AN: Hey guys. If you've read my stories, I'm sad to say they're still on hiatus. Please don't kill me. I'll try to get to them once life slows down a bit. Summer this year has been hectic. *sighs* This fic contains AU, Fluff, angst, drama, OOCs. Nevertheless, enjoy! I had to get writing again. I got inspiration for this fic from a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Stories for a Better World—it's entitled "One Cookie At A Time" by Sylvia Leighton. I was really touched by it. The title of this fic came from that story, too.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gakuen Alice.
The Cookie Fairy
Things have always been easy for me. Sports, academics, music, making friends, snagging girls—most especially snagging girls—came to me effortlessly. Call me arrogant, but I'm simply stating facts. I didn't need to try to excel; I already excelled in anything I tried. I'm a Hyuuga, after all, and all Hyuugas had King Midas's touch. Anything we held became valuable. Anything we handled flourished.
But, as much as I hate to admit, I had one weakness, one thing I could never excel at.
Showing kindness to others, showing affection and concern—those are things I cringe at the mere thought of doing, and Hyuugas never cringe away from anything.
I'm not exactly certain if my inability to show kindness is innate, or if it became innate through my upbringing, but I highly suspect it's the latter. My mother died when I was so young that I could hardly remember her face, let alone her words and her modes of affection, and my father wasn't a very affectionate man, to say the least. He was a businessman, cold and exacting, especially after Mother's death. He displaced his grief to me in the form of rigorous discipline.
Aside from that, he was also an extremely busy man, but even if he wasn't around for most of the critical stages in my life (like my first soccer championship and my graduation from elementary), his role in influencing me was vital. He controlled my every action—he chose my school, my sports, my instrument, and even my food and clothes—and everything I did, I did to please him. But usually I received no word of praise from his mouth. If I did something exceptionally well, the most he would do to acknowledge my achievement is to nod his head once. But if I failed, he would reprimand me and bring up all my other faults, then send me to my room on an empty stomach and a red welt from his belt across my bottom. When I was younger, I used to cry when he administered this punishment, and he would always tell me, "Wipe your tears, son. It's disgraceful for a boy to be seen like this."
Father was like that. He didn't merely expect excellence from me; he expected perfection. He pushed me harder every time and honed me relentlessly because I was his only heir, and he expected me to take over our real estate empire one day. I received a lot of instructions from him, but one that he always reminded me of was, "Never be soft. Never be fooled. Trust no one but yourself."
I resisted him in the best way I could. Sometimes I would sneak out to attend parties; sometimes I would steal wine bottles from our basement. Petty things, yes, but they made me feel like I had some semblance of control. It was what I resented him for, after all—assuming control over my life, as if I were some android that he could input any sort of data in on whim. I didn't want to be like him, but after so many years of hearing his words and watching his actions, I had imbibed them until they became a part of me. Until he became a part of me, and I an extension of him. His puppet, if you will.
Now, as a young adolescent of 17, I mirrored him more than ever. Like him, I've become apathetic to the feelings of others and my surroundings; I could hear a story about a blind, orphaned child whose mother died in a gang rape and whose father was shot five times in the gut and thrice in the head and still not feel more than an ounce of compassion.
My apathy may sound unnatural to you. Indeed, it is unnatural, but I had never realized I was so emotionally impaired until I met her. Before her, I assumed everyone else was like me: wary, mistrustful, distant, and on certain occasions, adept at flattery and polite conversation. But when I met her, how could I not notice the stark contrast of our personalities? She was a whirlwind of color and smiles, of spontaneity and heart; and though normally I did not bother with people like her, the circumstances under which we met were anything but normal.
On the cloudy afternoon of the day that I had met her, my father had reprimanded me once again on my inconsistency regarding my grades. Yuu Tobita had ranked first in class, even if he had overtaken me by just 0.15 points. But, that morning, instead of humbly bowing my head in shame and muttering my promises to do better the next time, I lashed out at him.
"It's only 0.15 points! It's insignificant!" I thundered, my fists clenched in rage. "And Yuu doesn't have any extracurricular activities aside from being the Council President! I, on the other hand, have to balance my study time with soccer and band practices, along with debate and science competitions!" I took a deep breath, watching my father's surprised facade in satisfaction. It was the first time I had so openly rebelled against him. "Everyone idolizes me for being so accomplished," I continued in a deceptively calmer tone. "Everyone admires and acknowledges my multiple talents. Everyone but you, my own father. I don't even hear any word of praise. To you, I'm talentless. To you, I'm never good enough."
My steely eyes met his. He had already composed himself into the father I knew—stern and ready to exact a proper punishment on his wayward son. "Natsume, you do not talk to me like that—"
I sneered. "Sorry, Father," I spat the word out. "I believe I just did." And in a fit of blinding anger, I grabbed the nearest set of car keys and stormed out of the house.
I drove around aimlessly for about an hour, seething and cursing to myself in the driver's seat, until my car sputtered to a stop. My cursing came out more colourfully now, and I tried turning the ignition off and on again while slamming on the gas pedal, but the car only inched forward a little until it completely died again.
I raked my fingers through my hair and took a single calming breath before trying to restart the ignition. Then, I promptly slapped my forehead when I realized which set of keys I had grabbed in my haste to leave my father's presence—it was the vintage Lamborghini's. Damn, of all of the six cars we had, I just had the luck to get the one which wasn't regularly maintained. In fact, I was obliged to thank my lucky stars for making it last more than fifteen minutes.
I stepped out of the car, noting that I was in a secluded place outside of our neighbourhood, and proceeded to inspect it. Nothing seemed wrong with its exterior, except for the oil tracks that dripped from one of the parts. For all my masculinity, I had never fixed a car engine before, nor did I know how to diagnose an auto problem. Father had people from the car company itself to do it for us. From what little I knew about machinery, however, I suspected something was wrong with the petroleum engine.
This hypothesis in mind, I crossed my arms and brooded on my next action. I knew I left my phone at home, because having it with me would mean that Father had a means of tracking me—I was unsure if he really did have a tracker, but since he gave me my phone, he could have very well installed it in—and for now, even whilst I was stranded in the middle of a place I was unfamiliar of with only a thousand yen in my pocket, I had no desire to return home if it meant having to face him. He would probably ban me from this year's soccer season, and if my punishment was to be that heavy, I might as well revel in my 'freedom' now while I still can.
I had to find a place with a phone, but the nearest public place I could see from this road was a cemetery.
And it was closed.
Not that it would've been any use if it was opened, anyway.
I scowled to myself, thinking that my day couldn't possibly worsen. Soon I retracted that statement when the sky darkened and drops of rain fell from the heavens.
I hadn't brought an umbrella, and I couldn't get back in the car for shelter, since the water might spoil the quality of its leather seats. I didn't think the water could actually spoil leather, but I didn't want to take any chances; my father prized this car above all the others since it was the only model left. No one else made them like these anymore.
I growled in frustration. Since I couldn't physically hurt whatever gods were maneuvering the day's events, I took my anger out on the car's wheel by kicking it like I would kick a soccer ball. Only the wheel was much harder than a mere soccer ball and my whole foot throbbed a few seconds after contact.
I, Natsume Hyuuga, was reduced to a wet, limping, howling boy with a swollen toe. Fate must be mocking me, I'm sure.
At that precise moment, I caught sight of a pink umbrella with cat ears sticking out of it coming my way. Hopeful, I composed myself and stood tall and dignified—or as dignified as I could possibly be in my state—and prepared myself to charm the lady coming.
My charming smile slipped, though, when I perceived the owner of the umbrella.
I had seen her many times before. She didn't attend Alice Academy like I did, but she attended a school nearby—Morimoto Academy of Arts—so at times, our schools held events together, and the students had basically the same hangout joints. She didn't actually hang out with any students, but on weekends we'd always see her in a pink tutu, giving out homemade cookies to the beggars roaming outside the hangouts. Sometimes she'd also hand cookies out to whoever needed cheering up, usually senior citizens and children, so she'd earned the nickname "The Cookie Fairy". To me and my friends, though, she was "The Kooky Fairy", or simply the crazy girl in the pink tutu.
She was dressed in such a fashion now. She had on her usual bright pink tutu with glitters and ribbons trailing down the bodice, paired with pink tights and ballet flats. She had a shimmering golden crown perched on her head and a large, woven basket of rainbow colors draped on her arm, while holding a sort of wand in her hand. She looked like a character plucked right out of a children's storybook, or a lunatic from an asylum.
"Oh!" she exclaimed when she saw me from a few feet away. "I just knew there was someone here... Are you alright?"
She looked ridiculous, but I restrained myself from blurting out all the biting comments on the tip of my tongue. I contemplated for awhile whether or not I should answer her, because one, I would never stoop as low as to speak to a social outcast, and two, I would never stoop so low as to speak to a social outcast to ask for help. I barely even asked help from anyone.
She didn't seem to mind that I took so long to answer. Instead, she took one look at my car and at the oil still dripping down on the concrete, and pursed her lips. "Looks like you have a leak here," she said.
I rolled my eyes and replied with sarcasm, "A leak. Of course. Why hadn't I seen that before?"
"Oh, that's alright, it's easily fixed," she said cheerily, oblivious to my acerbic response.
I snorted. She was a girl, for crying out loud. What could girls in pink tutus know about cars?
"Really," she said, with a bright smile that rivalled the shimmer of glitter that dusted her tutu in abundance. "I think there's something wrong with your car's PVC valve."
I raised an eyebrow at this piece of information. Of course, the PVC valve—oil could get clogged up in it if it wasn't cleaned at least once a month. And since we hardly used the Lamborghini anymore, only the exterior was cared for. But how in the world could she know that? She didn't look like the type who would say something like that; she looked like the type who knew only words like "fluffy", "flowers", "bunny"... You get my point.
She probably read my expression, because her smile turned sheepish as she said, "My Daddy's a mechanic, and sometimes when I'm bored I help him with fixing cars." When I said nothing in response, she said, "We could bring it over to my place. It's only a few blocks from here, and Daddy works in the garage."
I gave her a piercing glare. Not only was she a social outcast; she was the daughter of an auto mechanic, and in our place, they were notorious for giving out unreasonable prices for their services. I didn't give a damn if I had to be stuck here for days; my pride wouldn't allow me to associate with the likes of her. "I already called for help. I'm just waiting for my friends to come."
"Oh, I see," she replied, nodding. Then she gasped. "How inconsiderate of me!" She moved to stand beside me and raised the umbrella higher so it could accommodate us both. "You shouldn't be standing here in the rain. It's only going to get worse. Are you sure you don't want to wait for your friends at my place...?"
"Positive. And I rather like the rain. You don't need to share with me," I replied tersely. Could she not take the hint and leave?
She looked at me dubiously. It was true that I didn't mind the rain, but I very much minded my personal space, and she was invading it. Finally, she relented. "If you say so. Have a cookie instead?"
As if a cookie could ward off the rain and bring the Lamborghini back to life.
I accepted it anyway, just to shut her up. "Thank you," I said brusquely, glimpsing the small message on the cookie which said, "You're Special" before pocketing it. She shifted the umbrella to her other hand so she could get a cookie and unwrap the sheer plastic off it before taking a bite.
"So, you're a rain person, huh?"
Her absurdly random question caught me off-guard. "Pardon?"
"You're a rain person," she smiled, after swallowing another bite. "Someone who likes rainy days. That's rare. I usually meet sun persons; I've met only a few rain persons."
It was true that I rather liked the rain. If for some people the rain was depressing, for me it was refreshing. Although I didn't hold anything against the sun, I liked the way the rain washed away the dirt and grime off the concrete and cleansed the city of polluted air. Sometimes I would like to imagine the rain washing my faults and failures down the city canals along with the its muck and trash; something I wished my father would do for me—give me a clean slate, a new chance at living my own life.
I told her none of these things, though. It was all too personal to disclose. I said nothing instead.
"I'm a rain person, too." I could care less for what she was saying, but that statement did pique my interest, if only a bit. How could she be a rain person? She was the freaking Cookie Fairy, for crying out loud. She actually did something to help the beggars, not just pity them from a distance, and she made cranky old people nice and crying kids smile. Everything about her screamed warm and sunny. "The rain refreshes me. Sometimes I still play in the rain, because I feel like it can wash away all my insecurities and people's prejudices..."
She trailed off, as if she had just realized she said too much. Something heavy settled on my chest, and I vaguely recognized the feeling as guilt. But why would I feel guilty? I hadn't even taken a jab at her in her face now. I might've done so with my friends, but she should have known people were bound to make fun of her when she decided to strut around in a cheap fairy costume, asking for attention...
And then it hit me. Now that I had met her, I couldn't say anymore that she was an attention-seeker. She was too transparent and sincere in helping, even now to me—I had been nothing but cold to her, and she decided to keep me company, even if no one else was around to witness it. Yet, I had never seen her as an actual person. I saw her as one would see a celebrity—someone always smiling, always helping, always impervious to what people said about her. But no one can be completely impervious to what others thought of them, no matter how strong he or she was, and in her case, she probably suffered the insults behind her back in silence. That made her more human. And the fact that we eerily had the same reason for being rain persons.
Gods, I was even adapting her terminologies now.
But still, I said nothing. I was so absorbed in this new insight and how I should handle it; I wasn't used to dealing with people like her—people who were below my social status—because I had no opportunity to interact with them. All my life I had lived in the company of rich kids, those children of business tycoons and inventors and politicians. With them, you had to be careful with your words, because sometimes we spoke one thing when we really meant the other. It was hard to make any real, human friends who actually cared more for you than your name; in my circle of friends, I had only two whom I could trust with my life. I wasn't complaining, though. One true friend was rare enough; two was a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
"So, what's your name?" Her sunny smile was back on her face. It wasn't forced, though. I of all people should be able to tell a genuine smile from a fake one.
The fact that she didn't know me didn't faze me. It was my father who was well-known; apart from his name, I was virtually a nobody. In this case, I decided to leave my surname out. "Natsume."
"Mikan." She beamed and held out her hand to me. I hesitated, but after a moment I took her hand and gave it a brief, firm shake. "So, Natsume," she said, conversationally again. "Your friends aren't really coming, are they?"
Stunned by the question, I sought refuge in a quick lie. "Of course they are."
"If they were," she said, "You would be holding on to your phone right now, anxiously waiting for their calls or texts or anxiously calling or texting them. But you aren't."
"My battery died," I said, rising up to take the defensive. What little sympathy I had evaporated back to condescension, which was far easier for me to handle.
She scrutinized me for a moment. Then, she said, "I know you probably think I'm weird, and that my Daddy's dishonest, but we're not. Well, maybe I'm weird, but my Daddy's an honest man. If you want, I could ask him to change your PVC valve for free. But you can't stand here all day in the rain. You'll get sick, and you won't be able to find help anywhere nearby. Our nearest neighbours live twenty minutes away from here by car."
This piece of information startled me. If I remember correctly, I had been driving for only an hour; where in the world had I stopped at? And why did she live so far from Morimoto Academy? Did she walk home every day? How did her father manage to make a living if he lived so far from everyone and worked only in his garage?
I wasn't beginning to care for her, mind you. It was simple curiosity.
Her gaze on me did not waver as I stared back at her, weighing my situation. I loved the rain, but now it pelted harder on my skin, soaking me thoroughly and leaving me cold and chilled to the bone. I don't think I could walk twenty minutes to the next house—I didn't know which direction to take, even. I could wait for my father's search party to find me, but that would damage my pride further. It would just prove to him that I was weak and incapable of caring for myself.
So I swallowed my pride and mumbled, "Alright, I'm coming with you."
AN: Sorry if it's a bit slow. I'm aiming for a realistic approach. =) I also don't know much about cars, but I did a bit of research. If I wrote anything wrong, please feel free to point it out. I'll post the next chapter up tomorrow. *grins* This is a three-shot, BTW. Please review!