Author: Victoria G
Fandom: Mai Hime
Title: Paperclip
Pairing: Shizuru/Natsuki
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

Paperclip.

Natsuki walked into the bedroom, tossing her phone onto the right side of the bed, her side. Her day had been frustrating. Filled with people who wanted her to solve their problems, but thankfully it had been improved by two things. One was the plans she had just made. The second was the prospect of spending an uninterrupted evening with the smiling girl reclining on the left side of the same bed.

"Who was that?" Shizuru asked with curiosity, even though she was fairly certainly she already knew the answer. There was a rather specific way, a playfully antagonistic tone her girlfriend reserved for the person she assumed had been on the other end of the line.

The other girl shrugged, unzipping her hooded sweatshirt and draping it over the chair in the corner. "Just Nao."

"How is Yuuki-han?" There had always been a slight amount of discomfort on the part of the brunette regarding this particular friendship. It wasn't that she didn't trust her girlfriend, it was that she didn't trust Nao…not with the way she looked at Natsuki when she thought neither of them was watching. It had already gotten to the point where the dark-haired girl noticed, where they'd talked about it.

"Fine, I guess. We're gonna go to concert Friday. That band I was listening to the other day… the one you said sounded like 'weeping cats jumping on guitars'" The dark-haired girl smirked at Shizuru, who'd placed her book down.

"This coming Friday?"

"Yeah, next week. Why?" Natsuki asked as she flopped onto the bed, reclining on her stomach, turning her head toward the girl who seemed uncharacteristically concerned.

"I was considering plans."

Interested green eyes gazed at folded hands as they flexed a small amount and then repeated the action. She had never seen her girlfriend fidget before and it threw her. "Did you make any?"

"A tentative dinner with Mai and Reito." Her voice was off too. It was calm, but almost too calm… like she was forcing it.

Natsuki rolled up on her side a bit, studying Shizuru, her senses alert. "That sounds really good, but… can't we do it on another day?"

"I thought Friday would be best." The response was given in the same controlled tone, not playful, not serene, just…even, almost as if she was irritated and trying to hide it.

"Yeah… but I mean… we could do that with them any time, right? Why Friday?" She asked, puzzled by their exchange.

"It is supposed to be a nice night."

Two black eyebrows lifted. "What? The weather?"

"Yes." It was a strange answer and the dark-haired girl had moved from confused to suspicious.

"Why does that matter if we're going to dinner anyway?"

A smile played across Shizuru's lips, too small, too tight, not real. "It would add to the pleasantness, wouldn't it?"

Natsuki paused for a moment, trying to organize her thoughts. It wasn't that she didn't want to go to dinner, but the concert was a one-time thing. Surely, once she found the right words, her girlfriend would understand that. "I really want to see this band though."

"Will they not be touring again?" The answer made her bristle. It was lacking in the compassion she was used to.

"Yeah…but it'll be like a year at least…" It was said with a frown.

"I will buy you a ticket. I will even go with you, musical tastes aside." The response was too quick for her liking, as if talking about this wasn't even worth it. Shizuru was most definitely acting strange, she decided. The only time she had ever been strange about Natsuki going anywhere was when it was with her pink-haired friend.

She shifted her jaw and decided to just say it. "Is this about Nao?"

"Why would dinner be about Yuuki-han?" The words were deliberately evasive and added bulk to the kernel of agitation that was pulling her back muscles taut already.

"Then what…"

"I simply thought it would be a good evening to spend with our friends." Her voice was now laced with sadness, as though the refusal had stung her. The girl listening to it was plagued by a snap of guilt and rolled back on her stomach.

"I don't get it…we could do that anytime." It was said with a slight shake of her head. A finger was pushed into a pillow, the soft surface an outlet for her growing unrest. She hated arguing despite her temper… she hated it even more when it was with Shizuru.

"I suppose you're right." That tone was completely wrong and her hands untangled, resting on her thighs. It was a gesture Natsuki had come to recognize meant that her girlfriend was frustrated.

"You're mad." She observed quietly.

"I'm not." It was a sigh of an answer.

"Yeah you are. You're doing that thing with your hands." The appendages in question quickly rearranged themselves.

"No… I thought it would be nice is all."

Trying to end their uncomfortable conversation, the raven-haired girl decided to try a compromise. "We'll do your thing Saturday, okay?"

There was a stretch of silence between them, during which hands slowly crept back out to thighs and eyes closed a bit too tightly. "Can you really not just see this band another time? Or go to another concert?"

"What is up with you? It is about Nao… I thought we talked about this." When they had, Shizuru assured her, that while Nao and she would never be the best of friends, she would not dictate Natsuki's friendships.

A visible breath was taken in and delicate fingers pushed against legs. "It is not."

"You're trying to get me not to go." It was an accusation.

"That is not it." She defended, blinking, another subtle sign of discomfort.

Green eyes stared at her, half of the face attached to them sinking in the pillow she'd been poking at. It muffled her deep voice. "Then what is it? You're being so weird about this."

"I have told you, I just thought Friday would be a pleasant night to go out." That calm voice... it drove the dark-haired girl insane sometimes and even though Shizuru was aware of this, she could not always correct herself. It was too ingrained in her. It only became harder when she was upset. At this point it was quite clear she was, that they both were.

"Why do you hate Nao so much?"

Crimson eyes swiveled toward her, a small frown on the brunette's face. "I do not hate Yuuki-han."

A brow furrowed and narrowed eyes glared at her from the mattress. "Then why don't you want me going to the concert with her?"

"I do not ask you to change your plans often. I know that Yuuki-han and I do not always get along, but can you not trust me?" She asked. It was intended as a serious question, but interpreted as another guilt trip.

"Can you not trust me Shizuru? You won't even tell me why. Be fair about this! I wanna go, doesn't that matter to you?" A defiant stare was fixed in place. Until this moment, she had genuinely believed they were beyond the whole 'Nao thing', that the jealousy Shizuru felt early in their relationship had faded. They hadn't had a discussion like this in so long, over a year and she had found herself liking the comfort that it bred between them.

The sigh sounded louder than it was. "If that is what Natsuki wishes to do."

"Don't pout at me!"

"I am not pouting." The exclamation infuriated the girl watching her.

"Yeah you are damn it! I'm looking right at you. You're being so stubborn!"

A single, light eyebrow rose at her, that frown deepening. She wasn't sure if it was in offense or hurt. "I'm being stubborn? Natsuki is the one who is refusing a simple request."

The dark-haired girl rubbed hard at her face, upper body propped up on elbows. "Because it makes no sense."

"Wanting to spend the evening with our friends makes no sense?"

Incredibly annoyed, she sat up, looking directly at her girlfriend. "That's not what's going on! Don't turn this around. You're asking me to not go to a concert using some silly excuse." She said, knowing her voice was a little too sharp… but Shizuru was so skilled in reversing a situation.

Another beat of silence. "…a silly excuse?"

"Give me a reason."

A serious expression took the brunette's face. "Because I am asking you."

Eyes flipped to the bed in anger. "Give me a good reason! This a concert. It's not something I can just do any time."

More silence. "Do you not think me asking you is a good reason?"

"Not if it's cause you're jealous."

"I am not jealous." This response was immediate and most definitely hurt. It tugged at Natsuki a little, but she pushed it down. Shizuru wasn't right in this. She had no reason to feel guilty because she hadn't done anything wrong.

"You're giving me that face you give me every time I go somewhere with Nao. Why only her? Why not Mai?"

"I trust Mai."

"More than me apparently." The flippant comment caused the woman on the bed's face to fall.

"Natsuki…I am asking you, please do not go to this concert." Pleading eyes made her swallow and added to the anxious, confused, irritation that ran over her skin, nipping and biting.

"Explain it to me. Give me a damn reason, so I understand, okay?" The idea that her girlfriend distrusted her enough to beg her not to go was intensely hurtful, she hoped there was something else, but she couldn't come up with a single, viable explanation.

"I gave you a reason already." The lighter haired woman observed her girlfriend steadily, the small change in her posture an admission of defeat more than anything else. "You really are going to insist aren't you?"

Frustrated, she rubbed her face again… she was trying not to yell. "Why are you being like this?"

A heavy sigh escaped Shizuru and she laid her head against the wall behind her. "Your reason is in the middle bookshelf in the hall, inside the blue jar." The tremor in her voice captured Natsuki's attention completely. Her girlfriend rarely became obviously emotional, at least not like this. Playful, yes… sweet, often… annoyed, sometimes… sad, rarely…loving, always… but emotional in a distraught way was almost unheard of. In the two years they'd been dating, she'd seen it only three times and it caught her totally off guard every single one of them.

"What?" There was no discernable response from the girl on the bed. "I… okay?" Natsuki walked toward the bookshelf in question, trying to shake off her remaining ire. Reaching inside the jar warily… her fingers closed around a small box. When she removed her hand it was shaking. "Shit." She whispered to herself. "shit…shit…shit." It took her a full two minutes, slumped against a wall, hands gripping her hair, box resting against her right temple, to gather the courage to walk back into the room. "Shizuru… I'm sorry… I didn't…know." Warily she crawled onto the bed, riddled with guilt.

"There was no way you could have." The response was quiet, but thankfully not calm.

Natsuki sat cross-legged on the bed, hair hanging, body hanging. "I ruined it, didn't I?"

"I was planning to ask you over dinner. Mai knew of my intentions, in fact she helped me choose it, and my parents will be arriving Friday morning. The reservations were difficult to secure or I would have changed them. I didn't want it to seem too formal or I thought you'd balk at the idea, nor too planned or you'd be suspicious. I intended the whole thing to be a surprise, which was my first mistake." A tiny, somewhat wry smile took residence on her lips.

She threw her hands over her face. "This isn't happening. Shizuru…" A violent shade of red had taken her face and it was clear she was reaching critical mass, the combination of shame and embarrassment nearly lethal.

"Natsuki, in fairness… your theory was not outside the realm of possibility. I do not trust Yuuki-han and I would not have been happy with you going to a concert with her regardless… but I would not have asked you to stay home for that reason alone…not now. I hope that you know that…"

"I thought so, but I couldn't figure you out. I can't believe I messed this up. Shizuru... I'm such an idiot."

The beginnings of a true smile curled one corner of the brunette's mouth, even with her still saddened expression. "You do have something of a gift for exposing secrets."

A defensiveness flashed through green eyes. "I apologized to Reito about that. No one told me the trip was a secret!"

"It was implied."

"You and him and your damn implications. If you had just told me it was a surprise I wouldn't have asked Mai if she was excited!"

"And my Christmas present?"

"I didn't think you'd look there." Hands pushed against her face and her low voice crept through fingers.

A bit of mirth brought the light back to Shizuru's features. "It is my closet Natsuki."

"Well it was the top part!"

A body slid down next to the girl, who was stiff with tension. "…And my parents?" She said softly, enjoying her revenge a bit.

"Ugh…I thought you told them about us already!"

She allowed her hand to close around the small box that lay against Natsuki's side. "I had told them about us yes, but not that we were sharing a bed."

"It just slipped out..." Was the mumbled defense.

"My mother was rather concerned about the color you turned."

"Okay! I get it. I ruin stuff. I'm a ruiner." The girl flopped sulkily onto her side, but not away, facing the other girl instead. "I'm sorry… it's not on purpose."

"I know that. In retrospect, perhaps I should have expected this and planned accordingly. You know that I love you in spite of it… it's endearing… most of the time."

A scowl formed on her lips. "Great. I'm the endearing kind of idiot. I'm really sorry... I'm sure it would have been perfect too, knowing you." The scowl transformed into a small smirk.

Shizuru placed the box between them, both sets of eyes fixed on it. "Did you like it?"

A slight blush took her cheeks again. "I didn't look. "

Crimson eyes tilted down in an expression of shyness that made Natsuki's throat tighten. "You have not told me what your answer would have been."

"Shizuru…I…" The dark haired girl rolled onto her other side, lifting herself up, sitting on the edge of the bed. She clutched at her hair again, something on the desk catching her attention as she struggled desperately with how terrible she felt, how to make this better. Slapping at the desk, she fiddled with something in her hand, keeping it carefully covered. Meanwhile, unseen behind her, Shizuru was attempting to revive her heart, it having stopped at Natsuki's non-answer.

A light brow arched upward at her girlfriend as she knelt on the mattress, blushing insanely and reaching for her hand. "What are you doing?"

"Sit up, okay?" She did as was asked of her, still with an expression that was a mixture of pretty confusion and nervousness. "I…uh… know I screwed this up…" She held out the metallic object she had twisted into a ring. "But I would have said 'yes'… I want to… so Shizuru, marry me, okay?"

A look of profound amusement came over the brunette. "Natsuki is trying to remedy this by proposing to me with a paperclip?"

"Damn it! I'm gonna buy you a realmm" She was pulled into a kiss.

A hand ran through her hair, sliding down to cup her chin. "You do understand that since these reservations cannot be moved, your acting Friday must be convincing."

Natsuki swallowed visibly, closing her eyes. "I…uh… I'll try…I guess it's good I didn't see it, I'll be surprised about that…damn it…I still can't believe I screwed this up… why the hell do you want to marry me?"

A tenderness effused the deep red eyes. "I'm fairly certain it's because I'm very deeply and quite desperately in love with you…even if you are a 'ruiner'."

A determined look came to the blushing girl. "I'm gonna make it up to you."

The eyebrow arched again. "And how do you plan to do that? I do hope it doesn't involve more paperclips." Eyes rolled at the comment.

"I have 'til Friday right?" Something of a smirk took the girl's mouth, a smirk with which Shizuru was happily familiar. "I'm sure I can figure something out."

End.

A/N: This story is empathetically dedicated to anyone who has accidentally ruined something important.