AN: Ah, another Pretear story. Yay rah! A short little story, just a little bunny-fic that was bouncing around in my head for a while. So I decided to just get it on paper. I hope you enjoy it. I don't own Pretear! :cries:

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After the Fall

Rainbows.

The world around her was an endless stream of colors, of rainbow-colored Leafe. The Great Tree of Fenrir was evaporating away before her very eyes in a swarm of the life-energy known as Leafe. She looked down and saw a figure in a similar downward tumble, directly below her.

Takako.

Their eyes met, and Himeno, Princess of Light, reached out a hand towards her former enemy.

For a moment, Takako looked confused; then she smiled, and accepted Himeno's hand. Their fall slowed, and when Himeno's hand left Takako's, their descent did not speed up. The former Princess of Disaster continued towards the safety of Earth.

Himeno suddenly realized that the world she knew was fading away, melting into that endless rainbow flood and fading into purest white. She was amidst the light, a part of it, yet separate from it. It was warm, comforting, and wrapped her up like a mother's arms. And she knew, somehow, that she was still the Pretear, the Princess of Light.

Sailing downwards towards a ground that she could no longer see, Himeno opened her eyes, but was not blinded, as she was sure she should have been. Instead, her sight seemed clearer. And she immediately saw a form floating nearby. As she watched, it came closer, and she had the sense that whoever it was—for it was of a human shape—was reaching out towards her, as she had reached out for Takako, waiting to take her hand.

Instinctively, Himeno stretched out her own hand in response. And after a moment of waiting, she felt another person's fingers interlock with her own, and the person's face finally swam into view.

Ruby eyes widened, and tears welled in them as she recognized that face. It was someone she had missed so desperately for a long time. She tightened her grasp around the hand she was holding, and half-sobbed as the first tears fell. "Okaa-san…"

Arms enveloped her, and she fell deeper into that blessed whiteness; warmth flooded through her entire being, and she lost all touch with the world. She tumbled into that safe, comfortable place, away from worry, fear, and the loneliness that had so plagued her since her father's remarriage.

The arms caught her, slowing her fall, finally to a stop. She felt something warm press against her; she knew instinctively who it was, and returned the embrace, revelling in the feeling.

After all, there's a certain type of hug that only a mother can give.

"Okaa-san…okaa-san…" Himeno murmured, over and over again, into some type of soft fabric.

"Himeno…"

The voice alone was enough to bring her to tears, and she tightened the hug. "Okaa-san…what happened to me? Where am I?" She pulled back—and the tears fell as she looked into the face of the mother she had lost so long ago. Her mother was, indeed, an angel.

"Himeno, you can't stay here," the voice was soft and gentle, and broke Himeno's heart into miniscule pieces. "This isn't any place for you. Not yet. Not so soon. You must go."

"But why?" she was begging, and she knew it. "Why can't I stay with you."

"Because they need you," Okaa-san stroked her hair tenderly and held her. "Himeno, it isn't your time yet. You have so much still to do, so much life left ahead of you. Please, go back."

"I don't want to!" she sobbed into the soft white fabric of her mother's gown. "No! I don't want to lose you again! It's so terrible there! I'm so lonely…please…okaa-san…"

There was a soft sound, like a sigh…and the figure in her arms evaporated. Himeno's arms folded in around herself, and she tumbled forward a little bit. A sob tore from her throat, and the tears fell.

"OKAA-SAN!"

Himeno, open your eyes.

More than anything else, she was startled into obedience by her mother's voice, penetrating her thoughts, deep into her mind. Himeno looked around—and saw herself.

She was separate from herself now. Two unique and distinct entities—her physical self and her spirit. That's what she assumed she was, at least, because she felt different. She was floating above them all, watching the unfolding scene.

The figure was lying amidst a plethora of flowers, colorful reds and greens and yellows again her clothing—she was clad in the shimmering pink-white of the Legendary White Pretear. Her red hair curled gently around her face; her eyes were closed, and long lashes were resting against pale cheeks.

Himeno's body.

But she wasn't alone. The Leafe Knights clustered around her. Hajime and Shin were clinging to Goh's leg, like vines on a trellis. Mannen was biting his lip so hard, Himeno was afraid he would draw blood. Kei had one hand over his mouth, and he was shaking. Goh was registering only the barest amount of emotion; he seemed to be in shock.

Beside them, her family. Otou-san…okaa-sama…Mayune…and Mawata. Mawata was safe. Thank the heavens…but what was happening to them? Why did they look so sad? Mayune, okaa-sama. Why were there tears in their eyes?

And there. There was Sasame, alive, whole, and healthy. He looked particularly somber, more thoughtful than usual. Takako, beside him, weeping. And…

Hayate.

Himeno's heart clenched painfully. Her Knight.

Do you see them? Okaa-san's voice, inside her mind. Do you see how sad they are?

Everyone was distraught. And…it was because of her?

They need you, Himeno, okaa-san continued to speak to her very soul.

Mayune lunged forward, screaming at the lifeless form, shaking the unmoving body. Natsue leaning in to pull her back. Mayune…crying. Her older stepsister was crying for her.

They cared. No matter how cruel, no matter how mean…they all cared.

This is where you belong, her mother's voice echoed in her thoughts. Go back to them…

The ground was surprisingly solid beneath the Pretear's feet as her white boots touched down onto the grass. Feeling preternaturally calm, she walked slowly towards herself. It was the strangest sensation, to be looking down at one's own still, unbreathing form. And then…

Hayate.

Leaning over her lifeless self. One hand touched her face gently—almost fondly.

Himeno's heart spasmed within her, quickening its rhythm. And she listened to the words.

"I couldn't say what was in my heart…" Tears streaming helplessly from his eyes, falling on her face, the flowers, staining them. Hayate shouldn't cry, and never over her.

And he bent his head closer. Himeno's nonexistant breath hitched as he watched her beloved Knight of Wind kiss her. The physical part of herself, the part Hayate was holding, was unmoving and unresponsive to this beautiful gesture, and the tears spilled again.

But as he kissed her other half, she felt a tug, deep inside. Something was pulling her away from this plane, where she existed, yet was extinct. She was being pulled back to herself.

Go to them, okaa-san persisted gently. Go to him…

Okaa-san... Himeno whispered back, not knowing how she formed the words in her mind. I miss you. I love you…are you watching me?

Always.

That one word was all Himeno needed before she let herself be pulled along the path that would lead her back into herself. As she moved along the invisible roadway, she heard and felt something unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

She felt everyone's true feelings—not the jumble they presented to the world, but the true emotions that lay deep within their chests, things they themselves might not even have been aware of. Her family's fear. Takako's misery. The Leafe Knights' mourning. And Hayate…his heartbreak.

And she heard their thoughts, things that would never see the light of day.

She can't be gone…

No…

It's all my fault…

Each was in the voice of one of her loved ones. They all filled her ears at the same time, yet it was not the cacophonous bundle of noise one would expect. Each voice, each word was crystal clear, and filled her heart. One voice stood out among all the rest as she fell back into her body.

Leafe…if there is a miracle called love, please…let me see her smile one more time.

Himeno felt the flowers beneath her back, the White Pretear dress against her skin, and the soft touch of Hayate's hand on her cheek. She heard the sobs. The sensations of being alive.

Hayate…

Himeno winced the tiniest bit as she fully settled back into herself, then finally opened her eyes.

Calm, placid ruby met tear-filled sapphire.

Hayate's eyes widened as she looked at him.

And rather than feel cold or lonely without her mother, Himeno felt warm. They had been devastated, thinking they had lost her. She wasn't unwanted. She was needed.

She was loved.

And remembering Hayate's thoughts, Himeno turned her head slightly to look at all of her friends and family…and she smiled.

Owari