Author's Note: I have not written in ages, and honestly, the only things I have been reading for the past few years are journal articles in Psychology, as well as philosophical and theological readings-all of which are in no way conducive for actually improving my skill in writing. Sometimes I look back to the stories I've written before, and honestly I find them better than the ones I can come up with now. Nonetheless, I've decided to write this because of Yas (meriyaaat) who has always been an inspiration to me as a writer. As always, I cannot promise that I am going back for good (not that anyone is waiting for me to come back tbh). This is probably the closest attempt I can get to a NatsuMikan fanfic (which I have claimed before never to write, but times change, I guess), and I hope you guys enjoy.

Disclaimer: No; but I also swore never to write NxM but here I am now, so we never know, right?

My eyes have borne witness to different kinds of students inside the Academy. Indeed, ever since its conception, my trunk has seen various combinations of letters carved against it; my branches have heard genuine laughter as friends gathered under my shade, eating together and exchanging stories of success, of loss, of pain, of grief, of joy; and my roots have felt a lonesome student's sorrow, and became an anchor for a child seeking solace.

I felt like I have already seen and heard and felt much, that I have learned all there was to learn about students and the countless emotions that they feel.

But nothing has quite piqued my interest like this pair I've been watching for quite a while now. I would say they have formed a tentative friendship over the years, but I call it tentative simply because I cannot even hope to describe what precisely their relationship was.

I can say for sure, though, that this is one of the most genuine relationships I have ever encountered—and in my old age, that is one good thing to be grateful for.

The boy was one I'd known for a long time. He often sat at a branch, or under the shade of the tree – depending on his mood that day, I would suspect – almost always sleeping, or reading, or simply staring out to space. But there were days he leaned on me for support, when I would feel blood dripping to my branches, to my roots, to the soil he stood on.

But I knew the boy exuded a certain kind of warmth to him, possessed a certain fire in him, that made me like him more than the other children I have met. This fire, I would later learn, would only grow brighter because of a certain girl.

The first time I met the girl – I knew her as Polka for three months, until the boy, Natsume, would finally call her by her name Mikan – she sat on the usual place the boy used to sit down on. She was crying, and I heard her cries and felt her sobs rack her body as her back and her shoulders shook against the tree trunk. That afternoon, Natsume arrived at the time he usually did, surprised – I would presume – that someone was sitting on his usual spot. I felt Mikan stiffen and struggle to wipe her tears away. Natsume, meanwhile, as someone I'd already perceived to prefer not to deal with other people's problems, pleasantly surprised me when he took the spot directly opposite Mikan's—one of them staring east and the other staring west, their backs both against two opposite sides of the tree trunk, both silent.

No one said a word that day. But that encounter, I knew, brought comfort to Mikan, and hence marked the start of a budding friendship.

Most days I heard Mikan talk. They would always remain separated by my trunk, staring at opposite sides of the world, but they seemed not to mind, anyway. In fact, it seemed like an unspoken rule that they were never to look at each other. When she recounted the days' events, or when she talked about the monsters in her closet and the demons in her head, or when she rambled about her hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future, she never faced him.

Some days she would lie on the grass and look up at the night sky, but I knew, somehow, that she never looked at him, nor do as much as steal a glance. She kept her eyes transfixed on everything but him, and he did the same—when he replied, he would always look forward, look towards the vast expanse of trees leading towards the forest; but at times I could not help but wonder if perhaps they were both looking even further: that perhaps, in their minds, they were treading on a path at their respective directions, traversing the world through walking straight ahead towards wherever, hoping maybe one day they would finally meet in the middle and see eye to eye.

And I knew there were times he wanted to comfort her—I could feel him fidget every now and then, fiddle with the roots of the tree, pick a handful of grass and throw it to the wind, probably in the hopes of distracting himself from the gnawing urge to face her or hold her hand – but he knew, he knew, that violated their unspoken rule and would not do.

And sometimes I could sense apprehension from Mikan, too – like she was waiting for something she knew would never happen, like she wanted to do something she knew she shouldn't. This was usually the case in the few times Natsume would bare his heart open – as much as he could be open about anything, anyway – talking about the hurts of the past and how powerless he was as a child. Or when she knew he was wounded from a mission but could never reach out to dress his wounds, because the beauty in whatever this was they had was the fact that their vulnerabilities hung in the air but never possessed a face they could rightfully call Mikan's nor Natsume's. They knew each other's voice of weakness, but their eyes never witnessed the words come out of the other's mouth, nor watched the emotions swirl in the other's eyes.

Their vulnerabilities were an abstract truth they knew to exist, but could never put a face to—

—and that was why they would never turn around: once they did, the spell would be broken, and they knew it would never happen again.

But today was different.

For one, Natsume sat on Mikan's side of the tree, his back still leaning against the trunk, sitting in utter silence – but if only you looked closely, you would see that he sat not only in apprehension, but in anticipation, as well.

Second, he was first to arrive.

He was never first. He never waited.

But today he was waiting.

And third, he looked at her when she arrived.

They never looked at each other, here in their sacred place. That was the unspoken rule. That was the only rule. And, because of that rule, they let their words contain all emotion they could muster, hoping that each syllable contained every ounce of emotion they could only wish to convey.

But today he looked at her—for a short time, sure, but there was that difference.

When Mikan sat on the other side, she did not ask him why he looked at her. She simply sat in silence, waiting for him to speak.

But he never did speak.

Instead, they were simply there, they simply were, for a few minutes—and normally, these were their favorite times under the shade of my tree: a time of complete silence, when they could be secluded from the world, when they could seek solace in the absence of language.

But today that would not do—the routine was gone, change has occurred, and there had to be an explanation.

Just as Mikan started to open her mouth to speak, Natsume shushed her with a single gesture, and it was this:

Reluctantly, apprehensively, and agonizingly slowly, Natsume held her hand in his.

And in my mind, I envisioned him breaking into the brightest smile he has ever smiled when he knew she was smiling when she squeezed his hand back.

And together, they looked forward to still opposites of the world, where they would tread on a path at their respective directions, traverse the world through walking straight ahead towards each other, and meet in the middle, where they would finally see eye to eye—

—and she knew, that when they arrived there, he would hold her hand.

And when they walked home together, he would still be holding her hand.



I originally wanted to write this story in Mikan's perspective; but there were sentences (like the whole opposite metaphor) that I thought should be written for both of them (and not only for Mikan) so I decided I'd use another narrator, and made it the Sakura Tree. In hindsight, I was most probably inspired by Rizzle's The Eyes of the Forest ( s/5095390/1/The-Eyes-of-the-Forest) so I thought I would give credit where it is due. Give it a read if you're into Dramione - you won't regret it.