Notes: Implied post-series spoilers.
Summary: Shizuru still has issues to work through, even after the fights are finished. Natsuki is there to help her with them.
It had been a moment of vulnerability, the kind Shizuru so much loved to see in Natsuki. But what had come out of Natsuki's mouth then had been something she hadn't realized she didn't want to hear until she heard it. "It'll always be me, won't it? You'll never feel this way about anyone else."
Shizuru was still used to faking it, even after everything had fallen apart, so she only smiled. "Of course, Natsuki. Do I need to prove that more? We could always try..."
And then Natsuki was flustered and indignant, the way Shizuru so loved to see her. "There's no need! I know. I know, now."
Shizuru tried not to let the thought trouble her after that. She had only a little more time to spend with Natsuki, after all. Her break would be over soon, and she would return to university. Selfishly, she wished Natsuki would hurry up and graduate, so they could be together more--
But that was the sort of thing Natsuki had been talking about, wasn't it? After university, Shizuru would be expected to put away such childish things as her love for another woman. But she couldn't. She would always love Natsuki, and it would always make her not good enough for Natsuki.
She made dinner for the both of them, and she smiled, and she tried, as she always did, not to show the hurt.
But she was in for a surprise: Natsuki folded her arms and glared at her across their food. "I won't eat, Shizuru," she said. "Not until you tell me what's wrong."
Shizuru was silent and bitter then, wishing and at the same time not wishing that the walls between them had never come down. It had been easier, once. Finally she said, "It's true, you know. What you said before."
Natsuki looked at her in confusion. "About you and me? You said so, too."
"Yes," Shizuru said. "I won't stop loving you no matter how much I should. And look at us. I'm dragging you down with me."
The look of confusion turned into a hard, sad stare, the kind that made Shizuru sad as well, yet a little warm inside as well, because Natsuki looked beautiful when she gazed like that. In fact, Shizuru was so enraptured by that stare that she wasn't prepared for what came next.
Natsuki reached out over the bowls before them and took Shizuru's face in her hands. Leaning forward, she pulled her close. "Shizuru, you've never dragged me down," she said. The steam from the soup and the tea warmed them both, and it made Natsuki look like she was blushing. "You've lifted me up."
"The things I've done to you," Shizuru said. "The ways I've touched you."
"The things you've done with me," Natsuki said. Her hands, they were so warm on Shizuru's face. Healing radiated out from them; Shizuru couldn't ache over how wrong what she felt was, not when she was feeling it like this. "I wouldn't have let you if I didn't like it from the start. Even when I didn't know it."
"You would always flail about when I caught you from behind in an embrace," Shizuru murmured. Even with the hurt fading, she couldn't let the knowledge of her sin go with it. "I was sullying you, Natsuki."
"If anyone else had tried it, I would have beaten them," Natsuki said. For a moment she glared through the steam, but she couldn't keep it up. There was so much softness in her eyes now. "Even if they were a boy. Is that what this is about?"
Shizuru said nothing. Natsuki was cupping her face now. After a moment, she chuckled. "You win. You always win. I can't worry for what I'll become or what I'll make you into when you look at me like that."
"You'd better not," Natsuki said. The steam had faded a little by now, but when she drew Shizuru to her for a kiss, it still felt warmer than anything else in the world.