Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Tachibana Higuchi. I do not own Parachute or Rocket to the Moon. Light Surrounding You belongs to Evermore. The rest is mine. :)
Inspiration: Hey There Delilah by The Plain White T's and a conversation I had with Romantically Loveless. Heh.
Dedication: TO EVERYONE WHO FAVORITED ME AS AN AUTHOR. I REACHED 1000 FAVORITE AUTHORS TWO WEEKS AGO. Thank you so much. :) MHR is nothing without you. Srsly.
Promises to Write
Hey! How are you?
It's been a while, huh? Well, just two weeks but it seems like it's been forever! School isn't the same without you… well, Jinno-sensei still picks on me in class and all, but everybody's a little bit sad you're gone. I was talking to Sumire just yesterday and she was saying just how much she missed seeing you.
Emphasis on the seeing, Natsume. (:
At the moment, I'm sitting in my room because it's late over here and I'm supposed to be studying for my Science test. But I can't concentrate. Do you go to school over there, Natsume? Do you have to wear uniforms like ours? I never noticed before, but our uniforms are actually really ugly. Or, at least for the boys. Plaid, Natsume. Plaid pants. I guess I never noticed before because I never really notice the uniform on you, but I see things a little more clearly now that you're gone.
And they are butt ugly.
How's your singing coming along? Have those hotshots realized how bad you are? Have you made their ears bleed yet? When are they going to send you back to Japan?
You'd better not be smoking still.
I miss you,
They were idiots when they were little, Natsume decided, strumming his guitar thoughtfully.
Mikan and him.
For some reason, he had thought making promises was a good idea, but his father had told him many things about promises and the most important thing was don't make promises you can't keep. At the time, Natsume thought he could keep his promise, but a week in America made him realize the both of them had no idea what he'd gotten himself into when he'd agreed to go to America for a record deal.
Or at least, the promise of one.
There was that word again, promise.
What they gave him was an ultimatum. You do this for us and we'll do this for you. You scratch our back and we'll scratch yours. You sing the way we want you to and we'll make you the most famous singer in the world.
But Natsume didn't do ultimatums.
"Why so hasty?" Reo stood up from his chair to put a hand on his retreating shoulder.
Roughly, Natsume shook him off and shot him a look of revulsion. "I didn't come here with you to become your slave," Natsume hissed, eyeing the look of surprise on Reo's face. "You thought I was just going to fall to my knees like the other freaks you bring here?" His glare was almost lethal, "I'm a Hyuuga. You'd best remember that."
By the time his hand was on the door, Reo had composed himself. With a smooth drawl to his voice, he bated, "What are you going to do then, Natsume Hyuuga?" Natsume remembered hating the way he slurred his whole name like a reprimanding parent. "I brought you here from Japan and here, you have nobody. How will you survive with the little talent that you have and no financial aid? I know about your parents. Or parent. I know your father didn't approve of you coming here to start your singing career. What will you do then, Hyuuga, when you've got nothing?"
Natsume didn't think. The heat from his body doubled with anger at Reo's jab about his dead mother and before he knew it he'd turned part way and said, "I'll make it further than you ever have, my way."
It was another promise, one that Reo had laughed at.
Checking his pockets, Natsume counted a few dollars and sighed.
Thank God he had enough for cigarettes.
You're really starting to worry me. It's been months now, Natsume. Months. Are you even getting these letters? You said you'd email me your phone number but you haven't done that. Are you using your old email address? That's a stupid question. I checked your email yesterday—I'm really surprised you haven't changed that password, loser—and the two emails I sent you haven't been read.
What's going on, Natsume?
I hope I haven't been sending random people these letters. If your address isn't legit, Natsume, I might just kill you in your sleep. I've sent you about forty letters, Natsume. If you're getting these, why won't you answer? Better yet, you know I'll still be at Alice Academy and you know my home address. Ji-chan would forward me your letters if you sent any. Natsume, please. Why won't you respond?
You're scaring me, Natsume.
I hope you're doing alright. At least tell me you're alright.
You promised you would.
I miss you,
When was she going to stop, he wondered.
Carefully, Natsume folded the letter back into itself and slid it slowly into the battered envelope. It had been nine months since he left Japan and still, he hadn't even begun to make his mark. Running a hand through his hair, Natsume got up from his bed, pulled out the box within his closet and fitted the letter carefully among the others, chronologically.
He had expected her to stop writing him these letters after Christmas came and went without a card from him, or anything for that matter. But she persisted. She'd even sent him a scarf with a letter saying she'd heard the snow in America was doubly intense. She probably thought he was in Boston. It was just like her to research every other state but the one he was in.
"Natsume? You're still up?"
Natsume half turned to glimpse the blond head peeking into his bedroom.
Ruka had been letting him stay at his place practically since he'd arrived in America, and though Natsume had never really gotten along with anybody other than Mikan, he couldn't help but think Ruka was his second favorite person, even if it was his girlfriend—Hotaru Imai—who had persuaded Ruka to let him stay.
Natsume gingerly replaced the cover of the box and stuffed it back into his closet before facing the blond. "Yeah, I couldn't sleep."
"You should probably see the doctor, Natsume. You haven't been able to sleep for weeks now."
Months, Natsume murmured in his head. It's been months.
Aloud, he replied, "I write better at night."
He almost smiled. He'd always answered that way when Mikan commented on his dark circles.
Ruka leaned against the doorway with a cup of what smelled like coffee in his hands. "How many songs do you have now?"
"Too many," he replied at last, a smirk gracing his lips. "You should go to sleep."
On cue, Ruka yawned and waved a hand in the air. "I have a paper due tomorrow and I'm no where near finished. But I'll see you in the morning, Natsume." He turned to go and the door was halfway closed when he stuck his head back in. "Oh, Natsume?" At his grunt, Ruka continued, "Hotaru says she wants you to call her tomorrow. She's got big news for you apparently."
Ruka narrowed his eyes slightly. "Promise, Natsume? She might come here and kill you if you don't."
With a roll of his eyes, Natsume sighed. "Yeah, yeah. I promise."
I don't even know what to say to you anymore. Did you get my last letter? I went to your father's house the other day and he told me you haven't been speaking to him either. He told me to stop sending you letters, because it's a waste of stamps and money. He told me to stop wasting my time. Do you think this is a waste of my time, Natsume?
Because I don't.
We were best friends. We are best friends.
I refuse to believe you want it to end this way. I sure don't. In a week, it will be exactly one year since you left. It will be one year since I've seen you, since I've talked to you, and to be honest, the thought makes me sad enough to cry. I miss you, Natsume. Don't you believe that? I feel like half of the reason I'm living is to make sure I don't fall off the face of the Earth and miss you walking down the street or see you drinking that nasty coffee at Grind like you used to.
Sumire went off to France for some Art school and though everyone is still very nice, I feel so lonely without you. I know you'd probably call me pathetic, that I don't have any friends other than the two of you. But Natsume, don't you see? I…I—
I don't know.
I don't know anything anymore. Funny thing is, I'm actually doing really well in school. I bet that surprises you, right? Last term I got only one B and the rest A's. You know how I told you I wanted to be a teacher, Natsume? I remember you making fun of me, but I actually believe I can. But now I don't want to be a teacher anymore. I want to be a researcher, or a doctor maybe.
I really like the idea of being a doctor. I think it's because of Aoi. I wish I could have saved her. Remember when she died after weeks of being in the hospital and I promised we'd get through it together? I feel like I haven't kept my promise. Because you left before I could do anything. I haven't even stopped you from smoking.
Natsume, come home.
I want to save you,
"Great job, Hyuuga-san! That was another perfect recording. I couldn't catch anything wrong with it at all. Why don't you rest for an hour and come back later? Imai and I will just run through your recordings one last time—"
Before he could finish his sentence, Natsume was already out the door and holding a cigarette to his lips. The burn of nicotine down his throat wasn't as soothing as it used to be but Natsume looked at it with down-turned eyes and smoked it anyway. In a sick way, smoking reminded him of Mikan and how she'd go red in the face trying to get him to stop.
Imai had gotten him a record deal to a small company who'd signed on bands like Parachute and Rocket to the Moon. It wasn't as large and it was definitely not as renowned as Reo's company, but they let him do whatever he wanted and that was much more than he could have ever asked for. They'd been recording for weeks now and his first record would be released in a few month's time.
Briefly, he wondered if Mikan would hear of it.
Probably not, but he hoped she would. If only just to show her that he was alive and well and successful. Maybe then, she'd stop sending him those goddamned letters.
Speaking of letters, it made him infinitely aware of the small square he'd folded into his jacket. He had picked up the letter that morning before heading in to record some new songs. He'd moved around a bit before settling in Ruka's place and the address he'd given to Mikan kept on getting his letters. He'd paid the neighbor to send them to Ruka's address whenever he got them but today, Natsume dropped by and picked it up himself.
He hadn't read it yet and throughout the whole recording, he'd been wondering about it. He'd wondered about her. As much as he wanted to forget her and start a new life here in America, she made it extremely hard to do so. He could just picture the changing expressions on her face with the words she used in her letters.
He could forget about the letters; he could 'forget' to pick them up.
That would help.
But it felt like too much of a… sin, to ignore letters like hers. There was always something nagging in his chest, telling him to check his mail. He thought, maybe, it was her letters that kept him going.
She was much too good for him.
University is getting tough and I don't know if you know—because you haven't been replying to my messages—but Ji-chan has gotten really sick and I probably can't send you letters every once or twice a week. I'll write to you every two weeks. Or perhaps every month. I'll keep emailing you, Natsume. I just hope you don't think I'm giving up on you.
Have you… have you given up on me?
I know I mentioned this in my last letter, but I work at Grind now. It's close to the University and I can send Ji-chan money for his medical care. He's actually getting really bad now. It's kind of weird to think, huh? He used to beat the both of us in races when we were little. Anyway, medical school is going well. I'm keeping myself driven and hopefully, when you come back, I'll have something to gloat to you about.
This is going to be a short letter, because I start my shift in fifteen minutes and I know the mailman comes in at precisely 2:30PM every Tuesday.
I still hope you come back, Natsume.
I'll be waiting,
"Mr. Hyuuga, we heard you had early ties with Reo's record company Z Records before you signed on to Fearless Records. What can you tell us about that?"
Natsume tried not to glare at the camera to his left making its distinct zooming noise. He didn't know why he agreed to this interview with Oprah. She'd always annoyed him with her fake concern and parroted questions. He was a musician, not some spokesperson.
She raised that damned eyebrow of hers and Natsume bit the inside of his cheek. He didn't want to say something rude to one of the most powerful Americans in the country. With a sigh, he said, "Z Records wasn't for me. They gave me an offer I had to refuse. Fearless is the kind of label I want to work with. The people are very understanding and hard working and though the label isn't as popular as Z, well…I've never liked getting things too easily." He shrugged, "The rest is history."
Oprah smiled a wide, toothy grin. "Well, you've exploded onto the charts in very little time, Mr. Hyuuga, where do you plan to take your tour?"
He hadn't decided it with his label or his agent and truthfully, he hadn't thought of his tour, period. But once the question left the woman's lips, Natsume replied without skipping a beat, "Tokyo."
"That's none of your damned business," he murmured gruffly, before his brain could catch up.
The audience and Oprah laughed heartily.
They thought he was kidding.
I'm so proud of you!
You're probably wondering why I say that, huh? Well the thing is, my roommate loves you. We don't talk very much, so it was months before I realized she was listening to you when she studied. I walked into our dorm room the other day and she had her music loud for the first time and Natsume…
Natsume, it was you.
You sound beautiful.
I never thought you could hit those notes but then again, whenever I heard you sing, it was when the both of us were singing that stupid, "It's the Song that Never Ends." Do you remember that, Natsume?
Look how far you've come. I looked you up on Google and the first thing that comes up is your Wikipedia link. Isn't that cool? You're famous now. It's really cool to be able to say I knew you before you were famous. Not that I do… For some reason, I want to keep you a secret. But I guess the secret is out, huh?
Your dreams have come true and I can't think of anybody that deserves it more than you do. Well, perhaps somebody that didn't smoke…
Still wish you'd come home, Natsume,
Natsume inhaled deeply and clenched his fist.
He couldn't afford to be slacking off but here, he couldn't find it in himself to care. He'd already let everyone that mattered know he was taking the day off and Fearless was flexible enough to accommodate him. If there was one thing about Natsume, he didn't intentionally try to burden others, so he'd made the necessary adjustments and now… now he was here.
It was just luck, just freakin' luck that she was working at the Grind. He hadn't really known if she would be or not, but he didn't feel it was his place to call up his father to ask and Mikan… well, she deserved some sort of explanation. He wanted to talk to her, face-to-face, not have a half-assed conversation over the phone.
He could see her through the window and he wasn't ready to face her just yet. The first thing he noticed was her hair. It was a little longer than he'd last seen it, almost three years ago, and it was tied sloppily and rested on the slight curve of her shoulders.
He wanted more time to compose himself. He wanted more time just to watch her and familiarize himself to her again. Because it had been so long… too long. But somebody pushed past him roughly to get into the shop and the bell above the door jangled like a high-pitched siren in the shop.
His heart jumped into his throat when their eyes met.
Red eyes met brown.
Instinctively, Natsume took a step forward.
Promptly, she fainted.
She came to after about five minutes, and Natsume took those five minutes to create stories that went with the dark circles under her eyes, the cut in her lip and hair sticking to her forehead, previously drenched in sweat.
He settled into the seat across from her when he saw her eyelashes flutter.
Why did she make it seem like his name was a prayer on her lips?
His lips thinned and he resisted the urge to push the hair out of his eyes. His throat felt like sandpaper and he realized just how brusque he sounded when he replied, "Polka Dots."
The smile she sent him made his mind reel.
Slowly, she shifted until she was leaning over the table and he didn't move a muscle when she brushed the back of her fingers against the skin under his eyes. "You still haven't been sleeping well, huh?"
"It makes me a good writer," he answered, almost automatically.
She smiled and dropped her hands onto the table to clasp together. He watched her carefully, noticing how she seemed to brighten after every passing second. Without much thought, he told her, "I quit smoking."
The hint of disappointment in her voice surpassed the surprised reverence. "Really? And all on your own, too! That's great, Natsume. Really great."
She was crestfallen and Natsume shifted a little in his seat wondering why. "You're upset."
She looked startled. "I'm not upset at all. I've always wanted you to quit smoking and now that I know just how bad it is for your heart and lungs, I'm really, really glad you quit. Believe me."
He looked at her pointedly and felt his lips curve upwards slightly when she threw up her hands. "Fine, fine! I…" she blew her bangs away from her face and pouted. The expression was so familiar, Natsume found himself remembering all of the times when they were little and she used the pout to get her way. This time was different. "I really… wanted to be the one who stopped that habit. Not that doing it on your own was bad!" She said hastily. She shrugged, "I wanted to save you."
You did, he said in his head.
Aloud, he shrugged, "How is medical school?"
She brightened considerably and he had to blink twice before he realized the next instant that they were narrowed, "So you did get my letters!"
"Yes," he said slowly, as if drawing out the moment would save him later on. "I did."
Instead of going red in the face, she merely tilted her head to the side. "Why didn't you write me back, Natsume? I wrote to you every week for a year and then twice a month for the next two years. I…" she bit her lip and shrugged, looking up at him from underneath her eyelashes. Even without make-up, she looked more beautiful than any of the models and actresses he'd seen since he'd been in America. "I thought you'd forgotten about me. I felt like an idiot for writing to you for three years without getting a reply back."
He stood up and after a moment, with her looking up at him with a question in her eyes, he offered her a hand. "You are an idiot," he said, feeling a thrill when she put her hand in his. "But I'm glad."
She looked like she wanted to keep asking him questions about the letters, but instead, she kept pace as he pulled her outside. "Where are we going?"
The expectant look in her eyes made him nervous. It had been so long. He kept his expression stern and austere and opted to pull her lightly to the rental car he'd brought while he was in Japan. He reached into his car and opened the glove box. It almost mortified him when he could feel the heat of a blush making its way up his neck.
He looked away. "You wrote me letters."
"Which you didn't respond to," she replied mock angrily, still holding onto his hand.
"I wrote you back," he said slowly, handing her an Ipod he'd thrown his songs onto. "I didn't know how to give them to you."
He turned his head away to hide the heat inching into his cheeks and it was after a long moment, he turned back to find an awed look on her face. "You… wrote me songs?"
Before he could answer, she stepped up close to him until he could feel the heat of her body within the small space between them. "So that song you wrote…Light Surrounding You… that one was for me?"
The smile on her face made his heart jump into his throat.
He half nodded and barely caught her when she jumped up and pressed her lips roughly against his. One of her hands was pressed into his neck and her lips were soft against his. When she pulled back, there was a massive grin on her face. "You are such a softie, I don't know if I should tease you or laugh at you."
"Why don't you kiss me?"
Once she got off work, they headed to the lake by Natsume's old home and listened to the songs Natsume had written for her. It was only later that Mikan put the Ipod away, clasped her hands underneath her head and mimicked his position, looking up at the stars. Lightly, she said, "I'm still angry with you."
Natsume looked at her from the corner of her eyes, feeling suddenly defensive. "…I wrote to you."
He didn't have to look at her to feel how incredulous she was.
"I worried for three years, Natsume. Not calling or writing back to tell me you were okay is a bastard move if I've ever seen one and just because you've recorded a few songs, most of which are saying you love me, doesn't mean I'm going to forgive you for ignoring me for three years, thinking that I'll forgive you if you drop by with a handful of CD's."
He felt her move onto her elbows and could feel her light breath against his neck. Thinking quickly, he shrugged, "…what if I bought you that candy you're so ridiculous about?"
Annoyance dripped from her lips. "I'm training to be a doctor, Natsume. Do you honestly think I like Howalons anymore after all of these years? They're bad for you!"
He turned to look at her, half-disappointed, half-disbelieving, "… so you don't want them?"
She laughed, "No, I do. I just wanted to see your face when that vein in your forehead starts to twitch. It's hilarious!"
"…I don't know why I thought of you."
She kissed him lightly on the cheek and snuggled in beside him. "I missed you too, Natsume. Then again, you should know that. I did tell you about two hundred times."
"You're not going to let that go, are you?"