I spent seven hours writing this. Can you believe that?

This is for May Madness by Romantically Loveless, My Hopeless Romantic, Indigograpefruit and Heartbroken Confession.

Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice.

" I'll do anything to protect you even if it means death for me"

She had been looking at him for more than five years now. She had been silently talking to his heart before every sunrise and after every sunset. She had been bordering on the hopeless dream of being with him, of at least having a transient moment at his side. She had been calculating the ways to solve the outline of her greatest circumstance. She had been willfully trying to touch a piece of him.

Most of all, she had been asking humbly for his attention and for his heart.

On the other hand, he had never returned those looks edged with infinite desire to be reciprocated. He had never been able to listen to his own heart thumping whenever that someone tried to communicate with it. He had never acquired even the slightest feeling of wanting to move from his current position to where exactly that someone was waiting. He had never grasped the faintest idea of making someone the happiest person in the world by just letting her touch a piece of him.

Most of all, he never had the ears to accept requests from someone who was in no way associated with him and who never knew what his life was all about.

But if only he could, he would.

Natsume Hyuuga was again busy reading his manga when the particular aura came out of nowhere. He didn't dare to lift his eyes from the page he was merely reading just to cast his bloody crimson eyes to a certain auburn-haired girl. He really disliked that bad habit of hers. Even when he roughly pushed past her every time she blocked his way, even when she was usually the subject of his wrath towards the world, even when she almost lost her dignity and pride for receiving his derogatory words in front of the throng, and even when he said that the feeling would never be mutual, for countless times, she was still persistent of being with him, of building even a frangible connection between them. And her first move was always looking at him with that fervent smile.

" What's up with that smile?" he thought.

Carrying three thick books, Mikan Sakura pushed her way through the crowd suffocatingNatsume. She had the guts to use that term without even knowing that she was in a way referring to herself. As she took her steps towards him, for propinquity mattered, she wished to meet those eyes she had loved since the very beginning of her life at the academy. Though the atmosphere blatantly described that Natsume would just send her death glares, she must admit that she had never outgrown the feeling she had for him.

She believed that it was destiny that brought her there. Long before her Alices ( Nullification and Stealing )were discovered by Narumi-sensei, she was just a young lass staying with her grandfather and with no thoughts and care to give the world. Playing with other kids and radiating happiness was all that she cared about.

Until one day, she had a nightmare. Someone from some faraway place was yearning for help and longing for love. Even if it was just a dream, it was as ghastly as reality. She felt every pain, that someone was feeling. She recognized the feeling of a swelling throb in her chest, deep cuts in her legs and burnt areas in her arms.

She also felt the sensation of blood in her mouth. She had never tasted blood but she was sure of it for not a thing had been that acrid. When she woke up, she was sweating profusely that she thought it was for real.

She continued to have terrifying dreams featuring that someone. But the scenes were always changing. As the dreams went on and on, the situation of the victim just got worse and worse. And the pain was just becoming too much for Mikan to endure. She never had the will to tell her Grandpa about it. She was afraid of being judged as insane.

Before the day Narumi found her, she had that dream again and almost killed her. She wept silently not just because of the torture the dream had given her but also because of what she felt for that someone. In her dream, that someone died…no…was killed. And before her mind decided to wake her senses, she had caught a glimpse of that face. From then on, she promised herself that when she found that person, she would save him no matter what.

She was not certain of her feelings before. Questions wandered in her mind: Why do I feel this way? How come I want to save him when I don't even know him? What is this connection? Why do I think sympathy is not the only thing I am feeling?

When she was introduced to this class, her eyes focused themselves on a certain someone sitting at the back, seemingly isolated from the rest of the class. Perhaps sensing that she had her eyes on him, the guy looked up and met her eyes. That was the first and probably the last time of Natsume meeting her gaze.

At that salient moment, too, she understood the whole thing. She knew the reason why fate allowed her to be an Alice which the common people regarded as trash, that was why her grandpa decided to let her go to Alice Academy with Narumi to keep her safe. She knew why she had those dreams.

She knew why it had to be her. Because Natsume was the person in her dreams, and she was the only one who could save him.

However, she wasn't sure of how exactly she was going to save him.

From that day on, she tried her very best to be close to him. One thing that she learned: Natsume was indeed inscrutable.

The first time she approached him while he was reading a manga, he just said,

" I'm not the kind of friend you would want to have." He closed the book and walked away.

But Mikan never gave up. She was attracted to him even more because of his arcane personality. She pursued him wherever he went. It was not that she wanted to be with him alone, but she just wanted to make sure that nothing bad would happen to him. Yes, he was a he and she was just a she, and a girl was supposedly incapable of protecting a guy, but for her, she could, especially when she was driven by love and care.

Natsume couldn't take it anymore. He really couldn't understand what kind of brain was functioning inside Mikan's head. He couldn't get it at all. Why did she want to make things harder for her? How many times must she receive pain from both words and actions before she could make herself stop? And of all persons, why did she choose him?

" Natsume, good morning! I'm so glad you didn't skip classes today. May I sit beside you?" Mikan saw that the seat beside Natsume was vacant. It was actually Ruka's. She talked to him earlier and asked if she could switch places with him. She knew that Ruka had a crush on Hotaru, her seatmate, so it would be great if they would just do what she wanted. And so they did.

The problem was Natsume. He really wasn't comfortable with Mikan around. It seemed to him like all his actions were being fettered because Mikan had to be wherever he was. Gone were the days when he just cared about himself. He had someone to protect now more than he ever protected himself.

Back then, he could still tolerate her acts and could still drift away. But as days passed by, he found himself used to her presence that he became afraid of her absence although she hadn't made any absence yet. It was like he knew her all along and that he had been waiting for the special day for her to arrive in his life. Everything that he was seeing about her was like a part of his vague memories from the past.

There were times that Mikan would just suddenly pop out and would greet him or ask if he was okay or not. And yes, he had truthfully answered them before.

When he was in the mood of teasing her, he would say, " I may be okay if I am not seeing you now."

If something was really wrong with him, for example, he was in a great pain, he would say, " I need to be alone."

But no matter what he replied to her, she would just stay and would jabber about frivolous things in an attempt to create a lighter atmosphere or to make him happy and to see him smile. She was never successful, and Natsume would just have the feeling that he let her down. Seeing her not smiling meant everything she planned was a failure. That was how simple Mikan was. He could easily see right through her. Yet, he couldn't deny the happiness he was feeling from a plethora of Mikan's time, attention, and love. He craved them for a long time. Who would not be grateful and ecstatic for that?

Since then, it had been ensconced in the deepest part of his heart that he wasn't just grateful to her.

If only it was that easy to be controlled by what he really felt, then he would have shared his life with her now. But life was just so unfair. He couldn't possibly make an arbitrary decision in his life even for once because another's life would be at stake. His fate was unchangeable. The murderous chain coiling around him ossified for every single day he lived. No wonder, nothing and no one could save him.

He completely heard Mikan greeting him, but he pretended to be drowned in his thoughts. He wanted to just nullify Mikan's influence on him. If this would be protracted, nothing good would happen.

" Okay, Natsume, since you didn't give me a concrete respond, I suppose, I can sit here, then," she told him with such a verve. She then laid her books on her new table and her bag on her new chair.

Natsume then stood and roughly grabbed Mikan's wrist. He dragged her to the middle of the forest so that no one would know and would overhear whatever conversation they would have.

He had to end this. He had to stop her, and stop himself, too. This confrontation had been long overdue. He could no longer put this off for another day.

He then let go of Mikan's wrist and faced her.

" You're being too myopic," he hissed.

" Myopic? Well…I don't have any eye defects," she answered plainly.

" Oh wait…I forgot, you're too stupid to understand such a word. You're too stupid to understand what I am going through. You're too stupid to listen even when I've said a lot of times to get the heck away from me!"

Mikan had already built a resistance against Natsume's words. But these words had just scratched her heart that she was already at the edge of doing what Natsume wanted her to do.

" I don't care what you say, Natsume. Because they're just words…they're lifeless. They won't affect me," she needed to make herself believe that Natsume's words were empty…that he really didn't mean them.

" So, what do you want me to do? Hurt you physically? Tch, I could have if you didn't have that Alice. What do you really want? How many times do I have to tell you to stay away? I don't need someone like you."

" Natsume, I just want to help."

" I don't need help from the likes of you who don't even understand the real situation. Why do you need to help me anyway? Do I look like I need help?"

" You need help, Natsume. I know about the type of your Alice. It's killing you every time you use it. I know about your missions, too. I want to help you because I don't want you to die, Natsume."

Mikan had come to know about his missions when she followed him once late at night. She had been wondering what could kill Natsume...like how it was in her dreams. Yeah, she could be actually called a stalker because she had always made sure that before she drifted off to sleep, Natsume was already sleeping peacefully. She had a hard time balancing herself on a branch of a tree just to see him through his glass window. She learned from Narumi the types of Alices and the Alices under each category and found out about Natsume's. Since then, she had been thinking of ways to help him.

Natsume could hardly believe that Mikan was actually the one causing the ruffling of the leaves and sometimes the cracking of the branches of the tree near his window. How could he hurt her this way?

" I'll be telling this for one last time, back off! I don't need you and never will I harbor those silly feelings for you. Simply put, you're just too despicable to be loved."

Before he ran away, he had seen tears dropped from Mikan's eyes. And he was sorry…very sorry.

Mikan cupped her hands over her eyes and stifled her sniffles. She didn't want to shed tears but Natsume's words were just too hard to accept.

Suddenly the wind started to blow harshly, and the ravens raucously made frightening sounds. Mikan looked around, feeling that it was a harbinger of a mishap.

A person in black, wearing a mask, having multiple earrings and wearing black nails suddenly appeared from behind a tree.

" If you'll trust me, you can surely help him."

It had been a week since the confrontation they had. Natsume was effectively seeing the results. Mikan was nowhere to be found. Even Hotaru, who grew to be a best friend of Mikan, didn't know where exactly she was. She said that often, she wasn't in her room. Or when she was, she was just sleeping. She was also worried about her because they hadn't talked for a week, and she felt that something was not right. The whole class had been bothered as well that they informed Narumi-sensei about it.

Natsume was brooding as well. He couldn't imagine her drowning in depression because of that. He was expecting her to be hurt but not to such extent that she would really miss her classes and would not even care to tell an excuse. She had also stopped following him lately. But anyway, he didn't have any missions recently so it made sense that she wasn't there tailing him around.

But her absence in school was really too much. This was what he feared the most: missing her.

The front door suddenly opened, and it revealed Narumi together with Mikan.

" I'm sorry for making you worry. I've just had the lack of inspiration to attend classes and so I just cleaned my room and…did some things," she winked and proceeded to her seat beside Natsume. She avoided their scrutiny upon her especially Natsume's. But who wouldn't be bothered by her appearance? She had bandages on her arms and on her right leg. She had mild bruises on her face down to her neck. She also had bandage wrapped around her head.

" Mikan-chan, are you sure you're okay?" Narumi inquired. He was actually wondering why and how that happened to her but since Mikan wasn't telling a single thing, he presumed that it was just due to her carelessness.

" Did you get those when you cleaned your room?" Natsume asked her when she had taken her seat. He couldn't help asking what the hell happened to her. There was something awkwardly familiar about her bruises.

Mikan didn't look at him but instead replied to Narumi.

" Yes, Sensei, this is nothing."

At the middle of the night, Mikan woke up from her slumber because her whole body was aching. She tried to drink the pills Persona gave her, saying that they were pain reliever, but they seemed to have no effects. She couldn't bear it. She just cried silently even if screaming would have relieved her more. Forcing herself to remain silent and still was just adding pressure to her wounds and bruises.

" Don't cry, Mikan. This is all for Natsume," she reminded herself.

Back at the forest, Persona told her that Natsume's lifespan would not be shorten as long as he wouldn't do any missions. If that was the case, then he would need a substitute. Obviously, Mikan volunteered to use her Stealing Alice for that. She could manage to attack the enemies with the help of the Alice stones but since she hadn't undergone decent trainings, her reflexes betrayed her that she wasn't able to dodge their bullets. Good thing, she wasn't critically injured...just a graze from the bullets. Yes...just grazes.

She fell to the floor and curled herself up, praying that the pain would end.

Her window suddenly opened and someone came in. She couldn't even look up to see who that was. But she knew it was the sign of help so she yelped and cried and pleaded.

" Please...help me."

" As I thought, why did you accept the missions?" Natsume was angry at the same time worried about Mikan's condition.

" Natsume!" Mikan suddenly composed herself and tried to pull herself together. She stood to show him that she was okay. She couldn't cry in front of him because he might do the missions again and it would lessen the chance of him liking her just because of her vulnerability.

Narumi walked in the shadowy forest amid the darkness covering the entirety of his sight. But darkness never encumbered his ability to recognize that malevolent face Persona had.

" It's a surprise to see you here, Narumi. What business brought you here, anyway?" Persona grinned just like a skilled villain.

" Don't pretend. I know you're the one behind Mikan's absence and bruises. How dare you give her those missions? I warn you, don't you lay your fingers on my students again. Set them free!" Narumi was already preparing the bean he stole from Misaki-sensei's garden to initiate the fight when he was taken aback by Persona's next words.

" I'm actually doing them a great favor. I'm not as evil as people think I am. I also have feelings. I know they need a little push. They should be thankful," he smirked and started disappearing into thin air as montage of Nobara's smiles flashed in his mind.

" I was wondering why that Persona hasn't given me any mission recently. Good thing you showed up yesterday only to see that bruises of yours that I once had. If I hadn't noticed it immediately, do you know what could have happened to you?" he was restraining himself from reaching out his hand and pulling her into his arms.

" I could die… just like you if you would continue doing them. But this is the only way I could help you and the only benefit my Alices could share. This is the only means to protect you, Natsume," she was trying hard not to let out those moans of pain. But really, she was panting.

" But it's not your responsibility to protect me," he countered.

" When I was 12 years old, I had dreams of you...calling for someone who could help you. In my dreams, you were always feeling too much pain, you always had those bruises…wounds...and you even coughed blood! And at the end of it, you died…you were killed. So, when I came here at the academy and saw you, I followed you around to make sure that… I'd be there to protect and save you even if it would cost my life."

It cost her too much laborious breathing to explain everything. She didn't even want to let him know about this. She knew he wouldn't believe her anyway.

But it all made sense to Natsume. The voice that was murmuring inside his head…the voice that was helping him to carry on…the voice that he had loved since the missions started, it belonged to Mikan, the woman he couldn't afford to lose.

" That is how much I love you, Natsume," she added breathlessly.

Mikan quivered and as much as she wanted to keep on standing firmly, she was suffering much that she flaccidly lost her balance and started towards the floor , but Natsume's arms prevented her. They both ended up kneeling without any space between them.

" Let me tell you something. If you want me badly, then ignore me. If you need me badly, then forsake me and if you love me too much, then forget about me…"

Mikan lifted her head and faced him. The words she just heard were not sinking in. She couldn't believe he wanted it to be that way.

Natsume held her gaze and continued.

" Because I've been doing the same thing...to you," he smiled.

" But don't you worry now, Mikan…the pretense ends tonight," he kissed her forehead and hugged her tightly.

And all the worries and pains they both faded away.

" What will become of me if I lose you in the process?"

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