Author's Note:

Hime Cullen Tsukiyomi - Can I slap him with you? =D Lol, yes. Tadase will come 'round in this chap, but Kukai is definitely awesome and has more common sense. I mean, wtf, Ikuto's lying just because he's from Easter? Give me a break, lol.

KyoxSakiFan - I used to despise Tadase, but in the manga, I really like him now. (And in the anime now too) Lol, he was a little twit in the last chap, but luckily he comes around. ^^ And thank you!

Crystal Penn - Lol, yesh, he is. xD Kukai was epic. LOL, that's true. Evil Step Dad's all bandaged up but unfortunately the asshole's... mostly okay. . He didn't quite have the strength to beat the shit out of Ikuto himself so he had his little cronies do it. Ha ha ha, yeah, that guy is so fugly. xD Even a facial wouldn't make him look any better. Hehe, yes. Well, more fluff in this chap. =D

Suuz112 - Thanks so much, glad to see I didn't make him OOC. ^^ Rofl, that would've been hilarious. I'll do that next chap. =D (We need some humor after all.)

Author's Note #2:

Thanks so much for the continued support on this fic! *Glomps everyone* Now here's where the darkness begins. ;D Slightly shorter chapter than the last, but this is the build-up to the good stuff.

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"Chapter 7: Darkness."

They reached the hospital Amu was located at with five minutes to spare. Ikuto handed the taxi driver more money than the ride had cost, stunning him, but Ikuto had told him to keep the change. Exiting the cab with the other two, Ikuto did not hesitate to begin running, despite Kukai and his mind telling him not to worsen his condition, but he couldn't care about himself right now. All that mattered was getting to Amu. He was out of breath once he reached the desk and the shocked woman sitting at it. "I... need to see.. Hinamori Amu," He told her in between breaths. "What room is she in?"

"You mean the girl who was brought in twenty minutes ago?" She asked, a little breathless. "That girl's in near critical condition, I'm sorry I can't allow anyone to..."

"I need to see her now!" He barked. "Your technology won't save her! I alone have the only thing to save her! Now let me in!"

"I'm sorry, but I can't allow you in there in your condition," She told him, looking sympathetic. "You must have hit your head or something, causing a concussion..."

"No," Ikuto said roughly. "I will not let her die. Tell me what room she's in so I can go to her!"

"Our doctors will do their best to save her, I'm sorry, but..."

"He's telling the truth," Kukai came up to Ikuto's side, a determined look on his face. "He's got the only thing to save her, your doctors can't do it. He's got a vaccine, for something none of you know about."

Before the girl could respond, there was a shout of, "Ikuto!"; The two boys turned to see Nikaidou, Yukari and Utau running towards them. "Ikuto, did you get the vaccine?" Yukari asked him, her face frantic. "She's already so cold... we're losing her quickly.."

"So... it's true...?"

Everyone looked over at Tadase, who had paled dramatically. "The... thieving cat was right...?"

Utau glared at him. "Of course he was."

Tadase looked as if he were fighting with some internal struggle; he looked up, then down, then at Ikuto, and blushed slightly as he whispered a quiet, "Sorry." Ikuto heard him, and just nodded to show he had forgiven him for not believing him. He turned his attention back to Yukari and the others.

"Yeah, I got it. What room is she in?"

"Just down the hall, come on --"

"Wait a moment!" The desk clerk stopped them. "I don't know what's going on here, but you all seem to know each other..." She looked at Ikuto. "I apologize for treating you so suspiciously, it's just a precaution we all have to take. I'll take your word for it that you have what she needs, but I'm going to have to need to check out this vaccine."

"I can't do that," Ikuto said quickly. "This vaccine is something that doesn't work for regular poisons or illnesses. It's nothing common, and it was created specifically to treat her for what she got injected with. Please, we only have less than three minutes to save her life. We don't have time for this.."

The woman sighed. "Okay. I understand. Go on in, though this might cost me my job..."

Utau turned to her. "We won't let that happen. Thank you for helping us."

"Ikuto," Yukari called, "Let's go."

He nodded, closing the vaccine in his fist. "I'm coming, Amu..." He took off after Yukari through the double-doors and when he reached Amu's room, pushed the door open and nearly stopped in his tracks. Amu was still convulsing; her body shook, her eyes were nearly up in her head, and blank, not registering anything, and she was pale as death. The machine that was keeping her alive beeped crazily, but he could see that she was beginning to flat-line. "No," He whispered, and without a second thought, raced forward and plunged the needled straight into the spot she'd received it last time, despite the doctors that had barged into the room upon hearing the monitor.

His heart pounded crazily, in terror, as Amu stilled, the screen a complete flat-line. "No, Amu.." His voice broke. "This had to work... it had to work..." But then he remembered his step father telling him about the vaccine, and how he had specifically given Amu a double dose so this one might not work. "Oh, God, no..." He entwined his hand with her ice-cold one, and buried his face on her unmoving chest.

"Get... off me.. pervert.."

He snapped his head up at the sound of her voice, hardly daring to believe she was really speaking. Her eyes, still empty but no longer up in her head, held recognition and no sign of anger. "Amu... you're..."

"The pain... is gone," Amu whispered. "You... you saved me, Ikuto...so... don't cry.."

He touched his face, feeling the wetness. He hadn't even realized he'd been crying. "Um, excuse me...?"

He looked behind him to see about five doctors standing there with shocked looks. "What... how did you...? That girl, she was dead..."

"We explained it to the desk clerk," Yukari spoke up. "The vaccine he had was made specifically for what she had. No doctor, no matter how good they were, could have saved her, and you would have found no plausible reaon for her death." The doctor who had spoken looked absolutely dumbfounded before he smiled.

"Whatever it was, it saved her. I applaud you for being able to do something so extraordinary.."

"Thank you," Ikuto muttered.

"Ikuto..?" He looked back at Amu, who was looking upset. "You're... you're really hurt.."

He smiled gently at her. "Nah, I'm fine. A little pain wouldn't keep me from you." But there was a searing pain in his abdomen and he gripped it as he groaned nearly against his will.

"You're not okay," Amu's voice was raspy from the effort of speaking. "Please... get checked out now that I'm.. okay."

He couldn't bring himself to object... not to her. "Okay. For you, I will."

Amu looked at him disapprovingly. "You know, you gotta take better care of yourself, you pervert."

He chuckled, though it hurt to do so. "All right, all right." He got up, stumbling, but Yukari caught his arm.

"What the hell did they do to you?" She steadied him over to a chair. "I thought you looked bad before, but jeez.. I'm glad you're getting checked out!"

"I'll take a look at him," One of the doctors offered. "We might need to take him to a different room, though."

Ikuto looked up. "I want to stay with Amu."

The doctor sighed. "All right, but you're going to have to take off your shirt to let me check the wound. Are you all right with that?" He was looking from Ikuto to Amu, and when Ikuto looked at the girl, she blushed hotly and nodded.

"T-that's fine."

"No peeking," Ikuto teased her, and Amu turned even redder.

"Like I would, you pervert. I-I'll look away!"

He shook his head, smiling so she wouldn't see him and nodded to the doctor. "It's fine."

"All right. Let me see where you're hurt."

Yukari walked out of the room pointedly as Ikuto, with difficulty, lifted his shirt off and the man began to tenderly press his fingers along the wound. Ikuto winced. "Looks like whoever assaulted you did it with malicious intent," The doctor answered. "Seems to be a cracked rib, but we'll have to do some x-rays to be sure as well as some to check for any possible internal damage. It seems likely, too, with the way you're bruising and swelling..." He stood up, finishing his examination. "Is there anywhere else you're hurt? If not, I'll and call for the x-rays now."

"No, it's just there I was really hurting." Ikuto answered. "Thanks, doc."

The doctor smiled slightly and nodded as he headed out the door. "No problem."

Once he was gone, Ikuto attempted to put his shirt back on, but found he was having more trouble than he did taking it off. "Tch."

"I-Ikuto...? Is it okay... if I help you?"

He turned his head to the girl, whose face resembled a tomato now. "Perverted kid," He scolded, but he turned and walked over to her anyway, knowing he needed extra help. Amu's eyes could not prevent themselves from gawking at him muscular chest, and as he got closer so that he was directly in front of her bed, her fingers fumbled as she lifted her arms and pulled the shirt over Ikuto's head, gently and tenderly, and when the cloth brushed against his sore abdomen he winced slightly. "S-Sorry." She apologized, tugging the rest of his shirt down and accidentally, her fingers brushed against his just nearly covered flesh.

She pulled her hands away immediately, the blush going up to her ears. Ikuto chuckled. "You really are a perverted kid."

"S-shut up," Amu told him, looking away folding her arms. "It's your fault for getting hurt so bad where you can't even put on your s-shirt.."

He smirked, "But you like it, don't you?"

"No!" Amu protested, but her beet red face told him otherwise. "You're so stupid, getting yourself hurt all the t-time."

"Maybe," Ikuto agreed lightly. "But I'd give my last breath just for you."

Her annoyed expression softened. "Ikuto... don't ever do anything so reckless again.."

He looked to the floor. "I did what I had. To save you. Your life is more important."

"I really do appreciate it, Ikuto," Amu said softly. "Thank you. Thank you so much.... I would.. be dead if you hadn't gotten that vaccine."

"I guess you can consider it a make-up for all the trouble I caused by getting you involved with me in the first place," Ikuto answered her. "If I couldn't save you, then.."

"Don't talk like that," Amu said angrily. "You told me to keep my distance. But I never did. I always came back to you. Don't you remember? You've pushed me away so long, but our paths always crossed and we overcame everything. I didn't realize it, but... love... always lead you back to me..." She went red again. "Fate... lead us to each other... the lock and key.. there's a reason we have it, and I don't think it's simply coincidence."

His gaze softened on the young girl. "That's true. I wonder... if the lock and key are a perfect, matching pair, and belong with one another, no other key can fit the lock and no other lock can go with the key... is it true for us? The holders? Are we....?"

"Soul mates.." Amu blushed even redder at the realization. "That explains it.."

"Easter must have realized this.." Ikuto spoke softly. "They must have known that the Humpty Lock and Dumpty Key were a perfect match, and since they found out about our... non-enemy like relationship, they decided to use it to their advantage.."

"You're right," Amu gasped. "When they were holding me captive... He said something about wanting the Humpty Lock and Dumpty Key's power. He said they were special, and in turn, we had power no other two did because the lock and key are like... our soul's... the power to transform come from the lock and key, and he wants that extra power..."

"He won't get it," Ikuto said roughly. "No matter what he's planning, by doing whatever it is with the x-egg energ --" He stopped mid-sentence, realization overcoming his wide eyes. "That's it..."

"What?" Amu asked in alarm.

"He... he knew I would get to you..."

"What are you talking about, Ikuto? Didn't you say that he hurt you to purposely try and keep you from getting to me on time?"

"No, he knew I would get here," Ikuto whispered. "He just didn't know under what circumstances... but he knew I would make it. He never intended to let either of us die. He's got something else planned for us, he needs us alive."

"But the risk of us dying was so high..."

"He knows me well," Ikuto growled. "He knew I'd never rest until you were safe and out of harms way. So he got me first, to make me watch as you quickly began dying. He realized I'd come back to try and save you and what I thought was trying to stop me, was actually a way to cause me more pain before I got to you. The risk was so high, but he was confident I would get to you. Amu, I just played right into his hands..."

"You don't regret it... do you?" She sounded as if she was going to cry. Ikuto looked at her with a pained expression and hurriedly grabbed her into a tight hug, though his ribs were killing him.

"Of course not. I could never regret saving your life. Never. I regret not realizing this before, having to play into his hands to... depend on his services.. on him.. to save you. He feels he's got supreme control over me for me to go to him to continue your - and my own - life."

Amu gently hugged him back. "This was something neither of us prepared for, that's all. He hasn't won yet, Ikuto. If there's more he's going to do, we still got a chance, and we will not lose."

He smiled. "You're right, Amu. We'll overcome anything he throws at us."

The door opened then, and they broke apart as the doctor looked up from his clipboard. "Okay, we're got your x-ray tests ready to go. Hers just came back, and as expected, it seems she has a cracked rib, but no other serious damage. When she was convulsing, I was worried that she would most likely have some slight brain damage, especially from that high fever, but she got out pretty much unscathed on that end. However..." He looked at Amu seriously. "The woman doctor that examined you... for the other thing, she saw some small tearing from a... sexual penetration.."

Ikuto placed his hand on Amu's shoulder gently as the girl shook slightly. "Will she be all right..?"

"Physically, most likely, but mentally is going to have to depend on her," He answered sympathetically. "She might need counseling, but as long as you and those friends I saw in the lobby continue to be there for her, there's a chance she'll recover very nicely." He smiled at the pink-haired girl. "Your friends are worried sick about you."

"My... friends?" Amu looked up at Ikuto. "Ikuto, the Guardians...?"

"The Kiddy King and that... soccer guy, I think, were with me when I came here, but I didn't see the others," He said blankly. The doctor laughed.

"There's more in there now, and one of them, a little curly-haired girl is yelling at our desk clerk to see you. Got quite a voice, that one."

"Rima," Amu smiled in recognition. "I can't wait to see them."

"I'll bandage you up so your ribs can heal and give you an anti-biotic and such to prevent pain. I recommend taking pain killers ever 6-8 hours when you're in pain and to prevent it, and just to take it easy for awhile. Cracked ribs take awhile to heal, and I don't want you doing anything excessive like lifting things or running or anything that might injure you further. Now, you," He looked at Ikuto crossly. "Are most likely internally injured, and under no circumstances are you to do any of the things I prevented her from doing as well."

"Fine," Ikuto answered dryly, and Amu smiled at him.

"I'll take you to take your x-rays now and as soon as the results are back, if it's not too serious, you can go home, though even now I advise to keep you admitted."

"Hell no," The boy answered immediately. "I'll take the x-rays and follow your advice, but there's no way in hell I'm staying overnight."

The doctor sighed. "If it's too serious, no matter if you protest or not, I'm keeping you. So let's get you checked."

Ikuto glared at the man, but didn't say anything as he got up stiffly and turned to Amu to kiss the top of her head fondly before exiting the room. "See you in a minute." He called to her. Amu waved slightly, trying not to laugh. He could be so stubborn, and she was sure he was glaring at the doctor's back as he went to take his x-rays.

Too bad I couldn't have caused his injuries. I would have made sure to permanently injure him.

Her eyes widened as she realized what she was thinking. How... how could she wish she was hurting him...? She shook her head, trying to clear it. It didn't seem like her at all, to wish hurting someone, someone she desperately loved. "What... what am I thinking...?"

I could have broken every bone in his body so easily. How I would love to hear him beg me for mercy, for leaving me there...

She blanched, covering her mouth as the mental image of her hurting Ikuto overpowered her mind. She took deep breaths, steadying her uneasy stomach. "Why.. why am I thinking such things..? What's... what's going on with me...? Ikuto tried to come as quickly as he could..."

But not quickly enough.

"No," She felt like an idiot for arguing with... well, basically, herself, but she didn't care. "He rescued me twice. He saved me from death. He nearly got himself killed for me.."

He will be dead when I punish him for not getting to me sooner...

Tears poured from her eyes. She didn't like what she was thinking, these dark, unbidden thoughts. Thoughts she didn't understand why she was thinking. Perhaps it was from all the horror she'd suffered, her mind was in a jumble, taking too much in one day; She honestly felt no anger or hatred for Ikuto, even in her conscious, so why..?

You hate him for not getting to you sooner, letting you suffer by that man. He's the reason you're experiencing such mental and physical anguish... he's the reason you nearly died... he is an unlucky black cat who brings only misfortune upon anyone he comes in contact with...

"He isn't," She shook her head again. "Ikuto isn't a bad person.. he's a very good person who tries to save even those who are called his enemies.. he saved me. Many times before this..."

He's using you.

"If that were true, he would have just taken the Lock already," She contradicted. "His eyes don't lie..."

Perhaps your own do. To see what you want to see. You want him to love you.

"Stop..." She buried her face on her raised knees. "Just stop.."

He can't love you. He teases, he plays around. This is just another tease, a trap. He's trying to get close to you so he can get the Lock and that's all there is to it. He's a slithering little slime who will laugh once he's broken you. Just the way his father did.

"He wouldn't do that," Amu replied automatically. "Ikuto is not that kind of person."

What do you really know about him?

Amu bit her lip. What did she know about Ikuto? Practically nothing.

See? You know I'm right. You don't know who he really is, what he really thinks. Whose side he's really on...

"No... he's... he's my f-friend..."

He's Easter's pawn, and he will play that role until the final checkmate. Even to you.

"Just stop it!" Amu snapped, raising her hands to her ears. The voice - wherever it was coming from, whatever it was - was wrong! Completely wrong!

You can't escape me. I am your darkness, and you will submit to me. If evil had a voice, this would definitely be it. Fate... has ensured it.

She could feel the aura all around her, the darkness; but she would not submit. Not to it, not to Easter, not to Kazoumi, not to anything. They would not win.

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