I don't own these characters.

A/N: this is an AU ShizNat story based on a manga called Pieta. I recommend it to anyone who likes manga.

1: Terror

It was dark and cold, like a freezer with the door shut. It felt like a thousand tiny needles were piercing her body, shredding her from the inside out. It was choking her. The blackness all around her and the frost were strangling her. Twisting and turning, she tried to escape her unknown killer to no avail.

It's the water. I'm in the water!

She was going to drown! She would drown … The water would take her, consume her, and erase her from existence. Her heart clenched, like it was being crushed by glacial fist. The darkness swarmed like bees and the frozen water stung her body as she tried to scream, only to have her voice silenced and traitorous waters choked her.

Pivoting and wiggling more so than before, she tried to evade the dark, escape the water. Instead, it smothered her, devoured her. Eyes frantically searched for some escape and only came upon the morose truth. Pale, creamy skin matted with thick crimson that disgruntled seas could not wash away. She could not turn away from the sight.

She's gonna die! Help! HELP! Somebody help me, help Mom! Save Mom!

Trying to swim was worthless as the water churned and moved her back while attempting to yank her under, swallow her. She was surrounded. Darkness, it was all around her, inside of her, flooding her. The water wrapped around her, pulled her down to Hell like clutching, clawing demons. Dark and cold demonic fingers tore at her freezing flesh to drag her to her tomb.

It's always dark and cold … Dark and cold in my grave.

And it was a tomb, an airtight vault, a haunting crypt. Solid, four hard walls, and no way out. There was a window just out of reach, but most of the time it was blocked by something. Again, she was in the dark and it was cold. Shadows coiled around her now, strangling her, slaughtering her. Again, surrounded on all sides by frozen darkness.

No! No … not again! NO!

There has to be a way out! There has to be!

Rushing the wall, she pounded and scratched at the stone. It felt like her ribs were squeezing her chest in as her fingers were bathed in a warm liquid. It was so quiet that she could hear the droplets hit the frozen floor; it sounds like thunder. It was better than quiet, so she clawed more until she was sure that she didn't have fingernails anymore. There was no exit, so the dripping sound of her own blood was excellent company … it was warm and a color in all of the darkness. And then there was nothing. Just the darkness and cold burying her.

I wanna go home! I wanna go home! I wanna go home! Help me, Mom! Help me! MOM!

-8-8-8-8-

"MOM!" Natsuki shot up from bed, looking around frantically. Sweat flew from her forehead into the pitch-black room. It was dark, so dark. "Help!" she panted. Emerald eyes were wild and pale hands clawed at the bed. She shook as she realized she was not in either of her tombs, but in her bed. Still, it was dark and cold. "Blankets … I need blankets …" she muttered in a panic, stumbling out of the bed.

She nearly fell; her knees were so weak and her legs were like jello. She braced herself against the wall and ran her hand through her hair. It was then she noted that she was sweating bullets. The perspiration dripped down her ebony bangs, off her nose, and drenching her clothing. She found herself panting again.

"Calm down. You're awake now. You're awake and you're fine. You're not in the cell, not in the darkness. You're not being burying. This is not a grave," Natsuki promised herself.

Pushing off the wall, she took a deep breath and moved through her small apartment. Turning on all the lights, she ended up in the kitchen. She went to have a midnight snack, fetched a couple of blankets, and then flopped down on the couch. She wrapped herself in those covers, ate her food, and distracted herself by sitting front of the television for the whole night.

As night turned to day and the rising sun drove off the darkness, Natsuki rose from the sofa and showered. She then collected her uniform for school, but packed it away in a plastic carry bag, which would be placed in the satchel of her motorcycle. She dressed in her biker leathers and was off to school, taking the scenic route.

Riding her bike brought a smile to her face and brightened her emerald eyes. Her guts finally loosened themselves up as the wind whipped by her. The fresh air set her lungs at ease and she sighed, relief surging through her. She felt free, warm, and in the light. She pulled the front of the bike up, popping a wheelie as she went along.

She pulled up to the school and parked. She then went into the gym and changed into her uniform in the locker room. After that, she was off to class … late as usual. Of course, no one could tell that when she walked into class. Even the teacher did not bother reprimanding her. It did earn her a sigh and a head shake from a schoolmate, though.

-8-8-8-8-

Shizuru Fujino watched Natsuki flop in front of her desk. Shizuru herself was standing in the hallway, running an errand for a teacher. Of course, she often ran errands for teachers. They all trusted her and she supposed that she should feel flattered. She would not go so far as to say that she flattered, but she was close to it.

She did not linger in the hallway, making sure to do as she was requested. She knew that she would see Natsuki later. Haruka Suzushiro would make sure of that. After all, no rule remained unbroken around Haruka for long since she took her job as an executive on the student council so seriously.

With the errand done, Shizuru returned to class. She paid attention to her lessons and learned them well; she was the top in her class, after all. But, like all high school kids, she was glad when it was lunchtime. She took her meal in the grassy quad of Fuuka Academy, the private school that she attended. Students swarmed her as soon as she sat down.

She smiled and chatted pleasantly with those around her. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied Natsuki n the distance, leaning on a tree and brooding. The ebony-haired girl intrigued Shizuru. Those emerald eyes seemed so haunted, but cold and fought to keep people at bay, keep them from inquiring. Shizuru did not question it; it was not her place to do so. No, it was her place to scold Natsuki for her tardiness and she needed to get to it before Haruka pestered her about. Sometimes, being student council president is quite troublesome, she thought as she climbed to her feet. But, it does give me an excuse to speak with Natsuki and gives me another opportunity to understand her.

Apparently, Shizuru did not act fast enough because as soon as she was standing Haruka was on her. The blond looked outraged as always; Shizuru sometimes wondered if Haruka ever relaxed. Glancing at the blond, Shizuru decided that Haruka probably did not even know the word "relax," which was interesting in and of itself because of Haruka's peculiar, yet endearing, way with words.

"I hope you're about to go tell that delinquent off! She was late for school again and arrived out of uniform!" Haruka barked, pointing to Natsuki.

"I was on my way at this very moment, Haruka-san," Shizuru replied with a polite smile.

"I should just mark her off for year-long deflection," Haruka declared and she put her hands on her hip.

Shizuru gave Haruka a curious head tilt. "I believe you mean detention." Generally, she would not have corrected her fellow council member, but Haruka's best friend, Yukino, was not around to correct the high-strung blond. "Isn't it too early in the school year to decide such a thing?"

"Then go talk to her and make sure it never happens again," Haruka huffed.

Shizuru sighed, but decided to take her leave since the blond had given the chance. She strolled off, fans following her. The small crowd stopped a few feet behind her when they realized whom she was heading toward. Everyone always kept a wide berth when it came to Natsuki. Shizuru had yet to decide if that was by design or accident.

"Good afternoon, Kuga-san," Shizuru greeted the pale girl with a bright smile.

Natsuki snorted and turned her head. "I know I was late. I don't care."

Shizuru was used to the attitude since she had to speak with Natsuki each time she was late, which was often. Of course, it was not often enough to hurt her grades, but it was often enough that Haruka felt like pressuring Shizuru into doing something to it. So, Shizuru acted like Natsuki was not supremely annoyed with her, even though the feeling was somewhat mutual. Shizuru was tired of having to reprimand Natsuki for something downright silly.

"Kuga-san, do you suppose it would be too much to ask for you to meet with me after school?" Shizuru inquired with a pleasant smile.

Natsuki regarded her with a curl on her lip. "If it gets you to stop looking at me like that, then yeah," she replied.

Shizuru almost faltered from such a curt response. Natsuki was typically withdrawn and somewhat rude to her, but nothing like now. Shizuru knew it was such antisocial snapping that kept people from talking to Natsuki for prolonged periods of time. she refused to let it faze her.

"Then I will see you at the front entrance after school. You may have to wait. I believe I have a council meeting that requires my attendance," Shizuru explained.

Natsuki waved her off and Shizuru took her leave. She was unable to help wondering what was wrong with Natsuki. She seemed crabbier than usual and there were dark rings under her eyes. Her emerald eyes were beyond haunted now; it was like they looked beyond the world into the land of the dead. Perhaps she would get some kind of answers when they met up after school. She also hoped for an explanation on Natsuki's tardiness, which she did not want to become habitual and she planned to explain that to the so-called delinquent.

-8-8-8-8-

Natsuki rubbed her eyes for what had to be the hundredth time; she was pretty sure of that. She was in math class, which was usually enough to hold her interest, but today was not math's day. It actually had not been a good learning day for Natsuki. Her brain was foggy because of a heavy pounding against her skull. Her headache was massive and her eyes kept trying to close, but she refused to allow it.

Shaking her head, she attempted to focus, concentrate on one of her favorite subjects. With her luck, there would be quiz on the material. Of course, it did not matter. Soon, there would be a test and she had been fuzzy all week. Eventually, she was going to fail unless she got her act together.

"Can't fail … need scholarship …" she muttered, rubbing her eyes again. Her math teacher finally came back into focus and math made sense again.

The thought of her scholarship had been the only thing keeping her head from meeting the desk for the whole week. It had been much easier last week. She had been hyper aware and focused, which may or may not have had something do with piles of sugar-loaded junk food. She definitely had not been late, which she could not say for any day this week. She should have known that Shizuru, Miss-Perfect-Student-Council-President-and-Rock-Star, would be all over her ass for being late everyday of the week. Hell, she was ready to ride her own ass for such carelessness. After all, lateness could hurt her grades, which meant that she would lose her scholarship and she would be kicked out of school.

"I need to focus. I need school," she reminded herself. The thought gave her some resolve to fight against the weariness and the headache threatening to overcome her.

For the rest of the day, she was able to at least make it through school. She was ready to get on her bike and just ride for the rest of the day, but she remembered that she had to wait and be chewed out by Shizuru.

"Well, I guess I can start my homework or something," Natsuki muttered. She opened her book bag and began rooting around for something to occupy her time.

Natsuki buried her nose in a book and failed to notice a pair of wine-colored eyes watching her. Eventually, the eyes turned away, but they were not gone for long. Shizuru exited the school and quietly watched Natsuki briefly.

The girl that Haruka swore was a miscreant seemed like a bookworm. Natsuki was strange, a puzzle, and Shizuru loathed to admit that she was curious. Not by much, but she wondered why Natsuki was such a contradiction. Why is this antisocial biker also one of the smartest people in the school?

"Kuga-san, I am surprised to see that you actually waited," Shizuru commented with a polite smile.

Natsuki did not bother to look up from her book. "I did say that I'd show up if you stop looking at me like you are now. You had upheld your end of the bargain up until this moment," she remarked.

Shizuru's smile vanished and her brow furrowed. "This is the second time you've commented on my face, Kuga-san. You seem to be paying an abundance of attention to my face," she countered. "What about my face offends you so?"

Natsuki was set to give a snappy response, but a pounding at the front of her skull halted all charged words. Hissing, she pinched in between her eyes. After a few seconds, the pain went away and she forgot her witty retort.

"Nothing about your face offends me. I just hate it when you give me that damn fake smile of yours," Natsuki answered honestly.

"Fake smile? What do you mean?" Shizuru asked, sounding quite bemused and almost looking the part.

A snort escaped the biker. "Oh, come off of it! You know that smile you give just about everyone that you don't want to talk to, which is almost everyone that you talk to. I can almost see in your eyes you're going, 'will this vapid idiot shut the hell up' almost whenever one of your fans is talking to you. It's a look that just shows you don't want to bother with something, but you're pushing through it."

Shizuru was set to deny the charges, but thought that Natsuki might see through that as she had seen through her smile. She was surprised that Natsuki had read her so well. No one else noticed.

"All right, I'll concede to you that the smile might not be genuine, but I would never think that someone needs to shut up," Shizuru replied calmly.

Natsuki chuckled a bit. "Not even Haruka?" she asked. Her emerald eyes glanced up to gauge Shizuru's reaction.

The tawny-haired teen giggled. "No, not even Haruka, but she does come close."

"I don't understand why you hold conversations with people that you clearly don't want to talk to," Natsuki commented. She was not surprised by her candor. She had lost her mental filter over the weekend. Thankfully, she did not talk to many people to have to worry about the filter.

Shizuru shook her head. "I enjoy speaking to people," she said and then Natsuki gave her a "really?" look, so she decided to clarify her statement. "I enjoy speaking to people initially and about certain topics, but after prolonged exposure, I find that most people are tedious."

Natsuki smirked. "I thought as much."

"Now, perhaps Kuga-san will tell me about herself. Like why she is often late," Shizuru requested.

Natsuki regarded Shizuru, staring her up and down. She wondered why Shizuru cared about why she was late. Shizuru should just scold her and/or punish her, so she could get on with her life.

"Why do you care?" the ebony-haired girl inquired.

"Just as you were curious about me, I am curious about you. I've often wondered what makes you tick. Why are you, well, you?" Shizuru retorted.

Natsuki laughed and closed her book. She put her book away and started toward her bike. When she mounted it, she saw that Shizuru was still standing by the school entrance. Shizuru was clearly tense; well, clearly to Natsuki anyway. Shizuru thought that Natsuki was ignoring her.

"You want to know about me, right?" Natsuki asked.

"I believe I just said that," Shizuru replied in what was the closet that she had ever come to snapping on someone.

"Then come on," Natsuki urged her, waving the older teen over to the motorcycle.

Shizuru barely had to think about it before following Natsuki. She could not help herself; she was quite fascinated. She wanted to know about Natsuki and she also wanted to know how Natsuki was about to read her so easily. No one outside of her family had ever been able to do that before.

After handing over her helmet to her passenger, Natsuki secured their bags away and started the motorcycle. The pair sped off on Natsuki's bike. Natsuki traced the route that she took to school on many days. Shizuru held on for dear life, clinging to Natsuki's back. The pale teen glanced back, checking on her passenger. She was tempted to do some tricks and give Shizuru a real reason to hold on, but decided against it. While a pest, Shizuru was not so bad.

Shizuru was so concerned about staying on the motorcycle that she did not realize when the machine came to a halt. She looked up when she felt Natsuki moving to dismount. Glancing around, the tawny-haired teen saw that they were at a small apartment complex.

"Where are we?" Shizuru asked.

"This is where I live. You asked why I was always late. Well, when I need to clear my head, I take the way we just came to school," Natsuki explained.

Shizuru checked her watch to see the significance of it since she missed everything else along the way. "Well, I don't see why Kuga-san would not be able to make it to school if she left her house an hour before school starts," she commented.

"Yeah, except I don't and probably won't. The earlier I leave, the more I'll ride around," Natsuki informed her.

"So, there's nothing to be done with the tardiness?" Shizuru guessed.

"Nothing at all. Now, do you want me to ride you home or do you want to come in and call a cab?" Natsuki inquired, motioning to the stairs on the outside of the complex. Shizuru guessed that meant that Natsuki's home was on the second floor.

"A cab would be best," the older teen decided. She was not quite ready for another fast ride on the motorcycle.

Natsuki shrugged and led Shizuru to the second story landing of the apartment complex. Shizuru looked around as she followed; the complex looked like a nice place to live. There were well cared for potted plants outside of several doors on the wide walkways. The building itself was a nice mix of white and brown, which imitated wood paneling, and the bay windows for each unit stood out. Natsuki went to the last door and opened it.

"Welcome to my humble abode," Natsuki grumbled, tossing her book bag in a corner of the living room. She slipped her shoes off and marched right into her kitchen. "Want something to drink?"

Shizuru was silent for a moment as she slipped off her shoes. "Water if you have it."

"It's about the only thing I have," Natsuki remarked.

Shizuru did not respond and looked around the apartment. It was a very pleasant, comfortable looking place. She had a small tan sofa on the back wall of the living room with a tiny black coffee table. A bunch of magazines were piled on the table and spilled over onto the floor. A lone game controller and the television remote were also on the floor. The television was a few feet away with a game console next to it; both sat on a flimsy stand.

"Did you call for the cab?" Natsuki asked as she came up behind Shizuru with a glass of water.

"Oh, no. I'll do that now," Shizuru said and she went through her bag for her cell phone.

"You can sit down and wait for them to come." The biker motioned to the couch.

Shizuru nodded again and eased down onto the couch. Natsuki flopped down onto the sofa and sipped from a bottle of coffee. Shizuru glanced at the caffeinated drink and then noted the dark circles under Natsuki's eyes. She was going to comment on them, but the cab company picked up and she ordered her ride home.

They sat quietly for a few minutes with only the sound of their breathing filling the air. Shizuru was set to go, but then she noted that Natsuki had fallen asleep. Well, that explained the bags under her eyes. Shizuru got up and looked around for the linen closet. It was situated at the front of the hallway, which was the same somewhat drab color as the living room; it was a cool gray. She grabbed a thin blanket and draped it over Natsuki.

With Natsuki properly covered, Shizuru sat down again and waited for her taxi. She moved to get her water again and the couch dipped under her shifting weight. As she leaned back, Natsuki eased over and fell into Shizuru's lap. Shizuru let out a very little surprised yelp as Natsuki's head settled on her legs. Shizuru was about to move the pale girl, but Natsuki made a pleased purr and sighed as if she was having the most wonderful sleep ever.

A horn honking got Shizuru's attention, letting her know the taxi was waiting outside. She moved to rise and Natsuki let out a whine. Shizuru was going to let it go, but then Natsuki put her arm around the older woman.

"Stay," Natsuki whimpered in her sleep. Shizuru was surprised that she would honor that entreat.

-8-8-8-8-

Next time: see what happens when Natsuki wakes up to find Shizuru still there.