Well... I'm finally back. Now, I can give you all a whole mess of excuses as to why I haven't submitted anything here for, like, months, but the bottom line is that I haven't been writing at all. Nope, nada. Severe writer's block has been eating at me for months, and I haven't been able to write a thing...

Until tonight. Or rather, this morning. Ha ha.

I know that as writers we hate writer's block, but I know-- at least for me-- that the feeling you get when you overcome it, when from that part of your mind that was parched and devoid of inspiration or drive there comes something that you're proud of, and that people may even enjoy, is sometimes, dare i say it?, worth it.

Anyway. I'm happy to be back with this little oneshot here, which is written in honor of The Village Square's writing contests, whose theme this month is Secrets. Well, I humbly submit this little story for your reading pleasure. I do hope you enjoy it. : )

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.


I Wrote This Down For You

She doesn't know when it started, she doesn't even know why it started.

Nami sits silently by the river as the wind whips by invisibly, arctic blue eyes focused on everything, but nothing at the same time. It is late autumn, and everything around her is falling, the leaves that had been teetering impossibly on those whole, full trees finally giving into gravity and floating down to Earth.

The first signs of winter are showing, and it is chillier than she expected, but she didn't have time to grab her light jacket from her near empty closet before heading out the door. There was hardly enough time before Rock finished his morning primping and walked out into the hall to smirk cheekily at her before forcing her into some useless type of conversation... and, frankly, she wasn't in the mood to deal with him today.

Well, to be completely honest, she never was in the mood to deal with him, but that was beside the point.

For a moment her eyes focus on the scene; the river, flowing as it always did into the sea, except that leaves were gliding whimsically around it, falling around-- and even in, on occasion-- the rushing water, obscuring the ordinarily clear water with faded golds and oranges.

It would make a beautiful scene to sketch, she thinks, perhaps even paint. For a moment she reaches for her sketchbook, before remembering that this is a scene that she has already captured, on various occasions, in fact. It would be pointless to try and capture it for what, the umpteenth time already?

It is then that it hits her, that old, familiar urge. The one that runs through her blood and compels her to go, go, go and leave, far, far away from this place where every scene has been captured and detailed. This place where everything that there is to be seen has been seen, the place where everything to be experienced has been experienced.

This place where there is nothing, well, nothing new, anyway.

To be frank, Nami had been thinking about it for a while. Leaving. Leaving this place with nothing to find something, something new and vivid that she hasn't seen, hasn't attempted to capture in sketches, or paintings...

But to be honest, a part of her is reluctant to leave the Valley.

It had happened before, sure. She'd stay too long in a place because of the secure familiarity of knowing everyone in town and everyone knowing you, or, sometimes, because of the thrill of being anonymous in an endless sea of people walking the sidewalk, crossing the street, visiting that particular café.

She stayed too long in a particular place, and long after everything there was to be seen had been seen and everything to be experienced had been experienced, she remained there, caught between being true to herself and leaving like she wanted-- needed-- to, and being true to a place that wasn't just a place, but instead a little bit like home.

It was a conundrum that Nami didn't get into often, but one she hated nonetheless... and a pointless one, too, because deep inside, she knew that she'd leave eventually. It's what she always did, after all.

Sighing wistfully, she brushes a few stray strands of hair from her eyes as the last of the leaves touch the river and are swept away by the current.

"Yo, Nami!" comes a familiar voice, and Nami cringes in distaste before turning to glare at her interrupter.

It's Rock-- of course it's Rock, the universe having a way of always having people that annoy the living daylights out of her cross her path at the most inopportune of moments-- waving in that painfully carefree way of his, the wind playing with his hair and sending gold wildly over his eyes.

Scowling, Nami doesn't protest as he falls-- yes, literally letting himself fall,-- into a siting position beside her, crossing his legs Indian style before letting out a contented sigh. "So, what'cha doin' out here, all by your lonesome?"

"The usual," she says shortly, eyes contemplating the mountaintops far away, and thinking what it would be like, to look down at the world from up there.

He chuckles and begins to pull at blades of grass. "Oh yeah, being grumpy and thinking those deep, dark thoughts of yours," his eyes light up playfully, "Figured out how to kill us all and get away with it, yet?"

Her only answer is a groan of exasperation, and that's all he needs to let out a peal of amused laughter that makes her want to punch him in the face, or something.

"Nah, but really, what are you thinking about?"

Nami looks down at her lap and the worn sketchbook lying there, almost filled to the bursting with the essence of Forget-Me-Not Valley. "I was thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is, sometimes."

Her honest answer catches him off guard, but instead of making another playful jab at her expense, he sighs and stops pulling at the grass, letting all the green he collected fall onto his beige pants instead. "Yeah, I know what you mean..."

She lets out a snort. "Yeah, you would. The golden boy who does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, because poor Ruby and Tim take care of everything you need so you don't have to. Yeah, Rock, I can see how you'd know how I feel."

"I'm serious," he says, not sounding offended in the least that she's reminded him that he's twenty-four and still lives with his parents, "Sometimes things that were really... good just end up turning into a drag, you know?"

Nami runs a pale hand through her blood red hair before replying. "I'm sure Lumina would just love to hear your thoughts on good things turning into... what was it...? Oh right. A drag."

Rock chuckles a little. "Yeah. Actually, it's her I'm talking about," she doesn't look his way, but her eyes narrow in interest, "I'm thinking of breaking up with her soon, anyway."

She can't keep the inflection of surprise out of her voice. "Why?"

She can feel Rock shrug beside her, the crunching of fallen leaves and grass as he shifts uncomfortably. "She's nice. She's a good friend, and all... I just don't know if she's more than that. She wants more than that. Wants me to meet her grandma and a blue feather to match that silver spoon she was born holding. I don't know if I'm ready for that, being tied down and all, you know?"

Surprised, she nods. "Yes, I know... I know exactly how you feel."

A few moments pass in silence and she considers it. Asking him about whether or not she should leave. Ideally, it wouldn't be Rock, of all people, but then again, he was unbiased, such a worry free slacker that maybe he wouldn't care if Nami wouldn't be around anymore...

"I was thinking of leaving," she says. And there it is, out in the air, and Rock doesn't turn unbearably sad like the rest of the town would, he just hums in acknowledgement.

"Really?" he asks, and when Nami nods he lets out a whistle, "Man, mom's gonna be sad when she hears this..."

"I said I was thinking of leaving, not flat out leaving..." she lets her voice trail off, but they both know that behind the tint of annoyance there's another word she hasn't spoken. Yet.

He begins pulling at grass again. "Oh. Then why'd you tell me about it, then?"

Nami grits her teeth in annoyance, wills her legs not to carry her away from this idiot before she gets his opinion. "Because I want your opinion, maybe?"

Rock fakes a gasp, his voice changing to a tone of mock sentimentality. "Oh, Nami," he coos, "You care enough about what I think to ask my opinion? I'm so honored..." her eyes narrow dangerously, and before she can hit him, his tone becomes serious again, "I dunno, Nami... I guess... yeah, you should."

It can't be denied, she's surprised. She expected him to tell her to stay, even though the very reason she'd told him was because he wouldn't care if she were around or not, not like Ruby or Tim would. "Why do you say that?"

Another shrug. "I dunno. You're a traveler, aren't you? This isn't the first place you've visited, I mean, I bet you've been to a lot of other places before this little speck on the map. What I mean is... since you're a traveler and all, you gotta like traveling, right? So why... give something up that you obviously, like... love, to stay here?"

She nods, the decision she already made affirmed by someone else, but for some reason she can't articulate, anger coils in Nami unbidden. For once, Rock had been serious and given her his honest opinion... so why was she so angry all of a sudden?

She doesn't know when it happen. Hell, she doesn't know why it happened, and that's the important part, but she's angry at him, and in one fluid motion she rises from her spot on the grass and storms away down the path.

Halfway to the Inn she hears him call, and she turns, glaring at him venomously. "I won't tell mom and dad," he calls, and then he can make out a smirk, "Don't worry, grumpy, your secret's safe with me."

Before she can retort angrily, she lets her feet carry her away, to the sanctuary that is her room, a place she understands. But instead of sighing a few times and looking out her window like she usually does when she's angry, she grabs the ratty bag that used to be her Bible when on the road and begins to pack.

–...--

A car speeds down the road, right past her, and she mutters a silent curse that she's been ignored again. Chivalry was dead, wasn't it?

She'd left that very night, leaving nothing but a note on her pillow thanking Tim and Ruby for their hospitality and a few things she couldn't fit into her bag behind. She was never good with goodbyes, so she found it simplest just to leave.

To be frank, she would regret it one day, maybe. Like her father had hollered at her when she'd left home that day, seven years prior, that one day she'd die an old woman, all alone in a strange town with no family or friends, and she'd regret burning her bridges after crossing them...

To be honest, though, she already does regret it. And it's killing her.

She can already imagine their reactions, when Ruby knocks on her door late in the afternoon the next day, worried about her, only to discover that she's gone, with nothing but a note saying 'Thank you for everything. I'm pleased to have met you.' left of her.

Ruby, who would often brag that Nami was her adopted daughter. And Tim, who had once told her that he'd never had a daughter, but if he had been so blessed, he would have wanted one like her. And Muffy and Celia, who she had promised to accompany to the city the next week to go shopping... They would be disappointed, maybe even feel betrayed, that she was gone without a word.

The funny thing was that she could deal with all of these reactions. They were part and parcel of her life-- no matter where she went and stayed, she always left behind people that had begun to care for, if not become accustomed, to her.

Yes, she could deal with their disappointments, and her own at not seeing them again. Those are easy, and she's used to them. Those people, too, would come to forget her over time, the wound of loss healing over time, the scar forgotten as it faded on their skin. Yet...

It's him, strangely. His reaction, his feelings that she can't begin to imagine. What would Rock say, when he found out she'd left? Would he feel guilty that he'd encouraged her to go when he saw them sad? Or would he laugh about it and not care, like she had expected him to.

She doesn't want to care what Rock would think. She wants to let the sweep her away from this place she no longer belongs in, let it carry her to a place where everything was new, so she could see so many different things.

But, strangely, inexplicably, stupidly, she does care. Does care about what Rock thinks about her leaving. She does care that he would feel guilty because of her, and it hurts to think that she could cause him pain... but not as much as it would hurt her to think that he wouldn't care at all.

A car is slowing down in front of her at her raised thumb, the universal sign of the hitchhiker, yet she's filled with doubts. She stares unblinking as the man lowers his window, asks, "Where ya headed?"

Anywhere but here, she would say, but the words won't come, and all because of that one secret she never knew she had forming a lump in her throat, not letting any sound through.

The man grows impatient and before he can ask again she waves him away wordless, and he snorts and drives away, leaving her alone on that deserted road, stuck in nowhere with no way to get somewhere, and she wants to scream, but instead she rustles through her bag and finds her sketchbook, and a pencil, and tearing out a page, she begins to write, write, write, write until it's all there. Until it isn't a secret anymore, and anyone can read, can see it for themselves.

–...--

He always wakes up after noon. It's one of the rules he lives by, along with never go to bed without least being buzzed, or, to go to bed as late as he possibly can.

It's one of those nights. A late one, and he wanders into the Inn, knowing that everyone's asleep, and that the night's his and his alone. He loves that, it's one of his favorite feelings. He hardly owns anything that isn't his parents' first, yet when he's the only one awake in the Valley, it seems like he's the only one awake in the world, and then he feels like the night is his, and that's... soothing for him, for some reason.

He ascends the stairs, taking care to avoid the fifth step-- the one that creaks when he steps on it. After all, he doesn't want to wake up his parents, or Goddess forbid, Nami. He chuckles quietly at the thought-- Nami, banging her door open and maiming him for interrupting her sleep.

Tip-toeing past her room, he finally gets to his, eager to get to bed, but when he opens the door a folded piece of paper falls out from the crack. Surprised and intrigued, he picks it up and takes it with him inside, turning on the lamp so he can read this mysterious letter.

On the folded side facing him, six words, written in a familiar script. 'I Wrote This Down For You'. A bit confused now, he unfolds the paper, and, eyes squinting, he reads the first time.

I don't know when it started. I don't know why it happened...

–...--

She is alone out there, in the dark.

The world is colorless at night, devoid of all the colors she loves to seek out and capture in her work. At night, it's only black and white, especially here where the waves drown out all sound and the moon is absent from the night sky, the stars not enough to illuminate this place.

It's cold, but she doesn't care enough to search through her pack and look for her jacket...

She's all alone out there, in the dark... but then she hears soft footsteps on the sand, and she isn't so alone anymore when she turns and sees him there, the pale light of the stars just enough for her to see the shine of gold atop his head.

So she takes a deep breath as he pauses, lets it out when he walks closer, then remains breathless again when he's standing right in front of her. She can't read his expression because of the lack of light, and she's nervous, an unpleasant, foreign feeling that she hasn't felt in a long time.

An outtake of breath, a sigh, maybe, and a hand grabs hers, holding it loosely. Her breath hitches, and he speaks, voice no longer annoying to her.

"Don't worry," he whispers over the roar of the waves, "Your secret's safe with me."

She was never the romantic type. Never the one to swoon when a boy liked her... but now, with his hand in hers and-- now she can see, now she can see him in the pale light-- a careful, genuine grin on his face, she begins to think that maybe there was something left here, after all.

And when she smiles back at him-- an honest to goodness smile-- he regales in this feeling...

The night is theirs.


A/N: Initially I had wanted to leave it at the part where Rock reads the letter, and just end it there. However, I remembered that the stories I have been publishing lately are morbidly sad, so I decided to end this one happily, and I'm glad I did.

Anyway, I'd like to dedicate this story to my wonderful friend Natasha, who when I told her that I wanted to write for this contest brainstormed with me over AIM about what I should write about. Love you, darling. lol. : )

I hope you liked it. Reviews are wonderful, so please don't hesitate to leave one. : D