Mai HiME and all its characters belong to Sunrise. Not mine, no profit, no grounds for legal action. Should anyone take any, they'd only end up looking foolish, I'm sure.

Author's Notes:
This follow-up to Behind the Scenes has been lurking on my harddrive since January, and is, at this point, extremely short when compared to the other bits I've been posting lately. Oh, well. It was a poignant stop-point, and I can always add more.

Kiotsuketene - "Be safe" (near as I could figure out, anyway)

Thanks for reading.

On Location

It was a gray, cold morning. Enough that one appreciated the crowds that seemed to be forever and hopelessly linked with mass transit. The amount of people broke the bite of the late December wind, and only those who found themselves on the outside of the circle of pedestrians really needed to protect themselves from the chill. Those in the middle stayed relatively comfortable as they waited for the light to change, and some were surreptitiously studying one of the people standing at the very front of the crowd.

She was an unusually beautiful example of humanity – tall and of a slender build, but still with the curves of a woman in all her youthful prime; simply dressed in slacks, heeled boots and a long coat - but that wasn't the chief reason for the curious gazes she attracted. No, it had more to do with the fact that even though the sharp gusts of wind were pulling roughly at the few locks of long, wavy hair that had escaped its bindings, she wasn't reacting to it at all.

Desolation. That was the feeling she seemed to emit to the very air around her as she stared unseeingly across the road and towards the train station on the other side. Her back was straight and her shoulders pulled back – her face a neutral mask. But still, there was such an aching sadness about her that it almost rolled of her in waves.

Who, did the curious ones briefly wonder, did she say goodbye to at the airport behind them all?


"Shizuru..." A hand – gloved in soft leather in deference to the chill in the terminal –touched her face. "It's okay. It's only for a few weeks."

"I know," she responded, and covered the hand with her own. "But I'll still miss you."

"Tch." A soft smile as the other gloved hand came up and wiped carefully at her eyes. "You always do this when I leave."

She chuckled wanly in response; cheered by the humorous tone in her lover's voice as much as by the gentle and very public affection that was still so new between them. "Then perhaps Natsuki should stop leaving."

Natsuki's lips tightened. "I'd bring you if I could."

"I know." But she had duties of her own to attend to; contracts that needed negotiating in Kyoto, two new hires that needed settling in both at the office and in their new apartment in Fuuka, not to mention an entire company to move. Natsuki, meanwhile, was needed on location, and would meet up with Jessica there when the redhead finished her holidays with her family in England.

Shizuru sighed softly and captured one of Natsuki's hands; deftly removing the glove before kissing the palm she uncovered underneath.

She looked so different now, did Natsuki, compared to the mental image Shizuru still carried of the distrustful young girl she'd fallen in love with… Gods, over ten years ago. Even though she was casually dressed for the flight, there had been a noticeable upgrade from the 'teenage' casual of worn jeans and a hooded shirt to the distinctly 'business' casual that now adorned the young woman before her.

"It really is quite unfair of you to go," Shizuru noted. "Especially looking the way you do."

"Hm?" Natsuki moved willingly into the offered embrace in spite of the other travelers passing by, and brushed the tip of her nose against the side of Shizuru's jaw. "Looking what way?"

It took some doing, but Shizuru managed to suppress the laugh that threatened to bubble up. Instead, she placed her lips directly against the edge of Natsuki's ear and spoke very softly and very intently for several seconds.



In spite of her low spirits, her lips twitched now as the recalled the perfectly fire-engine red blush she'd gotten out of Natsuki that way. One for the road, she'd argued as she'd halfheartedly dodged the younger woman's attempts at capturing her in the minor chase that had followed.

One for the road, indeed. Shizuru sighed softly as the light finally did change, and joined the mass around her in crossing to the train station that waited on the other side.

Just as the two of them had expected, the award that FNK Productions had won had resulted in a lot of interest in the small, independent company. It was a double-edged sword; also just as they had expected, resulting in both better earnings and more interesting tasks to perform, but also in more time spent apart, since Natsuki often had to travel to perform her duties, while Shizuru needed to stay hands-on with the studio and its dealings.

Today was a perfect example of that. A new contract to film a short about the KGB and the Soviet government had resulted in Natsuki going to Moscow for the next 3 weeks, while Shizuru had to stay behind in Japan. The young men they'd met a few months previous were relocating to Fuuka at the beginning of the new year, and she had to take care of getting them settled in while also monitoring the moving of their entire offices to the new building they'd bought into as of January.

Shizuru settled her briefcase by her feet as she came to a stop at the correct track; an overhead monitor confirming that the JR WEST Haruka would be departing for Kyoto shortly. The trip from Kansai International to there would take her roughly 70 minutes, and within another 20 she expected to arrive at her parents' home, where she would be celebrating the New Year as per Natsuki's request.

And really, she privately agreed with her now sadly absent lover, where better to celebrate than around all those temples? Of course, she would have much preferred it to have Natsuki there with her as well.

Shizuru shook her head a little and forced herself to focus on the colorful display of the ticket machine in front of her. Thanks to the simplicity of the journey she was taking this time around, it only took her a few presses of the buttons – destination, one-way or return, for today? – before she could slip a 5000-yen bill into the available slot. A few click and whirrs later, the device spat out her ticket along with two 1000-yen bills and a couple of coins.

Kyoto. She rubbed her thumb across the destination printed on the blue paper, and for a split-second, she swore she saw the kanji change to Moscow.

"The JR West Haruka will be arriving in… one… minute," a cheerful voice announced by way of the overhead system. "Please stand back from the tracks, and have a pleasant journey."

She almost – almost – spun on her heel and started running back to the terminal. The only thing that stopped her was the sound of powerful engines overhead, and her heart sank as she watched a bright, white fuselage with twin stripes of red and black soar past the opening to the gray skies above. It could have been any other of a dozen different planes leaving that day. But somehow she just knew.

"Kiotsuketene," she whispered to the image of the red crane on the white tail, and if those around her thought it was the rush of cold air from the train pulling in that made her eyes tear up, then that was their problem. "Come home soon."