A KID AFTER HIS OWN HEART
Disclaimer: The author rightfully respects the genius of Tachibana Higuchi, creator of Gakuen Alice.
Author's Notes: For reference, you could check out the dialogue between Natsume and Youichi in Chapter 9 of my other story, Natsume Nullified. This is a spin-off.
Normally, Youichi Hijiri wouldn't care. It was more like him to let people go about their own lives. He wasn't the sort to interfere with other people's affairs and he sure as hell didn't waste any time trying to make anything his affair. He was silent most of the time. He only spoke when he had to but whenever he did everybody listened. Even at ten years old, he had that influence. His classmates respected him so much that his status in the Elementary division was reminiscent of only one other legendary student.
Some people would go as far as to say that Youichi was growing up to be just like his hero. Just as cool. Just as indifferent. Just as gorgeous. They were like brothers. Both were Dangerous Ability types. Both have been watched closely by the Academy. Both had that distant look in their eyes that warned people off yet at the same time caused so many to worship the ground they walked on. Further, it helped considerably that Youichi was the only elementary student in the whole school whom Natsume would give the time of day.
Youichi was fairly satisfied with the way his life in the Academy went. He had friends who were willing to go out of limb for him. He was doing all right in school. There were people in the High School division who looked out for him. Rarely could anything trouble him anymore and if his default expression was deadpan, no one complained.
That's why it was interesting to note the subtle changes that began in him ever since Midori Seido joined his class. She was a pretty girl, small of stature and unpretentious. It was odd to see Youichi actually pay attention to someone but the new girl managed it somehow.
Midori was exactly as Youichi had described her to Natsume and his friends. She was cheerful and nothing seemed to get her down. She was a chatterbox and she cried easily yet she never seemed to stay sad for long. She was excited about everything and her enthusiasm was contagious. That's how she managed to win over most of the class even if Youichi himself remained unaffected.
Though maybe not for long.
"Maybe you should talk to him," Ruka Nogi told his best friend when they saw their young ward sitting alone on a bench, busy scowling at his new classmate.
"Because this is your fault."
"Yeah," Ruka said unabashed. "You practically raised him. He's so like you that it's only natural this would happen."
"That he'd fall for a girl who irritates him. Like you did, don't you think?"
Youichi watched as Midori laughed with their classmates. They sat underneath an oak tree, just hanging out. She seemed to be really enjoying herself. It was nice to see someone so happy like that. There was a sharp tug in his chest causing him to frown again. He hated that feeling and wondered why his insides twisted like that whenever he looked at her….
"Hey Youichi, why the face?"
He glanced up. "Natsume."
Natsume grunted then slumped down next to him on the bench. He tapped the side of Youichi's leg lightly. "Everything okay?"
"Then why are you sulking?"
"I'm not sulking," Youichi grumbled. Natsume watched him closely until he squirmed beneath the scrutiny. He was waiting.
"I don't talk to just anyone."
"I know that." They eyed each other for a while. Youichi felt like something inside him was ready to crack. Natsume must have sensed it too.
He chuckled. "Spit it out kid."
"It's about… I don't think… I shouldn't have to…"
"I'm getting there!" Youichi said in annoyance and Natsume smirked.
"You are sulking." He leaned on the bench then rested both his arms on the back. He stared upwards before venturing, "New girl still getting you down?" Youichi didn't answer. "Look, just face it. She's here to stay."
"That's not a problem."
"Know her Alice yet?"
"No," he replied irritably. Natsume grinned at his tone. "And who'd care about a new kid's stupid Alice anyway?"
Youichi was surprised. "Why?"
"I knew she was different."
Natsume slid over that. "So what's the deal? Does she hate you or something?"
"Actually, she seems to think we're friends."
"Well, I'm her partner after all."
Natsume's lips twitched. "Narumi set this up?"
"So he's still doing it," he muttered.
"Nothing." There was a pause. "So what's the problem?"
"She annoys me," Youichi said with exasperation. "She's so loud. I always have to tell her off. And she keeps trying to get me to talk more in class."
An almost fond smile swept across Natsume's features but his companion missed it. "Sounds like a real pest."
"I try giving her a hard time, just so she'll leave me alone. It doesn't work."
"I bet it doesn't."
"I even used my Alice on her. She ran around the classroom crying. Everybody got a good laugh." Youichi looked down. "But the next day, it was like nothing happened and we were sitting at the same table at breakfast." As though she knew she was being watched Midori turned to them and waved cheerfully. In response, Youichi scowled. "Idiot."
Natsume nearly laughed out loud, seeing at once what was really bothering Youichi. No, it wasn't because the girl was loud or annoying or pesky. It was because the new girl actually got his attention. And there lies the problem. The boy wasn't ready to give his attention. Natsume clicked his tongue. "Boy, are you in trouble."
"You'll figure it out."
"Why don't you just tell me?"
"Because you wouldn't believe me." Natsume answered, recalling how stubborn he had been with his own friends. He glanced at Youichi and saw his frown deepen. "It wouldn't kill you to cut her some slack once in a while."
"It's better that you start doing it now than when you're sixteen and everybody gets suspicious when you do something nice."
"I guess," he said again then stopped, "What do you mean?"
"Just as you heard it."
"Yeah." Natsume paused, thoughtfully, "But she's worth it."
Youichi glanced at him, not missing his meaning this time. He sighed. "Natsume, is it normal for a girl to treat a person so warmly after he's been mean to her?"
"I didn't think so."
It was Natsume's turn to sigh. "But then, if she'd been normal you wouldn't have noticed." They were silent for a long time then finally Natsume pat Youichi's knee twice before standing up. "It'll be fine." He tucked his hands in his pockets and started to walk away.
"What makes you say that?" Youichi called after him.
Natsume glanced over his shoulder. "I've been there." Then he gave a small wave. "Later."
Youichi watched Natsume walk over to Mikan who was standing not far off. They exchanged a few words with Natsume lifting one sardonic brow. After a while he started to walk off and Mikan hurried after him making huge gestures as she spoke. She was obviously upset over something. Natsume didn't seem to mind her rant and together they made their way down the cobbled path. A smile tugged on Youichi's lips.
This was all the assurance he needed. He knew Natsume and Mikan's story well enough. They weren't together but they were getting there. Slowly but certainly. And if he happened to trudge the same path as his mentor did, well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
"Youichi!" Midori called breaking into his thoughts. She came running up to him, all smiles. "Do you want to go to Central Town?"
"But the teachers said I could only go if you went with me!"
He was startled. This scene was vaguely familiar but at the moment he couldn't figure out why. Midori was staring at him pleadingly and he realized that behind her a couple of their classmates were waiting for his reaction. He glowered.
"What's the deal? You're not even a no-star."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Youichi paused, realizing he didn't know what made him say that either. "Nothing I guess." It just seemed apt, that was all.
"Please go to Central Town with me."
It wouldn't kill you, Natsume had said. He exhaled. Then still wishing to heaven he understood why he was giving in, he abruptly stood. "Fine. Let's go, you runt."
"Don't call me that!" Midori said irritably before she beamed. "Thanks Youichi!"
Youichi blinked as his heart gave another lurch. Somehow, seeing her smile just for him did make this worth it. Keeping his face carefully blank he turned his back on Midori and started to walk off. Undaunted, Midori followed and cheerfully prattled on at his side. He smiled.
I've been there.
- THE END -