Title: Fun and Business in Tokyo
Author: Shatterpath
Feedback address: shatterpath@shatterstorm.net
Date in Calendar: 22 December 2011
Fandom: CSI/The Division via LWM
Pairing: Dace/Catherine, Dace/Akiko, Akiko/Amaterasu
Rating: NC17
Word Count: 17127
Summary: A business meeting in Tokyo brings a surprising reunion for Dace.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD11

Disclaimer: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, Alliance Atlantis, and CBS Productions. "The Division", the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Lifetime Television, Kedzie Productions, Viacom Productions, and Paramount. All original characters belong to ShatterStorm Productions and the Light, Water, Muses universe, and are the creations of A. Magiluna Stormwriter and Shatterpath. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," "The Division," their owners/parent companies, or any representatives of the actors.

Author's Notes:

Beta: ariestess

Fun and Business in Tokyo

Chapter 1: Welcome Back to Japan
++ Dace ++


The transpacific flight sucked only in its interminable length. By all things holy, that's a lot of water! I can't even fathom how awful it must be in the cattle car in back! At least in business class I have a seat that drops flat to sleep in and the food is decent; tastes wrong, but still decent. The recipes are tailored for normal human taste buds that are affected by the pressurized cabin and canned air. My senses are dialed down so far I'm surprised I can taste anything, to be honest. It's how my sanity stays with me; so many smells and tastes and sounds in such a small space.

Bumping down to earth once more is a visceral relief.

As usual, my soul and heart stands with me, unshakable and loving. My coyote, my soulmate, my strength, Catherine has kept me calm enough to deal with the human cattle crowding me. As it's only been nine days since my getting knocked up by Jim and his badass jaguar self, one can't be too hard on my instincts being a little heightened. The whole world feels a little different to me now, like the lighting guy has changed the filters to a slightly brighter tone. I can't really put it into words. The close presence of Fenris and Olivia further reinforces my strength of will, like packmates making the hunt safer and more effective.

The moment we can get up from our seats, my enhanced reflexes have me a beat ahead of everyone else, staring down the rude corporate asshole that's bothered me more than once during the flight. Yes, I admit it gives me a thrill that he blanches and backs down for a moment, and then Catherine's soothing hand on my sweaty back turns my attention from him. Without words, we have our things and are down the tube and onto Japanese soil. First priority is a full-bodied stretch that makes every muscle whine with pain and pleasure. Joints pop, arteries open up and my lungs relish slightly less stale air.

"Hedonist," Catherine chuckles lightly and wraps me a hug that my extended body can naturally fall into.

"God, that felt good. Thank you for keeping me sane for the flight."

"My pleasure, partner. Looks like you've managed to make yourself the center of attention again."

She's right of course. There are three women and two men at a nearby customer counter that are watching me with various stages of discretion. Well, I certainly stand out from the crowd! Just because I can, and with my ever-present perversity, I kiss Catherine there in the terminal, long and sweet.

"Oh, get a room," Michael mocks as she finally joins us, Liv right on her heels. My raised eyebrow makes her scowl and blow out a frustrated breath. "I couldn't find my stupid laptop case and was getting jostled around to boot. Can we get the hell away from this plane now?"


Since this is a business trip, it's just the four of us and Catherine is only here for my Sentinel sanity with Liv as her experienced backup. This is my first big Hearts job without Anastasia and I will succeed or fail on my own merits. Though with Fen here, any worry I might have is negated. After all, she's old hat at this sort of thing. About a year ago, Fen caught wind of some new porn coming out of Japan; classy, slick and stylized, even within the weird restriction of not showing any naughty bits. As long as there is no pubic hair or accompanying genitals on display, there seems to be no limit to the imagination of Japanese porn, so there is little that really stands out. Not just the quality caught Fen's eye, but also that she discovered the collection came from a pool of talented artists that are all women.

Unsurprisingly, we all rapidly became interested.

"You're falling down on the job, Big Cat," Cath chuckles and I follow her discrete gesture to find a pair of immaculately dressed women holding name cards. I like the detail of the heart next to my playname, echoed by the spade beside 'Michael'. Everything is neatly printed, accurate to the standard playing cards deck and spelled correctly. Score one for the home team.

Introductions are a blur to me as my bladder suddenly cries for relief and my stomach growls angrily at some savory smells from an unknown source. The first need is easily taken care of, but the latter not so much. Our hosts, what the hell were their names again, very carefully contain the amusement that dances in their matching dark eyes. Yep, that's me, the typical garish American. Oh well, at least I've provided them with some harmless entertainment.

It's always a wonder to me what a stranger sees in me. Am I merely the protégé to the Lady Heartsblood, here on business? Or am I the intimidating Leonacouer or the secretly goofy buddy to the Archangel Michael? After all, she's easy to take seriously. Even now, the woman is effortlessly charming the locals in fluent, musical Japanese. I'm too damn preoccupied with not making a complete fool of myself in my hunger, and I doubt that anything even remotely resembling charm is radiating off me. The older woman, with a handsome, serious face and mischievous eyes, chuckles prettily at something Fenris says. Dammit, it really bugs me that I've so utterly flushed her name out of my brain. Something that sounds like those cool little winter oranges…

And then there's the pretty little companion, and her damnably curious eyes. It's been a long time since I've been so carefully and subtly cased. She's good, I give her that freely. I want to react to that curious, hot gaze the way I've grown accustomed to. Being the hand of the Lady in charge has offered me a freedom that I've never had before. Sylvia had insisted on a short, tight leash on my behavior. Anastasia lets me loose, controlling me with words alone, and then, only when necessary. The empire she commands so effortlessly knows and respects me now, as the chained guardian beast of the Queen of Hearts and now the king to her queen, poised to carry on once she retires.

It's been a long time since I've been forced to keep myself this tightly reined in. And if that cute little nibblet isn't more careful with her eyes, I might just forget myself. Then I sigh and my half-angry frustration evaporates, making Catherine look at me oddly. No, I won't do any such thing. With time and proximity, I had been shocked to find warmth, respect, and even love with the powerful Anastasia. This trip is really, really important to her, and there's no way I'm going to fuck it up.

But I can hardly resist teasing the sweet local confection subtly. If I didn't, Anastasia will smack me up alongside the head at some later date. So, I revert back to my trademark arrogance and stride off to get something to eat. The others will have to accommodate me whether they like it or not. Luckily, there's a little shop that has some recognizable dishes and soon the giggling salesgirl has agreed to make some shrimp protein wrapped in rice and some sort of edible wrapper that I can take with me. While I wait, I turn and indolently eye my companions, new and familiar, standing with one hip cocked off just enough to make my pose asymmetrical. Thumbs hooked in my beloved belt leaves my fingers to curl loosely against the black-red fabric, drawing the curious eyes of our local guide to the discrete tell-tale bulge there. The outfit's a design cross between Alex and Anastasia, dramatic yet businesslike. A tailored tribute to the gentlemen gamblers of yesteryear, the rich linen material is incredibly thin and breathable, yet looks and moves like rich wool. Formal vests with elaborate silver buckles and carefully fitted slacks finish the look. My silk shirt matches the slightly looser cut of my outfit, as that's what I'm comfortable with, while Liv's matching duds are snug to her magnificently athletic figure.

So, the dark eyes trail over my body, a feather-light caress. Wonder if her companion knows she's looking?

Much happier with my snack, I return to Catherine's side and trail after Michael and our guides, admiring the airport and glimpses of the magnificent metropolis beyond its borders. I've been here once, years and years ago with Sylvia, but the memories are generally hazy. Even here in the airport where the locals mix with travelers, I'm a curiosity. Quickly, I realize that it's not so much my shock of blonde hair, bleached so pale now by the constant Las Vegas sun, but my towering height. I've often felt tall, but this is ridiculous. In my beloved old boots, I stand close to six foot two. With the average height here being somewhere in the vicinity of my chin, it's a striking contrast. The shock of hair and the unusual clothes add to the effect, and we leave chatter in our wake wherever we go.

In a blast of heat and sound that makes me flinch, we are outside in the Tokyo air. Wisely, I chose not to examine the chaos, but pull my enhanced senses in as close as I can and concentrate on Cath's soothing presence and the feel of her hand in mine. Either unaware or choosing to ignore my reaction, Fen calls me over to an awaiting compact limo; an appropriate vehicle for the crowded, compact city.

"Cool wheels," I comment idly, and the little cutie smothers a giggle, earning a sharp look from the elder. They're nervous, possibly feeling out of their depth a bit with dealing with the entity of the Four Suits. Then again, these two are only employees and might merely be unaccustomed to this sort of errand. Fen told me that this group we're here to meet is very reclusive so all of this makes sense. But it makes sense that she's been adamant that we all be on our best behavior, though I still wonder why she wanted me specifically to come along. She knows what a trouble maker I love to be…

Then again, I've seen some of the art produced by their company, so at least some of these women will be as kinky as me.

Won't that be fun?

Long, boring hours later, I call on a lifetime of forcibly-taught self-control to maintain my rigid decorum. Damn good thing the natives can't see my eyes though; I'll bet they're stagnant pools of abject boredom by now. My brain sure as hell feels like it's full of algae. Our hosts are a lovely pair of sisters, colored night and day. One dark as the night sky with moonlit eyes, she is swarthy, quiet and mysterious. The daylight sister is as tall as I and ethereally fair, including the near-white hair cascading past her knees. To my enhanced senses she shimmers the colors of the rainbow in the corner of my eye and her dark sister glistens like stars. It's fascinating, but even that mystery can't keep me from boredom since I don't speak a word of Japanese past saying hello and there is nothing for me to do. Really, it's Fen's damn fault, the show off. They speak perfectly good English, but since Fen's fluent in their musical language, they returned to it once the formalities of introductions and welcome had passed. Catherine bailed on me, the meanie, not even coming into the building, but imperiously commandeering the shortened limo. Not that I blame her for wanting to indulge in some hardcore shopping. And Liv is way too much of a professional to show any distraction or discomfort, leaving me to feel like a twitchy, cranky child.

My wandering train of thought is derailed by the door near my post whipping open and making me jump.

The cat snarls in anger at the shock and I am once again thankful for the shades. Sentinel-enhanced reflexes have my hand on the wood before it is entirely open and a woman's voice curses on the other side. Damn good thing I caught the thing, too. A hit like that on my scarred head is liable to send me off into some kind of lizard-brained frenzy. I am instantly forgotten in the wave of acknowledgment from the negotiation table, my amused consternation reflected in Michael's amber gaze.

The newcomer is slim and athletic with an aggressive, loose-limbed stride that I can appreciate. The traditionally black hair has a distinctive deep blue hue to it, highlighted by a careful stripe of pink and purple. I make a mental note to ask who does her work; it looks strikingly natural, despite the unnatural shades. Nonplussed, I watch as she goes to her companions to bow and speak urgently. Bet she's in trouble with the boss lady, who looks serious and tight-lipped! Yeah, I've been there myself. Apparently, this new woman hadn't even seen me here, caught up in her own dramas. Not used to being ignored, I slam the door shut rather harder than is necessary, and tug the shades down to the tip of my nose for arrogant, dramatic effect.

Slim, sturdy and wrapped in tailored street bike leathers, she looks like a wet-dream and I grin my famous predatory smile. That helmet-tousled head full of party-colored hair whips around and amethyst eyes widen at my unexpected presence. Those gemstone eyes are a good fake, too. Still, she's plenty attractive in a post-punk biker way.

Then the purple eyes widen further and I realize that I know her.

In the biblical sense of the word.

A lifetime ago it seems like; Sylvia had business in this magnificent city. Eighteen and horny, new to my Top leathers and curious to try the role out away from my demanding teacher and Mistress, I had finagled an evening out. There was a club… a wet, loud, boisterous place I still remembered all these years later. A credit card, well-faked ID, and one word of Japanese I knew, Kirin, had a beer in my hand, cold and anchoring and full of false courage.

Two unusual predators, we found each other amidst the throng of gyrating dancers, the way that competing meat-eaters must face off when one enters another's territory.

She silently wanted to know what my intentions were, as the crowd shifted away from us like ripples in a pond. Maybe I should warble out a few strains of 'Cool' from West Side Story to calm things down. A confrontation wasn't what I had in mind. She was dressed in racing leathers, but with a cut that accentuated her slim figure; all bleached blonde hair, wild and nearly white in the lights, and dragon-green eyes that followed me with reptilian coolness. Damn contacts. She lacked the shadow highlights and pale brow and eyelashes that we natural blondes had, setting me apart from anyone else I could see in the crowd. My leathers were classic Harley bike badass, picked out with my beloved big sister, who wore the look like it was created just for her. The fishnet shirt flashed a couple of my other assets, curvy and pale beneath the thick armor of cowhide. My… opponent, for lack of a better word, was wrapped snug in the leather and protective materials that covered her in black with colored highlights from neck to toe.

The crowd was murmuring now, and I caught a word spoken more than once, in that proprietary tone that means it is a name.

"Akira," I said clearly and the other woman visibly startled, then subtly clenched her teeth in frustration that I had baited her. Taking a relaxed pose in the space the crowd gave us, I hooked my thumbs into my belt, knowing the pose was arrogant and telling. "Dace."

Okay, they were buzzing now! Even in a fringe club like this, I was making waves. My teenage ego preened, but I fought it down, knowing I would have to justify every action I took here to Sylvia.

But how the hell did I communicate? Raking my eyes over her again, I nodded in respect to her body language that proclaimed her as a person of power here. Then I searched the immediate press of bodies, discounting all but a pair of potentials that I lingered over before giving this 'Akira' a questioning look. It was a tense moment, made tenser by the thundering music that matched my nervous heartbeat. Then Akira nodded firmly and forced herself to relax.

It was a fun night, where I got to try on a couple local fetishes, and feel up several willing little Japanese women. One even coaxed my new dick out, blowing me like she really meant it, and I let her wrap me in latex and screwed her nice and hard against the dance floor's mirrored wall. A good show was the least I could do for the crowd for being pretty cool.

The whole time, Akira stayed at the edge of my perceptions. It was hard to tell if she was keeping an eye out for me, or guarding her territory from another big dog. The crowd fawned over her like she was a local celebrity, and she sent the cleverest and prettiest girls away flushed and satisfied.

Full of beer and ego, I hardly expected to find myself in a nearby filthy alleyway, pressing the bleached predator into the grimy bricks, chewing and clawing at her. Something's been lost in the hormones and I abruptly remembered that I had responsibilities to uphold. She'd been giving me all the signals of wanting it rough and wild, but there are rules. So I grabbed this feral child of the Tokyo night, held her still with sheer strength. What the fuck were the words again? Aw, screw it, maybe she would get the gist of what I meant.

"Your safeword is?"

Recognition flashed behind the green shields, and I knew I had her. The baby predator was confounded by the conflicting signals in her body and brain. I knew how she felt, and something in my expression must have convinced her, because she whispered something that I forced myself to remember to this day.


Only later did I find out what the word meant, our host explaining that it was a water demon of myth. Interesting. My bright aqua eyes and froth of sunshine hair contrasted with all that harsh leather and the new dick in my pants. The grope in the alley was a cherished memory, as were the games later in her matchbox of an apartment…

Back in the room now suddenly, I realize that the stately sisters are staring at me in unbridled curiosity. Akira hasn't moved, frozen like a deer in headlights. The big boss, with the knee length mane of near-white hair, approaches my old playmate. Her steely gaze is possessive and wary, reminding me who is in charge here, and I focus on her.

++ Akira ++

Augh! I'm running so late! Gunning the engine of my powerful motorcycle, I weave amidst the cars and slow pedestrians, once again thrilling myself with the danger of this. Many things I have outgrown with time, but this one stays with me. As always, my unnatural reactions keep me safe, keep all others safe, and I race away from the thunder of the city to my home. Amidst the ancient estates, I pass through the familiar gates that recognize my presence with means outside of this world's comprehension and blaze through the tranquil landscape that looks the same as it has for thousands of years.

Too rushed to remember anything even approaching decorum, I barely get the bike onto her kickstand before I'm at a full run though the complex, dancing around staff members and all other obstacles. So rushed am I that I have no mind to pull up even when crashing through my Mistress' imposing door. Only when the surprised gazes of all within the meeting, foreign and familiar, come to rest on me, do I realize my unforgivable breach in etiquette.

Rushing forward, I bow deeply, feeling my Mistress' hard gaze like a blow... or a deadly sharp edge. "Lady Amaterasu, Lady Tsukiko, please forgive my unpardonable tardiness."

"You are late," Amaterasu says flatly, the cool tone barely masking her disappointment and anger. "Compose yourself and act with decorum."


"Yes ma'am. My apologies once again."

Before I can bow again, much less to the strangers in the room, the heavy entrance door, left ajar in my haste, bangs shut with a thud that makes the heavy walls and floor vibrate. Every eye is no longer on me, but a towering stranger, hand still raised where she pushed the door. Tall, fair, dressed formally in black and red, she is striking and a wave of some strange energy powers over me like a harbinger of violent storm.

For a long moment I am merely embarrassed by this current predicament I find myself in, before it hits me.

I know her...

Dear gods and spirits, it's her.

Like some sort of fever dream, this almost mythological creature of my past is here in the flesh. Honestly, after all of these years, I have nearly convinced myself that she was never real, merely a figment of my overheated imagination. But that night of hedonistic abandon led me to my Mistress' arms, where I could be so much more than just a prized corporate student. It did not happen immediately, or even quickly, but years of waiting eventually paid off. After all, it takes time and patience to catch the eye of an immortal legend.

In this moment, suspended endlessly in time, even my Mistress is nearly forgotten as I stare at the apparition in the doorway. She has possibly grown even taller over the long years and her figure is still lean but her curves are that of a grown woman now. Forgotten, the sensation of my nerves singing harmony to her charisma rings through me in a harmony I'd thought forgotten. Unbidden, the memories of that night flood me, making me feel weak.

Those blue eyes, seeming to sparkle like gold sun on water, sear into my soul.

The thundering pulse of that filthy club ran counterpoint to how I lived then, wild, free and untamed. I was a feral cat, answering to none, untouchable and master of my own fate. Then this stranger knocked down my fragile ego, built in the false life I had built for myself. In the hedonistic burn of our mythic connection, I was freed from my own madness and able to swallow my pride to return to the life I was meant for.

Some tiny, rational corner of my mind is stunned at the power of memories as they blast through me. The club, the alley, my subjugation at my apartment. As though tied to my soul, the token she left behind calls to me from where it rests with a lifetime of small treasures I keep close to me.

As though sensing my thoughts, the summer sky eyes crinkle with amusement, with a dangerous gleam of connection. If there was even a shred of doubt she can only be, it is no more. As impossible as it is that my mystery lover from so many years ago stands here in a position of power, I am shaken that the recognition is entirely mutual.

She knows me as well.

My Mistress Amaterasu knows something important has just occurred here. She knew the moment I laid eyes on this woman and now there will be repercussions. There is a part of me that wants to revert to my childhood, that frightened little girl told her parents will never return to her, and hide behind my beloved teacher and mentor.

Chapter 2: Shock Value
++ Dace ++

"Kappa," I growl almost soundlessly, and Akira actually physically recoils, hands up defensively. The other, mother, mate, or mistress, I can't tell, is just as startled. Wracking my brain, I come up with a name, tossing it around mentally a few times until I'm fairly certain I've remembered it correctly. "Amaterasu," comes out much more flawlessly than I expect and the white-haired woman is completely focused on me now, particularly when I bow respectfully. "Akira. My apologies for creating a scene, it was not my intention. Slamming the door was inappropriate. Please forgive me."

There's a part of me that loves the chaos I've inadvertently caused. There is a bigger part of me that doesn't want to disappoint Anastasia or Michael or these interesting new women that have worked so hard to attract us as business partners. Finally, Amaterasu shakes off her shock and returns the bow. "No offense is taken, Dace-san. It was a simple misunderstanding." Her cool tone on that last word makes Akira flinch just that tiny bit and I see who wears the pants in this family. And it has nothing to do with the serene, uber-femme look that Amaterasu wears so effortlessly. Her strangely colorless eyes fall to my sternum, just a tiny flicker of movement, and I know then that I'm right.

This woman has heard the story of that fateful night, and knows where I wear the diamond tattoo.

Completely in control of the situation once again, Amaterasu claps imperiously and we all instantly bring our gazes to her. Whatever she says is a mix of amused and businesslike, and we're suddenly off the clock. Right on cue, my stomach growls and the mysterious sister, whose name I have got to get again, raises a hand to cover an almost unladylike giggle. So far I really like these silk and steel femmes, and grin warmly. "An appetite to match my stature," I shrug, and earn a tinkling laugh. Akira flinches again and I do my best to swallow my amusement.

"Please then, honored guest, lunch awaits."

"Well then c'mon guys, I'm starved," I chortle at the dark sister and gallantly gesture her to exit ahead of my before tossing an arm around Michael and Liv's necks to drag them after our guide. Luckily, we have a few feet of privacy where Fen can once again whisper names in my ear to reinforce my memory. This time I'm fairly certain that I have them down. Lunch is a sumptuous affair of local cuisine that I'm thankful seems to contain nothing weird. Despite my urban upbringing, my bizarre food tolerances are pretty low. Conversation remains light and relaxing, no real talk of business, though I do learn more of what these women do and how.

"I'd kill for a decent cup of coffee," Michael grumbles, tugging loose the top couple of buttons on her flawlessly white silk shirt. Grinning warmly at my old pal, I give her a friendly head-butt. Liv only chuckles at our goofing off.

"You're doin' great so far. At least I think you are."

"Yeah, sorry about that," she grins sheepishly. "I didn't mean to exclude you with the language barrier."

I'm sure my deadpan gaze speaks volumes.

The nibblet with the caressing gaze materializes from nowhere with an elaborate tea set. My sensitive nose recognizes that there is no tea in that pot and I grin. "Cappuccino?" The girl says clearly and we both nod gratefully. Hot, strong and muddy dark, the good, rich coffee is a welcome taste of the familiar.

Akira barely touches her food, and her conflicted gaze is on me all the time, like starving mosquitoes. Consequently, I'm hardly surprised when Amaterasu appears near me, her expression questioning. When I move to stand, she gestures for me to stay, and I allow her the psychological upper hand.

"You are the pale stranger that gave Akiko the belt," is her quiet opening salvo and the bluntness takes me off guard. This conversation is not for all and both Michael and Liv turn away, giving us psychological privacy.

"Yes," I answer honestly, matching the low, intimate volume. "Akiko?"

"My favored student has not used the street name of Akira in many years." There is no mistaking the faint distaste on the name and I file that information away. In the corner of my eye I can see that Akiko's -- gotta remember that -- eyes are wide with something like horror; the poor baby. But my attention remains on Amaterasu as she thinks for a long moment, carefully choosing her words. "We have always wondered the why of the gift."

Flicking my gaze from one woman to the other, I tell the cat to quit scaring my old playmate, and ponder my reasons of so long ago. "A sign of respect. My excursion," the word makes Amaterasu smile despite herself, "to this beautiful city was the first time that my Mistress let me off the leash to play on my own. I hardly expected such a memorable maiden voyage." After a moment, Amaterasu speaks quietly in Japanese, her eyes on me, and Akiko flushes rosy.

++ Akiko ++


That single word destroys any possible doubt that I am mistaken as to exactly who this is. It is so impossible, so stunning that she would be standing here that I physically recoil as though expecting some sort of attack. Hands up and body loose just as my teachers taught me, I wait on the razor edge of panic.

Even through the panic, I swear I can still feel those pale lips on mine, ravaging me, burning my soul forever. Lust and terror and confusion make me weak and stupid, shredding my composure. The crystal blue eyes glint with knowing amusement, deepening my conflict and yet… strangely calming me.

The crystal eyes turn inward for a moment before she is suddenly all business, her attention on my Mistress. "Amaterasu," the blonde woman says calmly and there is a faint flicker of caution and interest as my Mistress watches this one time playmate of mine. With a grace not expected of her tall, lanky frame, Dace executes a perfect bow of respect, proof that she has learned much in the intervening years. "Akira. My apologies for creating a scene, it was not my intention. Slamming the door was inappropriate. Please forgive me."

Despite our connection, I am startled to be addressed directly and my eternal curiosity begins to best my panic. Self preservation tells me to run away before Mistress and this enticing stranger have a chance to compare notes, but my slave instincts, learned through years of lovely subjugation, root me to the spot. Oh, the things these women could do to me, the fantasies are dizzying. So dazed am I by the possibilities, I almost miss Amaterasu's bow.

"No offense is taken, Dace-san. It was a simple misunderstanding."

The razor cool tone makes me flinch and force calm over my body and mind. Disappointing my teacher is never wise. Decorum must be followed and I have failed miserably in the eyes of my honored elders and guests.

For the moment I am spared punishment as Amaterasu claps smartly and speaks in our native tongue. "Business is concluded for now and we will now enjoy lunch." I nod in sync with Tsukiko and flinch at my Mistress' pointed look. "There will be a formal dinner tonight. If you cannot attend, please inform me."

With that, we are released from the business formalities and the elegant sisters turn their attentions once more to our guests. A terrible growl from Dace's belly actually makes me crack a smile before I stare in astonishment. Does that tinkling giggle belong to Tsukiko? I had thought her humorless all of these years.

"An appetite to match my stature," Dace shrugs carelessly and the dark sister laughs joyously. Even Amaterasu looks stunned at the riot of humor from her dour sister. Bowing almost mockingly towards the door, Tsukiko chuckles and speaks warmly.

"Please then, honored guest, lunch awaits."

"Well then c'mon guys, I'm starved," Dace smiles back and gallantly gestures Tsukiko to proceed her out before wrapping long arms around her companions' necks to drag them bodily along. I cannot help but to be acutely aware of every movement she makes.

I don't speak during lunch, picking unenthusiastically at the light fare. Nervously, my gaze continues to flicker to Dace, to take in the features that time had blurred in my mind, to admire her athletic body in the fabrics of blood and night. Part of me wants to attack her, or throw myself at her mercy, but this is not the time or place to lose control. Underneath the table, a hand brushes against my leg before resting on my thigh, making me jump. A gentle squeeze and much of my insanity dissipates like so much fog before a noonday sun.

Amaterasu is here. She will take care of me as she has always taken care of me.

Would I want a reenactment of our past encounter even if it is offered? The thought is terrifying and utterly thrilling. Dace is every bit as enticing as she was those many years ago, more enticing if I am to be honest with myself. Age and experience has mellowed her, deepened the character in her face, written in the lines of her body. The brutal scar at her right temple reminds me of what my Mistress told me of these American businesswomen. Such a strong person would be an invaluable asset to us. We can't afford to let this opportunity go to waste and I must play my part. Fear has never stopped me from reaching my goals before, nor will it now.

I'm startled when Amaterasu abruptly rises and I automatically move to follow. With a single shake of her head I remain where I am and watch in apprehension as she circles the table and approaches Dace. Like a hungry bird I watch what unfolds, always attuned to my Mistress and her expectations.

"You are the pale stranger that gave Akiko the belt."

Oh… oh no. Oh please, My Lady, not that. My mind screams for mercy, but I am mute. My training is too complete, too ingrained to do something so wild and undignified. No matter how I may rant for mercy inside.

"Yes," Dace acknowledges quietly and her head cocks to one side like a curious dog. "Akiko?"

"My favored student has not used the street name of Akira in many years." There is no mistaking the distaste in Amaterasu's voice and I flinch despite myself. Oh, how she hates that name and the wild, reckless part of my soul that it represents. "We have always wondered the why of the gift."

Oh how I want to deny it! How I fight and struggle with my need, my curiosity, just as I always have. Only with my teacher's relentless discipline have I ever found peace from my wild nature. Right now I crave both so badly that I can taste it like blood in my mouth.

"A token of respect," Dace explains after a moment's hesitation. "My excursion to this beautiful city was the first time my Mistress let me off the leash to play on my own. I hardly expected such a memorable maiden voyage."

Memorable? Part of me is stunned to be told that I was… memorable.

"You see, favored one?" My Mistress speaks to me with a smile. "It is not just I that thinks so."

Much as I crave praise, it makes me flush in embarrassment and squirm like a child.

Chapter 3: Private Negotiations
++ Dace ++

"Perhaps, then," Amaterasu says with businesslike sincerity, "this is a subject that you would be willing to discuss further in private?"

Oh ho, she's bold, this one is! Seems my hope these women have a kinky streak is right after all. Swallowing an entirely inappropriate urge to chuckle evilly, I duck my head respectfully at the tall, willowy woman standing over me. "Yes ma'am."

And with the use of that title, and the baring of the back of my neck, I give permission for Amaterasu to take command of the situation. A quick glance confirms the look in her eye. Yep, this sharp lady knows exactly what just transpired.

"Very good then," Amaterasu is pleased, but businesslike, drawing herself up importantly to her full, impressive height. "I will return in a moment. Remain here and I will return for you."

"Yes, ma'am." It's hugely entertaining that Akiko, too, murmurs a quiet acknowledgment of the woman's words. A suspicion forms in my mind that perhaps my old playmate understands me far better than I understand her. Slouching down, I let my long legs trail under the table, while I speak in a conversational tone, "Hey, Dobie?"

"Hmm?" Liv hums back, mildly startled to be suddenly pulled back into this new drama.

"I just volunteered myself to charm the locals." One of my beloved boots nudges up between Akiko's, making the woman jump and snap out of her unfocused stare at her lunch. "Watch my back?"

With a heavy, melodramatic sigh, Liv rolls her eyes. "Should I bring along the headphones?"

Now I'm chuckling, rubbing the edge of my sole against the hard casing of Akiko's left boot, trying to get her to squirm. "Depends on your mood. And the Lady Amaterasu, of course." Smirking, Liv pulls out the fancy-ass earbuds to her iPod and I laugh.

"I had a feeling," she deadpans and I thump my forehead affectionately into her shoulder.

"Go figure."

Akiko is staring at her plate, the food barely touched, and I nudge my foot against her ankle just a little bit harder. "You might want to eat that. You'll need your strength." The gemstone violet eyes snap up and I grin my favorite predatory grin. "I was right. You do understand us. I'll keep that in mind." Oh, she looks lovely in panic mode, but my tormenting is cut short as Amaterasu suddenly returns and we all straighten up to attention.

"I have spoken to Michael-san and my sister. They approve of our private negotiations." The faint sarcasm on those last two words makes me grin. Since she smiles back, I take it I'm not in too much trouble… yet. "You will both follow me." When Liv also stands, an elegant grey-white brow arches in question and I again bow deeply to her. Good thing I paid attention to all those etiquette lessons Fen and Anastasia provided for me.

"Olivia must remain with me for psychological reasons that are very difficult to explain."

"Very well," Amaterasu agrees easily, instantly adapting whatever scenario is building behind her color changing, mercurial gaze. Briskly, she strides from the room and I pause, allowing Akiko to slink out first, before I follow with Liv on my heels. Truthfully, I'm totally excited by this turn in events, a chance to play with new players, and maybe get to know an old playmate that I have such fond memories of. And there's no denying that Amaterasu is a fierce turn-on, definitely hitting several of my favorite fetishes!

The walk is silent; Amaterasu obviously deep in thought, Akiko trailing along behind her like a good, if not completely unnerved sub, me my usual arrogant self and the imperturbable Liv, totally accustomed now to the weirdness I constantly drag her into.

++ Akiko ++

"Perhaps, then," Amaterasu says, switching effortlessly back to English, "this is a subject that you would be willing to discuss further in private?"

In private? She cannot mean what I think she means! I have never belonged to another and the very idea of being given to another besides my Mistress truly terrifies me. But my training is once again completely ingrained and I remain quiet.

The twinkle in Dace's gaze deepens my conflict, the terror mixing with raw anticipation. There is something in her eyes the color of summer sky, something unearthly as though she is touched by the spirits. Gold dances there, feral and frightening, enticing me and warning me of danger, sunlight glinting off of fast, deep water.

Across the table, Dace bows her head in deference to my Mistress, respectfully dipping low, her fantastic eyes dropped demurely. "Yes, ma'am."

Where the hell did she learn to do that? With all the skill of a well-trained submissive, she has given command to my Mistress, who looks smugly delighted with this twist.

"Very good then," Amaterasu is businesslike, and Dace has kept her eyes downcast. I should be doing the same, but my deep fear is making me stupid and sloppy. "I will return in a moment. Remain here and I will return for you."

Amaterasu glances over at me and I freeze in my seat. The glacial look in those familiar eyes is all the warning that I need to snap me out of my panic. Instantly, I stare at the table and pray that she will see fit to be merciful to a fool like me.

"Yes, ma'am," Dace murmurs respectfully and I echo the words in my native tongue.

Oh, how could I be such a fool? What am I, once more that idiot adolescent barely fit for the relentless attentions of my corporate commander and beloved Mistress? So many years she spent grinding off my rough edges, calming me, focusing me, molding me into something useful.

In my brooding melancholia, I have forgotten the drama that I have been cast in and nearly leap up like a scalded cat when a booted foot suddenly nudges my own.

"Watch my back?" Dace isn't looking at me, but the dark haired woman next to her, dressed nearly identical.

She rolls her eyes with a sigh that would do the housegirls proud. "Should I bring along the headphones?"

I can feel Dace's sole scraping across the insole of my boot, accompanied by a faint chiming that teases my ears. The sudden image of rubbing against that boot, desperate and needy, flashes across my mind's eye and I stare sightlessly down at my plate, trying to subdue the sudden need to squirm guiltily.

"Depends on your mood. And the Lady Amaterasu, of course." Their rich laughter flows over me and I'm sorely tempted to risk glancing up, but I don't dare, too frightened of what I may see in those blue eyes.

"I had a feeling."

"Go figure." A hard nudge against my ankle catches my attention, but I don't raise my gaze from the fish ball on my plate. "You might want to eat that. You'll need your strength." The force of conviction, the sheer knowing in that tone snaps my head up before I can think. I'm greeted by a feral, knowing grin that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. "I was right. You can understand us. I'll keep that in mind."


Thankfully, I'm saved by the reappearance of my Mistress behind me. She slides her elegant fingers through my hair and grips the colored strands firmly but not unkindly. As I'm certain she intended, the near-pain instantly calms me, a long, shaky breath escaping me in a rush.

"I have spoken with Michael-san and Tsukiko. They approve of our private negotiations." The faintly suggestive tone on 'negotiations' makes me blush. "You will both follow me." She tightens her hand in my hair and tugs sharply to get me to my feet.

Across the table, both Dace and her swarthy companion have risen. The flexing of Amaterasu's hand as it slides down from my head and across my shoulder tells me she's as surprised by this as I am.

Dace bows deeply, her head threatening to knock against the table. "Olivia must remain with me for psychological reasons that are very difficult to explain."

I see Amaterasu give Olivia a once over as she adapts her game plan. My Mistress has not risen to her position of power by being unable to adapt quickly. "Very well."

The sudden loss of contact is as jarring as its sudden arrival. I am bereft without her and follow meekly. Behind me, Dace's steady tread is a resonant reminder of what is in store for me.

Chapter 4: Let the Games Begin
++ Dace ++

This is a section of the sprawling complex that I wasn't given a tour of before. Like most of the complex, what little I've seen, it's done in a very traditional style of intricate woodwork and rice paper screens. The sprawling courtyard at the center beckons me with enticing sights and smells, but that will have to wait. The walkways around the courtyard are lined with sturdy doors, stained red, each carefully marked with a small ceramic placard in the native tongue. At one, Amaterasu opens the door and mockingly gestures the nervous Akiko into the dimly-lit space. When the lady makes no move to follow, I step in before the imperious gaze can fall on me.

Since there are two of us in the command of the Top here, a situation I know well, I step to the far side of the room, past Akiko, not quite in the center of the space. This way, I make no demands for attention from the Top, while still being appropriately available to her. My, my, but the girlie butch Akiko looks like she wants to burst into tears with nerves. Obviously, they don't play much, at least with an audience…

Or she's never resigned herself to needing this subjugation.

Even as Olivia closes the four of us into the play room, I restrain myself from rolling my eyes at the silliness of my old playmate. Why some people find their needs so impossibly hard to acknowledge is completely beyond me. But then again, I wasted how many years in my idiotic pursuit of the 'normal'? I certainly am in no position to critique others. Well, perhaps I can use my experience to help reinforce that all of this okay; but will have to be subtle and not challenge Amaterasu's command of this situation.

"Child, relax," Amaterasu soothes her rattled sub, before her demeanor hardens. "You have been lax in your discipline today. I will hear what you think went wrong." Cringing, Akiko wracks her brain and begins to speak. It's an interesting disciplinarian technique, working to soften up that already-rattled pride. Since I can barely make out what I think is English, horribly slurred as to be incomprehensible, I watch their expressions. Amusingly, Olivia can obviously understand the words, following in her customary miss-nothing quiet.

Then there's a pause, Akiko searching her mind before she straightens up further and speaks again. "I failed to let our visitors know that I speak English." Okay, now that is suddenly understandable, as she's obviously making a conscious effort to enunciate. A sweet and chilling smile dances at the corners of Amaterasu's mouth. Oh, she is good!

"You also failed to mention that you've been ready since you realized who it was that had arrived."

Once more, I swallow inappropriate amusement, consciously keeping my expression blank as Akiko flushes hotly. "Yes, ma'am. I failed to mention that I've been ready since I realized Dace was here."

The corners of my mouth twitch through my self-control and I pray that Amaterasu misses the slip. The lady steps in close to her lover, but it's a deception, as she moves away again, leaving Akiko bereft. That woman really needs to work on her poker face. Whoops, pay attention Dace, you're on center stage now. Sylvia trained me to stand tall, head back, shoulders square, chin slightly lifted. Since this woman is nearly my impressive height, I find myself relying on those old behaviors.

Amaterasu's expression is cool, remote, thoughtful, as she reaches up to tickle her fingers through the shaggy near-inch of hair where the surgical site has grown back in. It's so weird to have a stranger touching the tender scar so lovingly; only Catherine touches me like this, even Sara and Lindsey still shy away from it. I like it, slitting my eyes with pleasure, allowing her to tug my skull down a few inches so that she can press her soft mouth to the mark. Utterly pleased, I am now doubly willing to serve this new mistress. Her ploy to earn my body's trust has succeeded, whether she meant it or not.

Now she's tracing my face the way a blind woman would, learning my features. "Dear stranger, now friend, I owe you a debt of gratitude," she says in a soft, warm tone, and I cock my head curiously, not willing to risk speaking if I don't have to. Smiling serenely, she continues to touch me. "You showed my favored student a way to escape her adolescent madness and that led her to me. I thank you for that."

Honestly, I'm surprised by the tender press of her mouth to mine. It's not an intimacy I would have expected, but I'm certainly not complaining.

++ Akiko ++

The constant fluttering in my stomach is only partly fear at this point.

Now it's mostly anticipation.

We take a circuitous route around the garden, but I do not see the glory of the natural space. In my head, I can only wonder which of the rooms my Mistress will chose. Even so, I hesitate like a coward when she at last opens a door, necessitating a mocking and faintly irritated gesture from Amaterasu that forces my nervous legs into motion. The heavy, tinkling tread of the sun-haired blast from my past is hot on my heels. Then the door closes with heavy finality and I am trapped.

"Child, relax," my Mistress speaks quietly and firmly. The tone is patience and disappointment in equal measures. She knows me better than anyone, my need to please that trips me often more often then it helps me to succeed. There are times when she will use that knowledge against me, deliberately sabotaging me so that discipline is welcomed by us both. When the color-change dragon eyes narrow and cool I know that this will be one of those times. With her gliding, effortless grace, Amaterasu stalks around me, making me feel eternally small and helpless. "You have been lax in your discipline today. I will hear what you think went wrong."

It's so much worse when she makes me do this, instead of pressing her formidable will over mine. I must struggle with my want of silence, of privacy; I must reach past this place of embarrassment and torture to find calm beyond. Dig deep, Akiko, your Mistress is counting on you.

"I did not introduce myself to the honored visitors, nor did I greet my Mistress or Lady Tsukiko. I failed to remove my shoes upon entering this personal space. My calm and composure have been lacking and my manners at lunch were terrible. Returning here, I drove too fast and took a foolish chance with a red light." Is there more? Some detail that I can confess too that will prove to Amaterasu that I am still worthy of her attentions? Oh, right. With effort I remember my foreign language studies and concentrate on speaking clearly. "I failed to let our visitors know that I speak English."

Amaterasu tilts her head to the side, a slight smile dancing around the corners of her mouth. It both thrills and chills me.

"You also failed to mention that you've been ready since you realized who it was that had arrived."

My face flushes; I can feel the burning. "Yes, ma'am. I failed to mention that I've been ready since I realized Dace was here."

Amaterasu's smile softens and she steps closer to me, close enough that I can sense the warmth of her body. Oh how I want the reassurance of her touch. I'm almost trembling with the need.

But it is a feint, once more testing my resolve as she abruptly sidesteps and focuses on Dace. The tall foreigner straightens up to near military precision, the blue eyes straight ahead. One elegant hand reaches up to fondle the short, ragged strands of white-yellow hair so close to that livid scar, only just brushing the barely healed flesh. They are so beautiful together, my regal and aloof Mistress with this feral, powerful stranger. With a tug, Amaterasu tugs Dace's head down and presses a soft kiss to the scar, making Dace's control crack for a moment to show her startled pleasure. Yes, I can understand how she feels.

Like a blind woman, Amaterasu traces the features of this new friend as though learning her. I'm so jealous right now I could spit like the street ruffian I once was. Only years of discipline keeps me from exploding into madness. But an insidious thought also defuses my negative emotions. Just who exactly am I jealous of?

"Dear stranger, now friend, I owe you a debt of gratitude," Amaterasu speaks softly and Dace cocks her head in silent curiosity. "You showed my favored student a way to escape her adolescent madness and that led her to me. I thank you for that."

My Mistress is not the touchy-feely sort and the gentle kiss she presses to Dace's mouth is a shock. She is always so very self-contained that the gesture is even more of a turn on to see her even in this small vulnerability. Jealousy flares to life again, swirling with the arousal of these women in this small intimacy. Oh, how I wish I could be either of them!

Chapter 5: Now That Introductions Are Over…
++ Dace ++

The kiss is disappointingly brief, and Amaterasu focuses her attention on my suit jacket, popping the elaborate silver buttons. "I have heard the tale of your meeting from Akiko. I wish to hear it from you. Please feel free to elaborate as needed."

Those cultured hands run teasingly over my chest, skimming the heavy silver buckles on the vest. It's not feigned, the way I clench my fists against the temptation to grab her, nostrils flaring. These Asian women smell very, very different from their American cousins, and the differences are exciting to my senses. It's subtle; diet, environment and a thousand little things that mix them in with their surroundings and make them stand out at the same time.

Grinning knowingly at my body reaction, Amaterasu boldly meets my gold-flashing eyes, utterly unafraid. That stuns me, leaving me staring wordlessly as she sashays away with a smug grin, knowing that she has won an important battle in that meeting of eyes.

Story… right…

Clearing my throat, feeling unbalanced at the older woman's fearlessness, I turn to the silent, tense Akiko. "I had never been here before," I say quietly, wanting her attention, her stillness, her calm. "I was barely eighteen years old, and had only begun exploring the other side of the whip, so to speak." A faint smile passes over Akiko's mouth, and she unwinds the tiniest bit. "That night was the first time that I had gone to play on my own; the first time ever. The Red Queen tamed me when I was barely fifteen, and that summer night was the first time I had been off of her very short leash." Now Akiko was startled, and I run my fingers through my uneven lengths of hair. "I have to say that the timing was perfect, meeting you and having our scene. It changed me, let my new Top persona really come fully into its own." A wave of exhaustion leaves me a little lightheaded and I reassure Liv with a gesture and a distant Catherine with the bond between us. "Lady Amaterasu, may I have permission to sit? My stamina is not yet fully recovered from my injuries and I am entirely unaccustomed to this humidity."

"Yes, you have permission to sit, Dace."

"Thank you ma'am," I sigh with relief and park my ass on the edge of the simple bed and once more cast back through my memories. "Our host for that trip suggested that club, and you caught my eye right off, Akira." Again, she seems slightly startled, but smiles faintly at my deliberate use of her old name. "I figured out your name by listening to the crowd, and I didn't want to hunt in your territory without your permission. Honestly, I was surprised by you jumping me in that alley. Certainly not disappointed that you did, just surprised. Never realized that I was coming on to you." Startled once more, Akiko is nonetheless much calmer, going so far as to ask something of Amaterasu, getting a response, and plopping down beside me.

"You were a shock to me," she admits softly, once again very carefully enunciating. It's still a challenge to decipher the words through the thick accent, but my time on the streets as a cop is paying off. "And you changed me that night. That change led me back here to a brother that I had thought lost. And to my Mistress."

For a moment, we grin in perfect understanding at one another before my grin turns playful and I swat her across the shoulder. "I was totally shocked to see you at the meeting! Especially after you nearly took my head off with that door."

Grinning sheepishly, but genuinely amused, Akiko chuckles. "Yes. I was very surprised to see you, too. That summer night so long ago seems like a dream. And I am sorry for hitting you with the door."

"S'ok," I murmur, propping my elbows on my knees to bury my face in my hands, suddenly exhausted. The jet lag, and the time change, and the strange smells fucking with my senses, and being away from Catherine and Lindsey and Sara and Tessa and Anastasia and everybody…

A gentle hand on my shoulder makes me look up. Akiko looks concerned, the expression filtering through the false green of her gaze. "Friend… I am grateful for the opportunity to know you once again. Would you care to rest?"

++ Akiko ++

Their kiss lasts only a breath, but my jealousy burns brightly within me. I want to be either of them, I want to be both of them; my conflict consumes me. Amaterasu knows. My Mistress always knows.

"I have heard the tale of your meeting from Akiko. I wish to hear it from you. Please feel free to elaborate as needed." The fingers I crave touching me are undoing the buttons of Dace's jacket, exposing the lithe figure that drew me in so long ago, the body that draws me in now. Amaterasu is running her hands over Dace's chest, in the way she does to me when my will must be undone. I know well the sensation that is coursing through the blonde woman, the raw lust blooming within her and making her clench her fists. Her eyes flash gold in the light and Amaterasu looks up at her. Something ethereal and possibly magical passes between them and Dace is clearly startled.

I want so badly to close the distance between us and run my palms over the blonde woman's hips, drawing her flush against me. How different does she smell and taste after all of these years? How similar to my memories?

A throaty sound pulls my unfocused attention to Dace and I find myself one more trapped by her bright blue gaze. The heat of confused jealousy and boiling hormones must be making my eyes burn... possibly literally. My grasp of the unusual abilities I possess feels shaky right now. A deep breath centers me slightly and I am better prepared when she speaks.

"I had never been here before." The words are soft and I find I desperately need to know what impressions were left with her. "I was barely eighteen years old, and had only begun exploring the other side of the whip, so to speak." We smile at each other and I and relax slightly. She must have been a quick study. She'd had me desperate for her attention within seconds, even though I hadn't dared anything in the public arena of the bar. "That night was the first time that I had gone to play on my own. The first time ever. The Red Queen tamed me when I was barely fifteen, and that summer night was the first time I had been off of her very short leash. I have to say that the timing was perfect, meeting you and having our scene. It changed me, let my new Top persona really come fully into its own."

Really? Her first time ever? And she picked me?

Mind whirling, I almost miss the pained, tired expression that flits over Dace's face before she addresses my Mistress. "Lady Amaterasu, may I have permission to sit? My stamina is still not fully recovered from my injuries and I am entirely unaccustomed to this humidity."

"Yes, you have permission to sit, Dace," she agrees readily with a dip of her elegant head.

"Thank you, ma'am." My first time submitting to anyone and it had been Dace, and she'd never even done it before. Why had she chosen me?

Dace's next words catch me off guard, pulling me from my self-castigation. "Our host for that trip suggested that club, and you caught my eye right off, Akira." The use of my old street name feels odd and strangely intimate coming from her. The sky eyes are absently tracing my form, curious and intimate, making me feel naked. "I figured out your name by listening to the crowd, and I didn't want to hunt in your territory without your permission. Honestly, I was surprised by you jumping me in that alley. Certainly not disappointed that you did, just surprised. Never realized that I was coming on to you."

Her candor is refreshing. It is also reassuring and calming. So I smile faintly at my Mistress and ask a boon of her. "May I be allowed to sit?"

With a small smile of her own, as though she had expected the request, Amaterasu nods and I drop down beside Dace. For a long moment, I stare at the ground and gather my thoughts before speaking.

"You were a shock to me." I'm careful to speak clearly. I know my accent is hard for gaijin to understand. She tilts her head to the side and listens carefully, catching my soft words. The memory of the golden woman, that long ago night, had sustained me until I so unexpectedly caught the attention of Amaterasu. I will never forget that. "And you changed me that night. That change led me back here to a brother that I had thought lost. And to my Mistress."

Being able to tell this extraordinary woman these things makes me feel giddy and we share a smile of wonderful understanding. Then she almost makes me giggle with a friendly swat to my shoulder. "I was totally shocked to see you at the meeting! Especially after you nearly took my head off with that door."

Despite being embarrassed at my earlier behavior, I can't hold back the chuckle. I speak, again careful to not let my lazy mouth slur my words excessively. "Yes. I was very surprised to see you too. That summer night so long ago seems like a dream. And I am sorry for hitting you with the door."

I am sorry and I'm thankful Amaterasu is smiling in pleasure as she's watching us. She knows I mean it.

"S'ok." It's Dace's turn to mumble and she props her elbows on her knees, dropping her face into her hands. Exhaustion seems to have caught up to our guest and I shoot a questioning, worried glance at my Mistress, who nods.

I reach over and place a hand on Dace's shoulder. "Friend… I am grateful for the opportunity to know you once again. Would you care to rest?"

Chapter 6- Second Taste
++ Dace ++

For a long moment, I consider the suggestion of rest. Then my nostrils flare, the musky thick of her arousal clinging to the membranes deep in my skull, literally making me salivate. Seems the cat likes this prey as much as I do. Interesting that is happening yet again. I'm reacting to Akiko the same way I do Sara and Darya, the need so very animal-like. I'm sure Monica will find all of this fascinating.

But right now, Monica's curiosity is the last thing I should be thinking about.

Jerking my half-hypnotized gaze away from Akiko's widened eyes; I search Amaterasu's hooded expression. In an instant, there is perfect understanding traded between us, even as her expression never flickers.

Stifling a growl, I twist and pounce on Akiko, pawing at her shirt the way a cougar would disembowel a deer, teeth clamped to the soft mouth. She tastes of shock and lust and the weird, plastic-looking fish patties that were floating in lunch. Wrenching her lips apart with my own, I plunder her like I'm starving.

Definitely gotta get back to discussing this particular weakness with Monica and the others.

Meanwhile, the growls mount in intensity, as we wrestle on the bed for dominance, and I'm torn between my human sense of equality and the cat's need to dominate. Then those sly hands worm under my shirt, slithering over my waist, the small of my back, caressing my spine nearly to my shoulder blades. Groaning heavily in time to her, I palm her soft chest, enjoying the handfuls.

Akiko pants incoherently against my mouth, arching into my kneading, pinching fingers. With no preamble, wanting her surrender, I roughly skim my unscarred hand over the soft leathers, curling sensitive fingers around the sweet curve of her heated sex. Abruptly, there's teeth clamped in that sensitive chord of tendon and muscle, the one that stands out when you tilt your head to the side, and the cat growls in tandem with me, low and animalistic. Hot damn that feels good!

Involuntarily, I squeeze, perhaps rather harder than I should have, and she falls away from my neck, whimpering in need. Thankfully, the leather pants are cut like jeans, again reminding me of Sara, wrapped lovingly in something so very similar, and I jerk the button open roughly. Zipper teeth are no obstacle, and she's hot, wet and fuzzy against my palm. Even as I slip a couple fingers into that broiling heat, Akiko clutches at my shoulders with surprisingly strength, jerking at the sturdy linen.

Whatever she mumbles is gibberish, but the impatient tug at my crimson shirt is explanation enough. So I pull my hand free of her leather and skin to shift aside and strip off the jacket and silk shirt before they're ruined. Like a land speed record, Akiko has stripped her upper body to nothing but sweat. I'm impressed, but the thick smell of her from the gape of warmed leathers and my own sticky-damp fingers is distracting again.

I put up no fight when she drags me down into another drowning kiss, and I touch her supple skin, liking the texture and temperature. The minx nips at my lower lip, grinning against my mouth, ignoring my warning growl. We both know I don't mean it.

Grunting in shock, I'm suddenly flat on my back, an expertly timed thrust of strong, narrow hips besting my larger body. Hot, open-mouthed kisses on my throat suddenly erase sixteen years, and we're once again horny teenagers groping in a filthy alley. Lost in the memories and the absurdities of all this, I bask in the rasp of calloused hands over my bare torso, the suckling mouth at my breast.

But wait.

The Lady Amaterasu wanted a reenactment, did she not?

Brutally gripping handfuls of soft blue hair, I yank Akiko's head away from my skin; hold her there with implacable strength.

++ Akiko ++

She looks at me for a long moment, the eerie golden sheen of her eyes catching the light again. I shiver, the fear of being prey suddenly making the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Dace shoots a glance over at Amaterasu and then is on me, her hands tearing and pulling, her mouth claiming mine with desperation.

Rolling on the bed, she growls and I whimper, our hips pressing together with each roll on the mattress. Grunting, I manage to get under her clothing and groan deeply at the sensation of her warm skin against my hands. Her long-fingered hands are on my breasts and I'm panting openly, arching up into her touch. She drags her hand down my body until she's cupping me and I buck against her with no will of my own. My teeth dig into the flesh where shoulder meets neck and she growls above me.

A sharp squeeze between my legs has me whimpering and I release her from my mouth. This demand of my body is familiar and yet completely foreign and it is maddening.

She has me spread for her already, as easily as Amaterasu has ever done. I look over to my Mistress, my gaze connecting with her shining eyes across the room. Moaning deep in my throat, my eyes flutter as Dace's fingers worm their way into my pants, curving around my groin and slipping into me. Oh, how good she feels on me, in me. My memories and the present grow blurry, melding and heightening my arousal. As before, I want to feel her skin on mine and jerk desperately at her black and red clothing.

Demanding and desperately, I plead for her to take off her clothes. She ignores me, obviously not understanding what I've said. But my tugging gets across my point and I mourn the loss of her exploring hand as she pulls away.

With a rapidity that will impress me once I am sane again, I strip away my protective jacket and the thin shirt beneath. For a brief moment I ogle the palette of Dace's bare, pale torso, before yanking her larger body atop mine and kissing her for all I'm worth. Reckless and wild, I nip at her lip and shiver deliciously at her playfully warning growl.

How good this feels!

I arch my hips suddenly and flip Dace onto her back, running kisses down her neck to her beautiful breasts. Suckling happily, I map her flesh with curious hands, comparing her lanky adolescent self with this fine woman's body.

Then her hands are hard in my hair, as powerful as a goddess and I can only obey.

Chapter 7- Remember the Alley
++ Dace ++

A shift in grip and Akiko is once more flat on the bed, blinking up at me in dazed, horny confusion. My right hand is still hard in her hair, the left returns to its warm haven between her thighs. Just cupped there, around the surprisingly soft hair. Last time she was shaved, so this is a nice change. Freezing, teasing her senses, I wait for her to focus, to let her brain catch up to her hormones.

"You came to me first," breathes up soft and intense from my chest as I stare intently into the camouflaged gaze of the woman my teenage fling has become. "All need and wild green eyes, the colors gone beneath the glare of neon, the sounds drowned out by those awful singers next door."

It takes a minute for her brain to catch up, and memories flood over her face.

"It was a thrill, knowing I had you intrigued enough to hunt me down. Like I said, I was new to being a Top, and still wanted to respond to your hunting intensity. You got scratched up from the wall, huh?" My grin is evil, her expression enraptured with the power I barely knew way back then. My fingers tease deeper between the wet folds of her pussy, dabbling in the heat, making her grimace and her eyes to flicker and almost seem to burn beneath the colored contacts. "At first, you wanted to best me, but ended up showing your throat, opening up for my hand, smacking your poor skull into the bricks."

Shoving at the leather pants with my fist, I manage to finagle enough maneuvering room to get her labia pried open, tickling at the hard clit, the wet hole. Again, Akiko has gone incoherent, muttering to herself and whatever gods she might believe in. Amaterasu chuckles darkly, her body shifting to the edge of my vision, arms crossed, body tense.

"Loved you begging," I snarl, breathing like an athlete, totally lost in this heat, the smells and sounds of need and mating want. A word I recognize somehow, imprinted in my memory, chants weakly from her, whirled up in the wind of her heaving breath. "Didn't give a shit then, that I couldn't understand a word, don't give a shit now. I understood enough."

"… Yamete…"

Deep in her now, we're attached by hormones and animal need. Jerky, uncoordinated, her hips thrust, doing the bulk of the work, sliding my fingers in her dripping cunt. A few strokes of thumb, a meeting of our eyes, and the burn combusts, her face twisted in agony.

"Oh yes," I whisper intently, stroking soft to get her back in her own skin. "I certainly remember you."


Held captive by the force of her hungry intensity, the grip she has in my hair is almost unnecessary. I'm not sure when I landed on my back again, I just know I'm there and she's above me, grinning. Slithering down my bare torso, her free hand returns to pet the hair that shields my sex.

For an interminable eternity we hover there, her hand resting so close where I need it, testing my will and my focus. I may not know this new master of my body, but I know what she is asking of me, though I am finding it more and more difficult not to squirm.

Failure is imminent when she suddenly speaks softly, intently. "You came to me first." I flush at the intensity of her breathed words. In the years since I last saw her, she's matured into a delicious temptation. The lines of her face are strong and I can barely resist the desire to kiss every line revealed by her smile. "All need and wild green eyes, the colors gone beneath the glare of neon, the sounds drowned out by those awful singers next door."

And, just like that, I am back there, in that filthy alley, the bricks rough on my back. The grip of her hands, the roughness of the wall at my back, the god-awful warbling of those salary-men… recollection shivers across my nerves, shifting the burn in my gut to something bigger, something I wrestle to understand.

"It was a thrill, knowing I had you intrigued enough to hunt me down. Like I said, I was new to being a Top, and still wanted to respond to your hunting intensity." Oh, heavens, she's touching me now, moving against me, eyes so intense they must look into my very soul... "You got scratched up from the wall, huh? At first, you wanted to best me, but ended up showing your throat, opening up for my hand, smacking your poor skull into the bricks."

Oh yes, the memories of that heated night blur seamlessly into the now, the feel of her hand, there, where I need it at the hot, bright point of my aching need. The sensations will shatter my control, scar me, heal me, ruin me.

Dimly, I recognize the chuckle in the background.

Oh, thank the gods, Amaterasu likes this. Any part of me that might have been holding back surrenders now, with the unspoken permission of my Mistress. Now I am blissfully lost to the bright darkness of old fantasy and new reality.

"Loved you begging."

"Stop… stop… I can't take it, stop…" The words escape me unbidden, whimpers in the air, lost the heavy panting above me. I'm burning up, clutching desperately at anything I can.

"Didn't give a shit then, that I couldn't understand a word, don't give a shit now. I understood enough." Blessed gods above, she's inside me.

"… Stop… "

She better not fucking stop!

I can't stop moving against her, with her, her fingers buried in me just as they were so many years ago. Just as many years ago, her touch is going to make me come as only Amaterasu has been able to do afterward. Stretched around her, splayed open by her desire, I stare at her, basking in the burn even as I fear it.

My sexuality has so often been difficult for me, a nebulous goal so seldom reached. Only Amaterasu has been able to give me pleasure, painstakingly building me up until I could not stop it with fear. But this quick, hot pleasure has always been Dace's alone. I have never forgotten that, nor have I ever felt it again.

Until this day.

My hold on reality shatters and I am swept away, my convulsing body trapping her hand within me for a timeless moment.

"Oh, yes…" Dace's voice calls me back to myself, her touch gentle and coaxing now. "I certainly remember you."

Chapter 8- Predator and Prey
++ Dace ++

Shaking off the salivating pheromones of this sexy creature, and my own burn, I yank my hands away from Akiko and stand up to tower over her. "So," I say in a calm, conversational tone, "this is when we went back to your place, huh?" Glancing down at my half-naked body, I smirk arrogantly at my new pals. "Was shirtless then, too." Damn, but my nipples are tight and painful…

Turning my gaze away from my prone, dazed playmate, I return my attention to Amaterasu, holding the burning gaze. Opening my hands wide, I smile openly, beseechingly.

"Your orders were re-enactment, Lady Amaterasu, but I am afraid that I am not properly attired." A sculpted eyebrow rises, silently acknowledging my words, but there is no other response outside the flame-flicker eyes and her labored breathing. Dammit… now what do I say? "Perhaps…" I hedge for a moment, before it comes to me and I perk up. "I could change clothes? Perhaps a break for food and shower? I must admit that I'm soaked."

Her smirk almost embarrasses me.

"There will be a formal meal," Amaterasu says calmly, and I nod. "Please come properly attired for whatever entertainment may be required. Clothing that fits our negotiations will be appropriate. Akiko, show them to their quarters and return here immediately."

"Yes, ma'am," I answer immediately, once she finishes speaking, bowing into the perfect 'L' that Fenris taught me. It took a few smacks to back and head, but I finally learned it. Yanking my battered red shirt back over my head, I wait silently by the door, trading smirks with a highly amused Olivia. Amaterasu says something sharply at Akiko, who pulls her clothes sort of to rights and scampers over to yank the door open and quite nearly bolt down the hallway.

Chuckling, I follow leisurely, having no problem following her riled-up scent to a nearby hallway, where Akiko is bent at the waist, huffing heavily. "You okay?" I ask, concerned that she's more than just horny and rattled. After a moment, she shakes her head, not looking at me.

"Overwhelmed," she comments shortly and moves away, still not looking at me. "Please follow me." I'm impressed at how quickly she covers up her flustered state; suddenly her surface is calm and focused. Only the flush on her skin and the sweat soaking her are any indication that she isn't really nearly as calm as she'd like people to think she is. No problem, I've pushed enough, and Amaterasu's tone indicated that there will be more mindgames in store that I will have no part of.

For now.


Suddenly bereft of her touch, my muddled mind tries to reconcile itself to the coolness that wafts over my bared skin. The bright blue of her eyes serves as my focal point, giving me an anchoring point as I recover.

"So this is when we went back to your place, huh?" Dace says conversationally. A glance down her exposed torso has my eyes following hers where I linger on her puckered nipples that call for my touch. "Was shirtless then, too."

Oh, I remember well. Not fully recovered, I once more sink into the bed and stare dazedly at the ceiling. I don't think I can move, even if I had a desire to end this languid heaven was.

"Your orders were re-enactment, Lady Amaterasu, but I am afraid that I am not properly attired." I hear Dace say and the twitch of sexual reaction startles me. Could I even have anything left in me after that? "Perhaps… I could change clothes? Perhaps a break for food and shower? I must admit I'm soaked."

She's soaked? I've just been fucked senseless and she's soaked?

Amaterasu's calm tone is measured, but hints at the warmth I know lies beneath. "There will be a formal meal." I'd forgotten about that. Good thing I have Amaterasu to take care of me. "Please come properly attired for whatever entertainment may be required. Clothing that fits our negotiations will be appropriate." Still hazy from this unexpected interaction, I'm caught off guard by her next words. "Akiko, show them to their quarters and return here immediately."

Only Dace's very formal acknowledgment of my Mistress burns through the haze. My instant dread is not feigned as Amaterasu, like any Dominant, does not take lightly to her submissives' ignorance. And truthfully, it is not like me. I am better trained than this, both by her and my own hard work.

Galvanized, I force energy into my weak knees and scramble to my feet. Of course my clothes refuse to cooperate with me, and I'm forced to tug at them desperately in an attempt to restore to a vague semblance of order.

"Stop embarrassing me."


Amaterasu's calm words flood me with more adrenaline and I finish straightening my clothes with trembling hands. Then I rush the door, startled at the second American woman, who I have utterly forgotten about. With something that might be sympathy, she opens the door and gestures me out.

In a rush of over-fueled nerves, I have bolted down the hallway, away from the cloying hormones and my jangled emotions. At this point, it's all I can do to remember how to breathe.

I am thirty-one years old and have seen and done much. No, I have never left my ancestral homeland, barely left the city of Tokyo in fact, but I have still experienced much. But never in my life have I ever experienced anything like this blonde woman, a stranger really, who even now draws close. This intensity of this is staggering...

And it isn't over yet.

"You okay?"

Oh, how I want to laugh at the question, but I fear I would sound at least slightly hysterical at this moment in time. Once more, I dig deep and wrestle for calm, inhaling and exhaling with measured effort. Straightening, I shake my head and once more tug at my jacket. "Overwhelmed." For now, I am mostly calm, at least on the surface. "Please follow me."

With my public persona around myself like a comfortable blanket, I can shove my jangled emotions away to be dealt with later. They can simmer all they want, but they will wait. Right now, it is time to pay attendance on our honored guests.

Chapter 9- The Pack Gathers
++ Olivia ++

Once again, Dace has surprised me.

Honestly, you'd thing that one woman only has so much shock value, but…

There's definitely a bond here, between my partner and this unusual Japanese woman. There's no sound except our feet and our breathing, as I bring up the rear and watch them. Wonder if Akiko knows she's trembling? Wonder if Dace realizes she's making that low, needy growl beneath her breath, the pitch altering with every inhale and exhale.

"Shoulda called Cath," I comment lightly before I can think better of it, and Dace grimaces over her shoulder.

"Oh sure, so I could feel even more self-conscious about this."

The wild gesture makes Akiko flinch and duck away. She's got good reflexes. I could nag Dace at this point, but it seems petty to annoy her, even if I'm right.

Scowling, Dace hunches up defensively and chooses to ignore me. Yep, found a sore spot. If she weren't so anxious that even I can smell her, it would almost be funny.

Akiko keeps glancing at her, curious, but decorous enough to not intrude. At a door that looks exactly like every other damn door in this place, Akiko halts and gestures calmly at its surface. "Your rooms. There is a phone that can reach any of us, just dial zero. Someone will be on the line to connect you. The phone does not dial outside."

"Thank you," Dace and I chorus as Akiko beats a hasty retreat, leaving my pal to sigh wearily.

"Not over yet, stud," I chuckle kindly and slap her hard on the back as we retreat to our home away from home. To our pleasant surprise, it's a suite of rooms with a central gathering area rich with fabrics and woods and artwork. At the far end of the central room, the entire wall is layers of glass and rice paper slid back to reveal an intricate and clearly ancient garden.

"Wow," Dace breathes for the both of us as we walk over to step out onto the walkway that looks over the ritualistic semi-wild space. It looks like something out of a martial arts movie, only tangible and regal. Trees have been shaped into intricate, gnarled shapes and the ground raked into patterns that interact with smaller plants and stones of all sizes. One tumble of boulders is so large it clearly supports much of the building. "This puts the foyer to shame."

My snerk of laughter isn't feigned as I'm quite familiar with the Hearts building's greenhouse entrance. "Maybe you'll have to hire your playmate to make it look more like this." Businesslike again, I grab Dace's collar and the back of her jacket to march her back inside. "You grab a shower and take a nap. I'll hang out till Catherine gets here."

Bemused, Dace obeys and randomly picks one of the rooms left open for our perusal. After a moment she reappears with a shrug and a smile. "Got your luggage." We laugh together when she strikes out again before finally finding her things mixed with Catherine's. That leaves me to sprawl out on one of the austere but surprisingly comfortable couches. Eyes closed, I let my sense of hearing track the sounds of wind in the trees and Dace's showering. Someone walks in the courtyard outside, but does not approach our rooms so I let it go.

The door opening brings me up like a shot.

Bemused, Catherine thanks someone I don't see and bustles in with her load of shopping bags. "Hey, Dobie. How'd the negotiations go?"

++ Catherine ++

I had felt the need to race back to my Sentinel's side. Great waves of high emotion, the cat close to the surface, old memories mixing with new stimuli. Thankfully, Dace had kept her cool and there was no threat of zone out in the flood, so I fought down panic and waited a moment. Sure enough, calm descends and I can continue with my shopping, though I keep a bit more of my attention on her. The sexual calisthenics don't surprise me, but the emotional connection within them does. Boy, I can't wait to hear the stories that go along with all of this distant stimulus.

Eventually, of course, my coyote curiosity gets the best of me and I call the phone number left with me by the corporate complex. A helpful store employee rambles into the phone with clipped precision before returning the thing to me with a precise bow that makes me smile. All of this formality makes me feel like a princess and the indulgence has made me childishly happy. Not to mention the simply amazing shopping! I can't say that Dace's bankroll doesn't give me a periodic thrill, though I do my damnedest to behave myself.

There's a coffee house nearby and I park my butt with a cappuccino to wait for my ride. The energy of this foreign place is more than enough entertainment to keep me occupied for a good long while. Luckily, they've sent the same driver from the airport and we're both saved having to search for a stranger in the crowd. Slowly, we make our way through Tokyo and out to the old district of estates where our destination awaits. With silent, almost militaristic precision, my driver leads me through the labyrinth. Wisely, I don't even bother trying to memorize the route, but enjoy the aesthetics around me. The architecture is exquisite and the art is sublime. So much so that I lag back a few times, making the employee wait up.

At last the woman bows at a door and waits for me to enter. Liv nearly jumps out of her skin as I enter, clearly woken from a doze, and I grin winningly at her. "Hey, Dobie. How'd the negotiations go?" Discretely, the door is closed from without, a fact I note subconsciously.

"Fine. Weird, but fine." There's an edge of eye rolling in her voice and I have to chuckle.

"Hold that thought and you can give me all the gory details. After I check on the chaos monster."

Kicking my shoes aside, I tiptoe to the only closed door and slip inside. Gloriously naked, my mate is sprawled on the bed, taking up most of the large space. There are a few marks on her from the sex energy I picked up on earlier, but she seems hale and whole. Satisfied, I press a soft kiss to her temple, right on the scar, to assure her that I am now close.

Slipping out, I spend some quality girl time with Liv, listening to her retelling of all that transpired that afternoon. Part of me is miffed that I have never heard of this Akira/Akiko character. Did my love keep that from me intentionally? Or more logically, is the tale merely wrapped up in her kink that I have so little interest in? Liv picks up on my conflict and gives me an askance look. "Are you jealous?"

"No, no," I reassure hastily. "It's just weird when an important event like this is completely unknown to me. Liv, don't forget that we've only been together not even a year yet. And you know as well as I do that this whole kink thing isn't my cup of tea. I accept it in her, but it does little or nothing for me. Go on."

Mollified, she does as I ask, once more recounting with police detective precision what I'd missed.

"Honestly, it sounds like it was a good thing I wasn't here," I muse when Liv wraps up and she gives me a curious look. "Oh, I often wonder if, under certain circumstances, I don't inhibit her."

"Because you're not into it," Liv finishes the thought with an understanding nod.

"Exactly. And, unlike you, I have a tough time being neutral. Honestly, I'd end up giggling inappropriately or something embarrassing like that. Neither of us would like that, y'know? It would be damaging to egos and not worth it. So I let you handle it."

We chuckle together before our attention is mutually drawn to the door as a sleepy Dace opens it. She's decked out in a fluffy bathrobe and I can't stop the thrill of desire to know how close to naked she is. Time enough for that later!

"Hey, baby," I greet her jovially, thrilled as always at the soft adoration in the blue eyes.

"Did you have fun?"

"Hell yes! The shopping here is even more amazing than Michael said. Speak of that devil, where has she gotten off to?"

"I just sent her a text message that I was awake, so we'll know shortly what we all missed."

I get a sloppy kiss before Dace drags herself to the fancy coffee bar and starts fiddling with it. Liv continues to chatter with me until a weary Michael enters, grunting inarticulate gratitude to the mug Dace hands over without even looking up from her preparations. With the bosses fortified, we meet at the cluster of couch and comfortable chairs in the center of the room.

"Boring, huh?"

Olivia's wry comment makes Michael groan pitifully and slump as best she can to stretch obviously sore muscles. "Ugh. Lucky you, punk; you managed to finagle your way out of the boring shit."

"Yeah, sorry about that."

Waving her off, Michael stretches luxuriously and collapses into the sofa. "S'ok. To be honest, it was easier to work with Tsukiko anyway. She's the nuts and bolts of the operation, not the charismatic figurehead."

"Sounds like Tessa and the Lady, eh?"

"Quite. Hell, even me and KC to an extent. At least in the beginning. So, the basic contract is done and has been sent off to the lawyers and so forth for perusal. Jane and Salix have promised to get it back to me within twelve hours. Everybody getting hungry? Dinner will be soon and I'm starved. Then we have a trip to their kink club scheduled." A raised hand forestalls any comments. "Tired or no, I want to see this and I believe a Suits appearance will only help matters. We don't have to stay for long if we don't want to. Thanks for the coffee, Dace, it'll hold me until I can get some sleep. I'm off to shower and change."

With that, we scatter to do the same. I ramble at Dace while I shower, pausing to preen under her hot gaze when I exit the bathroom. We chuckle together when I bounce over to straddle her and kiss her possessively. How I adore her loving hands on my skin, telling me so very clearly of her devotion. After a lifetime of shit from lovers and family, her adoration never ceases to amaze and thrill me.

"You gonna show me some of that stuff you bought?"

The leer and waggling eyebrows makes me laugh and give my frisky mate another quick kiss before I clamber off her larger body and go for my prizes.

Chapter 10- The Formalities of Food
++ Dace ++

Eventually, Catherine finishes with me, leaving me a boneless wreck while she retrieves the sparkling gown that finally overcame my self-control. The things those earthy bronzes and reds do to her body and complexion should be illegal. Lordy but it will be fun as hell to watch her strut around in public wearing it! Much of my earlier sexual frustration is gone, soothed so marvelously by my mate. No matter what my Sentinel instincts might lust after, only Catherine can touch the depths of my soul. Sure doesn't hurt that she's an amazing lover!

Yawning and stretching in the luxurious bed, I simply indulge for a few more moments in how my body feels. It's not often enough that I do this, the simple indulgence of being in my own skin. Not that I mind my busy life. Wonder how my girls are doing back home? I'll have to call them tomorrow and check in. Bet they're runnin' Rachel ragged...

My thoughts are interrupted by movement in the other room, indicating that Michael and Liv are stirring. Must be nearing dinner then.

"Up and at 'em, boss," I mutter to myself and spring up from the bed to go bother my love in getting ready. With some giggling friskiness slowing us down, we nonetheless get through the business of preparation for our evening and join the others in the center room. Rested, focused and ready for more, I jovially greet my friends. "Hey, hey, studmuffins! Ready for some more shenanigans?"

Any reply is halted by a timely knock on the door and the others chuckle at my dryly humorous look. At the door is the nibblet from the airport in an elaborate, formal get up worthy of her ancestors. The kimono and its fabric accoutrements are colorful, the stitching as intricate as any painting. Her face is done up in what my untrained eye sees as the formal geisha paint, giving me lecherous ideas. With a bow of her head, the girl gestures down the hall and speaks quietly. "May I have the honor of escorting you to dinner?"

"The honor is ours," I temporize and feel Catherine's hand on my arm, which I automatically curl up so she has a place to rest her fingers. As we fall into step behind the girl with her carefully mincing steps, Cath gives me a questioning look and I shake my head with a grin. "Too young."

It's not a long walk to a pair of elaborate wooden doors probably older than everyone's ages combined. In the entire complex. Waiting at them is a man in formal pants, shirt and black tie with a traditional man's kimono jacket. He's handsome in a serious way, with striking emerald eyes that seem oddly reptilian that matches the acid green faux-hawk, slicked expertly into a cockerel crest. I like the flash of color against the formality of his get up and smirk saucily at him. Something visceral glitters in his cartoon green gaze and I have to wonder at both color and expression. Neither seems feigned to my enhanced senses. Interesting.

With a small, crisp bow, the man throws his weight against the doors and they ponderously swing inward in near-silence. Like the rest of this elegant place, the decor is stunning but subdued, reflecting the age and grandeur of the surroundings. With one mind, the sisters and Akiko stand, all of them resplendent in refined kimonos of a more modern style.

"Thank you for joining us," Amaterasu greets us with a smile and we all trade bows before I lead my party to the table.

"Thank you for the gracious invitation," I reply, hoping that my formalities are acceptable, and immediately tug Catherine forward for introductions. "Amaterasu, may I introduce my beloved mate, Catherine Willows." They murmur greetings in that peculiar way that attractive women do, like tigers sizing one another up for weaknesses. It takes an effort, but I neither crack a smile, let loose a chuckle or make some smart-ass remark, instead continuing introductions with Tsukiko and Akiko. "My apologies, ladies, but I am afraid that my poor memory has forgotten your familial names."

With smiles, these gracious women readily forgive my memory and Tsukiko speaks up. "There has been no mistake on the part of myself and my sister, Dace-san. We bear no familial name as such. A peculiarity of our lineage. Akiko may speak for herself."

There is a distinct glimmer of perversity in the contrasting gazes of the sisters and I know that there is indeed more to them than meets the eye.

++ Akiko ++

Still rattled from my afternoon, I jump when the great doors swing inward, but quickly regain my composure. Looming behind Tatsuo's familiar shape is my tormentor, resplendent in a tailored suit with a blood-red shirt and another stunning woman on her arm. The stranger is as nearly as big a presence as the tall woman who escorts her, their matched blue eyes intent on the room. The small woman takes me in, knows too much of me in a glance, even as training overrides my shattered nerves and I stand in tandem with my Mistress and Lady Tsukiko.

"Thank you for joining us," Amaterasu speaks warmly to our guests and everyone bows shallowly in recognition of this formal event.

"Thank you for the gracious invitation," Dace smiles and tugs the smaller blonde forward to the position of prominence. The utter adoration on her strong face makes me ache for someone to look at me like that. "Amaterasu, may I introduce my beloved mate, Catherine Willows." It's odd that my Mistress seems awkward with this new woman, trading murmured pleasantries that makes both Dace and Tsukiko stifle amusement. When Dace completes the introductions, Catherine's piercing gaze makes me want to squirm. What a stare she has! Thankfully, Dace speaking again precludes any need for me to speak. "My apologies, ladies, but I am afraid that my poor memory has forgotten your familial names."

"There has been no mistake on the part of myself and my sister, Dace-san," Tsukiko smiles as Tatsuo comes over to stand beside me. "We bear no familial name as such. A peculiarity of our lineage. Akiko may speak for herself."

Every eye is on me suddenly, the quiet oppressive, and I have the insane urge to just panic like some sort of wild animal and run screaming from the room. A nudge against my foot from Tatsuo kills the urge and I once again dig deep for control. "This is my brother, Towairaito Tatsuo, whom I share a familial name with."

Tatsuo bows deeply, an unexpected gesture of respect I hope isn't lost on our guests. Both of the charismatic women accept his bow with deep nods and I understand that they are used to being large fish in a small pond. Not surprising, given what we know of their positions in their business. Power sits easily on them, but clearly, they are not prone to abusing that.

"Please, everyone, sit," Amaterasu invites and there is a soft flurry of sound as the assembly complies. The staff members whisk in with savory dishes and we at the table are all suddenly just people come together to share food. It's a window to the enigmatic Dace that I hadn't expected to see as she smiles warmly and chats with the sisters and treats the silent serving staff kindly. There are layers to her so unexpected and my traitorous body and heart are fascinated.

I cannot escape from the silent, watchful attention of my brother, my Mistress, nor the small force of nature at Dace's side.

To Be Continued...