Chapter Six - I don't wanna say what I got on my mind, 'Cause nothing tonight wants to come out on time.

It was the Monday after her excursion with her assistant and Shizuru was sitting at her desk once again, running over the details for a trial she had the next day. But no matter how hard she tried to focus, she found that her mind would wander.

And it wasn't as though her mind was wandering towards anything in particular. It would just wander. From something like the colour of paint on her walls to what she planned on making for dinner that night. None of the things that floated through her mind were of intense interest but she couldn't manage to keep her mind on task.

She brushed her bangs out of her face and resisted the urge to rub her eyes. She felt so drained and a small part of her just wanted to return home and lie in a dark room. She wasn't exactly tired, though she'd been sleeping rather badly. It was more that she was…emotionally exhausted.

A sigh escaped her lips as she tried to avoid thinking about her emotions. With all the work she had to do and the papers she had to look over to prepare for her case the next day she really couldn't deal with everything she'd been supressing. She couldn't handle the thoughts that had been pressing at the edges of her mind.

The doubts.


Shizuru covered her eyes and bit her lip to prevent a noise of distress from being heard. She couldn't think about her and the choices she'd made. What was done was done. She had to move on, accept it and…

She scoffed as she gave up her attempts to delude herself and attempted to force her mind back to work once more.

Shizuru had just gotten back from court and was in the midst of sitting down when the door to her office burst open. At first she felt a wave of dread at the thought it might be her assistant, who was easily the last person she wanted to deal with in her exhausted state, but that was replaced with a mixture of exasperation and amusement as she saw a different woman standing in the doorway. "Haruka."

The blond woman knew Shizuru enough to recognize her less formal welcome, one that she only used with people she felt comfortable around. "Hey! You and me, we're heading out to get some lunch."

Shizuru's eyes danced as she stared at her friend. "Are we?"

Blond brows rose almost imperceptibly and a challenge flared to life in violet eyes. "That's what I said isn't it?"

Feeling as though she'd gotten enough of a rise out of her friend, Shizuru smiled and nodded. "Indeed you are correct. Did you have a specific place in mind?"

Haruka grinned and started off energetically, not bothering to look back to see if Shizuru was following. "I'm feeling like some foreign food today. I'm thinking Italian, genuine Italian of course. Yukino showed me a great place not long ago and I've been meaning to make you go there. Now is the perfect time."

With a small but warm smile Shizuru rolled her eyes and followed the boisterous woman out, giving her assistant a quick indication as to when she would be back.

She allowed Haruka to set the pace and was unsurprised to find that they were seated in the restaurant not even fifteen minutes later. The woman was like a human incarnation of the energizer bunny. A slight frown pulled at the edges of her mouth as the comparison floated into her mind. Normally she wouldn't have made such a connection. And in this case, the only reason it came to mind was because Natsuki had said the same thing once before. She could still remember the first night she and Natsuki had gone on a double date with Haruka and Yukino. True to who she was, Haruka insisted on dominating the conversation and did almost everything with an intensity that had Natsuki and Shizuru on the verge of exhaustion by the end of the night.

Natsuki groaned and flopped into one of the chairs that surrounded their dining room table and let her head fall to the table's surface. "No wonder Yukino's so fit. She doesn't need to exercise. Just surviving with someone like Haruka would take a serious amount of stamina. The woman's like the goddamn Energizer bunny. Hell she'd be a better representation of what that company stands for. She literally just keeps going and going and going." Her head shot up and she fixed Shizuru with an inquisitive stare. "Do you think Haruka ever sleeps?"

Honey brown brows furrowed as Shizuru tried to figure out whether or not her girlfriend was serious. After a few moments and no faltering in Natsuki's expectant gaze she chuckled. "Well, since I'm fairly sure Haruka is human and not a rabbit I would assume she does indeed sleep."

Emerald eyes rolled as Natsuki snorted. "I know she's not a bunny Shizuru. It's just a comparison. The Energizer bunny was the only thing I could think of that could describe Haruka." She paused then fixed Shizuru with another stare. "Wait…are you saying you don't know what the Energizer bunny is?"

Delicate brows raised and Shizuru shook her head slowly. "I've obviously seen the brand of batteries however I'm not entirely sure if the rabbit is related to the company or not."

"You've never seen the commercials?" Natsuki's eyes were wide and her voice was clearly incredulous.

The brunette shook her head once more. "I don't watch television."

For a moment it almost seemed as though she'd shocked her companion into silence before Natsuki finally spoke once more. "Wow. Okay. I mean I don't really watch television either but I always thought that made me a bit weird. Why don't you?"

Shizuru tilted her head slightly as she considered the question. She didn't really have anything against television, it just didn't really interest her. As a child she'd always been busy with lessons of one kind or another or schoolwork. And as she'd gotten older the same things applied. As well, she'd begun paying attention to the people around her, studying them and trying to understand them. In a sense she guessed that was how she entertained herself. "I suppose it's just because I've never really had the time. Besides, I've always had someone more interesting to watch than fictional characters in shows."

"Someone more interesting to watch?" Natsuki hadn't noticed the playful smirk that crossed the other woman's lips and completely missed the implication.

Shizuru rolled her eyes and sat down next to her girlfriend. "Yes. Someone more interesting. Someone beautiful and alluring who I could never seem to look away from. Someone who caught my attention time and time again. Someone who I eventually fell in love with. Why would I need television when I have all it offers and more right in front of me?"

As Shizuru spoke, realization flowed across Natsuki features and was followed with a rapidly darkening blush. "You are insane. You know that right?"

Shizuru smiled warmly and leaned towards the other woman. "Maybe. But would it be alright if I were only crazy for you?"

Natsuki's cheeks flushed further and she looked away, unable to meet the intense burgundy eyes that she knew were focused on her alone. "You are incredibly cheesy you know that right?"

Shizuru laughed and leaned back with a warm smile. "I know Natsuki. But I also know it's one of the reasons why you're with me."

The younger woman let out a snort and rolled her eyes. "I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you in spite of how ridiculously cheesy you can be."

They stayed like that for a moment, with Shizuru silently pleased to have won another admission of affection from her emotionally reserved partner and Natsuki trying not to drown in her girlfriend's intense gaze.

With a soft exhale of breath Natsuki leaned forward and pressed her lips against Shizuru's, gently at first then increasing the pressure. Shizuru was quick to respond and while the kiss grew more passionate they maintained a slow pace, almost as though they'd agreed to draw out the moment and savour every second.

Eventually they pulled apart, just enough to breathe but not far enough that they couldn't rest their foreheads together. And they sat just like that, staring into each other's eyes. Though they didn't share their thoughts, they both knew that moment was everything to them both. They were together and they were content. And that was all they needed and more.


Shizuru's eyes snapped up and focused on the woman in front of her who was now frowning in concern. "I apologize Haruka, I was lost in my thoughts. What did you say?"

A strong but elegant hand caught her attention as it motioned towards a plate of pasta that now sat in front of her. "You seemed to be pretty out of it so I figured I'd just order for you."

As the smell of the dish in front of her caught her attention and caused her mouth to water Shizuru couldn't help but smile. She'd allowed Haruka to recommend dishes before and the woman really knew her foods. Shizuru had a sneaking suspicion that if Haruka's love for justice hadn't driven her into the legal field she would have become a chef, or at least owned a restaurant. "Thank you Haruka. I'm sure I'll love it."

Haruka gave her a quick grin and proceeded to dig into her food. With a fond smile Shizuru followed her example though in a much slower fashion. Haruka ate the same way she did everything else, with verve and speed. Shizuru was constantly amazed that the other woman didn't choke.

After she'd made her way through half of her food Haruka put down her utensils and leaned back in her seat, fixing her friend with an intent stare. Once Shizuru noticed and looked up to give her a questioning glance, Haruka spoke. "How have you been lately?"

While she should have expected the question, Shizuru found herself taken by surprise. As she swallowed and dabbed at her mouth with her napkin she thought the question over. She wasn't entirely sure what the other woman was getting at. Outwardly she hadn't really shown any signs of distress. At least, not until recently. Preferring not to give her friend any more reason to worry, she merely tilted her head and smiled. "What do you mean Haruka?"

The blond snorted and rolled her eyes. "I think you know what I mean Shizuru. You haven't been yourself lately. All you do is work."

"Of course. I've had a great deal of work coming in lately." Shizuru smiled tightly. She wasn't sure how Haruka had been able to find out that she'd been working more than she usually did. She'd been discreet about her late hours.

A sigh escaped the other woman and she shook her head. "That's not unusual for you Shizuru. You've always had a lot of people coming to you. You're one of the best lawyers in the city. The difference is that you never used to accept every case that came your way. So what I want to know is why."

Shizuru pursed her lips and shifted her gaze away from her friend as she thought. "I've had a lot of free time lately. It isn't anything I can't handle so you needn't be worried Haruka."

"I'm not worried you fool. Not about that. I know you can handle the work. Hell you could probably handle your caseload as well as mine and be alright. I know that." Haruka shook her head, blond hair swinging wildly. "What I'm worried about is that you're using work as a screen so that you don't have to deal with your personal life."

Shizuru inhaled slowly and considered it. There was some truth to what Haruka was saying and though she knew she could deny it, she had a feeling Haruka wouldn't accept anything but honesty. But she still didn't know what to say. She couldn't even put her feelings into coherent thoughts let alone words. "How do you even know so much about my work habits?"

Haruka grinned. "It seems that legal assistants talk. A lot. Yukino overheard yours talking about your late nights and how worried she was."

She repressed a groan and very nearly rolled her eyes. "Out of curiosity, what has Tomoe been saying?"

"Apparently the two of you went out on a friendly excursion last week. You helped her with some sort of personal business. And apparently the two of you have been growing a great deal closer." Haruka smirked, enjoying the obvious discomfort that flowed through Shizuru's frame. She knew that her friend was putting off answering her earlier question and while she was alright with it, she did intend to make every moment she used avoiding the question to make her friend feel as awkward as possible.

A spark of mischief glinted in her eyes as she leaned forward. "Oh my. Shizuru you aren't engaging in an illicit affair with your young assistant are you? I mean, I know you've been having a hard time lately but I really don't think that girl is the answer."

Shizuru's normally reserved features gave way to a wide eyed expression of shock and disgust. "Haruka! Do you really think I would engage in such activities?"

A smile was her initial answer. "I think you would, if the woman was right."

Shizuru's slight flinch would have been invisible to anyone else, but with her honed skills of observation Haruka caught it and catalogued it to add to the profile she was building of her friend's current state. "Really Haruka. You should know better. The only thing I like about Ms. Marguerite is how efficient and thorough she is. If I thought I could find someone else with the skills she has I would. And at this rate, I'm thinking I may just attempt to and save myself all of these ridiculous assumptions."

Haruka laughed. "I figured as much. And if it matters, Yukino dismissed the girl's words from the get gone. But I do advise that you try to rein her fantasies in. She's obviously got her eyes on you. Especially now that she knows you're available."

"Get go Haruka, not get gone." Shizuru smiled weakly at the pang that followed Haruka's assessment of her marital status. "And I agree. I'll have to find a way to remind her that our only relationship is that of an employer and an employee. I really would rather not deal with finding a replacement right now."

They sat in a comfortable silence as they continued to eat and Haruka waited until they were almost done to readdress her earlier question. "How are you Shizuru? And this time, I know you understand my meaning."

Shizuru couldn't help but stiffen once more. She knew she could keep up her act but she knew that with Haruka, it would merely be that, an act. And Haruka hadn't become a widely sought after lawyer because she was easily fooled. Shizuru withheld a sigh as she tried to figure out what to do and in the end, she merely smiled at her friend. "I know Haruka, and I'm okay. Not great but I'm getting by."

In response tan arms crossed under a generous chest and Haruka scowled. "Seriously Shizuru, I've known you for how long? Your happy go lucky fake bullshit doesn't work on me anymore. I can see it when you're lying."

Shizuru kept her eyes empty of the turmoil she felt building up within and gave Haruka an innocent smile. "That's a bit of a crass description. But no less than what I would expect from you Haruka." Shizuru reached for the still-warm cup of tea that she'd been neglecting and sipped at it as she waited for another aggressive response.

Haruka leaned back in her seat and made it painfully apparent that they were going to be there for a while if Shizuru wouldn't be forthcoming with the answers she was looking for. "Case and point right there Shizuru. You always get ultra-polite when you're trying to divert someone's attention. And on top of that you always head for the tea when you're stressed. I know you. I was your study buddy through university. Try all you want but you can't hide."

Shizuru had to acknowledge that Haruka had a point. The two of them had received top grades all through law school and they'd both been blessed with one of the qualities that made a great lawyer: observation. And they have honed that skill using each other. That also made Haruka one of the people who knew Shizuru best. She sighed and sipped at her tea slowly before looking at Haruka once more. "Since we're probably going to be here a while we should probably ask for a pot of tea to be brought over."

"Good idea." Haruka smiled easily, she knew from the slight relaxing of her friend's shoulders that she'd won the first battle and knocked down Shizuru's first line of defence. From there all she had to do was ask all the right questions in the right way and she'd be able to piece together the problem.

Once they'd flagged down a server and received their pot of tea they easily settled in for what they knew was going to be an uncomfortable conversation. Shizuru couldn't help but be relieved that they were in a secluded corner of the restaurant. As she began refilling her almost-full cup she had to admit to herself that she was just trying to find ways out of initiating the conversation. She'd been delaying it with everyone for so long that she had begun to do it on pure instinct. But Haruka deserved some sort of answer. And now that she'd decided to do so, there was nothing more she could do or say to put it off any longer. Not only that but Haruka wasn't like everyone else who had pursued the topic. She couldn't just subtly make it clear that she didn't want to discuss it and have her back down. Haruka wanted to know what was wrong and Shizuru knew the blond wouldn't leave until she had the information she was after. "So, what is it exactly that you would like to discuss Haruka?"

Violet eyes surveyed the brunette carefully before speaking. Haruka began to frown as she picked up on the small signs that Shizuru hadn't been doing well. Her normally ivory skin was a bit too pale, verging on sickly. And she could see traces of dark bags under the woman's burgundy eyes that had been mostly covered by concealer. She swore softly. "What happened Shizuru? You're a mess."

Shizuru gave Haruka a small smile that was tinged with weariness. "Blunt as ever Haruka. And haven't you heard? Natsuki and I are no longer together."

Haruka couldn't help but feel surprised. She'd known about the split, but to have Shizuru come out and admit it so harshly…she hadn't been expecting that at all. She'd assumed that she would have to work up to it and force it out of the other woman. But a second look made it easier to understand as she caught the signs of weariness and sadness that seemed almost permanently etched in the woman's pretty features. She paused a moment longer as she determined how far the other woman could be pushed. She knew Shizuru had a breaking point, she'd never seen it but she'd come close. And it wasn't something she wanted to bring her friend to. So when she finally spoke, she left her question as open as possible to allow Shizuru the freedom of whatever answer she could give. "Why?"

Carmine eyes became downcast and Shizuru delicately pushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "Why not? It was time. It was probably something I should have done a long time ago actually but I didn't. And now I have. It's done." The effort it took Shizuru to keep her tone light and flippant was too much for her and she felt her false front slipping as she sighed. "I didn't know what to do anymore Haruka. All I could think of was to end it. I just wanted her to be happy."

Haruka reacted with feeling and found herself standing in a swift motion before she threw her hands down on the table before her. "She was happiest with you, you moron! How could you ever think any differently? When the two of you were together you glowed! I've never seen any two people more perfect for each other or more happy with each other." Haruka could see the denial in the other woman's eyes and the desperation. Shizuru hadn't wanted to end it. There was something…something she'd been unsure of. Something she'd felt was horribly wrong. But what? Had Natsuki cheated? No. Haruka dismissed that thought instantly. Natsuki adored Shizuru above all others. And on top of that she was sure Mai would have known and passed the information along. So what could it have been? "What went wrong Shizuru?"

A pathetic laugh escaped Shizuru's mouth and she covered her eyes with her hand. Her actions combined with her lack of reaction to the scene Haruka was making only furthered the blond's worries. "I don't know Haruka. I don't know when it happened or why, but eventually Natsuki started withdrawing. I know she still cared but it was so…she was so distant. It wasn't the same anymore. I agonized for so long over what might have caused it. I tried everything I could think of to bridge the rift but nothing…nothing worked. So I finally came to the only conclusion that made sense to me, I ended it."

Pain laced Shizuru's relatively calm voice and though Haruka knew the woman was attempting to sound put together, but it was becoming more and more clear that she was losing it. "You and Natsuki gravitated to each other from the beginning Shizuru. And you fell for her almost instantly. That girl never let anyone in. Then you came along and suddenly, she opened up." Haruka levelled an intense look towards the other woman, waiting for her hand to lower and deep red eyes to focus on her own before continuing. "Why would Natsuki open up to someone she didn't care about?"

Shizuru brought her hand up once more to rub her temple. "I know she cared about me Haruka. But…I think that was part of the problem. She cared for me too much. So much that she took a chance on having a relationship with me." She felt the familiar pain well through her body as she ran through the lines she'd told herself so many times before and since she'd left the woman she loved. "And I won't deny that Natsuki loved me. But I don't think she loved me the way I loved her."

Haruka saw the turmoil in Shizuru's eyes and followed the unspoken insecurities that sat between the words her friend had spoken. "Let me get this straight, you figure that Natsuki loved you so much as a friend that she entered a relationship with you to make you happy?"

There was silence as Shizuru folded her hands in front of her. For the first time she truly tried to think of a way she could phrase her feelings. A part of her wanted to say something, anything to put her friend's mind at ease to help her understand, but she knew that honesty was indeed the best policy for the situation. Finally she raised her eyes. "I don't know Haruka. Some days I truly believe that to be the case/ Other days I have doubts. The only constant I have right now is my work. So you're right, I have been working too much. And it has been my coping mechanism. But I need to do something because I don't think I can handle doing nothing. When there's nothing for me to do my mind…I just…that night runs through my mind again and again. And I can't take that anymore."

Haruka sighed and ran her hand through her hair. "So your work is helping keep you from going over the edge?"

Shizuru smiled weakly. "Basically…yes. I guess that's the best way to put it."

Haruka surveyed the weariness in her friend's features once more and she couldn't stop her own from pinching with worry. "If I asked you to… for my sake, would you be willing to cut back on your work load just a bit? Enough that you would actually be able to get the amount of sleep you need?"

After a moment of thought Shizuru nodded. "I'll do what I can. I can't promise a huge improvement though. It might take some time."

With a tight smile Haruka nodded again. "That's all I'm asking for." She exhaled with a mixture of worry and relief. "Other than all of that, how are you doing?"

Shizuru's face was as calm as ever but her eyes revealed the tumult of emotion she was experiencing. "At this point, I really don't know."

Haruka sighed. "I never thought I would say this and have it actually be true but for once…you're an idiot Shizuru."

A small laugh escaped the other woman and she gave a beatific smile. "I do believe you're right Haruka."

"God damnit."

Mai blinked in surprise as she heard her friend curse loudly. She quickly dried off her hands and made her way into the living room where Natsuki was seated on the couch, a mess of yarn in her hands. "Any particular reason you feel the need to damn a deity?"

"Yes I-" Natsuki cut herself off with a sudden bark of laughter as she absorbed Mai's comment. "Okay, well no to the deity part. I was more just thinking aloud. It seems that no matter how much time I put into doing this I just get frustrated and mess it up. I'm beginning to think knitting just isn't my thing."

Mai snorted as she viewed the mess in Natsuki's lap once more. "Clearly. To be honest I wasn't sure why you thought knitting would be a good hobby in the first place."

There was an awkward pause as Natsuki flushed. "I don't know. It was just the first thing I thought of."

Mai blinked. "So…knitting just popped into your head and you decided that it was a viable option for your new hobby?"

Natsuki's cheeks reddened further and she scowled. "I've never really had to develop a hobby. I just kind of thought that…Well, I don't know what I thought. But this is definitely not what I expected." She stood and pushed her attempt project aside and crossed her arms, frowning as she tried to decide what to do with her failure.

Mai giggled. "That isn't really how it works, you know."

Natsuki looked over and raised an inquisitive brow. "What do you mean?"

"You don't just think of something and decide it's going to be your new hobby." Mai grinned as her friend's frown became one of confusion. "You have to actually go with something you like. And if it's something you enjoy doing, it'll become a hobby. "And really Natsuki…Knitting? Out of all of the mundane, stereotypical hobbies you had to choose from you chose the one you would be worst at."

Natsuki flushed and crossed her arms again. "I didn't think it would end up like this. I mean really, no one ever mentions that you can actually break the stupid things."

"Break the…" Mai stared at her friend incredulously. "Did you break a set of knitting needles?"

Natsuki bit her lip as her cheeks darkened further and she attempted to look anywhere but at the woman in front of her. "I may or may not have broken a set. Or three sets. It really isn't that odd."

"Three sets? You broke three sets of knitting needles?" Mai rubbed her head and tried not to stare at her friend in horrified awe. "I didn't even know you could break one set let alone three. What were you doing with them? Trying to stab people?"

Natsuki covered her face with her hands and let out a muffled groan. "No. But I wanted to by the time the second set snapped. I was seriously contemplating how much damage they could do to the salesperson."

There was a potent silence as Mai attempted to hold back her reaction but finally she gave in and bent over as she laughed uproariously.

A low groan emitted from Natsuki as she flopped back against the couch cushions. "Come on Mai, it really isn't that funny."

Mai snorted and let out another peal of laughter before gaining control over herself once more. "Trust me, it really is. Actually, I'm pretty sure the idea of you knitting ranks as hilarious."

Emerald eyes narrowed and Natsuki scowled. "You're so supportive Mai."

Though Natsuki's sarcasm was obvious Mai merely grinned. "Really Natsuki, I have no idea why you even thought that you would find knitting to be a successful endeavour. Natsuki and knitting just sound wrong in the same sentence." As Natsuki opened her mouth to retort Mai continued on cheerfully. "And on that note, this really isn't the way you should be going about this."

Natsuki's brows furrowed and she frowned at the other woman. "Okay I get that I'm approaching this whole hobby thing the wrong way but I didn't think I was doing such a bad job of it."

Mai sighed and shook her head. "That's not what I'm talking about Natsuki. I'm talking about why you're so determined to obtain a hobby. Finding something to occupy your free time isn't going to fix it."

Understanding flashed in the older woman's eyes and she quickly diverted her gaze. "I'm not really sure what you're trying to get at here Mai."

"Really now?" Mai scoffed and pinned her friend with a scolding glare. "Come on Natsuki. I thought you prized honesty above all else. But lately all you seem to do is lie, both to yourself and everyone else. You won't be able to get past this until you admit to yourself that there is a 'this'. You can't keep running from it. I mean really, every time you get close it's like you turn and run the other way. You can't move forward just to move back and then try to call it progress."

Natsuki met her friend's eyes and remained silent. She didn't really know what to say in response. But it seemed a reply was expected so she sighed. "Fine, you're right. A hobby isn't the answer. But what else can I do Mai? When I admitted it to myself I was a wreck. You saw what a mess I was. I'm barely making it as is and the only way I'm keeping it together is by bullshitting myself. So what do I do?"

Mai smiled sadly. "Say it. Just say how you feel. You can't do anything until you do."

"And if I don't know how I feel?"

The other woman didn't have to call bullshit, it was obvious in her eyes that she knew the other woman was trying to avoiding confronting her feelings once more and she wasn't having any of it. "Then you say you don't know."

Natsuki sat back down heavily and shook her head. "I…Dammit fine. I miss her. I miss her so much that I don't know how I'm still functioning. I feel like I'm missing a part of myself. I thought that kind of thing was complete crap that only existed in movies and books. Things like that aren't supposed to be real."

There was a short pause as Mai waited to make sure her friend was done before she exhaled silently and sat down next to her friend. "Do you know why yet?"

Natsuki's face went blank as she tried to connected her ramblings with her friend's question. "No? Why would I know why they have sappy shit like that in movies? Maybe for ratings? Or something?"

Mai laughed softly and shook her head. "Not that part Natsuki. I meant do you know why you miss Shizuru."

Natsuki frowned and fixed her friend with a look of irritation before catching on that the question was a serious one. "Not really?"

"It's been almost two months since you split Natsuki." Mai's look was meaningful. "Do you miss her any less than you did that first day?"

The older girl leaned back against the couch cushion as she considered it. "No. I've gotten better at denying it though. Does that count?"

Mai snorted and leaned back as well. "You're the Queen of Denial Natsuki." As the other woman gave her an appraising look she rolled her eyes. "In other words that's a no. Denial doesn't count."

Natsuki sighed. "So what are you trying to say Mai? Are you going to tell me I should stop holding onto the past? That I'm not trying hard enough to move on?"

"No. I'm telling you that you might want to re-evaluate some things." Mai met Natsuki's incredulous look with a serene smile. "Sometimes you can't move on Natsuki. No matter how hard you try. If you've given it all you've got and you're not making progress, there has to be a reason."

Natsuki's features shifted into a pained expression and she smiled weakly. "I think I know where you're going with this. And I'm not entirely sure I like it."

"If only life were only about the things we liked hey?" Mai smiled again and stood up. "Unfortunately it's not. Some days we just have to take the good with the bad and get over it."

The corner of Natsuki's mouth turned up in a dry smirk as she watched her friend. "And on the other days?"

Mai laughed. "Other days you pass the things you're not fond of on to others. Like doing the dishes. I hate them, so you do them."

Natsuki rolled her eyes. "Of course. So I take it dinner is ready?"

Her response was a quick nod as the other woman started towards the kitchen. Just as they reached the table she was pinned by the other woman's intense violet eyes once more. "But remember Natsuki, not every problem is escapable. And this one is one of those. Think it over and you'll get the answers you need."

With a sigh Natsuki nodded. "I will Mai. And whether I like it or not I'll follow it through."

Natsuki rubbed her eyes and stretched. Though she hadn't really done anything out of the ordinary that day she felt incredibly exhausted. All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball and pass out on the nearest surface. Which at that particular moment just happened to be the floor.

She took a quick glance at the time and wondered why Mai hadn't shown up yet. Normally she was back much earlier. It wasn't until she'd been staring at the clock for several moments that she remembered Mai had the night shift and wouldn't be back until she'd already left for work.

With a sigh she acknowledged that she really needed to get ready for bed and proceeded to head to her bedroom to change into some pajamas. As she was about to dig through her dresser she recalled that all of her pajama shirts were in the wash. Her mouth twisted into a frown as she tried to think of a suitable replacement for the time being. It was then that she remembered an old sleep shirt she'd stopped wearing long before that she was fairly sure still sat somewhere in the closet.

As she reached out to open the closet she found herself hesitating. She hadn't looked within it since Shizuru had removed all of her things. While they'd shared both the closet and the dresser, Natsuki had always placed most of her clothes in the dresser, leaving as much closet space as possible for all of the suits Shizuru was required to wear for her job. And the few suits and dresses she had in the closet were only necessary for formal functions that she was incredibly adept at avoiding.

Over all, the closet had always been more of Shizuru's space. And it was the one area that would really show the brunette's absence. And though she had of course forced herself to become used to that absence she knew this was going to affect her. Especially since she'd just allowed her mind to begin dredging up the feelings she'd been neglecting.

She frowned deeply and shook her head. She was wasting time worrying over such things and the faster she got the ordeal over with the quicker she'd be able to lie down and sleep. With that in mind she quickly pushed open the door and tried to ignore the wide open space of the area.

Emerald eyes flicked back and forth as she tried to locate the nightshirt she'd thrown somewhere long before. After a few minutes of searching her brows began to furrow as she grew frustrated. There was no sign of the deep green and grey fabric.

As she was about to close the door with a groan of irritation she spotted something out of place. In the corner of the closet there was some sort of deep blue fabric. She leaned forward and picked it up, noticing how soft the fabric was.

She held the item up and nearly dropped it as she recognized it.

The dark blue cotton fluttered to the floor as Natsuki's emotions whirled into a tangled mess. At first she didn't know how to feel, what to think, or what to do. All she could manage was the continued gaze she held on the clothing without fail.

In the days following Shizuru's departure Natsuki had feared finding something the other woman had accidentally left behind. She'd been afraid of the fresh wave of pain she had known would come with it. But it had never had. Shizuru had been as thorough with removing her things as she was in every other aspect of her life.

Or so Natsuki had thought. But this one nightshirt remained, apparently forgotten. And Natsuki couldn't help but wonder why. And more importantly, she needed to consider what to do about it. She certainly couldn't return it, there was no way she'd be able to face the brunette yet. That left her with two other options, she could throw it away…or she could keep it.

Her teeth began to worry her lip as she realized how badly she wanted to go with the second option. She knew she shouldn't, and she was well aware that she only wanted to keep the shirt as a means of holding on to the little she had left of the woman she loved, but she couldn't bring herself to care about the repercussions that were involved.

With a quick shake of her head she picked the nightshirt up and folded it neatly before placing it in the dresser on top of her own night shirts, trying to avoid the light scent that wafted up from the fabric and the sting of tears it brought to her eyes.

Though she tried to tell herself otherwise, Natsuki knew she'd be using the shirt in one way or another because more than anything, she needed to be close to Shizuru. And her forgotten shirt was her only means of doing so.

Natsuki stepped out into the area usually reserved for those who needed to take smoke breaks. Luckily for her, no one was currently there.

She felt all the stress that has been bubbling under the surface come to a head, accompanied by the anger, the hurt and the betrayal she'd attempted to ignore. A deep sound of emotional agony ripped out of her throat and she lashed out at the nearest thing without thinking.

Slowly her emotions began to settle once more and she became aware of a stinging wetness on her knuckles. A quick glanced made it clear that her knuckles looked like they'd encountered a cheese grater and she raised her eyes to the concrete wall beside her. The small amount of red she saw there supported what she assumed she'd done.

Natsuki leaned against the wall and rubbed her non-injured hand over her face. Apparently she really hadn't been dealing with things as well as she'd been convincing herself. Taking her frustrations out on innocent walls made that rather obvious.

She groaned quietly and turned her face up towards the sky. For a moment she allowed herself to slip back into the thinking that had gotten her to her current point. She wished that it would be so easy. That she could just be able to look up and pretend her problems didn't exist. But she was proof that life didn't work like that.

Unfortunately she didn't have any of the answers she needed yet so she was stuck. She couldn't pretend her problems weren't important anymore but she couldn't resolve them. That left her in the same place, with all of her negative emotions roiling underneath a fairly calm exterior.

She needed something, some sort of solution in the meantime. Especially if there was a chance everything would come out in another violent outburst. She couldn't risk showing that kind of emotion in front of Mai and this time she'd been lucky that no co-workers were around. That kind of luck was unlikely to hold up.

Natsuki stayed there, leaning against the wall, gazing up at the sky until someone came out to use the area for its intended purpose. She gave the young man a quick nod and returned his greeting. As she headed back into the hospital to resume her work she couldn't help but smile with genuine excitement.

She may not be able to fix her problems but she was pretty sure she'd just figured out on hell of a way to deal with them in the meantime.

Shizuru opened the door and was surprised to find the lights on. After quickly cursing herself for not noticing them from outside, she set her purse and jacket down and began inching towards the main part of the house to discover the intruder. She'd just entered the hall when a voice called out.

"Don't worry sweetheart. It's just me. I thought you might need some company."

Shizuru's shoulders sagged in relief. "As lovely as your company is Mother, warning is greatly appreciated."

Her mother smiled warmly as Shizuru entered the kitchen and moved away from the stove to hug her. "It's nice to see you too dear."

Shizuru hugged her mother back as her eyes wandered to the pan on the stove. "Are you making dinner?"

"Mhmm." Her mother wandered back over to the pan to check on the pork she'd been preparing and nodded as she determined it to be done. As she served the food she spoke again. "Since we weren't able to go out to eat the other day as planned I thought coming and cooking you dinner would be just as good."

"You didn't have to do that. You're technically my guest. I should be making you dinner." Shizuru took the plate that was handed to her and smiled faintly as her mother motioned that she go and sit down for dinner.

Her mother pinned her with a stern look that promised a scolding if she were to be disobeyed. "Don't be silly Shizuru. Besides, the fact that I'm your mother trumps the fact that I'm your guest. Which means, if I want to cook for you, you have to let me."

"Yes Mother. Whatever you say." Shizuru hid a smile behind her hand as her mother gave her a chastising glance. "And as much as I enjoy your company, I have a feeling you're not only here to make dinner."

Her mother smiled widely and in far too innocent of a fashion. "This may be true. But we'll speak of it after dinner."

Dinner ended up being a quiet affair with both woman more interested in enjoying their meal and relaxing than starting up intense conversation. Other than a bit of chit chat here and there they didn't speak very much at all. It wasn't until Shizuru had cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher that her mother let on to the reason for her visit.

"I think you have a fairly good idea why I'm here Shizuru, so I'm sure you'll understand why I think sitting in the living room might be for the best?" She waited for her daughter to nod and led the way. Once they were comfortably seated she continued. "You haven't looked well lately. And to be honest, I didn't expect you to."

Shizuru's eyes flicked up and widened in surprise. "I'm sorry but I don't think I'm following you."

Her mother smiled sadly. "You and Natsuki were a good pair, a wonderful one in fact. The feelings you shared aren't the kind that can be easily destroyed or set aside. Your break up wasn't concrete enough for the split to be clean or simple. And as much as I wanted to be here only for support…I think you need to start dealing with this Shizuru. You've never been one for avoidance and now isn't the time to start."

Shizuru folded her hands in her lap and stared straight ahead, seeing nothing as she thought. "I guess I really have been avoiding it all. But I think that's the biggest part of the problem really. I'm still not sure about anything. I don't know how I feel and I don't even know what I want to do about it."

"You know yourself better than anyone Shizuru. And normally when you make a big decision, say one like ending an eight year relationship, I would assume that you'd be sure first." Her mother leaned over and rested her hand over Shizuru's own. "And I guess that's where you should start."

Shizuru inhaled and exhaled slowly. She wanted to say that she had been sure, that she'd known from the beginning that she was doing the right thing. She wanted to say that she was sad and feeling a bit lost, things that were normal after a break up, and that she was moving on. But she knew those were the things she wanted to tell herself. Things that her mother already knew were false. "No." Her voice came out much smaller than she had intended and she tried once more. "At the time, I was positive. I thought I was doing the right thing. The reasoning I had based the decision on was sound, it seemed logical. But…"

"It didn't feel right." Her mother's voice was gentle as she squeezed her hand in a reassuring gesture. "I don't think you can start moving on until you figure out what feels right Shizuru. You need to stop telling yourself what seems reasonable and what is logical and instead you have to focus on what feels right to you. Until you can sort out your emotions you'll remain stuck in this rut. And you've never done well with such a position."

Shizuru withdrew one of her hands to rest on top of her mother's. "I can't argue with that. Ever since I was little you've never failed to be right. I suppose it's a maternal thing." She smiled weakly. "And I promise I'll do what I can. So you needn't worry anymore."

Her mother laughed. "I know you'll try Shizuru. And while that will set my mind at ease, it won't stop me from worrying. I'm fairly sure it falls under the category of 'maternal things'."

Shizuru laughed along with her mother and sighed lightly as she felt a little less restrained by her situation. Between her mother and Haruka she felt a bit happier. It was easier to deal with her emotions when she didn't have to convince herself to hide them from everyone around her. It was a burden she tended to force on herself. And though she felt a bit guilty about having worried them, she was glad to know they understood what she was going through.

They seemed to understand a little too well in fact. She smiled slightly as it occurred to her that their interference probably wasn't over. It wouldn't be long before one of them would be hounding her for answers. That left her with only one option, to find the answers they required.

End of Chapter 6

In regards to the story, a Guest requested that I add more insights from Shizuru's prospective. Thank you for that. It made me realize that I haven't been keeping it very balanced. So I will be making an effort to add more scenes from Shizuru's perspective. Though not every chapter will be perfect.

I may or may not have promised that this chapter would be out by the end of December. And it may or may not be January... But I grossly overestimated the amount of time I would have over my break. I also got distracted by another story I'm writing. However, I'm back at school and (surprisingly) more productive. This means that Chapter Seven is already in the works and should by out before Valentine's day.

As a quick little question, would any of you prefer that I not respond to you reviews? If so just mention it to me by a PM or in your review and I won't. I don't wish to be invasive. Also, are there any of you that would prefer I make these author's notes shorter? Or if you're interested in my little opinion/side note things, would you want a way to converse more directly with me? Or something of the sort. Whatever your opinion, be sure to either PM me or leave it in a review.

Until next time, thank you so much to all of you who have reviewed, you truly do make writing this story a complete joy and thanks to the rest of you for reading! I hope you have a lovely day.