I don't own these characters. Sunrise does.

Epilogue: Reconstruction

Natsuki was taken from her sleep by the sound of the phone ringing. The noise sent a jolt to her brain, but she did not wake up with a shock. She frowned, reluctant to give up such a wonderful sleep, but she knew that she had to. She groaned a bit in protest, the sound getting somewhat lost in her pillow as she buried her head in the soft headrest, but that did not stop the phone from ringing. She suspected that she was going to have to answer it.

She opened one eye to check the clock before grabbing the offending object. Red numbers flashed glaringly in the dark, informing her that it was three in the morning. She knew that meant the phone was for her, so she answered it quickly to not disturb Shizuru's sleep, which seemed to be quite delightful if the huge grin on her face meant anything.

"Kruger," Natsuki spoke into the phone receiver in a scratchy, groggy tone while rubbing her eye with her free hand.

"Natsuki!" her father's voice boomed through the phone.

Oh, goodie, she was going to get scolded at three in the morning, she thought sarcastically. Whoever said having relatives that lived around the world was not fun? If someone said it, that person was spot on as far as Natsuki was concerned.

"Hi, papa," Natsuki replied with pretend cheer. She had worked herself into a habit with her parents where she liked to act like she was proud or happy about completely inappropriate things, just to annoy them.

She did glance down to make sure that her father's yelling had not woken Shizuru up. The older woman still seemed to be peacefully sleeping, even still smiling. Shizuru looked quite comfortable, resting against her beloved chest, her head resting on Natsuki's breast. Natsuki had an arm wrapped around Shizuru and gently caressed Shizuru's back for a moment to make sure that she continued sleeping while Natsuki's father continued on hollering; hard to believe he was a refined, dignified king.

"What's this about you canceling your engagement with Takeda because you're in love with someone else?!" her father roared like an outraged lion. She could picture the man scowling, looking so much like her when she did that same that it upset her just to think about it.

"That's pretty much the story," she replied while noting that he said "someone else."

She had no doubt that Takeda called her father to tell him what happened, how she broke their engagement while he was still in the hospital, and made sure to include that she was in love with a woman. She did not see why Takeda would not tell her parents that she was in a relationship with a woman since it was something that could help him in the long run, having her parents trying to force her to leave Shizuru. Her father was probably not able to come to terms with her being with a woman just yet and could only ignore it while reprimanding her about breaking her engagement.

"You can't just go break an engagement that I approved of! This isn't how things work!" her father hollered. She was willing to bet that he was getting red in the face and some stares if anyone was around.

No, Natsuki was well aware that was not how things worked. As the daughter, she was expected to do everything her parents wanted of her, especially her father; that was the tradition in their home land. But, she was not one for tradition thanks to her brothers, which she supposed they would be quite proud of.

"Well, you can still say I'm engaged to him if it makes you feel any better, but I won't come home and I won't marry him, ever, no matter what you do. Now, papa, it's three in the morning here, so I'd like to go back to sleep now," Natsuki said and she hung up on him before he could object. She then yanked the wire out of the phone; if there was an emergency, she would be contacted through her GEM.

"Is everything all right, Natsuki?" Shizuru inquired, drawing attention to herself. She let loose a small yawn. Her eyes fluttered open halfway; it was about as far as they were willing to open at such an ungodly hour.

Natsuki looked down at her girlfriend, who was pressed against the principal and she was cuddling the raven-haired woman as if she was a giant plush toy. Shizuru had a worried expression in her crimson eyes, letting Natsuki know that she more than likely heard the conversation. Natsuki threw on a tender smile and rubbed the small of Shizuru's back before answering to ease her lover's concern.

"Everything's fine. Go back to sleep," the younger woman replied, sounding almost sincere about that. Almost was almost enough because it took her beloved a moment to form a question.

"Are you sure?" Shizuru asked to be sure. From the volume of the yelling on the other end, she was not very inclined to believe that everything was as fine as Natsuki said. But, Natsuki did sound so very certain of things.

Natsuki's eyes answered the question, but she backed up the look too. "I'm positive. Go back to sleep," she answered in a firm, but affectionate tone.

Shizuru grumbled something with snuggling her face closer into Natsuki's cleavage. Natsuki took that as a sign of her girlfriend being satisfied with her words, which actually helped put her at ease too. She knew how insightful and how well Shizuru read people, so if she could satisfy Shizuru's curiosity, then it meant that she was speaking in a believable way. It made Natsuki feel like she believed in herself, like she knew that she was speaking the truth and everything was fine.

Natsuki suddenly felt confidence swell in her chest. She was going to stay with Shizuru. There was nothing that her parents could do to change that. She would spend the rest of her life with the woman in her arms.

"Natsuki, can we go out tomorrow?" Shizuru requested in a whisper, indicting that she was falling back to sleep. A small yawn that escaped her lips backed up the theory that she was drifting.

"We can," Natsuki answered, rubbing her love's shoulder.

Shizuru made a pleased sound as her eyes shut. Natsuki went back to sleep also; she would worry about her parents when necessary and she did not think that there was cause to worry right now. After all, her parents were thousands of miles away, so they could not really do anything to do to her. They could not force her to get married and if her father's words were any indication of things, they could not even accept that she was with a woman, if they knew anyway. Still, she was not going to let that bother her.

--

Natsuki yawned and stretched in her seat; she was sitting in her office and doing a little paperwork, as usual. She began straightening out her desk, noting that it was lunchtime. She was able to put everything away by the time Shizuru arrived with a bag in hand. Shizuru went to put the bag down on the desk, but Natsuki stopped her.

"Nah-uh. Don't do that," Natsuki said as she wiggled her index finger at her love, as if she was scolding her slightly. She got out of her chair and walked around the desk while the fair-haired Otome's face scrunched up into a slightly confused expression.

"What? Then where will we eat?" Shizuru asked curiously, eyes following Natsuki with that predatory gaze that seemed to never leave her.

"Come on," Natsuki replied while taking Shizuru by the arm. She wasted no time pulling Shizuru out of the office.

Shiori made an "eep" noise as she saw the principal and Third Column leaving the area. "Headmaster, what am I supposed to tell Miss Maria?!" the Pearl called down to the fleeing couple. She looked ready to burst into tears while watching the pair leave.

"Just lie!" Natsuki answered as if things were that easy. Poor Shiori whimpered and dropped her head; the principal was going to get her killed sooner or later, she thought.

"Bad Natsuki, telling that good student to lie to a teacher," Shizuru pretended to scold her lover, going so far as "hit" the principal. She gave Natsuki the equivalent of a loving pat on the shoulder as a reprimand.

"So? We both lie to Miss Maria all the time. Shiori needs to learn how to do it too. I've had her practicing on you anyway," Natsuki joked, smirking like a smartass.

"You've had Shiori-chan lie to me?" Shizuru inquired incredulously. She did not think that it was possible to lie to her, not with her careful and keen eye.

"I've tried. She's about as good at it as I am," Natsuki admitted with a sheepish laugh, scratching her cheek for a moment.

"You're a horrible principal, Natsuki. Encouraging such bad behavior in the student body," the older woman remarked in her usual teasing tone. There was a light smile on her face that belied her words.

Natsuki grinned proudly. "I'm trying to make a school full of me," she quipped.

"That is a promising thought." A thoughtful look washed over Shizuru's face. A school full of my Natsuki? Yum!

Natsuki laughed. "You're the last person to tell me about encouraging bad behavior. At least I'm honest about mine. If I went and told Miss Maria half the stuff you did as a student, she's wash my mouth out with bleach for defaming your good name," she pointed out with a chuckle.

Shizuru giggled a bit herself; she could not deny that. Natsuki had always been upfront about her rebellious nature; Shizuru was never like that. She had always put on a show for people, letting them see only the "perfect" side of her. She had learned to hide even more from her onee-sama Ahn, but she doubted that Natsuki cared about that since she was generally open with Natsuki, even before they were in a relationship. See, being honest and open with Natsuki to a degree earned her that lovely blush or those wonderful overreactions that entertained her so much.

"Natsuki, where are we going?" Shizuru asked, disliking being kept in the dark. She was horrible with surprises and often just bugged Natsuki until she got on the younger woman's nerves enough for Natsuki to cave and tell.

"It's a surprise. Just come on," Natsuki replied, tugging her girlfriend even more to get her to walk faster.

Shizuru had to break into a jog to keep up with Natsuki. She wondered what the younger woman had planned for her to be in such a rush. Her heart started racing, considering that Natsuki had actually planned something romantic for them to do. If that was the case, she might have to start being more of a pest to get Natsuki to tell her before she died of anticipation.

They went by students, who stared with hearts in their eyes as the couple walked by. They did wonder why the principal was pulling Shizuru as she was, but they knew it was not something bad because of the smile on Shizuru's face. Natsuki looked quite determined, so the students also assumed that the principal had something romantic planned, which started quick rumors.

The couple did not even think that they would be the talk of the week as they went through the halls. Natsuki would quell the rumors as best she could when it finally did reach her, but for now, only her love mattered. Shizuru would never confirm or deny the rumors when she heard them, as that was her way; always the mystery.

Shizuru could guess what was happening as they finally made it to garage. They went right to Natsuki's motorcycle; a dark blue machine that always brought a smile to its master's face. Natsuki wasted no time mounting the bike and waited for Shizuru to get on behind her. The crimson-eyed Otome stared as if she did not know what was going on, eyes squinting and eyebrows curled up.

"Shizuru, are you going to get on anytime soon?" Natsuki asked, seriously confused on why her girlfriend was just standing there like a loon.

"You're going to skip work to take me on a bike ride?" Shizuru inquired in almost disbelief.

"Duh! You said you wanted to go and we haven't been riding in a long time. There's some place I wanna show you anyway. I saw it on my last ride out and I think you'll like it," Natsuki replied, a soft smile conquering her face and softening her eyes.

Shizuru nodded and hurried on the bike, as if she was frightened that Natsuki might change her mind or leave without her. She hooked her arms around her lover's waist while making sure to keep a good grip on their lunch. Natsuki started the bike once she was certain that Shizuru was all right, which was indicated from Shizuru snuggling into Natsuki's shoulder blade. They were off without helmets, having never gotten into the habit of wearing them.

They both smiled to themselves as they rode at top speed, as that seemed to be the only way that Natsuki could drive her bike. Natsuki was smiling because of the warm presence curled safely against her back, sending a fuzzy feeling through her spine and traveling through the rest of her body. Shizuru was smiling because of the warm body that she was cuddled into and the secure feeling that Natsuki brought her.

It was during the ride that Shizuru realized that Natsuki should never be the only one to miss the bike. The motorcycle brought her closer to her dearest Natsuki, not just physically, but emotionally. This was Natsuki's way of sharing her world, her true self with Shizuru. This was Natsuki's deep trust in her. It was a gift, a blessing; something that Shizuru cherished and she knew that Natsuki was the same, which was very true.

The ride was long, but neither of the women minded; it was hard for them to mind an excuse to stay pressed together as they were. They remained as they were as Natsuki took them down a winding road, hitting curves at a high speed without a care in the world. Far in the past, Shizuru probably would have trembled against Natsuki, maybe even scream as she hit those curves, but not now. Now, she was very aware that she was perfectly safe with Natsuki.

Natsuki, for her part, never thought about how she hit the curves anymore. Of course, when they used to scare Shizuru, she let them enter her mind, but not enough for her to really adjust the habit. She tried to change when she remembered to, but most of the time that she rode instinct was more in control than anything else. She was cautious enough to avoid taking any unnecessary risks when Shizuru was with her, though; even now, she made sure to avoid getting too fancy because she did not want her cockiness to get her lover injured.

Shizuru looked up when she felt the bike slowing down. She could see that they were out of the city, in the endless desert that surrounded Windbloom. The tan sand ocean seemed to go on forever as she glanced to the sides, seeing only sand and rocks. She wondered what Natsuki would want her to see out there, but then she looked ahead of them.

The Third Column's mouth dropped open and her eyes went wide with disbelief. Ahead of them was an oasis. There were a few trees and grass from what she could see. She could only wonder how it would look up close.

"Natsuki," Shizuru whispered in awe.

Natsuki did not respond. She had to stop the bike before they got to the oasis because there was no road or even rock for the wheels to grip. She moved to get off of the bike, which was a signal for Shizuru to let go, which the older female did without a word. Natsuki then helped Shizuru off of the bike; typically, Shizuru would have made a crack about Natsuki being such a gentleman, but words were lost on her right now. They quietly walked over to the lush green space surrounded by all of the dry light ochre sand.

"This is beautiful, Natsuki," Shizuru commented in a breath while getting a good look around. The grass was so vibrant, reminding her of her dearest one's eyes. The trees seemed to stretch to the sun and reach out, as if trying to embrace the star with beautiful, long leaves. There was a small pond that had water that appeared to be liquid sapphire and it cooled the area with its precious breath of life.

"I didn't think it would be quite this nice up close. I only saw it from a distance when I was riding before," Natsuki admitted, looking around herself. She stepped away for a moment as more than the green of the place caught her eye.

Shizuru felt Natsuki's presence leave her side. She turned to see what her love was doing, but did not see her. She glanced around, wondering how Natsuki managed to get away from her so easily. As she was about to turn in a full circle, Natsuki was back by her side with a lovely red flower in hand. The plant was dominated by crimson, but there was a swirl of yellow working through the petals, giving it an enchanting look that called to Natsuki and begged her to present such an exotic sight to Shizuru.

"For you, my dear," Natsuki remarked with a cheeky grin as she presented the flower to her beloved. She felt so corny doing this, but she knew that it would tickle Shizuru and she just had to do it. Besides, she knew that all of the romantic things that Shizuru loved were cheesy and corny and sometimes she just needed to bite the bullet. It was fine when no one was around anyway.

Shizuru could not help giggling. "Such a gentleman. I'll be sure to tell your brothers how well they raised you," she quipped while plucking the gift from her love's hand.

Natsuki only smiled. She was rewarded with a short, but loving kiss on the mouth. Yes, doing those cheesy, corny romantic things certainly paid off, she thought to herself. Shizuru giggled a bit again when she saw the contented look on Natsuki's face.

They sat down beside a shady tree closest to the water, resting their backs against the slim trunk of the plant. They silently ate the lunch that Shizuru had packed in the bag and somehow ended up in a position where Natsuki had her head in Shizuru's lap. Shizuru was busying herself by running her fingers calmly through Natsuki's long, silky hair.

"Natsuki, I've been thinking," Shizuru said in a low voice, as if she did not want to disturb the serenity that embraced them with warm, comfortable arms.

"Yes?" Natsuki replied while trying to hold back a yawn. The gentle caressing of Shizuru's hand through her hair was very close to sending her off to dreamland. She doubted that she would last much longer if things persisted.

"Maybe it's time we told your family outright," Shizuru commented, maintaining a low and calm voice. She hoped that this did not upset her lover and end their wonderful day together.

"Tell them about us?" Natsuki inquired to be sure that was what her lover meant. She would then have to check to make sure that Shizuru was serious, although no matter what, she was ready to laugh the idea off.

"Yes, about us. It's been such a long time. We've already told my family, after all," Shizuru pointed out.

"Yeah, well, your family isn't as crazy as mine. Besides, your parents know damn well what happens at Garderobe between students and other Otome," the younger woman countered.

"My mother does tell a good story, doesn't she?" Shizuru remarked with an amused half-smile on her face.

"Some things I never needed to know about Miss Maria. I prefer to just think of her as the stern woman that scolds the hell out of me rather than someone who actually has relationships like a normal person," Natsuki said with a shudder. "I mean, it's almost like admitting that Miss Maria is human when we all know she's really a mutant alien from another planet sent to torment girls and women alike."

Shizuru had to laugh because she knew that Natsuki was just a little serious in that theory. "Well, I'm sure my mother was just teasing with most of those things. She thinks you're cute when you panic, after all."

"I'd say 'like mother, like daughter' if I didn't know you're just a female clone of your father."

The tan-haired Otome smiled, thinking that Natsuki spoke the truth. "I do have his tastes in women," she said.

Natsuki stuck her tongue out at Shizuru, which earned a laugh. She never thought much about her and her father's tastes until Natsuki met her parents. Nastuki's looks were similar to her mother's, but they also acted quite the same in many aspects, surprisingly enough sharing similar hobbies and having similar speech patterns when they were not expected to be formal. Because of those similarities, Natsuki got along quite well with Shizuru's family. Shizuru could only wonder if she would get along well with Natsuki's family.

"Back to the matter at hand, my precious Natsuki. We should tell your parents. It's not good to deceive them," Shizuru commented. Not to mention, it would save them both the pain that would come if Natsuki's parents tried to force another engagement on her.

"You're telling me it's not good to deceive someone?" Natsuki asked incredulously with an amused grin. The world must be coming to an end!

"I know. To think, I have morals," Shizuru remarked with a smirk.

Natsuki laughed a bit and brought her hand up to caress Shizuru's face. Scarlet eyes closed for a moment, taking in the feel of Natsuki's tender touch. Shizuru took Natsuki's hand with both of her own to keep Natsuki's hand in place as she opened her eyes, which looked softer than down pillows at the moment. The principal of Garderobe smile because of the expression that Shizuru was wearing.

"I think you might be right. Not just because I know you don't want to wake up one morning to find out I'm engaged again, which I don't want to do either, but I want you to know I'm not ashamed of you in anyway and I trust you enough for you to meet my crazy family. You've shared your family with me, I can share mine with you. Just remember, you asked for it," Natsuki remarked.

Shizuru chuckled a bit. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind."

"Now, with that out the way, how about we just sit here and enjoy the quiet for a little while?" the younger woman requested with a small sigh.

Shizuru nodded; it did sound like a fine idea. She was glad to know that she would get to meet Natsuki's family sometime soon for all of the reasons that Natsuki listed. Her heart fluttered knowing that Natsuki still had such deep trust in her, especially enough trust to allow her to meet her family.

Natsuki knew that she made the right decision. She was glad that Shizuru brought it up too because for her, it showed that Shizuru was very serious about their relationship, ready to brave her insane parents to be with her. Well, she would worry about that bridge when they crossed it. For now, she just wanted to enjoy the moment. Shizuru agreed with that.

Shizuru's fingers went back to caressing Natsuki's head. Natsuki closed her eyes to relax. After a few seconds, Shizuru leaned down to plant a chaste kiss to Natsuki's lips, which Natsuki returned. They connected through that kiss, feeling and tasting each other's souls. They were together, they were one, and they never going to lose that.

--

The end.

Thanks for the warm reception of my first major ShizNat story. Thanks to everyone that read and everyone that reviewed. Special thanks to my beta reader, Ken-zero. And once again, a huge thanks to Laura25 for helping me plan this out to make a coherent story. With luck, we'll be back with a sequel sometime soon. Until then, I'm putting my straitjacket back on and returning to my dark little cell.