Official Tonglen Homepage

Created as a mirror image of the real-world Tonglen bathhouse, this homepage seems rather extravagant for its purpose. Surrounded by thick forest and perpetually dark, but brightly lit by the full moon overhead and the warm lanterns hung upon the building itself. Much like its real-world counterpart, the bathhouse is quite large, and constructed in a traditional style. Accommodations for guests are found on the first three floors, and guests are attended to by custom Programs dressed in Tonglen staff attire.

The first floor holds the baths, as well as the front desk for receiving guests. This is purely administrative; Navis are only charged for whatever food and refreshments they order during their stay. After all, charging for a bath is ridiculous when one has easy access to an entire network composed of hot springs.. The baths themselves are set in an expansive, high-ceilinged room, ornately decorated. They are divided into rows of semi-enclosed rooms by standing walls, while steam and conversation are free to rise into the air above. For VIPs, there are three larger baths isolated in their own private rooms. Unlike the real-world Tonglen, this homepage features a larger public open-air bath in its own enclosure behind the bathhouse proper.

A great deal of effort goes into food preparation and exhibition on the second floor's restaurant, considering that it's all virtual. Atmosphere and hospitality are the watchwords of any such establishment, however, and this is no exception. The sounds and smells of food preparation waft through the large common area, with its many tables of varying sizes. A great circular teppanyaki grill sits at the room's exact center, run expertly by a statuesque four-armed navi with deep red skin. For people who desire a little more quiet, private rooms are set off to either side.

Guests are at last led to the third floor, where the rooms are located. The decor ranges from the simple to the extravagant depending on the preferences of the occupant, but whether it's a futon on the ground or a luxurious four-poster, the beds are comfortable and the rooms are cozy. Food and refreshments can be ordered through any attendant. Trained masseuses are also available for those looking to unwind a little more.

The fourth and fifth floors are exclusive to staff and maintenance programs. Storage, system access, and staff lodgings can be found here. The attendant programs sleep in simple shared rooms on folding futons that get stored away during the day. Higher-ranked staff each have their own rooms tailored to their tastes.

Cheshire's room is a bit of an oddity. Located on the fifth floor, it is easily the most ornate room out of all the staff accommodations. Luxuriously carpeted and hung with colourful silk, with a great balcony overlooking the forest (and, strangely, the bathing enclosure out back). In one corner, a great number of blankets and pillows have been collected into something approximating a bed... Strange, but undeniably comfortable-looking. Off in its own room there is a large bath for Cheshire and whatever guests she might have.
Hidden by a means only Cheshire and Iris are aware of is a small wooden lockbox, stuffed with folders and simply marked:
[spoiler=To Sir, With Love style="width: 694; background-image: url(;"]From: a1911@freemail.home
To: undefined

Well, boss? I'm here. It's been a long-ass train ride, but I'm here. People can sing their praises all they want, but these mach trains always manage to turn my stomach in exactly the wrong way. Winding up here in the land of raw fish, salt, and spicy food isn't exactly doing wonders for me, either.

But, hey. I'm a professional. You won't hear me complain.

I'm just getting settled right now (a five-star hotel over in Yoka -- and you agreed to handle the expenses, remember?), but I can tell you what I've learned about that signature you gave me.

Well, it's more like a thread than a signature. Straight-up, the sample you gave me was crap. But I don't blame you -- whichever navi this goes to, it's used to hiding and covering its tracks. It was tough going there for a while.

Then I looked back at some archives from a couple years back. You know what happened a couple years back, right? That big pissing match between the Pols and the Mafs? Wars being wars, it was recorded and televised like nobody's business -- and what should I find in these records, once I make them my business, but a full-on match?

I'm telling you, I was surprised at first. A little girl in a crappy dress, is what it looked like. But it and its partner took down a high-ranking Pol officer like it was nothing. Like it was butter. Reduced it to an angry, screaming pile on the ground. I keep forgetting you can't judge these things by their covers, and that's a bad mistake to make in my line of work.

After that match, I thought it'd be easy enough to follow the trail. Figured it for another one of those otaku models, what with the cute face and the cat ears, but it's old. It's been leaving shreds of a signature in access records and the like for at least a decade. The funny thing? Its signature keeps changing oh-so-slightly the further back you go. I've seen navis putting on a fakey before, but this is on a whole 'nother level. It's been hiding long enough to nail it down to an art. Good thing you hired the best, huh?

Finding where it is nowadays, now, that's gonna be a little more difficult. Whatever it's doing to mask itself, it kicked it into high gear shortly after the war. Zero matches, a simple three months afterward. The big O.

It's nothing I can't handle, but just so you know, I'm earning this hotel room and this nice three-course dinner in spades. Net York sirloin, none of this yaki-suki-jima shit. You hear what they do to their cows here? Shit.

I'll drop you another line when I've figured out some more. A toast to you! But this steak's all mine.

[/spoiler][spoiler=The Right Profile style="width: 694; background-image: url(;"]From: a1911@freemail.home
To: undefined

Heya, boss. First up, I feel I should remind you that my first installment is coming due soon. Don't forget, now! I've been working tiny miracles ever since we started this relationship, and you might be surprised to know that the same miracles work on you, too. I know you're good for it, us being such good friends, and once the money turns up we'll have no problems between us. Just a heads-up, is all this is.

I'm gonna be honest, I spent most of the day getting lost in the streets. Yoka's this quiet little rural place at first glance, but it's all a carefully-crafted illusion. Take three steps in the wrong direction and you're up to your eyebrows in shoppers and tourists. I know it sounds like I'm slacking off, but getting lost in the crowds is an important part of a finder's job too, you know?

Anyway, while I was out getting a feel for this city I had my tools working at that signature from the Net War. It was disappointing, let me tell you: no registered operator, no official designation. Not even a fucking manufacturer on record.

My microscope is the best there is, straight-up. If it can't see something, then it isn't there. This navi's the key to something big, isn't it? If I find it before you do, I'll expect a cut.

But I can tell you, sure enough, it's the right one. I'm gonna have to get a little creative to get past this setback, but rest easy: gettin' creative is the reason I'm number one.

I'll find out what's going on here. And tomorrow it could be you.

Up on the fourth floor, past a long, ornately panelled hallway, is an imposing set of heavy double doors. Lacquered a deep red and ornamented with thick bands of hammered copper, the message it sends is fairly clear: "You're not supposed to be here. Get out." The single guard stationed there is mainly a courtesy -- any would-be infiltrator would find her much more civil than any of the safeguards on the doors themselves.

None of these things, of course, mattered to the girl sitting cross-legged before the massive terminal that lay beyond. Cheshire didn't give too much thought to the fact that she was sneaking through her own home; after all, it wasn't as if they'd let her in just for asking nicely. Especially if they knew her method of dealing with terminals. While her right arm rested calmly on her knee, her left had unravelled into the dozens of long ribbons that composed its shape. These dubious-looking tendrils had buried themselves in the terminal wherever they could find a hold, bypassing the attached keyboard in favour of a more direct interface. Deep concentration painted a rare frown across Cheshire's face as she negotiated her own version of things to the bathhouse's central database.

"Hmm... Oh! So that's how..." The terminal gave a crackling chirp before finally relinquishing itself to it's assailant. The dark ribbons disengaged, swirling back into arm-shape as she girl climbed to her feet, giving the machine a satisfied nod and then melting wordlessly into the floor, one finger pressed conspiratorially to her lips.

She appeared back in her room without too much fanfare, simply fading into existence reclined comfortably in a pile of cushions as if nothing at all had happened. Climbing to her feet, she lifted a tightly-folded pile of clothes down from a shelf and slipped behind a folding curtain. The woman eventually re-emerged amid the rustle of cloth, wrapped up in a patterned autumn-coloured yukata. Humming cheerfully, she made her way down to the bathhouse gates where she stood and waited for her guest to arrive, hands folded before her in a way that seemed quite uncharacteristic for this impatient navi.
Even as Phero arrived at the bathhouse gates, Dharma was still chewing her out verbally over all of the complex considerations of the situation, like a mother giving her daughter dating advice. The key difference with the advice was that all of it pertained to how to avoid legal issues and possible opportunities to slip further chemical testing into the rendezvous. "I'll be careful, but really, I can't test more pheromones during this meeting! It won't be relaxing at all if I'm doing my job," she pleaded, hoping to get out of experimentation for just a little while. If she could, that would cement her idea of being on a real vacation.

"Ugh, fine, fine," Dharma groaned, pressing both hands to her head. Even though she knew Phero was expendable, she hardly wanted to throw away her test results and the willing subjects she'd already gathered just for the sake of avoiding a few petty disagreements and detours. "But have you even considered that you are valuable company property? I can't take my eyes off of you for fear of someone abducting you, along with the fruits of Heart-Payne Incorporated's research. That means I can't give you any privacy," she grumbled.

"Privacy? I don't need privacy, particularly," the navi murmured, somewhat perplexed. "Oh, most people tend to bathe alone, don't they? I don't mind if you're watching, though," she replied with a smile, hoping that giving her operator that condolence would placate her.

Dharma's lips settled into an unsatisfied frown. "I don't want to watch," she grumbled, turning her eyes away from the PET.

"I see! She's actually jealous," Phero thought with a small chuckle. "Well, Cheshire's a good person. It's possible she'd be willing to allow Dharma to enjoy a bath. Maybe she has another ticket that Dharma could use?"

"What are you laughing about?" the president asked, raising her eyebrows and smiling coldly, as if she wanted to immediately learn the source of pleasure and squelch it.

"N-Nothing," Phero responded, half thinking about changing her mind, as if Dharma was some horrible beast that should be confined to the company of as few people as possible. Her slender, white tube-armor bounced with an alluring rhythm as she made her way into the bathhouse. The navi's silver-colored eyes widened as she saw her ally, now garbed in a very pretty yukata. Her eyes glittered as she thought about how much she'd like to wear something similarly as she began to articulate her thoughts. "So pretty," she muttered, folding her own hands together in imitation of Cheshire.

Once she collected herself, Phero reminded herself of her recently discovered mission. "Oh! If it's not too much trouble, could my operator also be allowed to enjoy a bathhouse? I'm not sure if you'd have another invite you could give her," she suggested, giving her most winning smile. Had giving winning smiles helped her get things before? It never seemed to work on Dharma, but it still felt pretty intuitive.
Cheshire watched quietly as Phero drew near, trying her best to put forward a professional appearance despite her less-than-stoic nature. She regarded her guest with a sweet smile, bobbing forward in a formal bow... and that's where the performance ended. No sooner had she risen back up than she leapt toward Phero, arms spread wide for a sudden embrace.

"Phero! Took your time, huh?" she chided playfully, giving the girl a squeeze. Her eyes sparkled knowingly as Phero stated her request. "Actually... I took care of that just a little while ago!" She gave a cocky nod. "I mean, we can't have her looking in on us in the bath, can we? So I pulled some strings! Just have her introduce herself at the front desk, and they'll know what to do." She released her guest with one last squeeze to the shoulder.

"Now, since that's taken care of... Allow me to show you around!" With another deferential bow, she suddenly reached out and took Phero's hand warmly in hers. "C'mon!"

Warm light and warmer air enveloped the two of them as Cheshire led Phero inside. The bath house was obviously just getting started for the evening, with frantic-looking staff in simple orange uniform crossing between the baths and making final preparations. Cheshire skipped ahead, standing before the front counter and spreading her arms dramatically. "So! Welcome to Tonglen! It, uh... means something in Tibetan, I think? Well, whatever." She bobbed her head in a weird kind of half-bow, eliciting a curious glance from the man at the front desk. "If you'll follow me, 'Miss'..."

She led on into the bathhouse proper, meeting the receptionist's dubious look with a friendly wave. The dark-lacquered hardwood gave way to warm stone tile and the ceiling opened up above the pair, wisps of steam curling up past the railings of the second floor above. The narrow main pathway passed between enclosed rooms on either side, open to the air above and separated by low walls and curtained doorways. Some were open, with bathhouse staff scrubbing diligently at the floor or the great round tubs that dominated each room. Others had their curtains drawn shut, with the faint sound of splashing water behind them.

"These are the main baths," Cheshire explained as the two walked together. "A lot of bathhouses will just have a big pool split by sex, but most of ours are semi-private; I guess a lot of tourists aren't too comfortable getting naked with strangers." She shrugged. "With Electopian-style baths, you're expected to clean and rinse before you get in, so we've got shower booths set into the corners. I guess it's overkill, but... It's really nice just being able to soak." She spoke almost wistfully as the two neared the end of the hall. The tiled path came to a stop before three impressive sliding doors, with its tributaries stretching toward staircases on the far left and right. "These are the VIP baths. They're a little more private, and come with some other perks too. Normally this is where I'd take you... Buuuut!" She flashed Phero a cheerful grin as the two continued to the right, her eyes narrowed almost suggestively. "I know an even better place."

She vaulted up the stairs easily before Phero and turned to watch her partner climb, leaning on the banister with a casual grin. "So, that's the first floor! Any questions so far?"
Phero followed Cheshire around hand-in-hand, happy for the opportunity to explore. "Psst, Dharma! I think Cheshire wanted you to go," she suggested, smiling with a fair degree of confidence that her operator would be at least inwardly happy, knowing that she had a chance to relax at a bathhouse just like her navi was. As Phero continued her stroll, listening to her partner with genuine interest, she couldn't imagine that Dharma could deny an attraction to such a magical place.

Rather than focusing on Dharma's response, Phero took the time to soak in all of the sights and sounds. Even the disapproving looks of various grumpy workers seemed to be part of the atmosphere to her. At least they weren't making that scary eyebrow-tilt that Dharma was so fond of. "There are more baths?" she asked in disbelief as Cheshire explained the rest of her plans. "Baths better suited than these ones?"

With so much to take in already, Phero tried to clear her head and see if she had any questions so far. Small talk seemed impossible at this point; she was so excited for the bath that she didn't feel at all like wasting time with idle chatter. "Oh! There was one thing," she suddenly remembered, pressing one fist into her palm. "Do I get to wear a dress like yours? I feel like this won't feel very nice in the bath," the pink-haired navi inquired hopefully, raising her eyebrows with anticipation.
Cheshire slipped her arm around Phero's as the other girl drew level with her, leading on at a brisk, energetic pace. "Hmm... Yeah, you're right. We've gotta get you out of all that armour," she remarked with a faint smirk, glancing aside at Phero's outfit. "I'm glad you like it, though. This is... Well, it's pretty much as formal as I get." She almost looked embarrassed for a second. "Guests usually wear something like this after a bath. If you'd like one too, it shouldn't be a problem."

The pair came to a set of carved wooden doors, opening invitingly to a large, warmly-lit area dotted with tables. While there were a few staff running around in most areas of the bathhouse, this seemed to be the centre of activity by far. A couple dozen uniformed programs darted around the restaurant, sweeping up, setting tables, or otherwise making themselves useful. A great clamour of pots and shouting voices carried from behind a split curtain at the back of the room.

Cheshire tilted her head, feeling a little bit disappointed. "Huh... Guess I can't really introduce this place yet. This is where most guests eat after a bath, but... if they're still setting up, there's not a lot we can do, huh?" The woman shot Phero a conspirational look. "But I get the feeling you're impatient for the main event, huh? Follow me!" Without offering much insight for the questions Phero had about the bath she had mentioned, she slipped back out of the restaurant and to a door set deep into the wall nearby. They had made an effort to blend it in with the rest of the decor, but the panel to the side clearly marked it as an elevator. The doors opened with an inviting ding that somehow suited the bathhouse even less, and Cheshire stepped through to wait for Phero.
While continuing to follow Cheshire, Phero kept relatively quiet, enamored with the idea of getting to wear a yukata, but simultaneously questioning Cheshire's words. "Guests typically wear a yukata out of the bath... Does this mean that she's already bathed without me? But that doesn't seem to be the case... she's not wet. Perhaps guests usually wear them out, but the host wears one in? Or perhaps one is expected to wear the robe both into and out of the bath and Cheshire simply omitted the former part of the information?" she pondered, creating a riddle where things ought to have been relatively simple.

"Oh, I'm fine. I would like to bathe soon, but everything's very interesting to me. I've never actually eaten much of anything," she commented, as if having been without food for one's entire lifetime was as simple as missing breakfast. "Yes, I'd like to try some of the food after we enjoy our bath, if we have time."

Phero stepped onto the elevator after Cheshire, eagerly anticipating the main event. "Your place is so nice... I wish I could invite you to my place, but there's not much to see. We don't even have a lot of baths, just one or two chemical baths," she offered, standing very straight in the middle of the elevator and facing the back wall, apparently having no sense of regular elevator etiquette.
Cheshire followed Phero into the elevator with a cheerful gait. She was always happy to give her insight on one thing or another, and this (greatly abbreviated) tour more than satisfied that urge. Rather than buttons, the elevator's only control was a heavy brass lever set beside the door. As Cheshire gripped the handle and lifted it to indicate the top floor, only a faint electronic chirp indicated that there might be some security measures beneath the quaint appearance. "Great, isn't it? Best part is, I'm so important to the business that they'll give me basically anything I ask for." Stepping in smoothly behind her guest, she threw her arms warmly over Phero's shoulders. "But hey... Don't sell yourself so short. You're plenty interesting enough on your own." Cheshire wasn't too sure of what a 'chemical bath' entailed -- most of her familiarity with chemicals had come from Phero herself. The way many of hers had worked, though, the curious navi had a slightly skewed idea of what they might be like.

The elevator came to a stop on the fifth floor, the same friendly chime as before heralding the opening of the doors. Taking her guest gently by the shoulders, Cheshire politely turned Phero around and led her out into the hall. It was quite spartan compared to the rest of the building, with simple hinged doors bearing nameplates. Cheshire lead the way to one such door, bearing simply a "C" on its nameplate, and pushed it open with a bit of an unnecessary flourish.

"And here we are!" She strode in with a grin, spreading her arms expansively. The room itself was anything but spartan; colourful silks and wall hangings totally obscured whatever colour the paint underneath might have been, with rugs, blankets, and cushions filling largely the same purpose for the floor. A desk, a large armoire, and a folding curtain were the only pieces of actual furniture visible. A thin cover of steam filled the room, drawing attention to a tiled area set off to the right by a sliding door. In its centre was a round tub that rivalled the size of those on the first floor, recently filled. "I figured we could use some privacy," the woman casually explained, stepping toward the folding curtain in the corner. She tugged at the great bow at the back of the yukata, easily pulling it loose, leaving the garment hanging open -- and revealing that it was, in fact, the only article of clothing Cheshire had been wearing. She gave Phero a questioning look as she slid the orange-tinted cotton from her shoulders. "You look a little lost... Could you use some help?" She took a tentative step forward, gathering the cloth under one arm.
Phero wasn't so much interested in the business aspects of Tonglen and privileges afforded Cheshire, but she did perk up at the concept that she herself was interesting. She didn't say anything about it, but did turn her head to a perfectly flat and uninteresting slab of elevator with feigned interest in order to hide a smile. Just as she was about to return a comment, the door opened up on Cheshire's "C" room.

Cheshire had a good point: Phero did feel sort of lost amidst all of the steam, unfamiliar scenery, and really in the very concept of how a bath was supposed to work regardless. Soon, however, she had one topic clarified for her: the yukata wasn't something that a person wore into a bath. Her face reddened as she found her eyes shamelessly darting across her friend's body; of course, she only had a brief education in nudity and its connotations...

Originally, Phero's design was conceptualized to inspire love in others; a big part of that, Dharma had explained, was sexual arousal. Several times, Phero had questioned her functionless armor, which showed far more skin than that of other navis. She'd always been told it was for the purpose of furthering their cause. As such, she eventually made the connection that people must like to see more skin, but Dharma had issued her a warning:

"Phero, you don't always want to show THAT much skin. Being classy is an important part of being attractive and nobody who runs around stark naked is classy! I want you to be absolutely sure not to appear naked in front of any of our subjects. Beyond the loss of face with whoever you're interacting with, you could garner serious bad publicity and possibly criminal allegations by moving around in the nude. Nudity is NOT something for you to indulge in!"

Pressing her fist to her chin, Phero pondered over those last words again:

"Nudity is NOT something for you to indulge in!"

So nudity was a privilege- a sort of forbidden fruit- that Dharma wanted to keep her from just for the sake of dehumanizing her, just like friendship and hugs! For once, however, Phero had finally managed to escape the constant gaze of her operator. She could be naked if she wanted to be... and she really wanted to be. "Yes, Cheshire! Please, help me be naked," she requested, nodding with new resolution.
Cheshire watched Phero's face curiously, wondering what kind of thoughts were going through her head to leave her with such a look of deep focus. It only took a second, though, for her to follow the path of her eyes and reach the obvious conclusion. If she was at all self-conscious or embarrassed at the way her friend was eyeing her body, she didn't show it, making no attempts to cover her bare skin. She draped the yukata absently over the folding screen, stepping in closer as the other woman opened her mouth to speak.

When the request came, she couldn't help but stifle a chuckle at her friend's awkward wording... but that was more or less what she'd come to expect from her. She crossed the room with a few smooth steps, her hands slipping intimately around Phero's waist as she drew near. "My pleasure..." A mischievous smile was plain in her eyes and on her lips -- the girl was obviously looking forward to it for reasons of her own. Her hands trailed up along her friend's back, slender fingers hooking beneath her dress between her shoulderblades and giving a gentle tug -- and not budging it one bit.

Cheshire pursed her lips, taking another futile pull at the restrictive garment. She stepped back, her eyes trailing along Phero's dress, trying to identify some kind of catch or loose point. "You're wrapped up pretty tight, huh..." Her hands trailed shamelessly over the armoured dress, testing both the reinforced fabric and Phero's figure by feel. She gave a determined nod as her hands found the bust of the dress, her fingers easily slipping between Phero's soft skin and the enamelled material. "I think I've got it! Raise your arms for me." She flashed her friend a triumphant grin, waiting a moment for her to comply before planting her bare feet firmly against the carpeted ground and pulling upwards at the dress with all her might...
Phero didn't make things much easier for Cheshire, as even once she raised her arms, she didn't brace herself very well against the ground. As a result, when Cheshire lifted the tube-like dress up and off of Phero's body, the pink-haired nearly slipped and fell onto the rug. She thanked herself that the whole floor wasn't slippery tile, rocks, or hardwood, as it might have been in the downstairs baths. With the armor removed, all she had left on her was the sleek, shiny pink one-piece she wore beneath, as well as the gloves, leggings, head-piece, and hand plungers... more than she thought about, really.

She handled the silver piece in her hair easily enough, setting it casually to one side where her armor had fallen earlier. As she sat down at bathside and began to remove the gloves and stockings, she found them surprisingly difficult to roll down; again, the temptation was there to just tear it all off. Dharma certainly hadn't made this outfit convenient for anyone hoping to get at the Phero beneath it...

To her surprise, the plungers came off with the gloves. It felt good to be rid of them; so long as no one stepped on them by accident or anything of that sort, she'd be fully in control of her own pheromone output and could regulate it to a negligible quantity, rather than having to spew out scientifically valid and large portions in bursts.

Most of Phero's work was done; the last remaining article was her one piece. She looked down for a moment, experimentally tugging it at the breasts. As she'd expected, it was very tight and didn't give a lot. After groping the back awkwardly, she finally found a zipper on the back, place about chest-height at the back of the outfit. "Cheshire, would you help me out with the last piece?" she asked, remembering to brace herself this time just in case she was nearly bowled over again. She clamped two hands down on the edge of the bath and bent over ridiculously, spreading both legs to brace herself while hunching forward.
Cheshire's strained expression gave way to accomplishment as the dress began to slide upwards. Her focus on undressing her friend, though, was such that when the fabric's resistance finally gave in, the navi found herself roughly pitched backwards. "Eek!" She landed with a muffled thump in a pile of cushions with the dress still clutched to her chest, her legs splayed out in front of her in a rather undignified manner. "Meant to do that," she murmured under her breath, picking herself up and crossing to where Phero sat.

She set the dress down near the bath and took a seat beside Phero, her legs loosely folded. "Well, at least it all comes off eventually," she chuckled, leaning back on outstretched arms and watching her guest with apparent interest. "Some of our guests don't have anything... underneath" -- she gave a sweeping gesture with one arm to indicate her own bared skin -- "and have to soak in their skinsuits. I guess it feels the same to them, but personally? I like it better this... Mm? What are you doing?"

She climbed to her feet, raising at eyebrow at the strange way Phero braced herself. Unnecessary? Absolutely. But she'd be lying if she didn't admit the view was... interesting. Her hands found the girl's shoulders as she stepped silently behind her. A soft laugh bubbled up from her throat. "You really have no idea, do you?" Leaning in over Phero, she trailed her hands down between her guest's shoulderblades, taking grasp of the zipper and drawing it down to expose her back.

Eyes sparkling, she drew herself upright and tugged, the fabric of the one-piece bunching at her friend's pale waist. Her fingers wasted no time in intervening between cloth and skin, travelling closely along the curve of Phero's hips as they laboured to free her. "There... you... go!" A final pull, and the suit lay bunched at Phero's feet. Cheshire stepped back to admire her handiwork, allowing her guest room to stand back up "... Worth the trouble, I'd say."

She tried to mask the mischievous slant to her lips as she stepped deeper into the bathroom. "Right, then! That's that taken care of." The girl turned her back to her guest, crossing to the large shower set into the back wall. "One last thing before the bath." The sound of flowing water filled the room as she turned the tap, the steam in the room growing even thicker. She turned to beckon her guest with a quick nod. "You coming?"
Just a little while ago, Phero had thought to herself that she really had no idea what other navis looked like. Now, she'd seen more of a certain navi than anyone else was likely to see during their entire period of operation. While Phero couldn't attach much sexual connotation either to being naked or seeing her partner naked, she did understand that it was likely going to be a rarity for either of them to appear that way in front of others. "This is the first time I've ever actually been naked," Phero remarked, musing on the differences between a navi's creation and a human's birth. "Without that dress on, I can actually lift my leg higher than I've ever been able to!" she cheered, hugging one of her legs, which she lifted to a great height to demonstrate her flexibility. Of course, she had been able to do that in her bikini too, but she'd only just thought of it...

"We shower before we bathe? I suppose I understand. Like the president always says: when you finally decide to disinfect yourself, please do so thoroughly," Phero reasoned, although Dharma's use of the phrase was primarily to demean the researcher in question by making them feel dirty. "Hm... is it just one shower?" she asked, remembering that the lab where she'd started out had several cleansing stations. Regardless of all of the questions she had, she continued following Cheshire trustingly. It'd probably be easy to lead her out into the public naked if Cheshire had the desire to do so, simply because Phero was following so blindly.
Luckily enough for Phero, Cheshire had no such plans for her. After all, the girl was her guest. Making sure she enjoyed the evening was Cheshire's one and only priority. Or... at least that was what she kept telling herself. Cheshire couldn't claim to be nearly as innocent as Phero; and while her excitement was quite honestly adorable, the more experienced navi was finding it difficult to ignore the baser connotations of their time together so far, particularly with the way they had first met. She took a step back into the stream of water while she watched Phero test her newfound flexibility, hoping to pass the deep flush in her cheeks off as a result of the hot water.

"That's right!" Cheshire picked a tall bottle from a nearby shelf, thankful that her guest had given her something else to think about. "It's tradition, I guess. Way back when, people did it to keep the water from getting dirty so the rest of the family could use it too... Hey, turn around." She lathered the bottle's contents between her hands, setting the bottle itself at her feet. "These days, I think it's just to get everything else out of the way before you step into the tub... That way, you can just relax and enjoy the water." Her soft hands trailed suds along Phero's back. Cheshire was nothing if not thorough; her attentions were more like a massage than anything else. "I guess your operator has it right, sort of. That's kind of a weird thing to be saying all the time, though, isn't it?" she remarked offhand, completely focused on working the gentle soap into Phero's skin. She kept at it for a while, giving particular attention to her neck and shoulders, her hands sometimes straying a great deal lower.

Finally, she gave a satisfied nod, her hands slipping around Phero's waist and giving her a friendly squeeze. She held her guest tightly, her chest nestled warmly against the other girl's slick skin. "Can you do me next?" she purred, her chin resting easily on the girl's shoulder. She gave her one last squeeze before releasing her almost reluctantly, turning to present her back to her guest. "Just pick anything off the wall," she instructed, her tail waving slowly behind her.
Phero enjoyed the feeling of having her back scrubbed, as well as being embraced so familiarly. A pleasant but obviously alien scent filled the air as her pheromones poured out (thankfully, not the dangerous experimental ones, just stock scented ones). All the same, Phero gasped and apologized. "Excuse me, I was a little excited," she murmured, her face reddening over her lack of bodily control. "I'd be happy to take care of your back."

Looking over the supplies on the wall, Phero tried to decide which would be the best for cleaning her partner. "Soap, that's what I should use," she reminded herself ominously, loudly enough so that her partner could hear. After rubbing some onto her hands, she ran her fingers and palms across the tanned and tattooed skin of Cheshire's back. She admired the pattern as she went along, from the shoulders to the back, down to the small.... "Well, she didn't seem to mind doing it," she thought to herself, allowing her hands to stray to her partner's buttocks as well, although not so thoroughly.

One last spot stood out: Cheshire's tail, which moved pack and forth tantalizingly. "Rather than soap..." she mused, placing the container back over onto the side. "Shampoo is best for hair and fur!" After squeezing the bottle and working it into a lather, she held the base of the tail lightly and delicately ran one hand along the appendage's length. She didn't keep it up too long, since she had the idea that Cheshire was sensitive about her tail.

Still, Phero wanted to be more helpful. Readying some more soap, she danced around to Cheshire's front and placed one hand on her ally's hip, then the other on her belly. "I can help with the front too, if you like!" she offered, already beginning to slide her hand up the belly to cup the base of her partner's left breast.
Cheshire greeted Phero's touch with a low murmur of approval, so faint as to be unintelligible aside from its tone -- and its tone was very warm indeed. Her hips slowly swayed from side to side, the woman seemingly lost in thought, or in appreciation of the other girl's gentle hands. Only when Phero reached lower did she stir a little more. "You're pretty good at this," she purred, giving a throaty chuckle as her tail curled partway around Phero's hip. She could have happily stayed like this for a while, if Phero hadn't suddenly taken initiative.

If Phero's hands had still been on Cheshire's back, she may have felt the way the woman tensed at the sudden attention to the base of her tail. She found herself bracing her arms against the tiled wall, trying to hide the shiver that rose from the base of her spine. This unwitting abuse of the sensitive are at the base of her tail was mercifully brief, but it left the woman rather rattled all the same. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to tease Phero like that... Cheshire wasn't sure how she felt about someone having such intimate knowledge of one of her weaknesses.

She couldn't help but smile when Phero danced around to meet her face-to-face, sunny as always. Her host matched her cheerful grin as best she could, mindful though she was of the deep flush that coated her cheeks (and had since spread to other parts as well). Embarrassment gave way to surprise quickly enough -- whatever she had thought of Phero's suggestion, she wasn't prepared for the supposedly innocent navi to close in so suddenly... or for her hands to find such lovely purchase.

"Just what am I teaching you, Phero?" Cheshire stroked Phero's wet hair smoothly, watching the girl's eyes with a curious look in her eyes. A coy smile slowly blossomed on her face. Her hands slid down over her guest's skin, coming to a rest on her hips. "I think... I'd like that." Her tail cut back and forth through the air behind her, ever a barometer of her mood.
Nodding, Phero proceeded to wash the cat navi's body with no devious or sexual intent, just trying to be useful. Her fingers ran through the lather indecently, giving not nearly as much regard to sensitive areas as they ought to. Finally, she hesitated (and was right probably to do so) as her hands began to stray down beneath Cheshire's belly. "That area is especially sensitive... I shouldn't touch there unless she asks me to," she reminded herself, stopping her hand just short before returning it to her ally's hip.

Before Cheshire could posit that she do the same for her friend, Phero began to scrub herself down. The action simply followed by reasoning that she'd be most helpful if she did as much of the work herself as she could. "It feels nice to shower, actually. I'm not sure if Dharma realizes, but when I put out pheromones so often, it's fairly akin to a profuse sweat; without washing it off, I was beginning to get sticky," she admitted, thoroughly attending to her own body.

"There! Now we're ready for the bath, aren't we?" she suggested, crossing both hands behind her back. "It would be bad to spend too much time in the shower and prune before we even got into the tub."
Cheshire slowly shut her eyes, giving herself over entirely to Phero's touch and the water steadily flowing over her skin. She didn't seem to mind the girl's carelessness, or the rough way her hands explored her skin -- if anything, she seemed to enjoy it, her body gently swaying with whatever pressure Phero applied. "You're not bad at this..." It wasn't often she had such an... attentive guest, and it was easy to forget that this girl would hardly know what to do if she actually shared Cheshire's interest. So she was hardly surprised when she felt Phero's hands begin to trail lower; quite the contrary. She arched her back invitingly, gripping at Phero's hips with her hands -- and paused, puzzled. "Mm? Why'd you stop?"

Her eyes fluttered open, looking Phero over curiously. It took a second or two to remember that her guest wasn't exactly what she'd call "amorous" -- and thinking on how things had very nearly gone between them, she suddenly found herself wishing she were wearing a great deal more. She could only watch, embarrassed, as Phero rinsed herself off and brightly suggested they move on.

"R-right," she agreed, putting on what she hoped was her best smile despite how distracted she felt. "C'mon, then... I'd say we've put this off for long enough, huh?" Her hand quickly moved to grasp Phero's, the woman briefly turning to turn off the shower as an afterthought. With one source of water quenched, the two stepped toward another -- Cheshire smoothly climbed onto the wide rim of the great, round tub set into the floor, casting a glance aside to her guest before taking the first step into the clear, steamy pool. As long as it had taken them to enter the bath proper, the water was hotter than the shower's -- almost painful, before the body adjusted to the heat. The woman hardly so much as winced, stepping down further until the water rose to her waist and waiting patiently for her guest to do the same.

She took a seat on the broad ledge ringing the tub beneath the water's surface, sinking back against the rim and letting the warm water rise to her chest. Her golden eyes sparkled as she regarded Phero. "Well? What do you think?" One leg rose above the water's surface to cross over the other. "From here, it's all about enjoying yourself... Just feel the steam and the flow of the water, and let your mind go where it pleases." It almost sounded like a mantra.
Phero realized she'd probably have done more to help Cheshire out, judging by her friend's reaction. Maybe Cheshire really did want that supposedly off-limits area scrubbed too? Regardless, Phero would have felt a little uncomfortable if Cheshire had tried to wash that area of her, so she'd assumed the feeling was mutual... Maybe it actually felt good and she'd never realized? There was a lot about the world of the net she didn't understand, after all... Silently, she promised to remind herself to try touching herself there and seeing if it felt alright.

With that disturbing mental prioritization finished, she headed over to the bath with Cheshire. Dipping one foot in cautiously, Phero felt out the elevated seating that circled the bath. Confident now, she decided that she would take a spot where she could look directly into her friend's face while they bathed: directly across from her. Right in the center of the bath! Standing just over Cheshire she attempted to aim her bottom towards the center of the bath and plop in, only to plop significantly further than she expected. Lo and behold, the floor was a little deeper there, as the sitting bench didn't span out quite so far.

Submerging beneath the water helped Phero confirm two things: for one thing, she had to hold her breath and avoid taking in water, just like any other navi likely would. For two, the "flow" of the liquid Cheshire had mentioned, which Phero hadn't at first understood, provided a bit of resistance that one didn't ordinarily encounter on the net. As such, the task of swimming was probably not quite as simple as she'd been picturing it. Sputtering, she shot back up from under the water; her pink hair had become matted during the shower, but now the slick that normally kept it away from her forehead came out, causing it to shag into her eyes obtrusively. She wiped strands away with two palms until she felt sure it was off her forehead again.

Finally, she pondered Cheshire's words: let your mind go where it pleases. Well, where else was there for it to go? She couldn't think of anything she'd rather be doing more than relaxing and taking time off work, so she simply submerged her body in up to her neckline and smiled contentedly. "I should ask Dharma if we can put a bath in the lab..." she mused aloud, watching the tattoo lines on her partner's leg with interest as the appendage bobbed up and down continuously, out of the water and then back in.