Duran-kun and Kiyo-chan's Omake Theater

(featuring the Kuga-Fujino family pets)

Natsuki let out a loud groan as she staggered through the front door.

"Home at last." She shook her head. "You'd think I'd learn. You really would, but no, every time, here I go again. A Halloween party thrown by a nun is not supposed to get so out of hand. There were probably Roman orgies that were less debauched."

Natsuki's girlfriend, Shizuru Fujino, followed her through the door.

"Actually, Natsuki, a wild party is very much in keeping with the traditions of the masquerade. The anonymity provided by masks and fancy dress allowed people to indulge in all manner of licentious and sensual behavior, their indulgences concealed from a society that would otherwise disapprove."

"Oh, no. You do not get to stand around and make excuses, not when you're nearly as much of the problem as Nao was."

"But Natsuki said that I should go ahead and pick out any costumes that I liked," Shizuru pouted.

That Natsuki had. It was a moment of weakness brought on by the deadlines for two school papers combining with her dislike of trying on clothes.

"That's another thing I should have learned by now." Natsuki's witch costume seemed to consist of a lot of black lace and not much else; she'd have sworn that the broad-brimmed steeple hat she wore with it had more fabric than the dress. The general embarrassment, Nao's teasing, Mai's "you go, girl!" encouragement, and the cheesy pickup lines from about eight guys had been every bit as bad as she'd feared. And that wasn't even the worst part about the costumes.

No, it was Shizuru's costume that had been the problem. The sexy pirate queen was a vision in purple, with a bicorn hat bearing the Jolly Roger, a patch over one red eye, a billowy shirt tied off beneath her breasts to expose cleavage above and bare her midriff below, and linen trousers that could have been painted on tucked into spike-heeled boots, cinched at the waist with a bright red sash and a cutlass hanging at her hip. She'd very obviously chosen it to show off to Natsuki and it had definitely worked. Not only had the biker barely been able to turn her eyes away long enough to find the refreshment table, but she'd nearly decked some guy who'd made a play for pirate booty.

"But you can't say that I didn't go along fair and square," Natsuki pointed out. "Anyway, the costumes are just a symptom of the real problem you caused."

"Oh?" Shizuru looked genuinely confused.

"Right. Before I met you, I wouldn't have had to worry about drunken nuns, drunken chaperones, Chie taking pictures of me in this get-up for the yearbook, or nearly getting arrested for committing an indecent act in a taxi, because I wouldn't have gone in the first place. But no, you had to go and work your way into my life, teach me to start trusting people, encourage me to make friends and generally break me out of my shell until now I actually have social obligations. If I was still a sullen recluse without human contact, none of the rest of it would even be an issue."

Shizuru blinked, apparently having trouble deciding whether Natsuki was in any way serious. Which wasn't unnatural, since Natsuki wasn't really sure herself.

"Ara, are you absolutely sure that you didn't have more than one glass of the punch?"

"I don't think I did, but that one time Nao dragged you off to dance I don't really have a lot of memory of anything I was doing."

"Why, Natsuki, how sweet."

"What can I say; you're distracting even when you're not dressed like that."

Shizuru beamed at the compliment.

"You're such a romantic sometimes, Natsuki."

"Romantic? I don't think my heart was the organ behind that last remark."

"Yes, but that you admit it makes it all the more romantic."

Natsuki shook her head.

"Ooo-kaaaay. I think I actually just understood that, and if your cryptic remarks about our relationship are starting to make sense to me then it's definitely time for bed."

"Perhaps so. You do have to get up in the morning."

They got their footwear off and went into the living room, where Duran and Kiyohime were curled up on the floor in front of the television. Both pets looked up, offering woofs and hisses of greeting as appropriate.

"Hey, boy," Natsuki said to the metal wolf as he bounded over to nuzzle up against her leg and receive a hello scratch behind the ears in return. "Did you guys have a good time while we were out?"

He gave a happy yip and wagged his tail even more furiously than he already had been, then sprang over to the coffee table and poked his nose against a stack of DVDs. The Ring was on top.

"Oh, so you two watched horror movies for Halloween then, huh?" He yipped again, continuing to wag. "Sounds like fun. Too bad I'm so beat or we could watch another one together. It gives Shizuru a good excuse to snuggle, too."

She suited her actions to her words; both of the young women changed out of their costumes into their nightgowns and went through the rest of their evening routine to get ready for bed.

"Good night, Shizuru," Natsuki said as she turned off the light.

"Good night, Natsuki. I love you."

"I love you, too."

She nuzzled up to Shizuru, feeling the warmth of the taller girl spooned around her. It was, she reflected, a nice way to end the day, and something she'd definitely lacked in her ice-princess-HiME phase. Her eyelids drifted gently shut.

"Shizuru, what are you doing?"

Shizuru lifted her lips from the nape of Natsuki's neck, which she'd been softly nibbling.

"I thought that Natsuki might want to continue from where that prudish cab driver so rudely interrupted us."

"Shizuru, it's after one in the morning."

"But you've already bewitched me out of my pants and into your bed. Surely you aren't going to stop now before you have your wicked way with my nubile, innocent body?"

Natsuki rolled her eyes at Shizuru's corny lines. She was too tired for this, definitely.

Except that while Shizuru's mouth had stopped so she could talk, her hands had continued to do clever and interesting things. And to be fair, the cab incident (particularly when Shizuru brought it to mind) had been getting very interesting before the driver's slamming on the brakes had restored a sense of time and place...

"Well actually, now that you mention—"

"Ah!" Shizuru's yelp of surprise cut Natsuki off in mid-surrender.

"Shizuru, what is it?"

"Cold noses!"

Natsuki sat up and looked back over across Shizuru at where, in fact, Kiyohime's heads were reaching up over the side of the bed.

"Kiyohime, did you need something?"

There were loud hisses from various heads.

"What is it, girl?" Shizuru asked.

In the next moment, the hydra squirmed herself up onto the bed and stretched out next to Shizuru. The first through fourth heads pointed their snouts at the other two, which were nuzzling up against Shizuru.

"Awww, you guys were scared by the movies, huh?" Natsuki realized. A bit sheepishly, the fifth and sixth heads nodded.

"It's all right, then," Shizuru told her. "You can sleep with us tonight." Happily, Kiyohime curled up next to her and she pulled the blanket up over the hydra's body. With nothing left to do about it, Natsuki snuggled back down into bed and rolled over.

"I'm sorry, Natsuki," Shizuru said, appreciating the extent that Natsuki was making a sacrifice.

"It's okay. I'll just cash it in some day if Duran shoots down a kite or something."

Shizuru giggled.

"Ara, perhaps Natsuki could think of it as practice for when we have children?"

Natsuki blinked as images of herself trying to cope with the demands of motherhood cascaded through her mind.

"Oh, man. Trust you to end Halloween night with something a lot scarier than any horror movie!"