Summary: "Natsume, don't be afraid of your own shadow, because if you cast out one, there is always light behind you." (MikanxNatsume)

……

The elders say that youngsters at the age of sixteen are still kids, juvenile and inexperienced. They still don't have the aptitude to choose the right decisions, for fate hasn't thrown serious difficulties into their lives just yet.

But there's always an exemption in everything. A staid young man who's said to be the most special among all the Alices --- and the biggest pride among them all --- had managed to survive from deadly missions for the academy itself at his crisp young age, thus we can by now call him mature. However, he had sidestepped any opportunity to have friends --- well, except one from his childhood days --- and had created a virtual ice barrier around him in order to protect the ones he loved from the darkness that had always been accompanying him. But has he ever been happy with all those sacrificing he did for the people he really cares for?

……

Light

"…thus, Einstein portrayed darkness as the absence of light. And that concludes our lesson for today," Mr. Jinno said, adjusting his glasses and gazing frigidly at his students from where he stood in front of the class. He cleared his throat and opened his Lesson Plan. "Before I forget, since Mr. Narumi wouldn't be able to meet you today, I was appointed to tell you about the Last Dance."

Almost every one gasped in glee at this, especially Mikan, who had always been waiting for this event. There was only one person she had always wanted to bring to the dance floor, but every time she tries to ask him, she fails. She didn't really have a thing for him; she just wanted to see the enjoyment in his eyes… even just for once. She won't fail this time.

"It'll be tomorrow evening, so make sure you arrange everything up," he carried his things. "Dismissed."

……

It was lunch break, and Mikan decided to make her first move.

"…So do you already have a partner?" a blonde asked his companion as he stroked the furry head of his pet rabbit. The two of them were walking across the long hallway, not minding the complete boisterousness of the place.

"I told you, Ruka, I will never have a partner. No matter how many girls ask me, I'll decline the offer."

"But Natsume---"

"Ruka," he gawked at him icily, as if he was threatening him not to ask about it ever again.

"Fine then. But I won't have a partner too, if you don't."

"Suit yourself."

The young brunette watched the two as she leaned against a pillar in the busy hallway. She was waiting for a chance for Natsume to be alone --- to ask him about the Last Dance --- but Ruka had always been with him. Another rejection would be definitely embarrassing…

"Natsume!!!" Mikan hollered with her usual cheery voice as she hopped her way to the two.

"Not her again…" the one whose name was called out said in disappointment.

"Natsume…"

"Is it about the last dance again?"

Knowing that he wouldn't accept if he knows, she thought that lying would be the best thing to do. Hey, it was a white lie!

She shook her head vigorously as her eyes swept on his suspecting look, "No. I'll meet you at the woods later, four o'clock in the afternoon, okay?"

"Hey---" but before Natsume could even reply, she trotted back to her trail.

"That girl… She's so desperate. Asking you every year to go with her... Why don't you just go to the Last Dance with her? You like her too, don't you?"

"Hn. Don't remind me."

……

He never thought he would really go meet her at the woods, but surprises of all surprises, his feet involuntarily brought him there when the large clock tower struck four. After traveling for two good minutes the depths of the forest, he saw the girl sitting under a massive tree, waiting patiently.

"Natsume!!!" the annoying girl automatically stood up bouncily when she caught sight of him, making Natsume roll his eyes. "I knew you would come!"

"Whatever. So what's this all about?"

She came nearer, and then squeezed his hands with her warm ones. "Natsume… Please go… Go to the ball with me."

Successfully suppressing the sudden flush in his cheeks, he backed away. "Don't you understand what I had been trying to say all these years? I'll never dance with anybody, especially with you!"

"Come on, it's just a dance! It's quite simple! I'll teach you if you can't," Mikan stated as throwing her hands up in the air.

"Come here," he said, and the girl complied at once. "Nearer."

Natsume motioned as if he was about to whisper something in her ear, but pointed the tip of his forefinger to her chocolate locks instead. "Stop bugging me," blazing fire then appeared at the end of her hair.

She instantaneously clapped her hands in her hair to stop the fire from creeping up. "Hey! What did you do that for?"

He turned his back on her and started walking away. "I won't go with you."

She, on the other hand, put out her tongue. She then whispered to herself, "I'll get you. You'll see…"

……

It was already the big night.

Mikan was already putting on her gown; her best friend was combing her still-damp raven hair. They were both in her messy room, for she had begged Hotaru to stay there for a while.

"You're such a slowpoke, Mikan. If you don't want us to be late again, try to be fast for a change," said her best friend, who was all ready.

"I'm trying to, Hotaru… But --- argh --- I'm having a hard time wearing these wings---"

"I didn't find it hard," Hotaru stated, referring to the ornament fastened on her back.

"Please help me!" the brunette cried, turning to her best friend for help.

"Fine, fine."

"Hey, Hotaru, you won't ask me to dance with you again, right?" Mikan asked out of curiosity, thinking if her best friend would spend her Last Dance with her for the fifth time.

"No."

"So you have a partner?" her eyes sparkled in glee.

"Yeah."

"Who is it?"

"Quit asking questions," she stated primly, incongruity enveloping her voice.

"But Hotaru! You're spoiling all the fun!"

"Whatever."

……

"Trust me, Natsume! You won't lose anything if you dance with her!"

"Really, I won't, just my dignity," Natsume answered sarcastically, as his friend Ruka was infuriating the hell out of him. "Why don't you ask her? You obviously like her."

"I danced with her a thousand times already!" the blonde blushed furiously that he had to shake his head repeatedly to remove the crimson color on his cheeks. "And I like someone else!"

"Then dance with her one more time."

"Aw, come on…"

Then a beautiful figure of a girl coming their way interrupted them.

"Natsume! Ruka!" and there came an angel in disguise, sent from the heavens above. Very pretty indeed…

"Polka-dots," Natsume stated brusquely as the girl joined them. His friend stood there, jaw on the ground. Though he did agree that she was undeniably gorgeous that night, he resisted the urge to voice it out.

"Can't you be nice for a change? I've been begging you to dance with me since yesterday, but you don't even seem to think about it!"

"I told you, I won't dance with anybody," he said, then walked away from the scene.

When he was already in a good distance from them, he looked back and saw the two talking animatedly and sharing a hearty laugh. "I bet he would ask her." He then caught sight of some fan girls on their way to him, but before they could even be a meter from him, he glared at them --- the most daunting glare he could muster. This made them go away in an instant.

……

After some minutes, Natsume found himself walking to his favorite tree --- our favorite tree, he noted. Just then, drops of rainwater trickled down from the murky heavens.

He hopped up the sturdy tree branch, and lain down as he did so. The leaves above him were thick enough to shelter him from the light rain, and it was relaxing to hear the soft raindrops splashing against the smooth ground at that.

Mikan Sakura. Since when did those two words have a drastic impact on his life anyway?

All he remembered was having her called polka-dots and her calling him pervert. Really, who would say call him such?

All those years, he had been avoiding societal relationships --- except Ruka, that is --- because he never wanted anyone else to be affected by the darkness surrounding him. He thought it was the best thing to do, but because of this, he hadn't been really happy; even Ruka started being unsociable too… but that was before Mikan came into the scene. Maybe… Maybe that's the reason he liked her. Mikan saved them both, but he still remained as distant as ever.

And though he would hate to admit it, he care about what people think of him. Who wouldn't anyway?

"Natsume!!!" A girly voice interrupted his thoughts. Mikan was soaking wet due to the sudden rain, making her gown and garments heavy for her to drag.

"What are you doing here, polka-dots?" he asked in a cold tone, trying to shoo her away. He wasn't in the mood for useless chitchats.

"Obviously, I wanna dance with you! Just once!"

"Don't you ever give up?"

She just smiled back. What's with that girl, and she could make him anxious within a split-second?

Natsume hopped down from the branch and shook Mikan's shoulders violently. "Why won't you understand?!" he asked, pain visibly etched on his face. He couldn't hold back anymore the emotions he carefully hid for so many years ago. "I don't want you to get involved with my affairs; I don't want you to get hurt!!!"

Apparently taken aback, Mikan was at loss of words. "Natsume…"

His face showed absolute annoyance, but that was belied by his trembling voice. "Please stay away… Away from my life…" Tears trickled from his ruby eyes, but they were at once washed away by the angry rain.

But she smiled still.

"How can you smile like that at times like this?!" he shouted, fuming.

"Mr. Narumi once told me that I'm the only one who can help you," she fixed her amber eyes into his, "only my Alice can assist you out of the dark."

No… No one, not even Mikan could possibly help him; the darkness had gotten to him for too long.

"Natsume," she called out once again, her voice ringing out through the violent rustles of trees, "don't be afraid of your own shadow."

"…What?"

"Shadow is the darkness cast by something cutting off light," she smiled even more, "and that thing is you. That means, if you cast out shadow, there is always light behind you."

I see.

Mikan grabbed his hands and led him to her virtual dance floor. "C'mon, let's dance!" She began to hum the waltz and turned and turned ineptly.

Natsume let out a light chuckle and before he knew it, he had already placed his hand on her waist.

He scrutinized her façade as they danced; her face was smeared even with the lightest makeup she wore. Her trite pink lips were addictive to look at; he would've kissed her if she wasn't humming smilingly.

She suddenly stopped at her pace and gazed at his eyes inquiringly. "Please let me become that light, ne, Natsume-kun?"

……

OWARI