The Art of War - An Introduction to Teasing

A Mai HiME Fan Fiction

Premise: This is the first of the one shots that I've taken on through request via my LJ. This was asked for by ifuritka. The outline was to write a fluffy, day-in-the-life-of, angst-free piece centred on Shizuru and Natsuki. As I wasn't given a specific time line, I'm just going to place it some time soon after when I set Giving In, as I'm most familiar with it at the moment. :P

Note: Due to the way I've started this piece, I'm going to be making this a two-parter. I always do this to myself. I start off with an idea but never an outline and, before I know it, I have a longer story than I originally intended. I'm sure no one will complain at that though. :)

Disclaimer: No owning of Sunrise's property to be had here, nope.

The keys jangling in her hand as she closed the door to her apartment, Natsuki placed her motorcycle helmet on the side board and slipped the keyring onto a hook on the wall above it. Normally she would have tossed them onto the sideboard or shoved them in a pocket but there had been quite a few changes in recent months. The small key rack was just one of them. She smiled as she remember the fuss Shizuru had made over the most minor of things. She knew her girlfriend appreciated order though and so she had let her have her way when it came to the apartment.

Girlfriend... it still sounds odd thinking that. It was something she was getting used to but she wondered if she'd be able to use the word in an actual conversation. Shrugging, she made her way down the corridor towards the living room. As she entered, she could instantly tell something was amiss. Thin streams of early morning light filtered in through the blinds against the window, falling upon a breathtaking view of a sleeping Shizuru.

Natsuki stared unmoving for several long moments, merely taking in the serene expression upon the slumbering girl's face, her legs stretched out along the length of the couch and her hands folded atop her stomach. A pang of guilt tugged at Natsuki's heart and she wondered if Shizuru had been there all night. She quietly made her way over to the couch and propped herself on the edge of it beside the sleeping girl. She twisted her body so she could get a better look at Shizuru's face.

She reached out and brushed aside strands of chestnut that obscured her view of the other girl's face. She let her eyes trail over her beautiful features; from the thin, curving eyebrows, over the relaxed brow and down an elegant nose. Her gaze travelled over long lashes that she longed to see part and show her the unusual shade of Shizuru's eyes. Eventually, she found herself staring at full, slightly parted lips. Lips that were responsible for so many things. Natsuki had heard the sweetest words spill past them, she had felt their caress on her skin and their touch on her own mouth; a touch that could tell her more than anything the other girl could possibly say.

Unable to resist the urge, Natsuki leant down and pressed a light kiss to those lips and she felt sudden breath brush across her mouth as she pulled away again. Cloudy crimson peeked out at her from between barely opened eyelids and Natsuki couldn't help but smile fondly at the wakened girl. She brushed her fingertips across Shizuru's cheek lightly.

"Morning," she murmured softly.

Shizuru's brow creased slightly and she blinked several times, possibly in an attempt to clear her sleepy mind. "Natsuki..?"

The dark haired girl leant down again, this time pressing a brief kiss to Shizuru's forehead. "Mm?"

Once Natsuki had pulled back again, the other girl propped herself up on her elbows before pulling herself into a sitting position, her back against the arm of the couch. "Did you just get in?" Her usual melodic tones were somewhat marred by her recently awoken state.

"Yeah, I wish I'd known you'd be here," she answered apologetically.

"I should have called first." Shizuru's eyes dropped to her lap and she smoothed out the material of her jeans. She didn't wear them often but Natsuki decided she could get used to the way they hugged her legs. "Where were you?"

Natsuki's eyebrows rose at the quiet question. "I stayed over at Mai's. I kind of passed out after a study session," she explained sheepishly.

Crimson eyes found hers again and she saw relief in them but it was soon replaced by something more often located there. "Ah, so you were with another girl all night."

Her eyes widening at the insinuation and, as her cheeks flushed, Natsuki swatted at Shizuru's shoulder. "Idiot, don't say such things!" Her only reply was a chuckle so she straightened and turned, huffing indignantly at the joke. "You should know, by now, that you're the only one I want to... erm... you know..."

Shizuru shuffled on the couch so she could slip her arms around Natsuki's shoulders and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Natsuki wants to do what with me?"

That question only further flamed her embarrassment. "Spend the night with you!" she blurted out awkwardly.

Mischievous lips brushed lightly against Natsuki's ear and she felt a shiver pass through her. "Night has passed but we shouldn't let that stop us," Shizuru purred. The younger girl recognised that tone all-too-well now and it made her skin prickle with the promises it held.

"Shizuru, you have a one track mind," Natsuki chided her softly.

Another chuckle came but the lips hadn't shifted from their position at her ear. "If by that you mean I think of nothing but Natsuki, then you are probably right."

Natsuki felt a blush rise to her cheeks. She wasn't sure if she'd ever get used to hearing Shizuru's intimate words, whether they were fuelled by passion or fondness. They always seemed to turn Natsuki into a bumbling ball of embarrassment. If she hadn't known Shizuru meant everything she said, Natsuki would have suspected the ex-Kaichou said those things just to get a blush out of her. Then again, she never really needed to try much. Realising she was thinking too much again, the younger girl turned to her girlfriend, their faces barely inches apart.

An deep crimson gaze greeted her and she found her breath catching in her throat. The intensity in just one look could overwhelm Natsuki at times but she would never want to change that. It gave her a comforting warmth in her chest. She wouldn't admit it to Shizuru, or anyone for that matter, but that look made Natsuki feel incredibly special and she found herself liking that sensation more and more.

She leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Shizuru's lips. When she pulled back a little, she saw the other girl's eyebrow twitch once and something changed in her eyes. Then full lips were back upon Natsuki's again, searching for something deeper. The younger girl responded immediately, her mouth moving of its own accord against her girlfriend's. Her body had a habit of taking over in moments such as this and Natsuki was quite happy to let it. The outcome was always worthwhile, after all.

A quiet murmur rumbled against Natsuki's lips as Shizuru reacted to the touch of the yonger girl's mouth. A hot tongue swept across the biker's lips now and she eagerly parted them, allowing Shizuru to explore further. As their kiss deepened, Natsuki shifted so she could slip her body in between the older girl's legs. She lowered herself and felt Shizuru stiffen as hips met pelvis. Arms wrapped around Natsuki and held onto her tightly as the heat between them began to rise.

Natsuki pulled back from the kiss, her breathing heavy now. Her girlfriend's ruddy eyes had darkened and she noted the slight flush on her cheeks. She was always entranced by that expression on the other girl's face. It held a searing need but there was also vulnerability there and Natsuki knew it would only ever be her that got to see that. She had an irrational urge to protect that fiercely. She licked her lips as she continued to stare down at Shizuru, her passion-fuelled mind clearing somewhat. There was something niggling at the back of her mind now.

The low growling of her stomach finally jogged her memory. Breakfast! "Crap!" she cursed and hopped off the couch, much to the surprise of her lover. How could she have forgotten? Mai, Mikoto were waiting outside and they were meant to be meeting a few people at a local bakery. Of course, Shizuru always had a way of being distracting, even if it wasn't intentional. Nevertheless, she couldn't keep her friends waiting any longer.

"What is it?" came Shizuru's curious voice.

Natsuki glanced at the other girl, whose expression was caught somewhere between concerned, disappointed and frustrated. "Uh, Mai's waiting for me downstairs, we're meant to be getting food with a few people." She added in an apologetic smile to soften the blow.

It didn't seem to soothe Shizuru however as her eyes widened slightly. "You're leaving?"

It was unusual to see the older girl being so expressive. Although she didn't hide her feelings from Natsuki any more, she was still always controlled and deliberate in most of what she did, so seeing Shizuru being so open had a tendency to catch Natsuki off-guard. "S-Sorry, I got distracted and... kinda forgot they were there..." she trailed off, wondering how she was going to make this up to the other girl.

Shizuru drew herself up to a sitting position and slipped her legs off of the couch. She was silent for a moment before replying. "Then you mustn't keep them waiting." There was the usual controlled Shizuru she was used to seeing.

"Hey, why don't you come with us?" Natsuki suggested, a hopeful smile pulling at her lips.

Crimson eyes brightened at the suggestion and Natsuki was treated to one of her genuine smiles. That familiar warmth swelled within her at the sight. "If your friends don't mind."

"Of course not," Natsuki waved a hand as she spoke. "The more the merrier, right?"

Shizuru nodded once and stood, grabbing the light cardigan she had left on the back of the sofa as she did so. "Can Natsuki wait just a moment? I need to freshen up first." The younger girl grunted her affirmation and she watched Shizuru disappear into the bathroom.

The sound of running water filled the apartment and Natsuki decided to change her attire while she waited. She quickly changed into a pair of jeans and snug t-shirt before looking for a light jacket. It wasn't really cool enough to wear anything heavier. As she searched through her wardrobe, she felt a presence behind her, quickly followed by arms slipping around her waist. The comforting sensation of Shizuru's body pressed against her back made her smile and she leant into the embrace.

"You're going to make us later," Natsuki mumbled.

Shizuru placed a kiss against the younger girl's shoulder through the fabric of her shirt. "I could make us much later," she said simply and without a hint of the mischief she so clearly meant.

Natsuki's body reacted to the words but she wasn't going to let it win this time. "Sh-Shizuru!"

The other girl laughed behind her and pulled away, much to Natsuki's relief. As much as she wanted to give in to Shizuru's suggestions, she didn't want to keep Mai and Mikoto waiting any longer. She busied herself with trying to find that elusive jacket, which she was sure she'd put in the wardrobe only last week. Maybe I should just wear my motorcycle jacket, it'll do.

"Natsuki should just go as she is," Shizuru suggested, obviously figuring out what the younger girl was after.

Peering over her shoulder, Natsuki shot her a sceptical look. "Really? The weather's not the best today."

Shizuru nodded. "I shall keep Natsuki warm."

The dark haired girl shook her head but smiled. "I don't think the other customers at the bakery will appreciate my Shizuru-jacket as much as me." She turned her attention back to the clothing in front of her, imagining the pout that must have worked its way to the older girl's face by now. Ah-ha. She spotted an old denim jacket hiding on the end of the rack and grabbed it. "This'll do," she muttered.

She slipped the garment on and marched over to the door, motioning for Shizuru to follow. The pair made their way to the front door and Natsuki grabbed her keys and wallet, slipping the latter into her jacket pocket. She opened the door and ushered her girlfriend through with a wave of her arm. Shizuru smiled and stepped out, allowing Natsuki to do the same so she could lock up. They quickly made their way down the steps to street-level, where Natsuki spotted her friends waiting.

Mikoto was fidgetting around Mai, tugging on random pieces of clothing from time to time and looking up at the redhead. I kept them waiting too long, Natsuki thought guiltily. The fresh spring air wasn't too cold but she knew standing out in it for a prolonged period would not be entirely pleasant. Mai noticed their approach and Natsuki waved a hand briefly in greeting. The redhead seemed surprised to see Shizuru.

"Shizuru-san, I didn't know you were staying with Natsuki," she said pleasantly but her gaze slid over to Natsuki and she could see the hint of mischief in her eyes.

"O-Oi, she's not!" Natsuki blurted and she realised she may have said that too quickly. Her gaze instantly went to her girlfriend who was peering at her with a quirked eyebrow. "Not that it would be a bad thing if you were," she quickly explained.

Both Mai and Shizuru laughed at her awkwardness and Natsuki found herself wondering if putting the two of them together would be a wise decision. Her girlfriend had come along to quite a few social gatherings in recent months and Mai had finally switched from calling the older girl Fujino-san to Shizuru-san. It was nice that they were getting along but Natsuki thought they enjoyed her embarrassment far too much to be healthy. Healthy for her, anyway.

"So what kept you so long?" Mai asked cheerfully, her gaze rooted to Natsuki's face.

She cursed the blush that flooded her cheeks. Thankfully, Shizuru came to her rescue. "I believe that was my fault, Mai-san. Natsuki hadn't expected me."

Although she had half-expected Shizuru to take full advantage of that opportunity to tease her, she also knew the older girl was a private person. She generally saved her teasing for when they were alone, unless there was a particular opportunity she couldn't resist. But even then, she tended to be subtle. Natsuki was glad for that, she could be happily oblivious to the comments because there were times she'd just not absorb the full meaning of Shizuru's words.

"Anyway, we all set?" Natsuki asked, noting that Mikoto had calmed down a little now that they seemed as though they were on their way to having food.

Mai nodded and pointed in the direction they would be walking. The four of them set off at a leisurely pace, Mai and Mikoto walking just ahead of Shizuru and Natsuki. Emerald eyes peered over at the silent form of Shizuru. Natsuki noticed her girlfriend seemed to be somewhat distracted, her gaze trailing the ground and her hands clasped in front of her. What's she thinking?

They soon reached the small bakery that Mai had been raving about for weeks. Natsuki had finally given into her constant suggestions to go that morning just before leaving the redhead's dorm room. It seemed like a nice little place, with several tables situated just out the front of the premises. It's too cold to sit outside today though. Mai practically bounced over to the door and opened it, hurrying inside without much care for whoever might be coming out. Thankfully, no one was.

As Natsuki stepped inside, the smell of doughs and pastries assaulted her nose. Her stomach growled louder and she hoped no one else could hear it. She scanned the bakery, spotting several tables against one wall and some familiar faces looking in her direction. Sat at the corner table was Midori and Reito. Midori she'd expected, as she often came along to their little meet-ups but Reito was rarely ever there. Then there was the absence of Tate. Natsuki gave Mai a side-long glance but the redhead didn't seem to notice. Instead, she moved over to the table and started chatting away happily.

A reassuring hand at the small of her back told her Shizuru was standing close by. She glanced up at her girlfriend who smiled back at her. The older girl knew Natsuki wasn't that keen on large social gatherings and the comfort was appreciated. Shizuru walked over to where everyone was seated now and slid onto the bench that sat against one wall. Natsuki slipped in beside her and was grateful that her girlfriend had left her with the end seat. It just made her feel more at ease having an easy escape route.

"Reito, it is unusual for you to come along to these gatherings," Shizuru commented.

He grinned at her. "It is merely a coincidence, I assure you. I do so enjoy the pastries here and when I spotted Midori-san, I found myself drawn into conversation."

Natsuki found it rather amusing that Reito was a regular pastry eater. "Alright, here's the plan - I go order for everyone and you swoon at my brilliant skills of selection!" Mai suggested, her excitement showing plainly in her expression.

Eyeing the redhead cautiously, Natsuki frowned. "What if you choose something I don't like?"

"Trust me!" Mai insisted.

Natsuki was about to raise another complaint when she felt a subtle pressure on her thigh. She blinked rapidly as she realised Shizuru had placed her hand there and was now slowly caressing her leg through the denim of her jeans. She had to use all her concentration to keep her blood from rushing to her face and to not react to that touch.

Mai took her silence as an agreement, it seemed. "Great! I'll be back in a minute!" She moved towards the counter that housed a huge selection of pastries and cakes, Mikoto eagerly following.

The biker kept her gaze firmly rooted to the table, the small, light movements of Shizuru's hand causing her pulse to quicken. Reito soft tones filled the silence but she was unable to look at him.

"So, how are your studies going?"

As Shizuru was the one to answer, Natsuki assumed he had aimed the question at the ex-Kaichou. "Fairly well, thank you."

"You're adjusting then?" Reito continued to question.

"Your concern is touching but I am fine." Natsuki was beginning to grow suspicious that they were having one of their veiled conversations. The pair shared a number of similarities in their personalities and it seemed as though they understood each other to some degree. Torturous fingers dipped down to her inner thigh and Natsuki let out a short squeak. She immediately flushed at the unusual outburst and clamped her hand down on Shizuru's.

"Natsuki, is everything okay?" Midori spoke up, eyeing her curiously.

"Fine!" she spat, her voice a higher pitch than it was usually.

Shizuru withdrew her hand, her expression remaining calm the entire time. Natsuki wanted to glare at her but it would have given away what had caused her strange behaviour. She wasn't even sure if Midori knew about their relationship yet. Mai knew since Natsuki had told her when she'd been confused about what was happening between her and Shizuru but she hadn't found the need to tell anyone else. It was none of their business, after all. I wonder if it's obvious though?

When Midori and Reito began talking between themselves, Natsuki allowed herself a glance at her girlfriend. Shizuru sat there as if she'd done nothing at all, her expression neutral and her hands now folded in her lap. Natsuki reached out and poked the side of the older girl's leg, receiving a surprised glance in response. The biker tried to silently question her girlfriend but the other girl just smiled innocently back at her. She jabbed at the leg again in an attempt to make her girlfriend relent but it only brought about a playful glint in her crimson eyes.

Shizuru's gaze dropped to Natsuki's hand and she brushed her fingertips across the back of it as she leaned a little closer to the biker. "I could think of something better you could be doing with that," she whispered, her voice dropping to a purr.

Natsuki opened her mouth to retort but the words got caught somewhere between her throat and tongue. Does she mean what I think she means? Shizuru returned to her previous sitting position, exposing Natsuki's blushing face to their two companions at the other end of the table. Thankfully, they were too busy talking to notice.

"Okay..." Mai's voice broke through her flustered haze and Natsuki blinked rapidly as a tray was placed on the table. An assortment of cakes were collected there and the biker's hunger made itself known once more. "For Reito-san we have a slice of dorayaki." She passed over a small plate with a slice of sponge cake on it.

"Good choice," Reito hummed approvingly.

"Midori-san gets the last manju they had." She passed over the steamed sweet and Midori eyed it hungrily. "I hope Natsuki is okay with lemon roll," she said as she slid the plate towards the biker. "Sorry, they had no mayonnaise desserts."

Natsuki glared at her for the insinuation that she needed it on everything. She wasn't completely unreasonable when it came to the condiment but the joke had spread throughout their group nonetheless. "Thanks," she grunted.

Mai then passed a plate over towards Shizuru who took it with a thankful smile. "I hope you like sweet bread. The girl who served us said it went well with tea so..." she let out a short laugh as she explained.

"That is very thoughtful. Ookini, Mai-san."

"Which reminds me, they should be bringing over the tea soon. But we can start eating, I'm sure you're all hungry." Natsuki didn't need Mai to tell her twice. She picked up the lemon roll and bit into it eagerly, the combination of the soft sponge and the tang of the filling a pleasure to her taste buds. She was vaguely aware of Shizuru watching her out of the corner of her eye but she was used to that by now. The older girl had told her she found it incredibly cute the way Natsuki ate. She wasn't sure how anyone eating could be cute but she wasn't about to stop Shizuru from doing something she enjoyed.

Mai and Mikoto had both ordered mochi it seemed and the younger of the two had completely finished her plate by the time the redhead was half-way through hers. Natsuki licked the citrus from her lips and, feeling a crumb at the corner of her lips, brought a finger up and popped the stray bit of sponge into her mouth. The act hadn't gone unnoticed, however, and she glanced at Shizuru to see her staring intently at the biker's lips.

A thought occurred to her then. Shizuru's not the only one who can tease. She had to stop herself from smirking at the realisation. It wasn't as if she was going to start making suggestive gestures in front of their friends; she was sure that would blow up in her face if she even attempted it. But the knowledge that she could leave her girlfriend just as flustered was an empowering one. Having never done such a thing before, she wasn't sure how to go about intentionally teasing Shizuru. According to her girlfriend, she had often unintentionally driven her to distraction but how was Natsuki meant to recognise those times?

Even so, she had to take a mental note that her lips were one way to get Shizuru's attention. Before she could plot any further, her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of china clinking and a tea set was laid out before them. Reito took charge of pouring each of them some tea and it didn't take Shizuru long to pick up her cup and start sipping at the hot liquid. No surprise there, I bet she's going through withdrawal by now. Natsuki stared down at her own cup, the surface of the tea still swirling slightly in the container.

As Mai launched into a story of how Mikoto had overcome the hurdle of a particularly nasty Math exam, Natsuki pressed her thigh firmly up against Shizuru's. This earned her a quizzical crimson look but she pretended as though she was listening to the animated tale being told in front of her. Natsuki considered whispering something to her girlfriend but decided the consequent blush on her own cheeks would give her away easily. The idea was to fluster Shizuru, not herself.

A plan formed in her mind then as her eyes swept across the table once and she spied the tea pot. Natsuki picked up her own cup and drank from it, draining it completely of the tea. Shizuru was peering at her again, clearly bemused at the younger girl's odd behaviour.

"The roll made me thirsty," she explained with a shrug.

Time to put the plan in motion. Deciding to remove her jacket for added effect, Natsuki slipped off the denim and let it fall behind her. She set her gaze on the teapot and leaned in close to Shizuru to reach for it. Extending one arm, Natsuki made sure she let her breast graze her girlfriend's forearm slowly. As she picked up the pot and leaned back into her seat, a soft coughing sound could be heard. Natsuki glanced at Shizuru whose face had darkened and she was uncharacteristically spluttering into her tea cup. She quickly regained her composure, however, and placed the cup on the table in front of her.

At her companions' concerned glances, Shizuru smiled apologetically. "Kanin na, I must have been drinking too quickly." Ha! Clearly that was not the case, since Shizuru always savoured her tea, whether she was thirsty or not. Ruddy eyes slid to the right to look at Natsuki now and the biker had to swallow the lump that formed in her throat at that expression. It was a gaze that held many promises and Natsuki realised she may just have awakened a terrible beast. Shizuru's going to get me back for that, for sure, she thought glumly. She hadn't thought her plan through very well, she decided.

When everyone had finished their food and tea, Mai started stacking the dishes. "Hey, Natsuki, do you want to come shopping with me today?"

The biker glanced at her girlfriend. "What, now?"

"Yeah, why not? No time like the present, right?" Mai chirped as she continued to tidy the table. Natsuki guessed it was a habit from when she worked as a waitress. It helped that she was a generally tidy person as well.

"Well, uh..." Natsuki trailed off, not sure she wanted to get dragged along to another lengthy shopping trip. Besides, she had more pressing matters she wanted to attend to.

"What Natsuki means to say is that she'd love to go with you, Mai," Shizuru interjected. Natsuki shot a warning look at her girlfriend but from the way she smiled, she knew she was up to something. This is my punishment, isn't it?

Mai chuckled, clearly keeping a comment to herself. "Great! Reito-san, can you hang out with Mikoto for a few hours?"

"Of course," he nodded and offered the happy Mikoto a large grin.

"Did I hear mention of shopping?" Midori asked excitedly, clasping her hands together in front of her chest dramatically.

Mai stood and nodded. "You're welcome to come along. You too, Shizuru-san."

"Oh, I will." The way Shizuru had said that left Natsuki with a sense of foreboding but also a spark of excitement. Not that she'd ever let her girlfriend in on that little fact, the last thing she needed was for the older girl to know she actually enjoyed the teasing.

"Let's get this over with then," Natsuki muttered as she stood, grabbing her jacket on the way. She moved over to the bakery door, looking out onto the street through the glass. The spring morning was starting to give way to a warmer afternoon and it looked like it might turn into a pleasant day.

Shizuru came to stand next to Natsuki as Mai and Midoro went to the till to pay for breakfast. Natsuki had paid last time so it was either Mai or Midori's turn. While the others were busy, Shizuru slipped her arm through the biker's, linking them. She leaned in closer too, her eyes surveying the same scene Natsuki had moments before. Natsuki felt comfortable and content just standing there with her girlfriend.

"Ikezu..." came the barely audible word.

Natsuki looked over at the other girl. "What?"

"I never knew Natsuki could be such a flirt," Shizuru murmured quietly, her eyes dancing with amusement.

"You started it," Natsuki complained, heat rising to her cheeks.

The older girl looked at her intently and smirked just as their companions were walking over. "And I shall finish it."

A/N: As you may be able to tell, I'm not used to writing this kind of story. There's lots of dialogue and not much description. And I do so love my description. I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless and I shall write the second half once I've finished writing the updates for Blood Letting and Destiny Awaits. :)