Juubei left, of course. He could have stayed - in fact they would have welcomed it, Kazuki feeling that it was his right and Sakura valuing some forms of propriety far below graciousness and an open heart - but he excused himself and left, and they would not force him to stay. So they were left alone and his absence hung heavy between them in the air, until Sakura laughed and suggested they have a cup of tea.
"I don't -" Kazuki paused and forced a smile. "If you please."
Sakura raised her eyebrows. "I know what you're thinking," she murmured, "and it doesn't suit you. Whatever happened to your confidence?"
"It left about when Juubei did," he answered softly, a hint of a blush showing on his cheeks. "I'm sorry. This is all a bit overwhelming, still."
"Oh, I expect you'll get used to it soon enough." Sakura leaned closer and rested a hand on his shoulder. "What's the matter? It can't be simple nervousness. You're no blushing virgin."
"Well, no, but you're Juubei's sister." He was blushing, rather more visibly now. He stood up, gracefully avoiding her hand as she reached for his wrist. "You wanted tea? We have plenty of tea."
"Mainly I wanted to put you at ease, but I have no objections." She sighed and rearranged her dress more neatly around her knees. "Kazuki-san," she continued, her voice dipping to somewhere between chiding and sultry. "Would it help you to forget, for a moment, who I was? If I was not Juubei's sister, if I were some other woman who did not know him at all? I certainly can't be Juubei for you, but . . ." She let the sentence hang in the air, thick with implication.
Kazuki didn't take the bait immediately, but he stood still for a few seconds before continuing to the kitchen for tea. Sakura waited in silence. His face bore a distracted smile when he returned, bearing a tray. He set it on the table with a loud clank that was mot at all characteristic of him. She sighed softly and caught his hand with her own before he could retreat, and for a while they looked evenly at each other over the table. Juubei's table, and whatever happened tonight would happen in Juubei's bed. It was almost night already; the last rays of sunlight were painting the room red and gold.
Finally Kazuki bowed his head. "I'm no virgin," he told her calmly, "but I've never had a woman before. Only Juubei. And Toshiki once," he added softly, "but that wasn't really me. Please, make the tea."
"As you wish, my lord." She went through the motions with calm efficiency, and it was not until they had both taken a sip that she continued, "If you would rather wait, or insist on his presence, I'm sure I could go find him."
"It's not necessary," he answered firmly, "and neither do you have to call me anything but my name. I'm not afraid." He reached over the table this time, and took her hand in both of his, expression turning speculative. "Although you had a point. I could scarcely bring myself to touch Juubei's sister like that, but . . ."
"It's perfectly acceptable for a nobleman to have a concubine, you know."
"Or visit an oiran." He pursed his lips and tilted his head; anyone who didn't know better would have called it cute. "After all, I'm hardly the only man you've been with. Even recently."
"That works. Why, my dress is already fastened in the front." Her smile was secretive and lascivious. "And I've been someone's first woman before, too."
He wrinkled his nose and let her hand go, picking up his teacup with both hands instead. "So you're looking forward to it, hmmm?"
"Of course. I would be anyway, you know. You're so handsome." She hid her chuckle behind his hand as his blush returned in full force. "What, you're not used to hearing that?"
"Not from beautiful women, no."
"Touche." Sakura sighed and reached over to trace his cheek with her fingertips, stopping when they reached his lips. He smiled. She delicately wiggled her finger, and the accidental brush somehow drifted into a kiss, and then he was licking delicately at her fingertips. Her breath caught. He bowed his head and looked at her through his eyelashes. "Come over here," he said, and that was that. She almost dropped her teacup in her haste.
When she was settled again, comfortably curled against his side, she smiled and he leaned in to kiss her again, this time on the cheek. "See? You liked that, didn't you?"
"Oh, very much." He gave her a thoughtful look. "I suppose it would be too much to hope that you brought your shamisen?"
Sakura laughed. "Oh, but I do not so much as know how to play one. Poor and unaccomplished as I am, yet might I hope to please you still?" Kazuki raised an eyebrow at her drop into old-fashioned language, but he crooked a smile and ran his hands up her sides,answering wordlessly. She sighed in contentment and leaned closed, kissing his neck. He arched to give her better access, and for a long while that was how they remained, curled close and already starting to breathe harder.
When they pulled apart Kazuki took her hand forcefully in his. "You please me," he said, equally firm. "Don't think that you couldn't. I love you." The words surprised him even as they left his mouth, but they were true enough. He let her hand drop, and moved instead, looking anxiously for a sign of annoyance, to rest it on her breast. But there was no sign; she seemed quite pleased by his initiative.
She purred and slipped her hand under his shirt. Her hands were still warm from clutching the teacup, and the contrast to his own cool skin was surprising for a moment, then pleasant. "I am honored to hear it," she purred. "Are you aware, by the way, that you have the most perfect eyes it has ever been my privilege to gaze upon?"
Instinctively Kazuki shut them for an instant before he remembered himself and met her unapologetic gaze. She kept smiling, and so he kept his eyes open as he pulled her close for a soft kiss on the lips. She gasped, but it quickly turned into an appreciative moan, and Kazuki found himself laughing into the kiss as he carefully undid the first few fastenings of her dress. She pulled back and she was still smiling, so he nudged at the fabric until it fell carelessly down her shoulders - a little too easily, he thought, but then fabric generally did what she wanted it to - and bunched up at her elbows, just barely revealing the curves of her breasts, nipples soft brown against the pale expanse of her skin. She tossed her head back and whispered, "What more would you like?"
"Anything." He leaned back a little, giving her space.
He expected Sakura to let her dress down the rest of the way, or come closer and touch him, but instead she reached for her teacup and looked at him over its rim as she sipped, then ran her fingers over her lips. "Hmm," she said. "How's this? Touch as strong as silk, eyes as soft as winter storms - these are who I love."
"You flatter me."
"I could do better, if I had more time for the composition. But this is no place to linger over words, hmm?" She crooked her fingers, and eagerly he leaned closer, trailing a hand over her breast, and kissed her again. Her mouth was still hot from the tea. Halfway through the kiss he became distantly aware that she was straddling his hips, and her skirt was shoved up over her knees. Her legs were very long and had a bare hint of soft fuzz; he felt it when he ran a hand down her shin.
By now the reddish light was fading and her outline was clearer than her face. "I'm astonished you have the concentration for a haiku, under the circumstances," he murmured, and laid his cheek against her breasts.
"We're not even in bed yet. I'm sure you'll break my concentration eventually," she answered with a broad grin. Kazuki noticed that she had slipped back into modern language, but he didn't draw attention to it. He tried to loosen her shawl instead. It resisted, and he sniffed in disappointment. Sakura just laughed, and laid her hand over his, guiding him. With her help it seemed to fall apart at his touch. There were nothing but a few buttons separating him from her skin, and he hadn't even taken his shirt off. He found his heart beating quickly.
Sakura laid a hand on his neck and purred, wrapping the other around his shoulders. He pressed close, breathing deep. "It's fine," she whispered. "Everything will be fine. Are you alright?"
"More than. Wonderful. Do you do this to all men, or am I just lucky?"
"Make them feel good," he said, and realized he was blushing again. "Just ... exude happiness."
"Every man I've tried it on," she assured him, with a thoughtful smile. "You can see it in their faces. Shall we go lie down?"
He eyed her thoughtfully; there were no west-facing windows in the bedroom but there was a small electric lamp. Kazuki used it from time to time, when he sat up reading; Juubei was the sort of man who got dressed in the dark. It would do, he decided, and leaned forward, pushing her out of his lap. She pulled her dress up and held it closed with one hand as they hurried into the bedroom.
He turned the light on and pulled the blankets off the futon, and Sakura stood in the middle of the room and waited, dress demurely clutched shut. Only when she was sure he was watching her did she open her arms and let it slip, gracefully and easily, to the floor. She strode over to the futon and lay down, her hair spreading across the pillow. Kazuki felt a soft smile cross his lips, the kind he gave to very few people, and Sakura acknowledged it with a slight nod.
Painfully aware of her eyes on him, he lifted his shirt off, and stood to undo his jeans. Juubei never watched like that; but then, it had been Kazuki who turned the light on in the first place. He stood beside the bed, suddenly uncertain. Sakura stretched, arching her back, and smiled. "Well," she said softly. "Are you going to come here or not?"
He went. It was easy enough.
It was not until he was inside her, breathing hard and shivering as she stroked his hair and hummed, that he managed to steady his mind enough to think of the implications. She was still acting a little, he thought; that humming was too amused to be anything but part of the game. Kind, but hardly necessary. He was too pleased to be nervous. He pushed himself up on his elbows and smiled at the way her eyes unfocused and she gasped, then smiled sweetly.
"Thank you," Kazuki whispered. "For all of this. I know how much this is to ask of a woman."
There was a glint of humour in her eyes. "Freely given. I'd do anything for you, and this is little enough. Besides, who else could I trust with your child?"
He sighed and settled back, stroking her side. She wrapped her arms around his chest and rocked them back and forth slowly. "Still," he said. "Your first child, and I know you want your own . . . "
"It's fine." She sounded sad. "It's better this way. I still have you and Juubei to look after."
"We can look after ourselves. Mostly," he added thoughtfully. He would have said more, but something in the way she twisted her hips made him gasp and forget his words, and then he couldn't think for quite a while.
When the pleasant glow sank away he realized the light was still on. Sakura's chest rose and fell gently under his hand, and he almost thought she was asleep, but then she shifted and clutched his hand in her own. "You okay?"
"Wonderful. I'd always wondered what it was like with a woman," he added, too sleepy to be anything but honest.
"You liked it, then?" She nuzzled his hair and smiled; it was her usual soft, thoughtful smile, all traces of the polished, practiced oiran gone. "I'm glad. Maybe next time I'll show you some other things I know."
Kazuki laid a hand on her stomach and beamed. "If there is another time. Not that it wasn't pleasant, but -"
"I understand. The odds are against it, though. We'll know in a week or so," she continued, her voice hypnotizingly soft. Kazuki realized he was drifting to sleep to the sound of her breathing.
"Sakura." He blinked, forcing the fuzz away from the corners of his brain. "I hope -"
"I hope it's twins. Boy and girl. One for each of us," he declared, and tightened his arm around her waist.
The sound of her gentle laughter followed him into his dreams.