Falling Flame

Hotaru couldn't hide her surprise, her mouth open slightly as she looked at who had been knocking on her door. "Yo," the dark-haired boy greeted her.

Hotaru turned around, not shutting the door but not bothering to invite him in, either. She'd known he was trouble from the moment she first saw him, her first day in the classroom here at Alice Academy. Mikan also saw his dangerous streak, but for some reason only talked to him more because of it. Hotaru decided, despite her misgivings, maybe even a little jealousy as the two grew closer, that it was really none of her business who Mikan associated with.

Hotaru herself avoided him and ignored him as much as she could. He wasn't really worth her time. And he usually did the same to her. Hotaru was a quiet girl who kept to herself, no one that Natsume needed to bother with most of the time. But now, with him approaching her and speaking to her, Hotaru couldn't exactly avoid the situation without being extremely rude, and perhaps making an enemy. So she just softly sighed before saying, "What do you want?" to the boy at the door.

"I have something to talk to you about," Natsume said apathetically, looking around Hotaru's room.

"So go ahead and talk," Hotaru replied with just as much enthusiasm, hoping she had hid her irritation.

"It's private."

Hotaru walked back to the door. "Come on in," she said, but not without apprehension. Once Natsume had done so, she closed the door behind him. "What is it that you want to bother me about?"

"It's Sakura," he said.

"If you have an emergency or need counseling, there are services for that on campus," Hotaru informed.

"You're the only one I want to talk to about this," Natsume asserted. Hotaru said nothing, just looked his way with slight interest. "You know, I did try something with Sakura," he said.

"And what's that?" Hotaru asked, only her eyes showing the emotions of anger and jealousy that she fought.

"A date," Natsume informed. "Don't tell anyone else," he ordered.

"Those who wish to keep things private should keep them to themselves," Hotaru said.

"You wouldn't talk about it anyway," Natsume dismissed Hotaru's words.

"Mikan's been telling everyone about it, anyway. I don't have to. I've been hearing so much about it that I don't really care to hear it from your side, either."

"Oh?" Natsume raised an eyebrow. "Well, it doesn't matter. Things aren't going to work out between us."

Hotaru found herself unable to completely hide her anger at the moment. "I won't forgive anyone who messes with Mikan's feelings," she said. But her threat was true, no matter how much she wanted to, she could never stop herself from getting involved with Mikan's troubles.

Natsume just smirked. "I'm the one who's being played with here," he said, moving closer to Hotaru. "You and Sakura, you knew each other before, didn't you? And she said she loved you then, didn't she?" he demanded answers, menacingly standing over Hotaru.

"Yes. All that is well known," Hotaru said plainly. She refused to feel threatened in her own room. She had a dozen or more possible defences if Natsume wanted to bring out his little flame trick, anyway. "It was a childhood crush."

"It's not that," Natsume said. "She still hasn't gotten over you. She'll never be as close to me, she'll only love me for how I'm similar to you."

Hotaru said nothing. Now that she thought about it, she was a little similar to Natsume. Both were introverts, often hiding their own feelings and intentions. When she first arrived, from behind she could even be mistaken for Natsume. The similarities were slight, but enough for a fool like Mikan to latch onto him.

"That's all," Natsume said, backing away from Hotaru. "I thought you should know that. And also, if you break her heart, I won't be merciful."

"It's the same for me," Hotaru said.

Right before Natsume opened the door, Hotaru saw him smile towards her, amusement now hiding his sadness. As Natsume shut the door, Hotaru only went back to work. That Mikan, always causing trouble for her. But even as she thought this, a smile crossed her face as well.