One of Them

Author: Onyx

Disclaimer: Don't own, won't own; but I do own a build-a-bear named Jinjin and I have the certificate to prove it.

Previously: And as they started to leave Mikan turned to look back at Natsume one last time, and then she walked away. Natsume slid down the wall until he was sitting once again, his head in his arms.

What have I done?

A/N: I am completely useless and will not give any excuses as to why I am freakishly slow at updating: to all of you who continue to support me through my endless amounts of failure and writers block, I salute you and admire your endurance.

We really have gotten pretty far with this story, haven't we? But I'll save the pointless ramblings for after the chapter, well then, please enjoy.

Chapter 17, Not According to Plan

Mikan walked with Xiao Lang to the main room of the palace, her hand resting lightly on his arm just the way they had practiced. She couldn't believe that Xiao Lang had walked in at such a crucial moment between her and Natsume, but what came as more of a surprise was the fact that the moment had became crucial at all. Mikan, frankly, was in utter shock with the whole situation and wasn't really present when they entered the ball room; actually she was in a daze all through the announcement Xiao Lang's parents were giving the crowd. So when they all burst into cheers, claps and whistles she didn't have a clue of what was going on.

Curiously she turned to Xiao Lang only to see him pale faced, his eyes cast nervously toward the floor, as if he had just gotten A+ on a test he cheated on. She tugged gently on his sleeve.

"Xiao Lang what's-?" Mikan was cut off with a tight hug from Xiao Lang's mother, the queen.

"Congratulations, my new daughter." Mikan froze, going stiff as a board in the queen's affectionate grip.

"What?" Mikan questioned, praying to all that was good and listening that she had heard terribly, terribly wrong.

"Oh my, she's in shock." Giggled the queen, petting Mikan's head fondly like she was some sort of adorable yet helplessly stupid pet.

"I said, you and Xiao Lang are engaged! Isn't it wonderful?" The crowd broke into a crescendo of cheers and claps all over again while the Orchestra broke into song. The queen hugged Mikan tightly once more, neither her nor the crowd noticing the way Mikan's face fell; when she broke away the queen had tears in her eyes.

"I am so happy; my son is finally getting married!" Mikan was still staring at the floor when the king came up behind all of them, placing a comforting hand on the queen's shoulder.

"Congratulations, make me proud son." Xiao Lang nodded obediently. He dared not oppose his father.

"Yes, Father." The said man nodded his approval before disappearing into the crowd of merrily dancing people, taking the queen with him. Mikan and Xiao Lang stood there for a minute before, hesitantly, he took hold of her arm and pulled her to the edge of the room. They didn't want to get run over by the people who seemed to dance without a care in the world and gleefully mock her with their happy, smiling faces. Mikan looked up, a bit startled by the sudden movement, but the minute she did she instantly regretted it. As if by fate their eye's connected from across the room, hers confused, surprised and unsure while his seemed a mixture of anger, weariness, and hopelessness. The look in his eyes alone made her want to cry; Natsume stood at the door of the ballroom watching her with a broken expression. And then he was gone, having turned away as soon as their eyes connected.

Xiao Lang and Mikan stood by the wall, neither moving or saying a word; they knew what had just happened and there was really nothing they could do at the moment to stop it, however Mikan was mute for a whole other reason. Of course the announcement of her unexpected marriage had startled her, but that wasn't what had really shut her up, it was more than that. It was the look in Natsume's eyes and the way he had walked away, without a scoff or a fight; it wasn't like him at all and Mikan knew it was her fault. He was broken hearted because he loved her, really loved her; she could see it in his eyes. She didn't know what to do, what to say to fix all this. It was all out of her control, but one thing wasn't. There was still something she could do, something she could try to stop.

"Xiao Lang, about the marriage…" Xiao Lang looked at her, his expression desperate and strained.

"Please, please pretend for just a little longer." Mikan hesitated, she really couldn't do this anymore, things were spiraling out of control. She looked around the room where people were dancing and celebrating all on her behalf and reluctantly nodded in agreement. Xiao Lang was right though, she couldn't back out now, not with people's happiness on the line. She couldn't bear to let anyone else down. Xiao Lang sighed in relief taking her into his arms and holding her tight in thanks.

"I really owe you one." Mikan could feel the gazes of her friends on her back and quickly shoved Xiao Lang off her.

"No, I agreed, you don't owe me anything…but do you think I could rest? I'm just really exhausted." Xiao Lang grinned in tired agreement.

"Yeah, I'll just tell my mom that you are so overwhelmed you need a break. Just use the second level guest rooms, pick which ever you like. They're just up the stairs." Mikan blinked a bit bewildered.

"Guest room? Aren't I going back to the hotel?" Xiao Lang ruffled the back of his hair nervously.

"Uh no, you see, now that you're my "wife" my mom insists you stay here with the family." He said. Knowing his mother the way he did, it was safer for Mikan to stay at the palace or his mother would personally drag her back creating a huge scene with the press and making their marriage more public then it already was.

"But what about my stuff?"

"I'll make sure it's here by tomorrow."

"My friends?"

"Will also be staying here." Mikan crossed her arms knowing this was a losing battle, she wasn't going to get out of this castle without the royal family, and a scandal left in her wake. She would have to stay.

"Well," she bit her lip in finality.

"I suppose I'm staying here, so I'll see you?" Xiao Lang and her were now walking toward the door.

"At breakfast. 7:00." Ugh, who woke up at such an ungodly hour of the morning?

"Right." Mikan was about to bolt out of the room with as much composure as she had left, when Xiao Lang brought her hand to his lips, placing a chaste kiss on the appendage.

"Truly, thank you for doing this." A wry smile made its way to her lips.

"Anything for a friend."

--

The guest room was nice, in a royal and uncomfortably expensive way. Mikan threw herself down onto the bed that was better suited for 13 people instead of just one girl. The army of pillows lining the top of the bed were feather soft and cool to the touch, unused until this very day she suspected. Not that she really cared at the moment; the only thing she cared about right now was hiding under the huge white comforter of the bed and escaping the world with sleep. She wanted to sleep forever; no pain, no disappointments, no problems—just the unending comfortable, warm, relaxed feeling and dreams filled with endless possibilities.

But as she snuggled down into the sheets she found herself hopelessly awake, perhaps even a bit lonely in the huge room. It was a strange feeling she was having, it was the feeling of wanting the comfort of a friend but not wanting to see anyone at the moment. The more she thought about the day's events, the more restless she became and yet she couldn't stop thinking. When she turned to look at the digital clock on her nightstand, it read 12:00. She sighed and turned over on her side, the party should have ended by now but she could still imagine the rich and famous dancing the night away in the ballroom.

When sleep still didn't find her, she thought about Natsume. About the way she had slept so easily when he had offered his bed to her in the midst of her fear. The way the bed had seemed so unbelievably awkward but safe and comfortable at the same time. Natsume was affectionate in his sleep, but for once Mikan hadn't minded, in fact she had enjoyed the feeling of his arms around her; it was the feeling of safety. The night was beginning to wear on her and sleep was taking its claim on her drooping eye lids, but before she fell prey to slumber she had to wonder:

Why was it that, after everything that had happened today, she wished more than anything that Natsume was lying in bed beside her?

--

When Mikan got up it was 5 minutes til 7:00, she groaned and rolled over in the bed knowing that only horror, awkwardness, and fake smiles awaited her; so much for the dream of sleeping forever. Sighing she climbed out of bed and headed for a shower. When she emerged from the bathroom, rosy cheeked and fresh, an expensive looking skirt and shirt was waiting for her probably delivered by a maid. A brand name designer from Paris no doubt. The outfit was a pretty, cute, pastel colored summer dress that she knew would not suit her at all. But between that and her Hello Kitty pajamas she opted for the dress.

The thing was tight and constricting of movement, it didn't allow for anything except perfect posture and fit her like an overly snug glove. It barely brushed her knees and had a square cut out collar, showing a hint of her modest bust line. Mikan left her hair down; it was a bit wavey from her shower and would dry easier naturally.

She stared at herself in the mirror for a second wondering who the girl in the reflection was, certainly not her. The Mikan Sakura she knew was a book worm that wished to escape to the fantasy world and be swept away by a Prince. Not the girl reflected back at her, who wore expensive clothing, had popular friends, and was engaged to a Prince she neither loved nor wanted.

Sadly, Mikan was beginning to realize that every day she got closer to becoming the girl reflected back at her.

--

When she made it to the dining room, the awkwardness didn't fail to impress her and make her fidget nervously even though she had expected it. At least the queen was beaming, but she was the only one, both Natsume, Ruka, and Hotaru were staring at their food quietly while the king and Xiao Lang ate with a sort of grace and authority. The queen shot her son an expectant look and, with a sigh, he turned with a lazy smile and ushered Mikan over to the seat beside him. Mikan tried to smile, really she did, but she could feel the grimace that graced her face when she saw that her seat was directly across from Natsume's. She idly wondered what she had done in her past life to deserve the short end of every stick that came her way.

She sat and pointedly stared at her lap, though it didn't really help due to the fact that Natsume was burning a hole in her head. As much as she didn't want to, she felt herself being drawn into his gaze like it was a magnetic attraction. Slowly she lifted her eyes, and when their eyes met she felt a shock go through her system and her heart speed up in reaction. It felt like with just his gaze he had sent an electric current racing through her body and jump starting her heart. The queen, it seemed, was smarter then anyone gave her credit for because as soon as she saw the small interaction she stood. Smiling a bit viciously at Natsume it morphed to sugary sweet before looking at Mikan and her son.

"My, it's really such a lovely day, why don't you both take advantage of it and take a stroll in the garden?" Her tone didn't leave room for disagreement. Reluctantly both the said people stood sharing a knowing glance before holding hands and walking out of the dining room, leaving Natsume to battle the noble woman that was now glaring at him alone.

It didn't look like either was going to back down anytime soon. Ruka and Hotaru sighed in unison before Hotaru finally looked up from her food and to him; Ruka stared back expectant and anxious. Had she perhaps gotten the signals he was trying to send her, the feelings he was trying to convey, the-

"Are you going to finish that?" With another sigh Ruka passed her his plate.

--

While Xiao Lang and Mikan lazily walked around the gardens-they really didn't have the energy to do much else considering it was 7:00 in the morning after a late party- Mikan couldn't shake the sneaking suspicion that someone was watching them. She brushed the feeling aside; it was probably just Xiao Lang's overly-enthusiastic mom. However the farther they walked from the castle and its open patio, the warier she felt. If in fact it was the queen watching them then why did the gaze feel so…evil?

Xiao Lang could sense the evil, the sinister, malicious eyes watching him and Mikan. As he strolled along, he discretely guided Mikan ahead of him. If they ended up in the face of danger he had to make sure she didn't get hurt; he wouldn't be able to live with himself if she did.

But though they both sensed the impending doom, neither really had a chance to stop it. Neither knew it would happen so fast. The red dot on Xiao Lang's back couldn't be seen at first look, on second it might seem like a trick of light, but in fact it was that small mark that could very well mean the end for him. Because when following the dot up to its origin you would see a gun; a gun pointed to the spot on Xiao Lang's back that was directly across from his heart.

The trigger was pulled.

--

Natsume heard screams from outside the castle and stood immediately, springing into action. He ran through the kitchen, finally making it to the clear glass doors that lead to the garden, when he stopped short. Sitting in the garden full of beauty and life was Mikan. She was crying, tears glistening and streaming down her cheeks. Out there surrounded by exotic flowers and sunshine she looked nothing short of a goddess. However something was off. Natsume studied the scene again; Mikan's dress was stained red and the grass around her glistened with the same substance.

Despite the fact that Xiao Lang seemed to lay peaceful and content in Mikan's lap Natsume knew that wasn't the case at all.

Xiao Lang had been shot.

--

A/N: Finished! Hope you enjoyed.

This story really is taking too long; to be honest, I only expected it to go for about 15 chapters at most but it just doesn't seem to want to end.

Onyx, by the way, is my new pseudonym. I would very much appreciate being addressed by this name from now on, so if you ever see a story written by Onyx (even if it's under a different user-name) it's me.

Reviews are much appreciated!