General Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice.
Word Count: 3854
Notes: I like Koko/Mikan, and now I will contribute to this (depressingly) small fandom. This fic will be updated sporadically, unfortunately. It's more of a collection of Koko/Mikan shots, all connected one way or another. This is set in an Alternate Universe since I stopped reading the manga, and it has been so long since then. I should also add that this is more of a Koko character study than anything else.
I will be honest and say that the quality of each chapter in this fic is not consistent, given that Sidelines is being written in the span of... what, three years now? The first two chapters are definitely not my best. I think it's nice to see how I progressed through the years, though.
First, he was curious. Then, he was intrigued.
The first time he met Mikan Sakura was around seven years ago. Sometimes he wonders, has it really been that long? Sumire would answer him, "Yes, it has." And then they would go on about their lives.
Only, their lives are never really the same with Mikan in the picture. Maybe it took seven years for him (longer than most, actually), but he can't deny that even his life has been – is being – touched by one Mikan Sakura.
Their first meeting was never really that memorable. He couldn't even recall it. Mikan had just transferred to the Academy then, and everyone was skeptical about this new girl: this spirited little girl who came to this school of her own free will without realizing the risks she was taking. Everyone was curious about this cheerful, down-to-earth, albeit slightly idiotic, no-star.
It wasn't long before this cheerful, down-to-earth and slightly idiotic no-star became a promising, talented two-star.
That was basically how Koko would have summarized the past seven years spent with Mikan. So, no, his life wasn't any more memorable than it already is by a long shot. Maybe his life isn't the same old life he used to live; there are more pranks, more memories, more adventures even, but they aren't exactly memorable.
'Where is she?' The thought crosses his mind like a whisper. It is a familiar thought, one that Koko has grown accustomed to hearing for nearly seven years now. He turns his head around and sees Natsume, a permanent frown etched all over his face. Koko mentally chuckles.
"She's late again," Ruka says, pointing out the obvious. He sighs, sensing the bad vibes his best friend is giving off. Again. His comment doesn't help make things any better though. Not that anything ever will.
Except maybe if Mikan wakes up early for once. But what are the chances of that happening?
"I know that," Natsume replies irritably. The room temperature rises slightly. 'Why is that idiot always late?'
Koko rolls his eyes as Natsume's thoughts flow through his head. Natsume isn't really that good at hiding his feelings for the pigtailed girl. She is just incredibly dense, and perhaps a little stupid.
Or, okay, maybe Koko just has the advantage of being a mind reader. He chuckles to himself again at the thought. Natsume's mind is thoroughly amusing to read when he isn't being predictable. Unfortunately, that almost never happens when his thoughts are concentrated on Mikan.
Moments later, Mochu approaches Natsume from the door. "She's coming," he says.
Natsume's shoulders relax a bit. He leans back and proceeds to read his manga as nonchalantly as he can. He pauses for a moment.
Koko glances at his watch unnecessarily. 'Five minutes,' is Natsume's way of telling himself that Mikan is in the vicinity. Often, Koko would hear him mentally say those two words. Five minutes.
It amazes Koko how Natsume always knows when the Nullifier would approach him. He would always hear him say 'five minutes' in his head before Mikan would talk to him. When he passes by the Sakura Tree, he hears Natsume say 'five minutes' to himself. When they are in the cafeteria, Natsume whispers the words. Even when Koko isn't aware of who comes and goe,s Natsume's thoughts warn him when Mikan is nearby. It's his warning, his own mental bell.
He probably says that phrase to himself every single day. Today is no exception.
And true enough, it would be a minute later that Mikan would walk into the classroom. Three seconds later, she would greet Hotaru a good morning. Forty-five seconds later, she would be hit by the Baka Cannon (new and improved, version 12.27.5). Twelve seconds to walk to Yuu. Two minutes to greet him and have small talk. One minute to walk over to Natsume's desk and greet Ruka.
Five minutes in total.
"Good morning Ruka! Good morning Natsume!" she says, her lips placed in their usual smile.
The temperature goes back to normal, thank god. Koko sighs in relief.
"You're late again," Natsume says in a bored tone. He looks up from his manga and gives her a once over before reading again, deciding that his eyes are better suited for comic books and mangas than annoying auburn-haired girls.
He's looking at the same page he's been reading for the past ten minutes. Koko smiles in amusement.
"And you're reading manga again," says Mikan, her tone as even as Natsume's. "Don't you get tired of that?"
"Don't you get tired of strawberry panties?"
Lucky guess. Mikan blushes a fine shade of red before hitting him in the head with the closest object she could reach – which happens to be his manga. "Pervert! Grow up for once, will you?"
Natsume dodges the attack. He smirks. "Says the girl who wears pigtails all the time."
They bicker like an old, married couple for the next few minutes. Sometimes, it's moments like these when Koko thinks that Mikan might be the best thing that has happened to Natsume. It's at the expense of his amusement (after all, Natsume's thoughts can only be unpredictable for so long), but the friendship he's gained is worth it.
'Alright. The list is done.' The thought enters his head unexpectedly, her voice unfamiliar and new. It takes a while before Koko could place a name to that voice – that voice he is now unaccustomed to hearing in his head.
Koko turns his head towards the general direction where Mikan is. He's sure it was Mikan who thought of it. "What list?" he asks himself. Of course, no answer came.
He watches. Mikan starts to greet everyone else in the class at random. Each greeting is warm and friendly. She smiles her best smile, and it isn't that something incredibly good has happened today. It isn't that Mikan is having the best day of her life. She just… smiles. Mikan is just sincere like that.
It piques Koko's interest.
The next day is just like the day before. Mochu is on the lookout, Ruka is calming his best friend and Natsume is unconsciously raising the temperature little by little. As always, Mikan Sakura is late.
It doesn't matter to the teacher of the day because he is too timid to reprimand her. He is too timid to even teach the class that he even arrives late on purpose. He always has some excuse for it, but nobody really cares.
"Hotaru!" Mikan yells, glomping her best friend in a tight hug. She is projected to the wall a few minutes later. After a few complaints directed at Hotaru's upgraded Baka Cannon (which Hotaru takes as critique – she has to improve her cannon in one way or another), she approaches Yuu.
Today is just like the day before. Only, Koko has been monitoring Mikan.
He doesn't know why exactly. Since he heard Mikan's thought yesterday, it bugs him to know what it meant. He's curious about this 'list' Mikan has every morning. He doesn't ask her about it personally though. He thinks it would be more amusing to figure it out by reading her mind, and observing her actions.
He needs to know this 'list' before anyone else. He always feels somewhat important when he knows about certain things before other people do. Maybe it's a mind reader thing, but nevertheless, Mikan's ambiguous thought sparks the curiosity in him.
After all, it isn't often that he gets to hear Mikan's thoughts, what with her Nullifying Alice and all.
The following days happen as they have yesterday; Mikan coming in late, and Koko observing her actions. He finds it strange for him to be so interested in the girl's 'list', even though it's normal for him to be curious about everyone's secrets. It's human nature, he supposes. He never had much luck in figuring it out though, because the human mind often thinks in fragments than in actual, concrete thoughts. He has learned that from experience.
Mikan knows what the list is, but she isn't going to think about defining that list in her head every day. It's like telling yourself everyday that your favorite food is ramen. You don't think about these things that way. You just know.
So evidently, Mikan knows about the list and Koko is yet to knowing it. So far, he has gathered that the list ends when Mikan starts talking to Natsume in the morning. But nothing else.
He decides to give it up one day. It isn't worth it, he supposes. Although it does relieve some boredom, it didn't amuse him much. He doesn't bother to know anymore, and he's on the verge of deciding whether to drop the subject altogether or to just ask her about it… when he realizes something.
He is still observing Mikan.
Sure, he had given up on the thought of finding out what the list is. It would probably be something stupid anyway, or so Natsume would've said if he knew what Koko wants to know. And, yeah, maybe he did decide that it isn't worth the effort; he isn't going to die not knowing anyway.
Yet every morning, his eyes dart to the door every time Mochu leaves his post. His eyes inconspicuously (for he was trying to observe without getting noticed by a certain fire caster – he still wants to live, after all) glances every now and then whenever Natsume would count five minutes in his head.
He has taken to watching Mikan greet everyone in the classroom every morning.
It's a strange habit, to say the least.
"Good morning, Koko!" Mikan says with a smile. Koko looks up, startled from his thoughts. He silently prays that she didn't catch him staring at her a while ago.
"Hello, Sakura-chan." He smiles. Somehow, it makes him feel nice that Mikan is greeting him a good morning. "Good morning to you too."
"What're you thinking about?"
It occurs to Koko that this might be the first time Mikan actually talked to him about something. Sure, they hang out and prank someone together sometimes, but they never really sit down and just talk. They don't know each other well enough to be like that.
He has probably noticed this before, but he never thought about it much until now. He never thought of Mikan much until now.
"What do you mean?" he asks. Both of their smiles never fade. It has become a habit for Koko to smile all the time. Mikan is probably the same, he thinks, although she smiles with more sincerity than he probably does.
"You were staring off a while ago," she says. She sits down next to him. "You were staring at me a while ago. Did I do something wrong?"
'What's on your mind, Koko?'
This girl is beyond genuine. She says what she means and means what she says. Koko finds this interesting, and somewhat disappointing. It means that she would not have many secrets for Koko to entertain himself with. He has to admit, he enjoys learning how the girl's mind works, despite the challenge it presents.
"No, you didn't," Koko says. "I was just wondering how you can be so sincere, that's all. You're transparent, like an open book."
It isn't a lie.
"Oh, well I guess you could put it that way. I don't think I'm that transparent though," Mikan says. "And I think you of all people should know that."
'You read my mind, don't you? You're reading it now, right?'
"I don't think I follow." He gives a sheepish smile. "I read your mind, but…"
"Then you should know," Mikan says, standing up. She walks around so she is in front of Koko. "How I can be myself and yet people still overlook who I am sometimes."
'You do get it, don't you?'
Koko feels lost. For some reason, Mikan's last thought echoes in his mind. She sounds hopeful and longing. What is Mikan trying to say?
But he never found out that morning as Narumi-sensei comes in through the door.
Koko finds it weird that he has only been observing Mikan for five mornings, including this morning. He could've sworn it has been more than a week already; it feels like it anyway.
"She's here," Mochu whispers. "She's earlier than usual."
Natsume nods, his lips twitching to a smile before he masks it with his poker face. He is obviously in a happier mood today. The temperature quickly drops to something cooler than usual, which the other students are grateful for. 'Five minutes.'
Koko looks at the door automatically. She's going to greet Hotaru first, he thinks expectantly. It's a little creepy how he has her routine memorized.
BAKA! BAKA! BAKA! BAKA! BAKA!
'Geez, do you know how much neurons you've already damaged with that thing?'
Koko chuckles at Mikan's thought. Although, it's a bit strange in hindsight. He never expected Mikan to think about such things as neurons in her brain.
"I told you, you don't have to scream my name when you greet me," Hotaru says. She doesn't look up from the book she is reading. "There's barely a meter between us. I can hear you perfectly fine. By the way, I fired five of my ammo today, so you owe me 1000 Rabbits. Each."
"Hotaru!" Mikan yells yet again, only to be hit by the Baka Cannon once more.
"That would be 6000 Rabbits."
"C'mon Hotaru! I'm not that rich!"
"6000 Rabbits." Hotaru holds out her palm expectantly.
"Can't I just pay you with something else?"
"… Fine. A box of Howalon every day for the rest of the month."
"Hotaru!" Mikan huffs. "Best friends don't do that to each other!"
She'll go to Yuu after that, Koko thinks. Sure enough, Mikan skips (skips!) all the way to Iinchou. Then to Ruka and Natsume… wait!
That's it! The list! Hotaru, Yuu, Ruka and Nastume. That is her morning list. But…
What does that mean?
Hotaru, Yuu, Ruka, Natsume…
What did that small list mean?
Koko is lost once again. He has no idea why he is even bothering to know about the list. He had given up on that, hadn't he? Why go through all this once again?
It drives him nuts when he realizes that he has not only memorized the list, but he has also memorized all the things Mikan Sakura does in the morning from the moment she steps foot in the classroom. Every step she takes is laid out in Koko's mind. He couldn't help it. He notices these things, and they simply would not leave his head.
Mikan's morning routine is stuck in Koko's mind, like a catchy pop tune would be. It's annoying, to say the least.
"Are you alright, Koko?"
Koko looks up from his food. Snapping out of his reverie, he notices that he hasn't even touched his dinner yet. He automatically smiles in defense when he sees Mikan staring at him with a concerned look.
"I'm fine. Why do you ask?" He takes the first bite of his dinner. It doesn't taste as well as he'd hoped, but it's bearable.
"I don't know. You seem bothered by something." Mikan takes a sip from her orange juice. She watches Koko expectantly.
"You can tell?"
"It's hard to tell what you're thinking when you always wear that expression." She laughs, referring to his smile. Koko laughs with her.
"I guess I just have a lot of things on my mind." He leans back on his chair, not feeling that hungry at the moment. He feels comfortable talking to Mikan though, despite the fact that this girl is the reason he was out of it in the first place.
"Is it hard being a mind reader?"
"Not really. Maybe sometimes, I guess. When I couldn't control my Alice, everyone's thoughts just get in my head."
"Doesn't that get noisy?"
"Well, yeah. When that happens, I usually can't tell my thoughts from everyone else's. It gets to a point when I can't tell who is thinking what, and I just don't think anymore." He shrugs. He wonders why he's opening up to her like this. It's not like they're close enough friends. The only other person he talks to about this is Sumire. "I got better though. I can switch my Alice on and off now if I concentrate hard enough. I can tell what I'm thinking about now."
"Like what?" She takes a bite from her apple. She loves eating fruits during dinner. It's something Koko has noticed whenever they ate together with the gang.
"I dunno," he says nonchalantly. Mikan looks at him, and it's now that he notices how much she's grown up. She isn't just a kid anymore. And neither is he. "You, I guess."
He looks to the side, feeling embarrassed for some reason. He avoids her gaze and looks around the table, seeing everyone else busy with their own conversations. Ruka and Sumire are talking about some new CD she bought; Mochu is goofing off with Kitsuneme, giving their audience some pointers of some sort on how idiots play with their food; and Natsume is, thankfully (and where did that thought come from?), nowhere to be found at the moment. On a mission, maybe? Koko's become afraid that the fire caster would burn him alive for observing Mikan.
"Yeah. I've been wondering about that list you always have in the morning. You greet Hotaru first, then Yuu, then Ruka. Natsume is the last on the list." Why is he being honest with her? It feels warm to tell her, though. "What's that all about?"
Mikan laughs. "Ah… I should be careful about what comes to my mind. Do you always read my mind like that?"
"I'm not a stalker, Mikan." Well, he isn't at the moment, because technically he's just observing. It's not like he's hiding her photographs and shrines. Besides, he holds no affection for her, other than friendship. Once he satisfies his curiosity with the 'list', everything would be back to normal anyway. Right?
"Well, it's not that you're not allowed to know. But it holds some meaning for me," Mikan says, and now it's her turn to smile sheepishly. "Well, it wouldn't hurt if you knew, I guess."
"I could tell this to other people you know," Koko says. "I read people's thoughts aloud, remember?"
"But you don't always do that. You didn't do it when you first heard about my list."
"That's because it wouldn't make sense if I said it."
"I guess so," Mikan puts her apple down, and then turns to face Koko. She has been eating beside him nowadays. Or rather, Koko has been sitting beside Mikan more. "But you'll find out sooner or later. I can't control my Alice that well yet, it's tiring to use it all the time just to guard my thoughts from you, so you might read my mind and find out when you get the chance. Besides, even if I tell you, I trust you wouldn't tell anyone."
"Why trust me with this information?" Koko turns to face Mikan as well. Her smile is lovely and warm.
"Because I just do. And it's not like I have a choice in the matter. You'll find out sooner or later with that Alice of yours."
Koko didn't expect for her to think along those lines. He had expected Mikan to be screaming her head off because he found out something that she's not telling everyone. While it isn't of sentimental value, it does seem important to Mikan. Yet she is taking all these in stride, and Koko is impressed that she isn't making a big deal out of this like she would if Natsume is the one she's talking to.
She really has grown. They aren't ten anymore.
It's true though, what she said. If he really does try hard enough, he might've found out the meaning behind this elusive 'list'. And it would've been something stupid, most likely. But to Mikan, it means something.
Koko wants to know that 'something'.
"So what is it, then?" As they say, curiosity killed the cat.
There is a pause. "It may seem a bit stupid," she says. She looks at Koko in the eyes, as if her next statement would be something she wants Koko to remember. At least, that's what he thinks. "But when I was little, I built this habit of greeting everyone a good morning. I always start with those who were important to me, and then I'd go on to greeting everyone else. I feel like if I greeted those close to me first, they would feel how important they are to me, because I thought of them first before everyone else."
That makes sense, in a way. Kinda childish though, but Koko finds it amusing.
"Are they in particular order or something?" Koko asks.
"Yep. Hotaru's my best friend, so she's first." Koko glances at Hotaru, who is busy eating. But he does feel like the girl noticed she is being talked about. "Yuu helped me when I first came to the Academy, and he stuck with me ever since. Ruka was the same. He's a close friend. Natsume… I don't know why, but he's important to me too. I guess he kinda grew on me or something. Tsubasa-senpai and Misaki-senpai are in the list too, but I don't always see them in the morning. Narumi-sensei is included too, but I don't always see him either."
"I see." Koko nods. He takes a sip from his water. He feels like Mikan would continue talking whether he asks her to or not.
"If someone I know greets me first before I greet Hotaru, I would greet them back," she continues. Koko mentally applauds himself for his prediction. "But the first one that I would greet on my own would have to be Hotaru."
There is silence after that. Koko never liked silence, so he opens his mouth to speak when Mikan cut him to it. "Do you think it's stupid?"
Koko looks at her curiously, startled by the question. "No, I don't," he says. Since when did his opinion matter to this girl? He feels somewhat happy that it did, though. "I think it's cute."
Mikan laughs. "Don't tell anyone about this, alright?"
It's like pinky swearing with a little girl, he thinks. She trusts him that much. Koko promises he wouldn't tell a soul.
Most people know the first line of the adage, curiosity killed the cat. But only few know of the second line: satisfaction brought him back. Sometimes, Koko understands why people forget about the second part. He should be placated now that he knows about this list of hers. But Koko isn't satisfied. He doesn't want to end things there. He doesn't want to stop observing her.
He looks at his plate. He barely ate any of the food tonight. He sighs.
Would Mikan ever put me in her list one day?
He wonders where that thought comes from.