These Aren't Tears, Romeo

Disclaimer: Tearless Sonnet does not own Gakuen Alice.

Author's Note: Reviews are very much welcomed. This is an entry for the Kill-Natsume contest (or as I like to call it DIE-NATSUME-DIE contest). A very big thank you to all my friends and supporters in FFN, and also to all the authors who are moving on from this place. You have all made a big impression on me, and I hope that all of you reach a state where you are all comfortable and happy.

This story has been inspired by Chapter 28: The Grey Ribbon of Love2Love's Harry Potter fanfiction, The Initiation. Many thanks to her as well. Please go read it when you have the time; I swear you won't be disappointed.


Mikan had never liked Natsume. Not really. He was a jerk, a pervert (she would never forget the day she first met him; he stole her underwear and called her Polka Dots in honor of the occasion), and he was just a plain sadist.

But she was a teeny bit sad when he died.

And okay, maybe she cried a little too—a few nights at the most, but that was to be expected. They used to be friends after all.

Used to be—that hit a sore spot. There was a lot of things she hated about death, but what she hated most was the past tense. She didn't know what to say whenever someone asked her, "Did you hear? Natsume Hyuuga died in a fire last week, it's so sad." What was she supposed to say?

"Oh," was what she replied when she had managed to stop the choking feeling in her throat, "I knew him. We were friends," but it never felt right.

To be honest, the whole ordeal itself was very confusing.

"Hey."

Mikan looked up from class 2-B's attendance record book (she was put in charge of after school duties that day, unfortunately) and smiled weakly. "Hi, Ruka."

The blonde boy sat down in the desk beside hers and watched her write. Mikan paused in her work and glanced at him. "Was there something you needed?"

Ruka was silent for a while. She stared at him for a few seconds, feeling stupid, and then turned back to the attendance.

His voice was quiet, so quiet that at first she thought she imagined it. "They want you to give a speech at his wake."

She blinked twice in surprise. "A... speech?" He nodded wordlessly, looking very forlorn. "For..."

She didn't want to say his name. Not because it hurt to remember him, but because she knew Ruka would be hurt. He was—or was it 'is'? Ugh, stupid past tense—his best friend, at least before he died.

"Yeah," said Ruka. "For Natsume."

Mikan bit her lip. Ruka seemed fine with saying his name, so why was she the one who felt that painful stab in her chest?

It just wasn't fair. She wasn't even that close to Natsume, anyway.

She turned back to her work and didn't say anything, but she could feel Ruka gazing holes into her. They didn't speak for the longest time, and the blonde stood up to leave, until she finally decided to say something.

"When is it?"

Ruka stopped halfway out the door. "This Saturday," he said, and left.

Saturday, that's in three days. Mikan groaned and laid her head on top of the desk. Why had they picked her to make a speech, anyway? She was Natsume's friend, sure, but she didn't really know him too well. Other than that he was a jerk, a pyro, perverted, his favorite color was red, he had a little sister named Aoi... You know, the things a normal friend would know. And then, there was also the things she knew as a closer-than-a-friend-but-I-swear-we're-just-friends friend—how he seemed to be surrounded by many people, but only had a handful of friends (which she was proud to count herself in), how despite his rude personality, he was one of the kindest persons she knew, and how he sacrificed so much for their sake.

But it wasn't like she loved him. Pshh. No way.

He was just so different from all the people she had met. Was it so impossible to like a person who was so selfless and not expect anything in return? And she didn't like like him, she just...

What did she feel for him, anyway? Mikan buried her head in her arms and sighed. Thinking hurt too much. How could Hotaru stand it?

She finished writing the last of the names in the attendance record book and stood up, placing it in the drawer of the teacher's desk. She sighed again, stretching her arms above her head and yawning.

There was so much homework to do. And there was that speech to write as well. Ugh. Just—ugh. She was supposed to be forgetting about Natsume, actually. She had wasted too many tears for a guy she claimed was only 'friends' with.

It was always 'Mikan and Natsume' or 'Natsume and Mikan' for the student body of Alice Academy. There was no helping it; if you thought of one, you thought of the other. They were a package deal.

But sometimes Mikan really hated it. It was annoying how they all misunderstood her relationship with Natsume—they were too close to be more than friends. Really. But no one believed her.

Oh no, she thought to herself morosely. I'm just confusing myself. First she says she isn't close enough to him to make a stupid speech, and the next moment they're 'too close to be more than friends'?

Maybe she was as stupid as people told her.

Mikan rubbed her eyes sleepily as she walked back to her dorm room. She closed the door and jumped into her bed, feeling worn out. She didn't even eat dinner yet. But she was just so tired... There was still homework to do. But her bed feels so warm... She still had to write that speech. But the wake was in three days, and Natsume was just too painful a subject to write about. She would save it for the last day.

With this thought in mind, Mikan Sakura drifted into a dreamless sleep, the first since a certain raven-haired boy had passed away in a fire accident.

*

Before she knew it, two days had passed and it was already Friday night. Mikan was spread out across her bed, with a piece of paper and a pen in hand.

She stared at the blank sheet and groaned. How was she supposed to write a speech for a wake?

Natsume was a dear friend of mine and

No. She crossed it out.

Death is inevitable. This applies to everyone, even Natsume Hyuuga, strong and handsome as he may be

Double no.

Natsume has moved on from this life; he would want us to move on as well with our lives, meet new people

She stopped in her writing. She just couldn't do this. It was too hard. Maybe she should tell them she couldn't do it and... No. It was too last minute, and besides, this was the only thing she could do for all he had done for her. She realized that even when she mourned, she had never really said anything to Natsume. Hell, she didn't even admit it to herself.

So what's the point of making a speech, then? a small voice whispered convincingly. She blocked that little voice in her head and concentrated on the blank piece of paper.

An hour had passed, and all she had come up with were a few crossed out, incomplete sentences and a doodle of a suspicious-looking boy with jet black hair, a glare on his face, and a flame ball in his hand.

She rolled on her back and stared at the ceiling, unblinking.

"THIS IS NOT FAIR AT ALL CAN'T YOU SEE I'M HURTING INSIDE AND I REALLY WISH YOU'D NEVER LEFT DON'T GO AND LEAVE ME HERE BY MYSELF STUPID NATSUME!"

And, ignoring her inner self with the huge ego, she broke down and cried.

*

It was too late to realize that today was the day of the wake and she hadn't written anything at all.

"Natsume was a great friend, a great student, no matter his bad habits." Mr. Narumi smiled sadly as he stared at the picture of the fire caster beside the podium. "Thank you, Natsume Hyuuga, for being a wonderful human being." He went down the stage to sit beside Mr. Misaki, looking ready to burst into tears.

Mikan walked up to the stage, eyes red from crying so much and dressed completely in red. She stood out from the crowd like a blimp in a field of daisies, eyes trailing after her.

She had nothing in her hands as she stood in front of the podium, a sad smile on her face.

"If you're going to ask why I'm not wearing black, it's because red is his favorite color. Not 'was' his favorite color. Just because he's dead doesn't mean that it isn't. Natsume... he... he was much more than a friend, a son, a brother, a classmate, a boy... He was Natsume. Natsume Hyuuga. It's very strange for me to speak for him like this. I think he'd want to do it for himself, considering how much of a selfish bastard he is."

The crowd 'oohed' at the right moment, mothers shielding their innocent children's ears.

Mikan smiled. "Then again, he was also the most selfless person I've ever met. Did you know how we first met? He pulled off my underwear and escaped on a flying bird."

She couldn't look at any of the members of the audience, so she just concentrated on a black spot on the far wall. "It's hard to tell what I've always liked about Natsume, because there aren't many. There are a lot of things I don't like about him, though. But it's all those mistakes and imperfections of him that make him who he is. My Natsume. Ruka's Natsume. Aoi's Natsume." She let out a soft laugh. "And yeah, Permy's Natsume, too."

She saw, from out of the corner of her eye, a head of tussled green hair buried in her hands.

"Ruka, you were Natsume's best friend. You knew him more than anyone did. You knew him more than I did. Did you know that I used to be jealous of you two? Because you were so close. I thought that nothing would ever change that." She stared at the blonde boy, sitting in back row. She laughed. "Ruka, just because he's dead doesn't mean that you aren't best friends anymore. I bet, he's up there right now, watching you. Don't get this the wrong way," she said hurriedly. "He's no stalker. Well, yeah, he's a pervert, but I'm sure he's that way only to me, the prick." A round of laughter lit the audience.

"If Natsume were here right now and saw that long face of yours, he'd probably say you looked like your best friend died." Mikan smiled sadly at Ruka, who was covering his eyes. "But it's true. Natsume did die. And he is your best friend. Take note of the present tense," she added.

"Natsume won't ever come back. It took me a long time to acknowledge this, but I did. And that's still something some of you out there need to do. He wouldn't have wanted people to cry over him, would he? His ego would be inflated more than ever. But I just can't carry on living, like he never existed. I'll never forget him, but I miss him every day."

She swallowed and closed her eyes. "The accident could have been anyone's fault. You could say it was the janitor's fault, for noticing the malfunction in the incinerator too late and not fixing it at once. You could say it was his parents' fault, for giving birth to him. You could say it was the person who created that place, the place where he died. You could even say it was the whole institution, for giving us the seventeenth of June, because that was the day he died.

"Hotaru," she said, turning to her best friend, who looked as emotionless as usual. "You and Natsume were never so close, but I'm sure he still misses the feeling of your baka gun on his head.

"And Koko, Natsume was always grateful to you, did you know? You knew his secrets, but always kept them. You always did the best for him. You were his friend till the end.

"You know, Permy—Sumire." She glanced at the green bob still quivering in the far end. "I know you think Natsume hated you, but he didn't. During the last few weeks before he—he went, you became good friends. Natsume, I'm sure, always appreciated what you've done for him. He may not have loved you the way you wanted him to, but he loved you as a sister, as a friend. I think that's better than nothing, eh?"

Sumire nodded at her and buried her face in her hands again.

"Youichi, Natsume looked at you as if you were himself. Albeit younger. You were exactly like him in so many ways; he wanted to guide you to be someone great. I would have wanted you to become someone like Natsume, because he was great.

"Natsume, to me, was someone I thought would always be there. Even if things changed, even if people changed, Natsume would always stay the same. He would still call me names, tease me, and just... I thought he would always be waiting for me, at the Sakura tree. That was his trademark, wasn't it? The Sakura tree." Mikan laughed, trying to disguise the hysteria that had suddenly taken her voice. It hurt remembering their tree.

"At first, it used to be off limits to anyone but him and Ruka. But, not to sound conceited here, I came and was let in. It was surprising, even to me. He wasn't the type to readily accept people. But he accepted me, and that made me feel special.

"Natsume was a wonderful person. For his eleventh birthday, I gave him a picture. You may think I'm being cheap here, but I'm not." She didn't smile, and so the audience didn't. "That picture held a lot of memories. Everyone was in it. I was right beside him too, in that picture. Youichi was in his lap. We looked so happy, even though he wasn't smiling."

She swallowed thickly. Her eyes swept through the crowd, lingering a few moments longer on familiar faces. She turned to face his picture. "You were a great person. I may have said I hated you, but didn't mean it. Not really. You got on my nerves sometimes—most of the time—but," she struggled to get the last words out, "I loved you. I really did.

"They say that when you love someone, you have to let them go. But I loved you too much, Natsume. I loved you too much to let you go." A lot of the women in the crowd looked ready to cry, right then and there. Most of them already were. Actually, she felt like crying herself. But she held it in. She promised that when she cried, it wouldn't be in front of everyone. She was fed up with being weak.

"And then, you were taken away from me. Just like that." She snapped her fingers and looked down. "To be honest, I didn't know what to feel. Was I supposed to hate you for leaving? Was I supposed to be sad? Angry? Lonely?" A laugh escaped her lips, but it sounded hoarse and broken.

"I was all those things. And you have no idea how much I cried for you. But not anymore. I won't cry." She turned to face the crowd.

"It could have been anyone who had died in that fire. But being the selfless idiot that he is," the crowd laughed a little again, but with tear-streaked faces, "he had to go in, with that hero-complex that he has, and save everyone. Sorry Natsume, but when you were too caught up saving everyone else, you forgot to save yourself."

Her throat was feeling strange right now, so she had to stop before continuing with her on-the-spot speech. "You left everyone here behind. But what everyone needs to realize is that he isn't coming back. Natsume Hyuuga isn't coming back to us anymore. We'll have to live our lives without him there, no matter how hard it may be.

"There are a lot of things I wished I did, could have done, and still can do. I wanted to do them all, but with you," she spoke to the picture again. "But that doesn't mean that I'll forget about you. Or care about you. Or love you. Because you'll always be here." And she raised her hand to rest over her chest, despite how cliché and cheesy it may look.

"I love you Natsume. Take care," she said, holding both hands over her heart, closing her eyes, and giving a small bow to the picture. Then she stepped down the stage and walked away.

She heard the loud applause as she walked out the door, but she didn't go back. She walked to their Sakura tree and sat down under it, wondering if she could have ever made him stay.

I love you, Natsume. Take care.