Disclaimer: Mikan and the rest of the characters used and mentioned in this story belong to Higuchi Tachibana, and not me. Kuro, the cat, however, does belong to me.
'Get away from it! Black cats are bad luck!'
'Jii-chan…what if…what if I don't want to get away from it? What if I don't ever want to get away from it? I've stayed too close to it…him…to be able to get away now.'
'People with the nullification Alice are bad luck…'
'Those with the nullification Alice are cursed with bad luck.'
'People around you will be harmed because of your Alice…'
'The ones that you care about will be hurt because of you…Because you were near them…because you were born.'
"N-no, that…that isn't true!"
'You…you will bring only despair…to those you love…especially him…if you stay by his side.
Mikan woke up in a cold sweat, her brown eyes dilated as she stared up at the ceiling, still shaken from her dream. A trembling hand slowly rose from her side, pressing firmly against her rapidly beating heart. Slowly, she took a shaky breath as she closed her eyes, silently willing her heart to calm down. In her other hand, her cream-colored sheet was pressed against her lap, her nails nearly ripping through the sheet.
Long tresses of auburn hair clung to her sweaty skin, making Mikan grimace as she got up from her bed. Carefully, she bundled up her hair with one hand, cringing as her hair reluctantly pulled away from her clammy skin. Briefly, she lectured herself for allowing herself to grow it out at such a ridiculous length. If it wasn't for…him…
Shivering slightly, Mikan slowly slid down from her bed to the floor. Her movements awkward as her feet clumsily made their way toward her window; hoping that a breath of fresh night air might calm her nerves a little. As quietly as she could, Mikan opened the window, her head popping out from behind it, a full blast of cold air blasted at her, freezing her sweat soaked body down to her toes.
Pulling her head back from the window, Mikan looked back inside her room, wincing at how dark it appeared now after her daunting dream. Looking back outside from her open window, she rubbed her arm, goose bumps already forming from the cold air from earlier.
'I…have to get out of here…' Ignoring the mind numbing cold with a small shiver, Mikan slowly climbed out of the window, standing precariously on the ledge. Her eyes narrowed down at the ground below. Her room stood a story above the ground, so if she fell, the splat she would make would be very, very, very big. That wasn't something she particularly wanted to be remembered for in Alice Academy.
With practiced ease, Mikan took a small leap to a large oak tree nearby, landing shakily on a branch as it wavered slightly at her sudden weight. Immediately, her arms swung forward to cling to the tree for dear life, literally. Her long, slim arms wound around the tree, her bottom sitting on slowly stilling branch while the rest of her body was pressed against the tree,
For a second, Mikan allowed herself to rest against the tree, her face pressed against the side of the tree. Her erratic breath slowed down to its normal rate, the rough feel of the bark of the tree helping to calm her shivering body.
Cautiously, Mikan finally opened her eyes, making sure she carefully removed one arm at a time. Slowly, her foot shuffled in midair until it finally touched the branch beneath the one she was sitting on, making sure it was steady before she let herself slowly climb down to it. Branch after branch, she continued that pattern until her feet tentatively touched solid ground.
'I didn't fall off, heh…' Mikan applauded herself for her accomplishment. The first few times she had tried to climb the tree back when she first found out about the tree, Hotaru and Iincho found her swaying precariously on one of the higher branches, sobbing as she begged them to help her down. Wiping the sweat off her brow, she looked up, finally allowing gravity to have her and pull her downward until she was sitting on soft, cool grass. Relieved to be out in the open and away from the suffocating darkness that was her room, Mikan raised her head, seeing the stars quietly twinkling down at her.
'Why don't I have a mommy and a daddy jii-chan?'
Mikan closed her eyes before opening them, a small wistful smile on her face. "It's alright jii-chan," she looked up, her eyes glossy, "I'm really happy jii-chan. Because…because I had, no, I have you, I have Hotaru, I have Iincho, I have Tsubasa- sempai, I have Tono-sempai, I have Ruka-pyon…and…I have…"
A branch broke behind Mikan, making her abruptly turn head back around toward the darkness in the bushes. Her body froze, her hand clenched near her chest, ready to release her Alice in case it was someone that shouldn't be there. As quietly as she could, she scooted behind the tree, hoping the shadows would protect her from the intruder's eyes, if shortly.
"Whose there?" She said softly, her body ridged, thinking of who could be the intruder. The worst it could be would be Mr. Bear.
"Eh?" Mikan blinked once, twice, a third time before she finally saw a pair of gleaming ruby eyes peered curiously back at her. As if by magic, or maybe an Alice, the owner of the pair of ruby colored eyes suddenly materialized from out of the shadows. Its black coast shining slightly as it hit a beam of moonlight.
He must've somehow stolen Tsubasa's Alice, for it was one of the new tricks he had learned before he had graduated from Alice Academy. Tsubasa had scared Misaki witless so many times; it was almost a daily event that she missed dearly when her two favorite sempai graduated.
The cat meowed innocently back at Mikan as he took a bold step toward her, meowing once more, obviously wanting something from her. His tail swished back and forth behind him, patiently waiting for her to respond.
Mikan sighed loudly, as her shoulders sagged in relief before slowly outstretching her hand toward him, a warm smile on her face, "Come here kitty. How did you get out here? Someone must be looking for you."
The cat sniffed at her hand for a moment before turning his head arrogantly away, making her frown slightly.
"Well don't you remind me of someone I know," Mikan murmured softly, a small amused smile planted on her face as she crawled over to him slightly. Her long, white night gown rumpling as she did. In the back of her mind, she scolded herself for the grass stains that would be there in the morning.
"Come here sweetie," she whispered to him sweetly, hoping he would come forth. He glanced at her for another moment, thinking about whether or not he should trust the young woman or not. He tilted his head to the side as if really, deeply thinking about it before he gave in, casually walking toward her as if he was the one who decided to come toward her.
He gently butted his head roughly at her outstretched hand before meowing once more, his ruby eyes peering into her chocolate ones curiously, still, as if he still wanted something from her.
"Well aren't you the bossy one, aren't you? Weeeell…I suppose, since you're so cute, it isn't so bad." Mikan carefully brought him closer to her body until he was resting comfortably on her lap. He was resting on his back, laying almost lazily on her, as if he knew he was adorable and was using it to his advantage.
"You lazy thing. Just like that guy," Mikan giggled as she continued to rub his soft, alabaster like ears, her voice softening as she continued. "Except you're not as a sourpuss as he is."
"Meow…" he purred softly as she tickled its chin, gently batting her finger with his paw. He suddenly paused, his soft ears twitching slightly as he looked up.
"Huh? What's wrong kitty?" Mikan stared confusedly at him for a moment as he flipped onto his stomach and climbed up on her chest, his head resting on the crook of her shoulder as he peered at something behind her. He meowed once more as if asking the something behind her to come out.
Mikan was about to turn around, ready to either completely nullify the person's Alice, or if it wasn't an Alice, scream her head off, but instead, was face to face with a pair of scowling auburn eyes.
"What are you doing out here, you idiot?"
That was Natsume's greeting as he stood in front of her, his arms crossed over his chest, acting as if standing in the middle of the night in a pair of black silk pajamas. All in the cold nonetheless, was a normal thing, as he continued to stare at her shocked face. How he managed to pull that off was beyond Mikan's comprehension.
"Do I have to repeat myself or are you too dense to comprehend?" Natsume narrowed his eyes as Mikan stared like a fish with her mouth hanging open at him.
"Meow!" The cat meowed, butting his head on her arm, wondering why the girl he was laying on was staring at the unknown man in quiet shock.
"Oh," Mikan shook her head, snapping out of her reverie, glanced down at her feline friend, her hand automatically coming up to pat him on the head. "I'm sorry, I forgot all about you."
"Ahem," Natsume raised a slender eyebrow at her, staring quizzically at the cat sitting in her lap. "Where did you find that cat?"
"I found him," Mikan smiled down at the purring feline, tenderly rubbing under his chin, "I was out here looking at the stars when he suddenly appeared." She looked up at him hopefully, "Do you think I can keep him?"
"Hmph," Natsume snorted, rolling his auburn eyes at her. "Don't tell you've never heard that black cats are bad luck? With the scores you got on our last test, you need to get rid of the bad luck, not get more."
Mikan puffed up her cheeks in anger, turning her head away from him defiantly, "With Hotaru and Iincho's help, I'm sure I'll do fine. Besides," she raised her eyes to look into his, "I don't care if he is bad luck, I'm keeping him!"
"Why?" Natsume glowered at her, his voice nearly to a growl as he scrutinized her behind amethyst bangs. "Do you feel sorry for him? Because he knows he's unwanted by the rest of society? That everyone strays away from him just because he's different? If you're trying to be nice, then don't. He doesn't need your sympathy when you have to let it go because he can't stay with you."
For a moment, Mikan was dumbfounded. She didn't believe that! She wasn't trying to befriend the kitty out of sympathy. She just…just wanted to have the cat with her. Rage filled her body at the accusation, her mouth ready for a smart remark, if it was not for the fact that hurt gleamed in his dark, auburn eyes.
Over the years, Hotaru and Iincho had stated over and over again that she was a little –a lot, for Hotaru- that she was a little slow on the upkeep, but seeing Natsume's head turned away, avoiding her hurt gaze as he looked at the ground.
Natsume wasn't talking about the cat anymore.
The cat meowed once more, rolling off her lap and landing neatly onto the grass. He stood in front of her, hissing fiercely as his ruby eyes narrowed as his fur stood up slightly on end, wary of the man in front of him, and the fear radiating off of the girl he was resting on.
It only made Natsume every angrier, but he remained still, not wanting to aggravate the cat further. "Why…why do you still care for him, even though he'll cause you nothing but trouble and hardship?"
Mikan leaned forward, gently placing her hand on the cat's head, "Don't worry, everything is alright," she said reassuringly, smiling brightly as the he immediately calmed, relaxing as she continued to pat his head.
While patting his head, Mikan refused to look up at Natsume who remained quiet, watching her silently. His anger, by now, had dissipated somewhat at her silence. However, his head was tilted slightly, his auburn eyes watching her with a scrutinizing stare, his soft, amethyst hair falling in waves framing his beautifully pale face.
Mikan slowly stood up, the cat watching her every move, just like Natsume. "You…you don't believe that I'm strong enough…to be able to take care of him, don't you?" She murmured softly, her left hand curled in front of her chest, her left index finger lightly tracing the intricately designed gold ring that hung on a thin, delicate, gold chain. The ruby that was embedded in the middle of the ring gleamed brightly in the moonlight, catching Natsume's eye.
"I…I suppose I am…weak…aren't I?" She looked up tearfully at him; however, there was a small smile on her face. "It shows, especially after tonight since I'm wandering around the Academy grounds like a lost child."
Mikan took a step back, her head bowed, her long brown tresses covering her face as she started to move away from him, "I don't deserve…to be allowed to take care of him, let alone be near him."
Her eyes watched the cat meow questioningly at her, the cat's form getting blurrier and blurrier by the second as she continued to step back, ready to run away when she was far enough from Natsume. The cat stubbornly followed her, much to her despair.
"I-I should go. I'm staring to babble, and it's getting late anyway. You're right, it's better if I stay away from him before he is too attached. I suppose he can take care of himself after all…" Mikan whispered, her voice sounding foreign, even to her ears. She was about to turn away when a hand grabbed hers pulling her backwards.
The cat meowed once more, but Mikan was too preoccupied to hear it. Her face was buried against his chest, her arms lying limply on her sides while Natsume's own arms were wrapped firmly around her waist and behind her head, making sure she wasn't able to break free of his grip.
"That cat…is the one that is afraid he's weak…" Natsume murmured, burying his head into her soft, chestnut hair, "Because he's afraid that you will…run away from him when you realize how dependent of you he really is…"
Slender fingers raised up and curled around his pajama top, a gargled sob erupting from the smaller body. Mikan looked up at him, crystal like tears falling from her eyes, silver streaks smudging her cheeks and falling against his already soaked chest. Her hand, which was clutching to her chest once more, held tightly the ring that was resting against her chest.
The ring…that he gave her two years ago…on her fifteenth birthday.
"What if I don't ever want to go away from him!" Mikan clutched his black pajama top even harder, standing her toes to bring herself closer to eye level with him. "I know…I'm not that smart, not that powerful, but I…but I really, would like to stay by his side..."
Mikan blinked, more tears falling down her cheeks as she realized what she was doing. Immediately, she settled back down, her feet flat on the ground. Looking back down at his chest, Mikan refused to look back up at him in the eyes now after her…somewhat indirect confession.
"You're rumpling my shirt," Natsume said, making her nearly jump away if he still had not had his arms firmly around her.
"I'm sorry!" Mikan cried, forgetting about everything she had just said, as she was about to go into a fit of apologies if Natsume hadn't shut her up.
With a kiss.
'Natsume…' Mikan thought as he held her closer, protecting her shivering, exposed body to the cold with his own body. She closed her eyes, and leaned forward, fully accepting his kiss for everything she was worth.
Natsume and Mikan immediately pulled away at the interruption, their faces red, but a small smile on both of their faces as they look from the cat to each other.
Mikan took a step back, Natsume's arms sliding loosely from her sides, as she turned around. Still, she felt her heart flutter as he kept his arm still wrapped loosely around her waist. Looking back down at the cat, her arms reaching down toward him, she sweetly beckoned him toward her. "Come here kitty! You wanna come back with me?"
The cat meowed again before easily leaping into her arms, snuggling himself against the crook of her neck. He purred loudly as Mikan held him close, petting his back comfortingly.
Natsume smiled slightly, his arm still lightly wrapped around her waist. To Mikan's surprise, he suddenly pulled her body against his naturally warm one. Mikan's blush deepened, but her body slowly melted into his.
"Now," Mikan gently touched the cat's nose, "What should we call you? How about…" she trailed off, looking at the stars, "Starbright?"
Immediately, he hissed, glaring at her, his hair sticking up on end. Beside her, Natsume chuckled, "Tch, embarrassing isn't it? Polka-dot panties, you can embarrass yourself, but don't embarrass him either."
"Hmph," Mikan fumed, turning her face away from him slightly, her face bright red with the use of her old nickname that was for his use only.
"Well," she glanced back at the cat, then at Natsume, "How about…Kuro?"
Two pairs of eyes blinked simultaneously at her suggestion before a grin broke out across Natsume's face and the cat who purred loudly at the idea.
"I think he likes it," Mikan exclaimed ecstatically, her russet eyes shining happily as she cuddled him close to her.
"I think so too," Natsume agreed, watching the pair from behind Mikan's head, his face relaxed and soft. His free hand coming up to pet Kuro for the first time since meeting him. Surprisingly, Kuro accepted even purred softly for the young man.
Mikan and Natsume looked at each other, a surprised but pleased smile on both of their faces.
"Well then," Mikan sighed happily, her heart finally at ease, a heavy burden that she hadn't realized she had been carrying, lifted, "Let's go home, shall we, Natsume, Kuro-kun?"
SS: Blah, I made small, itty-bitty changes here and there, but other than that, it's still pretty much the same from the rough draft. laughs I'm just lazy. Anyway, if any of you see any mistakes or OOC-ness from Mikan or Natsume, just give me a holler.