Disclaimer:No Propio

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M.H. - "However did you learn good manners with my son around?"

E.D. - "It was very difficult…"

-Mrs. Higgins, Eliza Doolittle. (My Fair Lady 1964)

Chapter 22: What I Love About Him

.

The ardor of love was amidst the dark night air.

The rays of a luminous full moon reflected off from the sparkling crystals of a quiescent lake. Swans glided like magic upon the tranquil waters. Fireflies danced in unison with the hushing wind.

Upon such an enchanting night, people were gathered together outside for a ball. The strings of violins echoed dissonantly throughout the air as the maestro guided his orchestra. Loving couples swayed away to the music.

Then suddenly, a young woman, gallant and lovely made her appearance. Her glittering gown came in the color of regal pink. Every strand of her auburn hair was pinned neatly into a gorgeous bun with exquisite diamonds for a headband.

One by one people began to cease with idle chatter as the lovely creature took the scene.

Graceful and lithe, the woman made her way across the grass in silence. Unable to simply look on in wonder, men beckoned to her, pleading her for a dance. But their cries were in vain, for her eyes remained focused on another.

Just a few feet away stood the man that she loved.

He was dressed in a black tuxedo, standing secluded with both hands casually pocketed into his pants. His tall, dark silhouette was outlined ever so perfectly by the glowing full moon. His raven hair was the color of night and yet even from afar his crimson eyes glistened resplendently red.

As if sensing her presence, he slowly looked up to find the woman of his dreams making her way towards him. Those dark, crimson orbs were like an enchanting spell as they pierced her way.

The brunette's heart went a flutter. Little by little, she took another few steps forward. It was as if she could feel the magnetic pull from the pair of eyes beckoning to her.

Once reaching her proximity, she halted to a stop in front of the handsome bachelor. She watched as his lips curved into a boyish grin.

He extended a hand out towards her, laughing huskily at her shyness as he pulled her closer to his chest. She bent her head down shyly, but he wasn't having that. Slowly, he used his thumb and forefinger to tilt her chin upwards, forcing her to look at him.

A smirk played upon his lips as he tucked the few loose strands behind her ear.

He bent down to place a chaste kiss on her lips and whispered softly, "You look beautiful…"

The brunette's heart quivered in delight like a tranquil wave coursing through her veins. She watched the soft, dominating color of red tame her entire being and smiled lovingly. Standing on the tips of her toes, she leaned in closer and enwrapped her arms around her lover's neck.

Her eyes closed slowly as she hushed out the words, "I love you."

They were so close now. Their lips were just seconds away from touching, enclosing that small bit of space, until…

"Mikan…"

The brunette whispered once more, "I love you."

"Hey. Mikan…"

"I love you, my prince…"

"Mikan…"

"I love you─"

"Mikan… Hey, wake up already."

The sound of a velvety yet gruff voice caused a certain brunette to stir in her sleep.

Seconds passed along with incoherent murmurs. Lying just beside a king-sized bed, Mikan was seen sprawled out among the floor with her legs intertwined between silk-satin sheets.

After smacking her lips together, she groaned and arose to sit up halfway while scratching at her head.

Mikan yawned with a stretch of her arms as her disarrayed strands fell over her eyes. She blinked twice, trailing up from the sight of long legs, a bare muscular chest, and a pair of crimson eyes.

She blinked again and slurred, "Are you… my prince?"

Natsume watched on at the pitiful creature before him with narrowed eyes. Wearing nothing but a pair of dark jeans with chiseled muscles glowing, he stood leaning against the side of the doorframe.

He crossed both arms over his chest. "What the hell are you talking about, idiot? Were you dreaming or something?"

Mikan's brows knitted together. "So, then my prince isn't here?"

Natsume on the other hand appeared to be struggling for words. His eyes repeatedly traced over the colorful, childlike pattern of a pink and white bra, trying not to look past the sight of cleavage, but hell… it was pretty damn tempting.

Rubbing the back of his neck, he cleared his throat and said, "Hey… Do you… really wear polka-dots for a bra?"

Mikan blinked back aloof. "Polka-dots for a bra?"

It was then that the words began to sink in. Feeling a quaint breeze pass upon her bare navel, she gasped, looked down at her pair of printed undergarments, and felt her heart drop. Her eyes widened in horror.

Hell, this wasn't happening… She was actually sitting half-naked right in front of…

Natsume broke the quietness with a disapproving click of his tongue.

"I was surprised, honestly. I thought even a little girl like you would at least wear somethingwith black and lace. But a polka-dotted bra is… seriously?"

3…

2…

1…

"AAAAAAGGGH!"

Three hours later, just outside of Tobita le' Gateau…

"Damn that stupid girl…"

A fist pounded the table angrily as a plastic cup of coffee clattered to the floor.

Looking sullenly hostile, Natsume Hyuuga sat in his seat with one hand cupping the side of his now aching cheek.

Laughter could be heard from the table now. Sitting just across from sat his best friend who couldn't help but succumb to the humor.

"Dude," Ruka pointed reaching over the table to poke at his friend's swollen cheek, "look at how red it is. It's glowing."

"Shut up," Natsume swatted Ruka's hand away. A low growl erupted from him as he said, "I'll make that little girl pay for this…"

"You can't blame her, Natsume." Ruka sighed and took a nice sip of coffee. "I mean, you did look at her bra and not only that, but you actually made a snide remark about her not wearing lace. You should've seen that slap coming, man."

Natsume only snorted. "What woman in her right mind would wear a polka-dotted bra, anyway? And her panties even matched her bra, too. What, does she think that she has a small butt? They looked pretty tight on her. Her thighs are too big for something like─"

"Wait a minute," Ruka interjected, nearly choking on his sip of coffee. "You mean you actually saw her underwear too? It wasn't just the bra?"

"I've seen women wear a lot of things on their body, Ruka," Natsume retorted plainly. "And polka-dots sure as hell weren't on my menu for sexual escapades."

Ruka cringed and shook the thought away. "Which reminds me… how in the world did you happen to see Sakura-san's bra and underwear, anyway? What was she doing in the same room as you?"

That one question placed a coy smile upon Natsume's lips. "That's easy," he said grinning. "That's because we both slept…"

He was quick to catch his words before letting the last few slip out. All at once, his thoughts suddenly traced back to last night's eccentric episode… one that involved him, a certain little brunette, and her enticing lips that made him drunk to a stupor as she lay by his side while they kissed.

"That's because we both slept together in the same bed last night…"

Natsume swallowed through a dry throat at the thought. Oh, hell there it goes… If he were tell his best friend about how he shared his bed with Mikan, Ruka would undoubtedly throw it back in his face. Then he'd probably boast about the Hyuuga heir finally falling in love, and how it would be his win for their crazy bet.

The unexpected silence caused Ruka to shift uncomfortably. "Oh, no…Natsume, don't tell me… Did you guys really… Did you dothings to Sakura-san that shouldn't be seen in movies?"

"Shut the hell up, Ruka," Natsume said, throwing a piece of bagel at his friend.

"I don't have to explain myself to you." The hot model tried to cover up his blushing with a lofty cough. "Besides why would I waste my time doing fun things like 'that' with a naïve little girl? She's not ready for me yet."

"Gross…"

"What?"

"You just said 'yet,'" Ruka murmured, "implying that you're actually gonna… do 'that'."

Natsume's eyes rolled. "This conversation is over."

He was just about to order another coffee until a sudden vibration stirred within his jeans. Curious, he pulled out his IPhone and quirked a brow at what was written on the screen.

"One new message, huh…"

Nonchalant, he held the phone up to his ear and thumbed the answer button. A loud beep came about before a feminine voice was heard.

"Natsume? Hey kiddo, it's your mother. Look, I just wanted to let you know that I'm coming back to Japan since I no longer have any busy scheduling going on in Italy. I've decided to come back after having received very interesting news. Well… at least it was interesting to me. Your cousin, Hotaru, informed me that you've been having a young woman staying with you these past few months, and let me just say that I found that rather surprising."

Natsume shifted upright in his seat at the last few words.

"─But what was even more surprising is that Hotaru told me that this new woman happened to be your new love interest. Now Natsume, listen, I know that you have a bad habit of bringing women over the house, and I know that it's not my place to tell you how to live your life, but… kiddo, you should at least let me know when you plan on settling down, especially now that you're the new Hyuuga heir. You need to watch yourself. That's why I've decided on coming over to your apartment tomorrow, and I plan on meeting this lovely young lady very soon. Oh! And another thing, don't forget to buy a new suit for your upcoming inauguration in March, and make sure that you wear a fresh pair of underwear that same day as well. I'll see you soon, son!"

Click!

After a good moment of silence, Natsume leaned back and massaged his temples. "Damn that Imai…"

"Bad news?" Ruka asked.

"Kaoru is coming back to town," Natsume said dryly. He sighed. "She plans on meeting Mikan. And thanks to my annoying cousin, it looks like I have to make an arrangement for them to actually get together."

"Wow…! Japan's legacy model and once upon-a-time Iman is actually coming back? And she wants to meet Sakura-san too, huh? That'll be something."

"Of course I'm not letting it happen." Natsume clicked his tongue at the thought. "Like hell I'll let Kaoru intervene with my plans. If she finds out about Mikan actually being homeless and that I'm using her to win a bet, who knows what she'll do."

"Yeeaah, but here's the thing, Natsume," Ruka probed, closing his eyes with a smile of amusement. "Your mom's said that she's coming tomorrow to meet Mikan."

"Yeah, so?"

"So… when has it been in your mom's nature to mean anything that she says? I mean as far as her arrivals go." Ruka's eyes opened as he stared at his best friend all knowingly. "Come on, man. Think about it. Knowing her way of doing things, and how her schedule works, she might be on her way over to your suite right now."

It took a good five seconds for that thought to actually settle in Natsume's head.

"…Well, damn."

.

Smoke was fuming in the air.

The burning smell of tomato sauce flooded throughout the room.

Hearing the fire alarm going off, Mikan panicked as she ran her way into the kitchen. She mentally prayed that her prepped meal hadn't met an overly cooked end. After all, she had poured her heart into cooking a dish of four-cheese lasagna.

Nonoko would be out of town for two weeks or so, leaving only Mikan and her raven haired model alone together. Natsume had taken his leave hours ago to meet up with Ruka. Seeing as that she would be alone in the house for a while, Mikan took it upon herself to prepare a delicious meal for the man that she loved.

Also, it… didn't hurt to try to cook up something nice for a guy who had earned a good slap in the face just hours earlier…Yet even despite all of her hardworking efforts of scouring through four to six cook books, it appeared that her meal didn't go as smoothly as planned.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

The fire alarm sounded off as Mikan tried her best to fan away the air of smoke. She opened the door to the oven before swatting on a plaid glove on either hand, and pulled out a glass tray.

After carrying her tray of lasagna over to the kitchen counter, she took off her gloves and removed the foil. Her eyes saddened at the sight of overcooked cheese and burnt pasta.

"Oh no, it's burnt. Natsume will never eat this…"

Ding!

Suddenly, the sound of the bell coming from the front door echoed from the living room.

"Coming!" Mikan called back.

Damn all the luck… First she goes and burns a perfect meal and now, someone picks the time of all times to come to the door.

The ringing of the doorbell continued to chime. Whoever the person was at the front door clearly didn't have a high tolerance for patience.

Mikan stumbled over the few cooking books she had left in the middle of the living room and made her way towards the door.

"Just a minute, please!" She undid the few locks of the door, and fumbled with the knob. "Yes, how may I help…?"

Her words ceased.

A beautiful woman dressed in a fashionably, royal-blue leather coat stood before her.

She looked like a professional model with the way she stood with both hands situated laxly into her pockets while leaning against the side of the doorframe. She wore a pair of black designer shades, and her long raven hair cascaded like a waterfall upon her faux-furred coat.

She whipped off her shades before folding them neatly into the pocket of her coat and greeted professionally, "Good afternoon."

Mikan swallowed slowly. She stared back in awe, captivated by the familiar pair of red eyes that resembled Natsume's. Come to think of it… this woman looked exactly like Natsume ─ precisely identical in fact.

She bowed shyly, "Oh, y-yes, good afternoon…"

After having exchanged a share of greetings, an awkward quietness bounced back between the two. The woman's hard and guarded expression stared over the timid girl in front of her as if inspecting something completely foreign.

Mikan slowly gulped and was just about to break the silence, until…

"Ooooh you're absolutely precious!"

Mikan froze. The poor girl never even saw it coming as she found herself abruptly being pulled into a loving embrace.

The eccentric woman giggled in adoration. "Let me get a good look at you. These cheeks," she said, patting the brunette's face lightly, "they're fatly round and soft like a baby's bottom. And just look at those thighs." Next, she speculated Mikan's figure with a nod of approval. "Perfect, absolutely perfect ─ you'll have no problem at all popping out children."

Boy did the woman's hands know how to travel… Question marks were practically bouncing back and forth through the brunette's head. Poor Mikan didn't know what to do as she stood helplessly confused while being skimmed over for inspection.

Just what… the hell is going on here?

Mikan was just about to sputter out a demand of whom the hell the woman was… up until she witnessed the woman zip past her shoulder faster than light.

"Ah! W-wait, please," Mikan stuttered. She rushed after the oddball who had decided to make her own entrance inside without permission. "Ma'am, I don't mean to be rude, but I really don't think you should take it upon yourself to just─"

"Is this the living room?" the woman interjected.

"Eh?" was Mikan's only response. "Yes it is, but anyway, I don't think─"

"What are these things?" the woman cut in once again while kicking around the few cooking books that were lying on the floor.

"They're cooking books."

"Cooking books?" the woman repeated, arching a brow at the word. She looked about the premises of the suite and then snapped her head over to the brunette. "You mean that you need cooking books to learn how to prepare a proper meal? Where's Nonoko? Isn't she the maid that usually works here?"

"W-well, Nonoko will be out of town for a few weeks or so."

"That right?" the woman said, using her index finger to inspect for the bit of dirt off of a nearby vase. "Well, I guess it can't be helped. At least Natsume finally has a cute girl with manners roaming about the house and not some overly obsessed twit. By the way dear, I…" She inhaled a whiff of smoke with a wrinkled nose. "What on earth is that smell?"

"…Burnt lasagna," Mikan murmured.

"Oh… Well, I guess that doesn't matter, anyway." The woman gave a nice flip of her dark tresses and made herself comfortable upon the leather couch.

Mikan watched half dazed by how the beautiful woman's graceful moves were like that of a swan.

"If you don't mind me asking, ma'am… what exactly are you here for, anyway?"

Eyes now closed, the woman sat professionally with an airy smile upon her lips. "I've got more important things to discuss. Believe it or not, young lady, I'm here on more business matters so to speak regarding Natsume's well-being." Her red eyes slowly opened, blazing with amusement as she said, "I've come to meet the woman that stole my son's heart."

Mikan blinked back aloof. "Your s-son?" she repeated. Slowly, her mind warped around the two words as her brown eyes widened. "Then, you must be…"

"Kaoru Hyuuga, Natsume's mother," the woman finished plainly. She winked with a small grin. "It's a pleasure to meet you at last, Mikan Sakura."

"You… know my name?"

Kaoru laughed. "But of course. Why wouldn't I? I know every move of every woman who enjoys prancing their way around my kid. It's not like I'm a rookie at this you know. Natsume's ways with the opposite sex far exceeds my expectations." She sighed and added, "Much to my dismay, anyway."

Mikan couldn't help but blush at that last sentence. She knew that the man she loved happened to be an all-around ladies' man, but hearing it from his own mother was just…

"You don't have to say it," she mumbled lowly.

Kaoru laughed again. She arose from the couch and clapped her hands.

"Well, Mikan, I hope you know that I didn't come here to waste time. I'm interested in finding out about you in particular. So! We're going to have a girl's day out and enjoy the fun, just the two of us. We'll head to the mall in fact, and then go to a restaurant. I want to get to know all about the woman who has captured my son's attention and the possible candidate for his new wife."

"Wife?" Mikan gaped in embarrassment. "N-no, ma'am… I think you've got it all wrong. I'm not─"

"Right, right, you're not properly dressed, I know," Kaoru was quick to interject. She clicked her tongue in disapproval and lightly tugged at the collar of Mikan's shirt. "Get rid of that hideous shirt and dress into something more appealing so that we can go out."

Ouch…

"Do you have any long-sleeved shirts? Pink, perhaps? Yes, pink is definitely your color. Show me your dressing room please, Mikan."

Okay, so aside from good looks, there were two resembling qualities that this eccentric woman shared with her son. Not only did she have a bad habit of being bored when it came to listening, but she also had no problem with being candidly frank.

Mikan smiled sheepishly. "B-but I-I can't… I mean, I can't just─"

"Mikan."

Hearing the crisp, dry tone of her name was enough to make Mikan shut her mouth.

Kaoru stopped with a small sigh and slowly turned her head to the brunette. A small smile grazed her lips.

"I would advise you to go along with my plan of having a girl's day out." Her red eyes darkened with a special glint as she said, "You'll soon come to find that I'm not as patient as my son."

Mikan could swear that a part of her soul had just stirred after that. She gulped through a dry throat and nodded.

"Y-yes, ma'am."

Alright, scratch that… this woman was odd, frank, and a lot more intimidating than Natsume could ever be.

.

During the time of 3:30pm…

The word interesting could not simply justify the cheerfully amusing Mikan Sakura.

After practically forcing the girl out of the house, Kaoru expected the brunette to be sluggish about shopping, or maybe a little apprehensive. She at least expected her to be intimidated simply because she carried the superior title of being Natsume's mother, but… in the end, little Miss Mikan turned out to be quite the surprise.

In fact, Mrs. Kaoru Hyuuga found herself being charmed by the lovely girl. Originally, she meant to follow through her plan of exposing the brunette's 'true colors,' and getting rid of another possible pest that may have been flying around her son's life. However, she rather enjoyed Mikan Sakura's company while exploring the mall.

Watching her cutely, childish actions made Kaoru smile. Mikan loved taking different routes to the many outlet stores, and each time she spotted a food stand giving out free samples, her eyes glistened as if the rays of heaven were shining down upon her.

Kaoru couldn't deny the joy that she felt, being able to enjoy of what felt like the daughter she never had accompanying her. She enjoyed dragging the brunette by the wrist, enjoyed forcing her inside of a dressing room to try on the trendy styles of Michael Korus, and just… loved watching the ditzy girl smile.

In the end, time flew by quite nicely for both Kaoru and Mikan. After three hours of running about, Mrs. Hyuuga decided upon one of her favorite stores, Pink Wink's for some heels browsing.

Of course… heels were never Mikan's cup of tea.

"Mikan, sweetheart, balance would you?" Kaoru instructed from her seat. "You look like a trembling twig about to tip over."

Standing just in front of a mirror, an antsy looking brunette was doing her best for walking while wearing a pair of hot pink heels. The five inched shoes caused the muscles in her legs to shake like JELL-O.

"I'm t-trying," Mikan said, concentrating. "I'm not very good at walking in heels, you know."

Kaoru sighed. "You're not very good at trying either." She laughed instructed Mikan to hand over the shoes.

Thankful, the brunette happily obliged as she watched Mrs. Hyuuga slip her feet into the heels like a pro. Kaoru tapped the toe of her shoes against the floor and winked.

"Look, it's all about the calves and muscles in those slender legs. That's the potent power that a woman has to have when she wears heels. You have to own them." She straightened her back for perfect posture with both hands situated on her hips. "For example…"

Kaoru's aura was flawless. It was like having Wonder Woman strutting down the walkway for a red carpet premiere.

"Amazing…!" Mikan clapped admirably.

Kaoru shrugged. "I used to model before I started getting a baby bump. And little Natsume didn't make it easy for me either. Anyway, that was a long time ago. So, what did you think about these pink heels, Mikan?"

"What do I think?" Mikan repeated with raised brows.

I think they give me hell ─ was what she wanted to say.

"Oh, I don't know… I mean, I guess they're kind of pretty, but─"

"We'll take them!" Once again, Kaoru was quick to interrupt as she ordered a clerk to box the shoes.

"B-but Mrs. Hyuuga, I… You can't buy them now. I still don't know if I can walk in them all the way yet. Shouldn't we wait?"

"Nonsense, they looked just fine," Kaoru dismissed. "Besides, I'm getting famished and I don't believe in such a thing as shopping while starving. Let's get these babies boxed up for you and then go get a bite to eat. Sound good?"

Mikan could swear that she was having a workout just by being with such an odd woman. Then again, it felt… nice hearing the word, food.

She laughed. "That sounds perfect!"

Blue Lobster, 7:45pm…

The fresh aroma of catfish and freshly baked cheddar biscuits danced about the air. The strings of violins played about the room.

Mikan inhaled the scent of her meal and smiled. She and Mrs. Hyuuga were both situated inside a seafood restaurant where a bottle of wine complimented the middle of their table and a candlelit lamp.

"Well, I have to say, Mikan," Kaoru started as she finished breaking off a piece of crab. "This afternoon turned out to be a lot more interesting than I thought."

Mikan finished gulping down a biscuit and asked, "It w-was?"

Kaoru nodded. "I got to know a lot of interesting things about the young woman who stole my son's heart. For instance, I found out that not only does she seem to have a thing for burning up lasagna, but she also has a pallet of two to three stomachs, and she has a poor walk when it comes to wearing heels."

"Oh… Sorry."

"What for?" Kaoru laughed. "I'm glad that my son has some amusing company in his life."

Mikan fingered with one of her strands in nervousness. "I'm not really… W-well, he and I aren't r-really…"

"At the least," Kaoru started, "you definitely have the inner beauty that a lot of women appear to lack these days." She studied Mikan with a small grin. "You have a kindred soul, a certain light that makes me feel… warm inside."

Such high compliments coming from a gorgeous woman caused Mikan to go shy.

She bowed her head. "Thank you very much, Mrs. Hyuuga. That means a lot coming from a beautiful woman like you."

Kaoru nodded accordingly. Suddenly, her red eyes glistened fervently with a hinted seriousness.

"There's something that I've been meaning to ask you, Mikan," she said, using her elbow to scoot her plate off to the side. "It's regarding Natsume. I'm intrigued by what it is that seems to keep you to remain by his side. He's not the most modest of men you know. I mean when it comes to an actual relationship with a woman, anyway. So, what… is it exactly that you see in my son? What is it that you love about him?"

Mikan stiffened. "What… do I love about your son?" The question somewhat caught her off guard. There was so many ways to answer, but she seemed to fumble for words while saying, "Well, that is to say, I-I… I love everything about your son, Mrs. Hyuuga."

Kaoru arched a derisive brow, prompting her to continue.

"Sure, he can have a bad temper sometimes," Mikan said, shrugging her shoulders. "He's not like other men. No, Natsume has… his own special aura to him that draws people to him. I guess that's what I love about him the most."

Kaoru folded both hands underneath her chin, propped both elbows upon the edge of the table, and nodded, "Go on."

Mikan blushed, laughing nervously as she thought about her many reasons.

"Natsume opened a whole different world for me. H-he… He was able to open up a door to a different world that I never knew existed. Natsume's confidence was eccentric yet mesmerizing… I love that about him."

She smiled a little to herself.

"I love the way the color of his ruby eyes shine when he smiles at me. I love the way he scowls and grunts whenever he gets frustrated. I love the way he leaves his slippers lying around the house and how he gets upset because he can never find them. I love the way he's stubbornly possessive when he doesn't want any other guy looking at me. I love the way he says my name. I even love the way his voice sounds. I-I love him."

It took three split seconds for a gasp to slip out of her mouth before she realized what she had just said.

She waved back apologetically. "O-oh, that part w-wasn't supposed to come out…"

"It's okay, sweetheart," Kaoru shrugged and laughed. "I think… I understand a little more now."

Suddenly, three loud vibrations interrupted their conversation. Kaoru arched a questioning brow as she pulled out her phone and clicked her tongue after looking at the familiar name upon the screen.

"Well, well, would you look at that? Natsume's actually calling me. Hah! ─ This never happens." She laughed and winked at Mikan. "It must be because he knows that I took you hostage."

As if she knew that truth all too well, Mikan smiled and took a sip of wine to keep from laughing.

Sick of the repetitive rings coming from her phone, Kaoru sighed, clicked the answer button and answered, "Yes Natsume, what is it?"

"Where is she, Kaoru?"

Kaoru smirked at the annoyed, rugged voice. "Are you mad?" she asked, already knowing that her son was upset. "And what are you talking about?"

"Kaoru… What did you do with Mikan? Did you scare her off? Did you‒"

"Oh shut up and calm down child," Kaoru sighed as she took a sip of wine. "The girl is just fine. She's here with me right now at Blue Lobster in Central."

"In Central?"

"Yes, that's right. I couldn't let the poor thing starve to death, now could I?"

"…I'm on my way."

Kaoru released an exasperated sigh once the line ended. She gave a shake of head.

"Honestly, that kid of mine…" After taking in her last swig of wine, she sighed again, and looked expectantly to the brunette. "Mikan, when you decide to produce me with grandchildren, please don't pop one out that's as stubborn and headstrong as my son."

Mikan choked back on her drink. Cheeks blushing mad, she coughed out, "Y-yes, Mrs. Hyuuga..."

.

Both Kaoru and Mikan were standing just outside of the restaurant.

Kaoru remained lax and pulled out a lighter from her coat pocket before lighting the tip of her cigarette. She blew out a small air of smoke, flipping her dark tresses over her shoulder.

Mikan smiled admirably at how Mrs. Hyuuga could still look so beautiful while smoking. Although, it was obvious as to where Natsume had picked up the bad habit…

Suddenly, the screeching sound of tires could be heard as a red sports car came swerving to a good stop in the front of the restaurant. Natsume casually stepped out of the car while slamming his door shut.

Mrs. Hyuuga smirked at the sight of her son displaying his bad boy, runway walk as he came to meet her.

"It's nice to see you, son. You're looking handsome just as ever. Did you learn a new walk since you've been modeling?"

Natsume only rolled his eyes as he casually passed her by. His eyes settled in relief upon the brunette. "Mikan, are you alright?" he asked her.

Mikan smiled at the hint of worry in his voice. "Yeah, I'm okay. Actually, your mother and I had a lot of fun getting to know each other, today."

"That right?" Natsume drawled lazily. He titled his head over to his mother in disbelief. "You guys had fun, huh?"

The two proud Hyuuga's continued to stare at each other in silence ─ one smiling ever so innocently as the other had on his usual poker face.

Sensing the awkward atmosphere, Mikan backed up slowly to let the two have their space.

"W-well, I'll let you two have a moment to reunite and talk. I'm going to run to the ladies room for a second."

Natsume watched as she ran inside of the restaurant before turning his head back to his mother.

"Kaoru," he sighed, "what on earth were you thinking?"

"What do you mean?" Kaoru asked.

This in turn, earned a shot of narrowed eyes from her annoyed son. "Don't play dumb. I thought you said you wouldn't decide to meet Mikan until tomorrow."

Scoffing at her son's dry tone, Kaoru gave a flip to her hair and shrugged. "Well, obviously I changed my mind. Besides, if you knew exactly when I decided on meeting her, then you probably would've stuck around. It's no fun having a serious guy who's all work and no games." A smile played at her lips as she pretended to inspect her nails. "By the way Natsume, I've been meaning to ask this. Our little Mikan… she's homeless, is she not?"

Natsume's red eyes widened. "You… H-how did you know that?"

"Natsume, please," Kaoru sighed, rolling her eyes. She pinched her adorable son's cheek. "I'm your mom after all. Keeping an eye on you as well as the little 'kittens' you decide to hang around nowadays is practically like a second job for me. And besides, you know that your cousin has a bad habit of leaking allsorts of information to me."

"So, then… you already know?"

"If you're referring to this little 'game' that you and Ruka have going on," Kaoru drawled, placing a hand on one hip, "then yes, I know about all of it. And Natsume let me just say this." She sighed then, knitting her brows into a small frown. "It's okay to fool around every now and then, especially when you're young. But if you make the wrong move by fooling around with a woman's heart for too long… you'll end up losing everything."

Natsume only snorted. "Is that all? It's not like you to be the serious type."

Kaoru gave a snort of her own. "That's all. In fact I don't see a point in wasting my breath on an insufferable know it all for a son." She smirked. "It appears you've not only inherited my good looks, but you've got my pomposity as well. Anyway, I won't bother nosing my way into whatever it is that you and Ruka are doing. But don't bother complaining later after your rash actions are all said and done. It's your choice, kid."

Natsume simply stared back at his mother. He opened his mouth to speak, closing it with second thoughts with a shake his head.

"You… really are something."

Kaoru smiled and whipped out her designer shades from her coat pocket. "I absolutely adore that girl, Natsume," she said, putting on her shades. "She's so much different than those original things that you normally have hanging around you. I love her innocence, her sweetness, and the way that her personality just shines, you know? It's breathtaking, really."

Right before Natsume had a chance to probe his mother for more details, a sleek black limo appeared before them. A chauffeur stepped out as he opened the door for his awaiting guest.

Mrs. Hyuuga sighed. "Well, there's my limo. I'd best be going. I have another appointment coming up in Italy, again."

"You're leaving, already?" Natsume asked, not really surprised.

His mother nodded simply and placed a light peck on his cheek before clacking her heels away to the limo. Natsume's eyes rolled as he witnessed his mother giving a swinging sashay to her hips. Clearly, she was purposely making a statement about her youth.

The tinted windows to the limo lowered down as Kaoru popped her head out while saying, "Oh, and tell Mikan that I'm sorry that I didn't bid her a proper farewell. I'm not really good with goodbyes."

Natsume watched on, still shaking his head a little to himself as he watched the limo take its leave. That weird, overly cunning mother of his… She always had a way of making his life interesting.

"Okay, I'm back!"

Mikan finally appeared out of the restaurant.

She clacked her way up to Natsume, doing her best not to trip in her pink heels. The hot model held back a laugh at the pitiful sight and playfully tugged at one of her brown strands.

Mikan pouted then noticed someone missing. "Where's Mrs. Hyuuga? Did she leave?"

Natsume shrugged. "You'll be seeing her again," his monotone voice implied. After giving a small yawn, he gave a playful flick to Mikan's forehead. "Hey, I want you to come with me. There's something I want to show you."

.

It seemed like three hours as Mikan sat in silence inside of the car, curious as to where Natsume was taking her.

They mounted on top of what appeared to be a small hill where a bridge connected to the route heading towards a grandeur building.

Natsume slowed his sports car to a good stop before parking it just beside a tree. He wasted no time as he slid out of his seat and rushed over to help the brunette out of the passenger's side. Mikan blushed as he took her small hand.

She was led away towards the edge of the bridge and her eyes widened in awe at the magnificent sight. She felt like she was standing over all of Tokyo as the beautiful city glistened like a starry night sky.

Glimmering lights shone brilliantly from a far off building. It stood in all of its towering glory amidst the city.

"Wow," Mikan gasped. "Natsume, what is that place?"

Natsume grinned in satisfaction at the brunette's look of wonder. "That's Rubis de la Vie, the most popular luxurious suite owned by Hyuuga Hotels," he answered, staring off at the scene. "That's also where your final test will be held. You'll show up with me at my inauguration when people come to welcome me as the new Hyuuga heir."

Mikan turned to look at him. "My last test?" she asked.

"That's right," Natsume said. His eyes were still fixated upon the building. "After you impress everyone there, displaying your eloquence as a beautiful young woman, the bet will finally end." He rested his elbows upon the bar of the bridge, grinning a little to himself. "With the way you've been progressing, Ruka and I are now tied toe to toe. But that's about to change. Once you show everyone what you've got during the month of March, the bet will definitely be my win for sure."

His win… right…

Mikan felt her heart contract as she thought about how close the bet was coming to an end. She wondered if Natsume, though stubborn and self-absorbed, cared anything for her the way that she cared for him. The only thing she wanted to do was be with the man that she had somehow come to love.

She studied the smirk of victory on Natsume's lips.

"And after that… everything will be over, right?"

Natsume turned to look at her. He heard the evident pain within her voice. The somber expression on her face was enough to make him feel like an idiot.

His mouth opened up to speak but hell; he had never been good at consoling women with words. Unsure of what to do, he cleared his throat and pulled her closer to his side.

"Don't worry about anything, Mikan. I'll be by your side during the inauguration," he assured her. He massaged the skin of her hand with the few comforting brushes of his thumb. "I won't let you leave my sight for even a second. I promise…"

Mikan's heart fluttered at those words. Feeling her body swoon from his touch, she smiled back lovingly.

"I believe you…"

Natsume grinned and snapped his fingers as if suddenly remembering something.

"I've got something for you." He reached into the pocket of his jeans, but stopped short as he demanded, "Close your eyes."

Mikan arched a brow with a small grin of her own before doing what she was told. Just in case, Natsume waved his hand in front of her face to test her. Then next, he casually reached into the side pocket of his coat to pull out a carrot diamonded necklace.

After an inhale of breath, he cleared his throat. "Okay… You can open them now."

Mikan slowly opened her eyes. Suddenly, the brilliant color of orange caught her attention. "Natsume…!" she gasped. "This is… This looks just like…"

"Do you like it?"

Mikan nodded. She was at a loss for words as she admired the beautiful diamond, brushing her thumb over its smooth exterior. "Oh, it's beautiful! I… You actually bought this for me?"

The evident excitement made Natsume feel smug.

"Here, let me put it on for you." He took the necklace from the brunette and situated it upon her neck. "I bought it earlier this morning before I went to meet with Ruka. I remember the story you told me when you said that you lost your favorite necklace. You said that it was a keepsake from your mom."

"She had given it to me before she passed away," Mikan whispered, smiling somberly at the thought. "And then like an idiot, I went and... I'll never forget how upset I was, knowing that I would never be able to see that necklace again."

Natsume tilted the woman's chin upwards and stared down into hazel eyes. "But now you have another chance. You better take care of this one. After all, it's something you got from me."

"I'll protect this one with my life," Mikan laughed and placed a chaste peck upon her necklace. She stared up at the man she loved with eyes full of affection, and right there… she felt that she could die in peace. "I'll protect it with my life, because… because it's from someone that I cherish more than my life."

Natsume suddenly noticed her small tears. "Why are you crying?"

Mikan shook her head. "I don't mean to, Natsume. I… You… You did everything for me. You gave me everything, and I guess I just feel… so thankful."

Natsume rolled his eyes. "Everything is for you," he whispered before stealing Mikan's lips for a kiss.

The taste of cinnamon seemed to entice the brunette's tongue as she inhaled the heavenly scent. She succumbed to Natsume's rough nips which pleaded for more of her. After a bit of teasing, Natsume rested his forehead against hers, watching her now swollen lips in satisfaction.

Mikan buried her head into his chest. "I'll make you really proud of me. I promise."

Natsume laughed ruggedly and then cradled the woman to his chest. He planted a kiss on top of her head.

"I know you will…"

The loving pair stood in silence, holding each other as they savored what time they had together with the remaining days that were steadily approaching. But little did they know that they were being watched from afar...

Hidden perfectly amid the branches of trees and bushes, a sly character studied the lovely couple in silence. The small flashing of a camera flickered from the dark shadows. A coy grin curved at the corner of a man's lips.

For Natsume and Mikan, their time together upon this beautiful night was just the calm before the storm…

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This was one heck of a page! I am a wordy freak yeah? : P

But I hope you liked! And if you did (whispers) Review please^^