title: Her Lament
fandom: Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto
characters/pairings: Ibaragi/Kotoha
rating: G/Teen
warnings: none
summary: Tayu tends to her favorite client.
notes: takes place... early in the series, probably about the time that Soutetsu is seen leaving Tayu's by Shiranui. also... i have no idea if Katsu was married or not, but he was an important person, and they tend to be married, so. apologies if i'm in error...

"Ibaragi-sensei, I'm coming in," she announced quietly. She slid the door open, looking for him quickly. Of course, he was at the low desk she had provided, writing away. She slid herself inside, and closed the door behind her.

She took a moment to appreciate his posture. He was, of course, the perfect figure of a Japanese man: his back straight, his hair neat, his legs tucked discreetly under him. His pen paused upon her entrance, but resumed again without his head moving. It was proper to be absorbed in work, so she only smiled to herself, taking the tray in hand. She brought it to his side, and bowed to him.

"Sensei. I brought you tea. I think you've neglected to attend to your diet," she teased him, but she made sure to defer to him as she did. He wasn't a politician or a merchant. She had the utmost respect for his skill.

He nodded, but his pen kept moving. She watched the graceful bend of the brush, the artful characters being formed on the yellowed paper. "It is not necessary," he said quietly in his low voice.

It felt like water moving over her skin, listening to him speak. "As you say, sensei. I'd like to invite you to spend the night here, however. You can work for as long as you like, and then enjoy the luxury of a comfortable bed." Her heart was in her throat as she spoke, though her voice betrayed nothing. At least, she didn't think so. He was unerringly good at reading people, so he probably knew.

"I'm sure you have more important clients to tend to," he said deferentially.

She swallowed hard, maintaining her smile. She wanted to protest... "Katsu-sensei... you mean?" She laughed, a tinkling sound she had mastered. "Ah~ha. He's entertaining his wife tonight, I'm afraid."

That earned her a rare, tight smile. "What inconvenient things wives are, mm? Bad for business, I suppose."

"Good for business," she laughed, correcting him. "If men didn't have wives, they wouldn't need to escape from their wives."

His pen paused again as he chuckled. "To enter into a contract that will cause you to run away from the partner you have contracted yourself to be with... that sounds like a form of madness, does it not?"

She put her hand on the floor right next to the fold of his kimono. "Have you no desire for a wife, sensei?"

He looked at her from the corner of his eye. "For a man like myself, my legacy would be in my words, not my flesh. What use would a wife be, besides an anchor?"

"Ships need anchors," she said, smiling flirtatiously. "But you're the wind... pushing the sails."

He laughed outright, and turned to look at her a bit more closely. His hand moved away from the paper, to avoid stray ink marks. "Aren't you being kind. Are you practicing for the night's work? You're already in costume." He set the pen down precisely, and touched her jaw, then moved his hand down to run a finger down the neckline of her kimono.

She swallowed hard. "I must admit... I don't mind that you've no intention of taking a wife."

He raised an eyebrow, and pulled his hand away, neatly folding it in his lap. "Ah? You've no aspirations?"

She laughed honestly, turning to cover her mouth. "Women like myself do not dream of marriage, sensei. We dream of being old maids."

"You will never be an old maid," he said, lowering his chin. His voice was especially deep and resonant.

Damn him. "My, my. That may be your most attractive virtue. Your deceitful honesty. It's so easy for you to wrap the world around your finger, isn't it?" Her smile teased, as if she were unaffected. If only...

"Deceitful honesty..." he rolled the words over his tongue like a confection. "That's stunning. I may have to use that some time in a play. What a delicious combination of words, such... sparkle, no meaning."

"Just like, I love you. You writers are fond of that phrase as well," she taunted, coyly batting her eyelashes at him. She was back on the familiar ground of bait and tease, which made it easier.

He chuckled, and picked up his pen. "Words like that are the best kind. Words that inspire, that capture and lie. If you use words like that, you can send men straight into hell and they'll sing songs praising you all the way."

She laughed, covering her mouth demurely. "What a dangerous person you are, sensei! How glad I am to count you amongst my friends, rather than enemies."

"I would never be your enemy, Tayu," he said smoothly, and he put his pen to the paper again.

She watched him work, enjoying the scratching sound of the brush, the way the ink moved and formed, the rigid way his fingers held the paper and the brush. "Good. Then you'll stay the night, like a good friend."

"Far be it from me to deprive a lady of her hospitality," he amicably agreed.

"I will have dinner sent to you at the appropriate time," she promised "Don't forget to eat, sensei. I will look forward to seeing you again later." She bowed to him, putting her forehead on the ground, even though he wasn't watching.

She turned to shuffle out, but stopped at the sound of his voice. "Mm. Tayu. You're prettier with your hair down. I shall see you later, then."

Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to speak, but found herself breathless. She looked at him, waiting for some sign, something... but he was once again absorbed in his words. Her heart thumped painfully in her chest. With that pen, he was shaping the world.

What an exciting, infuriating man.

She knocked lightly, and entered. Unexpectedly, though, he spoke up immediately. "I'm almost finished. Please excuse the wait."

The tray with his dinner was set by the door. The sake was empty, but the food was only half eaten. His back was as rigid and his shoulders were as straight as that afternoon, but as she got closer, she could see that his face was weary.

It was just after midnight, and she had already bathed, since he preferred her in a more natural state. She still arranged her hair, so it would not be in the way, but it hung down, framing her face, which was clean of every form of embellishment.

She watched him writing for a bit, but his pen was slower. She slipped back, and undid her kimono, folding each piece carefully as she removed it. She put her folded clothes neatly in the corner, out of his way.

"Are you getting ahead of me?" he asked, amused.

"You've had a long day, sensei," she said quietly. "When you're done, I'm prepared to give you a massage."

"Ah?" He looked over his shoulder, noting the bucket of hot water she had brought in with her, and the small pots of oil that were in the water. "My, my. What have I done to earn such treatment?"

"What indeed?" she sighed loftily. "Perhaps you are my charity. It's a sign of my good nature, I'm sure."

He chuckled lightly. She finished undressing, and went over to lay out the futon.

"Perhaps I would have liked to undress you," he said archly.

Her cheeks got hot. She looked at him... but he was exactly the same, like stone. She knew better, of course. She had to. And still.

Her cheeks were hot.

"Sensei, you would make a mess of my silks. Silly man. It's best to leave tasks to the ones who are most suited for them, correct?" She was proud of herself, and her light and cheerful tone.

"Then I should leave my own undressing to you as well?" he asked, and he set the pen down. He stretched his arms up, and his hair tipped back, nearly touching the floor.

He was lovely.

"Of course," she chuckled. "Why, you might get your fingers tangled in your obi, and break one. And then how will you write?"

He turned to face her, smiling. He looked genuinely amused. "I had no idea I was taking such risks daily. How fortunate I am to have you, mm?"

"Luckier than you'd admit," she saucily replied. She went to him, almost grateful to be nude. It made it easier to fall into the role. She unwrapped his obi, and pushed aside his kimono. He sat placidly, unaffected, seemingly. She avoided his eyes as she bared his skin. His body.

She had to resist running her hands over him, as it wasn't the time just then. He stretched out on the mattress, face down, and she pushed his hair to the side, combing it out with her fingers. She poured the warmed oil over her hands, rubbing them together, and then she put her hands on his back.

He groaned softly, and she could feel it between her legs. "You are far too tense, sensei. You need to relax more."

"Now is the time for relaxation, mm?" he said. "You're very good at this."

"It would be surprising if I weren't, right?" she laughed, moving her fingers in circles over his muscles. As she worked his flesh over, it pinked up nicely. She moved from his left shoulder to his right, and then down his spine.

He sighed heavily, his torso moving up and down with the effort. "I suppose Katsu-sensei enjoys this treatment as well."

Her hands froze. She couldn't speak the first time she tried, afraid that her voice would crack. "If you say something like that, you should pretend to be jealous. It allows you to segue into seeking information more elegantly. I'm surprised at you, sensei. I thought you were classier than that."

He looked over his shoulder at her, and then, he sat up, reaching up to pull her into his arms. "Tayu. My apologies. I take advantage of you, don't I?"

She couldn't avoid looking into his eyes, and that made her feel uncomfortable. "Sensei. You know you aren't taking anything that isn't offered. You are a gentleman, am I not right?"

"I cannot be," he sighed. He touched her lips, inching closer. "If I were, I'd love this fine daughter of Japan, and abandon my aspirations of staging."

"I wouldn't recognize you if you gave up your pen," she scolded him demurely. She ran her hands up his arms. What a nice and heartbreaking feeling, being enveloped... "I expected to tell you about Katsu-sensei's last meeting with Mister Parkes."

"There will be time over breakfast, correct?" he asked huskily. His hands moved up her back. She put her arms around his neck, and let him pull her in for a kiss.

He knew just what he was doing, and she knew that, of course. She knew she was one of his players. She wanted to think that she chose to act in his plans, but there was a limit to how much she could lie to herself, especially as he was over her, in her, and all around her.

She was lost between the lines he painted on the pages that she didn't get to read.