Posted: 30/10/2007

Stain
Thanks to Astarael00 for beta-ing.

Chapter 14

when the sakura fell, we met, we parted,
even so, like this, here again unchanging,
this blooming sprout, your hand drawing away,
before I knew it you had left me, turned away from me...

- "Sakura", Ketsumeishi.

Shizuru stiffened, but Natsuki pressed on.

A hand moved to caress the brunette's cheek, tilting it slightly for better access; and the kiss became more involving for the next few seconds; warm, wet and soft.

The older girl only went as far as Natsuki went, and it was Natsuki who delved deeper.

Then the kiss ended, and brilliant green locked onto ruddy red.

Shizuru's features were not quite sad but not quite happy either.

It was one of those rare times, thought Natsuki, when she could see emotions run through so clearly.

Actually, was there ever a time it was so clear?

"...and what is this supposed to mean, Natsuki?" whispered Shizuru, her voice shaking slightly.

Ah, the memory came unbidden to the younger girl. That time at the festival.

"Shizuru..."

"What does this mean, Natsuki?" That Kyoto-accented voice was soft and thick with emotion. "If the reason for this is pity, I - "

Natsuki did not allow her to continue. Her lips were pressed onto Shizuru's again, and Natsuki coaxed Shizuru's lax mouth open -

Shizuru made a small sound; surprised and startled.

- and the kiss was deeper than ever, and far different from that time at the festival. Natsuki tasted, explored, and felt the vibrating echoes Shizuru made at the back of her throat.

How odd. Natsuki couldn't help but smile into the kiss. For her to take the initiative and not Shizuru...

They parted a brief moment -

"Nat - "

- but Natsuki continued where they left off. Those maple eyes were clouded with desire, but they were still wary, and sad. Natsuki did not want that. She did not want to see that forlorn expression, did not want to know what Shizuru wanted to say.

Her stance was aggressive and dominating, and Shizuru could do nothing but give in.

For the first time in a long time, it was Natsuki who was in power and not Shizuru.

This time, they parted only due to lack of air.

And Natsuki backed a little, hot and panting.

"It's not pity," she said, abruptly. "It will never be pity."

Shizuru gazed at her for a long moment before she reached up to grasp Natsuki's bandaged hand, which was on her cheek, squeezing lightly.

"Does it...still hurt?"

Surprised, Natsuki blinked. Then a wry grin formed on her face.

"No," she answered. "Not too much anymore." It was more sore than anything else, in fact.

"...I'm glad."

The brunette closed her eyes, and Natsuki felt the pressure of Shizuru's lips on the palm of her hand, above the bandage.

A tear trickled down from the corner of Shizuru's eye.

"Shizuru..."

"Ah..." the brunette released Natsuki's hand, and surreptitiously wiped the tear away. "...I'm sorry."

Natsuki did not know what possessed her to lean forward and knock Shizuru's head with her own lightly.

"...Idiot."

Shizuru chuckled.

It was only then that the black-haired girl noticed Shizuru's forehead felt a bit too warm. Granted, there was that kiss earlier, but it was still a bit too...warm.

Natsuki leaned back, and narrowed her ice green eyes at Shizuru.

"You..."

"Yes?" Shizuru asked, confused.

"Lie down," ordered Natsuki.

Shizuru just stared; very, very surprised.

Then a muted smile formed on her face.

"Natsuki was serious about it?" Her warm, husky tone betrayed the hint of mirth and mischief.

"Huh?" It was Natsuki's turn to be confused. "Serious about what?"

The brunette only raised her eyebrows.

"What?" demanded the younger girl suspiciously.

Shizuru didn't say anything, but her expression clearly said there was a source of amusement somewhere, ready to be used.

But Natsuki, of course, did not get it. "What?"

The muted smile extended to a grin.

"As much as I would have loved to do it with Natsuki," Shizuru tapped her nose lightly, eyes twinkling, "I'm afraid my injuries at the moment will prevent Natsuki from doing what shewants to do to me."

"..."

"...Unless, of course, if she really wants to take me; then I will not be able to stop her in my current state even if I want to...no?"

Oh.

OH.

Natsuki's face turned crimson.

"B-BAKA!"

The brunette's rich laughter rang through the room.

An eyebrow twitched.

"Thirty nine point two degrees Celsius..." muttered Natsuki, thermometer in hand. She leaned back against the chair that she dragged to the bedside from the study table. "How in the world did you get a fever?"

"I have already taken some medication," informed Shizuru helpfully.

"Right." There was no mistaking the sarcasm in that tone.

"Really, I did. Nao-san was the one who gave me the medicine." Then the brunette smiled airily. "But ah, how fortunate I am for Natsuki to worry about me..."

"I-idiot!"

Shizuru only chuckled.

Natsuki took the moment to observe Shizuru carefully. She was indeed really pale, and her forehead was slightly damp. Her figure seemed to sink into the bed, completely lax.

She must have been really exhausted...

"So why did you leave the hospital?" Natsuki blurted out the question, surprising even herself. It came out of nowhere.

There was a short pause before Shizuru answered. "I needed some fresh air, cooped up in that room as I had been, Natsuki."

Of course the brunette wouldn't tell her that it was because she spent the time lost in thoughts, and allowed her feet to carry her wherever they wanted to go.

"Oh..." Questions began bubbling in Natsuki's chest, but she stopped herself short before she let out the string of questions. One did escape though, much to her chagrin.

"And why was Nao here?" And since when were the two of you so familiar with each other?

Shizuru smiled. "Jealous?"

"No!"

"Ara..."

"Shizuru!"

The smile widened with amusement as Natsuki scowled. "To answer your question, however, Nao-san brought me here when I had a fainting spell. It appears that Nao-san was unaware I was hospitalized, or she would have brought me to the hospital, I imagine."

"Oh."

Silence fell over them.

Shizuru had closed her eyes, almost as if she had fallen asleep. Perhaps she really was sleeping.

Natsuki just gazed at her, taking in her features again, like yesterday in the hospital. She wondered if she would ever get tired of just staring at Shizuru's face, but found that - both to her surprise and contentment - she already had the answer.

No.

It was a no.

The answer was firmly etched into her mind, and there was no lingering doubt.

She smiled.

A stray lock of brown hair covered Shizuru's closed eye, and Natsuki reached out instinctively, to brush it away - only to have a hand grasp hers gently.

Natsuki almost literally jumped. "Shi-Shizuru!"

Shizuru opened one eye, which was twinkling with mischief. "Did Natsuki have fun staring at me?"

"You were awake!" Natsuki said accusingly.

The brunette only laughed, and asked teasingly, "how was I supposed to rest when I could feel a particular someone staring at me, Natsuki?"

The black-haired girl reddened. "I - well - you could have told me!"

Shizuru interwined her fingers with Natsuki's, squeezing lightly. "And miss the chance to see your adorable red face?"

"Shizuru!"

Said girl smiled. "Hmm?"

Natsuki took one look at the mischievous smile and sighed with defeat, a wry smile on her face. "...nevermind."

Another chuckle, before Shizuru looked into those green eyes that held a glint of exasperated amusement.

She sobered a little. She could only delay for so long the confrontation she dreaded. "I think," murmured Shizuru, "Natsuki has many questions for me, does she not?"

Natsuki's smile faded, but she did not take away her hand from Shizuru's light hold.

"Yes...yes, I do." Natsuki leaned back against her chair, and looked away.

"Natsuki..."

"I just wish you would trust me more," the girl said abruptly. "I didn't even know Kanzaki and you had gotten together and he...he was..." She gritted her teeth. "He hurt you."

Shizuru looked at her for one long moment, before squeezing Natsuki's hand lightly. "...For you to get so angry over me makes me happy, Natsuki," she smiled briefly. "However, there were many circumstances, Natsuki," she said gently, "It was not his fault."

"Then explain your hand," growled Natsuki, only slightly soothed by that gentle tone, "that was not just one time; that was many times. And what kind of circumstances would make him injure you?"

The brunette shook her head. "If you will remember, Natsuki," she said softly, "the only thing Reito-san said 'yes' to was to the injury on my back. Not on my hand."

At that, Natsuki paused. She did remember that, though only vaguely.

Shizuru smiled again, a hint of sadness there. "And never forget, Natsuki, that you are my most precious person." She brought Natsuki's hand to her lips.

The brunette's grip tightened a little.

"...My really most...precious person..." Her voice was soft, so soft that Natsuki had to strain her ears to listen.

Natsuki instinctively knew she was talking about last night. Talking about the words that Natsuki had said and accused with.

The brunette's warm breath touched the back of her palm and sent a slight shiver down her spine.

"I always think of you," whispered Shizuru, repeating the phrase she had said once upon a time. "That is the definite truth."

Deep burgundy locked onto her faltering green eyes.

"I...I'm sorry," Natsuki said haltingly. "I said so many things last night..."

The other shook her head. "It doesn't matter. As long as Natsuki remembers that she is my most precious person, it is fine."

Despite herself, Natsuki reddened a little.

Shizuru smiled, teasingly this time. "Natsuki is blushing."

"S-shut up!"

That...that woman! Serious one second, and mischievous the next. Natsuki could almost swear she will never ever be able to make head or tail of Shizuru.

Shizuru covered the yawn that escaped her lips with the back of Natsuki's palm.

Natsuki noticed as quickly. "Tired?"

"I'm sorry," a wry smile formed on Shizuru's face. "Just a little. It was a long day."

Green eyes glanced at the clock. "...It's late, too. And you have a fever. You should rest."

Shizuru's gaze followed hers, before she turned to regard Natsuki curiously. "First, if I may ask, Natsuki?"

"Yeah?"

"What brought you here at this late hour? I certainly did not expect Natsuki to approach me after last night..." Shizuru paused, before mischief took over her tone. "You couldn't have come here just to kiss me, did you? "

Natsuki blinked, turned cherry red, then stammered. "N-No!"

"...And Natsuki is surprisingly skilled, na..."

"S-Shut up!" The was no way Natsuki was going to tell it was something she noticed from all those chick flicks that Mai forced her to watch, and there certainly was absolutely no way that she would say she had wondered how it was to kiss like that because of those movies.

"Hmm. I wonder if Natsuki had kissed someone else before..."

"N- no! Of course not! I was...it's..."

And despite the fact that Natsuki's face heated up, things Natsuki had forgotten in the heat of the moment returned with full force with that query.

"Ah..." The black haired girl grew silent, and did not answer for a long moment. Shizuru noticed the change of mood in her younger friend as quickly, and waited patiently.

"I...I heard some stuff," Natsuki began, haltingly.

"...Yes?" Shizuru pried gently, even as she mentally prepared herself for the question. It was not a good one, that much she knew for sure.

"You..." the younger girl hesitated.

There were many, many things Shizuru predicted - the question could have had something to do with Reito, or Nao, or even her injuries.

But she did not expect this one. Not at all.

"Someone told me...you are in the First District."

Shizuru's breathing froze.

The other noticed, but pretended she didn't see.

"I..." Natsuki forced out a weak smile, looking down at her feet. "It's not true, right? I mean, it's...it's destroyed, right? Shizuru?"

"Natsuki..."

"You - " killed them " - said the headquarters was gone."

"...Yes." Shizuru looked away. "That is true."

"Then..." Natsuki disengaged her hand from Shizuru's, and reached into the back pocket of her biker suit, and took out a few photos with a trembling hand. "What...is this?"

Shizuru turned, and stared at the photos.

One was a picture of her, in a formal kimono attire; and behind her was an old wood plank, painted in black and red, with the words 'First District' carved onto it artistically. The next few were of her talking to key figures of First District - ones that she was sure Natsuki recognized, since she had invested great interest in that organization for a long time. The rest had pictures of men and women dressed in black, and Shizuru recognized all of them as important people in the organization. But there was something odd...

"...Shizuru?"

The brunette snapped out of her reverie.

Shizuru smiled, cool and calm, even as her heart hammered painfully against her chest. "It would seem that Natsuki has done more than hearing."

She watched the tirade of emotions swimming behind those green eyes, and knew, with certainty, that all was lost.

She will hate me.

"You..." Natsuki stopped, her voice shaking. She tried to compose herself. "Youlied to me?"

"No, I did not," came the reply. "The headquarters is no longer here."

"Then...!"

Shizuru turned away. "I only said the headquarters, Natsuki."

Silence fell over them. A long, tense silence.

Then Natsuki leaned against the chair, suddenly feeling the exhaustion seeping into her bones. The photos slipped from her fingers to the bed.

"...And what does this mean, Shizuru?" she whispered. "What is this supposed to tell me?"

The fact that the brunette said nothing only made things worse. Shizuru knew that, and so did Natsuki.

The younger girl raised a hand to her face, covering her eyes, and a forced chuckle escaped her lips. "What the hell is this supposed to tell me, Shizuru?"

She sounded like she wanted to cry.

Natsuki breathed in sharply.

"How...foolish..." muttered Natsuki. "You said I was most precious to you, and yet...to become one of the leading figures in that damn organization..."

Shizuru remained quiet.

"...Won't you say anything?" asked the black haired girl quietly, hoping against hope. "You will let me come to my own conclusions? ...Shizuru?"

Silence was her answer.

It was a long, long while before Natsuki spoke again.

"I feel so stupid," whispered Natsuki. "Really...so stupid..."

Red eyes, like molten blood, only gazed at her sadly. She wanted so badly to say something; to that quiet, vulnerable voice, but she couldn't.

Natsuki stood up abruptly.

"Natsuki..."

"Don't say anything," interrupted the girl. "Don't say a damn thing."

The former student council president obliged.

To Natsuki, Shizuru's actions were self-explanatory. There was nothing else to say, nothing else to prove.

"The next time we meet," Natsuki said to her once friend, guardian, almost lover, and never quite sister, a hollow tone in her quiet voice, "We will be enemies."

Shizuru almost flinched, but did not react. She did not look at the girl who stared at her with a look of betrayal.

"I will do whatever it takes, Shizuru," a bitter smile formed on Natsuki's lips, "I will do everything I can, betting my life on it, to destroy First District."

A pause.

"For you to be a member of that organization who killed my mother, killed Duran, wrecked my life, destroyed what was normalcy for me...and to be one of the leading figures, no less..."

A very, very long pause.

Hands curled into fists.

"If...if killing you means the destruction of First District, I will do it."

At that, Shizuru did turn to face her, but no words would come.

"I will kill you, Shizuru," whispered Natsuki. "I will do it."

Again,Natsuki did not say, but the word hovered in the air.

Furious, hurt and betrayed green eyes stared into unreadable burgundy that were tinged with regret and sadness.

"...Yes," murmured Shizuru at last, "I will...be waiting. I will wait, for that day to come."

And she truly would. Death by Natsuki's hands...yes, that she could accept.

Natsuki's fists tightened, and she turned away and left.

The brunette waited, and it was only a few seconds before she heard the door slam shut loudly.

It was only then that she shut her eyes.

And she took in a deep, shuddering breath, a hand lifting to cover her eyes.

Natsuki...

This time, she cried in earnest, where nobody could see her. The tears soaked into her grey sleeve, and she could still feel it, the lingering touch of her lips.

Natsuki...Natsuki...Natsuki!

Outside, the rain poured again.


A/N: Double surprise?-sees balls bounce off barricaded room- Well...I can only apologize for the lateness of this chapter. My beta's been swamped with work, and so am I...not to mention my being distracted by another fandom spells really bad news for this fiction, I'm afraid.

On other news, e-cookies goes to Devil-urd and Ifuritka for figuring it out. The last lines from last chapter is from Natsuki's little conversation with Sakomizu on the cliff. :D And...meh. Self-explainatory chapter here, I think. Things are probably going to go downhill from now on, depending on how you view things.

Also, I don't remember how many times I've mentioned this before, but I seriously, seriously dislike writing action scenes. The next chapter will be late, and probably very late, because I plainly suck at action scenes.

So until then,
Eagle.