Yomiko brings Nenene a cup of tea late at night. The tea is English tea, but made without milk or sugar; they know each other's tastes.
"Come to bed," she whispers as she sets it down. Nenene's eyes don't flicker from the screen. "It's past midnight."
Nenene looks up at that, rubbing her eyes. "I'm almost done," she whispers. "One more chapter, sensei, and then tomorrow I can start the editing. You know how far over my deadline I am?"
"Yes. Two days. The world can wait two days." Yomiko's hands find Nenene's shoulders, with the ease of long practice. "I can't," she adds, her sweet voice turning plaintive. "I've been waiting half the night."
At that, Nenene surrenders and reaches for the cup. "Wait twenty minutes," she says softly. "Twenty, that's all. I don't like to go to bed with a chapter half-done." Yomiko presses a hand on her shoulder in soft acknowledgement, and retreats to the couch, knowing that she will have her victory. She has grown accustomed to this particular kind of patience, and the rewards are more than worth the wait; there is very little, even after so long, she would not do for this woman.
A thought occurs to her, and she pulls a small blue notebook from her pocket, flipping through it to a particular page; her own careful handwriting is barely visible in the near-darkness. It is enough. Four lines are added, carefully, as Nenene's swift typing adds four pages. Yomiko has no deadlines, and can afford to linger.
Half an hour later, the dregs of the tea sit forgotten on the desk, and they are folded together on the same couch. The computer screen, forogotten, quietly turns from the white of a blank page to the black of sleep. They do not look up.
The next afternoon, her hands still damp from the breakfast-dishes, Yomiko goes upstairs to find Nenene not at her computer, deep in revision, but sprawled comfortably on the couch engrossed in a small blue notebook. She coughs and glances away.
Nenene smiles. "I didn't know you were a poet, sensei."
"I'm not," Yomiko says; her blush has spread. "It's only a translation."
"Mmm," Nenene says. "Really? The silver moon is set; The Pleiades are gone; Half the long night is spent, and yet I lie alone ... It sounds pretty accurate. I'm not sorry, though. It was absolutely necessary."
"It wasn't meant as a rebuke." Yomiko kneels in front of the couch, and lays her head on Nenene's knee, pressing a kiss to the nearest piece of skin. Nenene shivers like a leaf in an autumn wind, and brushes her hand absently down Yomiko's hair, twining a few strands around her fingers. "I've been working," the older woman murmurs, "in bits and pieces. As the mood strikes me. I don't believe I have your discipline."
To this, Nenene has no answer. She begins to brush her fingers against the edges of the notebook, not truly reading it, merely glancing at the words. Yomiko watches her hands.
It is a long time before she sets the book down.
Finally, Yomiko reaches up, presses her fingers to Nenene's. "What do you think?" she asks. "Is it hopeless? I know my skill with words is not half of yours."
"Oh, sensei," Nenene whispers. "You didn't have to be so subtle. Did you think I didn't know alerady?"
Yomiko's smile is like nothing else in the world. "This is what I think," she declares, and continues, with calm surety:
"No maiden, I think, more wise than thou
Shall ever see the sun."