It hurt.

Now, Natsume was used to hurt. He experienced it every day and he was used to being in pain – both physically and mentally but he'd never experienced pain quite like he was experiencing now.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as though Natsume was complaining. That seemed like a harsh way to put it. No, he was merely stating a fact. Even if it was a fact that caused him much turmoil and anguish that was all it was, a fact and nothing more.

Natsume accepted this as he watched them celebrate on the dance floor, he accepted that he could do nothing to change anything and that what's done was done. It wasn't like he had the power to change what he'd said – the way he'd acted.

But that brought him to a new way of thinking. What if he could change everything that had happened? Would he? He stared at the large joyful smiles on his friends faces, knowing that Ruka hadn't been this happy for years and if Natsume had a chance to redo what he'd done – would he be able to knowingly stop his friends happiness with a clear conscience.

No.

Natsume had done this for his friends, sacrificed his own happiness and life so these people could have what he was missing out on. He had done this for them. Now, he wasn't complaining, nor was he wallowing in self pity because Natsume didn't wallow. He was there to see his friends happiness and to see the fruits of his decision shining on the faces of others. This was as close to happiness as he could be.

He tore his eyes away from Ruka and focused on the brunette his friend was holding closely in his arms. Her face was broken into a wide, joyous smile and her arms were wrapped tightly around Ruka's shoulders. He studied her face, soaking up her happiness and even allowing a little smile himself – Mikan's grin was contagious.

He loved her.

That much was simple but even something so simple became so undeniably complicated when faced with the prospects of the future. Natsume knew that he could offer her nothing but empty promises and dangerous adventures – something that Mikan would be fine without. She deserved better than him, she deserved someone like Ruka who she could lean on and who would care for her passionately and romantically, rather than just the passion that Natsume would be able to give her. And in the end she was with him, she had gone with the safer option and Natsume only had himself to blame, after all, if it wasn't for him, she'd be down there at the ball, dancing the last dance in his arms, not in Ruka's.

But Natsume was no self-pitier. He looked at things in the reality. He thought of the future and the present, barely spending any time focusing on the past. What's done is done, you can't change the past, only the future. In fact, Mikan was the only thing that had ever had him focusing on the past so much, wishing he could change it and tell her he felt the same instead of sniff at her and insult her.

Of course, insulting her was just the wrong thing to do but Natsume didn't know how else to handle her sudden confession. Of course he had felt the same way but he didn't understand how to explain it to her. He remembered the tears in her eyes as the heartfelt love confession came pouring out of her mouth and then how heartbroken she'd looked when he'd laughed in her face.

It was one time to many.

She hadn't said one word to him since then. Natsume had at first assumed it would just blow over but after a month of cold shoulders from her, he realised that he'd lost the one person he cared about and he couldn't get her back. He realised then just how much he had hurt her and that once a girl pours her heart out to you – you don't turn her down if you feel the same way because if you do, things will never be okay between the two again.

He had witnessed Ruka and Mikan getting steadily closer although Ruka tried to avoid asking Mikan out on the principle that he knew his best friend was still into her. Natsume could see how it pained Ruka to talk to Mikan every day and just continue being nothing more than a friend. Natsume could tell that Ruka desperately wanted to be more than just her friend.

That was when Natsume had made his decision. To ensure the happiness of his best friend and the only girl he had ever loved – he was going to leave. Without him around everything would be so much easier, Ruka would get the girl he liked and Mikan would be able to move on, to someone who would love and cherish her while Natsume was incapable.

His mind travelled back to the present as he arranged himself on the tree to make himself slightly more comfortable. He had to admit that his plan had worked. Just a couple of months later Mikan and Ruka had started going out and that soon became a stable and serious relationship. Now the two were inseparable.

Smiling slightly, Natsume redirected his attention to the pair twirling around among the other couples. They stood out though even though everyone was dressed similarly. Mikan's smile was radiant and Ruka was laughing, his mouth stretched in the happiest grin that Natsume had ever seen from his friend. Both their eyes were wide and sparkling and they seemed at ease with each other and the surroundings, whilst the other couples looked nervous and stiff.

They were in love and in a way it was good news. Mikan would be happier with Ruka than she would have ever been with Natsume and if the last dance myth was true than they'd be spending their whole lives together and richness and prosperity.

But on the other hand, Natsume would be alone. He knew that he would never find someone else that he cared for even half as much as the two giddy teenagers he was currently watching. But he was used to being alone, and although he'd miss them every second of every day – he'd live. If they were happy, so was he.

But if he was happy...then why did it hurt...so damn much.

A/N. Hi, this is my first story so please be kind. Constructive criticism is welcome though i would prefer it if people just didn't flame my work with no reason. I will accept whatever CONSTRUCTIVE criticism you throw at me though.

To be honest I'm fascinated with the Mikan and Ruka pairing – its definitely my favourite *ducks an 'I love Natsume' flower pot'* although I do likeNatsume *said quickly to appease readers*

Erm...yea, so please review :D