Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice. Honest.
"Get away from me," he hissed coldly, eyeing the brunette in front of him with a look of distaste. "I've told you to stay away and leave me alone. If you think you mean something to me, you have no idea how wrong you are."
He saw her lower lip trembling and turned to walk away before the inevitable but he didn't have to. She had already darted away, parting with a soft sob lingering in the thick air around him.
It's better this way, he convinced himself with the mask of indifference on his face. …For her.
He felt something within his chest ache and knew his heart wasn't in a very good state after the confrontation. But it wasn't his fault, Natsume repeated to himself. The hardest things in life had to be done but even with this piece of knowledge, Natsume couldn't help the guilt that overwhelmed his senses and filled the void where his heart lay.
Walking to an unknown destination, Natsume ended at his tree and with a heavy sigh, he gingerly sat down, his back leaning against the rough surface of the trunk.
And though it was the last thing he wanted to think about, Natsume couldn't help dwelling on the scenes replaying itself, once again, inside his head.
Everyone in class knew he had a mission the night before and Natsume was infinitely aware of the fact that everyone knew he couldn't find the strength to attend class because of his injuries. Everyone had kept their mouths shut and didn't ask him about it, knowing the subject was taboo.
But even before he took his seat at the back of the class the day after his absence, Natsume knew, by the determined expression etched on her lovely doll-like face that Mikan's interrogation would begin shortly. Warily, Natsume caught Koko's eye and nodded slightly and in turn, the Mind Reader stood up from his seat and intercepted the little brunette. Whispering a brief something into her ear, Koko parted with a serious look on his face, which was rare for him, and sat down leaving Mikan, both surprised and angry.
Whatever Koko had said, Natsume thought, it didn't matter. He performed his task and the job was done. Natsume lay his head on the table to enjoy the temporary quiet until she hunted him down after class and forced answers out of him.
The class resumed like any other day, except the absence of the obvious enthusiasm from the class sweetheart, who waited, twiddling her thumbs and fidgeting every minute. She didn't participate in class and shunned anyone that tried to talk to her with the exception of Hotaru.
The bell rang signaling the end of classes for the day and everyone left including Natsume, leaving the little brunette beauty by herself.
Even if he thought vainly that she'd finally given up on him and his health, Natsume wasn't surprised to find her stomping her way up to him with brown eyes ablaze.
"Natsume, stop this, ok?! What they're asking of you is wrong!" she cried worriedly, taking a hold of his arm and rolling up the sleeve. "Look at this! Just look!" She pointed at a greenish purple blob the size of a baseball by his elbow and blinked rapidly, "This shouldn't be happening to you, Natsume-kun! You're twelve! You're supposed to be sleeping like a rock and swimming with us in the lake during the summers! You're supposed to be having fun and being a kid!" She sniffled and touched the bruise gingerly before looking up with pleading brown eyes, "Stop this, Natsume. Just please stop hurting yourself in front of me. If not for you, stop for me," she pleaded softly.
Unmoving and unaffected, Natsume wrenched his arm away from her hold, asking coldly, "You done?"
What he wouldn't give to change the circumstances. What he wouldn't do to pull her into his arms and spend a day, a lifetime; just holding her. What he wouldn't do to be able to reassure her and take all of her worries for himself. She had always been much more beautiful when she was happy and carefree. It seemed like the more she associated with him, the darker her life became…
He watched as her head snapped up after hearing his words and his eyes, as meticulous as always, took in the sad turn of her eyes, the down pull to her lips and the slight tilt of disappointment in her head.
"Natsume-kun… are you ok?" she asked weakly.
Natsume hated himself for pulling this on her all of a sudden. If only he hadn't changed. If only he'd stayed and kept his distance. If only he'd continued his cold act toward her, she wouldn't be so … broken and confused now…
He knew her well.
He knew she'd been proud to learn that she was the only girl who'd been able to get so close to him. Natsume had always isolated himself from everybody else except for Ruka and after the first initial weeks of her arrival, most of the school population had been gob smacked to learn that the infamous Black Cat had started to tolerate a female.
He'd have never thought he would've started to do much more than tolerate her in the months to come. She tried, harder than any other person he'd ever known and though the others had their doubts, Mikan had kept at it. With her persistence, it'd been inevitable when he'd cracked, begrudgingly welcoming her into a small spot in his heart. She hadn't been satisfied, though and had ended up shoving at smaller, insignificant things to make room for herself until she was the biggest and brightest occupant in the small organ.
It surprised him how much more difficult turning her away would be. But he swallowed his need and want before she got hurt. There was nothing he wouldn't do for her.
"Get away from me. I've told you to stay away and leave me alone. If you think you mean something to me, you have no idea how wrong you are."
The sight of her darting away had hurt much more than he'd thought but it was all worth it at the end. He'd pay any price for her. He'd do anything for her.
The hairs on the back of his neck immediately stood on end and Natsume instantly readied himself when the darkly clad teacher arrived. "You've smartened up, Black Cat, though it took far longer than it should have."
Natsume had only the strength to glare until Persona got to the point, "You've got a mission tonight. I won't tolerate truancy."
The threat hung in the air and Persona smirked before he disappeared in a burst of black.
Natsume pressed his eyelids closed and breathed quietly, "I'm sorry."
Lazily, Natsume got up from his spot under the Sakura tree, dusting his shorts off before heading to his room to get ready for the mission. He felt fine, all things considered, until he reached his room and felt a strange feeling well at the pit of his belly.
He'd never believed in fate or destiny but premonition was another thing. And so was intuition. For some reason, he had a bad feeling that something would happen tonight. He waved it off but the feeling grew increasingly difficult to stomach and reaching a decision, Natsume jumped out from his window onto the roof and headed over to her window.
Swiftly and quietly, he crept up and peered into her room to find her curled up in a ball, sleeping peacefully. Her tear stained face was visible and though it made his heart ache, Natsume was glad that she was safely in her room. If his feeling was correct, then at least she would be safe.
He jumped back into his room and picked up a pen, before starting his mission.
Jumping from tree to tree, Natsume, clad in his school shorts and a black sweater maneuvered through branch after branch and bush after bush before reaching the mission location.
His infiltration wasn't as smooth as he'd wanted. He was stumped as to how they could've known about his presence and after a few minutes, he was surrounded.
He took out the enemy, one after the other and as many as he could, resorting to his Alice when the time arose. It was his last resort because he knew she hated it when he used his Alice. If he had to break every bone in his body before using his Alice, then he would, just to be with her. His arms felt heavier and heavier after each kill but his job hadn't even started. He was supposed to take down a dangerous Alice wielder; a fire caster like himself.
It soon came time for him to meet up with the leader of the group and he thought of her as he walked through the mass of bodies that his own two hands had created. He shuddered but quickly regained composure.
The man smirked as he fired fire balls at him but being of the same Alice, that didn't affect him too much. What the man said was a different matter altogether.
"What you're trying to do to me…it hurts her more than you know," he said with a knowing smile.
"You don't know a thing," Natsume's words came out in a snarl.
"Do you think she likes seeing you as the killer?"
"I have no choice," he shot back.
The man laughed cruelly and Natsume bit his cheek, growling, "I do as I'm told."
"As do I."
"My case is different," Natsume hissed, gathering energy into his body to keep his muscles and reflexes elastic.
"Oh?" the man jeered, tapping his leg, "How so?"
"You kill the innocents I protect."
The man laughed, dangerously low. "That's true but the reality is, we're going to take you all down in a matter of time and you'll see all the ones you love die in front of your very eyes." He barked a sinister laughed. "You're weak. You couldn't possibly kill me, child," he provoked.
"We'll see," Natsume vowed, clenching his fists fiercely.
"Oh," the man fake shuddered, "I'm shaking…"
He's not going to hurt her…
There movements were in sync and neither one of them could lay a scratch on the other, which proved Natsume was the better Fire Alice since he'd taken a score of men out before battling with this man. It seemed as though they were equal but Natsume couldn't settle for that.
He gathered the remaining energy that he had, the product searing through his body with an intensity that astounded him, before he found the right time to release it.
His heart pounded loudly against his chest as his back lay on the ash scattered ground. His heavy breathing was soon becoming steady and then into nothing at all.
His mission was completed and she was safe, that was all he had on his mind as he lay stiff on the ground.
His breathing stopped and his slow chest movements ceased.
The machine beeped loudly.
"Stop lying, you ass!" Mikan half sobbed, half laughed. She was convinced this was all a nightmare or some sick joke. "This isn't real! Nice one, Natsume, but you won't get me that easily!"
"Mikan…" Hotaru replied solemnly as she held her hand in hers and steered her out the door.
"C'mon. Let's go back to your room. Let's…let's forget about this."
Hysterical, she cried, "No, it's just Natsume. He's just kidding, Hotaru! Look at him! He's always been the actor! He's lying! He's alive!" she screamed.
But deep down, she knew.
He was gone.
Only two days had passed since Natsume's death and it seemed like nobody that truly knew him could get over his rapid passing. Even Persona, who was known to be uncaring about the students in his class, seemed to have troubles adapting to the fact that his prized masterpiece was gone.
Mikan had been one of the few that had taken his passing the hardest. There was just no living for her without him. He was gone now; just gone and she found herself, at the oddest times, walking through the quiet hallways and stopping in front of his room.
She'd never gotten the courage to step into his room. It just didn't feel right without him in there, waiting to call her an idiot or to comment on her panties. Nothing felt right anymore. Better yet, she didn't feel anything really.
It was only evening on the second night when she finally got the courage to step inside his room and when she did, she had to hold onto the doorknob for dear life to keep herself upright. Her legs were threatening to give out on her.
It was as clean as it was the first time she'd gone into his room but it didn't hold the same warmth that had radiated off of his body. The air was musty before she threw open the windows.
She touched his bed and his pillows, relishing the fact that he had once been there, laying peacefully, probably the only time he could just forget and live a little.
Natsume… she cried, soft tears spilling down her cheeks. "You left me," she accused quietly, hiccupping, "You left me. I loved you and you left me…"
She stayed for a few minutes, wondering what she could've done to prevent him from leaving, prevent everything three days ago from happening but no answers came and they didn't seem to ever want to come. With one last look out the window, she started towards the door before something caught her eye.
A red envelope rested on top of his dresser and gingerly, she stepped up to it, her heart beating rapidly at the familiar script of his neat handwriting.
Her hands started shaking, as she carefully opened the envelope and inside, lay a white piece of paper. The words Polka Dots was scratched out from the beginning and in its place was her name.
I've never been good with words. Writing seems to make it easier. This is an insurance letter. At best, you'll never have to read this and I'll be home to tear this to shreds and burn it into dust. At worst, you'll read it and it may be late but…
I wish things were different.
Sometimes I wonder what things could have been like if we didn't have Alices. If I didn't have this Fire and if you didn't have your Nullification, would I have told you then? We'd be human and normal… I'd buy you a hat for Sunday night walks and you'd laugh that special laugh of yours. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me living is dreams of how things could have been for us…
Take care of yourself. I've always wanted that for you. Natsume
I always did like that smile of yours.
Fresh tears were on her face but she wiped them off and smiled, the way he would've wanted her to. The way he told her to, that one. His favorite smile.
Clutching the letter tightly in her small hands, she left his room with a smile on her face. It wasn't just a letter, it was a promise. She understood his actions and his words and his promises and regrets. Mikan understood it all and she couldn't help but smile, because that's what he would've wanted.