It's Always the Quiet Ones

by Ryoga's best friend

Chapter 1

Shizune Minamoto looked up from her paperwork as the door cracked open. In peeked a middle school girl with short-cropped white hair. It contrasted with her darkened skin and the mixed brought attention to the pair of colored tattoos across her face. The guidance councilor smiled softly. "Ah, Rainyday-san. Please come in," she said, motioning to the girl. Zazie slipped in smoothly and shut the door behind her silently. Her hands clasped behind her back. She looked over to a calendar to the side with a blank expression. Shizune could see that her eyes held a puzzled note. "No, you didn't miss an appointment. This is a separate matter to our usual sessions." She told the girl, seeing her silent question. "Please, take a seat."

Zazie gave a curt nod and moved to sit in the offered chair. She folded her hands onto her lap before regarding the older woman with a blank look.

Shizune read that as an indication to speak. "Well, as you know Springfield-sensei has recently come here in hopes of becoming a teacher. He was meant to bunk with your classmates Asuna-san and Konoka-san, as I'm sure you may have heard. But this arrangement hasn't turned out as well as we would've hoped. Asuna-san has requested that we find him another place to stay. Though, I'm sure you've heard all of that through your classmates."

"Yes." Zazie's voice was soft but easily heard... likely due to how little she spoke to begin with.

"Well, I think this is merely an overreaction, but it has already happened twice in the scant few weeks he has been here." She sighed and started tapping a pen against the desk. "I feel it may be best to move him. There has been some interest from your classmates to give him board but both rooms already have three residents, and I would rather not crowd you girls any more than necessary." Shizune explained. Though the ulterior motive to deny their offers was for Negi's protection from possible advances. "I called you because you are one of the few students who does not have a roommate at all." She could see the girl's eyes widen a fraction as the issue was revealed. The guidance counselor couldn't help but be a little worried by the otherwise lack of reaction. Zazie always seemed to distance herself from others. "This is purely voluntary, of course, but I want to ask you if you wouldn't mind taking Negi in."

"I... see." The girl had a rare pause in her reply. To Shizune's tuned senses, it seemed that Zazie was as shocked as she would allow herself to show.

"I know this is a little unorthodox but, teacher or not, he's simply too young to be living on his own." Shizune said allowing her maternal side to show through her voice. She received a distracted nod from Zazie. "That aside, consider this a personal request." At that, Zazie blinked with a small amount of puzzlement in her eyes. "Zazie, I'm worried about you. You keep distancing yourself from the other girls, it's not healthy."

"I'm fine." Her soft voice came out a little firmer. Shizune sighed.

"I'm not asking you to change who you are, I know you can speak Japanese just fine... and I know you have a beautiful smile when you perform with the acrobatic club." The girl looked downward slightly, cheeks a little red. "You have to let some people in; you don't have to be alone with your animals. So please, will you give it a try? If it's too much, I'm sure Asuna-san will calm down in a few weeks. What do you say?" Shizune quietly observed the stoic girl's little gestures. Fingers twitching in her lap, her deep contemplative gaze as she mulled the whole situation over before she slowly raised her head to hold the counselor's gaze. She didn't utter a word instead give a steady nod. "I'm glad. I'll make arrangements for the change. How soon do you think you can have the room ready?" she pressed as Zazie stood.

"Morning." Her reply was simple and to the point, like always. Shizune nodded and smiled to the girl.

"Thank you, Rainyday-san. I'll inform Negi that he'll be moving in with you tomorrow morning." The girl bowed before ghosting out of the room with only the light click of the door betraying her presence. Shizune leaned back in her chair with a sigh. "I'm sorry to use you like this, Negi-kun, but I think you could do that girl a lot of good," she murmured with a shade of guilt. Hopefully, this could work out well for both of them. Negi would have a place to stay and perhaps one of her more worrisome cases could solve itself...

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Negi sighed as he stared into his cup of tea. He wasn't feeling like much of a person or a mage right now. It seemed his foul-ups finally caught up with him and Asuna's patience had worn out. It hadn't been a long stay, but it had been fun. Asuna was actually quite a nice girl and Konoka made it a point to cook breakfast in the morning. He had much to improve about himself, that much was true. He would just have to do better... Just like Asuna had told him, he needed to stop relying on his magic for everything and try and solve problems on his own. Asuna-san...

"Now, what did I say about keeping that long face?" Takahata's amused voice brought the boy from his musings with a light blush.

"Sorry, Takamichi, just hard not to." He replied taking a sip of his tea.

"We all make mistakes Negi-kun. Try not to let it get you down. Asuna's a fiery girl, but she is quick to forgive. Give her some time to cool off and you'll be fine," the elder teacher said with a smile.

"I suppose your right... Well, thank you for putting me up for the night. I'll try and find someplace to stay tomorrow."

"No need. Shizune called me up a little while ago. You'll be going back to the dorms tomorrow."

"The dorms? But I thought-"

"Not Asuna's room. Another girl volunteered to take you in."

"Volunteered?" Negi blinked. Several girls passed through his mind. Each image made him more and more nervous. "Um, who volunteered?" he asked with a tremor of unease. Takahata smirked lightly.

"Zazie Rainyday."

Negi blinked, confused. The name rang a bell, but a face wasn't coming to mind. He reached for his bag. After a little rummaging, he pulled out the class register. It took some searching, but he spotted the name and the rather unique looking girl. "Zazie Rainyday, student number 31... She volunteered? But she's hardly spoken a word to me before... even in class."

"Ah, Rainyday-san is what you would call the 'strong silent type'. She doesn't talk much at all to anyone. She'll sometimes even prefer to mime over speaking."

"Really? Hm..." The child teacher looked over the picture once more. "The magic club?" He looked to Takahata with a raised eyebrow.

"I think it's stage magic, but I don't know for sure. She's the only member of the magic club."

"The only member... curious," Negi noted as he looked to the other club listed. "The Nightmare Circus?"

"Yeah, that's one of the acrobatics clubs on campus. She's the youngest member, but I hear she's quite good. Shizune swears that their performances are quite impressive, though I'm shamed to admit I've never seen one." Takahata said chuckling a little. Negi nodded before looking back at the picture once more, regarding the blank look of his future roommate.

A new day had risen to find Negi standing once more in front of the dorms. It was Sunday, so he would have the day to get settled with this new situation. Granted, he was just moving to a different hallway but it would still feel like a world away. He paused on the stairway and released a sigh as he turned out towards the quad. His hands unconsciously went to his lips. The image of Asuna with her hair down looking in his eyes with that determined gaze flashed through his mind. The memory had caused him a fitful sleep for most of the previous night. Negi shook his head.

"It was my first kiss too..." he muttered. With a frown, he started back up the stairs. He did his best to put the memory aside for the moment as he opened the door to the lobby. Zazie was already waiting there for him. The child teacher blinked at the sight of her leaning against the wall, balancing a spinning coin on her finger before rolling it across her knuckles. It was the first time he'd seen the girl out of uniform. Even in casual dress of jeans and a t-shirt, her exotic features shined through. She looked up from her little dexterity drill regarding him with a blank look identical to her class picture.

"Um, Rainyday-san, correct?" He inquired, receiving a small nod in return. She moved away from the wall and casually pocketed the coin. He gave the approaching girl a deep bow. "Thank you for taking me in on such short notice. I hope this wasn't too much of an inconvenience," he said, straightening. Zazie waved her hands in a dismissive manner with a small shake of the head but little changed in her face. Her blank stare unnerved him with each passing moment. Negi did his best not to show his discomfort. "Perhaps we could go up to the room so I can drop my things off?"

Zazie regarded him for a long moment before nodding and motioning for him to follow. She casually glided over to the stairwell with her hands clasped behind her back.

Negi followed shortly behind her. Zazie was a curious girl, from what he could tell from the limited contact he had with her. He could hardly believe he had overlooked her. She possessed such a peculiar way about her that made her stand out. But somehow she managed to blend in and go unnoticed all this time. Some teacher I am...

Zazie glanced back at Negi who was following with his head down. A dark cloud of gloom was almost visible over his head. She cocked her head curiously before turning and walking backwards, maintaining the smoothness in her stride. She had never paid the young teacher much attention before, considering he got enough from the rest of the girls in didn't seem necessary. She looked the boy over slowly, listening to his light steps accompanying her own soundless movements. She slid to a stop and raised her hand, jutting a single finger out. Negi kept walking, unaware of his companion's movement and was rewarded with a nail light poking his drooped forehead.

"Ow!" he stopped and rubbed the spot. His puzzled eyes met her blank stare once more. She motioned to her right toward her door. "Oh... we're here?" he observed with a small flush of embarrassment. The performer gave a single nod in reply before she moved to unlock the door. Negi adjusted the straps on his backpack feeling a small tremor of nervousness. He really wished Takamichi was around more, and then he wouldn't have to share rooms with his students.

He hadn't had any real expectations about what the room would look like, but he still had to admit he was a little surprised. It was actually quite... homey. It was about the same size as Asuna and Konoka's room but with only one person there was a lot more open space. A single bed sat under the window. It was made neatly with an aged but colorful quilt. Across the other side was a rather spacious desk with a few small tools and a set of paints kept across the back. Right next to desk was a large cage filled with at least a dozen birds of different species, all twittering happily at their arrival. The messiest area was by the closet which overflowed with all manner of outfits, several of which definitely didn't look like they could be worn outside, others sparkled while some were adorned with feathers. Mixed with the costumes were several boxes marked 'props'.

When he finally managed to tear his eyes away from that they found a bookcase filled with figurines and models of all sorts, mostly leaning toward a fantasy theme. He moved closer to get a better look. The click of the door closing behind him went unnoticed. He couldn't get a good look at the upper shelves, so he settled with one at his eye level. A noble-looking dragon stood protectively over a woman with regal clothing across from a pair of large two headed lions. "Wow! These look really nice. It's like a picture out of a storybook." Negi enthused. He turned to his student, who sat on her bed watching him curiously. "You have a wonderful collection, Rainyday-san." She blinked and gave a nod. He moved over to another dragon figurine. This one was of a healthy bronze in color and was perched on a rock.

"...Thank you."

The soft voice brought Negi's attention back to the girl on the bed. Her gaze held a note of puzzlement at his surprise. After a moment, she gave a slight shrug and stood. I think that's the first time I've ever heard her speak. Negi wondered at that while watching her move towards the bird cage. Her voice was soft, but clear, and she bore a slight accent that he couldn't quite. He kept an eye on her as she tended to the birds, carefully measuring seed into their dishes, checking their water. All the while, the birds never made an attempt to leave the cage. Finished, she took a step back and gave a nod. Two of the birds flew out. One took rest on her shoulder and the other landed on her outstretched finger.

Her expression never changed throughout but Negi couldn't help getting the impression that she was smiling. He caught himself before he could be accused of staring and turned to his backpack. "I better get to unpacking. I hope you don't mind, Rainyday-san?" He made sure to look her way to catch the nod or head shake. He wasn't disappointed. He acknowledged the subtle gesture before he set to work.

Zazie gently placed the bird on her finger back inside the cage. It hopped up to the closest feeder and began to eat. The second bird flew back in on its own before she closed the cage back up. She contented herself to watch them hop around and twitter to one another.

"Um, is there some place I can put my things?"

The child teacher spoke up, catching her attention once more. She regarded the boy's nervous smile with a slight tilt of her head. She moved over to the closet and slid the door aside, revealing a cleared out space roughly the same size as hers.

"Oh, thank you." Negi said with a chagrined smile. "I hope it wasn't too much work to move. You seem to have a lot of things to store. Sorry," he apologized with a small note of guilt.

The performer shook her head but couldn't help noting the slight slump in his posture and slight dim in his gaze. She retook her seat on the bed and silently watched him put his things away.

His backpack seemed large considering his size but he didn't have too much in the way of possessions. A couple of suits, a small collection of casual clothes but still all professional in style, defying his age. He kept things neat and organized his clothes only taking up less than a third of the space she had cleared for him. She leaned her head on one of her hands while Negi worked on with a small smile on his face. His expression told that he was totally focused on his task. Her lip twitched downward slightly, watching the smile as if something was just out of reach. Two sharp beeps caused her to blink and break her gaze.

Negi turned to see Zazie reach and tap a button on an alarm clock by her bed before standing. She headed to the door but paused just before it and turned to Negi. She pointed once to herself and then to the door. It took a moment for the boy to come to a logical conclusion.

"Oh, you have to go." He received a nod in response. "I suppose you will be gone for a bit then?"

Zazie's expression didn't flinch but she seemed to be thinking before she raised two fingers.

"Two... hours?" he ventured.

A shake of the head.

"Two 'o clock?"

A nod.

"Okay, but I have a staff meeting around one. I'll probably be back around six. Takamichi wanted to meet for an early dinner." he explained. His student gave a small nod, "I guess I'll see you then. Have a good afternoon, okay?" She tilted her head slightly, but nodded before slipping outside leaving Negi to slump over.

"This is going to make things complicated," he muttered. The child teacher was well aware of shy students, he had a few in his class mixed in with the rabble. But Zazie... She wasn't shy... exactly. She was just... Well...

Quiet. Very quiet.

Negi shook his head, "I'll have to work on that," he decided as he stood. Something on the desk caught his eye. "A photo?" Curious, he made his way over to get a better look. "Huh?"

It was of Zazie and another person. It was hard to say who, or even what, they were exactly because of the colorful mask they wore coupled with an androgynous frame. Both were dressed in elaborate costumes. Zazie's was a rather risqué pink leotard while the other wore a red surcoat with tails and black pants. Both were posed back to back tipping a plumed hat to the camera.

"She's... smiling?"

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"Ah, Zazie-san please take a seat. You're a little late, but that's okay." Shizuna noted, motioning to the chair. Zazie slipped into the seat and placed her hands in her lap "So, I trust things went well with Negi-sensei this morning?" The tan girl gave a small nod in response. Shizuna carefully eyed the girl's posture and gestures. They all told her that the girl was a little tense. "No problems?" she pushed carefully. Her trained eyes caught a subtle frown and tilt downward.

Zazie looked fully into the guidance counselor's gaze, casting a look of uncertainty.

Shizuna contemplated what it could be and began to press further. "You're not used to someone being in your space?" Zazie gave a slight nod but she could see that it wasn't the heart of the matter. She settled for the issue she had singled out first. "Well, it's only natural, I suppose. You've had your own room all though elementary school as well. But I think having someone to interact with you will help. Negi is a nice boy so you have nothing to worry about," she said with a small smile.

Zazie's face developed a puzzled frown but the girl nodded along anyway.

That piqued Shizuna's curiosity. It wasn't the first time her guesses had been wrong, but she had a good feel for the girl. Whatever was bothering her was something new entirely.

"Shizuna-sensei?" The performer held her counselor's eyes, a wave of confusion passing over the girl's unearthly red.

"Yes, Zazie?"

"...How..." She looked like she was turning the words over in her head, trying to find the right way to phrase it. "How can Sensei smile... and look so sad?" Zazie's soft question hung heavily in the air leaving Shizuna caught off guard unsure how to reply.

Shizuna collected herself and gained a thoughtful look trying to find the best way to answer the inquiry. For someone with as little emotional experience as Zazie, it was not just a question of concern, but one of logic. To someone with only base level understanding, Negi's emotions were too complex to define. "Most likely, I would say that Negi trying not to worry you. He tends to try and remain positive about things. But it seems that he got in some kind of fight with Asuna-san. He likely feels bad about it still. It's only been two days since it happened, after all. It's not uncommon for these things to take time to calm down," the guidance counselor explained carefully.

Zazie tilted her head eyes turned upward in a thoughtful manner. "So... It's Asuna Kagurazaka's fault?" she asked calmly.

"The answer isn't wouldn't be that simple, I'd figure." Looking at the girl's curious gaze, Shizuna decided to clarify. "Few conflicts are ever that straightforward. I don't know what happened exactly, so I couldn't say."

Shizuna received a confused frown.

"Zazie, people's emotions and how they deal with them are unique from person to person. What makes one person happy could make another sad and Negi is trying to work through his emotions without making you worry." She chuckled a little. "Though, it seems he was unsuccessful in that regard."

The girl's eyes veered off to the side so not to make direct contact, somewhat embarrassed. That elicited a smile from Shizuna.

"If you really want to find out, you'll have to speak with either your sensei or Asuna-san," she suggested, still smiling.

Zazie responded with the hint of a frown. It was hard to say what she was unsatisfied with, Shizuna's answer or the concept of starting up a dialogue with someone whom she was unused to speaking.

"Well, we'll set that aside for now." Shizuna coolly changed the subject to keep things moving. Zazie was being particularly talkative, so the best thing would be to take advantage of it. "How has practice been? I heard there's supposed to be a performance coming up in a couple of months?" she asked. She was rewarded with the ghost of a smile on the girl's face.

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Despite the good weather, Asuna didn't feel like going much of anywhere. After finishing her paper routes, she had returned to her bed and laid there. She stared at the ceiling with a book unopened at her side. The room had been quieter than usual, after a short screaming match the day before she'd kicked the boy wizard from the room and immediately called up the office. She hadn't seen him since... at least not in person. The bags under her eyes attested to how well she'd slept and even now sleeping seemed a far off memory.

The door clicked open and Konoka came in with a bag of groceries. Asuna didn't move but that didn't mean Konoka couldn't see her. "You're STILL up there? It's already afternoon. You could have at least 'sulked' outside and got some fresh air."

"There's no class, I don't have to get out if I don't want to." Asuna replied curtly. After a moment, she added, "I am not sulking." Her voice was adamant but did little to sway her friend. Konoka crouched by the small fridge putting away her purchases. Seeing the untouched contents, she frowned and looked back up to the top bunk.

"You didn't eat?"

"Not hungry," came the bland reply. Konoka crossed her arms and gave a rare frown.

"Asuna get down here and eat something, don't make me come up there." It was an idle threat considering who was giving it but nonetheless the red head poked her head out over the edge, hair undone and disheveled.

"Fine..." She sat up and steadied herself against the wall. The lack of sleep and food left her a little dizzy. Regaining her equilibrium, she slowly made her way down the ladder. She was still dressed in the t-shirt she'd worn for her paper route but had never bothered to shift to pajama bottoms. She took a seat at the table not caring about her bare legs and pantied bottom. Not like HE'S here after all... she noted with annoyance, though it wasn't clear to who it was directed. Asuna propped her head on her arm and watched Konoka put on an apron to prepare a late lunch.

Without turning from her task, Konoka addressed her roommate once more. "You know, if I'd known you would have been so uncomfortable having him around, I would have refused grandfather."

Asuna narrowed her eyes. She could see the real purpose of that comment."That brat was a little perv and this change will be for the best. He shouldn't be staying here in the first place."

"Says the girl who is sulking."

"I am NOT sulking!"

Konoka turned with her small frown back in place looking down to her seated friend."If not, then you're just blowing this out of proportion and are too stubborn to change your mind. You didn't go this far before, what could have happened that was so bad?!" she snapped out. "I didn't want Negi-kun to leave," she added in a softer tone. Asuna had her face tilted downward.

"He... he just went too far okay?" she replied softly. Konoka gave her a perplexed frown before turning back to the stove. The room fell into silence. Asuna lightly touched her lips. "Too far..." Her voice had no heat behind it as her mind drifted back.

"I love you... Sensei." I said in a practiced shy tone. He had agreed to help. He stood with slightly flushed cheeks. I projected the image of Takahata-sensei's handsome and mature face over his youthful features. "I've loved you for a long time... is that troublesome for you?" My voice is earnest, but seeing him stutter and swallow, the picture in my mind is broken. Hmph, some help he is...

"No, ah, um..." He can't even reply properly! Well, at the very least I could tease the brat. I turn and clutch my hands over my heart.

"I guess it could never work between someone like you and me." I take in a sharp breath, if only to hold in the laughter. A strong hand on my shoulder caught me off guard.

"No , don't!" He's much stronger then he looks. He tugs to turn me around and we end up eye to eye once more, nearly having tumbled. I'll admit he has nice eyes... full of determination and confusion. I can't help but wonder why Takahata-sensei would never look at me like that. His eyes could never be so wide and innocent. I grasp his face lightly, feeling all his muscles tense. This would be the grand finale before I rub it in the kids face... at least it cheered me up.

"Close your eyes." I say in a low soft voice, he slowly complies waiting for the kiss that will never come. Cute, but still a brat. The situation changed in an instant. Whether it was my foot on his, or his on mine, I'm not sure, but the next thing I know is that I'm falling. My body's fall is broken by his small frame... and my lips were broken by his own... I... I'm really not sure what happened but my first kiss... it wasn't unpleasant. It might have been nice if I had meant to do it but we were both two shocked to move.

There was the flash of a camera and my heart shattered. My first kiss gone and now there's a picture of me lying across a ten-year-old brat making out. I didn't stop the tears when they came, I couldn't even see the faces or hear the voices of who saw me. I just ran...

Asuna's world blurred back into focus looking to the fingers that had rested on her lips a moment before. "Things had gone too far..." she amended softly closing the fingers in a ball and putting it against her chest.

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The sun had dipped over the horizon by the time Takahata had dropped Negi back off at the dorms. The boy gave a small yawn as he climbed the stairs. It was nice that the faculty had taken well to him, even though he was still on temporary status. But they tended to forget his age and the festivities after the meeting had run a bit longer then the child was prepared to handle. He managed to keep his tiredness to a few yawns as he trekked up to the second floor and headed down the hall. He paused at a door with a hand on the knob. He colored when he looked up to see that it was Asuna and Konoka's room. He reluctantly let go and went back down the hall and around the corner. This time at the proper door he tried the knob and the door swung open.

Even in his tired state, he started in the doorway at the sight of his roommate. Zazie was standing on her hands, stretching one leg out parallel to the floor. The other leg was held straight up, a ball balanced on the end of it. She blinked, staring right back at him. The ball fell from its perch and bounced on the floor before rolling to a stop in front of Negi.

"Um... evening?" Negi managed to say after a moment. He picked up the ball and closed the door. Zazie bent herself forward until her feet lightly touched the ground before pulling her upper body standing upright like nothing had happened. "I hope I wasn't interrupting," he said holding out the ball.

She plucked it from his hands and gave a small shake of her head. She looking over to the clock and back to the boy whose tired mind took a moment to process the gesture.

"Oh, right. All the teachers went out after the meeting and invited me a along. Sorry, I'm late," he apologized with a small bow.

She watched him curiously before waving her hand dismissively. It wasn't that big a deal. She went to pull the ball in its proper place. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw him move to cover a small yawn. He blushed at being noticed. The acrobat motioned to her bed.

"No, no. I couldn't. That's your bed. I'll do fine with a futon," he insisted with a small smile.

An invisible frown creased her features as she shook her head.

"You don't have one? Oh, well. I guess you don't have company over that often huh?" He immediately covered his mouth when she tilted her head to the side. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that," he started.

Zazie eyed his reaction curiously but she waved off his apology.

"My sleeping bag will be fine for now. I'll pick up a futon later," he offered going over to his part of the closet.

Zazie took a seat on her bed. She watched Negi crouch down and unhook his sleeping bag from the top of his pack. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she studied the boy. His eyes were drooping and his movements were sluggish. Even with a sleeping bag, lying on the floor all night would undoubtedly be quite uncomfortable. Her eyes widened slightly before she patted the bed next to her. "Share?" She blinked owlishly when he suddenly stiffened and his face burned a deep red.

"N-No, Rainyday-san. I'll be okay," he said with a slight shake in his voice. He unfurled his sleeping bag with more focus than necessary. Taking a breath, he braved another look at the girl.

Negi was sure that he saw a puzzled frown adorning her face this time.

"Really," he asserted. "I just need a spare pillow. If you have one," he added, hoping to pacify that look. Sweat rolled down the back of his head at the fact that her expression didn't change.

After a long moment, she turned and took one of her pillows and tossed it to him.

"Thank you, Rainyday-san." He gave a small bow of his head. "I need to get some sleep for class tomorrow, I hope it won't bother you." He moved back to the closet for his night clothes.

She shook her head and looked to the clock. It was getting late...

Negi, using the bare closet as an impromptu changing room, donned his night clothes and took to his rest. "Goodnight," he said with a small yawn before snuggling into his sleeping bag.

Zazie watched his small form settle into a comfortable position and his breathing slow. Why choose to sleep on the floor, when the bed was so much more comfortable? With a slight shake of her head she slipped to her feet and silently walked across the room. The overhead light clicked off. The dim moonlight shining through the window cast shadows through the single. Her soundless glide kept the boy teacher fast asleep as she moved back to her bed, unaffected by the sudden darkness. The only sound in the room was shifting of fabric. Blowing out a soft breath, she slipped into her bed.

Light breathing. It was a sound she wasn't used to hearing. Even though her eyes stared out into the night sky, it was the boy that held her mind. "Why?" she whispered, unsure exactly what she was questioning. Negi was a mystery to her. He wore his emotions clear as day at all times. He spoke respectfully and not once had he sent more than a small questioning glance at her actions. Zazie may not be much of a talker but she was a good listener, she could hear what some girls said when she would practice in class... Juggling helped pass the time, it's not like they didn't have their own qu-

A rustle of cloth caught her ears. Negi was getting up, probably for the bathroom. Though the steps were coming closer not further away. Zazie rolled over to see the young boy at her bedside. She blinked. Uncertainty sunk in as he crawled up and into her bed. Zazie gave a small smile. Now, she wouldn't have to worry about him being sore. She repositioned herself to make sure he had plenty of room but he followed. The feeling of his arms winding around her caused confusion to be replaced by a rare panic. Her body became stiff in his embrace. His breath lightly washed over her chest as he rested his head against her. Her eyes were wide and her heart was beating wildly. What was he doing? Why was he touching her?

"S-sensei?" she called out in an alarmed whisper. She tried to summon more of a voice but she could barely bring herself to move. Then she felt it... In the shadows, a large white mask faded into existence. It had black empty eyes and a permanently etched smile. The solid mass of shadow slinked over to her bedside, eying the boy latched against her.

"..." It was eager and hungry, which, though not unusual, disturbed the young girl for some reason. She tentatively put one of her arms around the boy and her red eyes glowed in the darkness of the room.

"No."

"..." The mask somehow sighed and faded away to whence it came. The acrobat's eyes faded back to the normal spectrum and she let out a small sigh of her own. That could have gone worse. She looked to the reddish brown mop of hair pressed against her, unsure what to do about this situation. Negi had a pretty good hold on her. She couldn't see how to get free without waking him. She opened her mouth to say something. The words died on her lips as Negi murmured in his sleep, hugging her just a little tighter.

"Onee-chan..."

Zazie looked at the boy. Slowly, a light red tinge spread across her cheeks. The boy's face was calm and peaceful, a world away from his ill-hidden frown. Her stomach twittered oddly. She felt warm, but not uncomfortably so. What was this feeling?

The anxiety flowed from her body and she closed her eyes. The boy's gentle breathing brought the picture of his peaceful face to her mind. The young, yet mature, boy snuggled against her. As sleep began to take her over, a final thought passed through her mind.

How could she experience it again?

to be continued

AN – I really do love Zazie, she has so much potential so this story is a showing of how Zazie could fit in right at the beginning and switch things up. Asuna will still have a major part but this story is predominantly Zazie and Negi learning about each other. Also expect a couple of characters normally in the background getting more screen time later. A Big thanks to Ikari666 for betaing and Windfalcon for helping me work out the plot. You both rock.