A/N: Hello everyone! First of all Merry Belated Christmas and Happy New Year!

I truly apologize for having this fic on hiatus for almost a year if not more. But I was having a hard time and also I've been sick for the past weeks – everyone stares at shezaei – would you believe days? Anyways, now finally here's the second and last chapter of this fic. Remember that this one it's based on the ballet of 'The Nutcracker', however I've taken some elements of other Nutcracker stories and versions. Take this one as a late Christmas gift. And don't worry, since I've recovered my inspiration, I'm working on my other fics too.

Also I'd like to thank to all of those who had added me in their favorites or alerts. I truly appreciate your support.

With nothing else to say, I leave you with this chapter. Remember that it's AU with Mai Otome characters. And as usual, thanks to leebot-sensei for betaing.

Enjoy and don't forget to review!

Disclaimer: I don't own Mai Hime or Mai Otome. Will keep asking Santa for it…

The Natcracker – ACT II

Shizuru and the Natcracker were seated in the sleigh, waiting to arrive at wherever they were going. They were silent, but it was not uncomfortable, it was more out of nervousness since no one knew what to say. Shizuru didn't know how to act around the attractive Natcracker. And the same applied for the Natcracker; just once in her life she had been around a pretty girl. It wasn't a romantic situation back then; she was helping the girl, but it turned out badly. She couldn't remember exactly all the details of what happened at that time, though; everything was a blur to her. At this sudden flash of memories, her head started to ache so she brought one of her hands to it and leaned on it. Shizuru, upon seeing this reaction, gently placed a hand on the shoulder of the Natcracker and, leaning a little, she asked in a concerned voice.

- "Are you okay? Are you hurt somewhere else?"

- "No, I'm fine, just a small headache. It must be because of the battle." – answered the Natcracker with a small smile.

- "I see. I hope we arrive soon so we can treat your other wounds." – said Shizuru looking briefly at the ribbon that was still tied to her Natcracker's arm.

Some more minutes passed in silence until, not far away from where they were, a powerful flash of light could be seen. The two girls saw that they were flying directly toward it. However, neither of them was scared of that light, as they could perceive that it was warm and had some sort of magical air to it. Once they had crossed the portal of light they noticed that in front of them was the most beautiful scenery they had ever seen. They were in a forest that had Christmas trees covered by the snow and snowflakes were falling. It looked nothing like the forests that were around town; this one was more impressive, and it seemed so mystical. In fact it looked as if the snow was not mere snow but something else. Shizuru also had this thought, so when they got off of the sleigh she reached one of her fingers out and took some of this snow on it and then licked her finger. What she didn't expect was this flavor of it.

- "Ara…this is sugar."

- "What?" – asked the Natcracker perplexed. Reaching out one finger, she did the same as the brunette. – "Amazing. What place are we at that the snow is sugar?" – said the Natcracker out loud.

- "Where else could you be but in the Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar of course." – replied a friendly voice.

Shizuru and the Natcracker turned around to see the owner of this voice. It was a girl a few years older than them; said girl had violet eyes and orange hair. By her side was a young man that had black hair and his eyes were the same. Both were dressed in white as pure as the snow and their outfits seemed as if they were sparkling like diamonds. They looked like a princess and her prince. The Natcracker was a bit defensive so she asked.

- "Who are you?"

- "Ah! I'm sorry your Majesty. Where are my manners? My name is Mai and I'm the Queen of Snow." – said the girl bowing elegantly in front of the couple.

- "My name is Reito and I'm the King of Snow." – said the young man also bowing in front of them in a gallant manner.

The couple was left speechless. If these people were Queen and King respectively then why were they bowing in front of them? That were merely a couple of strangers, or that's what they thought. Once the Queen and King were up, a girl much younger than them that had amber eyes and black short hair with two braids on each side of her face came running to them. She was also wearing a white dress that looked like one the ballet dancers use.

- "MAIIIIII!" – yelled the girl, who then hugged the other girl by the waist; then looking up to her with bright and exciting eyes she asked – "Any sight of them yet?"

Mai smiled at the girl and said in a motherly tone.

- "Behave Mikoto, they are here. In front of us in fact." – replied the girl glancing quickly to Shizuru and the Natcracker.

The girl that just arrived turned her head towards them, and upon seeing them she released the orange-haired girl and also bowed in front of the couple.

- "Everything is ready your Majesty! Everyone is waiting for you." – said the girl in a cheerful tone.

Both Shizuru and the Natcracker had a confused expression on their faces that read: 'what is she talking about?'; so when Mai saw them she patted Mikoto on the head and said to her.

- "Mikoto, please go to the palace and tell them that her Majesty and her companion will be arriving in a few. King Reito and I will escort them all the way there."

- "Okay Mai!"

After hearing that order, the girl ran off the same way she came the first time, her figure quickly disappearing in the distance. Seeing that the girls still had the same expression on their faces, Mai decided to fill them in.

- "You and your companion are expected at the palace your Majesty."

- "That much I heard. But can you tell me why it is that you call me that way and bow in front of me when you hold the title of queen? And why is it that Shizuru and I are expected in the palace?"

- "Well, the answer is quite simple really. I might be the Queen of Snow, but you, you hold a higher rank and position than me. You are the ruler of all this land as the Prince of Dolls. And the reason as to why you are expected along with Lady Shizuru" – said Mai repeating the name that the Natcracker had used to refer to the other girl – "is because we have heard of your heroic battle against the queen of Mice. Especially this girl here, what she did was very brave, so we are holding a ball in your honor."

- "Shall we go then? They are expecting you and it's getting late." – said Reito in a polite voice.

- "But…"

When Shizuru noticed that the Natcracker was about to complain, she took the hand of the Natcracker and, giving it a soft squeeze, she whispered to her beloved.

- "Let's go, it would be very impolite of us. Besides, it sounds fun."

Looking at Shizuru, straight at her ruby eyes, the Natcracker saw a spark of excitement in them, and also a bit of pleading. Releasing a sigh and then smiling at the brunette she said.

- "You are right. It might be fun. Although I still don't understand much of what is happening here, if it makes you happy, let's get going then."

The words made Shizuru blush a little, so she lowered her head and, smiling too, she said.

- "Thank you…Natcracker."

When the green-eyed girl heard those words, she couldn't help but blush too and she moved her head to the side in order to hide it.

Mai and Reito, after seeing the small interaction, simply smiled at each other and, turning around, they began to lead the way to the palace. It really wasn't a long walk, since just some minutes later they were in front of a huge castle that was as bright as if it was made of gold and precious gems. The majestic wooden doors opened as soon as the Queen and King of Snow approached. Shizuru and the Natcracker walked behind them, still holding hands, so when they crossed the doors of the palace they were marveled by the sight, so much that they didn't notice that the minute they had crossed those doors, their clothes had changed and the Natcracker's injured arm had healed. Shizuru was dressed in a beautiful long lavender dress that reached all the way down to her knees and didn't have much cleavage. A ribbon that was a little bit darker than the dress was at her waist adjusting to her curves, and she was wearing ballet slippers. On the other hand, the Natcracker was dressed in a blue military suit similar to what she had when she was a doll. And attached to her waist there was a sword. The moment they entered through those doors, everyone's attention was turned to them. The Natcracker was very nervous since never before did she have so much attention directed at her. Shizuru on the other side was just amused that she was being treated with such importance; after all, she was like a foreigner in this land. However, unlike the Natcracker she wasn't affected by all the attention she was getting since back at home she had quite some admirers. Seeing that her Natcracker was not used to this situation she squeezed tighter the raven haired girl's hand and said in a whisper.

- "Everything is fine, I'm here with you."

The tone she used was so caring and full of tenderness that the Natcracker felt her body relax in that moment and be filled with confidence and also a warmness that she had not felt before. The Natcracker turned to Shizuru and offered her arm in a handsome manner along with a sincere and charming smile. Shizuru was a bit surprised by this action but gladly took it after giving the Natcracker a beautiful smile in return and began to walk side by side with her prince. With every step they gave, all the people that were in the room bowed before them showing their respect to their Majesty and her gorgeous lady. Shizuru noticed that even if her Natcracker was showing more confidence, she still had not much of a clue of what to do in this situation. Giggling in her mind she once more whispered to her raven haired girl a piece of advice.

- "Don't worry, they like you. So, maybe you could wave at them a little?"

- "Eh? Ah…right. Maybe I could…" – replied the Natcracker sheepishly.

And so she began to wave her hand a little bit, greeting the people that most likely were her followers. Shizuru did the same to show her support to her beloved. What she didn't know is that she gained more respect by this simple action.

Once they reached the thrones that were at the end of the room, the Natcracker guided Shizuru to one and motioned the girl to sit on it. Once Shizuru was seated, the Natcracker proceeded to take the seat next to her. Mai and Reito on the other hand remained standing in front of them. Then they turned around and Reito said in a strong voice.

- "Let's applaud our Majesty and her Lady for their heroic actions!"

All the people in the room began to cheer and yell in admiration for their ruler. Once it subsided, Mai turned around to Natsuki and motioned her to say something. Natsuki was taken aback by it. She was not really a speech person, but seeing that she had no choice, she stood up and, clearing her throat in order to control her embarrassment, she said.

- "Thank you everyone for your support…" – she stopped there since she didn't know what else to say, glancing distractedly to her side. There she noticed that Shizuru was looking at her with so much admiration and love. That gave her inspiration to continue – "I'm grateful for this, but really, the one that you should be thankful to is Shizuru. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be here right now. So, if you allow me, I'd like to dedicate and hold this ball in her honor." - said the Natcracker with so much determination and kindness that everyone in the room cheered louder once more. When the room was silent again the Natcracker raised her hand and ordered – "Let the ball commence!"

Not a second after the order was said, the orchestra began to play and everyone began to dance in the hall. The Natcracker was about to take her seat when Mai came to her and said in a low voice.

- "Your Majesty, I think it would be proper if you do this first dance with Lady Shizuru."

The Natcracker was left dumbstruck by the suggestion. She? Dance? It was an impossible task. She was about to refuse when she glanced to her side to see Shizuru, but then she couldn't take her eyes off of her and the King of Snow. He was chatting with her and Shizuru was trying to smile at something he said no less! This sent a shiver of jealousy all across the Natcracker's body. She wasn't sure why she had reacted this way, but it also happened that time when she was about to fight with the Queen of Mice. The Natcracker walked to them as Mai simply saw her retiring, a smile crossed her face. When the Natcracker made it to Shizuru and the King she cleared her throat to make her presence known. What she didn't know was that Shizuru was aware of her all time, even if she had been talking with the King Reito; from time to time she shot a glance to her beloved Natcracker and saw how she too was talking with the Queen. The Natcracker was staring intensely at her now. Their eyes locked and neither of them could help but get lost in the gaze of the other. That is, until the Natcracker found her voice and asked the other girl while stretching out her hand.

- "Would you concede me the honor of this dance, Shizuru?"

Shizuru stared at the hand for a second before taking it with her own and smiling the most precious and sincere smile to her charming prince. She stood up and, escorted by her Natcracker, they made their way to the center of the hall. The people around them stepped aside and allowed the Royal pair to dance freely as they watched amazed. The orchestra began to play a soft and slow melody. Neither Shizuru nor the Natcracker knew what was going on around them. They simply had eyes for each other and no-one else. Shizuru and her Natcracker began to dance a wonderful and romantice ballet piece. Shizuru noted how her Natcracker danced with such strength yet elegance. Not even her dancing partners at school possessed this grace. The way her Natcracker held her, lifted her, followed her every move in perfect sync; as if she was trying to let her know that she wouldn't let go no matter what.

The Natcracker for her part was also shocked at how she was dancing; she didn't even know she could do this. She thought for a bit, and then she understood that it was all thanks to Shizuru's influence. Her delicacy, sweetness, beauty, charm; there weren't enough words to describe how precious Shizuru was. She simply knew that this girl had changed her and that she wanted to be with her no matter what. So entranced were they with each other that they barely noticed when the music had stopped, making them stop too. They just became aware of their surroundings when everyone clapped and cheered happily, watching them in awe for this extraordinary performance. Shizuru smiled at them as the Natcracker offered a shy smile while scratching the back of her head.

The Natcracker offered her hand again to Shizuru who gladly took it, and they headed back to their thrones. The couple watched the celebration go on. It looked like everyone was enjoying it to the fullest. That was when King Reito decided to make a brief pause and make an announcement; it seemed that some of the guests that were invited wanted to do a special performance.

The first ones were a couple of girls. One of them was wearing glasses and had short black hair and gray eyes; the other one had long brown hair and blue eyes. They were dressed in a black tuxedo and a black dress respectively; both outfits had a touch of red in them.

- "My name is Chie, your Majesty, and my partner is Aoi. We come from the Chocolate Mountains of Fuuka."

After they greeted their majesties, they began performing a representative dance from their native land. Once it ended, another pair of guests appeared. One was a bit shorter than the Natcracker; she had short red hair and lime eyes, the other was a little bit taller and had short and wavy light brown hair with light violet eyes.

- "We are Ahn and Nao your Majesty, and we would like to perform for you a dance from the Coffee Plains of An Nam."

The moment the music started to play, they began to dance in a somewhat exotic fashion that enchanted most of the guests but the Natcracker and Shizuru, who simply enjoyed the performance.

After them, another couple came in; this time it was a boy and a girl. The boy had brownish hair and lavender eyes, which Shizuru noted were very similar to those of the Queen of Snow. On the other hand, the girl had her hair in a pigtail on the back; her hair was a kind of dark and greenish, while her eyes were deep purple.

- "I'm Takumi and she is Akira. We come from the Tea Forest of Zipang and we hope you enjoy our dance."

This couple also offered their respect to their Majesties with a native dance from their hometown. When they were done, a girl with glasses came in; she had blonde hair and green eyes. Her outfit seemed to be warmer than the others Shizuru and the Natcracker had seen so far.

- "I am Sara, from the Nougat Plateaus of Aries. It's a pleasure to be performing for you."

After she greeted the couple she offered a joyful and skilled dance like the others.

Following her, around twelve women came in. There were three in particular that were quite outstanding, since they were the ones leading the other women. One of them had short pink hair and green eyes that went by the name of Fumi; another had very short light brown hair and light blue eyes whose name was Yukariko, and the last one, who seemed to be the leader of them all, had grayish hair and light green eyes was better known as Miss Maria. They were wearing dresses that seemed as it they were made of flowers. After bowing respectfully to the royal pair, they began to dance to the rhythm of the music, in a lovely waltz from Garderobe Fields.

The ball went on, and also the Queen and King of Snow greeted the couple with a splendid dance. Even the small girl they saw before, whose name was Mikoto danced for them, and they discovered that she was a Sugar Fairy. A very suitable role for her, both girls thought.

Just after the dances concluded, the King Reito took this chance again to take and give a break to the orchestra. Everyone decided to take this moment of calmness to go and feast at the sweets table. Well, everyone but the royal couple. The Natcracker simply wanted to spend more time alone with Shizuru.

- "Are you enjoying yourself?" – asked the Natcracker out of the blue.

Shizuru smiled warmly at her and replied.

- "Yes, I am. It's rather lively. But the reason I'm really enjoying it is because you are with me."

The Natcracker blushed at the brunette's words.

- "Thanks… but…" – said the raven haired girl.

- "But…?"

- "I should be the one saying that." – answered the Natcracker blushing deeply.

What she didn't expect was the blush she earned from Shizuru's porcelain face. This made her smile affectionately at her companion.

They chatted a little bit longer until Mai came to them and announced that it was time for story telling. The King Reito decided to begin with it, so he once more began to tell how their Majesty had defeated the awful Queen of Mice. When he was done, Mai continued with another story and so on the other guests did the same.

Then one of them, the one that had glasses and short black hair decided to speak.

- "Would Lady Shizuru give us the grace to hear one story from her lips?"

- "Chie, that's too forward, even for you." – said her companion from before.

- "Even so…"

- "I agree with Chie, it would be a pleasure to hear a story from Lady Shizuru." – said the brown-haired girl with light violet eyes.

- "See? Ahn agrees with me."

- "Of course she would agree. She's much worse than you Chie." – replied with a chuckle the girl with blonde hair and green eyes.

- "Sara knows me so well."

- "I must say that even I am curious as to what she would say." – say one redhead.

- "Well, that's something amusing. Don't you think so Akira?" – said the boy with lavender eyes to his companion with a smile.

- "Yes. For Nao to actually be curious is somewhat unique." – replied the girl with greenish hair.

- "Hey! That's very impolite of you people!" – replied the red-haired girl, crossing her arms over her chest.

The action caused everyone to laugh. Shizuru watched the display amused. Even if she was still considering herself a foreigner, she was now being included in the party amenities in a friendly manner. The woman with the grayish hair simply sighed at the behavior of those girls.

- "Pardon their poor conduct Lady Shizuru."

- "It's okay, I don't really mind. In fact, I'm flattered that I was asked to participate in your story telling."

- "Then please go ahead." – said the oldest woman.

Shizuru stood up from her chair and before she began with her tale, she watched how the Natcracker had all her attention focused on her. She didn't know why, but when she saw her charming Natcracker staring at her like that, an old story that her Aunt Midori had told her many years ago when she was younger came to her mind. So without thinking she began.

- "This story takes place many years ago in a far away land in a big and magnificent castle. In there worked an inventor and artist for the imperial family. Her name was Midori, " – Shizuru always smiled amused at the coincidence of her 'aunt' name's and this character's who happened to be the same – "and with her also worked her niece Natsuki." – when Shizuru said this name, The Natcracker felt a sudden familiarity with it – "Despite being an inventor, Midori didn't have many responsibilities in the castle, much to her dismay; however she still enjoyed working there. That was until the princess' birthday was approaching. The King ordered to make a marvelous celebration for his daughter; it had to be as appealing as she was. Although the princess was selfish, she was adored for her looks; she was described as a goddess. On the day of the princess' birthday something horrid happened." – Shizuru paused to see the faces of all the ones attending the party. She was happy to see that she had their attention, especially from the Natcracker, and then she continued. – "The Queen of Mice was jealous of the princess' beauty so she ordered all the mice hidden in the castle to crash the party and cause sabotage. The King of course became completely enraged by this, so he ordered Midori and Natsuki to hunt down all the mice. Midori and Natsuki were successful in capturing all the mice, except for the queen and her escort. Of course the queen was not happy at all, so in revenge she cast a spell on the princess, causing her to become dreadfully ugly. At this, The King once more ordered his inventor to find a cure for her daughter, but if she was to fail, she would be decapitated." – some gasped at hearing this. – "Hastily, Midori searched for a cure with the help of her niece. Soon, they discovered that the fabled Otome Nut could cure the princess, on the condition that it had to be cracked open with the teeth of a young man or woman who was pure. The King gave the order for everybody to apply, and he made the promise that the one who succeeded at curing his beloved daughter would have her hand in marriage. However, the Otome Nut was so hard that all the men and women's teeth shattered upon trying to crack it open. That was because the Otome Nut would become as hard as a rock when a person that wasn't pure at heart wanted to crack it, so only a person that was as pure as an otome would be able to open it."

In that moment The Natcracker felt her head ache once more, this time worse than before and, just as before, she was holding her head in her hands. A flash of memories were forming in her mind at hearing Shizuru's tale. Why was she feeling this sense of deja-vú all of a sudden? Why was she feeling so familiar with this story?

In the meantime, Shizuru continued her story, unaware of her Natcracker's turmoil.

- "So, after many attempts, it seemed that no one was able or suitable to accomplish this task. This caused The King to be enraged once more, ordering for Midori to be punished at once; however, Natsuki stepped in to save her aunt's life. Natsuki succeeded in cracking the Otome Nut open between her teeth and gave it to the princess, successfully breaking the spell she had on her. The Queen of Mice was infuriated at this turn of events, so in return, she cast a spell on Natsuki, turning her into the Prince of Dolls. Natsuki collapsed and transformed into a nutcracker. During the commotion, The Queen of Mice took her chance and escaped from the castle swearing revenge upon the now-transformed Natsuki. Afterwards, Midori was exiled from the land along with her niece; her crime – as The King put it – was trying to pass a doll off as a fiancée for the princess, while The King celebrated for his now-cured daughter."

Upon hearing this part of the story, The Natcracker opened her eyes widely, realization hitting her. She whispered the name that Shizuru had said before.

- "Natsuki…"

All was clear now. Why she vaguely remembered being in front of a pretty girl before and having it turn out badly. This was the reason! She was THAT Natsuki. She was the one who helped the princess. She was the one who had been cursed with The Queen of Mice's spell. That was also why when they met previously The Queen of Mice showed so much hatred towards her. She stared blankly into space, still unable to believe this revelation. She was the niece of the inventor Midori, she was Kruger Natsuki.

When Shizuru finished with her story, she noticed that some of the guests were somewhat disconcerted at the way the story ended. After all, she too had complained to her aunt Midori that it was not such a happy ending, but her aunt always assured her that it was not the 'real' end of the story, and when Shizuru asked about it, her aunt always answered that the spell could be broken when evil was defeated and the prince of dolls won the heart of a fair maiden and that's what she told her audience. It wouldn't be good to spoil this wonderful celebration with a sad story, after all. After she told them that, they did seem more pleased. Everyone thanked Shizuru for her story and she offered a small bow to her audience. She then turned around to find her beloved Natcraker holding her head in her hands and staring at nowhere in particular, her features showing distress and shock; she had never seen her Natcracker in such a state. She walked at a fast pace to the raven-haired girl's side and knelt; placing one of her hands on the shoulder of the other girl, she began to shake her softly while saying.

- "Natcracker! Are you not feeling well? What happened?" – when she received no response, she began to feel nervous, so she called her once more. – "Natcracker!"

- "Natsuki…" – whispered the green-eyed girl.

- "What?"

- "I'm…" – was all she could say before she was interrupted by Mai.

- "Sorry to interrupt, your Majesty, the party is about to end and we would like you to conclude it with the last dance along with Lady Shizuru."

- "But, she's not…" – Shizuru tried to say, but she was interrupted by The Natcracker.

- "I'm okay, Shizuru." – the Natcracker reassured her, then turning to Mai she said – "I'll be there in a moment."

After offering a bow, Mai took her leave and went with Reito to the dance floor and started to waltz with him. For the meantime Shizuru was still knelt by the Natcracker's side, concerned for her current state.

- "You should have told her that you were not feeling well." – said Shizuru in a worried tone.

- "I'm better now, much better." – she then locked eyes with Shizuru and said – "Thanks to you."

Shizuru blushed at the words; she didn't know why but she felt that they had a deeper meaning. The Natcracker rose from her throne and once more extended her hand towards Shizuru. Without hesitation, Shizuru took it and once again they headed to the center of the room to share what would be the last dance of the gala. Shizuru didn't know why but she felt a little bit restless. She felt as if it would be the last dance with her beloved Natcracker. She tried to put those thoughts and feelings aside but something deep inside her was not letting her to do so. Once they were in the middle of the room, the orchestra started to play another romantic dance. The Natcracker locked eyes with Shizuru and offered her the most sincere, gentle and loving smile of all. Shizuru couldn't help but blush profusely under the gaze and features of the raven-haired girl. The Natcracker, upon seeing Shizuru blush, smiled more widely and danced with her dearly beloved companion. The dance had a slow pace, so the Natcracker decided to be a little bit bolder and brought Shizuru closer to her, so Shizuru's head was resting on the Natcracker's chest. Shizuru could feel the breathing of the Natcracker on her ear; she could hear her quick heartbeat, feel her warmness, and feel the tenderness of the hug; she was in pure bliss, being with the one she loved the most. Shizuru wasn't surprised at this thought, she knew already that she had fallen in love with her Natcracker the moment she woke up and fought against the Queen of Mice to protect her. She closed her ruby eyes and smiled contentedly. This moment was one that she would remember forever; nothing could be more perfect than this.

The Natcracker held Shizuru closer to her and continued dancing at a slower pace. She wanted to carve this instant into her memory, being the most precious moment of her life, since it was thanks to this girl in her arms that she was able to remember who she was and, more importantly, she was saved and cured from that awful curse that was cast upon her on that faithful day. She somehow had a hunch that her time was almost up, and she would enjoy it to the fullest with the girl that now held her heart, so she decided to let this wonderful girl know how much she meant to her, so she started to speak.

- "Shizuru?"

- "Mmm?" – was the low response from the chestnut-haired girl, letting the Natcracker know she had her attention.

- "Did you enjoy this night?"

- "Sure I did."

- "Me too. I enjoyed it more than anything since you were by my side." – the Natcracker hugged Shizuru even more – "It's thanks to you that I'm here now, that I'm once more aware of who I am; Shizuru, you saved me. Your kindness and love saved me. It didn't matter to you what my appearance was, you were able to love me beyond that; and it's because of that that I'm free now. For that I'm very grateful. Shizuru, you made me feel something I've never felt before. I know that I love you…" – Shizuru was in ecstasy at hearing those words, but then she felt the Natcracker tense. This reaction made Shizuru worry, along with the tone that the Natcracker used; she didn't like where this was going; it seemed as if the Natcracker was about to bit her farewell. – "Shizuru, I'll love you forever, no matter where I am."

Shizuru got a bit apart from the Natcracker to see her features; there was love but also sadness in them. Indeed her cherished Natcracker was bidding her goodbye. Shizuru was feeling more anxious, she didn't want to be apart! She wanted to be with her Natcracker forever. Finding her voice, Shizuru said in a desperate tone.

- "Please don't say that! Please don't say it in that way! I want to be with you forever!" – she clenched the Natckracker's suit with her trembling hands as tears were forming in her ruby eyes – "Please, don't leave me! I love you!"

The Natcracker couldn't take the image in front of her anymore so she brought her face closer and softly placed her lips upon Shizuru's while hugging her with all her might, transmitting all her emotions in that gesture. Upon feeling the contact of soft lips upon her own, Shizuru closed her eyes and embraced the Natcracker as if her whole existence depended on it. When their lips made contact, images of the past filled Shizuru's mind. She wondered if these were memories of the Natcracker's past since the scenes that she was seeing in her mind were very similar to that story her aunt Midori had told her: the one of the Natcracker and the Queen of Mice. Shizuru opened her eyes in realization. The Natcracker was, she was…

She stared one last time at her beloved Natcracker, she was about to speak but before any thought could be formed in her mind, everything went pitch black. Yet the last word that left her lips before falling completely into unconsciousness was.

- "Natsuki…"

Shizuru stirred in her sleep. She felt the sun hit her features, even though she had her windows and curtains closed. When consciousness finally came to her, she woke up abruptly, startling the other occupant in the room, who happened to be her cousin Mashiro.

- "Shizuru! Oh my goodness! Are you okay?"

- "Where? Where am I?" – said Shizuru.

- "You are in your room, silly. We were worried, you know. We found you unconscious by the toy shelf. Looks like you hit yourself on the head with it."

- "What?"

Shizuru couldn't believe what she was hearing, was everything a dream? No, it couldn't be, she could still feel the lips of the Natcracker upon her own, her touch, everything.

Mashiro was still talking about how scared everyone was when they found her like that. Her uncle even suggested that the gruesome big rat they found dead by the sofa was what caused Shizuru to faint, thus hitting her head with the toy shelf. Shizuru wasn't really paying any attention to her cousin at all; all she cared about was if all that happened last night was a mere dream or not. She wanted to know, she had to know, and there was only one person who could answer her questions.

Hastily getting up from the bed and taking the first coat she found in hand she rushed out of her room, not caring about the yelling she got from her cousin and from her parents, who told her she should be resting in bed. She got out of the house and ran to the small shop that her Aunt Midori had in town. She knew that during this season her Aunt Midori spent most of her time there. She wondered if she would be there despite it being this early. Most likely she had gone to a pub and wasn't there yet, but nonetheless Shizuru had to give it a try. When she arrived at the door, she started to bang on it. It was so unlike of Shizuru to do that, but it didn't matter now if she was not behaving like a lady, she wanted answers.

- "Aunt Midori! Aunt Midori! Are you there? Please! Tell me! Tell me if the story you had told me is true or not!"

The figure of said woman peeked a bit through the curtain and smiled when she saw the one banging so desperately on her door. Going to it, she opened it in a casual way and greeted Shizuru, inviting her to come in. Once they were inside, Shizuru filled her aunt with questions.

- "Aunt Midori, is that story of the Natcracker true? Was everything I experienced with her just an illusion? A hallucination? Was it real? Please, aunt Midori, I must know." – said Shizuru in a desperate tone and at the border of tears. She covered her face to conceal the tears from falling.

- "Shizuru…" – said Midori placing her hands on Shizuru's shoulders and in a calm tone she asked while smiling – "You love her?"

Shizuru looked up to see her aunt, why was she asking her this? Then, she thought that since it was her aunt asking her that, it was relevant, so she answered with determination and love in her voice; it was a simple answer after all, one she was sure about.

- "Yes aunt Midori, I love her."

Midori's smile grew bigger and, tapping Shizuru's shoulders affectionately, she said.

- "Then, do not worry child. Everything will be fine now."

- "But…"

A noise interrupted whatever Shizuru was about to say. She looked at the source of the distraction just to find someone coming in. The person was carrying a big clock and Shizuru couldn't see much of this person's features; she was just able to see that it was a girl and that she had raven hair that was tied up in a pony tail. The girl placed the big clock on a table nearby and then turned around. Shizuru was left speechless when she saw she girl in front of her. She had porcelain pale skin, very feminine yet strong features and a pair of breathtaking green eyes. Midori walked to the girl and, placing one hand on her back, she said.

- "Shizuru, let me introduce you to my dearest niece, Natsuki."

Natsuki took a step forward and bowed in a gallant manner, very similar to how the Natcracker had bowed in front of her before.

- "It's a pleasure meeting you, Shizuru" – said Natsuki with a smile on her lips. Her eyes were showing nothing more pure love and happiness.

Shizuru smiled at hearing that voice, that tone; the look in those emerald eyes, everything about her; there was no doubt. Also offering an amorous smile to the girl in front of her, Shizuru said.

- "It's a pleasure meeting you too… Natcracker…"


Yay! It's done. I hope you enjoyed this fic. Also I hope that with this fic I've encouraged you to see something about The Nutcracker if you haven't done so. And if you have, now every time you see it, you'll remember this fic. –smiles–

Thanks so much for your support. Don't forget to review

See you around!

Shezaei neko