Title: cross my heart

Rating: T

Type: Fanfiction, Tiger & Bunny

Style: 1 hour on LJ

Genre: Drama, Romance

Characters: Karina Lyle, Ivan Karelin, Keith Goodman, Nathan Seymour, Antonio Lopez, Pao-Lin Huang, Kaburagi Kaede, Kaburagi Kotetsu, Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Pairing: Karina/Ivan

Side Pairing: Karina/Kotetsu

Songs Listened To: Lover Dearest and Cross My Heart (Acoustic) both by Marianas Trench

Dedication: for Sara

Prompts: pink and grey bag / four guitars hanging on the wall / stacks of books / red lipstick / "this is the way you left me"

Summary: Karina is twenty-one and hates her life.


I.

She's sixteen, then seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, and then twenty-one and pissed off.

How did she end up like this? She's a successful musician (as Karina and Karina only, dammit) and has a lovely life. So why is she so miserable? Yeah, she can't get a date and finds more comfort in freezing alcohol until the bottles burst than in drinking the stuff and then there's the nasty habit she has of crying every single time she sees-

No, no more of that. You promised yourself, Karina. You said you weren't going to think of that time and that life and that man who never saw you as anything more than a potential friend to his-

She's twenty-one and a successful singer.

Her name is Karina Lyle and she absolutely hates her life.

II.

Her pink and grey bag-a favourite-is pulled off of her shoulder and the next thing she knows, it's in the arms of the little punk rushing down the street. She instinctively calls up the cold, but then she remembers.

She's not Blue Rose anymore.

And no one is to ever know that she was once a hero.

The cold fades away as her shoulders slump. She's not sure if she feels like laughing or crying. She's mad at the world (but mostly at herself) and just wants to go away somewhere where no one has ever heard of Karina Lyle or Blue Rose.

Or him.

Especially him.

There's a tap on her shoulder and she remembers the feel of the metal suits her former comrades wore and suddenly her heart is fluttering violently between her lungs. She turns slowly, wishing for it to not (pleaseohplease let it) be him.

But the mask she ends up facing is even with her face, not far above her. It's a familiar one, yes, and she feels the tension in the air grow sharply now that he has seen her and had time to recognize her.

Her? She just feels defeated and relieved.

"Hello, Origami."

III.

She's always been a little weak when he gives her this look. It's not just the unnerving intensity of the stare; it's that his eyes are such a supernaturally beautiful colour that she has trouble looking away and that's just awkward.

Karina doesn't know what to say. She has so much history with him (Ouroborus, etc...) that it makes everything just so much harder now that she's abandoned the team.

Because that's what they were. Even if there was only one official team, the entire group of them was still a team. All of them-her, him, Pao-Lin, Keith, Nathan, Antonio, Barnaby, and...

They're sitting in a secluded cafe, away from the press and the public. He's out of his suit and she's...well, she's herself. She suggested this hidden place because she knows he doesn't like the real him to have a lot of attention. That stuff is for Origami Cyclone, not for him. He was never like her in that way. Being seen with her could get him on the front page of every tabloid in the country.

"How have you been?" she tries, hands fiddling with the bag he returned to her.

He nods, eyes never leaving her, "Good. You?"

"Busy."

She watches as he frowns, those pretty violet eyes darkening with disappointment. Her teeth worry at her lip as she looks away, her attention focusing on the little piece of black and orange that she can see through the opening of her bag.

"Blu-" he stops himself and she silently damns him for it, though she doesn't fully understand why when she knows she never really wanted to be a hero and that she left of her own free volition andandand...

"Karina," he corrects.

She frowns. Her name-her real name-sounds so wrong come from him right now. He's called her that before, yes, but just once she wants someone to-

No, bad Karina. Don't think like that. That's not you anymore.

"What happened?"

It takes a moment for the question to fully register with her and when it does she looks up at him again, her vocal chords suddenly dry and unmovable.

His lips quirk down a little more, "Look, I get it if you don't want to talk about it now, but just promise me that you'll tell one of us eventually."

"Why do you care?" she snaps. She doesn't mean it to be as harsh as it is and she hasn't done it in so long but there's just something about dealing with him that's making her feel like...

...like her.

She has to remember that he's not the same boy she knew back then when he doesn't react to her outburst. She's twenty-one, which means he has to be at least twenty-four, as old as Barnaby was when he joined them.

He's not a kid anymore.

And neither is she.

"Ivan, I'm sorry," she's rushing the words, she knows this but she does nothing to slow down, "That was uncalled for."

He just shrugs, "You've spent the last three years living a lie. I think anyone would a be a little on-edge after that."

"That's rather mature," she says.

Ivan smiles slightly (and she realizes that she doesn't really have any memory of him genuinely smiling a full smile), "Yeah, well, things change."

She gives her own half smile in response.

Then he finishes, "And Nathan told me about your crush."

"He what?"

"When you left," he answers carefully, "There were those who didn't fully understand certain things about you. Something was said that seriously pissed off Pao-Lin and when the dust settled, Nathan told those of us who weren't involved in the fight about it."

"Who?"

"Me and Keith. I think Antonio might know, though." then he adds, "And I'm fairly certain that Barnaby knows."

She groans softly, burying her head in her hands, "You know that's not why I left, don't you?"

"But it was one of the deciding factors, wasn't it?"

Now she remembers the real reason why Ivan has always left her feeling a little unsettled. It's because he's quiet and he uses that to his advantage. His power is best suited for espionage and he's adapted to it by learning how to observe.

How he never noticed, she doesn't know. She doesn't particularly care (but fire-boy is certainly going to be getting an icy visit fairly soon).

"And if it was?"

It takes everything she has not to start crying at the look he gives her when she admits it.

The thing is, her everything is almost never enough.

IV.

She doesn't remember much from last night, other than calling in sick and canceling a concert-the first time she's ever done so. There will be hell to pay when she finally faces her bosses, but it'll be worth it. The aching tiredness in her body isn't like the older memories from when she wore blue and everything was cold, but it does have a different cause. As she wakes up more, her memories come rushing forward.

Karina pulls the sheet closer to her body but doesn't sit up. The warmth of having another body in her bed is too novel to ruin just yet. She tries to remember how this happened: the meetings at the hidden cafe, the occasional stroll through the park at night when no one was around, the calls, the texts, the emails, the joy of speaking freely to someone who really knows her.

To someone who didn't judge her for having fallen in love with someone all wrong.

Ah, yes, now she remembers.

It was lipstick.

Just one little comment about how the red looked so wrong, the reminder of what she's given up, and she broke and gave in to the attraction that had been budding since they first ran into each other over a year ago.

She bites her lip, but this time it's not a nervous action. It's happy. After her first disastrous love, she's finally learning what it's like to be in a truly functioning romance in which the other party actually acknowledges and cares about her.

Four years ago, she would have thought it insane. Karina Lyle and Ivan Karelin? What on earth are you smoking?

But that was then and this is now. Now, they're different people and they actually work. Who they are outside of work creates a perfect balance between quiet and spontaneous.

She thinks she might be in love with him.

Then the fear sets in. She still has the memories of that first love-of how it was unrequited and how she suffered for it. The lip biting becomes an action of worry and she slowly slips out of bed, leaving Ivan alone and still asleep. She pulls on his shirt and tiptoes out of the room. The thing she's searching for is something she removed from that pink and grey bag almost half a year ago, back when she started to seriously consider Ivan as a potential love.

There it is, tucked away behind the records she keeps below the four guitars she keeps on the wall. It's a fitting place for the small toy. Each of the guitars in the display has a story and their narrative tells how she grew up to be who she is, albeit leaving out one major part of her history.

This, though, this is a reminder that she once knew a man she more than likely really loved.

The towel still has that ugly snake on it, but she pays it no heed as she unwraps the small tiger from its shroud.

To think, for almost four years, she carried this thing around with her at all times. In the early days after she left, she even kept it in bed with her.

What had she been thinking?

A few tears spill onto the orange and black fuzz of the toy and she grips it tightly before wrapping it back up in the towel and putting it back where it belonged.

It's nothing more than a memento now.

And that's the way it should be, she thinks. She has Ivan now and he's good to her and she knows she's falling for him, if she hasn't completely fallen already.

It's better this way.

She stands up and goes back to bed.

V.

"Blue Rose?"

Why did she agree to this?

She comes so close to running away, but then she feels the hand at her back and she looks up to find those pretty violet eyes and she remembers.

She's here because she needs to be (and possibly because Ivan begged and pleaded).

She smiles weakly, nodding at the speaker, "Hey, Dragon."

They're all there with two notable absences. Of them, only Nathan and Keith have prior knowledge of her relationship with Ivan and that's only because she froze the former to a wall for telling them about that and the latter knows because he and Ivan are best friends.

Antonio doesn't seem surprised though, and she's beginning to seriously question the man's ability to be surprised by anything (again, actually. She used to wonder the same thing before). Pao-Lin looks shocked more at seeing her again than at her obvious attachment to Ivan. And the last one...

Oh.

Kaburagi Kaede.

Karina almost doesn't recognize her, but it's not surprising. Kaede has to be around the same age she was when...

When Barnaby joined and was teamed up with Kaede's father.

She's been working on this, thinking about him, that is.

She nods at the younger NEXT, "Hi."

"Hello," Kaede responds, "So you're Blue Rose?"

"I was," she says, "But not anymore. You're a hero now?"

The younger nods, and Karina thinks she must look more like her mother because she only sees a little of him in the girl, "Yeah. My dad calls me 'Little Tiger' but officially I'm 'Mirror Princess'."

"They're both nice names."

"I suppose so."

Kaede is called away by Pao-Lin and Karina turns toward Ivan once the girl has left. She can tell he's smiling softly, but not fully, and she herself lets some of the tension fade when he pulls her closer and whispers in her ear:

"See, it's not that bad."

VI.

A hero's work is never done. She remembers that. Ivan and Keith have been called out as Origami Cyclone and Sky High to deal with some new threat to the city, leaving her here with the others. It's the third time she's been around her old colleagues and each time she's been able to avoid-

"I was wondering when I'd get to see you."

She stiffens, staring at the stack of books on the coffee table as if they'll magically give her an escape. It's useless, really, because this is Pao-Lin's place and the books are in Chinese and the writing on the spines makes absolutely no sense to her.

The couch cushions shift just a little as he sits down beside her.

She tries to say something, but her voice has failed her, just like it did that day when she ran into Ivan for the first time after...

"Why did you leave, Blue Rose?"

Her jaw clenches. She's always hated it when he calls her that. Just once she wants to hear-

No. No. She has Ivan now. Don't go back to this. You love Ivan.

...but isn't the first love the one that's never forgotten, even if it's never acknowledged and was never returned?

She blinks and turns to face him. She almost hates him. The man is either in his forties or nearly forty and he doesn't look a day over twenty-eight, if even that. He hasn't changed at all, except maybe his hair is a little longer and he's wearing blue, not green.

(blue is her colour, though.)

"That's not really any of your business, is it?"

He frowns and she's just waiting for the dad routine because that's what he is beneath the hero exterior: he's a dad. And she'll always be another daughter to him. An errant one, but a daughter nonetheless.

And for some reason, despite knowing that she genuinely does love Ivan, the idea that Kotetsu has never-will never-see her as a woman hurts. like. hell.

He opens his mouth to say something and she hopes her look is daring enough, but then he stops and those golden eyes have caught sight of something interesting. There's a kind of disappointment in his face and in his voice when he acknowledges it.

"You're engaged."

She nods, "To Ivan."

"So you're not coming back?"

"No," she shakes her head, even as everything in her screams yes, "I'm done with fighting. I'm just here because..."

"Because why?" he asks, "Because Origami asked you to? Don't give me that. We both know there isn't a soul on earth who can make you do something you don't want to."

No.

Her soul can-did. Or maybe that was her mind just ignoring her soul.

...and then there's him. She's afraid that if he asks her to come back then she will. It's the one thing she and her fiancé have really argued about since that day when he brought back her bag.

The one that still had the tiger toy in it.

But he does have a point. She's used 'because Ivan asked me to' as an excuse for far too long. If she's honest-and he's already said it before-she wanted to return.

She wants to come back.

She wants to be Blue Rose again.

She looks at him-at Kotetsu-again and really looks. She can see why she fell for him. She can see why anyone would fall for him. He's fair and firm in his beliefs. He's kind and caring and always ready to make a fool of himself if it'll make someone he cares about smile. Kaburagi Tomoe was a very lucky woman indeed, and Kaede is lucky for having this man as a father.

And Karina is lucky to have Ivan.

Because she really does love him. She's grown to love just how observant he is and how, despite his quietness, he's actually quite mischievous (the trait that gave rise to the infamous photo-bombing). She loves the way he moves so gracefully and how he's such a great storyteller. He's shy around a lot of people, but with her, he's just Ivan and while there are things about him that annoy her, she still has had increasing trouble imagining life without him and surprisingly, that's something she really likes.

And she really does love Kotetsu; it's just a small fraction of all her love, though. It's that indelible first love. It'll always mean something, but it's nothing to stop the presses for. And it's high time she really came to terms with that. The way he reacted to her engagement suggests that maybe she isn't just another daughter to him but she really doesn't care. It's a little scary, realizing that, but it's also like she can breathe just a little easier once she admits it.

She loves him, yes, but she doesn't care anymore.

So she says it.

"I couldn't work with you," it's soft but there it is. She's said it and the fear seizes up in her chest.

"What?"

"Nothing," she covers. He's always been unobservant when it comes to her and she's suddenly very thankful for that as she relaxes, "It's been nice talking to you again, Tiger."

"This is the way you left me when I tried talking to you that day," he says, "It's always bugged me, you know, the way you've always run away from things."

Karina pauses only briefly before shrugging, "Perhaps that means something, but unless you haven't noticed, I'm not running anymore."

He's not talking to her like a child and it's liberating and she kind of feels like jumping for joy, but that would be weird so she keeps everything under control and let's her ice cool her body off so she can keep calm.

"Do you really not miss it?"

"Miss what?"

"Karina!"

She feels like laughing, but all she allows is a smile as she begins to walk away. She passes Barnaby at the door and all she gets is a knowing look from him. As she continues down the hall, she can hear him speaking with Kotetsu.

Someday, maybe, she'll tell him, but for now, she has somewhere else to be.

VII.

The ring on her hand is a comfort as she walks with Ivan through the breaking dawn. She tugs on his hand and pulls herself close to his side as they walk home.

Home.

It has such a nice feel to it, especially with him around.

Seeing Kotetsu again has strangely left her feeling better about her life.

She doesn't understand it, but she's not going to question it.

She's just going to keep walking towards tomorrow and she wants every step to be with Ivan.

Including this next one.

Especially this next one.

"I'm going to come out as Blue Rose."

He stops, his hand finding hers. He pulls her around to face him, "What?"

She just nods, "At my next concert. I'm going to come out as Blue Rose. I'm thinking I might take a break too. Reevaluate my career, reorder some priorities, etcetera."

The world is lighter now, the sun rising higher in the sky. She's amazed at how much her life has changed in so little time but for the first time, everything feels right.

She's twenty-three (almost twenty-four) and a successful singer and a former-maybe-future hero.

Her name is Karina Lyle, also known as Blue Rose, and she absolutely loves her life.

"Really?"

"Cross my heart."


A/N: Oh, hello, there. Yeah, I don't know where this came from. Blame Sara. She gave me prompts and told me to write Karina-centric.