Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice. All rights reserved to Tachibana Higuchi, the genius of Gakuen Alice. The plot is mine.

The Right Way to Thank

Sure, hugs were nice. Warm, too.
Natsume had always been far warmer than others.
He didn't want something nice.
Natsume didn't want a meager
he wanted a kiss.

"You're mad at me."

Natsume twitched, ignoring the warm presence of the petite brunette beside him and continued sky-gazing. It was a relatively bright afternoon, the school grounds marred with students as the sun beat down on their backs. The heat pierced through layers of clothing and the little wind in the air didn't make much of a difference to help cool off the students of Alice Academy.

He closed his eyes briefly, relishing the shade of the large Sakura tree that he'd become strangely attached to. Natsume didn't know why he held the tree under such high esteem. It was like any other tree, really. Thick trunk, long branches and bright pink cherry blossoms littered the entirety of the thing but yet, something about it seemed to stand out to him. Something that made the tree seem just that much more special. He couldn't quite put a finger on it—

"Tell me why you're mad at me, Natsume."

He grunted, his gaze drifting back to the open manga in his lap. Natsume had tried not to brood over it. He tried not to think about how a stupid high school student had the nerve to take advantage of his favorite underwear patterned idiot.

He tried, he really did, but Natsume found that his mind kept coming up with elaborate schemes to kill a certain Tamaki-senpai after the little stunt he pulled that morning. There were two main ways that he'd been planning to get rid of him. There were subtle ways, like a late night escapade, happening to come by the unfortunate boy in a very ugly situation. And then there were very obvious ways, like burning him like a strip of bacon and then drop-kicking him off a cliff. Bystanders? Who cared! As long as he got the deed was done, he didn't care who happened to be watching.

Natsume smirked triumphantly at his thoughts.

"C'mon, Natsume," she prodded, sidling up closer to him on the branch. She frowned, her delicious brown eyes narrowed and it was surprisingly difficult for him, Natsume found, to ignore the look of confusion on her face. "Are you mad at me?"

Feigning not to have heard, Natsume trained his eyes once again to the manga in his lap, pretending to be engrossed in the drawings and the graphic scenes of battle. Every bit of his being was successfully ignoring the brunette in front of him.

Puffing out her cheeks in frustration, Mikan dangled her feet in annoyance, enjoying the free movement and the height she'd managed to climb. Straddling the branch with her thighs, Mikan carefully dislodged one hand from the branch and poked him in the shoe. "I want an answer from you, Hyuuga," she commanded seriously, only successfully looking adorable.

His eyebrows lifted questionably but his eyes remained glued to the same page he'd been 'reading' for the past six minutes. With his peripheral vision, Natsume darted a glance at her facial features that was set into an adorable scowl.

Biting the tip of his tongue, Natsume kept up his impassive expression and continued to dodge her anxious glances. In a last ditch attempt, Mikan wrapped her legs around the branch, putting both hands on the branch between them and leaned into his form until their faces were merely a few centimeters apart.

"Natsume," she sang carefully, eyes smiling once he looked up to face her.

Natsume bit the inside of his cheek and forced down the heat that crept slowly up to his cheeks. He glimpsed the flawless porcelain of her skin and looked blandly into her gentle, determined brown eyes, a glare of displeasure on his face.

Much to Natsume's dismay, she leaned back triumphantly, her legs still hugging the branch as if her life depended on it. Biting her lips, Mikan lifted her eyes reluctantly and tilted her head to the side, "Natsume-kun… are you mad at me?"

He grunted, momentarily speechless at the sound of her voice.

She bit her lip once more, furrowing her eyebrows and asked slowly, "Are you mad because I kissed Tamaki-senpai on the cheek?"

He scoffed almost immediately, turning his head away and not even trying to hide the frown from his face.

All he did was get a stupid squirrel stuck in a hole and the idiot kisses him on the cheek while I save her butt from stalkers and everything and I don't get a damn thing…

"—Natsume," she sighed softly, "I don't understand you at all!" She pouted, crossing her arms over her chest, a concerned line where her smile was supposed to be.

Natsume bristled, "I never expected you to, baka youjo."

She shifted uncomfortably on the branch and murmured, "Hotaru said… she said you were jealous. She said you were jealous because I never kiss you on the cheek when you help me an—"

He scowled instantly, briefly thinking that she hung out with Imai far too often. "Your devil-incarnate of a best friend is wrong," he muttered, scowling and turning his head to the side.

Mikan huffed in offence.

She folded her hands in her lap, fidgeting before she slammed her small hands against the branch's surface, "Ok, Natsume," she said with determination. "B-but… since you're always saving me—uh—thanks… okay?" she sputtered, quietly moving over to place a chaste kiss to his cheek.

Natsume blinked, evading the kiss at the last second so that her lips met humid air. The look on her face was of utter confusion as she furrowed her brows and bit her lip, tilting her head to the side with a question dancing in her eyes.

Natsume, acting like she hadn't tried to just kiss him, remained impassive. "I want a kiss," he muttered bluntly, looking her in the eye.

"I was just going to give you one…"

He rolled his eyes, "Not a kiss on the cheek," he said snidely. "A kiss on the cheek isn't a thank you. A real kiss is the right way to thank," he said nonchalantly.

"O-on the lips?" she stuttered, horrified. Her cheeks started flaming red and he met her eyes intensely until it looked like his eyes were smothering, "Yeah."

He shrugged at her startled expression, "I don't see what the big deal is. He saves a squirrel, a kiss on the cheek. I save your life, I get a kiss on the lips," he replied simply, without tearing his eyes away from her expression.

She gulped apprehensively and her heartbeat quickened to an unhealthy pace. "Uh—o-okay."

She inched closer to him as he leaned idly against the trunk of the Sakura tree. She didn't know how to go about it. Even though he'd kissed her before when they were little, that was a good four years ago. She was fourteen now and she still felt butterflies when she was close to him.

Mikan looked down in embarrassment and Natsume, being the impatient one he was, let his precious manga fall to his side as he lifted her chin up with two fingers, looking into her eyes.

Surprised, she squeaked, "Natsume…?"

He lifted an eyebrow as she stared at him, taking a gulp of air before swallowing hard.

It's now or never…

Mikan quickly closed the distance between their lips and was instantly greeted with gentle warmth, which surprised her. She tried to pull back, intending to give him a chaste, quick kiss but the firm hand on the back of her head kept her there as she felt his lips start to stroke hers.

It was hard not to kiss him back. He was urging her to respond and she couldn't pass up the chance. She was surprised to realize that by the time she closed her eyes, she could feel more. He was soft and tender, kissing her so softly as though he was scared that she was going to break if he held her too close or kissed her too hard. The thought made her fingers tremble.

Heat slowly crept up her cheeks as a few more moments passed and Natsume finally let go. A smirk made its way to his lips and she watched horrified at the devious look on his face.

"You should thank me like this more often," he smirked coolly, a faint tint of pink on his cheeks. Natsume couldn't help feeling cool in that moment. He didn't quite feel giddy or excited… he just felt… cool.

"Natsume, you—" she hissed, mortified at the reality of the moment. She quickly got to her feet, startled, momentarily forgetting she was sitting on a branch. Her foot slid off the smooth roundness of it and desperately reached out. She closed her eyes and was barely aware of the fact that Natsume had managed to slide his hand into hers, pulling her up.

"Idiot," he murmured affectionately, smirking.

She trembled on his lap and her eyes widened with worry as she clutched onto the front of his shirt, still trying to calm the triple fast heart dance that her heart was currently doing. Whether it was from the fall or being this close to him, she couldn't say.

He wrapped a lazy arm around her waist and pressed the small of her back before she looked up with surprise.

Grinning like a maniac, Natsume murmured, "I think you need to thank me again, Strawberry prints… for saving your life."

She swallowed loudly at the dark smile on his face.

My Hopeless Romantic