing Hanako when the alarm went off?

“Good morning, Hisao,” said Lilly, sounding sleepy and amused.

“Good morning, love,” said Hanako.

“Uh, g-good morning, uh, ladies” I replied automatically, my brain scrambling for something coherent to say. Fortunately, Lilly seemed to sense my embarrassment, and she took pity on me.

“Hisao, I told you I wouldn’t hold anything your sleeping body did against you,” she said, then yawned.

“Oh? And what d-did his sleeping body do?” asked Hanako, an impish smile playing across her lips. Lilly merely chuckled in response.

I groaned, and floundered out from under the covers, trying to leave as much of the other two covered as I could in the process. “I gotta run. Go on my run. Go back to sleep, I’ll see you in an hour or so. After my run,” I babbled at them as I pulled my winter running clothes out of the dresser. I had never been so glad that Lilly was blind, so I didn’t have to worry about hiding my morning erection from her. Hanako noticed, however, and smirked at me. I gave her an embarrassed shrug, then bolted for the bathroom, closing the door behind me on a pair of sleepy giggles.

Well. That could have gone better. But I guess it could have gone worse. Hanako’s reaction certainly could have been worse. I was relieved that she could find the whole thing amusing—even a year ago, she probably would have been too insecure about me waking up next to Lilly like that to find any humor in the situation. I was grateful that she was finally as fully certain of my love as I was of hers.



A little over an hour, and about seven kilometers later, I returned to the apartment, quietly closing the door so as to not wake anyone. As I sat down to take off my running shoes, I realized I needn’t have worried, as I could hear both women talking in the bathroom. I headed to the kitchen nook to make my morning coffee, and heat some water for Lilly’s and Hanako’s tea.

A few minutes later, they emerged, dressed for the day. I glanced at the combined schedule we’d posted on the refrigerator door—we all had morning classes today. I headed for the now empty bathroom, giving Hanako a quick kiss in passing.

What with the rush to get to class in the morning, we didn’t really have much time to talk, although I was relieved that there didn’t seem to be any lingering awkwardness among us. It wasn’t as if the three of us hadn’t slept together before, after all. Though it was the first time I’d gotten, shall we say, handsy with Lilly. But she seemed to be staying true to her word not to hold anything I did in my sleeping (or half-awake) state against me.

Well, she may not have held anything against me, but I still felt a little guilty about it. I’d have to address that with her—them—soon.

Hanako’s classes ended before mine that day, so she was already back at the apartment when I returned in the middle of the afternoon.

She was curled up at the end of the couch, looking relaxed and reading. “Hi, Hisao,” she said, looking up from her book. It looked to be recreational reading, not a text book.

“Hello, beautiful,” I replied. She still blushed a little when I called her that, but at least she smiled while she did so. I bent down to give her a kiss on my way to the kitchen, where I scrounged up a late lunch of leftovers.

I sat down on the couch next to her, bowl and chopsticks in hand, and downed some cold noodles with chicken and broccoli. Hanako leaned against my shoulder as she continued to read. I watched her out of the corner of my eye as I ate. She caught my eye at one point, and smiled briefly at me before returning to her book.

So much of Hanako’s and my relationship is non-verbal, that an outside observer watching our apartment might think that only Lilly and I, or Lilly and Hanako, ever communicated. But they’d be missing on all the little touches, the shy smiles, the quick glances that mean so much to us. We’ve certainly done our share of talking—hashing out boundaries, figuring out how to live together without driving each other crazy, simply saying “I love you” in a dozen different ways—but at the end of the day, we’re both pretty introverted people. We’re happy with sharing a friendly silence, and we know and appreciate that about each other.

But still, some things need to be addressed verbally. I didn’t want anything to fester between us, and I was feeling guilty about how I’d woken up that morning. After I finished my lunch, I set the bowl down on the table in front of the couch and put an arm around Hanako. I gave her a squeeze, and she lowered her book, giving me an inquisitive look.

“Ah…about this morning,” I began hesitantly.

She arched an eyebrow at me and I saw a little gleam of a smile in her eyes that didn’t quite reach her lips. “Yes? What about it?”

I sighed. She wasn’t going to make this easy for me. “I…was only half-awake after the alarm went off, and I…um…” I petered out, unsure as to just how much she had witnessed, or intuited, or how much Lilly had said to her.

Her lips twitched in a barely repressed grin. “You g-got a handful of…Lilly boob?”

“Gah!” I buried my reddening face in my hands. “Yeah. That. I’m sorry, it was an accident, I’m sorry, I thought it was you next to me, I didn’t realize, I mean, I’d never—“

Hanako pulled my hands away from my face and placed a finger over my lips to shut off my babbling. I looked down at her. Her grin had melted into a fond smile. “Hisao,” she said chidingly. “I know how you wake up in the morning. I also know you w-wouldn’t have done anything like th-that if you’d been fully awake. Like Lilly said, you’re always a gentleman.”

I smiled nervously back at her. Gentleman. Right. “Yeah, but…I also…I, um…I kinda rubbed myself against her butt,” I blurted out as quickly as I could, before losing my nerve.

At that she actually giggled. “Didn’t I j-just say I know how you wake up in the morning? You d-do that to me almost every morning before stumbling out of bed.”

I blinked, surprised by both her reaction and her revelation. “Uh. I do?” I said blankly.

She kept giggling. I felt a profound sense of relief that she was taking this so much better than I’d feared. “Yes. You do,” she confirmed.


Her smile turned slyly playful. “Was it at least a nice boob and butt to wake up to?”

Hanako!” I had thought I couldn’t get any hotter under the collar. I had been wrong.

She giggled. “You’re too much fun t-to tease.”

I glowered at her, torn between relief that she wasn’t upset by anything I’d said or done, and exasperation at being teased. Eventually, relief won out, and I began to chuckle along with her. I gave her a kiss. “I love you. Even if you are a mean, mean woman who teases me mercilessly.”

That provoked another giggle. “And I love you, too. B-but you still haven’t answered my question.”

I stared at her blankly. “Question?”

“Was it a nice b-boob and butt?”

I groaned. “Seriously? This is Lilly we’re talking about. I don’t want to think about her that way.”

“Hmm.” She looked thoughtful. “Don’t want to think about her that way isn’t the s-same thing as not thinking about her that way.”

I gave her a puzzled look. “Are you…trying to start a fight? What is this line of questioning about?”

Hanako shook her head and gave me a kiss. “N-not a fight. No. I’m just…curious.”

I stared at her for a few moments, bemused by this response. Eventually, I realized what I could say. “She has beautiful large breasts and, and, nicely rounded buttocks. As you put it.” She laughed at my quoting her back at herself. I bent down to kiss the left side of her neck, where she’s most sensitive. “But she’s not as lovely as you.”

She gasped a little at the kiss, then brought a hand up to run through my hair. “Flatterer.”

I shook my head and kissed her again, this time lingering a little bit. “No. The honest truth.” I pulled back to gaze into her lovely violet eyes, so she could see the truth. Lilly was lovely, true, but Hanako was the most beautiful woman in the world to me.

The teasing smile on her face faded into an affectionate one, and she shook her head a little. “What did I ever d-do to deserve you?” she said wonderingly.

I chuckled. “Well, you were patient with a depressive ass at a time when he needed you most, for starters.” I brushed her hair back behind her ears, so I could see her full face. The face of the woman that I loved so much.

“It was only fair, given how p-patient you were with me.”

“So, are you saying that we deserve each other?”

Her smile grew broader. “Yes. I believe we do.” She raised her face for another kiss, and I happily obliged. At length.

A couple of minutes later, we came up for air, and Hanako observed, “You know, Lilly has class until six o’clock tonight.”

I thought about the paper I had due Thursday. Then I shoved that thought ruthlessly aside and smiled. One must have priorities, after all. “Really?”


“Hmm. So, if we have the apartment to ourselves for the next three and a half hours…” I put a thoughtful expression on my face, then snapped my fingers. “I know! We can alphabetize the bookshelves.”

Hanako leaned in close to me, and, despite the fact that there was no one around to overhear her, she whispered into my ear, “Or, you can take me to bed and try to make me scream.”

Her words and hot breath on my ear produced an immediate rush of heat throughout my body, and my pants suddenly felt tighter. I melodramatically clapped a hand to my chest and said, “Are you trying to kill me, dear?”

She chuckled. “No. I’m trying to make sure your heart gets a proper workout, so I can keep you around longer.”

“Ah. Well, in that case…” I stood up and pulled her to her feet with me. “I’m all in favor of a proper workout regimen. Lead on.” I followed her to the bedroom, admiring the way her hips swayed as she walked.

And, for the record, I did succeed in making her scream.