Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Tachibana Higuchi. The rest is mine. :)
Dedication: IndigoGrapefruit. BECAUSE IT'S HER BIRTHDAY TODAY AND MY STORY IS INFERIOR TO HER GREATNESS. Wish her happy birthday! :)
From: My Hopeless Romantic and Heartbroken Confession. (And Romantically Loveless, kinda, because she snuck in and asked you questions for this!)


Escapes from Reality


Because we're all looking for an escape.



Knight in Shining Armor

Koko breathes in deeply, eyes darting quickly when he hears a rustle deep within the Northern Forest. It's dark, but that's no surprise. She's always had a habit of running through the dark and he's always had a habit of chasing her.

It's ridiculous, really.

He's about to activate his Alice when he glimpses a bit of her dress peeking out from behind a tree and tries not to roll his eyes at her attempt to flee from him. He decides to give her a chance to give herself up. "Miss Shouda, your father does not condone this behavior. The more trouble you cause, the harsher your punishment. You know that."

He sees her dress disappear from behind the tree and can hear her feet patter against the soil and grass of the woods. He sighs good naturedly, "Miss Shouda, I will use me Alice if you don't speak up."

She hisses at him. "You're not allowed to use your Alice around me! Papa forbid you."

"I'm sure he won't mind, considering the circumstances," Koko says idly, hating the fact that his armor is clinking loudly. She could probably hear him from a mile away! No wonder she thought she could get away from him. "You're being childish."

"I am not being childish, Sir Yome!" Her voice wavers, "You couldn't possibly understand. You are but a knight. Once you become a prince and have all of the same responsibilities that I have, maybe then I could care about your opinion! As it is, however, you could never understand. So let me go. I beg of you!"

He appears behind her, quietly, as she chokes through her speech and he winces at the gasp that immediately escapes her lips. Her face is pale white. Her lips are pale and plump but trembling in the cold and he really must repress the need to snort at her in amusement. She's donned her travelling frock and has pulled on a pair of trousers that she wears underneath her sleeping gown.

This escape was planned, he knows, but even if she's managed to deceive her chaperone, he wonders how she could ever think she could deceive him. He looks at her again, trembling with fury in her travelling boots and her hair still braided into the plait she wears to bed.

He can't help but think she's adorable, believing she could actually run away from her kingdom when she's so terribly ill-prepared. "Come," he orders her, offering up a hand, "—I've already alerted Sir Hyuuga and he's given me an hour to search and take you back to the castle. We've only got a quarter of an hour left before he goes and wakes up your father. Do you want the whole castle and kingdom to learn of your plans, Miss Shouda?"

"No," she whispers quietly, green eyes bright within the moonlight. "Please don't, Koko. Please."

His name. She's called him by his first name.

It is taboo and completely inappropriate, but he feels a chill of pleasure from the way she says his name. Koko tamps it down and immediately shakes his head. "Come," he moves a step closer, nudging one of her pale, small fingers. "We must return to the castle."

"I do not wish to," she whispers again, sniffling. He's just about to make a move to grab her hand and throw her over his shoulders when she launches her small body at him and presses her face into his armored chest. She's hugging him. It's strange, Koko thinks, but not at all disagreeable. If anything, he rather likes the feel of her soft, small body pressed against his.

"Come away with me."


She presses further into his arms, but doesn't look up. "Come away with me, Koko. Run away from here. With me. We can finally be together without… without people judging us and looking down on us. We can finally love each other without my father telling us otherwise and without Natsume telling you to do your duty, not fall in love, and oh Koko, I love you."

He swallows thickly but makes no move to hold her back, though he desperately wants to. They aren't supposed to be like this. It goes against all rules about hierarchy and status, about morals and… and everything! But…

She looks up at him, then, green eyes glittering with unshed tears and shining with affection. "Koko, run away with me. Say you will."

"Miss Shouda, your whole kingdom will come after you and if they find out that I've run away too, they'll kill me once they've caught up to us and—"

"They won't," she says firmly, as if she truly believes her small figure and his armor and maybe a sack of gold can honestly save them from a kingdom of knights and soldiers. It's ridiculous, it's—

"It's the only way I can love you."

He looks at her, this time, and puts one of his hands on her cheek. Despite protests from his brain and conscience, he swallows and ducks down, pressing a rough kiss against her cold lips. She grapples onto his armor, trying to deepen the kiss and he pulls away quickly at the sound of voices within the distance.

She looks startled, pressing a hand to her lips, but he takes it quickly.

He looks her in the eyes and smirks, "Let's run."


Thieving Pirate on a Ship

"Oi, Captain!"

Koko turns, rather annoyed, to see the face of one of his crewmembers, Mochu. The man is grinning, displaying a row of gleaming white teeth and that one golden tooth he'd acquired from a man during the skirmish with the infamous rogue Chinese fleet. Koko thinks it looks ridiculous on him.

"What is it?"

"Natsume needs your help with something. It's urgent, he says."

Koko cracks his jaw and looks into the distance. The sun has gone down and he barely has to squint his eyes at the rapid waters as dusk approaches quickly. "Where's the girl?"

"She's where she's supposed to be. In your cabin, sir," Mochu answers quickly, hoping to please. "But I have t'say, Captain, the strategist looked like he was ready to tear her head off the last I saw them. He told me to tell you to teach your women to behave."

Koko chuckles roughly, grinning at the thought of the green-haired beauty locked in his room. They had captured her a few days ago going through the pass by the Philippines and had encountered a merchant ship carrying some travelers to Vietnam. When he'd first set eyes on the fiery lass, he'd known she'd be his.

It had been a good day, he remembers, turning away from the sea and setting off toward his room. "Alright, Mochu. Get back to your post. I'll deal with the spitfire myself."

By the time Koko gets two meters from his room, he hears the screaming within his room and the rough knocks pounding on his door. He laughs for all of three seconds before the noise grates at his nerves and he roars at her to stop the ruckus.

"Make me, you coward!"

He fights the urge to be amused and offended by her lack of respect. He is captain aboard this ship, dammit. She should be fearing for her life! They are pirates, but most of all, they are men. And she is but a woman. What does she think she can do?

From off to the side, Koko sees his strategist, Hyuuga, standing by his office by the wheel with a murderous look to his crimson eyes. When he catches sight of him, Hyuuga marches over and all but glares at the door. He calls Sumire a nasty name that makes Koko laugh before snarling, "That woman will be the death of this ship."

"That's what you said about the last one we brought here," Koko admonishes lightly, grinning at the scowl on his friend's face. "And I'm sure you haven't forgotten the fact that you've gone and married her, Natsume."

"That is beside the point. If you don't do something about the noise, I will throw her overboard," Natsume warns, cracking his knuckles. "Don't think that I won't," he says, stalking back to his office.

Koko merely shakes his head and walks back to his cabin, throwing the doors open, ignoring the fact that Sumire is sitting on her butt, pink in the face. "You! Let me off the ship this instant!"

"Well," Koko starts, sitting at the chair in his study, "—funny you should say that, my mate Natsume was just saying he wanted to throw you to sea."

She swallows loudly. "I meant land."

"We won't be landing for a while." He looks at her in her travelling clothes. The corset she is wearing under her dress does wonders to her shapely figure and the dress, though nothing extravagant, is the color of deep blue, which sets off her eyes. She looks beautiful, he thinks.

"Are you listening to me?!"

Now, if only she didn't speak as much, he would like her much better. She's standing up and she's coming toward him with a furious look to her eyes. Koko smirks, standing up to his full height and stalking toward her, "I'm done listening, my lovely. But I can think of a few things I'd like to do with those lips."

She raises her eyebrow, not at all impressed, before her eyes widen and her eyes dart toward the door. He curses when he realizes he's forgotten to draw the lock and that she's already halfway to escape. "Don't you dare think—"

She's out the door and running past crewmen and the like as if her life is depending on it, and they watch her, either wondering if months at sea were addling their minds or if the prisoner had really managed to escape from their captain. Koko mentally curses.

He half curses because she's ridiculous, thinking she could get away on a ship far away from land and half smirks because all of those looks she's getting from his men. He knows she's damn beautiful and she's all his.

"Get down from there, sweets," Koko drawls smoothly, offering her a hand as she totters precariously with one foot on the edge of his ship and her other foot resting on the plank. "You know you're not brave enough to jump and you're too pretty to die. If you come down real quiet, Koko'll reward you right. I'll marry you, if that's whatcha want. Pirate's honor."

There's a roar of laughter from behind him and Koko smirks at the look of disgust on the girl's face. "I hate you, why in blue blazes would I want to marry you?!"

"Because you'll get all of the jewels and riches your little heart desires," Koko says idly, taking a step closer to her and offering up his hand once more. "C'mon, Permy, stop vying for attention. I'll give you the attention you want when we get back to my room."

There's another series of guffaws from his men. Koko watches Sumire's lip pull back in a snarl. "You're disgusting. I'd never marry you, even if you weren't a pirate!"

"Oh, now that just hurts."

"Oh yeah?" she says, green eyes blazing with fire, "—not as much as this. You want me so bad, Captain?" At his answer, she smirks in a way that makes her look downright sexy before she grabs the hand he's been offering her and pulls lightly on his fingers. "If you want me so bad, come join me."

And then she pulls the both of them off the ship's edge and into the freezing water.

Koko half curses, because she's hot when she's angry, and half prays, because he will be damned if he dies before he's gotten a chance to kiss her.


Blood Sucking Vampire

He doesn't know what's happening, but he knows the girl he's been eyeing from across the room is now sitting on his lap and she's humming this strange, mystifying tune in his ear that is making him want to take her lips and crush them with his.

Not that he didn't want to do that a minute before.

But with her so unbearably close, the prospect of it is much more possible and Koko, being the teenage boy he is, who has never been as popular as Natsume or Ruka, can't help but want to take this chance while it's here because hello?! A hot girl is on his lap and her lips are close to his neck and if that doesn't mean she's interested in him, then Koko's brain is terribly misguided.

She chuckles hotly against his neck. "You smell delicious."

Uh… okay.

Koko remembers coming to the party after soccer practice and is pretty sure the stale air in Kitsuneme's living room didn't magically make all of the man odor and sweat from practice disappear.

The girl totally likes him.

She giggles against his neck and peels herself away from his lap. She stands up, flipping her dark green hair over her shoulder, before offering a hand to him. "Will you come with me?"

There's a siren at the back of his mind telling him this is way too good to be true, but she's smiling at him in a way that could make him agree to anything. She pulls him by the hand out the front doors. "Where are we going?" He says somewhat dazed.

She laughs into the night and sends him a blinding smile. "You'll see."

"Uh, 'kay," Koko lets her lead him out. His free hand comes up to the back of his head and he scratches it sheepishly, partly because he doesn't know what to do and partly because he's kind of itchy. And he doesn't know this girl's name. "By the way, I'm Koko."

She tosses a look at him from over her shoulder and grins. "Yeah, I know."

So she's been asking about me, Koko thinks, nice.

They've been walking for a while and she's been humming that tune that seems kinda familiar and kinda off. And she still hasn't told him her name. He finds that kind of strange. He has always imagined his first girlfriend wanting to tell him her name the first time they meet, Koko remembers. And he really would like this girl to be his first girlfriend. Mochu would freak.

"So…what's your name?" Koko says, in a voice he hopes sounds like Natsume's.

She purses her lips a bit and Koko wonders why she needs to deliberate telling him or not. It's a harmless question, right? … Right?

"Well, alright," the girl shrugs, flashing her pearly whites again. "I don't see why not. My name's Sumire. Sumire Shouda."

Before Koko can make any comment about her name, Sumire pulls him into an alleyway a ways from Kitsuneme's house and shoves him against the cool cement wall. He curses the small whimper that escapes his lips and opens his eyes in time to see her eyes gleaming. If he's being truthful in this strange situation, the vicious glint in her eye makes her look extremely hot.

"Wh-what are you doing?"

She continues to hum that song in his ear while her lips close around a patch of skin on his neck. Her lips are warm and moist and Koko doesn't know whether he should be excited or extremely concerned. Did things like this happen to Natsume and Ruka when they left with girls on their arms? He hoped so.

He bites his lip. "What are you doing?"

"Don't you like this?" she says in a flirty voice.

"I don't know. It's kind of weird," he says honestly. And then he seems to recognize that song she keeps on half humming and half singing. "Are you humming the Wedding March already?" He half laughs. It's ridiculous. She's already singing that song and they've only just met!

She hums a yes. "But there's a twist to it. Do you recognize it?"

Her arms are around his shoulders, playing with his hair and Koko can't really seem to focus on her rendition of the Wedding March, even if she's humming it right into his ear. He tells her so, and this makes her laugh. "It's Chopin's," she says lightly, teeth grazing his neck. "The Funeral March."

"That's a bit creepy."

"You think? I kinda like it," Sumire chuckles into his neck. "It's fitting."

Koko is a bit confused and tells her so. She merely laughs, leans back and flashes her teeth at him once more. He doesn't quite know how he missed her teeth but her incisors are incredibly long and white. She reminds him of something he's heard those ridiculous (but pretty) girls in his class talk about.

He can't quite remember because Sumire is running a tongue over one of the incisors. It's incredibly hot. She huffs and puts a hand on her hip. "You still haven't gotten it, have you?"

"Uh… no?" Koko tries not to sound like an idiot. "Was there something to get? I thought we were just going to make out."

She rolls her eyes. "I'm a vampire, you idiot. Did you not get the whole neck biting and licking and the fact that I said your blood smelled good? My God."

"I'm sorry? When a girl comes up to me and drags me out of a party, I'd like to think we're going to make out and stuff."

She gives him a look that makes him squirm before she's pressing herself against him once again. "You know, for an idiot, you're still kind of cute. You should be mine."


"Tell me, Koko," she says lightly, nipping playfully at his neck. "Wanna join the Children of the Night?" She leans her head back to laugh before looking him in the face once more and smiling. "Well, you don't really get a choice. Welcome, in advance, to my world."

And then she bites and he feels like he's drowning.


Sneaky Ninja from Konoha

"You're lagging behind."

Koko sends Natsume a look before rolling his eyes. "She's not a ninja, Natsume. Of course she's going to be lagging behind."

Natsume takes one look at him, darts a look back at the merchant's daughter who's sweating and huffing about five meters behind them, and raises an eyebrow. "Well, since you're so understanding, why don't you pick her up so that we can finish this? It's an insult that we should get a C-rank mission when Polka Dots—Polka Dots!—gets the A-rank."

"You really have to get over that," Luna says from the side, flipping her blue hair back and gazing up at the dying sun and twirling a kunai idly around her finger. "Sakura may be an idiot, but she's never failed a mission before. It's like no attacks ever hit her; it's amazing."

"I thought you hated her," Natsume scowls. "You even framed her for that forbidden scroll going missing for the better part of half a year."

There's a snort from the female member of their poorly assembled team before Koko hears her replying, "Just because I can acknowledge the fact that she's lucky, and everybody favors her, and her jutsus are rather good, doesn't mean I like her. Heaven forbid. I still want to gouge her eyes out every time I see her. She's so bloody annoying and well, stupid."

"Won't argue with you there."

"Uh guys?" Koko looks back, eyeing the poor girl who hasn't complained once even though they've been walking for at least three hours. "She looks like she's going to faint any second. Shouldn't we take a break right about now?"

Luna stops in her tracks and looks back at the girl with an obviously disgruntled look on her face. She hefts her pack more securely over her shoulders before shrugging. "Natsume and I will run up another quarter mile and get a fire and dinner going." She sighs, "I was hoping we'd get further than this but with Little Miss Frail over there weighing us down, it won't be another two days until we get to her village."

Natsume doesn't say a word, so Koko does. "Luna, could you shut up for five minutes? Yeah, thanks."

She glares at him. "Just for that, you can make your own food."

Natsume snorts, before Koko turns resolutely away from them and bounds toward their charge. She all but collapses on him when he offers her a hand. "You guys are going way too fast," the girl huffs. He knows her name is Sumire Shouda, but Shouda nor Sumire sound right on his tongue. "Where are they going?"

"They're going on ahead and starting to set up camp for the night. By the time we get to where they are, you can just dive into your sleeping bag and sleep. You look exhausted." Koko takes the two bags from her shoulders and the relief from her body visibly brightens her face. She sends him a weak smile and brushes a strand of dark green hair from her face, fanning herself.

"Thanks, Koko. I'll take it back in five minutes when I catch my breath."

Koko shakes his head and tries not to blush. She's really nice. "No, that's okay. You've barely got anything in these anyway."

She looks at him incredulously. "Are you kidding? Those are freakin' heavy."

"If it's heavy for you and light for me, the more reason for me to carry it," Koko shrugs, sending her one of his huge grins.

She narrows her eyes at him, somewhat annoyed, before she shakes her head ruefully and chuckles. "You're kind of weird. And I don't think your friends like me very much."

"That's not true. Luna and Natsume are both pretty arrogant. Natsume never likes being burdened, but he'll help you out of a pinch when it counts. As for Luna, she was thrown into our group because nobody else wanted her. She's competent as a ninja but she's such a bitc—"

"Okay, okay," Sumire stops him with a laugh. "And where were you going with this?"

Koko looks up at the sky and tries to concentrate but he really can't get back to his train of thought. "I have no idea."

"I was thinking about just giving up and letting you guys walk ahead of me," she confesses after a minute. "It's just… really hard to keep up with you. I swear, I felt like fainting for the longest time and I'd always get ready to ask for a break but then I'd look at you guys and you're just chatting away without breaking a sweat or anything and I just…" she sighs heavily and looks away.

He stops in front of her and barricades her path. "Hey, listen to me. We're not going to go on without you. That kind of defeats the purpose of this mission… besides, if you really do need a break, just ask for it. Luna'll probably bitch for a bit and Natsume will have that annoyed look on his face, but they're not heartless."

"I know they're not heartless," Sumire says with a roll of her eyes, "—I just don't like … this," she points at the area between them. "Koizumi and Hyuuga are way ahead of us and here you are, having to wait for me. It sucks being the burden."

Koko thinks about this, kicking once at the sandy path. "Well, if you're really that concerned about it, you can just jump on my back and I'll carry you."

She looks at him, half horrified and half flabbergasted. "That's degrading!"

"It's practical," Koko deadpans. "Natsume can carry one of your bags and you can wear the other one on your back. It'll be fine. Actually, I can't believe I didn't think of that before." He chucks his backpack on the ground and gets down on one knee, his back to her and his arms ready to hold her legs. "Get on."

"I am not getting a piggy back ride from you, Koko."

"Do you want to be a burden? C'mon," Koko sighs, looking over his shoulder and raising an eyebrow. He fights the urge to kick her legs out from under her, because she's just standing there with her arms crossed and this stubborn (cute) frown on her face and they're wasting time. "Look, you're tired and I'm freakin' muscular as hell. You do the math."

She shakes her head. "You're ridiculous."

"Come," he says, looking at her seriously, already taking her bag and his in either hand. "I will ask two more times."

She looks at him, confused, before reluctantly stepping forward and climbing onto his back. "I feel like such an idiot," she mumbles beside his ear, wrapping her arms loosely around his neck.

Koko merely hums and thinks she's incredibly light.

He could do this all day.


Haunting Ghosts

Koko wakes up with a start.

His body is startlingly hot. He can feel the sweat curling down his back and collecting at his brow and his head feels incredibly fuzzy. But he knows, despite all of these things, that he is not hallucinating.

She's back.

"Sumi," he whispers softly, watching as Sumire flickers and turns from his window seat. The sight of her makes him swallow thickly. Oh Sumire…Sumi, Sumi…

"Why the long face?" she tilts her head. She raises an eyebrow at him and checks her nails and the action makes him want to cry. "You know, you've been sleeping for a while. I tried waking you up myself because it's incredibly boring just hanging out in your room, but you just wouldn't wake up. It was kinda weird."

Koko swallows again. "I missed you."

She stills and looks up at him curiously. She drops her arms and walks toward his bed, all the way saying, "Are you okay? You're kind of… I dunno, sweet. It's kinda creepy. Usually you get crazy cranky in the morning."

Koko looks out the window and notes, it's not morning.

"And you're quiet," Sumire says softly, leaning over his bed. "You alright? You look like you've seen a ghost."

He stiffens and smiles weakly when she repeats her concern. "I'm fine, I'm fine. It's just… new house. I guess I'm just not used to it."

"What are you talking about?" She looks around his room, baffled, and rolls her eyes. "You're a moron, Koko. If you think I'm that naïve, you're even more of an idiot than I'd thought. It's the same, just like every other morning." At the look on his face, Sumire peers closer. "Are you sure you're okay? You're different."

"Touch me," he whispers. "Sumire, touch me."

She leans away from him, somewhat alarmed. "I'm two seconds away from calling you a pervert but your face is serious." She lifts her hand to his cheek, but pauses. "I swear, if you accuse me of groping you, I will throw you out your window."

Koko blanches and snaps his eyes closed when he hears her cry, "Why… why can't I touch you?! Why…Koko what…"

Every time… every single time and it keeps getting harder. "Sumire, you're dead."

"What are you talking about," she snorts, straightening up and stepping away from his bed. "Look at me and look at you. What? Are we both dead then? I've told you before and I'll tell you again, you loser: you're not funny."

He shakes his head and wipes at the tears coming from his eyes. He can't even look at her. "No, it's just you. You're dead. You died. I'm sorry."

"You are such a joke," she scoffs, stalking to his door and grabbing at the handle. Grabbing at the handle.

The panic sets in. "Why can't I open your door? Why can I… shit, Koko. Why can I walk through your door?"

"We were fooling around in my room and the window was open and I… we were having a pillow fight and you ran out of pillows and you were running away, then you tripped over my trunk and the window was open and…" he stops and inhales a shuddering breath. He squeezes his eyes shut when her breathing slows.

"It's impossible," she says firmly and he opens his eyes. This has never happened before. She always just accepted it. "If I'm dead, then why am I here? Shouldn't I be like… frolicking in some cotton candy place above? Why am I in your room, for God's sake? How long? Was it yesterday?"

"It's been seven months, Su…" Koko whispers. "You've been coming to my room every night for seven months, even when we moved."

"You moved?" she says, confused, "—why would you want to move? What the hell, Koko? Bitch, much? Way to ditch."

"You're haunting me. You're dead and you're haunting me, Su. What the hell did you expect me to do? Lie back and wait for you to come every night? That's messed up and you know it."

"No, what's messed up is the fact that you killed me and thought you could just get away with it. I mean, moving?" Sumire scoffed acerbically. "Seriously? Bitch move, Koko."

He swallows when she advances on him with a murderous gleam to her hazy eyes. "Best friends forever. Remember that, Koko? I love you, Sumire. We'll be there for each other, thick and thin. Well, prove it. Come join me, best friend. The window's open."

She leans over him and he can feel the cool breeze of her lips on his face. It is just a breeze, nothing concrete, but it still sends a chill down his spine. Her voice is firm and unyielding. "Koko, come."


Wizards, Wands, and Wi—

"Koko? Koko!"

Koko blinks and whips his head around to the doorway in time to see Sumire put one hand on her hip and scowl at him. "What are you doing? I swear, I'm going to kill you. You've been looking at those comics for like… an hour! It's almost dinner time and I still haven't gotten Ruka-kun his birthday gift. Are you done here?"


She glares at him, stalks into the bookstore, takes his hand and slaps him in the face with it. "Wake up, you idiot! What are you even looking at?" She takes the books and comics from his hands and an incredulous expression appears on her face. "Are you serious? Harry Potter? I can understand Pirates of the Caribbean, but what is this? Naruto? The Mediator? Cinderella? What the duck, Twilight?"

She raises an eyebrow at him and promptly whacks him on the arm with the stash of literature. "We're looking for gifts for Ruka, not Natsume or Mikan or some other random person. I mean, shit Koko. Twilight?" She puts the books back in random order and heads toward the door, all the while shaking her head. "I should've known you were up to no good when you said you had the perfect gift for him."

Koko merely stares at her. It was… just a daydream?

"Koko!" Sumire snaps her fingers at the doorway. "Come here!"

Well, shit.

"What is up with you?" Sumire stomps back, grabbing him by the hand and dragging him towards the door. "I swear, this is the last time I ask you to join me to Central Town. You're hopeless! Stop dragging your feet, you dork. No, don't look at Bleach. Come!"

What was I on, you ask? Truthfully, nothing. I DON'T KNOW WHERE THIS CAME FROM. Heartbroken Confession and I were defs going to have some Naruto in a collab for Janet but we were too busy to consult and this is the result of my overly psyched, Nachos and Fanta drink mind. You can see I got a little carried away


My Hopeless Romantic

PS - I think I'm going to start taking requests for pairings, prompts, the works so send me your challenges and I'll post them onto The Space Between Dream and Reality. I find I work better with prompts. :) Send them via review/PM/Facebook?