Disclaimer: I don't own Mai HiME.

Part Two: My Fault

I have never been all too keen on crowds, especially ones filled with idiots. Due to my luck, that seems to be the only type that I get stuck in. Really, people, is it that hard to walk at a moderately brisk pace? People being busy these days my ass. They all seem to be taking their sweet time to me.

Not only are they as slow as molasses, but also suffocating. Whether it be waiting to cross a busy intersection or at an open floor concert, personal space becomes a foreign word and my need to punch someone's teeth out escalates too high for anybody's safety.

So, in short, I avoid masses of people like the plague. Well, unless a certain infuriating, yet addicting woman calls me out of that splendid little cocoon that is withering due to how many times I have been ripped out of it. For her, I brave my hatred, but then end up hating every second of it until she is at least within sight.

Currently taking part in one of these wonderful little expeditions, I wait impatiently for the condescending light to give me permission to cross. I have long since learned that glaring evilly at said light helps nothing, but I am need of an outlet of some sort.

People start to fill up the space behind me at a quicker than usual pace, building up into one of the many banes of my existence. I try my damnest to ignore the obnoxiously loud smacking of gum and the nonstop jabber of a girl on her cellphone. Oh, and to add the cherry on top, a toddler is shrilly whining about some toy it was denied sometime in the recent past. My eye just won't stop involuntarily twitching. Just when I think I'd overcome the habit...

Apparently feeling as though I have suffered enough, the light finally changes, and I barely catch myself from tripping over my own two feet in my eagerness. A feeling of salvation washes over me as I realize how near the end my journey is. Just another block and I'll gain a very welcomed distraction to my trivial annoyances of life.

I round a corner and I see her sitting at the table I have long since labeled as hers and sipping at some variant of tea. She plays her usual game, pretending to be far too preoccupied with her book to notice my approach. I slip into the empty chair across from her and just stare. The book falls from her sight, her eyes lifting up to meet mine as a smile adorns her face. Such a common gesture from her shouldn't mean so much, but I can't stop the light fluttering of my heart.

"Ara, Natsuki is a little later than usual," Shizuru states, a teasing tone flowing through her voice with practiced ease.

"It was that stupid intersection," I mumble, relishing in the image of me throwing a stone at the accursed light.

She raises her cup to her lips just close enough so that its rim is lightly brushed when she speaks, "With how reckless Natsuki is, I'm surprised she didn't just run out into the street and make the cars stop."

My mouth is left slightly agape, my mind mulling over the absurdity of the statement. I crave for an intelligent response, but my arsenal of snappy comebacks has dwindled down to a dismal amount over the years I have been enjoying her company.

A glance toward her and I catch that smirk poking out from behind the cup, successfully providing the tools for sharpening my tongue. Yet before I can utter an attempt at a cutting word, she definitively sets her cup down on the table, managing to pause my assault. She gently pushes herself away from the table and gets up with book in hand, her actions possessing enough fluidity and grace to cause the words to die on the tip of my tongue.

I know that I am staring, and I know that she knows, for that smirk is only growing more definite. Why she doesn't roll a teasing remark off of her tongue, I don't know, a feeling of unease rising up within me.

"We should probably get going," I spew out with a surprisingly stable tone.

Even though I stand up with no problems, I somehow don't get my foot clear of the chair leg and I clumsily stumble away from the conspiring furniture. I glare maliciously at the almost trip-inducing inanimate objects before I turn toward the now giggling Shizuru, who is failing miserably at muffling her sounds of amusement.

Mumbling a few strings of incoherent curses, I slap down enough money on the table to cover her tea before stalking over to the insufferable woman. I capture her hand in mine and start off down the sidewalk, attempting to prevent her from voicing her misgivings of my paying.

"Natsuki..." she trails off as I turn my head towards her.

"If it's about the money thing, then don't worry. Consider it my apology for being late." I flash a smile that is probably incredibly cheesy, yet her expression doesn't change in the slightest.

"Well, then I should pay for–"

"No," I cut her off. "It's my turn, I pay."

She appears to have given up on the pursuit, a truly shocking occurrence considering how stubborn she usually is about me throwing my money around. I can't count the times we've gotten into arguments about my spendings, a majority of which ended up in her paying for them in one way or another.

Her eyes float away from me, scanning the windows of the shops we pass by. Normally this silence between us would bring me a relief of sorts, but something feels off and I grow agitated. My hand gently tightens around hers, and she responds similarly, but only more forcefully, more desperately.

I want to ask her if anything is wrong or even simply add a questioning tone to her name, but all words stick in my throat. Plus, my experience with this woman tells me that a vocal effort from me will get me nowhere. This "experience" spans across the years that I have known her, but to more specific, the knowledge that I'm currently drawing from was formed only recently.

She's been a clingy yet on and off distant person since, well...y'know, that happened. It's been four months and she—we have yet to reach a level of stability. Whenever I try to get close, she has this incredibly guilty look in her eyes. It took me a while to understand why, and...I feel a little guilty for that.

She's still worried. I never vocalize that perhaps everything's my fault, that maybe my devilish subconscious lured Shizuru in. But every time I try to elaborate on the thought, I just feel more and more idiotic.

I try to show her that I feel the same way, that she hasn't forced me into anything, but apparently it's not getting through. And people call me the thickheaded one.

I slightly shake my head to get rid of the sprouting frown. She must have caught my subtle action out of the corner of her eye, as her russet irises are now looking at me in a questioning way.

Now, to tell her the semi-truth or a flat out lie, I'm not sure. Although it's usually not a good idea, I'll just let my mouth do the deciding. "What?" Ah, neither then.

"Natsuki had a rather interesting expression on her face before she shook her head. I wonder what she was thinking about..." Her gaze trails off, and I swear I see her lips starting to curve downwards. Dammit...

My indecisive self now stuck with another decision, I thankfully spot our destination and blurt out, "We're here."

Her gaze ventures off toward the building, leaving me in the dark of her expression and if she would want to further pursue her previous thought. I give her hand a gentle tug, her attention shifting back to me. Immediately I start to inwardly berate myself for my childish behavior of look at me, look at me.

"Do you still want to see the same movie?" I ask with a glace inside the building. Oh, real nice cover up.

Her response is a simple nod as she begins to pull me toward the doors with a little too much vigor. Gah, why must she be so good at confusing the hell out of me? If I remember correctly, we had a rather fun time deciding which movie we wanted to see, as most of it was what I so articulately described as "crap." We eventually decided on some movie called A Tale Told that Shizuru said had received good reviews. She didn't seem very enthralled with the idea, so why the enthusiasm now?

Plus, the only reason we're even seeing a movie is because she is so stuck on the idea of maintaining a tradition of sorts. We coincidentally went to the movies on the second weekend in one month, and did the same the following month, so now she wants to start a "tradition" of it. Monthly movies are not good for my budget.

Struck with the remembrance that I'm buying this time, my free hand starts to travel down to my pocket as we near the ticket window. Noticing Shizuru's slight lead over me, and taking into account of her stinginess with my money, I pick up my pace to pull ahead. As soon as I am within permissible distance, I slip my hand from hers and whip out my wallet, gliding in front of the window in such a way that I block her completely.

"Two tickets for A Tale Told please," I say perhaps a tad too sweetly, but also with a vague hint of victory. I don't care if she wasn't planning to sneakily pay—I still won.

The employee barely gets out the amount needed before I slide enough money through the little area beneath the window. I receive the tickets, spinning around to Shizuru with a grin plastered on my face.

"Ara, I didn't know Natsuki was this excited for the movie." She stands barely a foot in front of me, her head ever so slightly cocked to the side.

"I'm not," I start, heading deeper into the movie theater. "I don't even know what this movie's about."

"To take me to a movie that Natsuki doesn't even know if she'll like..." She takes my arm, pushing it into her chest as she rests her head on my shoulder, her lips far too close to my ear. "I believe that a reward is in order."

On cue, my blush rises and my futilely resisted spluttering starts. One should not have the ability to make words so...so... Damn this woman!

I trudge forward, her still hanging off of me as we zoom right by the concessions as always. The movie costs damn enough as it is. After we find the movie and our seats, it doesn't take long for the movie to start. And, just with the opening credits, I know I am going to loathe this movie.

Of course it has to be some angst pit of a story. To sum it up, boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, random happy crap, sudden tragic car crash, boy dies later, girl then kills self after 45 minutes of straight depression, and then thankfully the end.

The accursed thing should've been named Angst Pit 3: The Return of the Rusty Razorblade. Hey, a little more alliteration never hurt anyone.

I just want to take a nap before I start to seethe at it, but lead girl's long monologues with random screeching and screaming in agony makes such a thing impossible. Never before have I wanted earplugs so bad.

In an attempt to distract myself, I start fiddling around with Shizuru's hand. She doesn't seem to mind or even really notice, her eyes trained on the screen. Hold it, is she actually watching this–this melodramatic crap? Just as a sense of horror starts to seep in, she turns her head towards me and gives me a questioning look. She must've felt my eyes on her.

I just smile at her lamely and refocus myself on the movie. Not exactly the best decision I've ever made.

For the rest of the movie, I attempt to zone out, running my fingers in and out of Shizuru's. She has really soft hands. My own are a little scratchy and calloused, so I've never understood why wants to hold hands with me. I mean, isn't it a little uncomfortable?

"Natsuki."

I jump in my seat, coming back to reality. Shizuru is standing, her hand still in mine.

"Natsuki, the movie's over. We can leave now," she sweetly explains to me as if I'm a toddler. I frown, but nonetheless let her pull me out of the seat.

"I-I knew that. The seat was just comfortable, is all." I stumble a little as she leads us out of the theater. Dammit, can I become any lamer?

She glances at me and smiles. I know that smile—she's gonna tease me.

"So..." Her eyes sweep over my face, which I swear is already starting to blush. "Did Natsuki like the movie?"

"No," I blurt out, but immediately freeze. I wasn't prepared for that question. Shizuru might like the movie, and I might have just–

"Mm, I didn't quite like it either."

I almost sigh in relief, not quite in the mood to deal with a pouting Shizuru.

"What didn't Natsuki like about it?" She shifts closer to me, moving her hand away from mine to rest it at the crook of my elbow.

I ponder for a moment. There are so, so many answers to that question, but I settle on the first that comes to mind. "There could have been more explosions," I say off-handedly with a slight shrug.

She giggles lightly and leans into me. "Of course, Natsuki does enjoy her action."

We lull ourselves into a comfortable silence, just walking down the sidewalk. It's quite peaceful, with her warmth pressed up against my side. Every once and a while, I am still shocked by the heat of another. I had gone on so long in my seclusion that I had grown too used to coldness.

I feel a pull on my arm and a shift in direction.

"Oo, Natsuki, let's go here for lunch." Before I could even voice my opinion, Shizuru is walking through the front door with me still attached to her arm. Once inside, I let my eyes wander around. It's a little diner, the homey sort, but that still doesn't mean I'm not afraid. Shizuru has an odd taste for food, and this place has apparently stuck her fancy.

We seat ourselves and a waitress soon glides over, greeting us and setting down menus. With a quick smile, she shot off to another table. Poor woman, she must be the only one working.

I eye the menu warily. To be honest, I'm afraid to open the thing.

"Natsuki, let me buy lunch." It was more of a command than a suggestion. About to deny her, I stop. My wallet isn't exactly in the best shape, being a little flatter than I like. Really, this decision should've been the easiest one all day.

Glancing up at her, I smile gratefully. "Gladly."

-.-

I don't know why my appetite whets whenever what I hunger for becomes unavailable. Shizuru's been gone for the last few days visiting family. She didn't want me to come with, and that hurt a bit. I raised a fuss about it, but she put me down quickly. That woman had me wrapped around her finger and she knew it.

I hear the door creak open and for a second I believe I'm hearing things.

"Natsuki, I'm home!"

Okay, definitely not hearing things.

I shoot out of my seat, making a beeline for the door. She barely has a chance to get a good look at me before I pounce.

Control has never been my forte.

I press her up against a wall. It's been too damn long and she feels too damn good. Right now, there's no such thing as too close. I lean in and take her lips in a slow, gentle kiss. Her hands are on my hips, pushing. Briefly I wonder if she wants me to stop, but her mouth is telling me otherwise.

I pull back for a breath and just look at her. Oh, what a fool I've become.

Her expression seems a bit resistant, her eyes hardened and her mouth set in a straight line. But those hands that were pushing now have my shirt fisted in their grasp. I couldn't pull away even if I wanted to.

Without much more thought, I go back in, but I only succeed with a quick succession of pecks. She's blocking me. Frowning, I lunge for one more try but am stopped by a finger to my lips. I stare into her russet eyes, searching for something. My gaze travels down to her lips, which are slowly parting. I feel like she's trying to say something, and whatever that something is, I don't want to hear it.

I pucker my lips to lightly kiss her finger as my hands slide up along her side to her arms. With some coaxing, I manage to pin her hands above her head. Pulling myself in close to her face, I mutter, "What do you think you're doing?"

My hot breath trickles over her face, and I swear I can feel that mask melting away.

I veer my head off to the side, nuzzling into the side of her neck. She gasps, my lips locking onto skin.

"Trying to save you," she breathes, craning her neck to allow me more skin. I exhale and I feel her tremble.

"Save me? From what?" I mumble, but I already know the answer. I quickly raise my head back up and kiss her soundly before she can utter another word.

She moans, whatever she has planned to say dieing in her throat. I intertwine my hands with hers, slowly bringing them back down to rest at our hips. My knee slips in between her legs, and her grip tightens. Her words are hinting at one thing, while her body is leaning the other way. Masks only cover faces, after all.

I break the kiss, but I retreat only far enough for our lips to be brushing. "I don't need to be saved, Shizuru."

She exhales, shaking, and her eyes are shut. I can't help but press another kiss to her lips. Goddamn this intoxicating woman. Slipping one of my hands from hers, I trail the tips of my fingers along her side. Even her clothes are soft.

I pull back further this time, and my hand cups her cheek. She leans into it, and I melt a little inside.

"You've already saved me."

-.-

She is sleeping, or at least I think she is. Her face is relaxed, her mouth parted as slow, even breaths flow in and out. I am staring, and I don't care because this is the only time she won't know. A few strands of her hair have fallen near her closed eyes. Without any hesitance, I gently brush them away, letting my fingertips float down her cheek.

Her eyelids flicker, and I quickly retract my hand, stiffening. My face is hot, and I feel even more embarrassed for that. I never stop staring.

She lets out a light groan as I shift closer, letting my hand rest on her side. And, ever so slowly and diligently, I trace out what I have yet to find the strength to say.

"Mm, Natsuki?"

Oh shit, she is awake! Dah, coward, coward, coward!

I fling myself back and press up against the headboard. Burying my head in my hands, I can feel the heat of my face on my palms. I hear rustling, but I won't look.

"Natsuki...?"

I grunt in response.

After a moment of silence, I feel a slight tremor in the bed from what I assume to be Shizuru rolling over, away from me. Something swirls in my stomach unfavorably. I lie down on my side and curl up, away from her, trying to cage the unwelcomed feeling.

Barely two seconds later, I feel the tremors again, though stronger this time. Sheets rustle from the movement, and an arm worms its way under my abdomen, another over my waist. I find myself being pulled back into her body, her warmth seeping through the thin material of our shirts.

Lips perch themselves against my ear, and I can't stop the soft gasp from escaping my throat. My heart shouldn't be beating this fast.

She presses herself closer, no doubt feeling the thump-thump coming from my chest. Her lips start to move, and I can't breathe.

"I love you, too."

-.-

A/N: Surprise! -confetti?- A plotbunny sort of popped up (a year ago), bit me in the ankle, then ran away cackling maniacally. Of course I had to chase it (for a year). I have to say that this is a one-time thing, so no more surprise add-ons from me. Hopefully I won't screw things up and have to post more to try and cover my ass. Gah. Just gah.

Also, I made up the movie A Tale Told, so don't go Google-ing it. You'll just get random crap. Yays. :D

Much thanks to Naolin for beta-ing and confidence reinforcement. Also thanks to SakuraNek0 for catching a few other typos.