Disclaimer: I don't own Gakuen Alice.
This fan fiction and all errors it might contain are mine.

This is an entry to Hilaire's Gakuen Alice Fan Fiction Challenge/Competition. The prompt is to portray Natsume Hyuuga as a most original rancher/farmer/grazier/someone who makes his living out of agriculture and livestock.

Submission of entries begins on August 7 and ends on September 4. Participation is highly appreciated. Please visit Hilaire's profile or forums for more details.

Two Hearts Not Captured

She's a runaway, used to the glamorous life of the city. He's just another farm boy, wishing he could get out of the small village.

I thought running away was the right choice. I was wrong though. Running away, it was sheer stupidity. It was much harder to be alone in the wild, especially when you were a city girl like me and had no idea of what you're doing in a backwater village, of all places.

Fine, it was partly my fault for not asking that truck driver about where he was going to go. But he could have warned me that his destination was a backwater village that looked like it came out of a 1900s movie.

No kidding, this place was so not my scene.

My feet hurt a lot from walking around the village. I bet blisters were already forming on it. Tell me again, why had I been so stupid as to wear high heels on this stupid escapade? Oh, right, because I came up with this plan on a whim and had no idea how to grab my sneakers without walking past my father and his new girlfriend. Ha.

I sighed and sat down on the wet grass, successfully staining my jeans with wet spots. If this happened yesterday, I would surely freak out. I wasn't a nature lover by any means. And now here I was, not caring that I had dirtied my jeans and that there might be worms . . . I stood up immediately at that thought.

I brushed the dirt away from my pants, scooped my backpack off the wet grass, and slung it over my shoulder. I squinted, trying to make out the house at the far distance. The nearest house from my position was so far away. Why the heck must the houses be built this way in this village? Ugh.

Was there an inn around here? Or maybe a villager would be kind enough to let me stay the night?

No, Mikan, I told myself. Remember the basic rules: don't talk to strangers and don't believe them. I snickered, nobody would have survived if they hadn't talked or believed in strangers. Practically everybody was a stranger—store clerks, doctors, teachers—yet we still talked to them and we were still alright. Parents would be horrified if children took that rule by heart till they're old. It was so wrong.

I walked toward the nearest house, it seemed like the whole place was a ranch. I could make out a dark figure exiting the house and I immediately stiffened. The figure loomed in front of the house, he—I presumed it was a guy due to his posture—was clutching something in his right hand. I didn't know if I should run away or yell at him to get his attention; I was frozen on the spot.

He just came out of the house, so it was suffice to presume that he wasn't a bad guy, correct? Maybe he could give me directions to the nearest inn or he could probably let me stay there? Wait. He could be a robber and had just robbed the house of its contents!

Mustering up my bravery, I walked toward the house and yelled, "Hey!"

The guy looked around, perhaps looking for the source of the voice. It was dark already and the only light came from the house's window. I threw my hands up in the air, waving frantically while running towards him. I didn't know why I did that, I just felt like I had to.

I was close to him now that I could make out his features. He was gorgeous, with messy dark hair and a pair of bright crimson eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. He was tall, more than six feet, I bet. He was clad in simple t-shirt and worn-out jeans. I took a step forward, but he yelled at me to stop. "STOP!"

My eyes widened, wondering why he told me to stop. I looked at the ground and realized that I was about to step on two little rabbits. I took a step backward and breathed a sigh of relief. My God, I almost stepped on those two little rabbits. That would be a crime.

"S-Sorry," I muttered. He walked toward me and crouched to check on the two rabbits. He tried to pick up the rabbits, but one of them ran away and he only managed to get hold of the other one. He was having difficulty on scooping the rabbit to his arms, considering he only had one free hand. The thing he was clutching earlier turned out to be a bouquet of roses.

"Uhh, I'll hold on to that?" I offered. He nodded abruptly, so I took the roses from his hand. He scooped the rabbit up to his arms and he stood up again. The white rabbit was so cute that I wanted to touch it, but I was scared at the same time. Somehow, I was afraid to touch animals, any kind of animals.

"You almost stepped on him," he accused. His voice was low and gruff.

"I didn't see him, sorry. And it was dark," I said defensively. He shook his head, as if in disbelief. Hey, I had said sorry, alright?

I looked at the rabbit and smiled at how innocent it looked. He seemed to notice my gaze and thrust the rabbit towards me. "You want to hold it?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Umm, no, thanks," I said quickly. He walked closer to me and I took a step backward. I swore I could hear a small chuckle from him, but that might just be my imagination. He was taunting me; he kept trying to get me to touch the rabbit and I felt like I had to bolt somewhere.

"You're scared of rabbits," he said matter-of-factly.

I huffed. "No, I am not!"

"Mmhmm," he said, picking up the rabbit so it was level with my eyes. I wanted to scream, but I held my tongue. Rabbits are cute and harmless, rabbits don't bite, it's okay, Mikan, I told myself.

"Fine! I'm scared, so don't force me to touch him!" I shrieked.

He put the rabbits back in his arm, the rabbit biting the sleeve of his t-shirt. "Why?" he asked curiously.

Of course, who in their right minds would be scared of harmless, cute bunnies? Me, that's the answer. "I'm not too fond of animals. I-I've never touched a rabbit before . . ." I trailed off. "I mean, I know they don't bite and they are gentle animals, but . . ."

He motioned with his finger for me to come closer, so I did. "Stroke his head gently. I'll hold on to him," he said. Oddly enough, I did what he asked me to. I lifted my free hand up and with my trembling index finger, I tried to touch the rabbit's forehead. I stopped midway, scared that something bad might happen if I touched the rabbit. "Go on," he urged. "He doesn't bite. Much."

I chuckled at his lame attempt of humor, but I believed him. I grinned when I finally touched the rabbit's forehead. It didn't move an inch; it just closed its eyes instead. It seemed to enjoy my stroking, and I wanted to jump in joy. I touched an animal and I didn't freak out! Wow!

The rabbit moved around and bit on the petal of the rose, making me giggle. However, that moment was suddenly destroyed when the front door of the house burst open, revealing a woman with shoulder length dark hair. "Oh my, Natsume, is that the girlfriend you were talking about?" she asked sweetly.

Natsume stiffened upon hearing the voice. He was about to say something when the woman said, "Oh, where are my manners? Come in! I'm Kaoru, Natsume's mother." She paused, but then resumed her blabber, "I thought he would never bring you home. Thank God he finally did."

"Uh, hello?" I said unsurely. What was a girl to do when she was mistook as a stranger's girlfriend? But then again, I did need a place to stay . . .

"Mom, it's –"

"Come in, I want to hear everything about you," she said sweetly, but I could detect the underlying sarcasm there.

"Mom, leave us alone," Natsume said coldly. Kaoru seemed to get the hint that her son was pissed, hence she went into the house, but not without giving me a wink.

Natsume glared at me. I purposely avoided his gaze and cast my eyes downwards. Why did she assume that I was Natsume's girlfriend? My eyes caught sight of the bouquet of roses, still clutched in my hand, and everything came into place. Natsume came out of the house with those flowers for his girlfriend and the flowers were with me.

"Oh, God," I moaned, "I am so sorry! I'll tell your mother of the misunderstanding and you can go see your girlfriend. I didn't mean –"

"What's your deal?" he asked, successfully stopping my rambling.

I looked at my feet, not knowing if I should tell him the truth. Maybe I shouldn't, I didn't know him and he could definitely turn me in to the authority. "I'm Mikan Sakura, I'm new here, and I'm, umm, looking for a job," I lied.

He eyed me from head to toe, his gaze scrutinizing. I squirmed under his gaze, not used to being appraised in such a way. "You? A job in a ranch?" he snorted.

"Hey, I'm a fast learner!" I protested.

"Ironic. Scared of animals but wanting to work in a ranch," he said matter-of-factly. The tone he used reminded me of the tone my father used when he was disappointed with me, which happened all the time. It made me remember my father, my mother, and on top of it, it made me want to cry.

"Just give me a chance. I-I don't have anywhere else to go, I have no family and I've just arrived here a few hours ago . . ." I trailed off. Well, that wasn't completely a lie; I really didn't have anywhere else I could be right now.

"Fine, come with me." He sighed.

"Umm, the roses—"

"Keep it," he said abruptly. I smiled inwardly, that was pretty sweet of him. He led me into the modest sized house, telling me to sit in the living room. I took in the small living room, armed with brown rugged couch, a wooden table, and an old-looking fireplace. Never in my life would I want to stay in a place that looked so old-fashioned, but here I was: a city girl committing to a rancher's lifestyle.

It wasn't easy at first to adjust to the farm life, but I must say that I had done very well. I could still remember the first day of me working in this farm. Natsume had assigned me to pick eggs in the chicken coop and I just stared blankly at him, as if the words coming out from his mouth were spoken in an alien language.

He showed me how, and I was almost killed thanks to the hens. Alright, maybe that was an exaggeration, but chickens did scare the shit out of me. I made him vow to never send me there alone again, which, of course, was impossible.

Oh, and thanks to living in this rancher, I managed to get over my irrational fear of animals.

I sat down on the patio, looking at Natsume who was chopping woods into logs. He hadn't noticed me sitting there, so I just watched him shamelessly, taking in his gorgeous features. In the past three months, our bond had gone stronger than ever, and I slowly realized that I had developed feelings for the raven-haired lad.

"Can't keep your eyes off my brother?" Aoi, Natsume's sister, joked as she sat down beside me. Aoi was a very nice and bubbly girl, contrary to her brother. She was also the owner of the rabbits in the farm, two of which I had almost stepped on three months ago. She was crazy about rabbits, but she wouldn't even dream of selling them for their meats. She even got tears in her eyes if somebody started saying something about eating rabbits. She was weird, but I still loved her.

There were only Aoi, Kaoru, and Natsume in the family. Aoi and Natsume's father had passed away four years ago and since then, Natsume took charge of the farm, considering he was the only guy in the family.

"Can't get your eyes off the gray haired boy?" I remarked, referring to Youichi who was helping Natsume by steadying the woods.

"Smartass," Aoi mumbled. I chuckled, knowing I had her there. While I had the hots for her brother, she had the hots for the other helper in the ranch: Youichi Hijiri. Youichi was cute, that much I had to admit, but nowhere as gorgeous as Natsume.

"Just admit it, Aoi. I know you want to kiss him, nothing's hotter than seeing a sweaty hot guy. Too bad they aren't shirtless," I said as innocently as possible.

Aoi laughed. "Just admit it, you just want to see Natsume without his clothes."

"I've seen that plenty of times, thank you," I replied.

"And you still can't get enough of him," she stated. Dang, she caught me there. I was dying to see the abs hidden underneath his clothes. "Cat got your tongue?"

I stuck out my tongue at her, being the immature brat I was. "Hey, Youichi! The roof of the stable needs repairing! Care to come with me?" Aoi yelled at the guys. Youichi looked at her with a lovestruck face and immediately nodded. Aoi winked at me before marching away with Youichi in tow.

"Repairing the roof? You're kidding," I murmured to myself. That was totally the code for "I wanna make out with my boyfriend so please distract my brother". Ha. She's lucky I was more than happy to be left alone with Natsume.

Natsume resumed his previous task of chopping woods, not caring that I was blatantly ogling him. I chuckled when his axe missed the wood, causing him to glare at me. I wolf whistled in hopes of taunting him. Suddenly, he removed his shirt and threw it at me. He chopped the remaining woods while I watched him. He was sweating profusely, sweats glistening on his perfect chest. Unconsciously, I sniffed the shirt he threw at me, letting Natsume's scent overwhelm me.

"Sniffing my shirt? Are you crazy?" Natsume asked disbelievingly. I was too absorbed in his shirt that I didn't notice him sitting beside me. Jeez, that sounded so wrong.

"Why, aren't you flattered that I love your smell?" I teased him. I used to act all awkward around him, but all the awkwardness between us had dissolved now. There were things I didn't know about him though, like the girlfriend Kaoru mentioned that night. Sure, he explained to Kaoru that I wasn't his girlfriend, but it made me curious about his girlfriend.

He moved closer to me, burying his nose in my hair. "I like yours better," he said in a low voice. My heart went into frenzy the moment he touched me. It was beating so hard, I knew he could feel it too. I closed my eyes, suddenly sick of this pointless game of seduction that had been going on for months.

His lips moved from my hair, resting softly on my forehead. I opened my eyes only to see those crimson eyes staring back at me. His eyes were gentle, not hard like I was used to. In that moment, it felt like there was nobody else in the world, just the two of us, living in our own bubble.

I knew right then that he was going to kiss me.

He lowered his head until his eyes were level with mine and our lips inches apart. He was so close to me, I could feel his breath on my lips. None of us move an inch, savoring the anticipation of what was to come. Sure, we had been flirting like crazy for the past months (even though I knew he had a girlfriend, or maybe not, I didn't dare ask him about that night), but this kiss would definitely seal the deal.

His eyes pierced through my soul, I couldn't help but get lost in those crimson pools. Finally, he closed the distance between our lips. I froze for a second. I had imagined kissing him several times, but my imagination was no match for the real thing. I closed my eyes, savoring the feeling of his soft, warm lips against mine.

The kiss started out gentle, but it became more urgent. It was the result of our pent up frustration for the past three months. Well, at least it seemed that way to me. My hands went up to his hair, pulling him closer to me, as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

I never wanted to let go of him, I felt like I wanted to kiss him forever. However, we were still human and we still needed to breathe, so we broke the kiss soon. Both of us were panting, and his hair was disheveled.

I knew the kiss was wrong, but it was too enchanting to forget. I couldn't, for the love of God, think of it as a mistake. It was perfect.

After both of us had regained our composure, we locked eyes again. I could see the mirth dancing in his eyes. I was grinning from ears to ears as well. Without a word, he bent down and kissed me again, but more swiftly. It wasn't harsh and hurried like before, this time it was sweet and gentle. I sighed in contentment when his lips left me again.

"That was . . ." I trailed off. I couldn't find the correct adjective to describe that kiss. It was magical, enchanting, perfect, awesome, and so on.

"Hmm," he murmured softly, his fingers stroking my brown locks. I smiled and leaned my head against his bare chest, hoping that time would stop and let us be together forever.

But wishes were just wishes. And wishes didn't come true.

"The attic?" I asked incredulously as he shot a glare at me, a silent command for me to tone my voice down. He opened the door to the attic and motioned me to come inside. I hadn't been in the attic before, mainly because I didn't want to snoop around the house. The Hyuugas had done so much for me; the least I could do was respect their privacy.

The attic wasn't as dusty as I imagined it to be. There were a few boxes in the room, and antique furniture. Natsume took my hand and dragged me to the far corner of the attic, near the window. He let go of my hand and opened the window widely. Then he set his right foot on the window ledge, and I almost yelled in fear of him stumbling down.

He glared at me, telling me to shut up. He glared at me too much that he didn't even need words to convey what he was trying to say. Ha. There were a shut-up glare, a don't-you-dare glare, a you're-so-dead glare, and many others.

He climbed out of the window and somehow, he helped me did the same thing. He was lucky that I wasn't clumsy or we might have ended up dead. I didn't know how, but we ended up sitting on the roof.

"Wow," I said, my eyes transfixed on the bright stars in the sky. "Is this your secret place or something?" I joked.

He nodded. "I used to come here every night when I need to be alone," he said softly.

He was staring blankly at the dark sky, seeming to be riveted on something nonexistent. The dim moonlight shone on him, emphasizing on his slightly tanned skin. His skin was pale for someone who worked under the sun every day. He was a very complicated man that it frustrated me so much, but I loved him for that.

Yes. I, Mikan Yukihira, was falling for Natsume Hyuuga. But I couldn't admit it to him, because our relationship was based on lies. I had lied to him about my full name, about my family, about where I was from—about everything.

"Thanks for showing me this place," I said softly, leaning my head against his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer to him.

"I used to dream of escaping from this village," he said.

"Why didn't you?" I asked.

"I can't leave my mother and Aoi. I have to take care of them, and of this farm."

". . . Have you ever tried escaping? Why did you want to do that?" I asked.

He sighed. "I had a chance then. It was a year ago, during my senior year of high school. I managed to snatch a full ride to college, far away from this place. But my father fell sick at that time. I had to choose between my family and college. And here I am."

"It is like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea, huh?" I murmured without thinking. He raised his eyebrow, wondering where I got the phrase from. "Hotaru, my best friend, always said that when she had to choose between two difficult choices."

Speaking of Hotaru, my chest constricted with pain. I hadn't realized how much I missed Hotaru and my other friends. Hotaru was having vacation with her family in France when I ran away from home. She should have been home now; would she be worrying about me? Had my father found another girlfriend? What about my mother? Was she alright?

I was such a bad person.

Natsume cupped my face with his hand and looked me in the eyes. I felt ashamed when I saw his gentle, understanding eyes. Here he was, opening up to me about his past when I had lied about my past. He would never forgive me when he knew the truth. But at that moment, all I saw in his eyes were compassion.

"I know this sounds silly," I whispered. "But I think I'm falling in love with you."

He gave me a gentle smile, it was the first time I ever saw his real smile. He spoke in a whisper too, as if we're afraid that loud voices might break the magic. "I know I love you," he said, before crashing his lips to mine.

I know I love you too, I wanted to say, but the words were caught in my throat.

Again, I couldn't tell him the absolute truth.

During our fortnightly trip to the town, I told Natsume and Aoi that I wanted to take a quick walk around. It was hard to convince them to leave me alone, but I strived. I slipped into a payphone booth and dialed the very familiar number of Hotaru's.

"Hello," she said. I could feel the tears threatening to fall from my eyes upon hearing her voice. I missed her. A lot.

"H-Hotaru?" I squeaked out. Silence.

"Mikan? Is that you? Where have you been? Why didn't you tell me anything? Are you safe?"

A tear escaped from my eyes, which led to a full-blown crying on my part. "Yes, it's me, Mikan. I'm so sorry, Hotaru. I-I miss you so much," I said between sobs. "I've been living in this village, but I can't tell you the name. How are you? How are my parents?"

Silence again on her side. "Mikan, you need to come back. Your mother is sick, and your parents have gotten together again when you left."

"M-Mom is sick? What's wrong with her?" I asked, panicked. A beeping sound greeted me, informing me that the line was disconnected.

I leaned against the wall of the booth, feeling dizzy due to the newfound information. I cried for everything then. I cried for the fact that I left my family back home just because I couldn't stand seeing my parents separated, which now led to my mom being sick. I cried for all the lies I had uttered to Natsume. I cried that now reality had caught up with me and that I knew I must return home. I cried for the fact that I had fallen in love with Natsume. And I cried because I had to make one of the most difficult decisions in my life now.

It was like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea indeed.

I called my mother. It turned out that she was fine, or so she said, but yes, she was sick. Not a deadly sickness kind of thing though. She said that she was happy that I called; she had been worried sick for the past months. She wanted me to know that she had decided to give my dad another chance; they didn't get a divorce like they originally planned. She said she was sorry for pushing me before, for making me did the things I didn't like.

She wanted me to come home. And I agreed.

I didn't know why I agreed, nor did I know why I felt like I had to agree. I couldn't be a badass even if I wanted to; I was too much of a softie. Mom asked me for a second chance, she even got dad on the phone, and he told me that they decided not to get a divorce.

But could someone change so much over a course of three months? Had it really been three months since I last saw them?

I made my choice. I had printed out a map from the beat-up computer in the living room (it took almost twenty minutes for it to boot, for God's sake) and this time, I came prepared, not like my first escapade. I didn't know how I would reach the town; I merely relied on my luck. Hopefully, there would be a kind guy who would give me a lift.

Night had fallen and the inhabitants of the Hyuuga household had fallen into a deep sleep. Well, I didn't check, but judging from the eerie silence, they should be asleep. People in this village were entirely different from city people, mainly because they slept much earlier than city people. Oh, how I missed waking up late.

As I walked further away from the farm, I couldn't help but stop on my heels and cast one last glance at the house. It was dark, like any other house in the village. Natsume would be sleeping by now, not having any idea that I wasn't in his house anymore.

It would be the biggest lie of all if I said that I wouldn't miss him. I would miss his stoic face, his gentle smiles, his pathetic attempt at cracking a joke, his cold crimson eyes, and most importantly, I would miss his touch. For the past three months, seeing him was the highlight of my day. Before I met him, I never thought it was possible to love someone, considering how my parents fare in that department.

But he made me believe. He made me fall in love with him.

I wanted nothing more but to stay with him for the rest of my life, no matter how corny that sounded. But this wasn't a fairytale, this was real life. Even a fairytale had an ending, and this . . . this was my ending.

I turned my back on the house as I wiped my tears. I squared my shoulder and began walking away heavily. I explained everything to him on a letter; that I had been lying to him all these time. I didn't tell him the absolute truth, but I did tell him what my lies were. He would hate me, but at least I wouldn't be burdened with the thoughts that I never came clean to him.

That letter and the apology in that letter was the only thing I could offer him.

He had captured my heart, whether he knew it or not. But I couldn't stay here, and he couldn't go with me either. Both of us had our own responsibility. Perhaps, one day, if fate wanted us to be together, we would meet again and be together then. However, I had no way of knowing if it would happen. It was the end of the story between the city girl and the farm boy.

And again, I lied to him, I thought as I recalled the parting words in my letter.

Two hearts not captured.

"Hotaru!" I whined.

"What?" she asked nonchalantly as she looked at the milk with disgust. She had always hated milk, which, frankly saying, was very weird. Milk tasted real good and it was good for our health. Hating milk should be a crime.

"You should drink it. It's good for your health," I said sternly.

"No. This stuff is disgusting. Why did you get me milk, not coffee?" she asked sharply.

"Well, you have to learn to drink milk. Don't you know how hard it is to milk a cow? If you're even a little nervous, the cow would kick you! Think of the sacrifices made by those ranchers," I huffed.

She raised an eyebrow. "And how would you know, Miss I-Live-In-The-City-Since-Forever?"

I fell silent. I had never told anybody of where I was during those three months, and I felt like I should never tell them. It was a very private experience for me. I sighed inwardly, suddenly reminded of Natsume. I missed him terribly, though I did nothing to seek him out. I was afraid of rejection, afraid that "us: might not work out.

After all, he was the farm boy and I was the city girl: two very different entities.

"Mikan?" Hotaru asked.

"Oh! Well, I just know, I watched someone doing it," I said defensively. Of course she didn't know that I was doing that for three months.

"Really?" Hotaru smirked.

"Yeah, it's pretty easy, you know. I can even do it myself," I said. Hotaru had a devious look on her face.

"I have to say that she's pretty good at it, though she did a shitty job on collecting eggs," a voice said from behind me. I gasped, thinking that I had just gone crazy. Was that really Natsume's voice or was I turning into a schizo?

I turned around and there he was, in all his glory. He had his stoic mask as usual, but there was a mischievous glint in his eyes. He was real, he was standing right in front of me, in my university's cafeteria.

"Na-Natsume?" I asked unsurely. "What are you doing here?"

He merely waved the blazer emblazoned with the university emblem. Then he said, "Two hearts not captured? I disagree."

And as cheesy as it might sound, it seemed I was getting my happily ever after.


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