Chapter 6 - Remorse

The covers on the futon shifted as its sole occupant stirred and stretched provocatively even though there were none present to witness. "Nagisa," soft sensual lips mumbled with a flirtatious sleepy smile. The sleep fogged brain slipped back into the throes of the dream it had nearly drifted from.

"No! We can't, Shizuma-oneesama," Nagisa gasped both appalled and frighteningly excited by her partner's boldness. "Not here!"

Shizuma's lips, always tasting of strawberries, curved up in her prefect temptress smile that Nagisa had come to realize she had little defense against. Even as she sat there upon the older girl's lap the young redhead felt a shiver run down her back at the sultry yet coy look of her emerald eyed goddess. "So then you don't want me to do this?" Shizuma asked playfully as she slipped her hand within the younger girl's Miator uniform where she had skillfully undone two of the buttons in the front of it. Shizuma was rewarded with feeling Nagisa's arm, currently resting around the back of her neck stiffen and the younger girl's hand resting upon her shoulder suddenly grasp hold as her palm came into contact with Nagisa's soft tender abdomen and slowly slid upwards.

Nagisa couldn't help herself as she allowed her head to roll backwards till it came in contact with the side of the confessional in which they were currently seated. "How did I allow you to talk me into this, Shizuma-oneesama?" Nagisa gasped out as the older girl's finger tips slipped under her bra to graze the lower swell of one breast. A soft throaty chuckle was the response.

Shizuma chuckled softly, more a purr than a real chuckle upon hearing the smaller girl in her lap gasp at her touch. My little Daisy, if you only knew what you do to me! "I thought this was all your idea," Shizuma replied as she teasingly moved her hand sideways to softly run her finger tips along the bottom edge of her lover's other breast while lifting the offending bra high enough that it moved upwards on its own, releasing the beautiful bounty which it had started to heave against the restraining fabric.

Nagisa's breath caught in her throat as she felt her bra move up and her soft mounds drop free where the silver maned love of her life could thankfully get to them. The smaller girl at least had the presence of mind to raise her head up and look at her lover who was busy undoing the remainder of the buttons on the front of her school uniform. "Me? I never said anything about coming here." Whatever else the young redhead was going to say in her defense was quickly forgotten as Shizuma's warm palm slid agonizingly slowly over her breast, brushing across her quickly hardening pink nub and sending a pleasurable wave of warm down through her body to settle in her rapidly moistening neither regions between her legs.

The emerald eyed sixth year student shivered herself upon feeling the body of her lover responding to her touch. This is one of the many reasons I love her so, Shizuma mused even as she continued to fondle the soft excited mounds within her grasp, eliciting moans of appreciation from their owner. While the elder of the pair certainly loved to be pleasured, when it came to Nagisa, Shizuma found that it pleased her far greater to pleasure her lover than anything else. It was this very need to put the other first that told her time and time again that the redhead was the only person in the world for her. It wasn't just the pleasurable things either, though she certainly enjoyed those as well. More and more the former playgirl of Astraea Hill found that in almost everything she was placing Nagisa's wants and feelings first. So this is what love is? Who knew being so focused on someone else could feel so wonderful? "As I recall, it was you that said you had missed confession and needed to go?" Though already late in the afternoon the two girls had made the hike to the Astraea chapel only to find that it was empty. The Sister and Father who were normally in attendance had been called away to the school office on some matter requiring their attention. Never one to pass up an opportunity, Shizuma and pulled Nagisa into one of the empty confessionals and then sat the girl in her lap sideways. "As we have time I thought I'd give you something to confess," Shizuma added with a smirk as she finally managed to push the offending uniform far enough aside to behold the hidden fruit awaiting her hungry lips. Shizuma moistened her lips as she leaned in with a feral grin. "If you only knew what you do to me," she exhaled softly, her breath causing goose bumps to appear upon the tantalizing delicious breast that was mere inches away from her lips now. Suddenly someone knocked on the door. "Go away," Shizuma growled at the interruption without even looking up from the object of her desire. Once again there came a persistent knocking. "Damn it! I said go the hell away!" Shizuma yelled as she sat up rapidly, the covers to the futon falling away from her nude body. Once again there came a pounding at the door. Spitting out curses the nude emerald eyed goddess stomped across the clothes covered floor to the door. "WHAT!" Shizuma yelled yanking the door open so hard that the hinges protested.

"Interesting choice of attire," Tamao replied with an emotionless tone of voice as her eyes ran down and back up the form of the nude woman before her. "You've lost weight."

Shizuma eyed the woman in the hallways. Tamao was dressed in a long black dress with long sleeves that seemed to blend into the black gloves on the younger girl's hands. The collar of the dress seemed to come all the way up to the petite girl's ears while the bottom hem of the dress nearly brushed the ground. "A damn sight more comfortable than what you're wearing, Mary Poppins," Shizuma replied doing the same and allowing her eyes to run down and back up the smaller girl's firm. No bare skin below her chin, Shizuma mused. Nothing's changed since last I saw her.

"Wake up on the wrong side of the futon did we, Shizuma-sama?" Tamao asked.

The nude woman took a deep breath, her ample breasts peeking out from beneath the silvery mane which only barely covered them, as the woman's shoulders rose and fell. "You have the same impeccable timing as your partner," Shizuma cryptically replied recalling that Miyuki had interrupted her while recalling some pleasant thoughts of Nagisa as well.

"Are you going to invite me in or are you waiting to flash someone else that may walk past?" Tamao asked in a voice once more devoid of emotion.

"I don't know," Shizuma counter with as she shifted her weight to thrust out one suggestive hip even as a coy smile blossomed upon her face. "That depends, is your girlfriend with you?"

For a moment Shizuma saw the blank emotionless face before her shift as a pained looked crossed it but it was quickly hidden once again. "No, Miyuki doesn't know I'm here," Tamao confessed glancing away from the green eyes before her. "If you're not going to invite me in I'll just go then." Setting actions to words the blue-black haired petite girl turned to leave.

"Wait," Shizuma called reaching out but then quickly drawing the hand back as she saw the smaller girl tense. That's right, no touching, Shizuma reminded herself. "Please come in," she offered as she turned and walked back into the room, pausing to gather up her clothing from where she had discarded them on the way to bed last night. "To what pleasure do I owe this visit Tamao-chan?" Shizuma inquired as she got dressed once she heard the door close behind her.

"Miyuki is worried about you," Tamao replied turning away from the door she had just closed to regard the older woman. "With good cause it would seem. When's the last time you had a proper meal?"

Shizuma shrugged only because she herself couldn't recall the last time. "I'm fine. I was planning to lose a little weight anyways," the former Etoile offered with a dismissive smile as she walked over to the kitchenette area and opened the refrigerator to grab a bottle of water. "Want one?" Shizuma asked arching a brow towards the smaller girl and holding up the bottle. Seeing the other girl decline she shrugged and closed the refrigerator only to stay there and lean against it.

The two former students stood there for several long moments, each regarding the other. Shizuma, while puzzled by her former kouhai's visit, realized it must be something important to bring the reclusive girl out from behind the safe walls of the house she shared with her partner and usual guardian angel, Miyuki. As Shizuma continued to watch, more than willing to allow the petite girl as much time as needed, she couldn't help but recall the events that led up to Tamao's current condition.

Nagisa's sudden disappearance had affected everyone who knew her. Shizuma thought it had hit her the hardest but in retrospect she wasn't so certain of that fact. While Miyuki had spent her energy trying to console the distraught emerald eyed goddess no one had bothered to keep a close eye on the petite girl who had been Nagisa's closest friend all through her stay at Astraea. From a family with wealth and influence ranking well up on the social ladder, the determined girl garnished every resource she could to locate her dear friend. Long after her parents had asked her to give it up Tamao had continued to search, often looking into leads all by herself. Her searching led her down many dark paths and into the seedier side of Tokyo. It was one of those paths that landed the petite woman in an Intensive Care Unit for several weeks followed by several more weeks in the hospital followed by rehabilitation and sexual assault counseling that still continued to this day. Miyuki was the only person that could touch the petite girl without setting her off into a screaming fit that lasted till she collapsed from exhaustion. Even the Princess of Rokujo-in couldn't banish the evil spirits that plagued the former poet. While the details of what had happened to the petite woman were still unknown, Shizuma could well guess at the depravity Tamao had experienced at the hands of her abductors. Whatever had happened had gone on for days before they had discarded the girl's body leaving her for dead.

Tamao reached into the handbag dangling from her arm, her movements breaking Shizuma from the dark memories of that time. Shizuma recalled trying to console her friend Miyuki and never feeling so utterly helpless as she did at the time. The small blue-black haired girl set a tablet computer down on the table and stepped back from it. "I want you to watch something," Tamao said with a slight nod of her head towards the tablet.

Shizuma walked over to the table, keeping it between herself and the other girl who had made certain to place it there in the first place. Picking the tablet up Shizuma looked down and then hit the play button on the touchscreen. The video application played back footage which must have been taken from a surveillance camera which is usually used on the outside of buildings. In the video Shizuma saw herself get out of her car and look about. She suddenly recognized that this was from yesterday and had been taken right outside the hotel she was in currently. Nagisa had stayed there two nights prior, in the same room they were in and the same futon Shizuma herself had slept in last night. "This was taken here yesterday?" Shizuma asked glancing up towards the other girl who just nodded. The video played on to show herself walking out of the field of view of the camera as she entered the hotel office. A puzzled looked crossed the silver haired girl's face as she continued to watch the video which only showed the occasional passerby walking along the sidewalk. The video finally played out, stopping upon the last frame showing an elderly couple walking their dog and women exiting the dinner a little ways down the street. "Okay, what am I looking for and how did you get this?"

"You're not the only one with resources, Shizuma-sama," Tamao replied as she set an envelope down on the table and slid it over towards the older woman before stepping back again. "Several security companies are among the Suzumi family holdings. While not on par with your cellular resources they do occasional prove useful."

Shizuma reached down once the petite girl had stepped back and lifted the envelope and opened it before pulling out the photographs within it. As she started to flip through them her paced quickened as her hands began to shake. Grabbing the tablet again she replayed the video, stepping past her part and replaying the part of the woman with brown hair walking out of the diner down the street. "My Nagisa…," Shizuma spoke in a soft heart wrenching tone as she watched the girl in the video turn and walk away from the camera and proceed down the street till the video paused. The former Etoile slowly sank to her knees as they refused to bear her weight any longer. Once more the green eyed woman looked at the photographs, realizing they were enhanced images showing the reflection of the brunettes face in the front window of the dinner. "She was here," Shizuma uttered in disbelief even as she looked up towards Tamao.

Tamao nodded in agreement. "She was waiting for you," the smaller girl said. "She wanted to see you I think. Almost as much as you want to see her judging by the risk she took of being discovered." Shizuma could only nod as her eyes stared at the picture in her trembling hand. While not the clearest there was certainly no mistaking that it was her Nagisa. Dye her hair red and slap a Miator uniform on her, Shizuma mused already knowing it was the girl she loved. Shizuma started as a handkerchief suddenly appeared in front of her. Looking up from the black gloved hand that offered it, the image before her eyes blurred as tears trickled down her cheeks. "Really! This is no time to fall apart," Tamao chided the older girl as she dabbed at the tears upon Shizuma's face.

The mere fact of having the other woman tend to her in this manner was enough to shock Shizuma out of the emotional stupor she had fallen into at the sight of Nagisa. Maybe it doesn't extend to her touching others, just others touching her? Anyone other than Miyuki that is. A momentary pain of jealousy fluttered through Shizuma's heart as she realized that she was no longer at the top of Miyuki's heart and never would be again. Just as quickly as it came, it vanished as she considered all that the girl before her had been through and was still going through. I hope Miyuki can be everything that you need, Tamao-chan, she sent her silent prayer off to whatever Powers may be listening. "Thank you," Shizuma said from the heart as Tamao stepped back and pocketed the handkerchief.

"So what do you plan to do?" Tamao asked towards the older woman sitting upon the floor staring at the image of Nagisa's reflection. Tamao could almost hear the gears churning within the silver maned head.

Shizuma tried to process the possibility that Nagisa had possibly been there every time, watching from a secluded position. She didn't think it likely, but couldn't rule out the possibility either. I should deploy people all around the area and have them keep an eye out for her. That might work but then what? An image of her people forcibly detaining the younger girl just didn't seem to be the right thing to do. Does she even want to be found? That was perhaps the hardest question for the older woman to answer and the answer which she feared the most. Shizuma was certain her heart couldn't take it if Nagisa really didn't want to be with her. The past four years had been built upon the belief that the younger girl really wanted to be found. Often the thought of holding the slender redhead once again had been the only thing to keep Shizuma going day in and day out. Does she want to be found? "But she said my name last time she called," Shizuma said aloud, more to herself than to the other present.

"If I might offer a suggestion?" Tamao asked. Shizuma looked up and blinked once slowly as if returning from a distant place, only then recalling that she wasn't alone. Seeing that she had the emerald goddesses attention once again Tamao continued, "If she's staying around to see you and even spoke to you then perhaps she's ready to come back." Shizuma hung on every word, uncertain where the younger girl was going with this but willing to hear her out in the hopes it would reunite her with the holder of her heart. "You've run her to ground but I think you need to stop chasing after her," Tamao said thoughtfully only to hold up a hand to stop the explosive argument she could see building in the face of the other woman. "Hear me out for a moment," Tamao requested. Shizuma, with great difficulty, swallowed the words she was about to say and sat back. "You've been chasing her for almost four years now and she's always run away. I think it is safe to assume that as long as you chase after her she'll continue to run," the blue-black haired girl said as she worked her way through the problem at hand. "Rather than chase after her, you need to make her come to you or make it so you get to her before she can flee." Tamao brought one arm across her chest and cupped the elbow of her other arm as she rested her chin in her hand as she continued to contemplate the issue. "She is so used to you chasing after her that she may see it as the only means by which to keep you in her life. Her one last thread leading back to you."

Shizuma thought over the other woman's words carefully for several long minutes. "There's something else you haven't thought of," the former Etoile finally said causing Tamao to look over to her. "Pushing the issue may also cause her to cut that final thread."

The two of them regarded each other for a moment before Tamao shrugged slightly. "I never said it was a perfect plan," she admitted. "If you're fine with the status-quo then by all means do nothing. I personally think you'll both live long and utterly miserable lives," Tamao said it so matter-of-factly that Shizuma didn't doubt her. "Or…you risk it all and go for broke."

Shizuma thought about it, her eyes falling upon the photo of Nagisa once more. The mere sight of her lover made her heart ache. It's almost worse now that I know what she looks like and that she was so close! Shizuma sighed in frustration. "Thank you Tamao-chan," she finally said. "I'll have to think about it for a while. I'm not sure I can risk losing her completely." The smaller girl simply nodded, not having expected Shizuma to come to a decision right away. She, perhaps more than any other, knew just how hard it was to give up Nagisa once the girl had taken a hold within your heart. "Is there…anything I can do for you, Tamao-chan," Shizuma inquired suddenly concerned for the other woman and wanting to do something for her in return.

"Well, how about we keep secret my little visit between you and I," Tamao asked with a hopeful look upon her face.

"I'd imagine that Miyuki wouldn't take too well to discovering that you're still searching for Nagisa," Shizuma said in way of reply. After the previous events that had landed Tamao in the hospital near death, Miyuki had extracted a promise from the petite girl to give up the search. The older of the pair had confessed that she didn't think she could survive should something happen to the former poet.

Tamao rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. "I'd never hear the end of it," she confessed. "She would go on and on about how it wasn't proper. How it was dangerous. How I had broken my promise," Tamao did a fairly good impression of the former Miator Student Council President which caused Shizuma to chuckle in appreciation having sat through more of her friend's lectures than anyone else.

Shizuma, still grinning, injected on her friends behalf, "She only does it because she cares about you, Tamao-chan."

Tamao paused and tilted her head to the side slightly as she regarded her former schoolmate. "I know. She's rather sweet that way, isn't she?" the former poet replied with a soft smile.

Shizuma could clearly see the love the petite girl held for her dearest friend. "Yeah," Shizuma agreed with a soft affectionate smile of her own, "She certainly is."

"She's worried about you, Shizuma-sama," Tamao said as her face suddenly became serious once again. "We both are."

Shizuma ran her fingers through her disheveled hair as she chuckled nervously. "I'm worried about me to," she admitted as she got to her feet to cover her own embarrassment. "Thank you. Thank you both for worrying about me." The two woman locked gazes and something passed between them, or so it felt to Shizuma. There was an understanding there that hadn't existed before. They both understood just how impossible it was to let the little redhead go. "Are you sure there isn't something I can do for you," the heir to the Hanazono family inquired one last time as she walked the smaller girl to the door and opened it for her.

Tamao paused and, turning slightly, laid one hand upon Shizuma's forearm. "Bring her home. Bring her home before something like what happened to me happens to her." Shizuma swallowed heavily and couldn't respond past the lump in her throat. The silver mane shifted as the older girl simply nodded in way of answer.

Closing the door after the blue-black haired woman had left, Shizuma returned to the table and once more stared at the picture of Nagisa. What if she doesn't want to be found? What if all this time I've been chasing her she just wanted to be left alone? Shizuma realized that if that was the case then she had just spent the last four years of her life chasing after a girl that didn't want anything to do with her. Perhaps worse than that to her was the realization that she may have been ruining Nagisa's life for the past four years. Why? Why did I have to ask her that? If I had just kept my damn mouth shut! Not for the first time the silver haired woman berated herself for that impulsive side of her that acted before she even thought through the consequences of her actions. Shizuma's heart ached for the woman she loved, for the time they had missed these past four years but also due to the remorse she felt at having caused these events in the first place. I should have asked her what she wanted!

Author's Note:

My apologies for the terribly slow updates to this story. I've been rather engrossed in my MGSM fandom of late and so have let this story slide for a bit. I'm hoping to do some serious work on it now though so please bear with me as we see exactly where the Muse is going with this one.

louis08 – thanks for giving me a push by requesting the next chapter. I do appreciate it!

As always, though certainly not required, I do appreciate any and all reviews, comments and Private Messages. Please let me know what you like and what you disliked.

Kind Regards,

EJ Daniels

All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of Sakurako Kimino the original writer of the Strawberry Panic! light novel series.

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