A/N: Thank you so much for the kind words of encouragement and of course, for reading this story.
Why was she ever assigned to his research team? Sure, her work with anesthetics is excellent and the professional in him admits that she out leagues her fellow graduate school students by far. She is the best student of the 4 assigned to him and she hadn't even advertised her work, he'd only read about her preliminary work and he had been impressed. She had only passed by his seat. The air conditioning was pretty good. But she was a bit sweaty from running as she tried to avoid being tardy and he knew that she did not wear any perfume and the slightest scent he could smell off of her is either her fabric conditioner or her deodorant, yet he had never been more aroused in his entire life, not even when his ex-girlfriend strip teased for him. He was still strong in his resolve not to look at her and to avoid conversing with her as much as possible. He was pissed off that now he even has to avoid catching her scent. He'd never felt more attracted and more frustrated than he does at this moment. She apologized for her tardiness of a mere three minutes, but he ignored her in favor of continuing the conversation he had with the three participants who arrived earlier. Another came in late, when the student apologized, he acknowledged the student's apology with a nod and a rebuke not to do it again before shifting his attention to the rest of the class.
She had just finished washing clothes and bathing from the stream. He enjoys summers especially now that he is married to her. She always smells nice even if she'd been working hard; in fact, he likes it better when she gets a bit sweaty as she smells like no one else but her own unique smell. She always smells feminine and nothing brings him to arousal faster than her smell. It intoxicated him more than any other wine. He nuzzled her neck, holding her body closer to his and smelled her. She often said that she loves how he smells as well so he lets her cuddle with him and just enjoy the closeness of their bodies.
The guy is a complete asshole and has been since the beginning of the "team research", an unofficial contest of sorts, which would have one of its five graduate school students have the "honor" of working with Dr. Takeshi Yamamoto. She doesn't see how working for the asshole can be an honor. He hated her from the start, he refused to acknowledge her existence, didn't speak to her or address her even when the other students in their group didn't know the answer to a question he posed. She'd heard that some Japanese guys can be chauvinists but this is absurd. He was absurd! She'd met other Japanese guys, even traditional really old ones and they have been most courteous. In fact, as far as she knows, courtesy and respect defines the Japanese culture. She knew if he was the sole decision maker over who would get the "prize" that she'd be out of the running before it even began.
He had always been respectful of women and respects strength in the opposite gender. He didn't remember much of his mother who died when he was only 3 years of age, but he remembered seeing different women of all walks of life strive hard to support their families as their husbands or sons fought far away. He had seen women do the job and chores of men just to continue to survive. He is unlike many of his generation who only sees women as someone to bear their children, to warm their beds and to fill their stomachs. Thus, he married the one woman he did respect. She is smart, beautiful, and intelligent and someone who challenges him mentally unlike most people he knew.
It was another Friday night. He dreads and anticipates this day more than any other day of the week because he knew he'd get the chance to see her. She was the earliest in class, arriving just after he did. But she didn't even look at him as she walked in and didn't even bother to greet him as she used to. She was wearing the nicest dress he'd ever seen her wear and looked more feminine and soft than she usually did as she often preferred slacks and no nonsense blouses. Her hair was braided to one side and a smile was plastered on her face. He stole a surreptitious look at her and unknowingly smiled a bit, a fact she fortunately did not notice. Others would come pouring in and he would have to go on with his inquiry and ask them about their papers. As the grouping was about to come to an end, he overheard Hermione tell her batch mate that her friend set her up on a blind date which is why she is dressed up nicely. He purposefully delayed the session to another hour and a half, forcing the students and Hermione to stay there up until 9:30 pm. She would be scowling for the rest of that hour and a half but he felt that it was worth it especially as he caught slight whiff of her scent on her way out.
She likes how he would massage her feet. He said he likes to pamper her and likes the idea that he's taking care of her. But more than just taking care of her, he felt the need to protect her from the world, as sheltered as she was by her parents. But there were realities he couldn't hide from her, even as he brought her to join him in Liu Bei's campaigns. People died around them, many he was the indirect cause of, but if she was far away and something happened to her, he didn't know what he will do. He couldn't imagine the grief his lord felt after his wife passed away seeing that his lord loved Lady Gan dearly.
The dance they had of barely acknowledging each other began. But in the end, Hermione was confident that the panel who reviews her material would choose her paper over her peers. They did. She was triumphant when they announced their resolution. She gave Dr. Takeshi Yamamoto the biggest smirk she could, which he in turn returned with a genuine smile. That surprised Hermione and had her thinking that maybe he wasn't such a bad guy at all and just wasn't comfortable around women.
He fell in love with her before she fell in love with him. She only wanted to marry him because in her own words, marriage is not about finding the perfect match, it's finding someone whose faults you can live with. He knew that she had more affluent suitors, those who can afford to dress snappily every day, perhaps they can even afford new clothes every day. But she didn't mind his almost ragged robes and his other weird habits. But she did mind one thing, she hates it when he plays guqin late at night. At first, she tried to tolerate it, seeing that it is his way of expressing the fast running tracks of thoughts in his mind but after a few months she got irritated and then frustrated. She wouldn't mind it if only he wouldn't play at such late hours. One late night during the first year of their marriage, she had been very tired from doing work around the farm and doing chores around the house, he decided to play guqin in their bedroom to relax himself. She sat up, grabbed a bolster pillow and threw it hard, hitting him right on his face. "Go play that thing during daytime. I'm sleepy." She said grumpily before returning back to sleep. He was stunned speechless at her beauty, her face red from sleep and rage. He had been attracted and even enamored of her before then, but that was love at first hit for him.
He forced himself to speak to her and his herculean efforts were gratified by her smiles. She might look different than the woman in his dream but her smile wasn't, it was still her. After he forced himself to stop looking at her as a figure of attraction, she noticed many other things. She is diligent, punctual and very intelligent. But unlike his first assessment of her, she is not only book smart but she is innovative in her ideas. She is also very thoughtful and despite of how he treated her when he first met her, she extended her good will towards him. Upon noticing that he sometimes forgot to take his meals, she'd taken efforts to just give him a sandwich or a lunchbox every now and then. He knew that his attraction in the beginning had been because of his dreams of her but he was starting to actually appreciate her as a person. For starters, his working area had never been so clean.
She is a horrible housewife, the house is not as clean as her mother's home, the bookkeeping might be clean but what was the point of that if the house isn't. Her husband of a few weeks sat beside her as she wallowed in self-pity. "The house had never been cleaner than it is now." He commented as he caressed her back. Of course it wouldn't be, seeing that there were no girls to keep the house clean, as concentrated as they were in working in the fields. She looked at him bleary eyed. "I'm not a good house wife." She complained. He smiled. "What is the point of an extremely clean home if its occupants are unhappy?" He asked hugging his young wife next to him. "I'll learn to clean better. I'll do better." She said determinedly. He kissed the crown of her head. "It's nice to have such goals but don't let it determine your happiness." She smiled at him. "You're probably the most understanding husband in the world." She said in admiration. He smiled back. "Come on, I'll show you something. I found a nice patch of wild berries." He said leading his bride away from her misery.
He had to act more professional, given that they now work in close proximity and their projects are intertwined. But the nicer she gets, the harder he falls for her. He was falling fast; it was becoming a near obsession. First, he started finding out about her through school and medical records, given his position as the fellow assigned to her project, it had been easy. He frowned at the medical records he'd got, it showed several visits to the dermatologist as she went through several sessions of laser scar removal. Most of her scars had been "erased" all except for the etching on her arm, for which she is still scheduled to undergo sessions for. Takeshi talked to the doctor who did the procedure, although the doctor is not a psychiatrist, he surmised that Ms. Granger probably went through some sort of abuse. He didn't think that she joined a gang given her personality, but she probably had an abusive boyfriend. The idea of what she went through angered Takeshi and shamed him as he had not been the warmest person towards her, yet she faced him bravely. He realized after that and after whatever she went through that made her tough enough to face any challenge, that he wanted nothing more than to protect her.
Before Liu Bei or any other representatives of the other warlords came to bid for his services, some soldiers did find his secluded farm. He and his wife had been away from their home, as they haggled for some goods in a distant town. The young soldiers, who according to witnesses looked barely out of their mother's arms, went to their home seeking food and "comfort". They went through his stock of wine, slaughtered one of his cows and destroyed some of his properties in their drunken revelry. But worst of all, the four youth raped their two female servants, threatening the male servants of his household into submission by fear of retribution from their battalion if they were harmed. When they got home, all he could think of is that those girls were near his wife's age and that his wife is so much more beautiful than they. His wife treated the wounds of the young women and soothed their souls while he oversaw the repairs of his property and fixed the damage the soldiers did. Even as his wife soothed their servants, she couldn't sooth his anxiety and fears. He almost left her behind for fear that she might tire of the journey to the distant town they travelled to. If it were not for her insistence to go, she could have been a victim to those marauding soldiers. He hired more male farm hand, sent for older and less attractive female servants and lessened the food they stocked by giving their help more salary. He then separated the keeping of his live stocks all over the property, giving it an appearance that these live stocks were owned by different individuals. Lastly, he had his comfortable home demolished and replaced it with a small thatched hut (he just made it snug and weather proof just to make it comfortable for him and his wife) to make it less "attractive" for bandits and soldiers alike to visit. He had his few servants make their own small huts near the area. Even with all these precautions in place, he vowed that his wife will never leave his side. He knew that if it comes to it, he will give his life up to keep her safe.
He knew that what he was doing is tantamount to stalking. He found out where she lived and after a few days of observing her, he realized that since she was finished with her master's academic subjects; her life rotated around her apartment, the library, the coffee shop and the hospital where they worked together. Consider it serendipity, but as he researched her, the apartment next door to her became vacant. He'd decided to rent it, even if he was still two months away from the renewal of his lease and moved in as soon as he can. It was less than half the size of his current apartment, it was only a third of the rent he paid for in his previous apartment, thus he was easily able to afford renting it.
He wanted to keep her safe, but what he couldn't keep her safe from is the heart ache she suffered because of her miscarriages. Once, they even had to bury their daughter who has only lived for a few hours. Every sob she made and every tear that fell from her eyes felt like stabs to his heart. He was also grieving for the loss of what could have been their children but if he was to be honest, he'd rather keep his wife than for her to die in place of one of these children. At that moment, he realized that he loves her more than anything and everything in his life. He would later rage at anyone who suggested that he take another wife, a concubine or even a servant to give him a child that nobody dare suggest it after a time, seeing that it was a sore topic for him.
Hermione found Dr. Takeshi Yamamoto to be weird. He had been so cold and aloof with her in the beginning but now he completely changed his tune. He'd taken to giving her small gifts every now and then. But she supposed it was because she took time to give him meals when he's too busy to eat. She would have dismissed it at that but there's more. Before, he couldn't bear to be in the same room as her, now she sees him everywhere she went. He was trying to be surreptitious about it, but she is a war veteran and not to be observant would have spelt death for her and her friends. He was still professional in front of her, but after a while she became aware that he would steal glances at her whenever he thought she wasn't looking. She realized that she might be right about her assumptions the moment she met him on her hallway and realized that he just move into the apartment right next to hers. She didn't know what to think or how to feel about it. But she knows that as attractive the older man might be, she just doesn't feel that way towards him. 'Yet…' Her traitorous thoughts added.
Her husband likes his tea sweetened and with milk. He took his tea just before the sun rises in the East. He is as sweet as the tea and cakes he likes, except he is really weird. At one moment, he is her warm loving husband, an energetic farmer in the next, a surly customer in another and at times behaves like a cranky old man. He is observant, watches everything around him with the eyes of a hawk but at the same time he is oblivious. Mature women and girls alike found him attractive; he is not a flirt nor is he a womanizer. It's just that he has deep soulful eyes and when he talks to her at least, it's as if the words she utters could make or break his world. She observed that part of his appeal is the respectful ways he has towards people of all walks of life. He is also different from other men of their time. He had not demanded intimacies from her and told her pointblank on their first night together that he would only have her if she is ready. She doesn't love him yet nor is she near being "ready" for what a husband and a wife does. But she is getting there, she is slowly learning to love him.
Tomorrow would be her last estimated session to remove her scar via laser scar removal. Takeshi still hadn't seen the scar she is supposed to have, seeing that she always wore long sleeves and wore scrubs on top of them, but the doctor told him that it read 'Mudblood' whatever that is. He often wondered why she would sometimes have a haunted look on her face, he tried asking her. She might be open about her family and her friends but she purposefully skipped that obviously scarring experience in her life. If he didn't know about it, he would not have guessed. He wants to be her friend first, and maybe in time, they could be more. Being a late sleeper, he was still awake at past midnight. He was about to turn in for the night when he heard Hermione screaming in pain and horror. It sounded almost inhuman. He grabbed the samurai he kept on the mantle and rushed off to his balcony and unmindful of the heights he was breaching, slid on to get to Hermione's balcony.
In his rush, he just broke the glass door, sword in hand, only to see her sitting up on her bed clutching at the comforter for dear life. Her eyes were filled with tears and her face held all the anguish she never shows during the day. Seeing that there were no intruders (other than him of course), he relaxed. She turned the lights on the lamp on her bedside and just lifelessly stared at him. She didn't ask what he was doing there or why he has a sword with him nor did she say a word as he sat beside her and held her to him. He caressed her head and back as he hummed her a lullaby, his mother sang to him. As she fell asleep in his arms, he lifted her sleeves to reveal, a now very faint scar bearing the same words the doctor told him about. It didn't escape him that she had been clutching at this very arm in pain when he got here. Physical traces of the scar might be removed with modern science, but the scars it left on her mind remains. He tucked her in bed and was about to go back to his home the same way he did earlier when he changed his mind seeing that they were after all on the 8th floor. He decided to use his front door instead. He took some dustpan and broom from his house and cleaned up the glass debris he left on the floor before he locked her doors and went back to his apartment. He'd just send her a check for its repair later.
After she'd seen her first battle by his side, she started having nightmares. That somehow the soldiers who've died on both sides rose to try and grab them towards death. He knew that she didn't fear for herself, she always saw them drag him away. Or they would strangle him. There might be varieties, but they don't change fundamentally, it always ended with him dead at the hands of these dead soldiers. During those nights she would wake up screaming and thrashing, he would gather her in his arms and hum her to sleep. He only got to sleep well after he sees her comfortably sleeping.
Takeshi knocked on her door early to ask about the glass door he'd ruined, but he was surprised that she already had it repaired. He was puzzled as to how she got it done fast and at such an early hour but ignored it for a more important query of how she is doing. She smiled and thanked him for helping her sleep; she said she usually doesn't get back to sleep easily after having such horrid nightmares. She apologized for interrupting his sleep and thanked him with a cup of steaming hot sweetened milk tea. He didn't know how she knew that it was his favorite but nothing perks up his day more than his favorite morning drink. She even sweetened it, just the way he liked it. He thanked her before going back to his apartment.
She always gave him a cup of tea the way he liked it after he comforts her from her nightmares. She knew that her husband often felt guilt for the things he'd done, the decisions he'd made that cost the lives of many but he wasn't the monster he believed himself to be. While she doesn't agree with all of his beliefs and even found his political perspective as somewhat unrealistic, she believes in him. She accompanied him everywhere he went, she assisted him, prepared what he needed and even helped out in the care of wounded or sick soldiers.
Takeshi offered her a ride on the way to the university. They have already passed beyond the line of propriety he tried to maintain; as such he was more at ease with her. She gave him an honest criticism of his study and how a simple mistake can easily cost the life of a patient. He would explain that the skill off the surgeon is also necessary and they ended up having a long winded conversation about their studies which didn't end even after they've arrived. But work has to come first, for both of them and they went back to being a research fellow and graduate school student. It wasn't improper, seeing that he isn't her teacher and she isn't a young undergraduate. So he asked her out for coffee and she accepted, looking forward to more of their interesting conversation. As he went inside his office, he couldn't help but think how easy it was to be around Hermione.
She loves watching the stars, he also likes sitting beside her as she told him stories and folklores about a constellation or a star. It was from her that he learned how to read the night sky better, seeing that he mostly focused his attention on things that affects his farm. She also taught him how to enjoy life, when he had been so focused on work and his studies. She likes listening to him play the guqin (as long as he doesn't do this late at night) and can tell his moods according to how he plays and after sometime, even by his tone of voice or even his movements. Later on, people would idealize him, some even placing him on a pedestal due to his intelligence or abilities. But never did his wife see him for someone who he's not. She saw him for who he really is. When people say he knows how to deal with people's reactions, she says he's manipulative. When people say that he understands how the minds of people work, she says he's cunning. When people say he is inventive or innovative, she says that the reason why he comes up with his inventions is mostly because he's lazy. But when he sees himself as a monster and people cursed him for his callousness, she sees his ideals and goals. She sees him as person who only does what is necessary. Even as she criticized him, he saw her unconditional love.
They have their coffee, talk shifted from work to their personal lives he told her about his family back in Japan and she told him about her British immigrant parents who live in the suburbs. Hermione blushed slightly when his hands accidentally brushed against hers as he took his cup of coffee from the small table they shared.