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  He turned to watch her come down the stairs, her hair in wet waves down her back. Hozuki never used to let him see her like this. She would pout when he lay in bed, watching her get ready, avoiding his gaze in her huge western vanity. She didn’t understand the simple seduction of watching her when she was so undone.

  “Hoozuki-san.” And he gave a short bow at the waist, smiling at her wistfully.

  He loved her.

  She came and sat beside him, tangling their fingers together easily, and he loved how she touched, like it was simple. Like the joy of their skin together was something that Hoozuki so relied upon, she did it like breathing. He still got nervous when he touched her. Hoozuki was shy, sometimes, and a little moody though she always tried to hide it. And sometimes when she was bare, and smiling before him, he was breathless at the sight of her, the cream of her skin and the petal soft blush of her nipples.

  The first time she had undressed in front of him, his mouth had been dry with wonder, eyes fixed on her as her kimono slid slowly, so slowly down her shoulders. The room had been lit by the sunset, and his hands were slowly sweating through the stiff white fabric of his gloves. She had held her hands over her breasts, only emphasizing how soft and round they were, as they overwhelmed her fingers. She had kissed him so sweetly, her mouth a peach crush against his own.

  “Are you excited?”

  He smiled at her, and swung their hands a little.

  “I am.”

  And he was. He was truly excited.

  He turned at the sound of footsteps, his face already forming into an easy smile. “Bonburi-san.” He tried another half-bow, still holding Hoozuki’s hand, and they laughed at him, a pretty chorus, a peal of bells, chimes in the wind. Bonburi was still dressed from the gala that night, her hair in careful twists and curls, the pearls he gave her for her birthday twined through the soft strands, looping around her neck, and spilling down the front of her.

  She sat beside him, and took his other hand, swinging it to match their rhythm, and he laughed a little to himself, his heart so light. Sometimes when he was with them he could feel the happiness, so sharp it was almost painful building in his stomach, as though something was crystallizing.

  “Are you excited?”

  “Ne, Bonburi, I just asked him that.”

  “Ah, gomen, gomen Hoozuki, I just wanted to know. I am excited.”

  “Ah, me too, me too!”

  “Our own house!” They said together, and they clapped their free hands together, forming a circle for just a moment, the three of them linked together. Their own house. It had taken so long for him to live up to his promise that day under the cherry tree, his heart thudding in his throat, hands clenched into his fists at his side. He had started to say it to appease them, one did not make ladies cry after all, but as it was coming out of his mouth he realized he meant it. He really and truly did. It was crazy he knew, but this whole thing had been crazy, and suddenly he knew that if he did not have them, he could not be happy.

  He had risen slowly in the military, his age making each step take longer than usual, but when the nights were long he would think about them. Not in a dirty way, not like he thought about them in the showers each morning, but softly. Taking each memory of them out and shining it, petting it lovingly, before placing it down. He spent all his off time at Spirit Affairs.

  No one had expected him to be serious. No one except them.

   Agemaki had been incredulous, and then vaguely respectful. His eyes had gotten wide, and thoughtful, and he’d laughed long and hard, both of them a little drunk.

  “Hahaha, you are brave! Two Zakuros! I’d die.”

  That was probably true.

  Rizen had been more pragmatic.

  “You will be looked down upon.” He had said his voice serious. “Even more because of the spirit blood.”

  Ganryuu had nodded his face drawn and pensive, hands stiff in his lap.

  “But,” Susukihotaru said looking at him with soft eyes, one of her hands laying lightly over his own. “You will always be welcome here. We care for nothing but that you are happy.”

  Her eyes had been strong but kind and he had smiled for the first time that evening.

  His parents had disowned him.

  It was a sin, and they are spirits, and you are shaming our family. He had listened to it calmly, head bowed contritely, and then he told his mother and father that he loved them, but that he loved Hoozuki-san and Bonburi-san more. Then he had walked from his home, his step lighter, his eyes more tired than they had ever been. And if he had wept a little, Hoozuki and Bonburi would never tell.

  “Our own home.” He said, and he leaned down and kissed Hoozuki slowly, drinking the soft whimper she made as he licked over her lips. She tasted sweet and tart, and he loved her, how he loved her. When he pulled back her eyes were closed, and she was flushed.

  “Hey, no fair.” Bonburi said playfully, and pulled on the sleeve of his yukata, pulling him into another kiss, and he kissed her harder, wanting more, and she let him in, her mouth parting sweetly, lips full and soft against his. She tasted like cinnamon, and he wanted to push her down, and spread her open, watch her back arch off of the floor as he worked his fingers into her. He wanted to ruin her, until she was mussed, and naked.

  He pulled back slowly, and he was panting a little. He wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close, and wrapped one around Hozuki too. He looked up at the sky.

  “Our own home.” He whispered again.