Holy smokes, over a year since I last updated! That is crazy and just plain unforgiveable, so hopefully this last chapter makes up for it.
That's right folks, Dead of the Night is finally complete. Hopefully you like it!
Oh, he was going to pay.
The sweltering heat surrounded them as they walked back towards the Academy, the mud that had so stubbornly clung to Mikan's clothing and hair now hardening into heavy clumps that weighed her down more and more with every step. She removed one of the ribbons holding her pigtails in place and pulled her long hair over her shoulder, slowly combing through it with her fingers and removing the dirt the best she could, grimacing as she encountered a spot that was still slimy. She didn't think she had ever felt so disgusting in her entire life.
It was all his fault.
He just had to track her down in the woods. He just had to make her tell him about her crime. He just had to get all moody and hurt her feelings.
You just had to kiss him.
She pushed down her traitorous thoughts furiously, feeling betrayed by her own mind. She resumed glaring at Natsume's back, trying for something more familiar then sorting out her thoughts.
It was definitely all his fault. No doubt about it.
He did follow you, though. That has to count for something. Admit it, you were excited when you realized he might actually care how you felt.
She snarled inwardly, her aura darkening dangerously. Shut up.
"You know, just because I have a fire Alice does not mean I will spontaneously combust if you stare hard enough."
Mikan snorted, not bothering to give him a verbal reply. He didn't even spare her a glance, knowing purely by the unpleasant sensation of his skin crawling that she was still glaring holes in the back of his head. She felt a small spark of satisfaction in knowing that she was getting her bad mood across and continued her silent cursing. Dang right he should feel uncomfortable, the jerk...
He made a sound that sounded suspiciously like a sigh before lapsing back into silence, ignoring her completely once again.
Something glittered in the corner of her vision and Mikan's eyes followed it, a giant grin making its way to her face as she giggled with glee. She pounced forward, grabbing Natsume's hand and pointing excitedly, her anger momentarily forgotten.
"Natsume, look! It's the stream! Finally, I can get clean!"
He fixed her with an unimpressed look. "I can see that. I led us here, remember?"
She huffed, releasing him and skipping forward. "Well, stay here if you want Natsume, but I am definitely cleaning myself off. This mud is disgusting and the heat is only making it worse." She grumbled to herself as she hopped forward, pulling off her shoes and socks quickly in anticipation for the water.
She was surprised to find that the water might even actually go over her head in certain spots despite not being particularly wide across. The crystal clear water ran over the smooth rocks, the glittering from the ripples shining brilliantly in the sunlight. The sound of it was soothing and she closed her eyes for a moment, simply enjoying the fresh, clean smells of the forest. She grinned to herself, despite the situation. It was beautiful here.
Laughing, she raced forward and pounced, moving towards a deeper spot and submerging herself with a loud splash. The water enclosed over her and she gasped, inhaling water as she did so. She momentarily panicked as she tried to cough, still submerged, and merely wound up taking in more water. She struggled for a moment before breaking the surface again, coughing water from her lungs as she shuddered violently, her teeth chattering.
"It's c-cold!" She whined, her skin already turning pale from the shock.
Natsume raised an eyebrow, watching her from a distance she supposed he had deemed safe from water firing range. "What did you expect? It's a stream in the woods, stupid. If you had just walked in and let your body adjust like a normal person, you wouldn't be so cold."
Another violent shiver wracked her form. "W-Well, it's hot out! I th-thought it might be w-w-warm too!"
"We see how that turned out. Now you're walking back to the Academy in wet, cold clothes."
She huffed, turning away from him and rubbing her arms in a feeble attempt to get warm before she felt a clump of mud break loose. Fascinated, she watched it float upwards before bobbing downriver. Working her fingers over her clothes, she watched the water turn a murky, unpleasant shade of brown before floating off, taken away by the current. She wrinkled her nose as just how much she browned the water, but felt pleased whenever it turned crystal clear once more, the current carrying her woes away.
Sighing in contentment as she adjusted to the waters cool temperatures and the feeling of being cleansed of the filth that had dried to her, Mikan leaned her head back and gently massaged her scalp, running her fingers through her hair. When her finger caught on her hair elastic she sighed, gently removing the remaining one of them from her pig tail and flinging it back to shore to rest by her shoes, landing with surprising accuracy.
With her hair now free from its bonds she ran her fingers through it's length, marveling in just how nice it felt. She simply wished she had a bathing suit, it did feel odd to be in the stream fully clothed but considering current company, it was something she would just have to suffer with it.
She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. She blew out her cheeks when she realized that he had no such temptation to join her. She was convinced that this was exactly Natsume's problem. He had completely forgotten how to have fun.
Not that she wanted him to come in and play with her... No, not really...
Okay, she did. But the poor guy had no idea how to just kick back and relax. She couldn't fault him for that though, not after everything he had been through.
Her mood dampened considerably. It wasn't his fault, after all. He had been forced to grow up very fast and do things that she could only begin to imagine. It was no wonder he never allowed himself to let loose, it seemed like there was always some kind of danger after him, whether it be from forces unknown or his very own Alice.
She shook herself, determined to get off the topic. Both of them spent more then enough time thinking over the gloomy subject and even though he had done a lot to make her angry with him today, she stubbornly decided to try and make it even a little more pleasant.
She could remind him that he was just little more then a child and that, every once in a while, it was okay for him to let loose.
It was okay to have fun.
She momentarily had the crazy idea of sitting on a large rock jutting from the stream and enticing him into the water by acting like one of those mermaids from the movies, but immediately dashed the thought as stupid. She considered and juggled thoughts, each more insane then the next, before finally settling on what might have been the most suicidal of all. However, in her mind, it was also the one with the highest chance of success.
Scouting out the best position, she found a spot in the water that was actually pretty deep, paddling into it, she found that she could submerge herself easily. Moving to the edge and clambering on a particularly large, slippery rock, she waved her arms and called to him, effectively getting his attention.
"Natsume, you should come in too!" She laughed, wringing out her hair. As she tugged at it she realized just how long it had gotten, she really would need to trim it soon. Making a mental note, she flung it over her shoulder. "It's warm out and once you get used to it, the water is great!"
His eyes closed, an annoyed grunt escaping him. "Not going to happen, Polka."
She crossed her arms, not giving up. "Come on, Natsume. Today's been a rough day so just come in and relax!"
"Aren't you supposed to be pissed at me?"
She quickly squashed the beginnings of anger before they had the chance to really form. This wasn't about her and her pride, this was about him. He would just need some persuasion.
Steeling herself, she spun on her heel towards the water. "Okay, if you don't want too..."
Trying to make it appear as realistic as possible, she forced her foot to slide across the smooth surface as she spun around towards the water. She grinned at her cunning. "Oh no! I'm slipping!"
She had the chance to see him flick his gaze in her direction before falling dramatically, visions of pulling him in after her when he came to check on her dancing in her head. The look on his face was going to be pricele-
The wet rock was suddenly far more slippery under her then she predicted, her foot sliding into open air faster then she expected. Her body jolted involuntarily, twisting in an attempt to hit the water at a better angle, when a sharp pain jolted through her shoulder, so intense that for a split second she almost wondered if she had been shot.
She released a shriek of genuine pain before submerging once again in the water. This time, as she fought to right herself, the shock that raced through her entire body at the movement nearly made her cry out and she knew she was crying. For an insane moment, she nearly tried to laugh at the absurdity of crying underwater.
Cradling her left arm against her chest, she kicked and wriggled, trying to find the surface again when an arm wrapped around her waist, promptly propelling her forward and into the open air.
Her breaths heaved as she hungrily gulped in oxygen, ashamed to find unstoppable sobs escaping her, their intensity making her shoulder quake and only making the situation worse. Fire raced through her left shoulder, tracing all through her back. She immediately threw her right hand back to try and assess the damage, only to have Natsume's hand on her wrist, holding her still.
"Stop moving." He demanded, holding her tearful gaze with his own concerned one. "You're only hurting yourself. Stop, Mikan."
She hiccuped slightly, forcing herself to breathe. "Wh-What did I do?"
"You really didn't see the rock sticking right up out of the water, did you?" He scolded, "Only you could hurt yourself pretending to hurt yourself."
She froze, temporarily abating her sobs. "I... I wasn't..."
"You were." He deadpanned, gently moving her hand down. "You were going to pull me in the water. Perhaps you shouldn't voice your plans out loud, although even I have to admit, it was a bit amusing, the whole pretending to be a mermaid thing would have been interesting. Never would have worked, but amusing none the less."
She flushed and went to push him away when her injury harshly reminded her of its presence. She gasped from the sheer volume of the pain and tears again sprang to her eyes.
"Hey, stop moving!" Natsume snapped, his voice slightly regretful. He shouldn't be teasing her now, the idiot would only aggravate her shoulder further. When her sobs started again, he was nearly frantic but reigned it in, never allowing it to show. He needed to see what she did. "Mikan, I need you to calm down. You need to take off your shirt... Or at least pull it up, don't give me that look."
She shook her head, despite the pain, although she was already pulling at the hem with fumbling fingers. This pain far outweighed the extremely embarrassing situation. Didn't mean he didn't need to know she wasn't humiliated by it all. "P-Pervert."
Ignoring the word, he moved behind her, preserving at least the important part of her modesty. His eyes narrowed as she exposed her whole back, revealing the large, ugly bruise already splotching her skin, its purple hues spreading across the creamy expanse like a disease. His fingers lightly skimmed her skin, momentarily ignoring the flinch of pain and trying to assess the extent of the injury. It must have hurt like Hell and could have been far more serious then it was.
He exhaled heavily. "What did you do..."
Mikan stiffened. "It's that b-bad?"
He ignored the question. "Water, everywhere. All behind you and you fall on the one, single spot that had a rock sticking out of it."
She whimpered as his finger grazed the most sensitive spot and he jerked his hand away sharply, the tone of his voice going from concerned to furious. "Honestly, of all the ways that could have happened, you fell on the one single rock..."
Definitely furious. At whom, she wasn't sure.
"You even knew it was there, Mikan!"
Oh, furious with her, apparently.
"I know I did something stupid again, Natsume." She whispered, shivering as she pulled her shirt back down. She bit her lip, drawing blood in an attempt to help in a yelp of pain at the motion. "But I think I've already paid the price for this one, hey? Let's just head ba-"
He didn't seem to hear her. "What if you had hit your head, huh? That could have been serious! You could have died, Mikan! Right then and there! Doesn't that matter to you?"
Suddenly, she was glad he was behind her. His voice sounded murderous. She did not want to see the expression on his face. She didn't want feel the shame, humiliation, fear...
She didn't want to see his fear.
But she could hear it.
"I'm sorry, Natsume, I jus-"
"No, Mikan, this isn't something that can just be let go!" He snarled, "You could have died and for what? To get me to play in the water? How stupid would that have been!"
"Natsume, just lis-"
"You need to start thinking Mikan! I can't handle this!" His voice cracked and Mikan felt herself go stiff with shock. Was he...? "...I can't... lose..."
She turned to look over her shoulder, ignoring the scream of protest her body gave.
There were no signs of tears, not a shiver of his shoulders or a hitch in his breath, but the utter defeat in his posture spoke volumes.
"I'm sorry." She muttered, slowly turning to face him. He didn't look at her but she saw something related to surprise flickered in his eyes. She was never one to just apologize. The fact that she had done it without any sort of prompting from Narumi, Tsubasa or Hotaru was unheard of.
When he made no move, she scooted closer, not touching him yet but coming as close as she could without doing so. A drop of water hung off his bangs before falling, hitting her knee with plop. "I'm sorry, Natsume, for doing something so foolish. I'm sorry for scaring you."
"I wasn't scared." He replied stoically, automatically.
She sighed, leaning forward and placing her forehead against his. She felt him stiffen in shock, his expression remaining completely emotionless but his eyes, that raised to hers, flared to life with a toiling of emotion. "I'm sorry for not paying attention."
Somehow, he didn't think they were talking about just falling off the rock anymore, but he held his tongue, hardly comprehending the situation.
"I'm sorry I don't listen more, I'll try to. I'm sorry for running off before. I'm sorry for blaming you for what I did." She paused, taking in a shuddering breath, hardly believing she was saying it. "I'm sorry for calling it... You... What I did a mistake. I-It wasn't. Really, it's one of the o-only things I've done... Right."
He watched as her face flushed brilliantly. She was so close he could feel the heat of her blush, see the water droplets that hung so desperately on her eyelashes. Surely he wasn't misreading the situation?
One little move, he had done it before. That would be all it took to...
When he felt a pair of soft lips press against his, he very nearly reeled back in shock. How very unlike him, this level of complete and udder surprise was far more suited for Mikan then himself. He had initiated a number of kisses with her in the past, and yet this was the first she had taken, so hesitant and nervous beneath his touch...
Well, the first while he was conscious, anyways.
He pressed back and felt her relax. He felt confused at this. Did she really think he would turn her away? Deny her?
Despite what she seemed to think, Natsume doubted he was capable of denying this girl anything.
He loved her, after all. More then anything.
She moved closer, her kiss more firm and confident now, the fear from before slowly ebbing away. She was slowly taking the lead.
Could not have that, could he?
He moved, raising his hands to slowly run them through her hair, delighting in them being released from those pigtails she so fancied. Not that he didn't think she was pretty no matter what hairstyle she had, but there was something about her free flowing auburn hair that sent his mind into a frenzy. She was beautiful.
His hands moved slowly, tracing a line down her back, moving to settle on her wai-
She gasped, jolting suddenly and slamming her face painfully into his. His eyes snapped open as he momentarily saw stars from the strength of her blow. She jumped and practically landed in his lap, her whimper of pain the only sound breaking the awkward silence.
"What'd you do that for?" She demanded tearfully, "It hurt!"
He immediately regretted his earlier action, remembering the horrible bruise that stretched across her shoulder. "Sorry, I didn't mean to."
He paused for a second, realizing just how much better this situation was compared to the previous one. Yes, this he could work with.
He nuzzled into her throat, his mouth brushing her racing pulse as she stiffened and attempted to push herself away, only to meet his resistance. She did notice, however, that he was careful to keep his hands from her bruise.
Her face turned that delightful shade of pink from earlier in the day that he so admired and he smirked at the thought. This silly little girl had no idea that monster she unleashed.
The word 'pervert' would be ringing through the Academy halls for weeks now that he knew exactly how she felt.
However, the thought of her shoulder immediately sobered him. He needed to get her back and taken care of. He really had no idea what the extent of the injury was and it needed to be looked at. Regretfully, he freed her from his grasp, a freedom she took all too willingly. She scrambled back, her eyes wide and her breath coming in fast pants, her eyes wide with disbelief at his sudden affections.
"P-Pervert." She muttered, her hands fisting in the grass as she averted her gaze, not wanting to see those burning scarlet eyes. Not wanting to see what she had unleashed with her confession.
Not wanting to see what she had denied herself so long. How could she have possibly missed it? She truly was an idiot.
"I love you."
A rather unladylike sound escaped her mouth at his sudden confession, her eyes impossibly large as she snapped her gaze back to his, the same burning passion there. No lie, he's not lying. No, she supposed Natsume hardly ever lied.
He sighed, finally looking away from her and closing his eyes as if the words had lifted an enormous weight off his shoulders. "You heard me, I said it. Now you know, do with it what you will."
"Y-You... I... Uh-"
He paused, an uncharacteristic amount of uncertainty worming its way into him. Did she not... Love him too? Maybe he had read her completely wrong... But she kissed him, surely that meant something. Maybe he jumped the gun throwing out the word Love though, maybe she wasn't ready to hear that yet. No, it didn't matter, he still lo-
"I l-love you too, Natsume."
He looked her straight in the eyes, which were misty now with emotion instead of pain. He was a touched ashamed to admit that he felt his heart begin to pound a little faster, although he did hold pride in the fact that his facial coloring never changed. "I have for a while... I just didn't know what you thought..."
He deadpanned. "I made it more then obvious."
She twiddled her fingers. "Well, looking back you may have with the kissing and Alice stones and other stuff... But at the time I had no clue... I'm such an idiot..."
"Yes." He murmured, sighing. He wasn't going to say it, no. He wasn't going to turn all sappy and gross, that was more of a Ruka-like thing to do. But maybe she would like to hear something like that...? "But I suppose you're my idiot, right?"
She exhaled, a large weight off her chest at the words as giggles bubbled from her mouth at his words. He may not be the overly sappy type, the sentence looking like it almost caused him physical pain to say, but she was extremely flattered that he had tried at all. She noticed the tiniest of smiles tilt on his lips, his eyes unusually calm and warm. They wer more then happy to sit in companionable silence after such an earth-shattering event, but she knew just from the contented look on his face that she wasn't the only one overcome by it all. She allowed herself a small smile, moving to sit next to him.
Only to have him stand, running a hand through his still damp hair. He reached down, offering her a hand up on her good arm. "We need to get back, Polka. That needs to be looked at."
She watched him for a moment before allowing a dazzling smile on her face, taking his hand delicately and allowing him to lead her over to where her shoes and supplies were.
They walked back to the Academy in comfortable silence, Mikan's mind moving a mile a minute at the events of the day.
He loved her.
Just thinking the words made her stomach flutter as if full of butterflies, the uncontrollable giddiness adding a bounce to her step. She watched as Natsume turned to look at her from the corner of his eye, his expression stoic but his eyes soft and clear, his amusement dancing in them.
While she did still want to get that photo from Hotaru's clutches, she supposed she could let it go. It would be nice purely for sentimental purposes, but she didn't care who saw it now. It was astounding, how something so mind blowing and traumatic this morning could have turned into such a pleasant memory, all because of a few words. But she didn't need a picture.
She did, afterall, have the real thing now.
She wasn't letting this moment go for anything.