Giving In - A Mai HiME Fanfiction

Four: For Us

Disclaimer: I do not own Mai HiME or any of its components. Sunrise does.

Warning: As with all other parts of this story, this chapter contains scenes of a sexual nature. Consider yourself duly warned. :)

Notes: It has, indeed, been three years since I last updated this story. As such, I'm rather out of touch with it. I was reticent to write more because of that, as well as it being somewhat emotionally draining. However, enough people seem to want me to continue so I decided to give it a go. I apologise if this doesn't have the same atmosphere or flow the previous chapters did but I did try my best to keep it as similar as possible.

I'm doing something a bit different with this chapter. I'm going to have the character perspective change from scene to scene. This is because I think it's important to hear both of their thoughts on what happens. Keeping with the pattern, however, I'll be starting off from Shizuru's point of view. That also explains the chapter title. :P

"No problem," Natsuki murmured before rubbing her cheek against Shizuru's chest. She found the action incredibly cute and couldn't help the smile from spreading across her face. The skin of Natsuki's cheek felt incredibly hot against her chest, even with her own flushed skin. Shizuru pressed a kiss into dark strands before running her fingers through them lightly.

As comforting as their embrace was, Shizuru was incredibly distracted. The other woman's taste was still in her mouth and every time she inhaled, her scent filled her nostrils. Tasting Natsuki was an amazing experience and one she'd never be able to put into words. It was all she'd ever dreamed of and more. She hadn't expected her to be so completely intoxicating. Those thoughts weren't helping her level of frustration though, and the ache between her legs only increased.

As if reading her mind, Natsuki shifted, her hands sliding around Shizuru's body and down across her ribs. The light touches caused the Kyoto woman to shiver and close her eyes momentarily. She pulled back a little and looked down into intent emerald eyes. Shizuru recognised that determined glint and she wondered what was going through her mind at that point. The younger woman gripped Shizuru's sides and urged her backwards. Complying, Shizuru allowed herself to be guided back onto the table. She sat upon it, thinking it a little strange for their usual seating to be reversed.

She watched as Natsuki licked her lips and Shizuru's eyelids dropped a little as she felt a surge of desire stir within her. The biker slid her hands under the collar of Shizuru's blouse and pushed the garment down the older woman's arms. A shudder crept along her skin as Natsuki's fingertips flitted back up across her shoulders. Lips soon found Shizuru's exposed collarbone and she let out a breath suddenly at the searing contact. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes, focusing entirely on what the other woman was doing to her.

Teeth grazed her skin and the flicker of a tongue sent her mind whirling. Inexperienced as she was, Natsuki had quickly discovered exactly what it was that drove Shizuru to dizzying heights of arousal. The Kyoto woman gripped the edge of the table firmly, supporting herself as best she could. When she felt Natsuki's hands on her thighs she let out another gasp. This seemed to encourage the other woman as she pushed her hands up along Shizuru's legs, taking the fabric of her skirt with them. Her stomach fluttered uncontrollably now and she could feel the heat prickling under her skin.

Those tantalising hands paused in their ascent and Shizuru felt fingernails press into the sensitive skin at the top of her thighs. A whimper rose up at the back of her throat and she could feel her muscles tense under Natsuki's fingers. She shivered as a hot tongue trailed along the contour of her collarbone before Natsuki pressed a firm kiss to the hollow of her throat. Risking losing her balance, Shizuru lifted one of her hands and buried her fingers in dark tresses, gripping them firmly. A murmur rumbled against her skin as Natsuki reacted to the action.

The younger woman now placed her palms flat against Shizuru's thighs, gripping them slightly and pushing her legs apart. The Kyoto woman could feel her chest tightening in anticipation. It was so easy to relinquish control to Natsuki. At first, it had come as a surprise to her after the all of the restrictions she had placed on herself, particularly when it came to this woman. But it made complete sense; if anyone could tear down her defences easily, it would be Natsuki. Still, she couldn't help but find it new and strange. The little doubts that niggled at the back of her mind didn't help either.

Unintentionally not allowing Shizuru to focus on that thought for the moment, Natsuki playfully nipped at Shizuru┬Ęs neck before running her tongue across the skin there. Shizuru let out an approving moan and pulled the other woman's head against her more firmly. One of the biker's hands left its place on Shizuru's thigh and travelled the distance to her chest. Fingers made a burning trail over the skin just above her breasts and she let out a frustrated whimper, the need building within her getting the better of her. She could feel Natsuki's lips twitch against her neck and then she cupped a hand over one of Shizuru's breasts, the white fabric of her bra an unwanted barrier between them.

Shizuru's back arched of its own accord, prompting Natsuki to squeeze her breast gently. The combination of the other woman's mouth and hands on her skin fuelled the yearning in her gut, making it hard for her to breathe. She drew in a lungful of air, attempting to clear her mind a little. Part of her wasn't letting go completely, however, and it irked her that she wasn't able to fully enjoy what Natsuki was doing to her. Her thoughts were clouded though and pinpointing the exact problem wasn't proving easy. She grazed her nails across Natsuki's scalp, causing the other woman to pause her ministrations.

As Natsuki pulled back, Shizuru peered down at her, uncertain green eyes staring back at her. That look of uncertainty triggered something in her mind. "I'm scared. Really scared." Her earlier words echoed in Shizuru's mind and she felt a chill pass through her. "Once I decide on something..." The haze around Shizuru lifted slightly as her thoughts sobered her. Is this really what she wants? Natsuki didn't seem to notice the doubts cascading through the Kyoto woman, however, and she ducked down to press a kiss to Shizuru's sternum.

The older woman desperately tried to force the doubts from her mind, to try and enjoy Natsuki's touch, to live in that moment. Yet the guilt gnawing at her refused to release her. Please, let me just enjoy this, she pleaded with herself but the thoughts wouldn't fade, even when Natsuki's hand slid up to touch her hip, her thumb brushing against the sensitive skin between her thigh and groin. She shuddered involuntarily, wrapping her arms around Natsuki's shoulders and pulling her in tightly. Why would she be doing these things if she didn't want to?

Logically, Shizuru couldn't see any reason why Natsuki would, but an aching had begun to fill her chest and irrational fears were answering her questions for her now. Shizuru was aware of how guilty the other woman had felt over the suffering she'd endured because of her feelings. Perhaps she's doing this to alleviate her guilt? She didn't like the sound of that in the slightest. Natsuki was kind though, and she could see her making that sacrifice out of some twisted sense of duty. Shizuru hated the thought that she was only with her now because she felt obligated to be.

She felt all the hope that she'd gained in the last few days begin to slip away from her. Putting everything together that Natsuki had said led her to a completely unwanted conclusion. Why couldn't she have just ignored the doubts? Why couldn't she allow herself to enjoy something for once? Her fears had consumed her so much that she hadn't noticed she was trembling. This seemed to go unnoticed by Natsuki, however, who continued to caress the older woman's skin. Her tender touches were almost painful to Shizuru now.

Does she pity me? The soul-shattering thoughts continued to plague her, ruining any enjoyment she could have received. Had she wanted it so much that she ignored Natsuki's own feelings in the process? Had she been blind to everything but her own desire? I'm so selfish... She could feel tears sting at her eyes and she knew she'd lose control over her emotions if she didn't stop what was happening. Panic constricted the muscles in her chest as she felt Natsuki's fingers slip under the hem of her panties.

She tried to call out to Natsuki to stop, but her throat tightened uncomfortably. She released her hold on the other woman and forced her left hand between their bodies, grasping at Natsuki's wrist. Stiffening at the contact, Natsuki suddenly pulled back, confusion in her widened eyes. Perhaps it was the desperation in Shizuru's movements that had tipped the dark haired woman off but it was clear she knew something was wrong.

"Shizuru..?" she questioned, almost timidly. Natsuki's expression filled with even more concern as she regarded Shizuru's face. The Kyoto woman had no idea what she could see there but she expected she wasn't hiding much of what she felt at that moment. "What's wrong?"

Shizuru looked away, her gaze dropping to the table. How was she supposed to tell Natsuki? How was she supposed to push away everything she had ever wanted? She bit down on her bottom lip in an attempt to keep the turmoil of emotions contained. "Can we... stop?" Shizuru could hear the quiver in her own voice.

She could sense the mixture of feelings passing through Natsuki at that moment, she didn't even need to look at her. That only caused the aching in her chest to grow. "Wh-what?"

"Please..." she could only whisper out the word.

Natsuki hesitantly pulled away, taking a step back and wrapping her arms around herself as she shifted uncomfortably. "Did I... do something wrong? Did I hurt you?" she asked tentatively, the intense worry in her words almost bringing Shizuru to tears. Even then, Natsuki was only thinking of her needs.

Shizuru drew in a deep breath and slipped off the table, shrugging her blouse back onto her shoulders. "No," she said as calmly as she could. She brought the parted blouse together and held it in place with one hand.

"Then what?" Natsuki demanded.

Against her will, Shizuru's eyes went to Natsuki and she took in the pain in her features. I've hurt her... That realisation staggered the Kyoto woman and she wished they could go back to the way they had been moments before. But she couldn't. Surely she was hurting Natsuki more by forcing the other woman to be with her? Even if it was unintentional. She needed to hear that from her first though.

"Shizuru!" Natsuki reached out for her and grasped her upper arms firmly. "Tell me."

Unable to tear her eyes away from the emotion in Natsuki's eyes, she forced herself to answer. "You... don't want this, do you?" Her voice sounded strained.

The biker's brow furrowed and her nose wrinkled slightly as confusion marred her features. "What are you talking about? I just told you-"

Shizuru cut in, wanting to get it over with quickly. It was too painful. "I heard your words but... I can't help but think it's all for my sake."

Natsuki shook her head slowly, not quite understanding. "Of course it is but..."

So it's true... "I don't want you doing anything for my sake, Natsuki. I told you that before."

The grip on her arms tightened as the furrow in Natsuki's brow deepened. "That's not what I meant! I told you I'm giving myself to you. Don't you get it?"

Shizuru's eyes closed, unable to look upon the emerald burning into her. "Giving yourself isn't the same as wanting it..."

Natsuki didn't even pause before answering and it almost convinced Shizuru she was wrong about everything. Almost. "Of course I want it. Why wouldn't I?"

Abruptly pulling away from Natsuki's grip, Shizuru took a few steps away before uncharacteristically snapping back at the other woman. "Why would you?"

The younger woman was taken aback by her burst of emotion and she floundered for a moment. This only continued to fuel the doubts in Shizuru's mind. "Sh-Shizuru..." she said sadly.

Tears were stinging at her eyes again now but Shizuru refused to let them flow. Not in front of someone else. Not in front of her. "Thank you, Natsuki..." she began, buttoning her shirt quickly. "For doing this for me but I can't just play along. As much as I want to, I just can't."

She picked up her jacket and turned away from Natsuki, gripping the garment tightly in her hands. She felt as though she was killing a part of herself with her words. "I don't... understand," came Natsuki's bewildered words. "You... I... I just worked things out in my head, dammit. How could this happen?"

The aching in her chest had started giving way to an odd hollow sensation. "I'm sorry. I wish I could be content with your pity but... it's not enough." With those words she moved hastily to the door and unlocked it. She wasn't sure how she managed to handle the keys since her mind wasn't on the task but she didn't fumble once.

"Shizuru, wait!" Natsuki called out to her. She wanted desperately to turn and just embrace the other woman but she, instead, squeezed her eyes shut and gripped the door handle tightly. She waited for the biker to say something else but she appeared to be struggling with her own thoughts. As she opened the door and moved out into the corridor, she heard Natsuki move after her.

She couldn't handle the other woman coming after her, she'd just give in to that pity. As much as it hurt to push Natsuki away, it was something she had to do. If they continued as they were, they'd end up both hurting because it wasn't what either of them wanted. Part of her selfishly wanted to relish in that temporary happiness but she'd gone too far already. And then she did something that she hadn't done in the school corridors before. She ran.

"You're wrong!" Natsuki's voice drifted to her ears and she could feel her mask cracking. Yet, she still continued to distance herself from the other woman. She had to try and run from that emptiness in her chest, before it consumed her completely.

How did this happen? Natsuki's thought echoed in her mind and she felt completely desolate as she stared down the corridor. Shizuru ran from me... she actually ran away... She couldn't even comprehend their conversation at that moment. None of it made sense. She'd worked so hard at sorting things out in her head, she really thought she'd made some progress. And now Shizuru had thrown it back in her face. She had seemed to be happy at her words though, that's what she couldn't understand. But then she'd suddenly rejected them. She rejected me.

She leant against the wall of the corridor, her strength suddenly sapped. What was she supposed to do? If Shizuru truly believed Natsuki only wanted to be with her because she pitied her, then how was she going to convince her otherwise? Would Shizuru even let her? Will I even see her again? A chill ran down her spine at that thought. She felt suddenly very lonely. No, there's no way that's going to happen! I won't let it! She wrapped her arms around herself, the evening bringing with it a penetrating chill. Or perhaps that was her thoughts.

First of all, she had to try and figure out what was going through Shizuru's mind, and that was never an easy thing. She couldn't get over the pain she'd seen in the older woman's eyes. Doing what she did must have been awful for Shizuru. If that's the case, why did she do it? She wasn't sure she'd be able to answer that on her own. She knew there were a lot of things the other woman kept hidden, even from Natsuki. Especially from me, I guess.

Natsuki tilted her head back against the wall and let it rest there, closing her eyes. A dull ache had formed behind her eyes now, matching the pain in her chest. Where would Shizuru have run off to? Perhaps she'd go home, or even to the dojo she taught naginatajutsu at. Both places brought back distracting memories for her. But they were also painful now. Will I get to share those moments with her again? Dammit, I'd just found out how good things could feel, how happy I could be. It wasn't fair, she decided. Why couldn't she just get a break?

"Damn, Natsuki, you look awful!" The sudden sound of Mai's voice caused the biker to jump and she pushed herself off the wall, her senses suddenly alert. She looked in surprise down the corridor and, sure enough, there was Mai standing with her bag in hand looking at her with open concern.

Ugh, I can't handle her right now. She turned to walk in the opposite direction, briefly considering running to get away from the other girl, but she decided that would look too suspicious. Not that walking away from her friend without saying anything was completely normal either. She heard the patter of shoes on the polished floor and she cringed as she realised Mai was jogging to catch up to her.

Mai skipped around her and stopped right in front of Natsuki, almost causing the pair to collide. "Don't pretend you didn't see me." She was sporting a disapproving glare now.

Natsuki let out a sigh and placed a hand on her hip. "What do you want?"

The other girl folded her arms across her ample chest and narrowed her eyes at Natsuki. "That's not going to work on me. You can't be all Miss. Ice and Death around me. I know something's wrong."

She knew this would happen. Just as Mai had noticed the change in her earlier in the day, she was now able to see how upset Natsuki was. It's probably not all that hard to do, she mused. It didn't help that her clothes were all wrinkled as well. She was just glad she'd gone back into the room earlier to retrieve her underwear. She felt her heart sink as memories from the previous hour flashed through her mind. If only she could go back and do something different. If only she could have said the right thing.

"There!" Mai said, pointing a finger in Natsuki's face. "You're oozing sadness, what's up?"

Natsuki shook her head, her gaze moving to the window where she could see the sun starting to set. Hues of darkening yellows and reds filled the horizon but she couldn't feel their warmth. "I think I messed up," she muttered quietly, not really intending the words to slip out at all.

Mai regarded her for several moments before grasping a surprised Natsuki's wrist and tugging her along down the corridor. Before the dark haired student could register her complaint, her friend piped up cheerfully with an explanation. "I think we need a change of venue for this!"

"Wh-what?" Natsuki stammered, still surprised by the sudden movement. She, however, allowed herself to be led by her friend, not having the mental energy to resist at that time. She wanted to get away from that old student council room, anyway. Mai didn't answer her at first but she guessed they were going back to her room from the direction they were headed. She stumbled a little as Mai increased her pace and Natsuki found herself wondering where she got her energy from.

When they came to a halt in front of the room Mai shared with Mikoto, the other girl turned to her. "I thought it'd be better if we had somewhere private to chat, and I can make you ramen," she punctuated her words with a broad smile.

Mai's cheer was almost infectious but it wasn't quite enough to drown out the pain of the evening's events. She offered her friend a weak smile though, letting her know she didn't disapprove of the idea completely. Apparently happy with that, Mai's smile turned into a grin and she unlocked the door to her room, allowing Natsuki to enter first. As the biker stepped in, she felt comforted by the familiarity of it. Her eyes went to the far end of the room where two single beds sat. One was neatly made, the bed sheets looking crisp and fresh, while the other was in a state of disarray. It was easy to tell who each of the beds belonged to.

After she had closed the door behind them, Mai trotted over to the small kitchen area. She paused behind a spotless counter, following Natsuki's gaze. "Don't worry, Mikoto won't be back for a bit. She's off spending time with Reito tonight."

Natsuki glanced back at her friend. "I wasn't worried," she muttered as she moved over towards the horribly pink couch. She lowered herself onto it and leaned back, relaxing as best she could.

Mai merely smiled at her before turning around to open a cupboard that sat against one wall. "Can I get you a drink? I think we have some sort of green tea in here somewhere. Oh, and there's soda in the fridge."

"T- Uh..." Natsuki had begun to say tea but she stopped herself. Drinking that would only make her think of Shizuru and the last thing she needed was to get emotional in front of Mai. Still, it wasn't like she could think of much else at present. "Soda."

Mai peered over her shoulder at the other girl, shooting her a puzzled look, before retrieving a glass from the cupboard. She pulled open the fridge door, the light inside spilling out onto the tiled floor. The other girl took out a can of coke and opened it, pouring it into the glass before dutifully bringing it over to Natsuki. The dark haired student accepted the offered glass and sipped at it distractedly. Her thoughts were wandering back to Shizuru again, even without the presence of tea.

Settling onto the sofa beside Natsuki, Mai peered at her friend, a searching look in her eyes. She gave Natsuki a reassuring smile but that didn't make the biker feel any better about the questions that were about to come. "So, tell me, what has the cool and collected Natsuki all worked up?"

She was sure Mai's words were meant to be light and encouraging, but Natsuki couldn't help but feel they were mocking her now. She opened her mouth to speak but found she couldn't form the words. She found it hard enough to formulate thoughts when it came to feelings, let alone explain it for another person. She certainly wasn't used to sharing those sorts of things with Mai either. Hanging out was another matter. She found the other girl fun to be around and it was always a relief from her darker thoughts but she'd never had the urge to open up her innermost feelings to her.

Mai's smile dropped momentarily as she regarded Natsuki's behaviour. "Come on, you can talk to me about it. I can see something is eating you up inside. It's not healthy if you don't let it out, you know."

Was it really that obvious? Natsuki placed the glass on the coffee table in front of her before clasping her hands in front of her. She gripped her own hands firmly, trying to force some of the tension in her body into that action. "It's not that easy," was all she could say.

The other girl shifted beside her and leaned forward on the sofa in order to see Natsuki's face a little better. "Why not? All you have to do is let it go."

Natsuki shook her head slowly, the tips of her long hair brushing against her forearms. "I can't."

A sudden thump to her upper arm startled Natsuki and she stared at Mai in surprise. She punched me! It hadn't been hard but she still hadn't expected it. "Other than the priceless expression, I did that to snap you out of your brooding!" Mai explained.

"I'm not brooding!" she insisted, rubbing her arm with her other hand.

Mai reached out and poked Natsuki's brow with her forefinger. The dark haired student swatted at the offensive limb and scowled at her attacker. "That crease there proves otherwise!"

Natsuki jutted her lower jaw forwards indignantly and let a huff out through her nose. "I was just thinking!" she protested.

The finger that had just prodded her now wagged disapprovingly. "Less thinking, Natsuki. More talking."

Natsuki rolled her eyes at the other girl, but she was glad for her words. She'd managed to provoke other emotions in her than just the sadness she'd been wallowing in previously. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad talking with Mai about it after all. Still, there were some things she didn't think she'd be able to tell her. I'll have to choose my words carefully.

Perhaps sensing Natsuki's willingness changing, Mai's expression became serious and her grin faded. "So, how is it you think you messed up?"

How could I possibly tell her about that? Natsuki pursed her lips, attempting to think of a way to get her situation across without actually giving any details. That was not going to be easy. "I... I'm not sure. I think I did something to upset someone."

Mai's head tilted to one side as she tried to figure out what the other girl meant. "Upset who?"

"A... friend."

The other girl brought a hand up to sweep some stray strands of hair out of her face. "Well, aren't you being all specific." Natsuki could only shoot her a guilty look. "At least tell me what you think you've done."

Her head dipping with the memories from earlier in the evening, Natsuki grimaced as she continued the vague explanation. "I don't even know. I tried so hard to say and do the right things but it didn't work. I still screwed things up."

Mai's brow furrowed at Natsuki's words. "Does this have anything to do with earlier?"

Natsuki blinked blankly at her for a few moments before it dawned on her that she was referring to their meeting before school. "Oh... yeah, I guess it does."

The other girl's eyes brightened at this but Natsuki couldn't share her excitement. "Who are you dating, Natsuki?"

The biker let out a soft sigh. "No one." It wasn't as if she was lying. She'd never been on a date with Shizuru and she wasn't even sure they had any kind of relationship now. She had to ignore the pain in her chest at that thought.

"Oh come on, give me something to work with here!" Mai exclaimed with a hint of frustration.

Natsuki clenched her jaw before looking over at her friend. "Let's just stick with 'friend' for now."

The other girl waved a hand dismissively. "Fine, fine. I'll translate as you go. Continue then!"

Throwing herself back to lounge against the sofa, her head tilted up towards the ceiling, Natsuki allowed her gaze to wander over the tiny cracks in the paint above her. "I'm not really sure what to say. I tried to open up to... my friend and it backfired. I must have said something wrong and I don't know how to make it right again."

There was a pause as Mai processed her words. Natsuki knew she wasn't being very helpful with what she was saying, yet her friend was still trying to help out. I should really thank her properly when all this is over. "So what's your friend's problem?"

Natsuki flinched at the emphasised word. It didn't feel right to refer to Shizuru as merely her friend any more. She felt like she was belittling the connection they had and ignoring all the progress they had made. But that had already happened, hadn't it? "It's hard to say. I never know what they're thinking." When she felt Mai's glare directed at her, she decided to elaborate further. "Something about me pitying them."

"Are we talking about Takeda-san?" Mai's voice rose a few octaves as she spoke.

The biker cringed at the inference. "No!" she hastily rejected the notion. I suppose it is my fault for being so vague though.

Her friend let out a giggle. "You said that way too fast, Natsuki."

"Because it's wrong!" she insisted, lifting her head to look at Mai.

From the skeptical look on the other girl's face, she clearly didn't believe her. Perhaps it would have been easier to allow Mai to believe that she was talking about Takeda but she couldn't talk about Shizuru as thought she was him. That didn't sit well with her at all. "Did he finally wear you down?"

"Ugh, Mai, it's not Takeda," she continued to deny it, weariness creeping into her voice.

Mai eyed her with that same skepticism. "The pity thing... I was sure it could only be him."

I guess I can see how she'd come to that conclusion. "Well, it's not," she said irritably.

Finally giving up on that idea, Mai shrugged and looked at Natsuki pointedly. "So why does your friend think you pity them?"

Natsuki let her head fall again to the back of the sofa and pressed her palms against her face. "I really don't know."

Turning to the side, to face Natsuki, and leaning one elbow on the back of the sofa, Mai gestured with her free hand as she spoke. "There's got to be some reason. If we can figure that out then maybe you'll know what to do."

She was right, there had to be a reason, but Natsuki couldn't think of it. She was hopeless at that sort of thing. She was barely aware of the reasons why she did things, let alone another person. One moment Shizuru had been perfectly happy, the next she'd pushed Natsuki away. She only wished she knew what had happened in those minutes to cause that change. She let her eyes slide to the left to peer at Mai out of the corner of them. She seemed to be structuring something in her mind and Natsuki realised she hadn't given her friend much of anything to go on. How was she supposed to be able to help?

"You do come off a bit cold, Natsuki. Maybe that's it?" Mai offered.

That wasn't it. She'd opened herself up more with Shizuru than she had with anyone else. "It can't be. I'm not like that with them."

She registered the surprise in Mai's eyes. "Really?"

Natsuki shot her a warning look. "Don't be so surprised." She couldn't really blame Mai though, she hadn't exactly showed her much evidence of her softer side.

"Maybe that's it..." Mai thought aloud. "You're not your usual self around this friend so it seems like you're putting on an act?"

"It's not an act!" she snapped defensively.

Mai held her hands up in front of herself. "I never said that. I said it might seem that way."

Could that be it? It seemed unfathomable to Natsuki that Shizuru would assume she was pretending when she was around her. "I... don't think so. They should know me by now."

An orange eyebrow curved upwards. "Wouldn't it be, you know, easier to talk to someone who's known you longer then?"

Natsuki turned her head to look at Mai fully. She wasn't speaking out of hurt that she didn't appear to know the biker as well as she thought. She seemed to genuinely think the suggestion was better for her friend. "I don't really have anyone..." Natsuki trailed off, that aching in her chest swelling once more. Shizuru...

As if hearing her thoughts, Mai chimed in. "What about Kaichou-san?"

The cheerful use of her old title made Natsuki feel almost nostalgic. But it also hurt to think she couldn't talk to her old friend. "No," she said quietly.

"Why not? She's known you the longest, hasn't she? And you two hang out quite a bit now. Surely, she'd be better at this than me?" Mai said cheerfully, obviously pleased with her reasoning.

Staring back up at the ceiling, Natsuki covered her eyes with her forearm, attempting to block everything out. "I can't..." She hoped the pain didn't show in her words.

"Don't be so stubborn. If you can talk to me, then-"

"She's the problem, dammit!" Shit. She'd wanted to tell Mai but now she regretted the outburst. She let her arm fall back to her side with a little more force than she'd intended.

Mai blinked rapidly, confusion causing a frown to replace her smile and creases to appear on her brow. "K-kaichou-san... likes the same person you do?"

Natsuki let out a wry laugh, the sound ugly to her own ears. It was only natural for Mai to make that assumption though. She was trying to force them into a box that fit into her own view of the world. It probably hadn't even occurred to the other girl that a guy wasn't even involved.

"No?" Mai's confusion was growing.

Sucking in a deep breath, Natsuki prepared herself for whatever reaction Mai might have to her explanation. It would be good just to let the words out though. "Shizuru is in love with me." There, she had finally said it. While it weighed heavily on her heart, she also found a kind of freedom for having said it aloud.

Normally, she probably would have found the humour in watching Mai's mouth open and close like a goldfish's and the normally vocal girl was completely speechless now. But, Natsuki realised, her friend's opinion did actually matter to her and, because of that, she felt a nervous flutter in her stomach. Seeming to realise how ridiculous she looked, Mai snapped her mouth shut and concentrated on keeping the shock from her face.

Mai ran a hand through her hair and finally looked Natsuki in the eye. She opened her mouth to speak but paused for a moment, seeming to consider her words before continuing. "Do you..?" She couldn't seem to finish the question though, as if asking was too presumptuous.

Natsuki knew what she was asking though. The same question had been echoing through the back of her mind since she had first kissed Shizuru, she just hadn't wanted to acknowledge it then. "I... don't know," she answered honestly. How was she supposed to know? She had never loved anyone before. Sure, she knew what maternal love felt like and she had loved her mother very much. It was a safe kind of feeling, a comforting warmth, something to always fall back on. Perhaps I do then...

"I see..." Mai said as her frown deepened.

Did Mai think their situation disgusting? It was hard to read that frown. Mai didn't seem like the kind of person who'd reject Natsuki's friendship over this. But how can I know until it's tested? Now that she'd revealed it to Mai, she wasn't sure how to continue. It was a big enough step merely telling her about Shizuru, how was she supposed to delve into her own feelings?

"How long has she... you know?" Mai asked tentatively, her voice much quieter than usual.

Why couldn't she say it? Then again, I couldn't either. Natsuki realised she couldn't really answer Mai's question as she didn't know herself. She had never questioned Shizuru on it. After the chaos had ended and everything had returned to some semblance of normality, Natsuki just couldn't find it in herself to bring any of what had happened up with the older girl. How long had she had those feelings for? Her thoughts went back to the small moments they'd spent together before the HiMEs had gotten caught up in their destiny. Shizuru had always been so helpful, even when she was seemingly busy with council duties. She'd allowed her use of her laptop whenever Natsuki had wished it. Was there a reason behind that kindness other than friendship?

"I... I'm not sure. Gah, I don't know anything, do I?" She slumped forwards, cradling her head in her hands as the despair washed over her. How was she meant to make things right if she couldn't answer the simplest of questions?

She stiffened as she felt a warmth on her shoulder and she realised Mai had placed her hand there. "It's okay, Natsuki. You don't need to have all the answers." Natsuki didn't believe that though. "You want to make things right with her, yes?"

She nodded. "I'm not sure if that's possible though," she stated glumly.

Mai squeezed her shoulder. "If she... if she really does love you, then it will be."

Even though she'd been a little hesitant, Mai sounded so sure of what she'd said. Natsuki felt a spark of hope at that belief. "Really?"

Mai nodded, a smile returning to her face. "It's just like Mikoto says..." She raised a finger, clearing her throat and doing her best Mikoto impersonation. "Love is good. Yup!"

Natsuki let out a quiet chuckle. Love is good, eh? Yeah, the little ramen-eating-machine is right. It is good. She remembered how comforting it had felt being wrapped in Shizuru's arms in her bed, waking up to that warmth. She remembered how she felt every time Shizuru looked at her, whether it was with longing or fondness. It was something she knew she didn't want to lose. For all the time she had gone without knowing such a thing existed, she couldn't imagine living without it now. If that meant she loved Shizuru, then so be it.

"So, enough moping. Let's get you fed and then you can start Mission: Kaichou Retrieval!" Mai said excitedly, rising to her feet and clapping her hands together once. Natsuki merely shook her head at her friend, but she was glad for that enthusiasm. It made her feel as though she could face what was to come, whatever that might be.

The lighting in the room was only enough to fully illuminate one end of it, revealing a magnificent set of armour and a single naginata. They both sat on their own stands, the weapon standing in front of the ancient protective gear, as if worshipped by it. Shizuru sat on the floor in front of them both, her legs tucked under her and her eyes closed. To the outside observer, it may have looked as though the young woman was a picture of serenity, her purple yukata perfectly wrapped around her frame and her face a wall of calm.

Emotionally, however, she was in turmoil. She had come to this room to centre herself, to restore the control she had lost in that old student council room. It was the quietest room in her home; her family had insisted she take the family heirlooms now she had graduated and store them in the safest room - the basement. At first, she had dreaded having the naginata in her home but she had found it was something that kept her grounded, it reminded her of the things she could do, of who she could become. She had promised herself that she would always be in control since then, but she had broken that just hours before.

She took a calming breath in and opened her eyes to gaze upon the artifacts in front of her. The naginata was beautiful, she couldn't deny that. Her eyes followed the flow of the weapon; from the groove at the base of the metal, that narrowed as it moved towards the centre of the widening blade, to the lethal tip that was still sharp after all these years. The groove had been painted at one point but, even though it was not as bright as it had been, she could tell it had been red. She allowed her eyes to travel back down towards the handle, which hadn't survived quite as well as the blade. The metal that lined the wooden pole had discoloured from how she had been told it looked in its prime and the ridged wood itself had aged, showing signs of deterioration. But, still, it looked so elegant to her.

As her mother had told her, it had been in her family for centuries and was traditionally handed down from mother to daughter. When she was a young girl, she'd often daydream about her ancestors charging into battle with it, donning the dark armour and cutting an imposing figure. She had even imagined herself wielding it far before she had the ability to summon her own. And, so, the Fujino women had gone from wielding the naginata to merely caring for it. She wondered when it had last tasted blood.

That thought didn't bring back pleasant memories though, and she closed her eyes once more, pushing them away. She'd never find internal balance lingering on every trauma in her life. She would need to come to terms with the decision she'd made earlier in the day, however. That was one thing she couldn't avoid. It clawed at her mind, not once allowing her any peace. And then the thought came to her that had been echoing in her mind since she'd fled from that room.

What have I done?

Her posture almost faltered with that, her body instantly urging her to wrap her arms around herself. She forced herself to remain seated as she was, however, and turned her thoughts inward. Painful memories of earlier events filled her mind but she didn't push them away. She knew she had to face them in order to gain power over them.

I've lost her.

But she had never had Natsuki in the first place, had she? Now that she'd had time and space to go over each of the other girl's words multiple times, she had begun to doubt her own thoughts. What if Natsuki had, indeed, meant what she'd said? What if she wasn't only giving in to Shizuru's own desires? Was it possible she really cared for her in such a way?

It doesn't matter. It's too late.

She'd made the decision, she'd already acted on it. There was no way Natsuki would forgive her now, not after pushing aside the only form of affection she could give Shizuru. She pressed her fingertips into her thighs, crumpling the fabric of the yukata a little. Perhaps this pain was necessary, though. She couldn't be trusted, not around Natsuki, even if her feelings were true. She had proven again and again that she couldn't retain control. Shizuru couldn't bear the thought of hurting the other girl again. Keeping her distance was the only way of being sure.

Forgive me, Natsuki.

She hoped that Natsuki wouldn't hate her for her actions. What was she supposed to do now though? Her entire world had revolved around the vengeance-obsessed biker. She wasn't sure she could remember how to live without her. She couldn't think about that though, she could only move forward. She had no choice. So, where would she go now? She had university, of course, and it would be unwise to throw her education away. The campus was still rather close to Natsuki though. Even so, she wasn't sure she'd ever be able to get far enough away.

From the very first moment she saw Natsuki, she was drawn to her. It was hard to pinpoint what exactly about her made her different to all the other girls around her. Perhaps it was her pain. Whatever the case, from the day she had approached Natsuki in that flower garden she hadn't been able to stay away. Yet, after all the years of longing, what did she have to show for it? Her grip tightened on her legs at that thought and she could feel the calm she'd surrounded herself in slipping away.

Shizuru forced herself to take in one deep breath after another in an attempt to quell the surge of emotion. She tried to blank her mind, to focus entirely on taking air into her body and then expelling it. Soon she began to relax and the tightness in her chest eased a little. The students who had attended Fuuka Academy with her had often talked of how naturally at ease she was, as though her grace and cool facade were instinctual. What they didn't know was she had been taught from a very young age how to behave properly and to hide any signs of weakness. It had taken time to become proficient at controlling how other people perceived her.

A sound from behind her caused her to tense suddenly and her eyes shot open. She recognised the slight scraping of a door against laminated flooring and the creak of weight on the steps that led into the basement. The footsteps were light and unsure. Please, no... She found herself holding her breath as her uninvited guest hesitantly descended the stairs. She couldn't turn around to see who it was, she couldn't move at all. She was terrified she'd see that beautiful face and fall apart in front of her.

She heard the release of a shaky breath but it wasn't her own. She mirrored the action, trying desperately to hang on to her mask; her only barrier against the world. She knew who was standing behind her, she could sense the younger woman's presence. Why is she here? She could have been there to find answers, Shizuru supposed, but she didn't think she was able to offer any.

"Uh..." The familiar sound of Natsuki's low voice reached Shizuru's ears, confirming what she'd already sensed. Under normal circumstances, she would have smiled at the eloquent greeting the biker had offered her. The Kyoto woman didn't turn to face her or acknowledge her in any way. She knew that, if she did, she'd never have the resolve to continue with what she'd already set in motion.

"Natsuki..." she whispered the name as though it was a lament. Focusing her gaze upon the naginata in front of her, she channeled her will into that look so she wouldn't be tempted to take in the captivating features of the younger woman who had now walked up closely behind her. She could almost feel her warmth but she knew it was just a trick of the mind.

Her new companion shuffled uneasily. "Are you okay?" came the meek question. That's unlike her, she found herself thinking. Shizuru nodded once, her gaze never wavering. Natsuki didn't seem to want to push her on that though. "What is this place?"

Shizuru could hear a hint of wonder in the other woman's voice. "It serves several purposes." She spoke in an even, yet not unkind, tone. "It stores the gifts my family has bestowed upon me and it is a place I like to come to in order to find peace. I also like to train here." It probably wasn't a good idea for her to engage Natsuki in conversation but she couldn't deny her either.

The dark haired woman walked around to stand beside Shizuru and she had to concentrate all the more to keep her gaze ahead. She could still see Natsuki's form in her peripheral vision though. There was a soft coughing sound as her companion cleared her throat. "Listen, Shizuru... I'm going to say some stuff and I hope you'll know what I'm talking about. I'm not very good at this and today just proved that. I'm going to try again though."

A painful mix of hope and disappointment swirled in Shizuru's chest. "Please just leave." Her tone was cold but speaking those three words was like forcing razors past her lips.

Natsuki's stunned silence was even harder to bear than the angered words she'd expected to hear. The other woman didn't retreat, however, and Shizuru watched in surprise as Natsuki stepped in front of her, a determined look on her face. "No," she stated firmly. "You're going to listen to this whether you like it or not."

Shizuru's gaze dropped to the floor in front of her. Natsuki's words only made her seem more endearing, which made the Kyoto woman's task even harder. She just wasn't able to keep up the same level of resistance and so she didn't object. Natsuki dropped down onto the floor in front of her, mirroring her positioning and reaching out for her with one hand. Tentatively, she cupped Shizuru's chin with her fingers and tilted her head upwards.

"I need you to look at me for this," was all she said. Shizuru's heart fluttered in her chest. How could she deny that?

"If that is what Natsuki wishes," Shizuru murmured, slipping back into the familiar pattern of speech she used with her old friend.

Natsuki nodded once and allowed her hand to drop away, the contact instantly missed by the other woman. Even now I can't stop myself from wanting her touch. Perhaps the glum thought had shown in Shizuru's eyes but now the biker's right eyebrow twitched slightly. She took a deep breath and she seemed to be preparing herself to continue her words. Shizuru wasn't sure what she'd say; part of her expected an explanation that everything had been done for her benefit, but there was that small hopeful part of her that wanted Natsuki to insist she wanted it as much as her.

"I guess I screwed up with what I said before so I'll try and explain properly," Natsuki began, one of her hands playing with the fabric of her uniform's sleeve. "I... I've never been good at looking at myself, you know. I suppose it's easier to focus on all the crap going on around you than it is to look at your own problems. When... I was so consumed by avenging my mother, I didn't have to think about anything else. It was an easy path to take. But now... now that's gone, I'm left with all these other areas of my life that are just a mystery to me. I've never dealt with them before."

Shizuru listened patiently but she was unsure what the other woman was trying to tell her with her words. Was she unable to love? Was that it? That wasn't a comforting thought. Even if that hadn't been the case, that wasn't the only issue that had pushed itself between them. She didn't let her internal musings show on her face though. She'd allow Natsuki to finish, at least. It couldn't be easy for the other woman to speak about her feelings, after all.

"I've done a lot of thinking; about how I feel and stuff." A look of frustration passed across Natsuki's face at her poor word choice. "And I'm sure that, even though I'm kind of scared, I want to share these new experiences with you."

There was that flicker of hope again. Natsuki's words were like a song to her ears and she let them echo in her mind for a while before replying. They soon became intermingled with her own doubts, however. "Natsuki is too kind," she said quietly, her eyes burning into unsure emerald. "But I cannot accept that kindness."

The other woman's brow furrowed in confusion. "Why the hell not?"

"If it were not for me pushing my feelings on you, I'm sure you wouldn't have these thoughts at all." Shizuru couldn't stop the icy tone that laced her words.

Natsuki merely stared at her for several long moments, processing this new point. "I don't... understand."

"Let me ask you this then, Natsuki: If you'd never known of how I felt towards you, would you have ever thought about being with me? Intimately, I mean."

The creases deepened on Natsuki's forehead. It was obviously something she'd never even thought about before. Still, she answered fairly quickly. "What does it matter? I did find out and that helped me discover my own feelings."

There was another quick flutter in her chest but Shizuru ignored it. "And what are those feelings?"

"I..." Natsuki hesitated, her gaze dropping as she withdrew into herself. That was proof enough that Shizuru's decision had been correct back in that old council room. "I... care about you."

The Kyoto woman smiled sadly at her companion. "I am glad for that. But you care differently for me than I care for you and that will always put us at odds with one another. I can't allow you to sacrifice yourself for my sake."

A spark of desperation glinted in those green eyes now and Natsuki shifted forwards slightly. Unexpectedly, she reached out and gripped the front of Shizuru's yukata with both hands. The chestnut haired woman's eyes widened at Natsuki's actions. There was an almost painful expression etched onto her old friend's face now. "Dammit, Shizuru. I want you just as much as you want me." Her cheeks flushed slightly as she spoke. "I want to be able to touch you, to hold you, to smell you. I can't face a day where I don't see your smile. Your real smile. I can't stop thinking about how your lips taste or the way your hair feels between my fingers." Her grip tightened further on the fabric in her hands, pulling the yukata loose at the front. "Tell me that isn't how you feel!"

Shizuru could only sit there in complete shock. A shiver had crept up her spine, leaving her skin feeling chilled and her heart was pounding. She let out a quivering breath, realising she had been holding it as Natsuki had been speaking. Out of everything she had expected to hear, she hadn't even dreamed of those words. She had never allowed herself that hope. She wanted to just melt into Natsuki's arms now but her fears still held her back. Images flickered through her mind and she felt herself stiffen.

The pink hue fading from Natsuki's skin now, she seemed to notice the turmoil within the other woman. "Shizuru..." She released her hold on the yukata and trailed her fingertips across Shizuru's cheek. "Why are you scared?"

Was it so easy to see? It seemed her mask shattered so easily around Natsuki and that was part of the problem. How was she supposed to be able to explain that to her though? "I.. don't want to do anything to hurt you again, Natsuki."

This only seemed to puzzle the dark haired woman and she idly brushed chestnut strands out of Shizuru's field of vision. "You haven't."

Shizuru's eyes closed as the sting of memories flooded her mind. "The Carnival," was all she could say.

"That wasn't you." Natsuki's words were soft and reassuring but Shizuru couldn't help but feel they were cruel.

"But it was..." Shizuru whispered.

Natsuki's hands slipped down to the Kyoto woman's shoulders now and she gently shook her, forcing Shizuru to open her eyes. "The Carnival made us all do crazy things. We were manipulated. How was that your fault?"

"Wouldn't it be nice if I could be absolved of all responsibility? But I cannot." Her tone had become firm now as she resolved to go on and finish what she was saying. "I wasn't being forced to kiss you when you were asleep, that was my own yearning. I wasn't being forced to strike down those who had harmed you; that is very much my own wish. My desire to keep you safe and to have you all to myself is an all-consuming thing. I fear that I will become that demon again, Natsuki."

"So that's what this is about?" the other woman asked although it was clear she didn't need an answer. She wasn't looking at her in either disgust or pity, as Shizuru had feared, but there was a fondness in her eyes. A kindness. "It doesn't matter;" she said softly.

"Of course it matters!" Shizuru insisted. "How can you be so dismiss-"

"Because I love you."

She froze. The slight tremor in Natsuki's voice, the blush on her cheeks, the intense burning in her emerald eyes; she wasn't lying. Shizuru's heart stammered in her chest, missing several beats and leaving her breathless. Her skin was tingling where Natsuki was gripping her and her mind had completely blanked.

"I have my own problems and you've helped me through so much so I can't expect you to be perfect, right? Everyone has their demons to fight and I'll be right here to help you with yours." Although a warm glow was filling her chest, Shizuru could still only stare at Natsuki, completely dumbstruck. "I trust in you, Shizuru."

The words were spoken with such tenderness it took the Kyoto woman's breath away. A tingling on her cheek made her realise a single tear had spilled onto her skin and was sliding down towards her jaw. She forcefully closed her eyes, screwing them shut to keep the emotion from pouring out. A reassuring hand moved to her cheek once more, a soft thumb pad stroking away the moisture there. Shizuru opened her eyes again to look upon the beautiful face in front of her.

"It's okay to be weak sometimes, you know," Natsuki said quietly and it seemed to Shizuru she was speaking to herself as much as she was to the other woman. Then a smile pulled at her lips. "Just with me though, 'kay?"

Shizuru couldn't help but return the smile, more tears rolling down the sides of her face. How could I have been so wrong? All her fears and doubts had so easily been pushed aside by Natsuki's words. She'd allowed those doubts to twist what the other woman was offering her into something completely different. She'd almost lost everything over nothing. She'd have to work on that side of her, she decided. It made her happy to think she'd have someone there who would help her.

Natsuki leaned forwards and wrapped her arms around Shizuru's shoulders, holding her tightly. The Kyoto woman gladly accepted the embrace and slipped her own arms around Natsuki's waist. The heat of her body comforted Shizuru and she inhaled deeply, taking in the other woman's scent. "No more running from me, okay?" Shizuru wasn't sure if Natsuki was referring to the physical or emotional running she'd done. "It doesn't suit you. Shizuru Fujino does not run."

She couldn't help the laugh that escaped her throat. It was a laugh of relief and it felt almost cathartic. She could feel her worries slipping away now and she let her senses focus completely on the woman holding onto her. The tickle of long, dark strands against her face made her smile widen and reached up to touch her fingertips to the ends of them. It felt as though they had been parted for months even though it had only been hours.

Natsuki pulled back a little to look at her, the fondness still in her eyes. There seemed to be a lot of things the younger woman wanted to say but Shizuru could read so much in that one look. Now Natsuki had clarified her own feelings and Shizuru had gotten past the obstacle of her doubts, it seemed too obvious to her. Why hadn't she been able to see it in her eyes before? Was she stopping herself? The movement of Natsuki's hands against her shoulders chased her thoughts away.

She watched as Natsuki's gaze flickered lower and Shizuru realised the front of her yukata had opened to reveal a sliver of pale flesh. She could see the change in those green eyes; they shifted from affectionate to yearning in an instant. A heat prickled under Shizuru's skin and she wondered if Natsuki had seen anything similar in her own eyes. It was overwhelming to think Natsuki wanted her body just as she had dreamed of touching the other woman.

Natsuki's eyes were on hers again in the next moment and there was an intensity in them that took Shizuru by surprise. Slender fingers toyed with the collar on Shizuru's yukata, sometimes brushing against the sensitive skin of her neck. "I belong to you, right?" Natsuki murmured, her voice dropping lower than it usually did.

Distracting as her actions were, Natsuki's words caught Shizuru's full attention. They echoed of the things Shizuru had said during The Carnival. Yet, they didn't feel menacing or unwanted in the slightest. It was a genuine question. "Yes," she confirmed. You are mine.

The tip of Natsuki's tongue darted out to relieve her dry lips. "Show me," she breathed.

A surge of primal need swirled in Shizuru's gut and her body obeyed Natsuki's command instantly. Using the strength she had gained through years of training with the naginata, she took a hold of the front of Natsuki's jacket and twisted her own body. The sudden action took the younger woman by surprise and Shizuru easily maneuvered her to the floor, pinning the body beneath her with her own weight. The arousal colouring Natsuki's skin and burning in her eyes showed she certainly hadn't disliked the aggressive move.

As much as Shizuru wanted to bask in the image of the other woman beneath her, she needed to feel more of Natsuki and so she ducked her head down, closing the distance between them. The raw desire building up in her and Natsuki's earlier command amalgamated into a fiery kiss, her lips crushing against the younger woman's. The movement of Natsuki's mouth was just as needy as hers, pushing her to deepen the kiss and force her tongue between the biker's lips.

It seemed Natsuki wasn't going to be submissive, however, and her hands soon found their way under the collar of Shizuru's yukata. The warmth of her hands against welcoming flesh caused the older woman to shudder and she whimpered into Natsuki's mouth. Their tongues slid against each other's, fighting for dominance.

Clearly not having access to enough of Shizuru's skin, Natsuki grasped the front of the yukata like she had earlier. This time she yanked the fabric apart, the material struggling against the obi wrapped around Shizuru's waist. The cooler air of the room met her heated skin and a slight shiver passed through her. The yukata slipped off of Shizuru's shoulders but she ignored it, instead pressing her body down onto Natsuki's. The assault on her attire ceased at that contact and a low moan rumbled against her lips. Encouraged by the sounds coming from Natsuki, she snaked a hand under the hooded sweater the younger woman always wore with her uniform.

Natsuki shuddered as fingers brushed across the skin of her stomach and Shizuru could sense her arousal heightening. She shifted slightly, feeling the purple cotton around her legs part so she could slip a leg over one of Natsuki's. Taking advantage of this, the younger woman brought her knee up, her thigh coming into contact with the heat burning between Shizuru's legs. She let out a sharp moan, instantly breaking the kiss. She held herself above the other woman, peering down at her with heavily lidded eyes, her hair hanging around Natsuki's face.

Emerald had darkened considerably and Natsuki's gaze roamed Shizuru's form hungrily. Removing the hand from under the younger woman's shirt, she brought it up to grip Natsuki's chin and turned her head to one side. Shizuru descended on the exposed flesh of the other woman's neck, her lips leaving a searing trail of kisses up towards her ear. Natsuki squirmed beneath her, grasping hands still travelling over her skin. Nails grazed across her shoulders and down her back now, causing Shizuru to arch her back. Natsuki's leg continued to press firmly against her groin and she decided she'd have to do something about that soon or she'd never be able to concentrate on her own task.

Settling on the adage, 'the best defence is a good offence', Shizuru bit down gently on the curve of Natsuki's neck. This did, indeed, stop the movement of her legs and the younger woman let out a sharp gasp as Shizuru lapped at the patch of skin she'd just nipped. Continuing her attack, the Kyoto woman hooked her thumb under the hem of her lover's shirt once more and yanked it upwards. Quickly placing her palm flat against the smooth skin that had been revealed, Shizuru murmured contentedly against Natsuki's neck. As she'd been doing that, the other woman's hands had evidently figured out how to unwrap the obi since Shizuru now felt the material at her waist loosening.

Those hands travelled back up to the yukata that restricted Shizuru's arm movements. At Natsuki's behest, the Kyoto woman let the fabric slip off her arms, exposing her torso to the younger woman. Not that Natsuki could take advantage of the view, since Shizuru's ministrations on her neck kept her gaze firmly rooted in the opposite direction. That didn't stop her hands exploring where her eyes could not go, however, and Shizuru's skin tingled as fingertips brushed across her sternum. She took Natsuki's earlobe between her teeth and flicked the tip of her tongue across it repeatedly, receiving a satisfying whimper in response.

The assault on her ear didn't prevent Natsuki from exploring Shizuru's body though and she brought a hand down between their bodies and cupped one of the Kyoto woman's breasts. The sudden pressure caused Shizuru to falter and she pulled away suddenly to let out a gasp. This allowed her lover to turn her head and take in the view of Shizuru naked from the waist up. Natsuki nibbled lightly on her bottom lip as her emerald gaze mapped every curve she could see.

Shizuru could feel heat rise to her cheeks at that smouldering gaze and she felt as though she might melt under it. Continuing to tantalisingly hold her lip between her teeth, Natsuki's eyes settled on where her thumb was now tracing circles around a hardening nipple. Sitting up and straightening, Shizuru closed her eyes and tilted her head back before pressing her breast more firmly against the other woman's hand. Tender wasn't what she needed right at that moment. She wanted to be taken just as much as she needed to mark Natsuki as her own.

Seeming to sense this, the younger woman covered both of Shizuru's breasts with her hands and kneaded them. Natsuki lifted herself up so she could wrap her arms around the other woman's waist and press her lips to the valley between her breasts. Shizuru let out a satisfied sigh and buried her fingers in her lover's silky tresses. The younger woman left light kisses across the curve of Shizuru's breasts, interspersing them with little nips and licks, driving her into a deeper haze of frustration and need. As she did this, Natsuki clutched at the crumpled yukata, attempting to free the rest of her lover's body from its hold.

The rest of the garment soon fell away from Shizuru's hips and it didn't take Natsuki's hands long to roam over the exposed skin. Her impatience growing, the older woman gripped the sides of her lover's face, causing Natsuki to pause and look up at her. Without warning, Shizuru ducked her head down to steal another kiss, finding eager lips and a probing tongue. As teeth grazed lips and tongues stroked each other, Natsuki dragged her nails down across Shizuru's thighs, causing the other woman to tremble under her touch.

Shizuru felt her lover hook her fingers under the fabric of her last remaining item of clothing. Feeling a sudden need rise up within her, the Kyoto woman dropped her hands to cover Natsuki's lightly. Breaking the kiss, the other woman peered up at her with uncertainty. Shizuru smiled at her reassuringly before pulling Natsuki's hands away and bringing one to her lips. She pressed her lips to the back of it before nibbling on the first knuckle.

"Shizuru?" came Natsuki's raspy voice. The way it had dropped made Shizuru's stomach flip.

Flicking her tongue out across the skin her teeth had just given their attention to, Shizuru gave her lover meaningful look. "I need to feel you," she murmured against Natsuki's skin and pulled purposefully on the orange jacket with her free hand.

Natsuki's eyes widened momentarily with realisation but the embarrassment passed quickly and she retrieved her hand before slipping the outer layer of her uniform off. As soon as it was off, Shizuru's hands moved to pull up the sweater and Natsuki lifted her arms to make the task easier. She paused once she'd tossed the garment aside, her gaze travelling over the milky skin of Natsuki's chest and the black bra that hid her breasts from Shizuru. That won't do at all.

Going to work instantly on the offending article of clothing, she could sense her lover's amusement at how focused she was. She easily unclasped the bra and removed it, freeing her prize from their prison. Shizuru eyed the soft mounds hungrily, her hands moving to them instantly. Cupping one and squeezing, she allowed her free hand to explore the other breast more leisurely. She caressed the sensitive skin with her fingertips, allowing them to flutter across the pink bud at the peak of Natsuki's breast from time to time.

Her lover's hands were on her thighs now, nails digging lightly into the flesh there in reaction to Shizuru's teasing caresses. Taking the nipple between her fingers, she applied enough pressure to cause Natsuki to gasp out but not enough to hurt her. She then took to flicking her thumb across the hardened nub as she watched the delightful reactions on Natsuki's face. The collecting storm of desire in the pit of her stomach told her she needed more, however, and she pressed her palm against the other woman's chest, pushing her onto her back once more.

Not allowing Natsuki time to react, Shizuru tugged on her lover's skirt, easily slipping it down past her legs. After discarding it, she decided to relieve the younger woman of her shoes and socks as well, which Natsuki let her do. Pleased with her task, she allowed her gaze to travel the full length of her lover's body, taking in each curve and bend of her breathtaking form. Barely touching Natsuki, she trailed her fingertips along her legs as she made her way back up her body. The other woman shifted under the touch, her brow furrowing with frustration.

Her hand hovered over the black fabric of Natsuki's underwear, tracing circles over the top of them from one hip to the other. She could feel her lover's gaze burning into her but she focused on the unseen patterns her fingers were making across the cotton. Smirking at the low growl that drifted to her ears, Shizuru finally looked up at her lover's face. Natsuki's eyes were narrowed at her, the darkened irises barely visible. She reached down to the older woman's hand and gripped it tightly.

"Dammit, Shizuru, I said show me," she growled out the words, the frustration evident in her voice.

This only widened Shizuru's smirk but she wasn't about to turn Natsuki down now. She needed it just as much as the young biker did. Without answering, the Kyoto woman gripped the thin fabric between her fingers and tugged the underwear down the same journey the skirt had made. The scent of Natsuki's arousal instantly filled her nose and a surge of desire shot down to her gut, clouding her mind. Having removed her lover's remaining garment, she did the same with her own, too impatient to have Natsuki fumble over it, as endearing as that might have been.

She could see her own hunger mirrored in Natsuki's eyes now. Shizuru lowered her body onto her lover's, the overwhelming desire to have that contact making her act without conscious thought. The sensation of both their bodies pressed together without any barriers was indescribable. She had often fantasised about this but she could never have imagined how amazing it would feel. Her pulse quickened as strong arms encircled her waist, the heat from Natsuki's body sending her mind into a maddening haze. She held some of her weight off her lover by propping herself up on her forearms.

As she peered down at the other woman, she felt skin slide against skin and one of Natsuki's legs slipped in between her. She whimpered as bared flesh pressed against her pubic bone, her pulse quickening. Relaxing into the position with her lover, she let her own leg settle against the collection of dark hairs at Natsuki's groin. She felt a dampness against her thigh and she let out a low murmur at the knowledge of what she'd done to the younger girl.

Shizuru began to rock against Natsuki, encouraged by how she let out short, sharp breaths as she pressed against her each time. As a side effect, however, she was fanning her own desires by lowering herself onto Natsuki's thigh repeatedly. Soon, they fell into a heated rhythm, their bodies allied with a common goal. She lowered her lips to her lover's, her tongue dipping into her mouth, tasting the sweetness there. Tangling her fingers in the black strands that were splayed out across the floor beneath them, Shizuru continued to rock, her hips bucking at the apex of her movement.

The muscles in her stomach tightened as she ground herself against her lover's thigh and a little voice at the back of her mind was warning her she'd lose control soon, but the overpowering sensations stemming from her groin drowned the thought out. She found she didn't care, this was too important. Natsuki's hands slid down her back and came to rest on her behind, urging her lover to rock with more force, encouraging the pace to quicken.

Shizuru didn't disappoint the other woman and moved against her with increased fervour, their breasts sliding against each other's and adding to the myriad of intoxicating sensations she was feeling. She could feel perspiration collecting on her skin now and it tickled the curve of her back as she arched with each push against her lover. Concentrating on watching Natsuki's face as various expressions of pleasure flickered across it was becoming increasingly difficult. Her heart was hammering in her chest and the pulse of need in her gut was threatening to tip her over into bliss but she refused to go without the other woman.

She clenched her jaw as she focused on retaining control, her eyes rooted to the enchanting vision of Natsuki's skin flushing an increasingly reddening colour. The mingling scents of their wetness reached her as she slipped against Natsuki's leg, her own arousal easing the process. She found herself biting down on her bottom lip as she neared a precipice she wasn't yet ready to tumble over. Natsuki's quiet moans weren't helping either.

As if that wasn't making things hard enough, she noticed too late that Natsuki had forced a hand between their bodies and curled her fingers around to press against her clit. She almost lost her strength completely at the shock of pleasure, only just managing to stop herself from falling onto her lover. Her rocking faltered then and she tried to steady herself but Natsuki's fingers gave her no chance. The continual assault on her clit forced small whimpers from her throat and she could feel the tension building to a crescendo in the pit of her stomach.

"Nn..." She attempted to object to her lover taking control, to tell her that she wanted them to climax together, but her body refused to cooperate. At that moment, it was only listening to her lover. The garbled sound caused Natsuki to pause for a few seconds, which gave Shizuru the time to renew her own efforts with added vigor. She brought her leg up against the other woman with extra force, causing Natsuki to squeeze her eyes shuts and let out a short cry. Her brow furrowed as Shizuru rocked against her again.

Yet, that didn't cease Natsuki's ministrations and she pressed the tip of her forefinger against Shizuru, causing her to flinch from the sensitivity of the small bundle of nerves nestled there. Without giving the older woman a break, Natsuki slid her hand down and slipped two fingers into her. Shizuru shuddered against her lover, her muscles clamping down instantly on those fingers before adjusting to their presence. She almost lost control completely then but biting down more firmly on her lip allowed her to retain at least a little.

Now her rocking was causing Shizuru to ride Natsuki's fingers as well, which she knew couldn't last much longer, no matter how much she tried to fight it. But it felt so good and she didn't want it to end. Just knowing Natsuki was inside her was enough to make her heart stutter dangerously and her breathing to catch in her throat. The sensation of her slender fingers slipping in and out of her, brushing against her front wall, coming into contact with her most sensitive area occasionally, was the single more intensive and perfect feeling she had ever felt.

With her free hand, Natsuki gripped the back of Shizuru's neck and pulled her down, breaking the positioning she'd barely been able to sustain. She flopped onto her lover but they still moved against one another. Breath tickling her ear told her Natsuki's mouth was close.

"Let go," she whispered, her voice raspy and almost unrecognisable.

With her hand pumping into Shizuru and Natsuki's sultry words, that was enough to tip the older woman over. She felt as though a building tidal wave suddenly came crashing down on top of her and she heard a high pitched buzzing in her ears as her entire body tensed. She could feel her muscles grip Natsuki's fingers and pulse around them. Every one of her nerves tingled with the overwhelming euphoria she felt. As she trembled against her lover, she felt a sting at her shoulder and she was vaguely aware of Natsuki's teeth against her skin there.

The younger woman's body was echoing her own now and she realised her body's movements had sparked Natsuki's own orgasm. She could feel her lover's fingers twitch unintentionally inside her, drawing out the aftershocks of her climax. She let out a shuddering breath as her body went limp, soon followed by Natsuki's. They lay there, gasping for breath and basking in the aura of contentment that surrounded them. A smile pulled unbidden on Shizuru's lips and she snuggled her face into the crook of Natsuki's neck, breathing in her scent.

She mouthed three words against the skin there, a habit from the days when she'd had to keep her feelings deeply hidden. She felt Natsuki's hand slip up from her neck and stroke her hair. They stayed like that for a few moments, allowing their minds to emerge from the haze of cloud they had been enveloped in.

"Me too," Natsuki whispered.

Shizuru blinked several times, her heart skipping a beat. She didn't miss the meaning in those words. Natsuki had somehow known exactly what her silent declaration had been, even in her distracted state. Perhaps she could feel the words. Shizuru couldn't miss the power of what Natsuki had said, even if she hadn't spoken the exact phrase. She realised she didn't have to hear it from her lover, it was enough to know she meant it.

A warmth swelled in her chest and she wiggled off of Natsuki, letting her body slip off to one side but leaving one leg draped across her hips. She noticed the other woman made no attempt to remove her fingers from their current location. She tried to ignore the sensations the slightest movement of those fingers caused and, instead, focused on the face of the woman she loved.

She could feel the beaming smile on her own face and Natsuki couldn't help but return it. It was good to see Natsuki smiling like that but it was better to know she was the reason for it. She felt almost lighter now, freer. She knew that even if they both had problems they would have to work at, they'd be able to manage together. Even though Shizuru's fears hadn't disappeared, they didn't feel so terrible with Natsuki at her side and she had some genuine hope for the future. Their future.


Final Notes: So there we have it, I finally completed this story! After almost three days holed up in front of my laptop (apart from breaks raiding on World of Warcraft, ahem) I've finally managed to get this chapter out of my head and onto the page. It was a much slower process than any of my other stories since this is such an emotional piece. I've found I'm a bit too attached to the characters (particularly in this story) and so writing the more angsty parts were hard for me. Made me a sad panda. :( That was partially why I decided to make this the final chapter, aside from the fact that it seems like a natural place to close the curtain on this pair.

I hope I've managed to make it flow okay and fit in with the rest of the chapters. As I said at the beginning, I've been away from both this story and the fandom (not to mention writing smut -le gasp-) for a long time and it's possible I've lost touch with them both. Anyway, I do hope you enjoyed this final instalment, along with the rest of the story. :)