It had been weeks since she had been given the news but she still refused to believe it. Mitsuhide Akechi would come back. He couldn’t be dead. It just wasn’t possible. She knew that the other warlords kept her busy to try to keep her mind off things, but it didn’t work as well as they had hoped. Even Ieyasu attempted to cheer her up by gruffly introducing her to his “emergency food supply,” Wasabi. It had earned him a flicker of a smile but little else and he had sighed quietly in defeat, muttering something she couldn’t hear under his breath before he left her alone with the fawn.
Even as she stroked Wasabi’s soft coat, she couldn’t stop thinking about Mitsuhide. Everything reminded her of him. When she managed to choke down a meal she would think of his inability to taste anything and Masamune’s resulting frustration at his lack of appreciation for culinary masterpieces. She missed his teasing, the smirk on his lips whenever she did something that amused him, his voice when he called her name. She missed his eyes, their color occasionally shimmering like liquid gold in the firelight, the way he watched her that unnerved her and sent pleasant shivers down her spine at the same time. He wasn’t a particularly nice person. No, he seemed to be entertained the more he embarrassed her, but she had fallen in love with him anyway. And everyone said he was dead.
Claire tilted her head back to look at the sky, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall. Again. She had cried too much over the man already, but she couldn’t stop the insistent voice in her heart that insisted they were wrong. Even Nobunaga, who had told her in his usual no nonsense way that Mitsuhide was dead and she should stop pining for a corpse, was wrong. She knew it, but it didn’t stop her heart from breaking every time she was reminded of him and he still wasn’t there.
She didn’t know how long she sat there stroking the fawn’s coat, but the sky had dimmed when Ieyasu returned, gruffly urging her to her feet to join them for another war council. Wasabi followed along behind until Ieyasu shooed her away at the garden’s edge and Claire followed sedately after him. War council was another reminder of Mitsuhide and one she didn’t need, but she knew that Nobunaga would be angry if she refused his summons and someone would be made to drag her to the war room, kicking and screaming if need be. Probably Hideyoshi.
Ieyasu didn’t say a word even as he opened the partition for the war room to let her inside. She bowed to Nobunaga and began setting up the tea service, studiously ignoring the concerned looks from Hideyoshi and Mitsunari. Masamune’s brows were drawn in a faint line but he didn’t say anything other than a quiet thank you when she offered him a cup of tea. She settled another cup in front of Mitsunari when the partition opened again and Nobunaga straightened, mouth curved in a lazy grin.
“About time you showed up, Mitsuhide.”
The teapot nearly slipped from her suddenly numb fingers as she whirled around, eyes wide and barely able to take in the form of Mitsuhide Akechi, looking none the worse for wear, a black sack dangling from one hand.
“Mitsuhide!” She didn’t realize she had uttered his name before she abandoned the teapot and was running, hands reaching up to touch his face. The sack fell to the ground with a suspiciously wet-sounding squelch and his hands brushed against her waist, barely touching her. Cool eyes gazed down at her, brows lifted in a rare show of surprise and she stared up at him, vision blurred with tears, as she mapped his face with her fingers and then threw her arms around his waist, burying her head in his chest. “You’re alive! I knew it!”
“Missed me that much, silly girl? Good.” There was amusement in his tone and she felt his voice rumble through her cheek pressed to his chest but she didn’t have time to say anything in response before he tipped her face up and covered her mouth with his own.
There was no mistaking it for anything other than what it was: a savage claiming. His lips slanted over hers, tongue demanding entry and drawing the very breath from her lungs. She could only cling to his kimono as her knees gave out, his hand on her hip the only thing keeping her upright. There was no mercy in his kiss, only possession and she was too weak to fight it, even if she wanted to. His other hand cupped her jaw, thumb resting on her throat with just enough pressure to send a thrill down her spine. He was deliciously warm, his body hard against hers, and she was lost in the scent of him, the feel of his hands on her, the way her heart thundered in her breast at his touch. It was everything she had ever imagined and then some, leaving her weak and burning with an unholy need.
Mitsuhide finally broke the kiss and pulled away, thumb brushing over her swollen lower lip and smirking down at her with eyes that glittered with heat. Words failed her as she stared up at him. She might have said his name, or maybe something completely nonsensical, but her thoughts scattered completely when his thumb slipped between her lips.
“Dinner and a show, Mitsuhide? That’s unlike you.”
Claire stiffened, eyes wide and cheeks flushing crimson. The laughter in Nobunaga’s voice wasn’t anything new, but it was a reminder that she had just lost all reason in front of all of the warlords of Azuchi and that was enough to finally shake her loose of her Mitsuhide-induced haze. Mitsuhide’s grip on her loosened the moment she stepped away and she hid her face in her hands as she spun around and bolted out of the room, face flaming and tears once again clouding her vision.
Mitsuhide watched her go with an eyebrow cocked before he turned back to see Nobunaga smirking at him. Ieyasu’s cheeks had a light flush and he was studiously ignoring Mitsuhide entirely while Hideyoshi was shaking his head, not bothering to admonish Nobunaga or Mitsuhide for embarrassing their chatelaine. Masamune finally let himself laugh when Mitsunari expressed concern over Claire’s sudden departure.
“By your leave, I’ll deliver my report later.” Mitsuhide paused, lips curving up into a tiny smile. “Tomorrow, perhaps.”
Hideyoshi opened his mouth to reprimand him but Nobunaga waved it away, laughter evident in his voice as he leaned back, gaze flicking over the abandoned sack on the floor. “That your success?” Mitsuhide inclined his head but said nothing and Nobunaga smirked. “Leave it there. We’ll dispose of it later.”
She didn’t have to look to know that it was Mitsuhide stepping into her room, the door closing with a soft clack behind him. He had never entered her room uninvited before and she felt her embarrassment keenly when she couldn’t bring herself to tell him to go away.
“I feel that I should apologize.”
Claire huffed a quiet breath but refused to turn to face him. “Would you mean it?”
There was an uncharacteristically long pause before he spoke. “I might.”
“Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?”
“Perhaps.” There was a smile in his voice this time around and she fought back a smile of her own.
Her fingers still shook as she smoothed the fabric of her kimono, still refusing to look at him as the tears slowed but continued to fall. “You made us think you were dead. Even I-” she broke off, biting her lip to keep the words from spilling out. Even I was beginning to believe it.
His voice was soft when he spoke again, and much closer than before. She could almost feel his warmth at her back from where he now knelt on the floor behind her, not touching her but there all the same. “No one could know. It would give everything away and I wouldn’t have succeeded in my mission.” He paused, adding with a touch of amusement, “Your grief certainly sold it, though. I should thank you for that.”
“ Thank me?” Claire whirled around, too angry to be surprised at how close he was when he leaned back from her fury, eyes wide in surprise. “My heart broke when Mitsunari told me you were dead. You are my whole world, you selfish, unbelievable ass!” Her palm shoved at his chest without her permission but she was too incensed to care, or to notice the surprise leave his eyes and melt into heat. “You’re everything to me and you let me think you were dead just so you could play - mmph! ”
Mitsuhide’s mouth silenced her in a savage kiss, his fingers sliding into her hair to pull her forward until she tumbled into his lap. There was nothing sophisticated about the kiss, and she would be furious with herself later for giving in to him but the way his lips and tongue conquered her, leaving her panting for breath and moaning with pleasure, left her mind scattered and body too hot. She clutched at his kimono, pulling herself up to meet his fervor with her own. The first bite on his bottom lip was a punishment, the second a seduction, and then she felt her obi loosen around her waist, his hands sliding beneath her kimono to reach skin and she was drowning in him. She could hardly breathe but she didn’t care, so long as he kept kissing her like she was the only thing in the world that mattered.
She didn’t want softness or platitudes and it figured that Mitsuhide knew this as he tore the kimono from her body and trailed kisses and bites down her throat that would surely leave marks, staking his claim for everyone to see. Her fingers dove into the silver of his hair, tugging when he sucked particularly hard on a sensitive spot to drag his mouth back up to hers. She tore his clothes from him, ignoring the quiet laughter when a seam ripped.
“Eager, are we?”
“Shut up. I’ll fix it later,” she hissed between kisses, gasping when his palm cupped her breast and squeezed the nipple with a harsh twist.
Mitsuhide shrugged off his kimono and slipped his fingers between her legs, finding her soaked. She didn’t have time to be embarrassed as he slid a digit inside and curled it just so. A keening cry escaped her and her back bowed, fingers scrabbling for purchase on the floor but finding none. As his fingers worked her into a frenzy of pleasure, she could only tremble in his embrace, begging him for more, more, more . His free hand slid around her throat and she moaned, catching them both by surprise. Mitsuhide carefully wrapped his hand around her throat and gave it a gentle squeeze. It shouldn’t have felt so good but she would do anything to get him to do it again and her desperation must have shown on her face because he smiled down at her, adding another finger to pump inside her as he held her throat.
“Like that, do you? Dirty girl.”
She couldn’t protest, not when her arousal coated his fingers as they worked their magic at her core. His hand around her throat limited how much air she could take in but instead of panicking, it sent a thrill down her spine that made her core clench greedily around him. The gold in his eyes turned molten and he withdrew his fingers only to lift her legs and plunge into her in one smooth motion. The scream that threatened to erupt from her throat was strangled by his hand. She sobbed, hands gripping his shoulders as she whispered words like more and please into his mouth.
“ Ha - sorry, I can’t be gentle with you-”
Claire would have laughed if she didn’t feel like her body was being cleaved in two by his thick member between her legs. “No, don’t apologize.” She cupped his cheek, an oddly affectionate gesture during an otherwise fevered coupling. “I like it.” The words made her blush, but his disbelieving laugh and the way his hips slapped against her thighs with increasing strength gave her the courage to be honest.
“You are…” Mitsuhide ducked his head and gave her a chaste kiss. “Perfect,” he murmured against her lips, kissing her again and again, sipping from her lips like he might a cup of sake. “Absolutely perfect and mine. Mine. ”
“Yours,” she agreed, her fingers gripping his upper arms after a particularly hard thrust. The fire that surged through her veins reached a crescendo and she cried out, back arching as her core convulsed around him, drawing his own orgasm from him. Mitsuhide grunted into her neck, biting down to anchor himself through the pleasure coursing through him.
Breath leaving her in gasps, she whimpered when he slumped over her, the weight of his hard body almost uncomfortable but she didn’t have the heart to push him away. She had thought him dead, and now… Now she had proof that he was very much alive, that he was breathing and in her arms and she belonged to him. She always had, and she suspected that he had always known how she felt but now that he had said it himself, it made it true.
Her fingers carded through his sweat-dampened hair, lips pressing featherlight kisses along his jaw as he caught his breath. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”
An indelicate snort escaped him and Mitsuhide lifted his head, gazing at her with an expression that could only be described as affectionate. “Mmm, death might not be so bad if this is what I get when I come back from it.”
“ Mitsuhide! ”