Author's Note: Much apologies to anyone who's been waiting to update, but I'm finally done writing my theses. To celebrate my freedom, here's a little just-for-fun piece for ya. I rushed it out to get it here for Christmas, which didn't leave anytime to proofread or send it to my beta, so please excuse any mistakes I've left in.
Suki – "Love."
Ikezu – "Meanie." Left in to preserve the slightly-exotic quality of Shizuru's Kyoto-ben.
Ara – "Oh" or "Ah." Also for the exotic quality.
Bubuzuke – Kyoto-ben term for Ochazuke, a Japanese dish consisting of green tea poured over riout ace.
Title: Shizuru's Game
Chapter 1: The Name of the Game
Content Warning: This fic is a fair bit more out-there than my other M-rated fics, including OOCness to serve the fantasy and some play outside of established couples. If that's not your thing, probably best not to read.
"Oh hell no!" Natsuki protested, backing off from Shizuru. "No no no no no! I did more of that than I cared to back during the Festival. No way am I purposely subjecting myself to even a slight risk of that again. Come up with another idea!"
Shizuru gave a pout at this. It was a pout that Natsuki had seen a million times, and it never failed to tug at her heart, even when she knew full well that it was a put-on. She wasn't going to let herself be won over that easily though. No wait! I'm not going to let myself be won over at all. No matter... how cute... she is...
"Pwease, Na-chan?" Shizuru said, blinking her eyes slowly. "Don't you want to make your friends happy?"
Natsuki glared at Shizuru, her eyelid starting to twitch. She wasn't going to win this one. Even with all the experience she had dealing with Shizuru, she just had the weaker argument here. Even if she subtracted out the effects of Shizuru's puppy-dog eyes and pleading tone of voice, she still had Natsuki beat.
"Gah, fine. But I get to bail if my luck turns bad. And no tongue!"
Shizuru's face immediately brightened up at Natsuki's sudden concession. "Thank you, Natsuki. And of course you wouldn't have to do that if you don't want to."
"I don't mean me! I mean you! No tonguing any other girls there!"
"Ikezu." Shizuru pouted.
"Mai, nice to see you again," Shizuru said with a grin as she opened the door. "No 'plus one'?" She raised an eyebrow.
"You know that Tate and I broke up," Mai said with a half-grin, closing the door behind her and giving her coat to Shizuru. It was such a relief to finally be free from Tate, but she had to at least be a bit diplomatic and pretend the break-up was something less than "kicked his ass out the door before she was driven absolutely mad."
"Ara, of course," Shizuru said. She took Mai's coat and hung it up in the closet. "I just expected you to bring Mikoto instead. I did send her her own invitation, but I would have expected her to arrive with you, still."
"Ugh," Mai groaned. She shook her head, heading to the living room. "I'll have to have another talk with her about communicating better. She and Reito are back on the mainland visiting the Kanzaki family for the holidays." She found the living room to be occupied by only Natsuki, who was too engrossed in a video game to give Mai much more than a brief grunt of welcome. It wasn't surprising, as she'd arrived five minutes early. "So who else do you expect to show up?"
"Yukino and Haruka have confirmed that they're coming. I expect the two of them to arrive precisely one minute early, knowing Haruka," Shizuru said. "Chie and Aoi said they already had plans, so they won't be able to make it. I've also invited Nao and Shiho, though I don't know if either will show up. Since I'm serving eggnog here, I felt it was best not to invite Midori."
"Good idea," Mai said. "Though are you..."
"Fuck! I had you, damn it!" Natsuki cried out at her video game.
"Ara, that sounds like a good place to stop to me," Shizuru said, calmly taking Natsuki's controller out of her hand and winding it up. Natsuki stared at the TV for a few more moments, grumbling at her misfortune.
"Er, I was saying..." Mai said, trying to suppress at laugh at Natsuki's behavior. It was easy to see why Shizuru liked to tease her; Natsuki's flustered expression was just priceless. "Don't you think Nao is a bit young to be drinking?"
"Meh, we're all too young, legally," Natsuki said, finally tearing her gaze away from the TV when Shizuru turned it off. "But after the events of this year, I think we're all mature enough. Nao deserves a drink as much as any of us."
Shizuru turned her back to Natsuki, whispering into Mai's ear, "I think Natsuki just wants to see Nao get drunk and embarrass herself tonight."
Mai was almost able to stifle her laugh at this, but unfortunately Natsuki caught her brief outburst and sent her a glare. She was saved from the full force of the Kuga Death Glare, fortunately, as the doorbell chose that moment to ring.
"6:59, right on time," Shizuru said as she headed to the door. She pulled it open as she said, "Welcome to the party, you two."
"Two? What, I don't count for anything?" Nao's voice came from the doorway. For once, it seemed that Shizuru had miscalculated. As she backed up and let the new arrivals in, Mai could see that Nao had arrived along with Haruka and Yukino.
"Forgive me, I don't mean that, Nao," Shizuru said, tilting her head. She took Nao's coat from her and hung it up in the closet. "I was simply expecting you to be a later arrival, if you showed up at all."
Nao grunted at this. "Why the hell wouldn't I show up? Kuga still owes me a rematch at Halo."
"Get over yourself, Yuuki," Natsuki said, rolling her eyes. "I live and breathe shooters. Even if Shizuru would allow us a rematch tonight, you don't stand a chance."
"Oh no, I have a much more entertaining game planned," Shizuru said. For some reason, Mai felt a shiver at the way Shizuru said "entertaining." She didn't particularly trust Shizuru's interpretation of entertainment, but she couldn't put her finger on why.
"Just one game?" Haruka said. "Hah, you obviously know nothing about throwing a proper party! You're going to need much more than that to keep this group porcupined."
"I do believe you mean 'occupied,' Haruka-san," Shizuru said as she took her friend's jacket. "But you can trust me, I have more planned than just that. I do believe Mai was intending to take us for some karaoke as well."
"I did?" Mai said. "Natsuki told me that she had that covered!" Once the words were out of her mouth, Mai realized her mistake. She turned around to face Natsuki, quivering with barely-constrained rage over the thought that she might be denied her karaoke. "Natsuki?"
Natsuki's eyes darted back and forth between Shizuru and Mai, looking for salvation but finding none. "Er... presents! Shizuru and I prepared some special presents for all of you! Let's do that now! Oh, and let me get your coat, Yukino..." Natsuki said, running across the room to avoid Mai's wrath.
"Ara, what a good idea, Natsuki," Shizuru said. "Perhaps Mai would like to open her present first?"
"Mrr, fine," Mai said. She didn't plan to let Natsuki off the hook quite that easily, but there would be plenty of time later to properly chew her out. Natsuki was going to have to cover a good two or three karaoke sessions if she expected Mai to forgive her.
Mai found a seat in the living room while Shizuru went to fetch the eggnog. Shizuru certainly had gone all out in decorating for the season. Perhaps she'd been able to convince Natsuki to help her decorate, but even if she had, it was an impressive amount of work that must have gone into this room. Mai hadn't seen a room like this since the Christmas before her mother died. As her gaze found the presents under the tree, a strange feeling of peace passed over her. It felt like she was home again.
"Oi, Earth to Tokiha, your eggnog's here." Nao's elbow hit Mai's side, alerting her to Shizuru's return. Mai quickly grabbed a glass from Shizuru and let her pour out a cup.
"This is great eggnog, Shizuru," Yukino said. She'd taken a seat across the room from Mai, and it looked like Shizuru had gotten to her and Haruka first. "Where did you buy it?"
"Oh, I just got a plain blend at the grocery store," Shizuru said as she poured out a glass for Nao. "Then I added my own secret spices and liquors to it."
"Gah, well it's not to my taste," Haruka said, putting her glass down.
Shizuru turned to Haruka. "Is that why you finished your glass so quickly, Haruka-san?" She asked, approaching the girl to give her a refill.
Haruka blinked rapidly for a moment, finally coming out with, "You wish! I'm going to need to get good and drunk to enjoy this joke of a party you're putting on."
"Ara, well as long as you do enjoy it, all is well, Haruka-san," Shizuru said with a wink. Haruka muttered at this comment, and a blush formed in her cheeks as Yukino started to laugh beside her.
Perhaps Haruka could use a distraction, Mai though. "Okay, enough stalling. Natsuki still owes me a gift."
"Of course," Shizuru said. She placed the jug of eggnog down on the table and went over to the tree to find Mai's present. "But it is from me too, you know."
"Heh, then it had better be twice as good if Natsuki wants me to forgive her." Mai shot a glance over at Natsuki, who was currently a little more interested in her eggnog than in looking back at Mai.
"Ara, I do believe it is..." Shizuru knelt down to look through the presents, checking the labels to see which one was for Mai. After she'd gone through them all, her brow furrowed up. "Natsuki? I can't seem to find Mai's present here. Do you know where it is?"
"Great," Mai muttered to herself. So Natsuki had screwed her over again.
"Oh right!" Natsuki said. She looked up from her eggnog at last. "It wouldn't fit under the tree, so it's off to the side. Just behind the speaker."
"Ah, here we go, thank you," Shizuru said. She moved the speaker aside, pulling out a large gift from behind it.
From how Shizuru dragged the gift out, Mai could tell that it was rather heavy. Curious, she walked over to the tree. "Can I open it now?"
"Of course," Shizuru said.
Without another word, Mai knelt down and started tearing off the wrapping paper. A plain cardboard box was underneath it, so she unfortunately wasn't able to get any hints from that. She went to the top of the box and opened it up. She could hardly believe what was inside: A state-of-the-art DVD player and row after row of karaoke DVDs. Digging through the box, she even found a microphone.
Mai stared silently into the box until words from behind snapped her out of her daze. "Well, Mai... am I forgiven?"
Mai turned around to face Natsuki. At least, she'd planned to simply face Natsuki. What she ended up doing was pouncing on the girl. "I can't believe you!" she said, pounding a fist onto her friend's chest. "You did this all on purpose, didn't you? I could just kiss you right now..."
A grin split across Natsuki's face. "Guilty as charged. But you might want to be careful about kissing me with Shizuru in the room..."
"Well, as long as I get a kiss from Mai as well, I don't think I'd have any grounds for complaint..." Shizuru said from just behind Mai.
Before Natsuki even had a chance to react to this statement, Mai dove forward to give her a quick peck on the lips. She backed off just long enough to see her friend's face fill with an adorable shade of red, and then she got up and turned to Shizuru. As Shizuru had enough warning to expect a kiss, Mai had to fake her out on this one. She moved forward, bringing her lips just up to Shizuru's, but at the last moment she stood up on her toes so she ended up kissing Shizuru's nose.
A light blush formed in Shizuru's cheeks at this. "No fair..." she said. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Mai dove right back in and caught the girl's lips with hers in a quick kiss. "Mmm... much better."
"Still not enough, though," Mai said. "I don't know how I can ever thank you two enough... There's no way I can afford something you don't already have."
"Ah, forget it, Mai," Natsuki said. She stood back up, then found herself a seat on the couch beside where Mai had been sitting. "Tell ya what. Shizuru's come up with some crazy idea of a game for tonight. Give it a fair try and play to the end, and I think we can call it even."
Mai let out a laugh at this. "You kidding? What makes you think I wouldn't do that anyways?"
Natsuki shrugged. "Then I guess you don't have anything to worry about." There was some twinkle in Natsuki's eye that Mai couldn't quite figure out. She mentally shrugged it off, though. If it was anything important, she'd find out soon enough.
"Oi, if you're done with the lez-fest over there, how about we get to the rest of the presents?" Nao called out, though her tone was light-hearted. Perhaps the eggnog had taken the edge off of her usual gruffness, though Mai noticed that she hadn't really drunk much of it yet.
Shizuru looked at Nao and raised an eyebrow. "Ara, you say that as if you aren't interested in girls yourself, Nao..."
Nao spit out her current sip of eggnog. "Wha-what!?"
"Shizuru can smell a lesbian a mile off," Natsuki said with a shrug. "Or bi, in the case of Mai. Don't think I don't know why you made Mai that offer of kissing us both, Shizuru."
"I have no idea what Natsuki means," Shizuru said innocently.
"Right. Why don't you pass out the rest of the presents?"
"Yes, Natsuki-sama," Shizuru said with a wink. She went on to do so, passing out an envelope to Nao, a small-sized package to Yukino, and a large, but light, package to Haruka. "There you are. I do hope you all enjoy them."
"Hah! Like you could actually get me something I'd enjoy, Miss Bubuzuke," Haruka said, though the fact that she was eagerly unwrapping her gift belied her words. "Aha, I knew it!"
"What is it, Haruka-san?" Mai asked. Haruka's expression was hard to read. She seemed almost as if she were mad, though it was hard to tell.
Haruka was slow to answer, so Yukino peered over into her box and answered for her, "Looks like an assortment of tea flavors to me... And are those recipes too?"
"Those are indeed," Shizuru said. "I even included my recipe for this eggnog that Haruka detests so much she has to chug it down."
A smile split across Yukino's face at this. "That's great, Haruka; you love tea!" Haruka glared up at Shizuru, her eye twitching a bit. Yukino slapped her shoulder and said, "Drop the act and thank her already, Haruka."
"Mrr... thank you, Miss Bubuzuke..." Haruka said reluctantly.
Mai suppressed another laugh at Haruka. The more she and Shizuru grew as friends, the more humorous her attempts at remaining Shizuru's rival became. "How about you, Yukino?"
"Oh yes, let me see..." Yukino delicately peeled off the wrapping paper on her gift, revealing a book within. "'The Complete Hacker's Guide'..." Yukino let out a gasp, looking up at Shizuru. "How did you get this? It was taken out of print and never imported to Japan... I've been trying to get a copy for years!"
"Ara, you'd better ask Natsuki about that one," Shizuru said. "She's the one who found it, but she wouldn't even tell me how."
"Oi! Don't expect me to incriminate myself!" Natsuki said, giving Shizuru a glare. Mai couldn't help but notice that this glare was a fair bit softer than the ones she was used to getting from Natsuki. Shizuru must enjoy quite the girlfriend's privilege. Well, and Natsuki probably wasn't entirely serious right now, of course. "Don't let that get into the wrong hands, Yukino," Natsuki said.
"Oh no worries there," Yukino said. "Thank you very much, Natsuki."
"Heh, no problem."
"Alright, that just leaves Nao..." Mai said, turning to the girl beside her. At least, that's where she'd thought Nao was. "Er, did anyone see where she went?"
"Or Shizuru for that matter..." Natsuki said.
I've looked over the patient's records, and I agree. Ms. Yuuki stands a strong chance of benefiting from my procedure. The soonest I will be able to travel to Japan is mid-February of next year. Please inform the patient's daughter of the circumstances. If she consents, I will finalize the travel arrangements.
Fritz Weiss, PhD., MD.
"Mama..." Nao whispered. Arms wrapped around her from behind, and she was barely able to keep herself from leaping out of her skin.
"It's just me," Shizuru's voice came from behind Nao. "It's alright. I owe you at least this much, Nao. I killed your mother once before. When this opportunity came up to help her live again, I couldn't pass it up."
"I didn't..." Nao's voice was stuttering, so she stopped herself, forcing herself to take a moment and get her nerves under control. "I didn't want you to help me. You didn't need to."
"I know. But you're my friend. I want to help you."
Nao closed her eyes. Friend? There was no helping it any longer. Tears started to leak out of the corner of her eyes. "Thank you..."
"Is everything alright, Shizuru?" Natsuki asked.
"Don't worry, it's fine," Shizuru said. Nao came out from behind her and took her seat next to Mai, and Shizuru strolled to the center of the room. "Well, I guess I've kept you all wondering long enough about the game I had planned."
"I could care less," Haruka said as she downed her fourth glass of eggnog. "Do care 'bout this delicious eggnog though! And of course you didn't make nearly enough of it..."
"I still have two more jugs in the fridge, Haruka-san," Shizuru said with a smile. "We'll need them for my game."
"A drinking game?" Haruka slammed her empty glass down on the table. "I'm in."
"Ara, that's certainly part of it. The name of the game is 'Sip or Strip Spin the Bottle.'"
It took about two seconds for Shizuru's words to sink in. "Strip!?" Mai, Nao, and Yukino cried out.
Haruka hiccuped. "I'm in. You're going down, Miss Bubu... bubu... Shizuru!"
Author's Note: Three presents still lie beneath the tree, for my dear readers. Each contains a special smut scene for this fic. I'll get to writing them all. The only question is, which first? Go to the poll in my author's profile to weigh in. ;)