Under normal circumstances, all meetings aside from the date scenario were conducted at MJS headquarters – so this one should have been no different.
However, Miho, in her infinite wisdom, made an exception.
Shouldn’t have for a great many reasons – some her own, some not – but did just the same.
The hotel bar was not of her choosing, but it was familiar enough for her to feel comfortable waiting on her own. In the early evening, she could take small sips from her shiraz and not seem like a complete lush; she definitely looked like a woman there to meet someone, though her attire and the presence of a laptop and manila folder peeking from the top of the handbag beside her, suggested at least it was not a social rendezvous.
This is a really, REALLY bad idea.
“Sorry if I kept you waiting.”
She’d seen him enter of course, watched him glance around before spying her. His stride was purposeful but unhurried, and though he’d attempted to maintain eye contact as he approached, Miho had glanced down into her drink in a rather uncharacteristic display of cowardice? Bashfulness? Awkwardness?
Something like that.
“Just long enough for the wine to warm to the perfect temperature,” she responded lightly, finally lifting her eyes to his.
Inhale before the perfect storm – silver lined clouds threatening to break but not yet broken, gentle and controlled, power and potential evident but held in check.
“Are you all right?” he frowned, ducking his head a little to peer more closely at her expression, and Miho flinched.
“Distracted, sorry,” she apologised, shaking her head, and hopefully the stupidity from it. “Shall we grab a table?”
“Yes,” he nodded, motioning with a gentlemanly sweep of his hand that she lead him.
Just not on.
“Is this a usual haunt of yours?” she enquired, selecting a booth over a table.
“No, I rarely get time to enjoy places like this,” he admitted, waiting for her to be seated before doing the same, settling opposite, “and as you already know, I’m not much of a drinker.”
“I take it, then, I’ll be drinking alone?” she smirked, finally finding mirth, even if it was wry.
“Would you feel more comfortable if I ordered something?” he queried, but before she could answer he’d waved for a waitress who came over with a smile. “May I get a glass of…”
Goto looked to Miho’s glass, and she filled in the blanks.
“House shiraz,” she declared.
“Of course,” the waitress smiled, scribbling a couple of words down, before departing.
“You didn’t need to do that,” Miho told him.
“If we only ever did the things we needed to do, life wouldn’t be all that interesting,” he philosophised.
He seemed completely comfortable.
It was not uncommon for clients to act different following a test drive, but Goto showed no signs of awkwardness; in fact, he was, Miho thought, unusually cool considering what she knew of his rather bashful nature.
This did not escape her notice, and she eyed him suspiciously for a few seconds, before she retrieved the folder from her bag and handed it to him.
“Here’s my final profile,” she explained, and he flicked it over. “Please read it carefully to ensure you’re happy with my evaluation, and the wording; semantics can sway, so it’s important to be particular.”
The document was not a short one, and while Goto read in silence, Miho sat doing her best to show no interest in his reaction to any of what she’d written. Though he did seem a little different today than their last meeting, and in all those before that, she could tell when he reached where she’d detailed his romantic style and sexual performance – colour dappled his cheeks faintly, and Miho trapped a sigh in her chest until it dissipated.
Still, she remembered writing that section intensely, and the urge to cross her legs made her weight shift.
When the waitress arrived and put down Goto’s glass, he had still yet to look up from the paper; but he hadn’t turned the page in some time either.
“Problem?” Miho enquired, leaning forward a little.
Goto cleared his throat.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t both confronting and embarrassing to read about myself like this,” he admitted, glancing at her but not making eye contact this time. “Flattering too,” he added. “You have quite a vivid way with words.”
“It’s crucial clients are able to get a clear idea of all aspects of their potential partner,” she expounded, falling back into practiced professionalism. “It’s how we’ve been able to enjoy the success rate we have.”
“And this is all your thoughts on me?” he prompted, closing the folder over.
“Actually I was so inspired, and sure you’d agree with my assessment, that,” she began, leaning down grab a thicker folio from her bag, “I’ve already selected three clients who are compatible.”
He looked at it, the black folio hovering across the table between them.
“That eager to get rid of me?” he questioned, eyes wandering up her arm, across her shoulder, but he stopped short of reaching her face.
His brows twitched, and he seemed transfixed by her throat. Neither of them had mentioned meeting in the supermarket day before last, and sure as hell had not uttered Subaru’s name – but Goto’s stare lingering there reminded them both.
Finally, he managed to refocus his gaze back into her face.
Then there was his tone. It lacked all humour, it lacked everything; and an emotionless mural painted over what Miho had seen happen several times before in this very situation.
Jazz’s voice rang in her ears – how sometimes clients, having enjoyed their time with them after long spells of loneliness or romantic disconnect, thought they felt more than they truly did.
“At MJS we pride ourselves on being both thorough, and efficient,” she responded – the line from their glossy brochure.
“Ahh, yes,” he nodded, still looking right over the folio Miho refused to lower. “You satisfy your clients, 100% guaranteed.”
“Mr. Goto,” Miho levelled, “if you are in any way dissatisfied with my service up until this point, then please say so. Only then can I do my utmost to correct the problem, and meet your expectations. Before that, however, all I ask, is that you at least glance these profiles.”
At this he frowned, his gaze diverted, and she saw him inhale a breath of strengthening resolve before he asked his next question.
“Which one is yours?”
“Excuse me?” she blinked once, the weight of the folder she held now causing her extended arm to tremble.
“Profile,” he clarified, and though she could see he wanted to avert his eyes, he did not. “Which one is yours?”
The sigh from earlier was suddenly resurrected, and had escaped from between Miho’s lips before she could clamp down. She couldn’t reward the courage it had taken him to ask that question, to convey to her in not so many words he wanted her among those prospective brides.
“Look,” she exhaled, finally placing the folio to the side and returning her hand to the base of her glass. “Sometimes during this process, that does involve the exposure of deeply personal…”
“Is that the MJS handbook speaking?” he interrupted, and Miho’s response was quick.
“Yes,” she said sharply, and a little louder than she had intended, “but also me, from experience. And every single client who thought they’d fallen in love with his or her representative, is now in a very happy relationship of our design.”
“You’re that good a profiler, you know exactly how I feel then?” he pressed, body completely still.
“You were bonded with someone with whom you had an absolute trust,” she articulated clearly. “Shared interests and lifestyle and occupation, by all accounts what should have been perfect, but it was taken from you. By your own admission, you blamed yourself and became convinced you were therefore not worthy of being loved again. You isolated yourself, and then here I am, sifting through all the dirty and unpleasant secrets you knew you’d need to face if you ever wanted to be happy again, and of course I accepted them.
“It’s my job to know you well enough to accurately find you a match so heartbreak, external factors aside, doesn’t visit you again – but asking me that, suggesting that…”
Shaking her head, Miho took a sip of her wine, but it was tasteless now.
“… It may seem harsh to say it so bluntly, but any affection I showed, was necessary to coax out how best you respond to intimacy; like our one-day marriage, it wasn’t real, merely a facilitator.”
Ice formed in her alcohol.
In her head the words were clear and definitive, to her ears, sure, stalwart.
“Your hands are shaking,” he pointed out.
“No they’re…” she began, but again he cut her off.
“You may be some manner of relationship profiler, Miss Fujiwara,” he said evenly, firmly, “but I’m a detective, and a highly trained one at that. I know lies when I hear them. I know lies when I see them. And I know dirty and unpleasant secrets that haven’t yet been faced, when I see them. For a woman who said she would own every word she speaks, I think you’ve strayed a little.”
A sardonic chortle sounded, and Miho shook her head again.
“We’re going to start parroting one another again?”
“I’ll look at your profiles,” he declared, “if you tell me why you’re so desperate to convince me I’m not truly attracted to you.”
Forget crossing her legs, Miho really wanted to get up and run, but that was not how one did business, and above all else, she was stubborn.
“This… isn’t about me,” she managed, but her voice was far thinner than she’d have liked.
“Correct,” he agreed. “It’s about a customer, and unless I’m mistaken, they are always right.”
There was a corner, and though Goto not once raised his voice, not once moved a muscle toward her, Miho felt herself backed more and more into it – not a feeling she enjoyed one bit.
“What I hear,” he continued, gesturing now with his hand as he spoke, “is a lot about me. Wouldn’t it just be simpler to say, I’m sorry Mr. Goto, but I’m not interested in you? Why not just say that, if it’s true?”
How the hell was she supposed to answer that?
… am really glad neither Jazz or Selina are here to see this?
“You will look at the profiles?” she said finally, changing direction.
What does it even matter if he knows?
“Yes,” he agreed, watching her indeed like a cop just waiting for a suspect to crack.
“I was married to a police officer who spent much of his career undercover,” she revealed in more of a rush than she’d meant. “He was betrayed by his comrades and murdered, leaving behind a wife who couldn’t identify his body, and a family who didn’t care for justice, just wanted to forget.”
“That doesn’t answer my question,” he pointed out, a little more gently.
“Of course it does,” she chuckled, but it was an empty sound. “You told me yourself you’d often taken reckless chances in your work; should I encourage you to believe your feelings for me are real? Should I set myself up to…”
Miho bit her tongue – she’d said enough.
“That, answers your question, I believe.”
Nodding slowly, Goto took up the black folder and opened it, and Miho inhaled very, very slowly, counting in her mind to find some semblance of calm.
Then Goto closed the folder, and pushed it over to her.
Swapping upset for exasperation, she scowled from it to him.
“I said I would look at them, and I have,” he responded, “but what I want isn’t there.”
“I, will… take this under advisement and provide you with more suitable ma…”
“Actually, I think I have decided this marriage set up thing isn’t for me,” he announced. “Of course you’ll be paid everything you’re owed, but this process has helped me see love can’t be subcontracted.”
While Miho just stared at him with her mouth slightly open – a dumb expression no doubt – Goto glanced at his watch.
“We should get going,” he prompted. “The restaurant is only down the corridor, but we’re already five minutes late.”
Pursing her lips, and fighting down the heat of frustration that he wouldn’t just let it go for both their sake, Miho stuffed both folders back into her handbag and slid out of the booth.
“We’re not having dinner together, Mr. Goto,” she told him stiffly. “I have other work besides…”
“Another client?” he asked, standing also, though never getting in her way, never blocking.
He could see she was fixing to bolt, see how she struggled to keep it beneath the thin veil of her job, and knew his question was a mean one; so very not like him to be spiteful, to find himself submitting to his own frustration.
“You really shouldn’t ask questions to which you already know the answer,” she told him thinly. “Since we’re in the game of quoting past me, I’m sure you’ll recall I said I wouldn’t lie about what my work entails, you know perfectly well, and in fact you agreed no man in his right mind would dedicate himself to a woman who does what I do.”
Before he could respond, she held up her hand.
“And don’t say you, because we both know how much seeing me with Mr. Ichiyanagi pissed you off.”
By this time, a number of other patrons’ curiosity had been piqued – the standing pair seemed unhappy with one another, shrouded in thick tension: she like she might like to slap him, he like he would let her do it and go back for seconds.
“It did,” he admitted quietly, reaching for her collar that only partially hid the little red welt.
The sound of Miho snatching Goto’s wrist before he could reach his target was quiet, but their audience was attentive. They saw it came as no surprise to him, but to her…
Even after several meetings of deep discussion about the most intimate parts of a client, even after test driving, Miho had managed thus far to see them as words on a page, one part of a product requiring her to find the other in order to be successful in her work. This disassociation allowed her to enjoy the time she spent with them, but to cleanly let go at the end of the day – no baggage, no emotional attachment, because her job was to make them happy with someone else.
She’d been pushing so hard to see him as ‘client’ and not ‘man’, that the warmth of his skin actually surprised her, but before she could recoil, he deftly slid his hand through her hold and laced their fingers together.
A woman across the room audibly gasped.
Despite his audacity, Goto blushed; this was so far outside his comfort zone he barely knew himself; but at the same time, he knew he’d regret letting her just walk away before he was absolutely certain what he saw in her eyes was just his own wishful thinking.
“You’re going to make someone very happy one day,” she told him, a whisper so slight Goto had to strain to hear it.
“Give me a…” he began, but Miho was already pulling her fingers free and making good her escape.
She shouldered her bag and he watched her weave through the tables and exit before another female voice actually startled him, the woman who had gasped, a foreigner by appearance.
“Shouldn’t you go after her?” she half questioned, half suggested.
With a decisive nod, Goto left the bar, calling a room number out to the bartender as he left in order to cover his untouched drink.
“Miho!” he barked, seeing her enter the elevator at the end of the hall.
She turned to the sound of her name, scowled and shook her head, and even as Goto jogged toward her she pressed furiously against the ‘close doors’ button.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Goto, can you just let it the hell alone?” she growled, but closed her eyes, closed them, closed them tightly so she didn’t need to see his face that split second before the doors came summarily between them.
Despite appearances, Miho was relatively rational. She had come to a foreign country alone and now was part owner in a successful, lucrative business. Educated and worldly, financially secure and not at all bad on the eyes, she was ‘a catch’ – though we all know her attitude could use a little adjustment. The point is, it wasn’t as if she thought herself unworthy of a man like Goto.
Fear, is perhaps the most difficult thing to rationalise.
And so if Goto, being all other things the same, was not a police officer, this narrator can safely say you’d be thigh deep in smut again by now… or more likely still thigh deep in smut.
Miho knew he was being the honest one, watched him hedge his way out onto an ever narrowing limb in an attempt to get her to do the same; and she shook it furiously trying to dislodge him – not because she didn’t feel the same, but because the acuteness of burying a casket of ‘remains’, nothing even remotely resembling her husband, made her want to curl up into a ball and sob like a frightened child.
“It’s easier to be a bitch,” she shuddered out, trying to catch elusive breath and even more elusive calm.
No one would argue she wasn’t good at it.
It provided armour, and though she hadn’t truly ever had to use it against a client before, it had saved her many times when she’d felt her strength wane; but all she could see when she looked at her reflection in the elevator’s ear glass wall, was Goto’s face, and the expression he wore after her sucker-punch.
The doors rattled open behind her, and the face she saw in the glass changed.
His hair was dishevelled, his posture slumped, his suit jacket askew, but he looked up from where he’d skidded before the doors to catch his breath, to see her turn: bewildered.
“Did you just… run, thirteen flights of stairs?” she murmured in shock, several hotel patrons and a couple of staff wondering something similar.
“You’re so… stubborn,” he panted, swallowing as he straightened and wiping the back of his hand over his forehead.
“Says Mr. Won’t Take No For An Answer!” she exclaimed, vexation emerging out the other side of shock.
“You haven’t said no,” he pointed out.
The doors began to close, but Goto pushed them back again, filled the space between them with his determination for one, last, attempt.
“Tell me plain, say no,” he told her, dark eyes serious and impossibly frank, “and you get your cheque in the mail and that’s the last of it.”
Just one syllable.
Almost as if searching for help, Miho peered beyond him at the various and sundry trying to look like they weren’t looking at the curious and dramatic scene. Her lips moved, they opened but seemed to lose their sense of language.
Goto stepped into the elevator and turned to the foyer.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” he apologised, bowed, then allowed the doors to finally shut.
Miho turn back to the rear of the elevator and glared at the ground floor garden through the glass.
“Drama isn’t in your profile,” she said, her voice small – far too small for the likes of her.
“It’s certainly not my preference,” he responded, hitting the button for the top floor, perhaps to buy them some time, “but when necessity calls.”
“Ha, well,” she chortled thickly, “I’d make some revision, but you said you’re done.”
“I can’t and won’t force anything on you,” he scowled over her shoulder, there mere thought of that terrible thing.
He remained at what little distance the confined space allowed, despite his pursuit not wanting her to feel boxed in.
“But,” he continued, combing fingers through his messy hair, “I also don’t want you to refuse yourself the possibility of… love… out of fear I might be hurt, that I might leave you.”
“So you’re on a crusade to save me from myself, huh?” she snorted self-deprecatingly.
“You’re not the only idealist here,” he stated. “I don’t like to let go of the things that are important to me.”
“I’m not an ideal… anything,” she choked out, shaking her head, perhaps to hide the red creeping into her eyes.
Finally, Goto stepped up to her, and when she didn’t move he placed his hands lightly on her shoulders.
“Fine,” she inhaled sharply, dropping her chin. “You’re in my head, you’re under my god damned skin, hell I even…”
Before she could say something in breach of contract, she chewed off the end of her sentence and started fresh, digging out the strength she knew she had to turn and face him.
“But none of that changes why I have to finish this job and forget you.”
The doors opened at the top most level, revealing the entrance to the dimly lit rooftop bar. Once more, Goto slipped his fingers in between Miho’s, and with gentle encouragement she followed him out.
He waved away the waitress that drew close when they approached a table, pulling out one chair for Miho before settling himself, their woven grip remaining throughout.
“When Natsuki was killed,” he said, his voice low causing the small candle between them to flicker, “the world I knew, cared for, ended.”
Miho didn’t want to hear this – it just made fighting the burn of ugly tears that much more difficult; but it wasn’t like she could tell him to shut up right there when he was sharing arguably his most painful memory.
Well, she could, but even for Miho it seemed there was a limit to how horrid she could be.
“I’ve already told you how I took stupid risks, not caring if I lived or died because, what was life without her? The one person I could trust without any doubt.”
He didn’t move to wipe the tears away as Miho finally blinked them free, just squeezed her hand and continued.
“I took my frustrations out on the criminal world, and it didn’t matter if I was hurt because, there was no pain more acute, than losing her,” he elaborated. “And I had even convinced myself it would have been better if I’d never met her, or been partnered with her at all. It took a long time, but I finally realised that was a terrible thing to think about someone who’d meant so much, and who had had such a positive impact on my life.”
That was quite the monologue, and Miho just stared at their hands entwined on the tabletop, trying not to sob.
“I know your pain,” he told her more softly, thumb grazing over the back of her hand, “and I would never wish that on you again, but I would gladly accept all that hurt myself… for just one day with you.”
“I hate you,” she muttered under her breath, words tangled in her throat. “You make it sound so god damned simple, but you can’t… promise you won’t…”
“No, I can’t,” he agreed, weathering her defensive abuse. “Some things are beyond my control. But give me a chance to make you some promises I can keep.”
“And if I do?” she murmured, and when she looked up, Goto was struck by the open vulnerability in her swimming eyes.
But he smiled a warming, penetrating smile.
“I’ll make you happy, for as long as I’m able to,” he replied, “and you’ll make me happy by allowing me to.”
“You know what I do,” she pointed out thickly, her fingers twitching in his.
“And I love that your job is about making people happy,” he nodded, then tilted his head a little to one side, hair sliding across his forehead. “Though… when I saw you with Ichiyanagi, knowing why you were with him…”
He paused, his scowl drawing his eyebrows right down over his eyes.
“I could barely stop myself from pulling you away.”
Miho’s lips pursed and her eyes drifted back down to their hands.
“Work is work… but… I wanted you to,” she admitted, drawing in a deep breath and exhaling a slow, calming sigh. “So, you’d ask I give up my career, my business?”
“Mm, no,” he answered, finally leaning across the table to gently wipe the watery drip of tears and mascara from the point of her chin. “Like I said, I like that your work is about helping others find love; but the whole sexual test drive part…”
He winced – was he asking too much already? It was clear in his expression he wasn’t sure, but at the same time, he had to think that client, ex-client of man she met in the street, ultimately to be with him completely she would surely have to give up sleeping with other men, even if it was part of her job.
“But,” he went on, obviously steeling himself, “until you’re sure, about me – us – I know I don’t have a right to ask you to give up anything, other than some time for us.”
“Really?” she sniffed a little incredulously, taking up a napkin from the table and dabbing under her eyes. “Hm, that’s generous and all Mr. Goto…”
“Seiji,” he corrected with a somewhat diffident smile.
“Seiji,” she managed, though even she felt a little self-conscious saying it now, even though she had moaned it during his date scenario. “But if I was going to try my luck with a man, seriously, there’s no way I could even think about intimacy on any level, with another.”
“Um, so?” he frowned, not quite sure what that meant exactly, whether it was a she would stop because she was going to try her luck with him or if she was just posing a hypothetical.
“I don’t know, what Jazz is doing and Selina…” she began, lolling her head back to look up at the clouded Tokyo sky, “but I guess, if I can get her to finally realise she and Aikwara need to get it together then we’ll have to employ some new staff for test driving.”
She had stopped crying, and seemed to be in serious thought.
“I should get onto Kyobashi about that,” she mused, chewing her lower lip.
“Kyobashi?” Goto questioned, trying to draw her back to the table.
“Oh jeez, forget I said that name, that’s, that is not supposed to be common knowledge,” she rushed, blinking back to the moment at hand.
Finally Got felt like he could relax a little – she wasn’t crying, she wasn’t fighting or defensive, and he thought she was already thinking of a strategy that meant she wouldn’t have to do client test driving anymore?
“So, you want to try for dinner?” he offered tentatively, giving her hand another squeeze to ground her further. “Or maybe just… room service?”
“Room service?” she repeated slowly, narrowing her eyes at him, and instantly he was rubbing the back of his neck in that embarrassed gesture becoming more and more familiar to her.
“I wasn’t going to give up,” he told her after a few seconds of squirming. “So, I banked on success, but… we don’t have to of course, we have a reservation at the restaurant and you’ve no obligation at all to…”
“Courage,” she sighed, really looking at him properly, her shoulders slumped as if really exhausted. “I’d add a note to your profile about how it’s one of among many of your admirable qualities, but I guess that’s a bit redundant.”
“It is,” he agreed with a smile, and stood from his seat. “So… which is it?”
“Room service,” she declared, also getting to her feet, but she remained where she was, with their hands still joined but a little stretched. “But, before that could you show me, that courage, just one more time… so I can, borrow, some of it.”
Kindly he smiled at her and in the faint candle lit night he stepped against her and cupped one side of her face.
“I will show you as many time as you need me to,” he whispered, before lightly touching his lips to hers, no matter who or how many were watching.
And when they parted, he was heartened by the soft, relaxed expression on Miho’s face, and the gentle pressure of her free hand against his chest.
“Come on,” he urged with a slight tug on her hand. “No one else needs to see that face.”
“Possessive?” she smirked, bumping into his side.
“Maybe, just a little bit,” he admitted, touching her collar to the side, and this time she didn’t stop him. “It’s hard not to be, when I know he’s marked you like that.”
“Mhmm,” she murmured, cringing a little when she thought her throat was only the tip of the iceberg. “Yeah well, I’m not with him now, am I?” she tried to reason.
“No, you’re not,” Goto agreed, and urged her back in the direction of the elevator.
Miho remained quietly at his side as they rode down to the seventh floor, following along to his suite without protest, but deep in thought.
“I feel like we’ve done this kind of backwards,” Goto chuckled nervously, looking back at her as he swiped the hotel card to open the door.
“You mean, we got married first?” she sought in clarification, her voice a little sheepish.
“Perhaps I need to carry you backwards over the threshold to undo it,” he suggested. “Though, if I’m honest, I don’t really want to.”
“I always thought I’d only get married once,” Miho admitted with a reserved shrug of her shoulders, following him into the suite. “Life, doesn’t always give us what we expect.”
“Nope,” he agreed, tugging her hand sharply and drawing her into his arms, “but it sometimes gives us second chances.”
Miho’s brows twitched, even if she hadn’t meant them to.
“And every single time you get that frightened look in your eye,” he said, brushing her hair back and holding her face, “I’ll kiss you, so you remember it’s worth being brave.”
“Please kiss me,” she begged in a whisper, and there was nothing in Goto’s expression that suggested he had any intention of non-compliance.
The slide of his hands into her clothing was slow and unhurried, like the gentle trace of his tongue between her lips and breath that sighed her name. Piece by piece their attire was cast aside, until Goto pushed Miho back to arm’s length and looked her up and down.
“Would you hate me, if I was to replace all these marks with my own?” he asked with a scowl, glossing his fingertips over each mark Subaru had left on Miho’s body.
“No,” she answered simply, turning her head to expose the first he’d spied on her throat.
With painstaking dedication, leaving no part of her unsearched, Goto applied adequate pressure with his mouth to renew the vitality of each palling welt, signing purposeful ownership over her flesh in a way Subaru could not have. And when he’d laid her down and suckled over the last against her right breast, he returned to her lips as if for reward.
“Feel better now?” she smiled dreamily, looking up at him, carding her fingers through his hair with one hand, stroking him lazily from base to tip with the other, until he had readied the condom to protect them both.
“It’s going to take a little more than that,” he told her honestly, walking fingers down her abdomen, and Miho closed her eyes.
This time she didn’t need to imagine it was him touching her, parting the slick warmth between her legs and working her clit so desperate for his ministrations alone. And she remembered every ridge, each standing vein that caused Goto’s shaft to pulse with the racing of his heart.
She believed it raced for her – but while hers pounded against the confines of her chest as she rolled, straddled him and looked down into his face her fears bubbled… bubbled… bubbled.
“No,” he hissed, rocking up, crushing is already ridged cock between them and bringing their lips together once more. “Right now it’s just you and me and how I feel about you.”
“You hardly know anything about me at all,” she frowned, arms wrapped around his neck loosely. “I could be an axe murderer for all you know; shit have one conversation with Jazz and she’ll tel…”
He cut her off with the surprisingly fierce thrust of his tongue into her mouth, and the clamp of his arms, hands that slid down her back and lifted her ass up from his lap, just enough to position the standing call of his length against the dripping welcome of her core.
On her knees, she hovered with him just resting there, looking into his eyes with growing determination – she didn’t want him to have to keep telling her to stop being pathetic, even though he’d never say it like that.
So she pushed him back until he flopped down on the pillow.
“I, on the other hand, know more about you than anyone else in the whole world,” she told him, her eyes rolling upward as she slid herself slowly down onto him. “Including how, perfectly you stretch me.”
When she focused again, it was to find Goto gritting his teeth a little, lying still, but the tensing in his thighs told her he badly wanted to move.
“If anyone else knew that,” he groaned as she leaned just a fraction and dug onto him even more firmly by digging down with her hips, “I’d be… upset.”
“You’re normally so composed… Lieutenant,” she grinned, rolling forward, undulating her body and squeezing tightly each time she drove against him, “I can’t quite imagine you, upset.”
“You nearly didn’t have to,” he hissed, digging his fingers into her thighs, aching to make her move more swiftly. “If you’d turned me away, I… I don’t know…”
Miho smiled, falling forward against his chest to speak against his hungry lips.
“You don’t need to know, Seiji,” she exhaled, nibbling, pecking, teasing until his grip tightened and he bought his body up to meet hers.
Amid gasping breaths, the slap of bodies meeting in the middle, and the heightening frequency of deep throated moans and passionate utterances comprehendible only by them, Miho and Goto found equal ground.
In the physically intense union of flesh and sweat, and the surrender of fear and baggage, both let go what tomorrow might bring – even if only for that night.
“You cum first tonight,” she declared, leaning back and supporting her body with her arms, bucking vigorously, bringing them as close as unreserved penetration could – and it had the desired result.
“Gah… Miho that’s…” he growled, strong hands clasping her knees urgently, until he forced the fingers of one hand to relax and release her, then applied them where they’d bring her the most pleasure.
“Think I’m… going… to let you get the… best of… me twice in one night?” she snarled, slapping one hand over his where he’d begun rubbing it against her clit.
“Hey!” he barked as she tried to pull his hand away.
The fight became so spirited in fact, Goto sat up again, and together they toppled right off the bed onto the floor – where he pinned her down.
“Best you know I’m trouble now,” she laughed, fighting the good fight, actually struggling with all her skill, but Goto’s strength and ability at subduing felons won out until both Miho’s hands were pinned either side of her head.
“Trouble I can handle,” he breathed against her throat, wetting it with his saliva, speaking cool against her flaming skin.
“You sure?” she scowled, snapping her teeth, then sinking them into his shoulder when she couldn’t capture his lips.
This did not deter his zealous efforts to thwart her plan, the depth of his plunge far and beyond their mere bodies. Legs clinching and trembling, fingernails digging and scraping, toes curling, and short, desirous breaths, intermingled with the profound longing for a peace both had told themselves was beyond their reach for too long.
It crashed together in a furious crescendo, the twist and grasp and ardent, uninhibited exploration of bodies holding nothing back, until both laid draped, content and spent in an embrace finally made tranquil by two hearts slowly resuming their normal rhythm – as one.
“You hoped that I’d remember,” he whispered against her brow, her head resting on his shoulder, “then told me to forget – that was never going to happen.”
“I’m sorry I said that,” she murmured, one finger outlining his nipple lightly. “It was selfish, and unfair.”
“I know why you did,” he smiled, kissing her lightly, enjoying the ache in his legs and the warm dampness of their interwoven limbs. “It actually gave me hope, that you felt more for me than just as a client.”
“Need to work on my poker face I guess,” she chuckled wryly, kissing his chest to the point where he let out a little noise of surprise at the sting.
“Did you?” he blinked, tilting his head to look down.
“Think you’re the only one who gets to leave marks?” she smirked, thumbing across his lips but refusing to kiss them.
“I suppose you haven’t looked at my back and shoulders?” he snorted, shrugging a little for emphasis. “I’m not going to be able to take my shirt off at work for weeks.”
“I don’t have issue with that,” Miho laughed, kissing against the various red impressions of her teeth across his broad shoulders. “This body is…. perfect,” she added with a sigh, and Goto looked away, actually embarrassed. “Really?” she chuckled, wrapping her arm over him and squeezing him tightly. “You’re getting all embarrassed about how insanely sexy you are after what we’ve gotten up to?”
“For all you have difficulty saying, what comes to you easiest is what affects me most,” he grumbled, but it was an affectionate sound that lingered lovingly in Miho’s ears.
“And this is why women secretly rule the world,” she grinned, scratching her teeth down his right pectoral.
“Hungry?” he questioned.
“Well, this is the second time you’ve made me miss dinner,” she pointed out cheekily, sitting up and stretching her arms over her head.
Goto’s hand flat against her spine, ghosting slowly down its length, caused her to shiver and look back at him.
“I’m hungry too,” he told her frankly, index finger gliding slightly into her rear crevice before falling away, and Miho’s eyebrows raised. “What?”
“Nothing, I ahh, just didn’t really peg you for an ass man,” she snickered, purposefully shimmying back and sitting right on his hand, much to Goto’s surprise.
“Peg… ass…” he repeated, turning this over in his mind, and as he did, he looked a little more panicked. “Wait, you don’t think I was suggesting that I, that we…”
“So that’s a no?” she questioned airily, wriggling against his trapped hand.
“It’s not a… no,” he frowned in consternation, a little confused perhaps and a whole lot unsure. “It’s just not something I’ve really, ever thought about or – would ask a woman to… you know.”
“God you’re precious,” she gushed, rolling on top of him just long enough to kiss him firmly, before continuing on her way off the bed.
“I’m going to end up with a complex,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead, but Miho only laughed and strode over to snatch up the room service menu.
“Okay, my ass aside, what else are you in the mood for?” she teased, flopping back down on the end of the bed.
They ate, drank, and watched half of Madagascar before a tickle war devolved into another round of passionate exchanges that stretched well on into the morning.
Goto couldn’t remember the last time he woke up with a woman in his arms, let alone one like Miho.
Fearless, and yet… fractured.
Forthright and formidable, but… fragile.
“I want to protect you,” he whispered into her hair, kissing against her temple lightly.
“Mmm,” Miho murmured sleepily, turning her face against Goto’s skin. “I will bite you again.”
“Please do,” he challenged, lips moving to her ear.
“Calling my bluff?” she grumbled, words muffled against his chest, dragging her leg up over him until her knee was bent against his stomach.
“I wouldn’t dare,” he chortled, tracing up her shin, then along her thigh. “Breakfast?”
“I don’t swallow, no matter how hot you are,” she snorted, giving his cheek a solid pinch.
“Vulgar,” he quipped, turning his face into her hand snatching a couple of her fingers between his lips.
“You don’t know the half of it,” she smirked, allowing him to suckle for a few seconds before she drew her fingertips down his stubbled chin.
“I’ll learn,” he smiled, genuine and determined. “No regrets?”
“No,” she smiled back, her expression serene, her heart calm. “None.”
“Okay, then go have a shower and I’ll order us some coffee,” he prompted, throwing the blanket off their naked bodies.
“Ughh, you know, the last time you told me to take a shower, I got out and you were nowhere to be seen?” she pointed out with a pout as he lifted her up, and actually set her on her feet.
“But you remember what happened after that right?” he pointed out, tucking wild wisps of her hair back over her ears. “And, you trust me?”
Miho turned her head against his palm – warm and wide, skin firm and manly, not too rough, not too soft.
“I will start calling you Aladdin,” she warned, kissing his hand before backing away.
“I could see you as a princess,” he mused, then suddenly looked a little abashed, perhaps realising he stood there totally naked before Miho’s open and obvious appraisal.
“Cuuute,” she grinned impishly, then ducked into the bathroom.
Miho didn’t loiter in the shower very long, and was actually a little disappointed Goto didn’t join her. Still, it gave her some space to process what she’d done and mull over her feelings.
The death of her husband had ruined her – this was a truth she had spoken to herself over and over like a mantra meant to save her life – but with Goto on her mind somehow those words didn’t have as much power.
If she was so defeated, then how did she have the close friends she did? How had she built a successful business with them? How had she not shoved out of that elevator, and stomped the hell away with that mantra ringing infallibly in her ears?
“Back to being spoiled instead of ruined?” she asked her reflection, smiling though her body was dotted with little marks… some not so little.
To her surprise, that question’s first answer was not to run the fuck away and hide, even though she’d had her fears, fears that could not be erased completely in one night, but had been at the very least weakened.
“Of all the men you’ve come to know,” she exhaled. “A lot of men, you never felt like this about any of them since…”
There was no way for her to pinpoint when she’d crossed the line between seeing him as a client and fighting against seeing him as more. All she had was where she stood now, with a pleasant fatigue still lingering in her muscles, pleasant memories of the night just passed, and a tentative hope those were not the last they’d make together.
Eventually, fighting a sense of déjà vu, Miho exited the bathroom.
There were no candles this time, but a spread of delicious breakfast goodies on the table.
What was familiar, was the lack of Goto.
“Seriously, if he went to shower somewhere else this time, I’m going to be really pissed,” she muttered, drawn by the small of strong coffee to the table, where her gaze perused what was on offer.
Fruit, muffins, cereal, miso, salad, various warm dishes hidden beneath silver lids, and a curious white box with a blue ribbon tied around it, accompanied by a little card instructing her to open it.
Suspicious, Miho looked around, expecting Goto to jump out and scare her – not that she thought he was really the prankster type. Apprehension still twisted in her stomach; she wasn’t a huge fan of surprises, but she picked up the box and tucked away the bow, inhaling and holding her breath as she lifted the lid.
Within was a tiny piece of folded paper – certainly not what she had been expecting – not that she had been expecting anything!
“What are you up to?” she whispered, smoothing out the paper to find a short note written inside. “I hope you’re at least a little bit disappointed,” she read aloud, “because that will make this a whole lot easier on me. Huh,” she frowned, staring down at it like there was more to glean from just those words alone. “The hell is that supposed to me…”
“Miho,” Goto said to her left, and Miho’s head snapped in that direction.
He was perfectly groomed.
Expression unflinchingly attentive.
Dressed in a tuxedo and positioned beside her chair on bended knee.
“No… way,” Miho exhaled, staring.
“Despite coming to MJS without expectation,” he told her, serious beyond measure, “I did so with every intention of finding that woman with whom I could share the rest of my life.”
“You’re really-” she began again, eyes wide, but got no further when Goto placed a finger against her lips.
“I had my doubts about the inorganic nature of the process, but every time we met I realised more clearly, something very natural was developing despite us. And when you left the other night, when I saw you with… at the grocery store, it hurt so much, I had to face the fact I’d fallen in love with the one person you wouldn’t offer in your meticulous profiles.”
The little diversionary note fluttered forgotten from between Miho’s fingers to the carpet, settling in the small space between them.
“And I’m amazed that you’re here with me now,” he pressed on, gaze undaunted despite the weight of each word, “grateful, blessed… and hopeful.”
The cry of tiny, old hinges called Miho’s attention to the scuffed wooden ring box that was pinched between Goto’s thumb and forefinger, and the very obvious symbol nestled in the black cushioning within.
Miho’s next breath entered her lungs as a gasp, a half-sob, and was imprisoned there as the world ground to a vivid halt. There was no sharper focus than that moment, nothing else around them but the hum of sincere emotions limited only by the frustrating constraint of verbal language.
“Please,” he entreated, and yet it didn’t sound like he was begging, just expressing not desire, but need, “let me be a support to your triumphs,” he went on a little breathlessly, but his offering did not waver in the slightest. “Please, let me stand beside you and face your challenges, as our challenges. And when this indomitable woman – who has dominated my affections so completely – finds her strength failing, please let me be the one to hold her safe until she finds herself again.”
There was no thought.
Amazement wasn’t thought.
Bewildering, unrestrained, unbalanced, shuddering, rocking, wonder wasn’t thought.
“There isn’t a single woman,” she managed shakily, hands twitching unconsciously where they rested across her knees, “in the world,” she continued, “straight, gay, undetermined, who could say no to that.”
“But I only need one, to say yes,” he pointed out solemnly, but his lips finally upturned, just slightly in an optimistic expression that shattered whatever reserve of resistance Miho had reflexively been clinging to.
“Let me be your husband,” he whispered, gently taking up her left hand and kissing the place where he’d already placed a ring once.
Not be my wife – let me be your husband.
“Yes,” Miho uttered, the last of the air she’d been holding in her lungs, but the purest response possible.
With audible relief, Goto plucked the ring from its moorings and put the box aside, before settling the antique polish of the ring just over her fingernail.
“You… you’re sure?” he asked again, and Miho slid off her chair to bring herself to his eye level.
“You really want me to change my mind?” she chortled thickly.
“I don’t think I could survive that,” he admitted sheepishly, pushing the ring onto her finger, before entangling their fingers.
It was a little big, would need to be resized, but that was hardly a consideration for that moment.
“When my grandmother died,” he said quietly, resting his forehead against hers lightly. “He gave me my grandmother’s engagement ring, pretty uncommon for their era, and told me I wasn’t to part with it for anything less than the love he’d felt for her.”
“How long were they married?” Miho asked, tilting her head up, desperate to kiss him.
“Over seventy years,” he replied softly, sliding his hand into her robe to pull her against him. “A pretty impressive record.”
“We got this,” she smiled, claiming what was of him, hers, allowing him to claim what was of her, his.
And thankfully, reverently, together they once more indulged in what was theirs.