Title: Ronin Lovers
Warnings: Intense sex - set during Chapter 51 ("The Choices We Make") of THE SWORD OF THE SOUL
Summary: It is winter in Kanna Village, and Nasami is still recovering from her injuries. And one night, when they are finally alone together, Kambei and Nasami must decide once and for all about the nature of their relationship...
Note: While I have written a lot of erotica for this pairing, "Ronin Lovers" is to be considered the 'canon' version of the consummation of their relationship. The ultimate song for this story is the incomparable "Saints" by Yuki Kajiura, from the MADLAX soundtrack.
Nasami sat by the window of Rikichi's house, watching the snow falling gently down upon the treetops of the woods and the rooftops of the village. Night was descending already, although she could not see the stars through the thick clouds that had gathered. The warmth of the fire behind her felt good against the chill that came in through the window, but she loved to watch the snowflakes dancing on the wind, and so she sat wrapped in a thick blanket, her eyes on the drifting snowflakes and her thoughts far away.
"We will see you later, Nasami-sama," came Sanae's voice, startling Nasami out of her reverie, and the samuraiko turned to look at the other woman in surprise.
"Surely you're not going out in this?"
"The water priestess invited Rikichi and me to dinner this evening... I think she is still concerned about me after... after all that has happened." Sanae shrugged lightly. "But I do not wish to offend. Will you be all right by yourself?"
Nasami smiled. "I'll be fine for one night, Sanae. You and Rikichi don't have to worry about me."
The peasant woman bowed, as did Rikichi, then the two left, leaving Nasami alone in the hut. The samuraiko smiled sadly to herself as she watched them go, resting her arms on the windowsill and her chin on her wrists. With a sigh, she closed her eyes, but a few moments later, she heard the door open.
"Which one of you forgot something?" she asked without opening her eyes or turning around.
"Neither," she heard, and abruptly she turned to see Kambei standing in the doorway, snow lightly dusting his hair and shoulders.
For a moment, she let her eyes roam over him, then she smiled at him. "What are you doing here? I thought you and Shichiroji would be at Kirara's."
Kambei shook his head as he removed his cloak and his shoes, then stepped up onto the raised floor. "Shichiroji is at Kirara's, along with Katsushiro."
She tilted her head to study him as he took a seat beside her near the fire. "So how come you're here?" she asked with a smile.
"Because I want to be with you," he replied seriously. "Why else do you think I talked Kirara and her grandmother into inviting the others to dinner?"
Her eyes widened in surprise. "You mean..."
Now it was Kambei's turn to smile at her. "Well, of course I didn't exactly phrase it like that, but in the end..." He shrugged. "It got all of them out of this house, didn't it?"
"Mm-hmm. And I don't suppose you had any ulterior motives for doing so, did you?"
"Now that you mention it..." He moved along the floor so that he was seated behind her, his back to the wall, then he drew her back into his arms so that they sat facing the fire.
With a happy sigh, she relaxed into him. "You always know the right thing to do," she murmured, closing her eyes again. For a little while they sat quietly, enjoying one another's company without words. Eventually Nasami wriggled out of the blanket she'd wrapped herself in, draping it over her legs, then leaning back against Kambei's chest, the top of her head just barely reaching his chin. Then she reached for his hands and took them in her own, wrapping his arms around her."What are you thinking about?" she asked at length as they watched the flames dance and flicker.
"Something I've thought about since one night at Masamune's workshop."
She tilted her head back to look at him. "What was that?"
"Do you remember the night you woke up and we were drinking sake in the courtyard?"
Nasami nodded. "Yes... you seemed distracted... almost haunted by something."
Kambei chuckled. "Yes, that's one way of putting it."
"So what were you thinking about then?"
He looked down at her. "That even then, although we'd only just met, everything in me wanted everything in you."
"You knew... even then?" she whispered, and he nodded, then he rested his cheek against her hair.
"You have no idea, anata. I wanted you so desperately that it terrified me."
"Really?" Nasami was awed. "You were right... I had no idea." Then her usual wry smile re-appeared as she looked up at him once again. "So... has anything changed since then?"
"How so?" he asked.
"Do... do you still..." She blushed a bright red, then her words came out in a rush. "Do you still want me?"
He held her even tighter. "More than ever before. But you are samuraiko."
She sat up abruptly, pulling away from him. "So then why are only men allowed to take a lover? Why must women remain alone?"
"Samuraiko must remain chaste until they are married," he reminded her. "It's not fair, but that's the way it is."
"No," she said firmly, shaking her head. "No, that I will not accept."
She bowed her head. "Because I am weary of being alone."
Kambei went still at her words, the same she had spoken the night that he had found her atop the waterfall, bereft and grieving.
"I am weary of sorrow and solitude, and wish to forget the pain of my past."
She turned around so that she was facing him, reached down and once again took his hands in hers, holding them tightly.
"And for the first time in my life, I dare to believe that someone might truly care for me, as I do for him."
"I do, Nasami," he whispered, his voice hoarse. "More than life itself."
"Then love me, anata... for what little time we have together in this world."
"You will be dishonored," he hissed through his teeth, clenching his hands into fists. "Would you really take a ronin as a lover?"
For a long, long time, she didn't say a word.
"No..." she admitted at last.
Then he gasped as she brought his hands to her lips, gently bestowing a kiss against each of his tattoos.
"... but I would take you, Kambei, as a lover, and as a husband... as a man, and as a samurai."
No words she could have spoken could have meant more to him. For too many lonely, painful years, he had been hollow, empty, but the samuraiko's simple acceptance of him nearly made him want to weep.
He groaned aloud and pulled her to him.
Kambei buried his face in the curve between her neck and her shoulder, and gave a single, shuddering sob, his arms wrapped so tightly around her that she could hardly breathe. Then desire swept over him with such force that he practically growled, and all at once his hands were everywhere on her - sliding up her body from her hips to her waist to her shoulders, savoring the feeling of the warm silk of her robes against his skin.
It had been so long... so very, very long since he had taken a lover. For years, he had fooled himself into thinking that he didn't need this, didn't want this... but then he had met her, had come to know her... had come to love her. Now the knowledge that she also loved him sang through his blood and hummed through his veins like the finest wine, and all at once, he wasn't sure if he wanted to cry or to laugh.
Her arms were around his neck, holding him to her as he breathed in the scent of her, felt the weight of her against him, and he lifted his head to look at her. With the firelight behind her, making her long hair shimmer and her eyes fill with light and shadows, she was enchanting.
Then, slowly, cautiously, she lowered her lips to his and gently kissed him, her lips soft and warm and exploring.
Instinctively he knew not to rush her, no matter how badly he just wanted to take her right then and there, and his instincts were confirmed when her breath came out of her in a rush.
"Didn't anyone ever teach you how to kiss?" he asked her at last, staring up at her in wonder, and she shook her head.
"No." She blushed. "Would you believe... that time you kissed me after finding me in the ravine..." Her blush deepened. "... was my first?"
Kambei was astonished, but then he chuckled and hugged her.
"You're wonderful, Nasami, have I ever told you that?"
He reached up and pulled her head down to his, then spent the next few minutes teaching her all the pleasures of kissing, his tongue finding each sensitive place on hers that made her sigh with pleasure, even as she couldn't help giggling when she had to remember how to breathe.
"Tell me," he whispered in her mouth, "tell me how this makes you feel."
"I don't think... there are words for this..."
"Try..." He lightly swiped at her lips with his tongue.
Her fingers tightened momentarily in his hair, and he ached to just lay her down right there, but he held back the urge.
"I feel... like my senses are tingling... alive... aware..." Nasami shivered in his arms. "And... I ache... deep inside... for something, but I don't know what."
"Ahhhh," he purred. "But I do."
Kambei reached up and unwound the sash from her waist, but then Nasami went still, and he sensed that something was wrong.
For a terrible moment, he thought that she had changed her mind, that she was rejecting him, but then he realized that she had tears in her eyes.
"What is it, love?"
Nasami looked down at her body and wrapped her arms around herself. "I'm not... my body isn't beautiful. It's... it's scarred and marked and-"
"-and it's yours," he whispered, his voice and eyes intense as he reached up to turn her face to his. "Do you honestly think that mine is any better?"
"But it's different for men," she protested. "Men want women who are young, lovely... whole."
All of her insecurity and doubt and worry was there in her face for him to see... not that he would disappoint her... but that she would disappoint him.
Gently, he moved her back so that she was once again seated on the floor, then he shifted position so that he was kneeling in front of her. Then Kambei took her hands in his, and slowly showed her how to remove his clothes, so that soon his body was bare to the waist.Her eyes went wide as they moved over his body. Kambei had told her the truth - his body was crisscrossed with scars of every kind, his muscles taut and his skin rough from years of hard warrior living. And next to her, he was huge - not like Kikuchiyo had been, but much taller and broader than she.
Slowly, cautiously, she rested one small hand on his chest, and his breath hissed out of him at even that light touch, but he did not look away as she began to explore his skin beneath her fingers, learning his past from the marks it had left on him, as if she wanted to learn everything about his body until she knew it as well as her own.
"Do I disgust you?" he asked her softly, and she shook her head, her hair rippling around her.
"No..." she whispered, looking up at him in wonder. "No, I... I think you're beautiful."
She swallowed hard, then she took his hands in hers and just as he had with her, she helped him push her kimono off her shoulders, leaving her naked to the waist as well, save for the silk that bound her breasts.
For one awful instant, she was afraid to look him in the eyes, but she need not have worried, as far as he was concerned.
Once before, he had seen her like this, the night she had been sparring with Katsushiro behind Masamune's workshop, but then she had been proud, defiant, every inch the warrior.
Now... now she was woman, and Kambei could not take his eyes off her. Where he was dark, she was fair, curved where he was lean. Like him, she was scarred from head to toe, and he suddenly wanted to know every line, every curve, every scar, wanted them to tell him every tale about her past. Then there were her tattoos, which seemed to writhe and move with a life of their own in the firelight, brilliant colors against the paleness of her skin.
But his eyes couldn't hide his desire as he stared at her, tracing over every inch of her, and the yearning inside him grew. He wanted to know her breasts beneath his hands, wanted to taste her skin, wanted to know how her body would feel against him as he moved inside of her.
Nasami held her breath as he stared at her, wishing that she could tell what he was thinking.
"Do I..." She didn't think she could finish the question, afraid to know the answer.
Kambei's eyes met hers, grey locked on dark blue, and she was stunned at what she saw there. "My God, Nasami, you're exquisite."
She couldn't help it - tears came to her eyes and slowly slid down her face. Gently he reached out and brushed her tears away, then he let his hand trail down from her cheek to come to rest just above her heart. She let out a shuddering sigh and her head fell back.
"Please touch me." The words were out before she could stop them.
"Look at me, then."
She lifted her head to look at him, and then down at his hands as he slowly slid his hand down her body, his fingers gentle. As they moved over her breast, she drew in a shaky breath, but did not look away.
"Anata..." he murmured, tracing the curve of her breasts through the silk. "Tell me what you want."
"I don't know," she admitted. "I've... I've only heard stories, and..."
He smiled teasingly. "And read pillow books?"
Nasami's cheeks flamed scarlet. "And what if I did?"
"Tell me, then," he whispered, moving closer to take her in his arms, and she almost melted at the feel of him against her, skin against skin. "What in those pillow books did you find intriguing?"
He bent his head and kissed her ear, nipping at her earlobe, and this time she did feel as though she were melting. "What excited you?"
She blushed again, this time feeling it spread all over her body. "There was... a lot."
"We have all night."
"But what about you?" she asked, her voice uncertain. "I want to please you, too... this isn't just about me."
He laughed, deep in his chest, and hugged her again. "Love, everything about you pleases me. Trust me, Nasami, there'll be plenty of time to learn what I like, but I've had... more experience than you. So..." He gave her another kiss, long and intense and searching, and Nasami didn't care that she couldn't breathe, as long as that kiss could just go on and on and on.
She felt his hands move along her upper body, but then hesitate over the silk wrap. Nasami moved him back from her, then with a deep breath, she unwound the silk so that her breasts were bare. And in a moment of supreme daring, she took his hands in hers and placed them on her breasts.
"Please..." she said hoarsely. "I..."
She got no further than that before he began to massage and caress them, just as she had hoped he would. A part of her mind was absolutely fascinated at the darkness of his skin against the paleness of her own, but the rest of her mind was blissfully occupied on the feeling of his fingers on her body, and she groaned aloud, not caring who might hear her. She didn't know, nor did she care, how he knew what seemed to make her body burn, but sweet heaven, it just felt so good.
"So you like this," she dimly heard him chuckle through the sound of her own heartbeat pounding in her ears. "I wonder then, love, how you'll enjoy..."
Nasami had just enough time to wonder what he was going to say, until she felt his lips against her breasts and she moaned. Moving on instinct, she cupped her breasts in her hands and lifted them, and rejoiced inside at the feeling of Kambei's lips and teeth and tongue suckling at her. As his mouth circled one crest, she let go and pulled his head closer to her, wanting more.
Kambei thought he would drown in her. Deep down, he had sensed that inside the proud warrior was a woman of passion, and every nerve in his body sang when he'd discovered he was right. He couldn't seem to get enough of her, and judging by her response, Nasami's initial hesitation was fading fast as he found new ways to please her. Her hands seemed to be everywhere, memorizing any part of him that she could reach, and it made his skin tingle everywhere... especially where her hands had not yet been.
His hands reached around her to cup her backside, half-lifting her off the floor so that her breasts were even more firmly pressed against his mouth, and Nasami's gasp of pleasure was music to his ears. Holding her like this was one of the most erotic things he could imagine - to know that she wasn't just sinuous muscle, but warm, soft, pliant woman beneath his hands and his mouth.
All at once, he was dying to kiss her again, so he brought his mouth down on hers savoring the feeling of her breasts against his chest, her body pressed to his as though trying to meld them together into one being. Kambei slid his hands up her back and buried his fingers in her hair, wrapping the silken tresses around his fingers as he'd wanted to for so long.
The ache in his loins was going to become unbearable if he didn't do something soon, but he vowed that he'd die before he rushed her. No, by all the gods, they were going to do this right or they wouldn't do it at all.
But his control was shattered by Nasami's soft plea of, "Don't stop... please, Kambei, don't stop..."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes... please..." Now he felt her hands move down his body, but they stopped at his waist. With all the strength of his iron control, he gently moved her back so that she could see what she was doing, and he guided her hand between his legs. She gasped, and Kambei bit back a gasp of his own at the feeling of her fingers on him.
"Yes, love," he whispered hoarsely. "That's what you do to me."
Then he nearly cried out as her fingers gently began to explore him, her eyes wide with something approaching wonder.
"I'd... I'd seen men before, but not like... not like this." She moved his robes and his loincloth aside and took him out fully, cupping him in her hands as she stared at the hard flesh she held in her hands. It felt like nothing she'd ever experienced before... like warm flesh around steel. Her fingers brushed against his length and this time he did cry out. For a horrified moment, Nasami thought she'd hurt him, but he shook his head.
"No... God, no, it just felt so good..." He drew in a shuddering breath, then he managed a shaky smile at her. "Hold it... as you would a katana."
That was easy - she shifted both her hands and took a gentle but firm grip on him, and Kambei cried out again. Nasami was fascinated by his response, and wondered what he would do if she tightened her grip slightly. She was rewarded by a long, low moan from the samurai.
"You learn fast, anata..."
"Is that... is that what it feels like for a man, to be touched like that?" she asked, and he nodded.
"To hold a man like this... you hold his life in your hands... you have no idea, love... how often I've imagined this."
"Me holding you like this?" she asked in amazement.
"Yes... every time I saw you hold a sword."
"You must have been aroused almost the whole time you were around me, then," she said tartly, and he laughed, even as he groaned again as she slid her hands down the length of him.
"You have no idea."
Nasami grinned, then returned her attention to what she held. Slowly, she caressed the length of him with one finger, curious what a gentle touch felt like for him, and this time, his hips arched and he nearly howled, his hands tightening on the floorboards so much that she thought he might actually tear them from the floor.
"You do that much more, Nasami, and I won't be able to hold back."
"What if I don't want you to hold back?"
He met her gaze directly. "Then let me touch you, love... touch you as you're touching me. Please..."
Nasami released him, and he sat up once again. He moved the robes that still covered the lower part of her body and removed her loincloth as well. For a moment, he stared at the white hair that rested between her legs, then he met her eyes again. She didn't take her eyes from his, but waited, wondering what new pleasure he was going to show her now.
Then her entire body seemed engulfed in sensation as he placed one hand between her legs and gently caressed.
Sweet Amaterasu in heaven, she was so hot that it made his blood burn in his veins. Cautiously he explored her with his fingers, swearing that at even the slightest hint of tension in her, he would stop, but no - kneeling as she was, her body was open and welcoming, and judging by the way she was moaning, fully enjoying his touch.
And her scent... that deliciously unique combination of her sandalwood perfume and her arousal was enough to harden him even further.
"Do you... know how men and women join? How a man's... sword..." He slid one finger up inside of her, and she gave a gasp of pleasure. "... enters a woman's sheath."
She nodded, her eyes closed as she moved against his hand. "Yes... please..."
She was tight... this was going to take an act of God not to hurt her.
"Then lie down, love." Her eyes opened and she stared at him. "For a woman, her first time can be uncomfortable if not prepared properly. I want this to be as pleasurable for you as I can make it."
Finally, she nodded and lay down on her back on the tatami, and he gave himself a moment to feast on her with his eyes. Kambei thought he could spend the rest of his life staring at her like this, warm and open before him, wanting him, loving him...
He moved so that he was lying on his stomach, resting on his elbows between her legs.
"You... won't be able to reach me from there, Kambei," she whispered, faintly chuckling.
"Not yet, love. I want to make sure you're as ready as I can make you."
"You mean there's more?"
Kambei couldn't help it - he laughed and nodded his head, then bent his head down so that his breath warmed the heat of her. "Oh, yes... so much... much, more."
Nasami almost screamed when she felt his tongue lapping at her. She didn't know how he did it, but it was as though he had known exactly what one place on her body would cause unbearably sweet pleasure to course through her. Slowly he circled and caressed her, occasionally sliding his tongue slightly into her before returning to the crest between her legs.
Her hands blindly reached out, tangled themselves in Kambei's hair, and pulled him tighter against her. Whatever he was doing, she was going to kill him if he stopped. Through the haze of pleasure, she heard his half-laugh, half-groan, and then she cried out as he slipped his fingers inside her once more while still kissing that aching part of her.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, she was vaguely aware of a change in her body, like a faint tingling chill in her toes and at the top of her head, and her breath seemed to be coming faster and faster. She didn't know why, but she knew she didn't want it to stop.
Revelling in the warm, wet sensation of her against his mouth, Kambei could tell by the change in her body that she was close, so very, very close. He moved so that now his body covered hers, but did not yet enter her.
"Please, God, Kambei, don't stop, please don't stop," she was begging, but he forced himself to hold still, and gave himself one long moment to stare down at her face.
So alive... so beautiful... the only thing he wanted to see when he woke up in the mornings and when he went to sleep at night.
"I love you, Nasami," he whispered, lowering his head to kiss her on the lips.
And as she opened her mouth to reply, he cautiously entered her.
Her hips moved as her body arched, instinctively taking him in. It was absolutely agony, moving this slow, but as tight as she was, even as ready as she was, he couldn't bear the thought of hurting her, so he kept himself as still as possible, waiting for her body to adjust.
Soon it did, and not long after that, she was writhing beneath him, urging him on, pulling him in deeper.
It was like nothing she'd ever felt before, and after the initial shock of him entering her, and the momentary discomfort of her muscles yielding around him, Nasami sensed deep in her soul that if she moved, that delicious pleasure she'd felt before would return. And it did... oh, how it did.
The weight of his body on hers, warm and hard and rough, felt wonderful, and she wrapped her legs around his waist to pull him even closer. He cried out at that, and began to move inside of her. Awkwardly at first, but then with more confidence, and then with driving need, she matched his rhythm, and that tingling chill she'd felt before came surging back stronger than before.
Her fingers clutched at his broad shoulders, digging in with her fingernails as though trying to fuse him with her, and Kambei groaned again. Nasami had the fleeting thought that it was a good thing she'd honed her body from years of combat, because now he was thrusting and pounding into her with incredible strength, but she met him thrust for thrust, the muscles inside of her clenching around him as though never wanting to let him go again.
Then Kambei seemed to lose all control, and he howled her name as she felt liquid heat fill her body. Moments later, the world seemed to explode in a flash of light, and her last conscious thought was, "So this is heaven..."
Kambei collapsed on top of her, gasping as though he had just run the length of Kanna Village in moments, his breath coming in tortured sobs, but he felt as though he could fly.
Then he remembered the woman underneath him and quickly lifted himself up once more. Nasami lay with her eyes closed, her fingers still clutching at him, but she didn't respond.
For a single terrifying instant, he wondered what had happened, but then she stirred and slowly opened her eyes, and he realized that she had fainted.
"So that's what it's like," she whispered at last, and Kambei roared with laughter. He rolled onto his back, pulling her with him, and laughed until tears ran down his face.
"Yes, love, that's what it's like. Did you enjoy it?"
She curled up on top of him, and his arms went around her, holding her close.
"Yes... very much so."
"Did I hurt you at all?"
"Not really, no - I've had worse bruises during sparring practice."
He chuckled and nuzzled her hair. "I warn you, though, you'll be a bit sore tomorrow."
"A small price to pay for heaven," she murmured with a happy sigh. "And one I'd willingly pay."
For a long time, they lay there like that, but then Nasami lifted her head to look down at him.
"Sanae and Rikichi will be home soon. Shouldn't we get dressed? Otherwise I think they'll be rather shocked."
"Envious, more likely," Kambei said, feeling a foolish grin cross his face, but he didn't care. "But I suppose you're right."
The two of them donned their clothes once more, pausing every now and again for a quick kiss or a laugh, and then they curled up in each other's arms just as they had at the start of the evening. It was a good thing, too, because a few minutes later, Rikichi and Sanae arrived, covered in snow and shivering, but looking happy.
"Did you enjoy yourselves at dinner?" Nasami asked as the two peasants took off their shoes and bowed to the samurai.
"Yes, we did. Thank you, great samurai. But we're both quite tired, and we'd like to sleep now."
"Good night, Lady Sanae... Rikichi." The two peasants bowed again, then moved into the small alcove that was their sleeping area and drew the curtain closed.
It would be difficult, Kambei and Nasami both knew, keeping this ronin love of theirs a secret from the villagers and from the other samurai. But as he held her close, and as she snuggled closer to him, it was a price they were willing to pay.