Disclaimer: MHR doesn't own Gakuen Alice but this story is all hers, thanks.
Inspired by: the sonnet MHR wrote in 7th grade. She'd appreciate it if she was asked before learning someone has stolen her beginning quotes, thanks. She's sure that if asked, she wouldn't have a problem loaning it. She just doesn't like it when people take credit for what's hers. Please enjoy.

Dance Alone

Dedicated to:

'Cos I've always wanted to dance with you
and I've never been given the chance.

A life taken doesn't necessarily mean the end of a dream.
Just a stop sign on the road of life.
It's a pause, looks in both directions and a step on the gas before continuing the ride.

-My Hopeless Romantic-

Her heart dropped to her feet and instinctively, she clutched onto the silk white dress until her knuckles turned white.

She stood still, clad in the traditional silk white with her curly brown hair pinned up in an elegant bun, leaving her neck bare and head held proud. It was supposed to be a special day—no, it was a special day, so why was she left feeling like there was something… missing?

She was surrounded by family, close friends, and her soon-to-be husband that she knew loved her with every fiber of his being and she loved him the same, if not more than he did. Was this how normal brides were supposed to feel on their wedding day? She'd had the remarkable impression that Hotaru had been ecstatic to marry Ruka, or at least, as ecstatic as Hotaru could be. Why did she feel as though there was this unbearable hole in a section of her heart?

"Mikan, are you ready?"

Blinking back at her reflection, Mikan was startled to find her mother standing directly behind her. Her hands were on her shoulders and a loving, beatific smile was on her face. "You look absolutely beautiful," Yuka commented quietly, her eyes sparkling with motherly love. "Your father would've died if he could've seen you now."

Mikan's heart lurched suddenly and she couldn't keep the dark grimace on her face from showing. The familiar feeling of her heart dropping to her feet made it difficult for her to breathe.

Yuka squeezed her shoulders and Mikan could see in the mirror, the faraway look that encompassed her mother's eyes. "That is, of course, if he'd ever let Natsume come near you in the first place," she mused lightly, her voice nostalgic. "He told me once that his child would be beautiful. If his child was a boy, he'd learn how to pick up girls by the age of two and if his child was a girl—" she paused thoughtfully, her eyes returning to smile at Mikan, "—if his child was a girl, he'd never let her out of the house. 'Filthy scum will be all over her! She'll be so bloody gorgeous and every boy will want a piece of her. Not under my watch, they don't!'"

She chuckled softly; brown eyes suddenly alight with fresh tears, "You know… you've grown up to be such a magnificent girl, Mikan. Your father… he would've been proud. He loves you, you know."

"How can he love me when he's gone… mom," Mikan whispered softly. "How can he love me when he's already left?"

Startled, Yuka blinked and only then seemed to notice that Mikan's eyes were wet with angry tears. Sighing, she wrapped her arms around her only daughter and Mikan let her, letting her head hang with disappointment, "Mikan… you know. You know it was never his fault. He would've wanted to be here. You know that."

"I know," she whispered sharply. "And that's why I hate that he wasn't allowed to."

A couple of knocks interrupted their silence and Mikan hurriedly wiped the tears out of her eyes, uncaring if her make-up got smudged. Sumire and Hotaru stepped in and Yuka stood in the corner to watch Sumire flutter her hands over Mikan's dress and Hotaru tossing friendly critiques even when a small, content smile played upon her lips.

"I told you not to touch your damn face!" Sumire reprimanded sharply. "Do you think Natsume wants to see some old hag coming down the aisle to become his wife? No way, he doesn't!"

"What a baby," Hotaru agreed, picking up a slide of powder and dabbing at the corner of Mikan's eyes. "I shouldn't be surprised you'd cry and end up ruining all of Anna's work at the last minute."

Mikan laughed a dry laugh, "Yeah. Stupid me." She smiled at the both of them fussing over her. "It's a special day! I guess I'm just happy that everybody I care about is here with me!"

Except you, dad…

She caught her mom's concerned and understanding eyes from the corner of the room, courtesy of the mirror and had to avert her gaze. She felt guilty. Here she was, surrounded by loads of people that cared and loved her and yet, she couldn't find herself being happy, or as happy as she could be. Was it selfish of her to want her father at her own wedding? Was it selfish of her to want to have him walk her down the aisle? To hold her hand and whisper in her ears, 'You really do look beautiful' or even to hear him call her 'daughter' just once?

Once, just once. That's all she really needed and all she'd ever wanted.

She'd always dreamed of getting married, long before Natsume took her panties as a souvenir from their first encounter and she remembered vividly her hope that both of her parents would be there at the wedding. She wished she was good enough, special enough for them to break away from the stars for a little bit to accompany her and Jii-chan to the ceremony. She wished, she remembered sharply, how much she wished she could have had that one, special dance with her father. The father-daughter dance she'd been anticipating the day she even began dreaming about weddings. When boys had cooties and before she even dreamed of getting kissed. Before all of that, she wished for that one dance with her dad.

"Narumi's outside and wants to know if he can come in," Sumire said airily. "I told him to wait it out like the rest of the boys. What do you say?"

"He's waiting to walk her down the aisle, stupid," Hotaru drawled blandly, "Of course he's allowed to come in to see her."

Mikan smiled weakly, nodding for Sumire to open the door and she did, with a dark growl.

He came in, golden locks still bright with youth and smiled the familiar fatherly smile that he'd always worn. From the day he'd first met her outside of Alice Academy to the day they'd graduated, he was the closest thing she had to a father, the man she'd willingly called "Otou-san". But despite all of their moments, Mikan couldn't stamp out the thoughts of her real father. The man she'd heard nothing but praise from (except Jinno-sensei). The man that had brought her mother out from her own darkness and the man that she seemed to be the "spitting image" of. The man that she'd heard so much about, but had never actually met.

Was it strange to love somebody that she'd never met before? Was it strange that she missed somebody that she'd never even known? Worse, was it wrong for her to wish that he hadn't decided to jump head first into a situation that could only destroy him?

From the corner, her mother sobbed and Mikan blinked, immediately remembering Yuka probably thought and felt the same thing.

"Oh Yuka-senpai, I hope those are tears of happiness," Narumi scolded lightly, giving Yuka's shoulder a light squeeze before turning toward Mikan, taking the necessary steps to stand in front of her. He took both of her hands, his violet eyes sparkled with his smile before he murmured, "You've really grown up, Mikan-chan. You're beautiful."

And she knew it was awful, but for a second, Mikan closed her eyes and smiled, pasting the friendly, smiley face that belonged to her father onto Narumi's shoulders. "Thank you."

He seemed to understand her mood because he dropped one hand, hooking one arm through his. "Is the blushing bride ready to go?"

Blinking once more, the image vanished and Narumi stood in his blonde hair and velvety-eyed glory with an expectant smile on his face. "As ready as I'll ever be," she smiled instead, sending her mother a meaningful smile.

The girls parted first and Yuka ducked to give her daughter a small peck on the cheek before taking her leave. In those short moments before the organ started "Here Comes the Bride", Mikan looked at Narumi, wondering what Izumi Yukihara, her father, would say if he'd lived long enough to take her down the aisle himself. What he'd do in those precious two minutes that separated the two of them from the rest of the world. What he'd do in those lingering seconds that kept her his little girl until the moment she looked into Natsume's eyes and vowed to be by his side for all eternity.

If his child was a girl, he'd never let her out of the house. 'Filthy scum will be all over her! She'll be so bloody gorgeous and every boy will want a piece of her. Not under my watch, they don't!'

She could picture it. Those moments where she watched her father from Noda's time blurp made her realize that her mother's recollection was not a mere blurb on a whim. It was the truth. She could picture it herself, the young face of her father she'd seen in random photos from Uncle Yukihara replayed in her head for a moment and she could picture her father, grey eyes alight with mock stern as he carried a broom, ready to maul every and any boy that stepped within a fifty mile radius of the house, asking for her. Maybe, if he could get his hands on one, a shotgun. Maybe with his trademark lollipop in the corner of his mouth, too. Her mother once told her "Izumi loved strawberry lollipops. Always had one with him and when he was feeling especially generous, he'd stick one in the back pocket of my skirt…"

She laughed suddenly, tightening her grip on Narumi's arm, startling him, "What is it, Mikan-chan?"

Dissolving into light giggles, Mikan waved her free hand in the air, "Oh, nothing. I'm just being silly."

The light trickle of the organ started, solemn yet bright. Narumi patted her gloved hand and whispered, "Here we go, Mikan. You know, I knew this would happen the day I paired you up, right?" He laughed with a dreamy sigh. "I knew this would happen. You deserve this and I've never been more proud than I have in my whole life."

"You know… you've grown up to be such a magnificent girl, Mikan. Your father… he would've been proud."

Mikan blinked. The back of her eyes were suddenly stinging before she managed to choke out, "Thank you, Narumi-sensei… thank you… "

"Crying? At a time like this?" Narumi mocked surprise, taking his thumb and swiping at the droplets. "C'mon. Smile, Mikan. You've always looked more beautiful when you smiled."

She choked a laugh and nodded, ducking her head to sniffle. "Let's go," she blinked. "Before I look like a pile of ruins."

She walked, stopping at the end of the aisle, looking up to the arch and the pew where the priest, maid of honor, best man and Natsume stood. Off to the sides stood the bridesmaid and groomsmen but Mikan only had eyes for Natsume. His face, which looked to be annoyed and pinched into a scowl, dissolved before softening and though his lips remained a firm, thin line, his eyes softened and smiled enough to display his obvious affection. Mikan smiled, taking slow, measured steps closer.

Vaguely, she could hear the muffled sobs to her right and the dreamy sighs and squeals from the girls at her left. She was almost in a daze, the fleeting thoughts of her father became just a small spot at the back of her mind being almost totally erased from her thoughts as she walked, almost in a dream.

"Careful," Narumi whispered. "I have a feeling you might trip if you don't tear your eyes away from Natsume-kun." There was playful affection in his tone and immediately, Mikan blinked surprised out of her reverie. She tottered just the slightest but Narumi's arm held fast and she smiled, a dark blush on her face when a cocky smirk fell across Natsume's lips.

"Arrogant jerk," she whispered, her anger only half-hearted.

"He loves you, you know," Narumi whispered, just as they reached the front.

She stood, frozen as Narumi handed her off, placing her hand mechanically into Natsume's awaiting palm. A quizzical expression made its way onto Natsume's face before he squeezed her hand, the lightest of touches and seemed to ask with his eyes, 'cold feet?' It was something he'd started saying at odd hours of the day once the two month countdown before the wedding had started and without skipping a beat, a 'never' was at the tip of her tongue. Always.

But her mother's offhand comment about her father… "He loves you, you know…" made her pause for the longest second in her life. For a second she wasn't sure she could go on with the wedding without her father. Her real father: Izumi Yukihara. It just didn't seem fair. He deserved this. He deserved to see her like this. This was supposed to be the happiest moment of her life. Fathers were supposed to be present at events like this.

He's gone, Mikan. There's nothing you can do to change that.

Her stomach dropped to her feet once more and she clutched the area above her heart with an unsteady hand, breathing raggedly, her eyes wild as she stared into Natsume's concerned ruby eyes. And just like that, cliché and all, something caught her eye. Just a flash of deep red just off to the corner by the doors and she turned like a deer in headlights, catching the deep red lollipop her uncle was holding out to a cherub-faced toddler.

The deep red lollipop could only be strawberry flavored and suddenly, her heart calmed and a smile fell across her lips. Natsume, caught off guard by her sudden heart-breaking smile, drew in an uneven breath, "Cold feet?"

"Never," she said, without skipping a beat.

Because for some reason, she could sense another presence in the other-wise filled room but this presence, she knew, hadn't received an invitation by mail like everyone else. No, this person had been invited personally and when she looked into Natsume's eyes and took note of the dark resemblance of the red lollipop held tightly in a baby's fist, she'd never been more certain in her life; her father had always been waiting in the wings for her to notice him. Always there, hidden by secretive smiles, boisterous laughs and the reds of strawberry lollipops.

So when the priest looked at her and asked, "…do you, Mikan Sakura, take Natsume Hyuuga to be your lawfully wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?" Mikan replied without a hairsbreadth of hesitation, "I do."

Her wedding wasn't what she'd imagined it to be when she was younger. It was far better than she had ever dreamed. Natsume was far from the blond prince charming she'd fantasized about. Her grandfather had passed away a few years earlier. Somebody threw up on her white heels halfway through the reception and Youichi socked some guy in the face earlier in the night, resulting in bloody fists and broken knuckles.

But Hotaru was there, as well as dozens and dozens of the close friends she'd made during her stay at the Academy. Natsume was the humble, quiet boy that didn't look to be capable of anything romantic, but there he was, rubbing soft letters into her back as they sat out and listened to the music, the letters formed words that Mikan was pretty sure, spelled out soft "I love you's". Sumire had the sense to pack a pair of pure white ballet flats to replace her sick-covered heels and Youichi was off in some corner with a girl that looked suspiciously like the one she remembered seeing in his mind on the off-chance that she read it when he had a dreamy look on his face.

She'd wished for both of her parents to be present on her wedding day, and even though only her mother was there in the flesh, something told her that her father was there, with a wry, goofy grin on his face, setting the shotgun down by the wall and fishing out a strawberry lollipop from his pocket.

And she pictured him watching, earlier that night, when the father-daughter dance was announced and her smiling face when she neatly declined.

Natsume's hand tightened its grip on hers and she blinked, looking up into his face, eyebrow raised, "You have a stupid grin on your face," he pointed out bluntly, rubbing soft circles in her palm.

"How could I not when I've just married a hunk like you?" she teased, laughing at the pleased look on his face. She kissed him full on the lips and whispered in his ear, "Now that I'm Mrs. Hyuuga, I can finally get my hands on all that Hyuuga cash."

He snorted a laugh and tightened his grip with a relaxed almost-smile on his face, "My ass, Polka Dots."

"I love you," she whispered, still managing to blush when she looked into his eyes. She watched, enraptured like she always did when Natsume's lips transformed into a slow, meaningful smile that appeared one second and was gone in the next. "I know." He paused and seemed to contemplate his words, "Sap."

And Mikan didn't even have the heart to snap at him or feel the heat of rejection because he'd picked up from where he left off, the same steady rhythm of his fingers, tracing those three words he couldn't say on the small of her back.

She sighed, thinking back again on the dreams she'd had when she was little, remembering the insistent words in her prayers for that one father-daughter dance and when she did, her resolve strengthened. It didn't matter that she couldn't have the dance during her wedding or at any point of her life prior to her wedding. What mattered was getting that dance at all and she knew, when she made it to heaven and waited patiently for her admittance, he'd be there… wearing his ironed black tux with smiling grey eyes and a red lollipop in his lapel where a handkerchief was supposed to be. The room would be bright and the music would start and he'd reach out a hand, palm up and ask for that dance she'd always dreamed of.

And this time, it'd be perfect and she'd never dream of declining the grey of her father's eyes that she'd come to love even before she'd actually met him.

And when Youichi stumbled upon her some time later with eyes trailing after the girl heading to the refreshments table and asked why she didn't dance the father-daughter dance with Narumi, Mikan replied cheerfully, "It's been a dream since I was little to save that dance for my dad."

He'd nodded carefully, understanding immediately what she meant and asked, "Are you okay, Mikan-nee? About the dance?"

Without skipping a beat, she replied, "Better than ever! I'd skip all of those father-daughter dances so that when it does happen, it'll be him and it'll be perfect." She paused, smiling at his concerned face. "I'm serious, You-chan. That dance was meant for him and I'm perfectly fine with dancing alone until then."

And when Natsume and Yuka told her consecutively after the wedding was over "Your father loves you, you know", Mikan smiled and replied, "I know."

Because she did. Somewhere, the goofy grin, protective words and red lollipop-loving father was waiting with a request to the DJ wearing an uncomfortable ironed tux, for her. For the dance she'd always dreamed about.

For now, she thought, I'll dance alone.

My Hopeless Romantic