Oh my stars, this chapter is long overdue. I'd say the usual, life caught up with me and forced me to abandon my writing for a bit yadayadayada... but it still doesn't excuse the extremely unforgivably long hiatus I took. Things have been hectic around here these past few months, I just hope it sorts itself out soon. I'm getting tired of all this.

Anyway! This chapter is a tribute to the gorgeous, lovely, spectacular piece of magic that is Chapter 146. I honestly admit that I cried reading it. To get back to the basis of their friendship after the NatsuMikan 'proposal' scene made it all worth it. Like I've said before, I like Natsume and Mikan together, but pushing away everybody else for the sake of romance made me gag a little. No offence meant to anyone.

Last but not least, I was blown away each time I come up to check my e-mail to find yet another alert waiting for me. Thanks to everyone who commented/favourite/put me/this story under alert. No words can describe how happy all of you made me ^-^

Now, to ignore this rambling author's note, onwards to the next instalment!

Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice.

IOIOIOIOI

It was either he was a very light sleeper, or his senses had been honed to be perfectly attuned to Natsume's presence, as frequent –or not- as they had been this past few weeks. Ruka honestly couldn't be bothered to find out, nor would he wish that it was not the case. If it would illuminate his understanding, he'd happily admit that it was both a blessing and a curse at the same time. For the most part, unfortunately, it seems to make much less sense when he's saying out loud instead of letting it roll about in his mind, as if all logic from that statement had decided itself too delicate to be brought out to the realm of reality and had locked itself into a sealed corner in the shadowy recesses of his youthful mind.

Or something like that, Ruka honestly does not do a philosopher proud when still floating in that comfortable hazy cloud of bliss inducing sleep.

The blonde blinks blearily, cerulean eyes squinting in the darkness of the late twilight to adjust to the gloom. A figure loomed just out of his haze, his mind sharpening if not just for an instant at the sight of the familiar slouched posture at the threshold of the room, just a step out into the darkened corridor. His features were bathed in murky shadow, yet Ruka would recognize him anywhere; if not only for the pair of intense crimson eyes that stood out against the darkness.

Slightly more alert, the blonde struggled to a sitting position, the subconscious part of his mind noting that he had been curled comfortably by the large bay window, a few feet away from Natsume's –then empty- bed. "Ngh... N-Natsume?"

The raven haired boy moved in closer, confirming his identity with a light grunt in response. His tone left nothing to be argued with, "How long have you been here?"

Ruka paused, his sleep clouded mind fumbling to set everything into place. He remember coming into his best friend's room, remembered sitting down on Natsume's bed and hugging his long underused pillow close to his lithe frame, as if he was trying to cling on to the memory of his friend to see him through the rest of the day, or however long it takes for Natsume to come back (when he comes back, never if). He remembers watching in building horror as a single tear slid down the slope of his nose, teasingly dangling at the tip before dripping down onto the embroidered pillow case. He remembered riding the tidal wave of humiliation; Natsume was the one risking his life somewhere out there for people who barely knew him, who alienated him with a brand of stoic indifference that gave due to his infamy, how could he be as selfish as to cry just out of the fear of abandonment?

It was fair to say that time had become non-existent for just that little while.

He answered as truthfully as possible, knowing that it was not –technically- a lie, "A while." A pause, then he added, "I wa –am waiting for you."

Natsume nodded once, the darkness masking the soft smile blooming on his face. He was thankful; hopefully it will also mask the bruises on his arms. "It's late."

A stifled yawn, "I know."

A muffled chuckle, "So sleep."

His body recognized the feeling of a blanket being tossed over him before his brain came to terms with the lumpy material that his friend had been holding prior. Natsume was leaning over him, close enough for him to make out the contours on his friend's face before pulling away. Feeling a blind surge of panic, he instinctively reached out, feeling his hand close over a warmer wrist, holding him in place. Cerulean eyes were wide, suddenly tingling with nervous energy, "You're n-not leaving again, are you?"

This time when Natsume smiled, Ruka saw it. The owner of the Fire Alice leaned down again, pressing a feather light kiss to the top of his blonde head before pulling the blanket snug over Ruka again, "Sleep baka. I'll be right here when you wake up."

It must have been his subconscious thought again, delirious from relief; Ruka believed him.

IOIOIOIOI

End third chapter.

Again, reviews would make my day. And I was wondering... if anyone can supply me with some prompts/themes that I could work on for this project? I'll be extremely grateful ^-^ Just drop it in a review or anything. It would help me a lot.

Thanks again for reading!

D.I.S