My Best Friend's Girlfriend
Disclaimer: The author rightfully respects the genius of Tachibana Higuchi, creator of Gakuen Alice.
Author's Notes: This fic doesn't exactly have a straight plot. It was just born in the midst of "Natsume Nullified" though you don't have to think the two are connected. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this too.
"I want to ask Mikan out."
Natsume sucked in his breath and suppressed the even stronger urge to curse out loud. With an effort, he turned towards Ruka. His friend's gaze was pinned to the sky, his posture still relaxed though Natsume could tell by the straight line his lips formed that Ruka was tensed. They were lying on the rooftop, as they usually did on school nights ever since they were little. It had always been the best time for them to talk about their more serious concerns; this being one of them.
"Did you hear me Natsume?" Ruka asked quietly. "I said I want to ask Mikan out."
"I heard you," Natsume bit out. He sat up, leaning back on his hands, bitterly mulling over the statement. His best friend waited for him to say something. In a cool voice he replied, "Go on then."
"Of course we are."
"Are you sure?"
"I wouldn't have said yes otherwise."
And that was all there was to it. Natsume lay back down, his gaze on the night sky, though he wasn't really seeing it. Ruka's question didn't take him by surprise. They've known for a long time that they cared for the same girl. Neither of them had ever made a move though because they were always too busy second-guessing each other. Sooner or later, one of them was bound to lay it out in the open. Natsume had always believed that Ruka would speak first. Now that they were thirteen-years-old, Ruka finally did and he couldn't blame his friend for trying.
"When are you asking her?"
Natsume felt his heart flinch, "Hn."
They have been together for a month. One solid month and Natsume had never seen either of them as happy as they were right then. They were always together outside class, a fact that seemed to amuse several people as Ruka stopped following him around and Mikan had also ceased troubling Hotaru so much. They were a pair—a contented, functional, perfect pair.
Natsume avoided being in the same room as the two of them if he could help it. He still hung out with Ruka and occasionally he still talked to Mikan but he was rarely ever seen in the company of them both. This didn't seem to bother Mikan very much; she was rather oblivious to it; but it troubled Ruka, though he knew there was no way to solve the problem. Natsume still liked Mikan, and short of telling his girlfriend that, there was no way he could broach the subject without causing a mess.
Natsume knew his place though. He knew it as surely as he did when he had told Ruka that he would be okay with this. What he hadn't expected was that he would be jealous and if the guy was anyone but Ruka, he would be exacting retribution by now from the person causing him to hurt. Still, he held back and let them be. To ensure his tolerance, he went out of his way to steer clear of them by hanging out in other secluded spots in the Academy where neither of them would ever find him.
One day he was sleeping under the shade of a tree in the high school division, with his manga pulled over his head, when suddenly he felt the ground shake. He sat up in surprise then from beneath the earth a large robot mole emerged. He got to his feet and scowled at the driver for disturbing him.
"Taking a nap?" Hotaru asked nonchalantly as she popped out of the control room and slid down the robot to join him.
"None of your business," he snapped. Then he grabbed the manga he was reading from the ground, intending to walk off.
"They're in Central Town," Hotaru said behind him. "You don't have to worry about running into them today." He whipped around and glowered at his smirking classmate.
"Don't act like you understand."
She looked amused. "But I do understand."
"Well, you don't have to say so," Natsume said grudgingly. He stuffed a hand in his pocket as it formed into a fist. "What are you doing here?"
She gestured to her robot. "Digging for rabbits. My income has been depleted lately." She reached into her pocket and thrust out a stack of pictures that he reluctantly took. Apparently, Ruka was still her favorite model but this time the pictures showed Mikan with him. Hotaru said musingly, "Pictures of Ruka as half of a couple doesn't sell as much as you'd expect."
"I can imagine," Natsume muttered, flipping through the photos. Ruka and Mikan in a malt shop. Ruka and Mikan eating fluff puff under a Sakura tree. Ruka and Mikan studying together in the library. Ruka and Mikan holding hands as they walked down the corridor.
"You can have them if you want," Hotaru offered with an almost wicked gleam in her eye.
"What would I do with them?"
"I don't know. But I sure don't need it anymore," she said breezily then turned to board her invention. Then suddenly she paused. "Natsume, it's not so bad you know. Just give it time. You'll get used to it."
"I don't want to get used to it," he retorted without thinking.
Hotaru smirked. "And there lies your problem." Then without another word, she rode her invention. In the next instant, she and the giant mole were gone.
Natsume walked down the hall with gritted teeth. With his other hand, he gripped the wound on his right arm. It was only a flesh wound but it still burned like hell. He had been shot at— again. He got hit— again. And at the moment, he was again cursing Persona for sending him on yet another deadly mission. One of these times, he really will get killed and he couldn't say he cared much for it.
He leaned against the wall, weakened either from loss of blood or fatigue or both. His room was still paces away. He was going to have to stay conscious long enough to bind this injury. Pushing away from the wall, he staggered to his room. Then a couple of steps later, he lurched.
She caught him quickly and because of his dimmed senses he didn't even realize she was there. When he forced himself to focus though he found himself staring at concerned eyes and he pitched back.
"Why are you here?" he hissed at Mikan.
"I was with Ruka."
In his room no doubt, Natsume thought but she left that unsaid. Still, the flush on her cheeks was enough to confirm it and now anger boiled inside him doubling the pain he was trying to endure. He glared at her. "Get out of here."
"What's happened to you?" she asked, searching his face. "You were out on a mission again, weren't you?"
"It's none of your business." He tried to move past her but she blocked his path. The simple obstruction of having a petite body in his way was enough to make him reel. He was exhausted. He was shot at. And now this. Now he even had to contend with an overly anxious girl who was too concerned for her own good. "Damn it Sakura, let me go to my room."
"I'll help you!" she said quickly then before he could counter, she let him slip an arm around her shoulders to support him as he moved. "Let's go."
She was practically gasping as they walked. Mikan could barely support his weight but she persisted anyway. It was humiliating. Thank God no one was around to see. When they reached his room, he collapsed on the bed, breathing hard. Mikan stood apprehensively on the doorway.
"Where are your meds Natsume?"
"Bathroom," he rasped. She rushed to get his pills and he rested his eyes for the moment, reveling in the irony of the situation. A while later Mikan came back with a glass of water, a first-aid kit she had apparently found in there and his blasted medicine. And he knew what she meant to do.
He expected nothing less from Mikan Sakura. She wasn't going to leave him like this. She'd stay the whole night if that's what it took to make sure he was okay. Natsume watched silently as she dressed his wound. She was worried about him. She had always been worried about him. Dimly he wondered what the step was in between. Was worrying and caring so far apart? Mikan was on the floor, at the foot of his bed, kneeling in front of him as she bound the gash near his wrist. Now that she was wrapping it in bandages, she kept her head bent, concentrating on the task. Her touch was enough to thaw him.
"You shouldn't have stayed," he said gruffly. "What would others say when they hear you were in my room tonight?"
She laughed. "You don't have to worry about that. Nobody needs to hear about this. Anyway, you needed help so what's wrong with that?"
"I don't need your help," he said tersely. "You're such a nosy little brat."
"You're welcome Natsume," Mikan said dryly as she finished tying the ends of the bandages together. Finally she looked up at him with a cool look. "When are you going to change? It's not wrong to let us worry about you. You know we all do. I don't care what you said about your principles or protecting us or whatever. It's not worth it."
Natsume looked away from her, cradling his bandaged arm with his other hand. "Ruka's been telling you way too much." She didn't reply and there was a long pause. After a while, he heard a sob and his attention snapped back to her. "Are you crying?"
"No," she muttered bending her head.
"You're such an idiot," he breathed. He took the tissue box they had used before and poked her forehead with it. "What the hell are you crying about?"
"You're going to die!" she wailed and a fresh wave of tears overcame her.
Natsume stared at her in stupefaction. "I'm not dead yet so stop it."
"But you're going to," she hiccupped. "Why are you being so stubborn? Stop using your Alice. Your heart… it's too weak."
"No, it's not," he answered softly. He stared at her for a while. "This Alice, my Alice, is a gift. It shouldn't be wasted. I won't give it up. And I'd never ask that of you."
"But my Alice isn't going to kill me," Mikan returned, swiping at her eyes. She looked at him miserably. "Then would you please just try to be more careful? If it's not your Alice that will kill you, one day a bullet might."
He looked at her grimly. "That is true."
At that she started up again. Short of laughing at her, Natsume pulled out a tissue from the box and moved to hand it to her. As he leaned forward, he winced as the pain on his side doubled. He clutched at his waist. Mikan saw the gesture and froze.
"What's wrong?" she asked, blinking up at him. He didn't answer and her mouth dropped open when she realized there was also a blood stain on his shirt. "You were shot twice! Oh my god Natsume! It's a good thing I'm here."
"It's nothing I can't handle," he said between gritted teeth.
"And what were you planning to do? Bleed to death?"
"Now there's an idea," he said sardonically. Mikan got up from the floor to unroll more bandages and he watched her incredulously. "What are you planning to do?"
"Dress your wounds."
"But you can't," he said and when she looked at him stubbornly, he almost laughed. To prove his point he started to remove his shirt. Mikan immediately backed away and he swallowed a chuckle.
She looked torn. "I think you should do this one on your own."
"I think so too."
She dropped the bandages she had so courageously prepared. When she was near the door, she stopped. "Natsume, you won't tell Ruka about tonight, will you?"
Her words were like a douse of cold water. Oh yeah, Ruka, her boyfriend of four months now and counting. He sighed. "No, I won't. I'll leave that to you."
She looked crestfallen. "Right. Good night Natsume."
"Good night," he muttered as she closed the door after her. He stood up and looked at the cut on his side, dimly wondering if this one would scar. It wasn't as deep as the one on his arm but it was bleeding nonetheless. Slowly, Natsume lifted his arm to gaze at Mikan's handiwork. The girl knew how to bind wounds, he'll give her that. It was nice having her around. Too bad, she couldn't have stayed.
Natsume lay on the roof with his arms tucked behind his head. His gaze was focused invariably on the night sky as he mulled over the news that spread throughout the Academy early this afternoon: Ruka and Mikan broke up.
After six wonderful months together, they had finally broken up. People were speculating what caused it. They could guess all they want but Natsume knew better. It couldn't nearly be as dramatic as people thought and he didn't intend to hear the reason from anyone but Ruka. Dimly, he knew he should be looking for his best friend. However, he also believed that if Ruka was sore right then, he'd probably need some time alone.
He pulled his arm from behind his head and looked at the faint scar on his skin. The wound Mikan had bound neatly two months ago was fading. All wounds heal though not all scars fade. But this one did. He sighed, wondering now if Mikan was upset that night. She ought to be. Ruka was a great guy.
Later, he heard footsteps sound behind him as Ruka precariously made his way down the slope to join him. Without bothering to budge from his position, he raised his hand in a wave. Ruka sat next to him, heaving a heavy breath as he did so. There was brief silence.
"Yeah," then he added knowing Natsume would never ask, "Mikan is too."
Natsume slid a glance at his friend. Ruka had a faraway look on his face, almost wistful though not sad. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure. I guess it was really just over."
"Can that happen?"
"It just did," Ruka said with a tinge of amusement. He leaned back on his arms. "We were better as friends. It was a mutual decision."
Natsume snickered. "Did she tell you to say that?"
"No," Ruka said shortly. "It really just was. Anyway, we're both fine with it. We said we'd stay good friends."
There was silence again and Natsume sat up, resting his arms on his knees. He didn't know what to say to his friend, especially since sympathy seemed like the last thing Ruka wanted. He glanced over at his companion and cringed. "You got a bump on your head."
"Hotaru shot me with her baka gun," Ruka said with a rueful laugh.
"I thought you said it was a mutual decision."
"She did it on principle," he grimaced. "Apparently best friends do that." They both laughed then, and the tension evaporated. Ruka started tapping his foot. "I really care about Mikan. It was okay for a while but then I just started missing her as she was when we were just friends. Still it was nice, you know, just having her around."
Natsume's gaze slid to the mark near his wrist. "Yeah, I know."
"And even if she said it was just about us, I could tell," Ruka paused, still staring out into the campus, "She must like someone else."
Natsume stiffened, turning to him sharply. "Who?"
"She wouldn't say," Ruka admitted, "But then, pushing the matter wouldn't have been a very good break-up now, would it?" He paused as a small smile tugged on his lips. "But I have an idea."
Ruka gave him a meaningful glance but Natsume refused to give that any weight. Their gazes locked then his friend broke into a grin. "I won't say."
Natsume grimaced. "Must be nice to have a baka gun." At that, they both laughed.
Three weeks later, Mikan slowly made her way down the hall to her bedroom, limping as she walked. Afternoon light was streaming through the windows as the sun set in the horizon. She stopped by a window to smile gaily at the orange sky then remembering the more critical task at hand, she hobbled over to her door. She winced as she entered and moved to her bed. Then kicking off her shoes, she bent to survey the damage.
That twist during PE class was more serious than she thought and at the moment there was an ugly red lump swelling on her ankle. She sighed knowing she shouldn't have tried to hide it. Hotaru had sensed something was wrong but after assuring the others she was fine, she had made a quick getaway— or rather, as quickly as her ankle would allow. Funny, it didn't seem as painful fifteen minutes ago when she had limped from the gym to her room.
She needed to soak it in something cold. She glanced at the bathroom on the other side of the room, measuring the distance when suddenly her door was roughly thrown open. Mikan gaped as Natsume stood ominously at the doorway with a terrible glare directed at her.
"What did I do now?" she squeaked. Without a word Natsume entered her room before shutting the door again. He came to stand in front of her. Mikan blinked. "Natsume, you're in my room."
"You were in mine," he said coolly then to her surprise, he sat down on the floor and lifted her foot, pressing an icepack against the bump. She gawked.
"What's this for?"
"Ice helps bring down the swelling," Natsume explained, purposely misunderstanding her question. He kept his gaze averted, his hair hooding his face. Mikan reached down to take the ice pack from him but he rudely slapped her hand away.
"Oh honestly, I can do it myself!" she said irritably.
He looked up then with a small mocking smile. "You're welcome Mikan."
All words died in her throat. Natsume returned his attention to the injury so he didn't see her cheeks suddenly flare. It's been a long time since he called her Mikan. He sat on the floor, as though it was the most normal thing to do, keeping the ice pack pressed against her ankle. She knew she should be embarrassed but right then, she couldn't bring herself to say anything to make him leave.
Anyway, why should she? It was nice just having Natsume around.
- END -