Disclaimer: Gakuen Alice does not belong to me, but to the wonder mangaka, Higuchi Tachibana.
No matter how many times and how fast Natsume twirled his fingers around those silky strands, they would unravel just as quickly. His ruby eyes watched, mesmerized as those soft, chocolate strands slipped from his pale fingers, unraveling themselves smoothly as they landed on the soft, white bedspread, close to their owner.
Ruby-like eyes traveled up those glimmering strands of hair to the sleeping face nestled snuggly on top of his shoulder, using it as a better substitute for her pillow. His hand moved back up to idly trace a pale, rosy cheek. The same one where his best friend had kissed all those years back during those days of innocent.
Those innocent years for this girl who did not know what he was and what he had done. A girl who would shy away from him and the darkness that accompanied him wherever he walked. She would more likely want to stay close to the light rather than a person like him who was no longer privileged to go to.
Or so he thought.
A soft, relaxed sigh escaped from parted lips, an innocent, dreamy smile on them as if Mikan was having a pleasant dream. On the night, that Ruka had kissed her on her cheek, were the exact same night that he had kissed her on the lips.
Another happy sigh escaped her open lips, probably about pastries shaped like tangerines. It was just like her to think about food, even in her dreams. Thankfully, she wasn't as bad as Hotaru who thought about food and money at the same time. Poor Ruka.
Rolling his eyes in amusement, Natsume carefully settled himself in a more comfortable position without waking up the sleeping girl lying peacefully beside him. Resting his head lightly against the headboard of his –no, their bed- Natsume resumed his ritual every night whenever he had another bout of insomnia.
Idly, his arm that held Mikan's sleeping body so protectively against his own would tighten as he plunged deeper into the thoughts of his past that could never be erased from his mind. As a child, where memories would bury themselves so deeply as the child continued to learn about their environment and the people living in it, they would subconsciously store it forever for future references. The most memorable ones, both precious and horrible, would always be there. Forever embedded even though those children would rather forget it if they could.
In the darkness where he lived the majority of his childhood, the most memorable of a person's life, he managed to find himself a small ray of light. Surprisingly enough, it came from the most unusual of places.
He found it in a loud-mouthed girl who wore polka-dotted underwear. No matter how much he would try to remove her ever loud and constant presence from himself, she would always show up, forcing him to reveal emotions that he had hidden so carefully under a mask. No, not his cat mask, but the Natsume mask that he had he created and constantly wore to keep others away from himself.
Even around Ruka, he wore that Natsume mask. However, with him, he allowed that mask to come off from time to time. Yet, even if he didn't mean to, he needed that mask of emotionless disdain. That mask that held the pent up emotions that he refused to allow free. It was the same mask that this annoying girl, who barely knew how to use her own Alice, was able to break so easily where others had tried and failed.
The cat mask, the one he wore during missions, was needed less and less during school. He kept to himself and Ruka still, but…unconsciously, he allowed another person, just one more person, see the side that only Ruka saw. Except…she saw more, more of the side of Natsume that even Ruka was not allowed to see. Slowly, more expressions and emotions were floating to the surface along with his usual ones.
Everyone in class and the majority of the Academy saw this whenever they saw him. The boy who was a Special while only in the Elementary Division, and who had killed so many at the tender age of eight.
Whenever that stupid teacher Narumi would try to bother him when he was in one of his 'moods'. It made him growl even more when the blonde would make an inane comment about that person. The same black clad person who controlled him threatened the lives of the people most precious to him.
His last one was with Ruka. That day he vowed that he would never show those worthless bits of water ever again. He promised that same day himself he would become stronger so that Ruka and the people he cared about would never have to see again.
A rare emotion that somehow slipped past his Natsume mask and would float to the surface for those rare few who were privileged enough to see. It surprised even him that he showed this emotion, let alone to a bratty brunette would constantly scream 'pervert' at him.
As time predictably flew by, new memories would bury themselves in Natsume's conscious. No, these weren't dark. Surprisingly, most of all to him, they would be happy. Memories of the whispers of upperclassmen talking about him being a killer would be pushed into the dusty corner of his mind for the ones of his classmates laughing without hesitation or fear around him.
Memories of that fiery day dulled as newer memories were pushed forward to him without his consent. Memories of dark days that he thought would always haunt him, especially at the dead of night were everything was quiet, forcing him to lay with his thoughts, were being replaced with that day's events as they slowly rewound themselves, playing like a movie in his mind that he very much enjoyed.
Each happy memory, no matter how insignificant it seemed, would be pulled up, blurring the dark memories that were forced upon him from earlier years.
As time went by, they grew, each and every one of his classmates were affected by it. Natsume thought he would have to hoard all those little bits of happy memories from those days of yesterday, fearing that as days passed by, he would be forced to relive the old, blurred memories.
Still, Mikan, the girl that he thought was a mere annoyance, who forced older emotions, emotions before the government found out about him, before he set his village into a sea of fire, to come back up, was still by his side. Her constant chatter about the most idiotic subjects would not allow him to think about the tomorrow, about what could happen tomorrow. She forced him to stay in the present as he grudgingly responded to her comments with a smart remark.
Every day, Natsume could expect to hear her irritating voice call him out. Telling him about her problems while at the same time, as he spoke to her gruffly about her problem, she would listen to his own problems that would be beneath those wise words. Listening to her problems, and having her listen to his own, no matter how subtly he hid it, would be an enjoyable experience.
Every week, he could expect her to come to him, begging him to help her solve a problem for a test that would be on that week's test because Hotaru would be adamantly avoiding her while Iincho was following the technology genius, trying to persuade her to help Mikan out. Of course, after much irratating whining from Mikan, he would give in, patiently helping her to solve the problem. From the corner of his eye, he would see her face lighten happily as she finally understood the problem, happily running anywhere around the school's hallways in search of Hotaru and Iincho, wanting to show the piece of paper that showed her hard work.
Every month, Natsume would see her happily running around Central Town, her brown eyes large with excitement as she looked in marvel at the items that she could never afford. However, that never brought her down, as she would buy something smaller, something that all of her friends could enjoy with her. Sometimes a board game, usually it was food. By the end of the day, he would see her close by, a grin on her face, as she would prod him to play that game with everyone else, or share with him the last bit of the treat that she had saved specifically for him.
Every year, he would buy something that he just 'happened' to buy that day, pretending to just remember that it was her birthday. In reality, Ruka and Yo-chan would blink and answer his gruff questions about what she might like a few months before in hope that they would forget during her birthday that he had inquired about what she might like. Although that was rare, as he would watch her enough to know what she would like in Central Town, and could easily buy it with his allowance.
On their last year together, with everyone in their class graduating and bidding farewell to each other at the end of the year, he gave her last birthday present. However, this time was in private. As usual, she would freak out once she saw it, but…there was a smile on her face. To his surprise, he saw tears fall down her cheeks as she turned around, grabbing a fistful of hair so that he could put her present around her neck.
Carefully, he had placed the thin, gold chain around her neck. When she had turned around, the ring that was hanging from the end of it, had shined brightly as it swung in midair, catching the light, especially the ruby and diamond that were intertwined together in the middle of it.
Just a few months after graduating, he would put another ring on her finger right next to the gold one with the rubies and diamonds. It was a simple gold one with flames engraved on it, forever protecting the wearer of it.
And now, almost every night, he would stay awake, wondering how he got like this. How, whenever he thought he would die in another one of Gakuen Alice's crazy missions, that in reality, that he was lying in bed, supposedly peacefully sleeping. Mikan's head buried against his shoulder, selfishly hogging most of the blanket while at the same time, she would curl against him for the natural heat that he emitted because of his Fire Alice.
While he pondered these thoughts, sleepy brown eyes would slowly open, looking up at Natsume with mild annoyance. Gradually, she would lean up, pressing a warm hand against his cheek, breaking him from his thoughts.
Ruby eyes, those same eyes that used to look at nearly everyone in contempt and distrust, would soften as they looked into a pair of drowsy hazel eyes that would try their best to give him a glare at 2 o'clock in the morning.
"Sleep," Mikan commanded softly, a small pout on her face as she patiently waited for him to settle back down on the bed with her.
Natsume, as always, would pretend not to listen to her as he made an attempt to make it seem that he had been of his own accord to rest as he placed his head back down against his pillow. Almost immediately, Mikan would lie back down, resting her head now against the crook of his neck.
Nothing would be said again as they allowed sleep to dull their senses, both to their own thoughts. Or, Natsume to his thoughts once again, as Mikan would fall immediately asleep as soon as her head hit his shoulder. Yet, he was not allowed to this time to fall into his thoughts, as the small hand that rested atop his pajama top, just right over his beating heart, would remain there as a comforting weight until darkness took over him.
Except…he would allow it this time. Just for her.
SS: About time I wrote a longer fic. I like this one a lot better than my "Black Cat" one which I'm still editing. I'm just being lazy. haha Anyway, shoot me a review, I'd totally appreciate it.