Author - Warlordess

Notes - My first ever Absolute Boyfriend fic, and, as far as I can tell, the first on FFN. And it's not a romance! WooT! Oh, but for future warning, I am a Soshi / Riiko fan; not a Night / Riiko one. There's enough of it going around and, heh, I could live without the image of perfection in any relationship being burned into my head.

Disclaimer - I wish it were mine. Damn that Watase, Yuu. She's too amazing for her own good. . . Oh, and the song, "Fighter," that I thought generalized Riiko's growth very well between books one and two belongs to Christina Aguilera and - if not her - all the peeps who helped to write it.

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Title - Fighter (Absolute Boyfriend)

Summary - Riiko's faced a lot of things because of the people she's been too trusting of. And she's learned her lessons. Now she can honestly say she's no weakling. An interpretation of Riiko's friendship with Mika, and her crush on Ishizeki.

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// After all you put me through,

You think I'd despise you.

But in the end, I wanna thank you,

'cause you made me that much stronger. //

- Christina Aguilera, "Fighter."

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Riiko had always known the words to say. She could just never get herself to speak them, no matter how in the right she was. She had never been accepted by many people, always rejection; by the boys she liked, by the parents that were never around, by the next door neighbor and best friend who never seemed to act much like a best friend. It never got better, really; it just went from bad to worse.

". . . I was ready to ditch her off the bat."

"She's not my type; nothing like my girl."

"And this is the best part! I only hung out with you because you made me look good."

Riiko still felt the bruising of the small ego she had as she heard those words; she still felt her heart clench up as those girls from her school threw her into the tree and kicked dirt at her.

She was undeserving of anything great.

"What? She was carrying her bra with her?"

"A present for you?"

"I'm not your friend anymore; you can have this back." Mika stated as condesendingly as she could, tossing the beaded bracelet at Riiko's feet.

"Your friend told us everything! She even emailed us a picture!"

"What's this bracelet? As if you'd look good in anything."

"She's so wierd. . ."

She had so much she wanted to say to them all, so much to grieve about; but she couldn't ever find the strength. She always had one person to lean on, and then that person was ripped away from her. Or, rather, the person ripped themselves away.

"Sorry, but you and Night were really pissing me off!"

"You don't deserve a cutie like him! All the other guys you liked picked me over you! But not Night; he chose you! Can you believe it?"

She didn't know what to think when it happened. She had always wished that something would kick in for her and make her say what she'd always wanted to say.

But. . . never. . . never, ever. . . did it happen the way she'd wanted it to!

You're a total jerk!

What did I ever see in you?

What did I see in you?!

The words. . . were stuck. . . Ishizeki might think even worse of her if she said what she wanted to. And his friends were there; what would they all do to her for insulting him the way she wanted to?

But she couldn't stand it!

Night was her voice.

"Did that boy. . . make you cry?" Arms were embracing her tightly and she'd felt a safety of no other level warm up inside of her. That safety grew stronger even as Night tore away from her for the split second it took to punch Ishizeki across the face and send him crashing against the window at the opposite end of the booth.

She was sixteen! She was supposed to be able to speak for herself! Then. . . then why? Why was it so hard?

// It makes me that much stronger,

makes me work a little bit harder.

It makes me that much wiser,

so thank for making me a fighter. //

"What's your problem? Were you stalking me? What a loser!"

Insults making her head spin, words that wouldn't escape, holding her breath just as much as she was holding back tears. . . What could she do to be stronger than she was?

I can't let them see me cry. . . Stop it! Don't cry! Her eyes burned and she was suddenly having trouble seeing clearly. Was she that angry? Had she held her breath for too long? Or were the tears falling. . . and she couldn't even feel them?

"You're just a slut; it's a good thing I rejected you!" No. She should tell Ishizeki it wasn't true. She should demand to know who'd lied to him about her. She should. . . she should do something about everything that was going wrong for her now.

She depended on others too much. Relying on Mika for advice, on Night for defense against the things Ishizeki was saying about her, on Soshi for when things just didn't make sense in general; she always needed someone to be the way she couldn't. Confident, refined, proud. . . happier. But she was the loser who was so defenseless that she pissed off her friends enough to abandon her.

She pissed those friends off so much that they got others to chase after her and ruin her life.

"Don't be silly! You're not a loser at all! And I know you the best of everyone! I've always watched over you. . .

". . . and I'm right here now."

The bracelet that Night repaired. . . What was she supposed to do with it?

"Mika's in trouble! A lot of girls don't like her; you were her only real friend. Good thing you found out the truth.

"She's a cold-blooded user and it's about time she got what she deserves."

It had nothing to do with her. She shouldn't listen to her heart throbbing, shouldn't listen to the voice in her head telling her she was better than this - better than a person who would leave another to take a beating. . . even if that someone had beaten her first.

Ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore it. . .

"Aren't you going to help her? You've been friends since Junior High, right?" Night, the ever clever voice of reason. She shouldn't listen to him, either. Not now. . .

. . . Not now, as flashes upon flashes of good things echoed inside her mind. She shouldn't be remembering the times with her friend - the girl who'd never really been her friend - that made her want to smile.

People were cruel.

"Oh, did you twist your ankle, Mika? I'm sorry."

"Look, no one's coming to help her."

"That's what you get for being so full of yourself."

"Idiot!"

"Who's the idiot?!" She. . . her voice. It was working now! Only in defense of someone else, someone who didn't deserve it, but she had finally found a time to become strong!

"You're the idiots! Stop pushing people around, you bullies!"

The things Mika said had finally brought out the strength she'd always wanted from herself.

"You think I had it coming, don't you? Did you come over to laugh at me?

"I was never really your friend! None of it bothers me one bit!

"Just stay away from me!"

And the strength she suddenly had now overwhelmed her, and she took action. Mika still seemed shocked by the slap against her cheek ten minutes later. It was a new thing for Riiko to act on her impulses when it could effect her relationships with others in public.

"I get it now. Okay. But keep this anyway, as a token of thanks for putting up with me." And she handed over the bracelet that Night had repaired and given back to her. Keeping it would have been too painful anyway. She didn't expect Mika to wear it, but she hoped that her ex-friend wouldn't trash it so earnestly, either.

She recognized that she was a better person than the one people tried to make her feel like. And she would become better and better until, finally, she wouldn't need to rely so much on anyone but. . . herself.

// It made me learn a little bit faster,

made my skin a little bit thicker.

It makes me that much smarter,

so thanks for making me a fighter. //

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Notes - And that's it. I hope I don't get sued for using some of the quotes from books one and two. Honestly, I'd hoped it would turn out this way, though. My only problem was that it may seem a bit too much like plaigerism. But it's not true! I just don't think everything would have worked as well if I didn't quote a few things. . . and if anyone chose to notice, I did change a few of the lines around, so it wasn't like I was copying everything.