Hello, Everyone! This is my second TMM story, but this is going to be a short one. Like, maybe four chapters. I have been thinking about writing this ever since I wrote my first TMM story, but by then I was buggered out so I had to take a break from TMM for a bit before I came back for this idea! This is just my take on how Pudding and Tart would be like as teenagers. Oh, and BTW, this stuff takes place after my first story (if you haven't read that, then that's all K/I, L/P and P/T pairings). And I don't mention anything from "a la Mode" because I've never read it. Well, here goes! Please review and tell me what you think!
"Geez, Pudding," Mika said, giggling as Pudding sniffed and rubbed her nose. "Someone must be talking about you! Is it a love interest?"
"Love interest?" Pudding laughed and said, "I don't have any time for boyfriends! I've got waaaaaay too much to do with school, gymnastics, the karate club, and work."
"You should quit work," Mika suggested. Sitting gracefully at her desk, Mika picked at the peach-colored nail polish on her thumb while Pudding took notes from the textbook they were supposed to be studying. The teacher had stepped out for a moment, and most of the class had stopped working and turned to talk to each other instead. Pudding knew she'd probably be able to finish her notes that night, but she didn't want to take the chance in case something unexpected came up. Or down, as the case might be.
"Your Dad's home now, so why do you need money?" Mika asked. Pudding shrugged.
"I guess I got used to making money without him around. He still doesn't know how to take care of my siblings, anyway. Yesterday he tried to read a story to my sister, but it was a book she outgrew when she was three! Who knows," Pudding added. "Maybe he'll decide he needs to learn more and he'll go back to the mountains to continue his training."
Mika laughed. "Maybe you're right. Besides, the clubs are kind of a way for you to have some 'you-time' before you have to deal with the rest of your family. How many new members did you get in the karate club this spring?"
Pudding brightened at the mention of the karate club. It was one of her favorite things about school, and most of the kids who joined were good students who honestly wanted to learn and listened to her and the President when they gave advice and instruction.
"Officially, we have ten new members! Daisuke-kun and I thought that we should take the club to the Tokyo Regional Competition in February," Pudding said excitably. "He really thinks some of the first years will be good enough by then."
"Oh yeah, that reminds me," Mika said, her voice taking on a slightly sarcastic edge. "How many fan girls dropped out of practice on the first day?"
Pudding sighed. "About eight."
Mika clucked her tongue distastefully. "Those girls have no shame. I mean, Daisuke-kun is gorgeous and smart and athletic and nice and everything, but honestly, guys like girls that have a little backbone and can be tough sometimes."
"That's true." Pudding was agreeing, but silently she could think of someone that she knew in particular that usually liked to believe that Pudding was a hapless, defenseless girl that needed saving. She hadn't yet succeeded in convincing him otherwise. That was one thing about him that hadn't changed much over the years – he was still quite as stubborn and as ever.
"Too bad you aren't dating anyone, Pudding," Mika said, slowly turning around in her seat as the teacher marched back into the room. "You and Daisuke-kun would look really cute together. And if any other guys hit on you, he could go and kick their butt!"
Pudding laughed, trying to sound amused. "Me and Daisuke-kun? That would never happen!"
…because Tart would probably blow up the planet if he saw me with another guy.
Pudding sprang into the kitchen, yellow skirt and petticoats flying. "Keiichiro! The new uniform is really cute! You did a great job picking it out!"
Keiichiro smiled, looking up from his bowl of lemon cream. "It looks lovely on you, Pudding. I'll bet if Taruto saw it he would like it too."
Pudding beamed. Even though Pudding was rather small for her age, she had recently ripped a seam in her old uniform, and so Keiichiro had decided to upgrade the entire ensemble and ordered all the girls new uniforms. Pudding was the only one who felt a little nostalgic replacing her old uniform – after all, she was the only Mew left working at Café Mew Mew. The others had all long since grown up and gone off into the world to pursue their own dreams.
Pudding certainly looked different from when she'd first become a Mew. Her naturally wavy, yellow hair had grown to her shoulders, and she usually either wore it in two braids or pinned back with butterfly clips. She didn't exactly have a lot of curves, but that was okay because her lightness allowed her to move a lot faster when it came to practicing karate.
"Thanks!" Pudding asked excitably, "Did I tell you he's coming to visit this week?"
"Uh-huh." Keiichiro's wrist twirled elegantly as he whipped the cream. "Do you know what day?"
Pudding shook her head. "Depends on the weather up in space. I guess if there's a storm it'll take longer to get through. I hope he gets to stay for a while!"
"Well, let him know his room is still available upstairs." Keiichiro winked. "Ryou's still doing his research, so he won't have any objections."
"Where is Ryou now?" Pudding asked with interest. "He was in Egypt last week, wasn't he?"
"That's right. This week it's Greece." Keiichiro smiled and said pleasantly, "I'm beginning to think Ryou is taking a vacation and just pretending it's research. He's already been to Spain, and the Caribbean too."
Pudding sighed, leaning her elbows on the counter top. Her eyes glazed over. "Mmm…the Caribbean…parasailing…surfing…swimming with the dolphins…"
"Of course you would be interested in the activities," Keiichiro said knowingly. He stopped stirring and checked his watch. "I'm afraid it's almost 4:00. The rush will be starting soon."
Pudding snapped to attention immediately. "I'm on it, Keiichiro!" She dashed out of the kitchen at high speed, making Keiichiro wonder, for perhaps the millionth time, where she got all her energy. Maybe she was stealing cakes and giving him the slip too.
Pudding was wiping the soapsuds off of her arms when Ayame poked her head into the kitchen and said, "Everyone else has already put up all the chairs – is it okay if we head off?"
"Sure thing!" Pudding beamed and waved good night. "Be careful walking home! Make sure you've got a scarf and a coat!"
Ayame laughed. "You are such a Mom, Pudding-san. See you tomorrow!"
"Bye!" Pudding heard the girls' voices as they slowly filtered out the front door. She sighed, and stretched her arms over her head. It had been a pretty large crowd that day, but the girls were enthusiastic, and propelled by Pudding's energy, they usually did very well in keeping up with the customers.
None of the girls knew that Café Mew Mew had originally served as the base of operations for the Mew team. Some of the older girls had met Lettuce, but Ichigo, Mint, and Zakuro had all moved by then, and hasn't come back and visited in a couple years. Pudding wasn't bothered because she kept in contact with them all by email, but it was different working with girls who thought the Café was no more than an after school job. They didn't know that, downstairs, the basement still held the computers and tracking devices that Ryou and Keiichiro had used during the height of the Mew's activity – or rather, when Earth had been in danger of being destroyed.
According to the emails, Ichigo, Mint, and Lettuce were all in different universities. Lettuce had decided to stay in Japan, but Ichigo had gone to England and Mint to France. Zakuro, meanwhile, had gone to Los Angeles to continue with her acting, singing, and modeling careers. She was perhaps the busiest out of all the Mews, but she still found time to correspond with all her former teammates. They had all sworn that they wouldn't lose touch with each other, even though eventually they had gone their separate ways.
Keiichiro was already settled in his room upstairs, so Pudding knew she would be the last one to leave. Careful not to run into any tables in the dark, Pudding skipped through the Café and out the door, making sure she closed it firmly so the wind wouldn't blow it open. Shrugging her yellow backpack higher onto her shoulders, she began to walk home briskly. Since it was autumn, the streetlamps were already lit, and the air was beginning to get chilly.
Pudding was used to walking home alone. It actually gave her time for her mind to relax, and for her to mull over things by herself before she had to pay attention to her family. Since she worked so late, usually as soon as she walked in the door her siblings were begging her to cook dinner, since their Dad was absolutely useless in the kitchen. Pudding secretly liked the fact that her job made her late – since her Dad worked all day, he only stayed up late enough to eat whatever she cooked, and then he was off to bed, so Pudding didn't have to see him very much.
It wasn't that she…resented her Dad exactly…she knew that his training had been important. Mostly she was just glad that she'd never gotten particularly close to him – otherwise, the time spent away from him would have been more painful. As it was, it had been a joyful burden raising her family by herself, and she wasn't used to having her Dad around helping by making an income. She was sure that if he'd stayed away until her youngest sister was out of the house, she would have been able to raise them all just fine on her own.
It was rare that she felt the slight ache of not having a close relationship with her Dad. But she knew it was better this way. Getting close to someone who was gone all the time would just result in a lot of pining, worry, and heartache. She couldn't let herself be vulnerable like that. She had a lot of people depending on her, and she couldn't afford to risk her heart like that.
If only he could understand that. If only he knew that she didn't really want to just be friends. That maybe…if things were different…
"What have I told you about walking home alone at night?!"
Pudding's heart leaped in her chest. Her eyes lit up on the thick, curved branches of a tree. A lean, shadowy figure was perched there, his legs dangling over the edge. Pudding knew that profile – and that voice – anywhere.
"TARU-TARU! You're here!" Pudding sprinted over to the tree. "I'm so happy! I thought you wouldn't be here at least till Friday!"
Like a phantom, Tart leaped down from the tree, and only had enough time to brace his legs before Pudding launched herself into his arms. His embrace was warm and strong, and Pudding immediately felt completely comfortable and at ease. They had been friends for six years now, with Tart coming to visit a few times a year.
Like Pudding, Tart had changed over the years, perhaps more dramatically than she had. Though still short in comparison to Pai, Tart had grown taller than Pudding by a few inches, and his body had become hard with lean muscle. He lacked the bulk that Kisshu and Pai had both acquired, but as Pudding could attest, he made up for it in speed.
Tart easily lifted Pudding off the ground. Worry laced his voice as he said, "You're going to get in trouble if you keep walking alone all by yourself. There's a lot of creepy people that hang out in parks."
"I'm a Mew, Tart! Not to mention a karate master!" Pudding was set back on her feet and pulled away from Tart's embrace. "Anyway, when did you get here? How long are you staying this time?"
Tart leaned up against the trunk of the tree. "I just parked the ship twenty minutes ago. But I've only got five days."
"Five days?!" Pudding's face fell dramatically. "That's all? You need to go talk to your boss and get more time off! Five days isn't even worth coming all the way to Earth for!"
"It is worth it," Tart insisted. "Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to come until December, and I wasn't going to wait that long to see you."
"But I have school!" Pudding said unhappily. "I mean, I guess I could take work off tomorrow and maybe get off early the rest of the week, and maybe I could miss a day or two of gymnastic and karate club…but then I'll have to email my replacement and let Daisuke-kun know I won't be able to be at practice-"
Pudding didn't miss the expression on Tart's face when she mentioned Daisuke's name. She smiled kindly. "I've told you already, Taru-Taru, I just work with Daisuke-kun in the Karate Club. He's the President, and I'm the Vice President. Don't get that grumpy look on your face."
"I'm not grumpy. And don't call me Taru-Taru." Tart rubbed the back of his head irritably. His hair had grown out as well, though a few years ago he had decided to dye a streak of black in each tail and get his ear pierced. Pudding supposed he thought it made him look more intimidating.
Pudding poked his face playfully. "Don't be mad, Taru-Taru!" She beamed. "Let's hang out tomorrow! I can't get out of karate club, but I'll call Keiichiro and skip work so we can go into the city! And this time I'm definitely going to beat you at the arcade."
"Yeah, right," Tart scoffed. The gleam that Pudding was so fond of had returned in his eyes and his smile. He reached out and poked her back. "Your human games are just too easy for someone like me. When I was ten I played with stuff more advanced than that."
"So then why did you only beat me by two points?" Pudding demanded, putting her hands on her hips. "If you're so great, you should've beat me by a mile!"
"Hey!" Tart reached out to grab her, but Pudding leaped nimbly away. She danced on the tips of her toes, and with a teasing laugh, beckoned with one finger for him to try and catch her.
Tart's face split into a wide, toothy grin. His eyes narrowed as he bent his knees. "Oh, do you really think I can't catch you?" he asked. He began to mimic her movements, staying light on the balls of his feet and shuffling back and forth. Pudding felt her adrenaline begin to race. This was the best part about being with Tart – when he was here, all either of them wanted to do was play games. And they were both extremely competitive. That hadn't changed from the days of aliens and Mews.
And certainly, Tart was still an alien, and Pudding was still a Mew. But they barely noticed it anymore. Now it was just Pudding and Tart, friends that saw each other whenever they could, and made keeping themselves in each other's lives a priority. That was why Pudding wasn't interested in finding a boyfriend – anything that could eventually become more important than Tart wasn't worth pursuing. Besides, Pudding wasn't sure she would ever meet someone who understood her the way Tart did. He had known her all this time. She was more comfortable with him than she was with her own family.
But the problem was, Tart didn't want to be friends. She could see it in his eyes, the tone of his voice, and the way he held her in his embrace. While she couldn't find the courage in herself to possibly unlock her heart, Tart's feelings spoke loud and clear, though he'd never expressed them in words. He was in love with Pudding. And it seemed that each year, that love grew a little stronger, and it became harder and harder for Tart to handle living apart from her - a whole galaxy away.
Yeah...so I interpreted Tart to grow up into this super hot, overprotective macho type, and I've tried to keep Pudding's energy and cheerfulness without making it look like she's strung out on crack. Anyways...please review! It really does help me a lot to know people are reading and liking what I put up here! It would be very much appreciated!