Title: Eternal Snow
Authoress: SailorChibi
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Takes place during episode 28. Unable to deal with a life that seems to be falling apart, Amu decides to run away. The only unexpected flaw in her plan was the stray cat that followed her away from home. Amuto.
In-depth Summary: With everything that has been happening, Amu just can't take it anymore. She decides to run away from home and save her friends and family from herself. The only thing she didn't count on was that Ikuto and Utau would unexpectedly show up in her new life, bringing along all of the trials and tribulations of her old life. How can she send everything packing, even when Easter begins to come down on them, when she's found everything she wanted in an alley cat?
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from Shugo Chara. I am simply borrowing them from Peach Pit.
Author's Note: So, this is my second SC fic and the first one I'm posting. It was inspired by the episodes and chapters of when Dia first became evil and Amu was feeling so depressed. It will eventually become Amuto (which means Ikuto/Amu) so if you do not like this pairing, please leave. But! There won't be any Tadase-bashing. So if you like Tadase and Amuto, it's okay to read this.

'I just can't smile anymore. I want to, but I can't. I tried so hard to force myself to be a different character so that people could see past my cool and spicy shell. But it didn't work. Myself... what is myself? Am I worth anything anymore when I can't do anything right? Maybe I should just... But... Why does this have to be so hard?'

Hinamori Amu sat silently in her chair at the guardians table while her tea grew cold and her cookies stale, looking down at her lap. She couldn't quite wrap her mind around the fact that the other guardians sounded so happy and looked so content. Even their shugo chara, sitting on the table munching on cookies, seemed to be at peace, although her own three periodically cast her worried looks. And she... she just wasn't. Even though her lips were pressed into a tight grimace that may have passed for a smile, she felt perfectly empty inside. What was there to be happy about? She couldn't even remember anymore.

'What's wrong with me?' Amu wondered tiredly, not for the first time. She lowered her head, allowing her hair to hide her eyes from view, and flexed her stiffened fingers. 'Why can't I just be happy? Why do these changes upset me so much? How could I let my diamond egg...' Quickly, she bit down on the inside of the cheek as the image of her diamond egg receiving an X flashed through her mind. The memory of the x-egg flying away from her was still too raw to recall without crying.

"So, I think that about wraps it up for today," the soft voice of Hotori Tadase said, breaking into her thoughts. Amu glanced up and blushed slightly when she realized he was looking in her direction. "Mashirou-san, you and Hinamori-san can go out patrolling together today. Does that sound alright with everyone?"

"Yaya wants to go too!" Yuiki Yaya immediately thrust out her lower lip and pouted. The large ribbons in her hair quivered as she turned glistening eyes on her friends. She thrust the plate holding the remains of six chocolate chip cookies away from her and clasped her hands together. "Yaya wants ice cream. Amu-chi! Let's go for ice cream!"

"I can go on my own," Mashiro Rima said quietly, ignoring Yaya as she finished sipping from her cup of tea. She gently set the cup down on the saucer and rose to her feet. Her long blonde curls fell in a shining shower behind her small form as she inclined her head in a graceful move that belied her position as Queen. "I would prefer it."

Amu could feel her nails digging into her palms as she tried to swallow the resentment looming within her. Of course that's what Rima would want. She wasn't quite sure why, but the petite blonde seemed to have an intense dislike for her. The memory of Rima telling her she should just quit the guardians made her grit her teeth. 'I've never done anything but be nice to you, even though you're a brat and Nadeshiko's replacement,' she thought bitterly. 'I went out of my way to introduce myself to you. I don't understand why you're being so cruel. Telling me I'm stupid, that I should give up being the Joker...!'

"That's fine," she said out loud, making a supreme effort to hold back everything she was feeling. It wouldn't be right for her to cry or show her hurt in front of anyone - her cool and spicy image would be ruined. Perhaps if Nadeshiko were still here, it would be a different story, but...

Feeling someone's eyes on her, she looked up when she was certain that she had her emotions under control. Tadase was staring hard at her, his expression one of concern. Amu crossed her fingers underneath the table and forced a smile, praying that it would put him at ease. She wasn't sure she would be able to hold it together through much more. Luckily, her ruse seemed to work. His pale pink eyes softened and he returned her smile with a bright one of his own. The resulting rush of desire she felt made her both disgusted with herself and angry in a very sad way.

"You're absolutely sure, Hinamori-san?" Tadase asked, gathering his notes together. But it was clear he was asking only out of formality, because he made the correction on the top sheet and then pushed them all into his case without waiting for her answer.

"I'm really, really sure, Tadase-kun," she said, and the false sincerity in her voice seemed to be enough. He nodded at her and rose at the same time as Sanjou Kairi and Yaya, who seemed to be sulking because she was being ignored. "Then we're adjourned until Monday. Have a good weekend, everyone. Kiseki, let's go."

The other four guardians and their charas left quickly, leaving Amu, her three charas, and Eru alone in the garden. Now that she was technically by herself, she couldn't put a stop to the tears that burned freely at her eyes. When had everything changed so much? It seemed like the world had been pulled out from underneath her, and it was all she could do to hang on. Her classmates had liked her better when she was desperately lonely, her grades were beginning to slip from stress, her diamond egg had an X on it, Utau was constantly fighting with her, Easter was determined to find the Embryo...

But one of the most difficult changes of all seemed to be within the place she had once been accepted. The guardians. Nadeshiko was gone and hadn't even said good-bye, and Amu couldn't imagine a worse replacement for a sweet, kind-hearted girl than a cold one like Rima, who didn't seem to want anything to do with anyone. Her best friend had left without warning. The two people whom she could always depend on to cheer her up weren't around anymore, because even Kukai had graduated and the new Jack, Kairi, seemed to enjoy going out of his way to point out how useless the Joker was being.

'That's right,' she thought, her lower lip quivering slightly. 'Maybe Sanjou-san and Mashirou-san are right. I am useless. Would someone who was useful have let their egg get an X on it? I can't do anything right anymore. Since Mashirou-san can chara nari, there's nothing I can do that she can't... I can't even catch eggs anymore. I just stand there and watch. Tadase-kun... he deserves someone better than me. Someone like Mashirou-san, who is the perfect girl. I'm worse than just an ordinary girl. I'm just a screw up...' Thinking of the blonde-haired prince made her fists tighten even more. He was so perfect and she was so... not.

"Amu-chan?" Ran's tiny voice, accompanied by an equally tiny touch to one of her hands, made her blink.

"Amu-chan is hurting herself, desu," Suu whispered, pointing to one of the bloody imprints on her palms, left behind by her nails.

Amu's tears spilled over, and she gave a shaky laugh. Her charas: the one thing that still felt good in her otherwise fucked up life. Reaching out, she impulsively gathered the three of them to her. Ran, Miki, and Suu all stared up at her with identical expressions of concern. She knew that she was causing them a lot of worry, but she couldn't seem to pull herself out of the downward slump that was consuming her. Everything she touched or had a part in seemed to be going badly, and she was just starting to get really tired of not being able to do anything right. But she had no idea what to do to change it. Her life was just spiralling out of control.

"Amu-chan, are you okay?" Miki asked uncertainly. "Do you want us to get the other guardians?"

"No!" Amu said immediately, her golden eyes growing wide as she shook her head. "Don't bother them. I'm okay, really. It's just been a long day." She freed a hand and raised it, wiping her tears away. "Come on, let's go home."

"Aah, the enemy of Utau-chan is very depressed," Eru, seated on the table with her legs folded under her, murmured as she scribbled furiously in her notebook.

"Give me that." Leaving Amu's embrace, Miki sailed down to the other chara and snatched the notebook away. She stuffed it into her bag and glared at Eru. "Stop making notes about Amu-chan!"

"Ha! Eru's plan has been discovered!" The tiny angel cried. Her voice growing shrill with panic, she jumped to her feet and waved her arms frantically. "What will I do? How can Eru gather information for Utau-chan now? Utau-chan, save me!"

"She's... kind of weird..." Ran said to Suu, shaking her head slowly. Suu just sighed.

Amu smiled a little at their antics, stood up, picked up her bag, and put it on as she headed towards the doors. Ran, Miki, Suu, and a continuously protesting Eru all flew after her. There was no sign of the other Guardians, and she guessed that she'd spent more time inside the garden alone than she'd thought. The sun was already starting to go down as they exited the garden and locked the doors behind them. Thrusting her hands inside her pockets, Amu headed down the hill towards her house at a leisurely pace.

It occured to her that now, underneath the warm, clear sky with the soft breeze, her earlier thoughts seemed a little silly. Indeed, everything was just as shitty as it had been that morning, but how could her life be so bad when she had such adorable friends? She knew that her charas would always be there when she needed them. Even now, they were trying to cheer her up in their own way. 'As long as I have them, I know everything will be alright,' she thought contentedly.

"Amu-chan, here you are at last!" The door to her house swung open before she'd even started up the walkway. Amu glanced up in surprise as her mother popped out, wearing an elegant summer dress. "Could you watch Ami-chan for us tonight? Papa and I have been unexpectedly invited to a party being given for an editor at my magazine. It's very important that I be there."

"Sure," Amu said, concealing her sigh as she slid past her mother and into the house. Inside, she found Ami standing on her stool in a party dress, singing a badly distorted version of Meikyuu Butterfly into her mic. Her father was darting around her, taking as many pictures as the camera would allow. Amu rolled her eyes at her father as a tiny flash of jealousy bit into her. She couldn't help it. Ami never had to do anything except look cute, and her biggest concern was whether or not she'd have fun.

"Waaah, Ami-chan is so cute!" Papa cried. "She's my little star!"

"Papa, we're going to be late if you don't finish getting ready," said Mama, smiling fondly at the sight of her half-dressed husband waving his camera around. "Now that Amu-chan is home, we really should get going pretty soon."

"Ami wants to go, too!" Leaping off of her stool, Ami raced over to her mother and start hopping around the room, jiggling to a beat only she could hear. Ran, Miki, and Suu giggled and joined in, while Eru made frantic notes in the notebook she'd somehow gotten back. "Ami wants to dance!"

"Ami~!" Both of her parents cried in unison, delighted with the way the little girl was bouncing around the room. Ami laughed in response and clapped her hands.

Amu placed a hand against her forehead. Her family was beginning to give her a headache. "Let me know when you leave," she said, heading for the stairs. The cry of "cool and spicy~!" followed her all the way up until she was safely behind her door, where she leaned against it and sighed. She loved her family, but they could get on her nerves pretty easily sometimes. Her sister character could be so exhausting.

'Sometimes, I wish I could go back to being a little kid. Back when I didn't have this sister character. I just want to do what I want to,' she thought, setting her bookbag down on her desk. She removed the four shugo eggs from her little bag and gently set them on her shelf. Eru's creamy, pale pink egg stood out the most, as it lacked the more vibrant colors and patterns that Ran, Miki, and Suu's eggs possesed. Amu she felt a pang when she looked at it. Every time she saw it or even Eru, it was another reminder of what she'd let happen to Dia. 'It may be exhausting, but at least with Ami, I know I can do something right!'

Amu sat down on her bed, then leaned back and stretched out, still looking at the four eggs. Her charas hadn't followed her up to her room; they were still downstairs with Ami and her parents, and she was glad. Even though she really loved them and they were really the only thing she had going for her right then, it was still nice to get a few seconds alone every once in a while. Her head was doing a nice dance of its own, and she was hoping that a few seconds of lying down would help to make the intense throbbing disappear.

"I've got a few minutes before Mama and Papa leave," Amu said to herself, closing her eyes and trying to think of something for her and Ami to do that night. It was easiest to babysit when the rambunctious Ami was occupied with something, but her mind kept coming up blank and she eventually sighed, rolling on her side. The feeling of her soft bed underneath her was proving to be too much to combat. Later on, she wouldn't even remember falling asleep.

Screaming. A lot of it. No - crying, and whimpering. Softer, but more jagged? Amu awoke slowly, feeling muddled, and wondered what had awoken her from her deep sleep. Her room had grown dark and chilly due to her open windows, and she was curled up underneath the covers on her bed, still dressed in her school uniform. After a moment of fighting to stay awake, she forced herself to sit up and looked around.

"What time is it?" she mumbled. Her golden eyes were still sleepy when she sought out her alarm clock and saw that it was about five after ten. She still had about an hour until her actual bedtime, and she hadn't eaten dinner, but Amu snuggled back down against her pillow anyway. Even though she'd been sleeping for a while, she was still tired, and she figured it would do her more good to have the sleep than to bother getting up.

A niggling thought began trying to make itself known to her while she was attemtping to fall back asleep. She felt as though she was supposed to be doing something, but what? Curling up around one of Ami's teddy bears, she tried to remember. Homework? No, her class hadn't been given any. To call one of her friends? No, none of them would be or should be interested in talking to her. Her eyes slipped closed and she gave a deep sigh, stroking the bears' ear. And then, all of a sudden, she bolted upright, her eyes growing wide.

"Oh, my god! Ami! I fell asleep!" Amu threw the covers back, scrambled off of her bed, and ran for her door. She grabbed the knob, but it refused to open. 'I must have locked it earlier without noticing,' she realized. Her heart was pounding. Now she recalled what had awoken her. Flinging the door open, she sprinted into the hall and down the stairs.

There were a lot of people in the house. A crowd was the first thing Amu saw when she ran down the stairs. Most of them she didn't even recognize, but a few were her neighbors, and several of them gave her cold glances when she came into the room. Her chest tightened with panic in response, and Amu looked around, wondering what had happened. It took her a moment to make enough sense of the situation to be able to find her family.

"Mama," she said, quickly making her way through the crowd towards them. Someone jabbed her roughly in the shoulder as she passed, but she ignored the pain. "What..." The question died on her lips when she caught sight of Ami, who was the one crying. There was a large bandage on the little girl's cheek and left hand, and a paramedic was bending over her, holding another large roll of gauze. A sick feeling engulfed her.

"Amu!" Her mother turned towards her and gripped her shoulders tightly. Painfully. There was no joy in those usually warm golden eyes tonight. "Where were you?!"

"I... I fell asleep," Amu stuttered. "What happened?"

"What happened? What happened?! Amu, you said you would watch her!" Her mother cried, shaking her. "We told you we were leaving! Ami said..." Mama's voice caught on a sob. "She said she tried to get your attention for a long time. When you didn't answer, she was so hungry she tried to get herself dinner. She spilled boiling water all over herself!" Her mother's nails dug painfully into her tender flesh. "Who knows what might have happened if Odaiba-san hadn't been passing by and heard Ami crying? She's just a little girl, a baby, and she might be scarred for life. You were supposed to be watching her. You know she's not old enough to take care of herself. What's the matter with you?"

"Mama, I..." Amu felt paralyzed. She couldn't even respond when pain in her shoulders became so pronounced that it sent sparks down her spine. It took her several seconds to say, "I... I'm sorry..."

"Sorry? You're sorry? Amu, that's not good enough!" Mama's eyes were glittering with tears. "She could have been even more seriously injured. What if she had set the house on fire, or electrocuted herself? I thought you knew better than this! I thought you were mature enough to handle the simple task of looking after your sister for a few hours!"

"Mama." Papa appeared and laid a hand on Mama's arms, forcing her to release Amu as the woman broke down into sobs. He looked at Amu for a moment and then turned his head away, gently leading his wife over to Ami, who reached for her mother, whimpering.

Left alone, Amu could feel her hands starting to shake. The look of disappointment in her father's eyes had been even worse than her mother's rage. Staring at her baby sister, watching the paramedic kneel down in front of her with a needle in his hands, seeing the way Ami cried out and flinched with pain... The feeling of guilt was too much. It was just too much. Ducking her head, she turned on her heel and ran blindly from the room.