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To emanate feelings or qualities through expression or bearing.

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“Retsuko, I can’t do anything if you keep your legs closed.”

She opened her knees a scant two inches, staring straight up at the ceiling.

Laughter, from the direction of her feet.

“No, honey, all the way. I’ll tell you before I start touching you, okay?”

Retsuko let out a nervous hum, and felt a gentle hand on her knee.

“I know this is your first time doing this, but don’t be nervous. There might be some discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful. But if it gets to be too much, just tell me and I’ll stop immediately, alright?”

“Okay...”

Retsuko took a big breath, exhaled, and let her knees fall open, spreading her legs wide and pressing her feet into the cold metal stirrups. Her doctor lightly nudged her knees still a bit farther apart.

“Okay, Retsuko. Big breath for me..”

A nurse stood by her left side and smiled comfortingly. She adjusted the sheet draped over Retsuko's bottom half and gave her a hand to hold when she saw Retsuko scratching at the paper on the table.

Retsuko swallowed hard, and listened carefully to the doctor’s voice “…feel some pressure, and possibly some pinching.”

“Okay…” Retsuko tensed up as the examination began, not liking being so exposed and the foreign sensation of what was happening down below. The nurse patted her shoulder comfortingly, Retsuko let out a tiny grunt, and then…

“Okay, all finished!”

The nurse helped her get her feet down and sit up. Retsuko gratefully crossed her legs tightly at the ankle, pulled the flimsy gown tighter over her chest.

“Everything looks healthy and normal to me, but we’ll let you know if there are any abnormal results from the pap smear. Do you have any other health concerns you’d like to discuss, or any questions for me?”

“Ah, yes, actually.” Retsuko paused a minute. Her doctor looked at her while the nurse bustled around in the background, cleaning things up.

“I wanted to talk about…birth control.”

The doctor nodded, but then surprised Retsuko by giving her a little wink.

“Boyfriend?”

“Ah, yes.”

“Cute?”

“Doctor Hiraoka!” Retsuko blushed and started laughing.

“Sorry, sorry,” Her doctor laughed with her, and refocused the conversation. “Did you have a particular type in mind?”

“I was thinking the pill, maybe? Or something like that.”

“So, something hormonal? I can go over your options with you.”

---

“We’re going to end up in an accident one of these days,” Retsuko said, after Tadano had finished kissing her again.

They were strolling along the river, her arm around his waist and his arm around her shoulders. They appeared very relaxed for two people who had just narrowly avoided being run down by an unseen cyclist because their faces were stuck together.

He smiled down at her.

“I mean it.” She smiled back. “We’re going to get ourselves killed if we don’t pay attention.”

“That would be annoying,” He leaned down to press another kiss to her mouth, “but at least I would die happy.”

He started to lean down again when Retsuko saw something out of the corner of her eyes and yanked them both over to the left along the railings.

Seconds later, a large group of young children on skateboards came flying by, screaming with laughter.

“Woah…” Retsuko pressed into Tadano’s side, as she watched the stragglers of the group rush by to catch up with the rest.

When they could see the last child was a fair distance away, the two of them began to move back onto the walkway, only to narrowly avoid colliding into a harried looking mother dragging a toddler along with one hand and pushing a stroller with the other.

She glared at the two of them, pulled her toddler up on her hip and very deliberately took an arcing path around as she stalked by. Retsuko called out a “Sorry!” after her, but didn’t get a response.

“Oops. Oh, well.” Restuko made a face and turned back to Tadano, who looked completely unbothered.

He gestured to a vendor set up in the park a short ways away.

“Do you want some ice cream?”

“Yes!”

He laced their fingers together, and pulled her along. Retsuko swung their arms back and forth a bit. It was a beautiful spring day; cool, sunny, breezy with a flawless blue sky up above. And when she glanced around, she could see that she and Tadano were one of many, many couples on a date in the park that day.

They passed a teenage rat and gecko, pressed together on a bench and giggling over something on one of their phones. A bit further away, a matched pair of orangutans were having a picnic on a brightly colored blanket.

Retsuko observed the other couples as they walked by, and shot a quick look at Tadano. Her boyfriend. Hers. She ducked her head, smiling.

She felt her hand being squeezed. “What are you thinking about, Retsy?”

She just squeezed back.

He bought them each an ice cream. As she was handed hers, Retsuko saw a group getting up off a bench over near the water, and nudged Tadano.

He paid the teenager running the stand more than he needed to, and the two of them took off running down the slight incline of the green grass. They narrowly beat out at least four other groups converging in on the seat, and were snorting in laughter at the disgruntled looks they were getting as they threw themselves down.

Time passed in a happy haze sitting the warm sun. Before she had even finished her ice cream, Tadano had moved to lay down to the bench with his head pillowed in her lap, his cup of chocolate melting and forgotten on the ground. She used her free hand to stroke the soft tuft of hair on his head, while he told her his most recent business trip.

“And was your hotel nice?” Retsuko licked some ice cream off her finger.

“Yup. Real fancy. You’re treated like royalty when people want something from you. I was in meetings almost the whole time, but I can’t complain. That was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in.”

“You’ll sleep anywhere, Tadano.” Retsuko smiled down at him. “But I’m glad you’re back.”

Tadano had closed his eyes when he finished speaking, and didn’t respond to her last comment. For a minute Retsuko though he had genuinely fallen asleep, but then he slowly opened them again, his expression turning slightly guilty.

“Yeah, about that.” He paused for a second. “I have to leave again this Friday.”

She gaped at him. “Tadano, seriously?”

Tadano gave Retsuko an appropriately contrite smile, but she couldn’t help the frown that appeared on her face.

“You just got back two days ago. And you were gone for a week before that! I feel like I’ve barely seen you at all this month!”

“Retsy, I’m sorry. ENI-O chose these companies for me, so I can’t just ignore the potential opportunities. I’ll do my best to make up for lost time before I leave again, though.”

He cupped a hand on the back of her head to pull her down a bit while he leaned up. They stayed like that until a jogger wolf-whistled as he went by. Retsuko broke off from Tadano and glared, wishing the jogger would turn back around so she could give him the finger.

When she looked back down at the face in her lap, she raised her eyebrows at bit at the pensive look on Tadano’s face. He lightly touched her cheek, her nose, and then cupped her face in his hand. She closed her eyes and leaned into the touch.

“Actually, why don’t you just come with me?”

Her eyes flew open.

“What?”

“You should just come with me!” Tadano pushed himself up so he was sitting next to her again.

She stared up at him. “But you just said that you were in meetings the whole time on your last trip. Why would you want me there?”

“I do need to go down there to speak with each of the company representatives, but these meetings won’t be as involved as the last ones. I’ll make sure I’m done by early evening at the latest, so we can have some time together.”

Retsuko looked at him, head tilted slightly.

“And while I’m busy, the hotel has a spa…I don’t know if you like that kind of thing. And a pool, if you want to go swimming.”

“Well, I-“

“There are some restaurants in the area I’d like to take you to. And even if my meetings ran long, we’d still be together at night.” Tadano paused a bit at that last sentence. ”I’d really like to spend the night with you, Retsy.”

She could feel her pulse jump, and there was a little tremor in her voice as she said, “We’ve spent the night together dozens of times.”

He smiled at her and took her free hand. He had the look on his face that appeared when he thought she was doing something particularly endearing, and his voice dropped a little as he said. “Yeah, we have. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about making love with you.”

She tried to say something, and realized her mouth had disconnected from her brain.

“I know you said a few months ago that you wanted to take it slow, but I was wondering how you are feeling about things now?” Tadano was watching her face closely.

She looked past his face out to the water and quickly thought back to her doctor’s appointment, feeling a fluttery knot form in her stomach.

“I mean, I would still want you to come even if you said no.” He started to seem anxious at her silence. “And I would never do something you didn’t want me to. It’s just,” he broke off and gave her a quick look up and down and blushed, “well, I love being with you, and I’d like to-.”

His words were starting to become a bit jumbled, way out of line with his normal poise. She felt a large surge of affection, and the tension in her stomach that had come on so suddenly loosened a bit. Retsuko took a deep breath, and squeezed his hand.

“Okay.”

Tadano trailed off mid sentence.

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Okay, to...?”

“I’d love to come with you and… spend the night together.”

His face lit up brighter than she had ever seen it. He rubbed the back of his head, and beamed.

“Okay, awesome! I’ll…umm…text you the details later tonight. We’ll need to leave Friday afternoon. I’ll fly us down there. “

Retsuko nodded. “I’ll take that Friday off work, then.” A nervous giggle escaped her. “I’ll call in sick if I have to.”

---

“Shall we do karaoke this Friday night?” Gori had a glass of red wine in hand as she looked over the appetizers they had ordered.

“Yes, Retsuko, I know you haven’t been there for a while, right?” Washimi dipped a piece of bread into the dish of olive oil and looked across the table.

Retsuko was staring down into her beer, expression vacant, fingers drumming against her knees.

“Retsuko?”

She snapped her head up and said, loudly, “What?”

Washimi and Gori exchanged glances. Gori cleared her throat and repeated the question.

“Karaoke this Friday? Yes? No?”

“Oh, I can’t. I have plans with Tadano.”

Washimi hummed in acknowledgment. Gori looked put out for a second, but almost immediately bounced back.

“Saturday night, then?”

Retsuko took a large gulp of her beer.

“Umm, no. I’ll still be with Tadano.”

“Still?” Washimi latched on to that one word. She put her drink down and leaned forward, looking at Retsuko with interest. Gori crossed her legs and tapped a finger against her lips.

Retsuko hesitated, and chose to down the rest of her beer in lieu of answering. Then she stared into the bottom of the glass, while both her friends looked at her, waiting for her response.

Retsuko half contemplated grabbing Washimi’s cocktail and knocking that back as well, but Washimi had picked it back up and started sipping again while she pondered her friend’s silence.

“So, what are the two of you doing, then?”

“He needs to go on another business trip this weekend.” Retsuko stared hard at her empty glass, willing it to magically fill back up. “…and he asked me to go with him. So, I’m going” She smiled as she said it, but it felt a little forced.

Somehow, Washimi’s expressionless face seemed to grow sharper, while Gori had her fists bunched up under her face and you could practically see the little hearts flying everywhere.

“Retsuko, that’s so romantic!” Gori was wiggling around in her seat. Washimi just tapped her finger against her glass.

Feeling encouraged by Gori’s reaction, Retsuko shyly elaborated a bit.

“He’s been traveling a lot lately, so we haven’t been able to spend much time together.” A waiter came by with a fresh glass of beer, and Retsuko gratefully pulled it in front of her. “So, yesterday he asked if I wanted to come with him, and-“ Retsuko stopped to take a bite of bread, “I thought it would be fun, so I said yes.”

“From what you’ve told me about Tadano’s business dealings, it sounds like he’ll be occupied most of the time. Will you be okay just being on your own the whole time?”

Retsuko shook her head at Washimi. “No, this place is supposed to be really nice. I looked it up online, and it’s beautiful. You should see the rooms. It’s fancier than anywhere I’ve ever stayed before. I’d be happy swimming all day, honestly, they have this huge pool. And a spa, which I might check out. And besides, Tadano said he really just wants to spend the night there with me anyway.”

The second that last sentence left her mouth, Retsuko bit her tongue and glared down into her third glass of beer that night, like she wanted to blame the liquid for her poor choice in wording.

Washimi and Gori’s quickly turned to look at each other again, and then together they looked back to Retsuko and made a cooing noise highly reminiscent of group of middle school girls.

“This is the first time you’ve ever gone away with him, Retsuko?” Washimi asked when they had finished, while Gori pulled out her phone and began searching for something with a look of great determination.

Retsuko nodded, and Washimi hummed in acknowledgment.

“First time taking a…trip…with a boyfriend at all?”

“Washimi!” Retsuko blushed, glancing around her at the busy restaurant. No one spared them a glance, but Retsuko’s face still grew redder as she turned back to her friend with an accusing expression.

Washimi voice was a little reproachful and very interested “Retsuko, no one is listening to us. So, your first time, then?”

The double entendre was too much. This time Retsuko did snatch up the rest of Washimi’s Old Fashioned, and tossed it back a practiced wrist. Then she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, set the empty glass down on the table, and said quietly, “Yes.”

Washimi began to say something else, but then Gori made a pleased noise and they both turned to look at her. She leaned over to her friend, turned her phone slightly at an angle so Washimi could see it.

Retsuko stared at them. “What?”

“Do you have plans after work this Wednesday, Retsuko?” Gori asked.

Retsuko thought for a minute. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Well, good. Tadano can’t have you all the time.” Gori smiled, her face very rosy. “Let’s all go shopping, get you some things for your trip.”

“I already have a swim suit…I can’t think of anything else special I’ll need to buy…maybe a new dress or something?”

Gori grinned and slide her phone across that table. Retsuko picked it up, peered at the images on the screen, and recoiled. She almost slammed the phone on the table, screen down and gaped at Gori.

“No. Just, no.”

“Yes, Retsuko, why not?”

“I can’t-… He wouldn’t-…I can’t wear-…”

“Of course you can! He’d love it! And you’ll look so cute!”

“It can’t hurt to look.” Washimi was chiming in now with an amused tone, clearly taking her cues from Gori. “And if you’re going to get something like this, its better if you try them on there in the store.”

“How about we head out from work together Wednesday around 6pm. We can go to the Matsuya department stores.”

“6 pm works for me.” Washimi had her own phone out, checking her calendar.

Retsuko looked from one to the other in disbelief.

“I didn’t agree to anything, you know,” but the other two were already too engrossed in their conversation for her small objection to break through.

Retsuko slumped in her seat, and looked back down at Gori’s phone. She gingerly picked it up, scanned the images again, and bit her lip, feeling the fluttering in her stomach reach down to her toes.

“Well…I guess it couldn’t hurt to look, right?”

---

Retsuko didn’t even make it past the store entrance before she tried to turn around.

“Nope, can’t do it. I’ll be looking at nail polish in the cosmetics department when the two of you are done.”

Instantly, her friends converged in on her, took an arm and marched her into the soft, warm lighting.

Retsuko looked left and right, and when her friends finally let her go, she stood rooted into the ground while the two of them dove right in

It took another minute for the black to recede from the edges of her vision, and another for her to began tentatively wandering around a bit. She absentmindedly noted how the store even smelled fancy and expensive, and reached out to stroke the lacy trim on a particularly beautiful dark teal bra. She was about to pick it up to inspect further, when Gori reappeared.

“No.”

“Huh?” Retsuko turned around.

“Not your color.” Gori delivered that statement with assurance, and then held up a matched set of something black. And skimpy.

“…Retsuko. What do you think?”

She thought she was horrified. It didn’t help when Gori sashayed over to let Retsuko take a closer look, and watched as Retsuko picked up the panties by the tips of her fingers to inspect them. Not that there was much to inspect.

“I-“

“You have to try them on!” Gori cut across whatever Retsuko was going to say and then Washimi was there with a few items of her own choice.

“You might like these ones, Retsuko.”

Retsuko cleared her throat and looked down at the pieces of fabric she was suddenly holding, and back up at her friend’s eager faces. She rubbed her forehead, and forced herself to think about why she was here, and tried to match her friend’s enthusiasm.“Yeah, sure! Why not?” Her face hurt from the smile she had on, but she was determined to keep it there. In for a penny, in for a pound. “I also like the pink set over there…” She drifted over to the display as she said it, began searching for her size.

“Lovely.”

“With the little bows! Retsuko, that one suits you so well.”

“Yeah…” Retsuko paused. “I think that’s enough for now. I guess I’ll go try these ones on, then…”

She craned her head, looking for the dressing rooms, and took off in that direction, looking over her shoulder one last time before she disappeared around the corner. Gori was holding a blue push up bra to her chest, and Washimi was nodding.

As soon as the she had the door locked behind her, Retsuko dropped the lingerie along with her smile and dug her thumbs into her cheeks to help the cramps.

She turned to look at her flushed face in the mirror, and started to undress, carefully folding up her clothes and setting them down on the chair. She rubbed her forehead again, eyes flickering over her options, and decided to start with the black.

The bra she got on just fine, even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable. But the panties…

Retsuko held the garment up with the same trepidation that she did before. She pictured walking out to face Tadano wearing it, and…

“Absolutely not. Nope, can’t do it. Not happening.”

She lobbed them in corner and unhooked the matching bra, flinging that in the corner as well. She put her hands on her hips, surveying her remaining choices, and the slightly nervous knot she had in her stomach for days tightened to the point of discomfort.

She made herself try on the pale blue teddy, and a matched white lace bra and boy shorts, but as she twisted around, and viewed herself from all angles in the mirror, she just started feeling more and more anxious.

The last of the lingerie she was the pink set she had picked out herself. She wiggled into it, and frowned into the mirror, adjusted the straps of the bra so her breasts were pushed up higher. She actually found it lovely, the style suited her, and the color looked beautiful on her. But…

She shook her head hard. And gently took both pieces off. Started putting on her things back on.

“Retsuko?” Her friends’ voices came from outside the dressing room door.

Retsuko slipped her skirt on and buttoned it at the waist.

“…Do you like any of them?”

She pulled her shirt over her head, slipped one arm into her jacket.

“Retsuko?”

She got the other arm in, and picked up her purse. She took a deep breath.

“Nope!”

As she said it, she slammed open the door to the dressing room. Gori and Washimi had to jump back to avoid being hit as Retsuko barreled through them on her way to the exit.

Her friend’s concerned voices rang out behind her, but Retsuko didn’t stop until she was well outside the door and spun around to stare at the mannequins dotting the display window.

When friends caught up with her, she didn’t even give them chance to say anything before starting in.

“I can’t do it. I’m nervous enough about this as it is. I can’t walk out and face him wearing-“ Retsuko waved a hand toward a mannequin in a white corset “-that. I can’t.”

Washimi touched her shoulder, and Retsuko felt her lip tremble. Gori just looked upset, crossing her arms tightly over her chest.

“Retsuko.”

Retsuko turned her head towards Washimi a bit, not meeting her eye.

“You know better than anyone else what you are comfortable with. If you aren’t ready for this kind of thing, then you aren’t. You don’t have to force yourself, or justify anything to us.”

Retsuko gave an almost imperceptible little nod, and glanced at Gori who was holding a tissue to the corner of her eye, so as not mess up her mascara.

“I just thought this would be a fun way to bond.” She blew her nose. “I didn’t mean to make you this upset.”

Retsuko swallowed against the lump in her throat, feeling a bit better but also embarrassed and slightly guilty at her friend’s tearful expression.

“Well, maybe we can go somewhere else? I think Tadano said we’d be going to a few fancy restaurants. Maybe we could just find me a dress or something?”

She gave Gori a watery smile, and got one in return.

“Remember that one place we saw when we walked down here, with the blue jacket in the window? They looked like they had some nice things. How about we go back there?”

“Actually, Retsuko?” Gori and Retsuko turned to look at Washimi. “I think I might have an idea, if you’re not comfortable with actual lingerie.”

“Well…”

“Nothing like this, trust me.” Washimi took in Retsuko’s wary expression. “And we’ll just look. We can go somewhere else if you start to feel uncomfortable again. But it might make you feel better about taking this step if you to have something pretty to wear that first night.”

Retsuko sighed. “I’m going to need a drink after all this but-” she inhaled and exhaled slowly and deeply “-okay. Sure. Why not.”

Her phone went off in her purse. She pulled it out, looked at the caller id, held up a finger to tell her friends to wait a minute. She walked a few steps away before answering.

“Hey!”

“Hey, Retsy.”

She glanced down at her friends, who were having a quiet conversation while shooting non-discreet glances over at her.

“What’s up?”

“Nothing much. I was just calling to talk more about this Friday.”

“Yeah? What about?” She thought back to all the details they had already covered. “Did you forget something?”

“Well…kind of” He sounded a bit hesitant. “Nothing serious, just something I remembered we needed to go over. Do you have some time to talk?”

“Actually,” Retsuko glanced behind her again, “I’m out with my friends right now. Can I call you when I get home in a few hours? Is that too late?”

“No,” His tone evened out again. “I have some work to finish up, so I won’t be going to bed for a while. But, there are a bunch of other things I’ll be rushing to finish before Friday, and I need to focus. So I really want to talk to you tonight.”

Retsuko raised her eyebrows. “Is something wrong?”

“No, of course not, don’t worry.” He laughed a little. “Just call me whenever you get home, no matter how late.”

“Sure, okay.”

“So, what are you guys doing?”

Retsuko eyed another mannequin flaunting the very same black thong she couldn’t bring herself to try on.

“Oh, nothing much.”

---

She didn’t get home until after 10 pm, with a couple shopping bags clutched in her hand. The night had ended in a few overpriced cocktails each, which she had welcomed. The incredibly frank girl talk that accompanied the three rounds they did, not so much, but it did include some very practical advice, which Retsuko was still mulling over as she unlocked her door and flipped on the light.

She kicked off her shoes and pitched face down on her bed. She stayed that way until the lack of air forced her to push herself back up, and felt a headache coming on.

She pulled her phone out, thumb hovering over the call button, and decided Tadano could wait until she had washed off the events of the day and drank a few gallons of water.

Half an hour later, showered and hopefully hydrated enough to stave off the worst of a hangover, Retsuko sat crossed legged on her bed with her phone to her ear.

“Yeah?” Tadano picked up on the first ring, his voice a bit snappish.

Retsuko blinked “Umm, hey, it’s me. Is this still a good time?”

“Oh…oh hey Retsy! Sorry, just trying to figure something out here…” It sounded like he was pounding on his keyboard. Then she heard his chair squeak, and then his normal pace of typing resume.

She waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t, she reminded him “So, what did you need to talk about?”

“Oh, right! Ok…”

His voice trailed off, and she waited, biting on a lose nail, listening to the muffled sound of ENI-O saying something in the background. She could feel her eyes getting heavy when he finally came back on the line.

“Sorry about that. So, what I want to talk to you about. . I thought we should each go over our histories, any significant details. Just in case there is anything we need to discuss.”

“My…history?” She looked longingly at her pillow, wanting to crawl under her covers.

She heard him shuffling some papers in the background. “Sexual history. Past partners, any particular boundaries you have, that kind of thing. Any important details.”

Suddenly, she wasn’t sleepy anymore. She slid so she was sitting on the edge of the bed. “Oh…yes… of course we should talk about… that! Sure!” She paused, and then, “You can go first!”

“So, I’ve been with three previous partners. A few months after my last relationship was over, I made an appointment to get everything checked out, and I tested completely clean. Also wanted to reiterate that you should tell me if I do something that you’re not comfortable with, at any point.”

Retsuko nodded, and then realized he wouldn’t be able to see her.

“Okay, sure…great…good.” Was her voice always that high pitched?

“Retsy?” She jerked back to reality, realizing she hadn’t said anything for a bit.

“What?”

She heard him exhale, and his voice was slightly amused as he prompted her.

“Do you have anything we need to talk about?”

Her answer came out a little too quick. “Ummm, nope.”

“Uh, nothing? You don’t to go into a lot of detail here, I’m not going to judge you for anything, Retsy. I just need to know if there is anything I should be aware of.”

“Actually, the thing is…”

“Yes?”

“I…there really is nothing to tell.”

“Retsy-“

“Nothing to tell, because I have no history, because I have no past partners, never had sex or done anything close to it ok I think that covers it.” By the end of the sentence she was talking so fast she could barely understand herself, and had to slap a hand over her mouth to make herself stop.

The silence on the other end of the line stretched on for so long Retsuko actually checked her phone to make sure the call was still connected.

Then, “Retsy-“

“I’m on the pill, though!” Came bursting out of her mouth next, cutting off whatever he was going to say. She wanted to slam her head into the wall.

More, quiet, and then-

“Okay, got it, thanks.” He was abruptly back, and there was a strange inflection in voice she couldn’t pin down.

He continued as she tried to figure out what she was hearing in his tone. “So, then I guess I’ll see you on Friday, then? I’ll be there to pick you up at 2 pm, liked we talked about.”

His voice was getting so tight she was getting a bit concerned. “Tadano, what-“

“Gotta go now! See you then, Retsy.” And he was gone.

She looked at her phone, and around her empty apartment.

“Ok…”

---

Retsuko was almost finished packing about an hour before she had to leave. Each garment received one last careful examination before she tossed it her suitcase, felt badly about just tossing it in, and took it out to carefully refold and gently pat on top of the pile.

By the time she had finished, she actually felt proud of the neatly organized contents of her suitcase. She ran her fingers over a particular pink and silky article, smiled a little, and zipped everything up.

Right on the hour, Tadano texted her to say he was outside. She checked her reflection in the mirror one last time, grabbed her bags, and went down to meet him.

---

A few hours later, Retsuko was taking in the entirety of the lobby while Tadano finished checking them in. She looked back for another glance as they were following the porter and their luggage down the long hallway to their room, and then listened as Tadano asked some questions about local attractions and restaurants.

The two of them were still talking as they got the door to the room open, and Retsuko left them standing in the doorway as she went further in.

“Is this in apartment or a hotel room?” she muttered to herself, but also stopped to appreciate the view of the skyline through the picture windows.

A few more turns took her to the bathroom, what appeared to be a dressing room, and then the bedroom. She stopped on the threshold to survey the space.

She stood there unmoving until a hand on her shoulder made her jump. She spun around and gave Tadano a reproachful look, but he didn’t even notice, striding past her into the room and spinning back around with his arms spread.

“So, what do you think?”

“It’s wonderful, really nice…” She walked a bit into the room, noting the mountain of pillows on the king size bed.

He took a step towards her. “Did you see the view out there?”

“Yup.” She took a step back to keep a little space between them.

“There’s a popular shopping district a short walk away from the hotel, if you want to go check it out.” He kept pressing towards her as he gestured.

She backed up a little more, and the backs of thighs bumped into the bed. She quickly push herself off and moved so she was standing to the side of it instead.

“Retsy…”

She started a little for no reason, looked down at his shoes. “Yeah?”

“You know I’m not just going to jump on you, right?” He was right in front of her, touching her shoulder.

The absurdity of that comment made her relax bit. She looked up at him. “Yeah, I know. But, maybe you could? It might make this easier for me.”

She had meant it in jest. But the instant the words left her mouth, his pupils shrunk to pinpoints, and then dilated so far that his eyes looked completely black. He pulled her against him, and when he leaned down to kiss her, it was slow and lazy but the intensity made her toes curl. She dug her fingers in his suit jacket, and his hands drifted up to slip beneath her shirt and press hard against her back.

They were five kisses deep when Tadano’s cell phone went off, loud and obnoxious, and completely ruining the moment.

He pulled his mouth away from her and groaned loudly into her shoulder, while she clutched at him, feeling wildly off-kilter.

Without lifting his head, he pulled out cell phone and put it to his ear.

“Tadano here.”

Retsuko could here the tinny voice coming out of the phone, and then Tadano pulled away with a big sigh, and walked a few stepped to the door, back to her.

He grunted in response to whatever the other party was telling him, listened a bit more, made a noise of assent, and gave a goodbye that was rather curt.

He turned back to her with an apologetic smile, and shoved the phone back in his pocket. His eyes were still blown wide, and he took a few seconds to readjust his clothes.

“So, uh, Retsy. Looks like things are getting started right now. They need me down there…”

“Yeah, sure. Of course.” She touched her lips. “That’s what you came here to do, right?”

“I’d rather be doing you…”

Retsuko’s ears twitched forward. “What?”

“Ah…” His ears went flat for a second and than popped up again. “I’d said I’d rather be up here with you,” and quickly ducked into the bathroom.

He came out in less than minute, looking fully presentable and professional. She followed him to the door, and watched as he grabbed a few things from his luggage, his hotel key, and went to the door.

“I should be done in a few hours, maybe around 8 or 9? I’ll text you if I’m going to be later than that.”

“Sure.”

He gave her a little wave, and then the door shut.

Retsuko twisted her hands together, and walked back over to look out the windows again. She took a few minutes to drag her main piece of luggage into the bedroom, dropped off a few small bags in the bathroom, and wandered around the room a few times, getting used to the layout.

She ended up back in the bedroom, and walked up to the bed, touching the thick comforter, and then running her hand a little more firmly over the material, lost in thought.

“So…” She said aloud, and looked away from the bed, and pulled out her phone.

“Oh, they have an indoor and outdoor pool here…”

---

It was three texts later and 11pm when she finally heard the door open, and looked over the arm of the couch while a repeat of a reality cooking competition flickered on the TV.

Tadano came into view, already loosening his tie. He kicked the door shut, and tossed his bag on a chair with a big sigh, along with a folder full of papers that spilled a bit as it hit the cushion.

“Hey, Retsy.”

He undid his tie and tossed it over his shoulder as he came and sat down by her feet. Retsuko watched him sink into the cushions with relief.

“Hey, yourself.”

She slid down until she could stick her feet in his lap, and he automatically began tracing his fingers up and down the top of her foot.

“You look tired.”

“Eh, I’m more bored than anything. Let’s just say we didn’t exactly cover anything…illuminating tonight. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a bit better.”

She nodded. His hand moved a bit higher, under her bathrobe, tracing the shape of her knee.

“So what have you been doing since I left?”

“Swimming. And watching TV.”

He nodded. “Are you hungry?”

“Not really. You?”

“No.”

The both looked at each other, the room quiet expect for the soft dialogue coming from the TV. Tadano slide his hand back down to her ankle.

“So, my next meeting was supposed to be at 10 am tomorrow, but they needed to push it up to 8 am due to some sort of scheduling conflict. So, I think I’m going to head to bed now, so I won’t be falling asleep in the meeting.

Retsuko nodded, looking down. His touch was feather light on her leg.

“Yeah. I’ll be in, in a minute.” She felt him push off the couch and when she was sure his back was to her, watched him disappear around the corner. Once she heard the soft click of the bedroom door, she slowly got to her feet, and drew in a shaky breath.

She turned the TV off and stood motionless in the quiet room for a minute or two. Her legs felt a bit rubbery as she headed towards the closed door, barely touched the knob, and then hastily made a detour into the bathroom.

She leaned heavily on the counter, met her own wide-eyed gaze in the mirror and started undoing the ties to her bathrobe. After shucking it onto the counter, she inhaled hard through her nose and gave herself one last look over.

The pink nightshirt was just as pretty as she remembered, long enough to hit her knees but still sporting an abundant low neckline, and sheer enough to see a hint of her figure as she moved.

She twisted around a few times, swallowed hard, and straightened her shoulders. Before she lost her nerve, she strode out of the bathroom. Her bare feet were silent on the soft carpet as she made her way back to the bedroom door, and put a light hand on the doorknob.

“Okay…” The word was so quiet the universe barley registered it, and she opened the door and slipped inside.

Tadano was lying on the left side of the bed, half under the covers, staring pensively at the ceiling with an arm tucked under his head. He turned as the door clicked shut behind her, with that lazy smile that was his trademark.

“Hey, Retsy.”

“Hi.” One hand tugged at the bottom of her nightshirt.

He sat up on his elbows and Retsuko could feel his gaze as she slowly came around to the other side of the bed. Her foot got caught on something on the floor, and she looked down to see his boxers tossed on the ground. When she snapped her head up to look at him, he just smiled a little bit bigger. She swallowed, discreetly as she could, and was about to climb in next to him when she heard him speak again.

“Didn’t you once tell me that you slept naked?”

The blush that irrupted was full-body.

“I-“

“I mean, you look great.” His gaze flickered down to below her neck where a generous amount of cleavage was visible. “But…” he gestured to his lower half hidden under the covers, “I thought I was following your example, here.”

She managed to fight down a nervous smile and ducked her head as she crawled under covers and carefully folded the sheets around her hips, while he switched off the lights. She could feel his eyes on her, but the silence stretched on along with the three feet of space between them.

“You okay over there?”

She nodded a little too vigorously and plucked at the 800 thread count sheets.

Her ears flickered at the rustling of the sheets as he slid over to her.

“Hey…” A gentle hand traced a path from the bottom of her ear, down her neck, to her shoulder.

“Are you nervous?”

Another nod. Her mouth felt to dry to say anything, but she did shift to stare in his general direction.

“Do you still want to do this?”

She swallowed, and slowly slid her gaze up to his face from his chest, and made herself meet her eyes.

He was looking at so sweetly at her, that she nodded one last time and gave a tremulous smile.

Tadano leaned over until his mouth was right next to her ear.

“Let’s get this off.”

He pulled the sheet out enough for his hands to go under her nightshirt, and a flash of heat scorched down through her neck to her feet. She lifted her hips and helped him pull it up and over her head, tossing it over the edge of the bed.

She dimly wondered how his eyes could look so bright in the dark as he gently gathered her up in his arms and eased them both down onto the pillows. When he pulled her flush against him, Retsuko was sure she was having an out of body experience. He ran his hands down her back, and she shuddered at the sensation. Which turned into her quivering in his arms, but she couldn’t make herself stop.

“Retsy...”

He brought up his hands to cup her face, and peppered kisses on her eyelids, nose, cheeks, forehead. She felt herself relax, the tremors subsiding a bit, and when he finally reached her mouth, she kissed him back, hard. His hands dropped down to caress her breasts, and she broke off the kiss with a gasp and buried her face into his neck.

“Is that alright?”

Her response was to roll her hips against his. Tadano gasped and arched away. His voice came out a little strained. “Easy there…”

Retsuko blinked at his face.

“Not good?”

“No, no, it was…here, wait a minute, just let me-” He kissed her shoulder, and lightly touched her stomach before moving his hand lower and applying a tiny bit of pressure. She made a tiny noise, and he hesitated, trying to gauge the reaction.

Then Retsuko sighed, and leaned up to kiss him again, pushing her hips into his hand. She let out a muffled cry into his mouth as his fingers found and began to work on her clit, and when he pushed a finger inside her at the same time, she broke off the kiss and buried her face in his neck with a loud moan.

She was almost there when Tadano withdrew his hand and moved it to the back of her thigh. Without thinking, she helped him hitch it up and over his hip, and together they rolled over so he was on top of her.

He was breathing hard into her neck. She hooked her leg tighter around his waist, and tried to grind into him to get the sensation back, while he groaned and reached down again, slightly changing the angle of her hips, and then there was a lot of unpleasant weight and pressure between her legs.

She gasped, and gritted her teeth, as he bore down on her. She knew he was trying to be gentle, but the slow pace was driving her crazy in the exact opposite way she wanted, and wanting to get the initial pain over with, she reached down to grab his hips and pull him completely inside her.

He made a noise half between a choke and gasp, and he collapsed on top of her as his elbows gave out. Retsuko managed a small smile, despite the discomfort she was feeling, and kissed his throat, wrapping her arms around his shoulders.

Tadano slowly pushed himself back up, and his eyes were blown wide as he looked down at her.

“Retsy, are you trying kill me?” His voice was very low and uneven as he panted.

He took a shaky breathy, beginning to push and rock gently against her. She hissed as the ache between her legs intensified, and gasped at a particularly hard movement.

“Wait!”

Tadano stilled immediately.

“Are you okay?” His voice sounded like he was in pain. “Do you want to stop?”

“No, no, just don’t move for a minute, just…give me a second here.” Retsuko let her leg fall off his hip, and brought both her knees up to plant her feet wider, trying to find a different position. But she quickly found her squirming really wasn’t helping anything, and she ended up jostling Tadano enough that she felt another stab of pain. She grunted, and made herself hold still, not sure what to do at this point.

“Here, lets try this…” He shifted them carefully to a different position, and Retsuko carefully held onto him while he manipulated her limbs to where he wanted them, and gave a sudden moan when he started rubbing slow circles around her clit again.

“Better?” He started moving again, slowly, while paying careful attention to the feedback she was giving him. Her answer was a gasp into his neck, and when she rolled her hips up to meet his, they began again.

The pain was still there a bit, but everything else she was feeling was pleasure. She was so engrossed in just feeling, that it came as a surprise when Tadano shoved himself against her particularly hard and crumpled on her with a groan.

His fingers stopped moving on her when the rest of him did, and the protest was almost out of her mouth when he gently pulled out and collapsed on his stomach next her. She squirmed, wanting him to put his hand back, badly. She rolled on her side, facing him and pushed at his shoulder.

“Tadano!”

He turned his head a tiny bit towards her, but didn’t respond otherwise. She was about to say his name again, but full on froze when she heard a soft snore. She leaned a bit closer and peered into his face, and then couldn’t stop her mouth from falling open.

She nudged him again, and he just nuzzled his face into the pillow, mumbling something under his breath. She pushed him one last time, and then on impulse, clapped once as hard as she could. The sound was explosive in the dark room, but he didn’t even twitch.

“Are you kidding me?”

She shoved a few pillows behind her and leaned back, her mind trying to process this new peculiarity of her boyfriend, and tamp down her own exasperation. She was moving to reach for the sheets when she realized there was an unexpected bit of hurt mixed in there as well.

Retsuko closed her eyes, and then opened them again. Although most of it had evaporated at her boyfriend’s actions, she felt a remaining flicker of arousal. She considered just finishing herself off, and at the thought she involuntary tensed up her pelvic muscles and triggered a sore throbbing that make her pull a sour face, and discard the thought.

She gathered the sheet and blankets all the way up to her neck, and watched Tadano until she fell asleep.

 

---

The next time her eyes opened, the room was faintly blue with morning light. She turned onto her right side, pulling the sheets tighter around her shoulders, and tried to fall back asleep.

Retsuko stretched her legs to get a bit more comfortable, and a lot of stiffness and soreness made itself known in a way it hadn’t last night. Aspirin first, and she reluctantly decided, and then back to sleep.

She threw the sheets off, and eased herself down off the bed. She quickly located her nightshirt, pulling it over her head, and was completely silent as she came around to the other side of the bed. She stared at her boyfriend, noting that Tadano literally hadn’t moved a muscle since last night.

She turned away, treading quietly into the bathroom, and began rummaging in one of her toiletry bags until she found what she wanted. She took the pills with a swallow of tap water, and leaned heavily on the counter the same way she did less than twelve hours ago, watching her expression in the mirror.

But unlike that short time ago, she felt no happy trepidation at the thought of going back into the bedroom. Retsuko put the mirror to her back, and went to get the shower going.

Half an hour later, she was feeling a bit better from both the aspirin and the restorative power of fancy soap. The large white towel she grabbed to dry off with also helped, being a miracle of softness that made her want to cocoon herself in it.

She went back to the counter to dig out her toothbrush, pushing her discarded nightshirt out of the way. She had the toothbrush in hand and was busy trying to locate her toothpaste when she looked back at crumpled pile of pink and realized all her other clothes were back in the bedroom, still in the suitcase. And that she really didn’t want to put this particular garment back on.

She wrapped the towel tightly under her arms, unwillingly leaving the steamy environment, and peeked around the door. Seeing no movement coming from the bed, slipped inside and went over to her suitcase.

She had the lid open and was pawing through the various shirts and skirts she brought, when she saw some movement out of the corner of her eye. Retsuko looked over just as Tadano threw an arm over the space she had been, and then push himself up on his elbow when his arm met nothing but empty mattress.

Retsuko stood watching, one hand holding her towel shut, as he peered around the other side of the room, and then flipped over onto his back to scan the rest of the space.

Their eyes met. He stared at her for a few seconds before something changed drastically in his sleepy expression, and his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates.

“Uh, Retsy.”

She shifted from one foot to the other, waiting.

“Please tell me I didn’t…”

She tilted her head, refusing to help him along, readjusting her towel that had started to slip. But then the look on his face was so beseeching she couldn’t help herself.

“Yup, you did.”

His gaze turned from dismayed to mortified, and he flopped down on his back and let out a muffled yell into his hands.

“Retsy, I am so sorry. Ah, did you at least finish before-”

“Nope.” At her answer, he threw the sheet over his head so no part of him was visible.

She waited for him to say something else, and when nothing was forthcoming from the lump on the bed, she turned back to her suitcase, and trying to find where she had put a particular sundress.

“What are you doing?” He had apparently found his voice again.

“Getting dressed.” She pulled out the dress, trying to determine how wrinkled it was.

“No, you’re not.”

She turned her head back to him. He was holding both arms out to her.

“C’mere, Retsy. Let’s try this again.”

The twinge between her legs wasn’t exactly a good one. “Tadano, I don’t think-”

“That’s not what I had I mind. No, this will just be for you.”

“Umm…”

“Come on, Retsy, let me make it up to you.” She had never seen Tadano pull off puppy dog eyes before, but like most other things, he did it well, and it worked.

The second she was within reach, he eagerly pulled her down onto the bed so she was straddling him, shucking the towel off her in the process and burying face in her neck.

She shivered when he nuzzled a particularly sensitive spot, and felt him smile against her neck. Her whole body jerked in his arms when she felt him flick his tongue over the spot, and then his hands were all over her body, stroking her from her shoulders to her forearms, cupping her breasts, and moving with gentle pressure down her back and bottom.

They lingered on the tops of her thighs for a long minute while he continued to work on her neck, and then one came up around her back to hold her firmly while the other slipped between her legs.

He started gentle, and then gradually began rubbing her in an alternating pattern that had her wrapping her arms around his shoulders and holding on for dear life. Her legs had started to shake when Tadano moved away from her neck and put his mouth right next to her ear

“Almost there, Retsy?”

The gradual buildup of pleasure abruptly peaked and she buried her face in his shoulder gasping, while he slowly eased off his movements, and she was slumped against him.

Her hands dropped off his shoulders, and Tadano took that as his cue to pull them both down sideways. Retsuko pressed her cheek into his chest, while his fingers danced patterns on her upper arm.

“So, was that okay?”

She could her a little bit of apprehension in his voice, and felt a little spark of mischief. She shrugged her shoulders and felt him tense up a bit, but then couldn’t help twisting so she could look up at him and give him a quick little grin.

“I guess it was fine.”

He visibly relaxed, and she twisted herself around a bit until she could comfortably stare at his face from her position.

“So, Tadano, about last night…?”

He winced.

“I’m not mad.” Retsuko paused. “Well, maybe a little bit. Mostly confused, though. What was up with that? Is it going to happen every time?”

“So, there will still be other times?” She could tell he was deliberately ignoring the first part of her question, and the avidity radiating off him was contagious, but she made herself re-focus.

“Not the point, I was trying to make, you know. But, yes. There will still be other times”

He smiled, and she pressed two fingers to his mouth to cut off his response, and pulled them away when he kissed them. Then he tried to go for her mouth instead, but she leaned back away from him, squinting at his face.

“So, is this going to happen every time? Has this happened before?”

“Has what happened before?” He was still trying to kiss her.

She pushed him back with a hand on his chest, and sat up on her knees.

“Tadano.” He wasn’t listening again, admiring the view she was presenting him with. She pushed away his hand from her chest. “The falling asleep thing?”

“…”

She yanked on the sheet until she had enough to cover herself up with, feeling some amusement at his disappointed reaction.

“How come you didn’t bring this up when we were talking about our ‘histories’. Don’t you think this qualifies as an ‘important detail’ that I should have known about?" Retsuko tilted her head in mock thoughtfulness. “Or, maybe this was the first time it’s ever happened? But I have a feeling that it’s not.”

“…Do you want to get some breakfast?” He started to move to get up.

She threw herself on top of him before he got too far.

“No, I don’t want breakfast. I feel like there’s a story here. Or a couple stories.”

“I can order room service if you don’t want to go out.”

She grabbed his face in both hands, and leaned close.

“I mean, I don’t need a lot detail here.” She used the same words he had given her before. “But is this a regular thing? I need to know before next time.”

“Retsy…” He pulled a pillow down over his face. She left him to try to smother himself, taking the opportunity to roll off him, still close enough for their shoulders to touch.

“Fine. You don’t have to tell me-”

The pillow came down.

“-right now, at this moment.”

She wrestled it away from him before he could put it back.

“But I think after last night you owe me something, at least. Preferably something that I’ll find funny, and you won’t.”

He gave her an exasperated look, and she met it with a sweet smile.

“I told you about my karaoke, didn’t I? It was something you said you were glad to know about me, once you stopped laughing, right? And then after you were finally able to peel yourself off the wall?”

The first song she had sung for him in those karaoke rooms had had something to do with her job. He had begun cracking up midway through her performance, so she had chosen him to inspire her for the second song of the night. He had stopped laughing, quick.

“Fine. But you never repeat the story to anyone. Ever.”

“Sure, sure.” The lapsed into a comfortable silence, and eventually Retsuko broke it by asking,

“So, what time was your first meeting today?”

Tadano squinted at the clock. “I have about two hours before I need to be anywhere.” He stretched out along the bed. “I was serious about breakfast, though. And I need to take a shower.” He pushed himself up to sit on the edge of the bed.

Retsuko sat up hugging her knees. “Sure.”

He looked over his shoulder. “Why don’t you join me in there.”

She tilted her head back at him. “I already took a shower while you were still asleep.”

He gave a lazy shrug. “Great, then you can help me.”

She gave her best approximation of a concerned look. “If you want. I mean, we can try, but won’t it kind of screw up your meetings if you keel over in the shower and give yourself a concussion?”

“Really?” His tone was absolutely flat.

She help up her hands “I’m just kidding” And then more quietly “…mostly…”

“Huh?”

“I said I was just kidding." She slid up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. " So, shall we?”