AN: I wrote this last year for a friend's sixteenth birthday.


The rain disguised her tears, but it could never disguise the hurt on her face. Why? Why was his happiness tearing her apart? On her sixteenth birthday; why would it be nicknamed BITTERsweet sixteenth for years to come?

Retasu didn't dare squeeze the water from her plaits. She didn't dare join others she passed under trees and bus stops either. She only lifted her arm every few seconds to dry her glasses.

Whose happiness, exactly, was tearing her apart?

Even when the aliens have gone, he still loves her! He still loved Ichigo. Retasu trembled at the statement. It had haunted her for so long, and now it was never going to go away. Why did they have to kiss as she blew out the candles? Her wish would never come true now. Her wish was to be with Ryou. How childish, she thought, to believe such a silly crush could ever become something more, something really beautiful. Retasu had never felt beautiful before. She had doubts the latter would change at this rate.

In the pouring rain, a cool serene breeze carried her name. It became hopelessly windy. "Retasu."

She whipped around, and sighed shakily. Nobody was behind her. Retasu grumbled to herself and no one in particular: "Stupid old me."

A smooth voice cut through the atmosphere like a butcher's knife. "You underestimate yourself." Nothing in the slightest gave away the person's identity.

Retasu whipped around once more, except this time she could match a face to the voice. Her sapphire-like eyes widened as she stumbled back a step or two, finding herself in the presence of someone she never thought she would see again. Not in this lifetime anyway. "P-Pai?"

Pai was a ghost of his former self. The burden of his planet's fate did not weigh down on his shoulders anymore. It was easily seen by the youthful glow emitting from his face, which no longer resembled a tight mask outlining his skull as his appetite had been fulfilled after what seemed like centuries of starvation. His hair was styled no differently than before, though it became noticeable that his braid grew in length since last meeting.

He approached her from the conflicting shadows of two pine trees. Soon the alien was standing right in front of Retasu as her ally. However, his facial expression was stoic; void of emotion. It was reminiscent of the old days. It frightened the teenager to a certain extent, as she suddenly felt uncomfortable in his presence and began to shift her weight from one foot to the other. Pai's hands were crossed behind his back curtly, and they refused to budge from there. Retasu feared he concealed something... dangerous.

Before she knew it, words poured out of her mouth like the blubbering fool she considered herself as. "I don't want to fight you! Not again." She winced.

Pai remained where he was unflinchingly. The withdrawal from the scene caused Retasu to sob freely now. He wanted to comfort her - he really did - show her she was simply mistaken. He didn't return for a final battle. He got that when he was there before. But watching people suffer had developed into a cruel habit of his. It manifested who he was until he became a heartless soldier, marching on until the blood filled his boots and overflowed. He could only do what he was trained to do. This was no different. "You were born today." Pai stated matter-of-factly, ensuring he was not suspected of having an ulterior motive.

Retasu blinked, snapping out of her misery instantly.

"And it is human custom to give one gifts on their birthday. Correct?"

She nodded meekly, bringing a hand to her glasses nervously. "Y-Yes. How did you-"

"Would this suffice as a gift?" Pai opened his palm to reveal a small box of tissues.

The fixed expression on Retasu's face was one of puzzlement. The rainfall had ceased now, leaving nothing to hide her tear-stained face. The wind sent her plaits dangling in mid-air behind her, drying them off efficiently.

"It is apparent you need them." Pai observed blankly. By 'them' he was referring to the salty droplets rolling down the girl's cheeks. "This is the device which removes them. Yes?"

Retasu adjusted her spectacles. "Um, P-Pai-san-"

"The method is in dabbing it, I am told." Pai plucked a single sheet of tissue from the cardboard box, leaning his face in towards Retasu as he began to apply the method to her pale skin. He almost closed the gap which separated their lips from one another whilst doing so.

Fingers brushed over her cheek lightly as the tissue absorbed Retasu's tears. Electricity coursed through her veins at the simplicity that was his touch. She wondered what a kiss would do and blushed multitudes of red at once.

Pai pulled his head back a few inches in order to admire the handiwork. A smirk irrelevant to his personality crossed the alien's lips as he witnessed the display of embarrassment. "It intrigues me how you achieve such red pigmentation."

Retasu was close to resembling a tomato now.

He chuckled, fingers grasping the sixteen-year-old's chin tenderly. "I believe what I meant to say was-" Pai pressed his frozen lips against Retasu's softly, mumbling the message 'happy birthday' into her mouth. He felt her head tilt to the side as Retasu embraced the move, returning the kiss timidly. However, the first to pull away was the birthday girl herself, and it was not to catch her breath at all.

She bit her lip, steadying her beating heart. "I... I can't do this, Pai-san." The porpoise chose her next words carefully. "I'm still in love with..." Before she could continue a finger was placed to her lips.

"Shhh." Pai hushed. He took his finger back swiftly. "I understand."

Retasu's eyes simultaneously lit up like Chinese lanterns. "R-Really? I m-mean, you do?"

He gave a sharp bob of the head. "I must leave." Pai pecked her on the cheek formally before stepping back into his portal.

Retasu's eyes widened. "B-But why?"

The answer gave itself away to her. "LETTUCE-ONEECHAN, NA NO DA!" The Mew Mew 'cavalry' were hot on her trail: Purin, Zakuro, Ichigo, Minto. Purin took advantage of her monkey tail, swinging from tree to tree, whereas the other three jogged across the pavement alongside her groggily. The exception was that Ichigo sprinted on her toes.

She smiled wryly. My friends.



"BIRTHDAY BEATS!" Purin yelled at the height of her lungs, her fists already prepared for a pretend thrashing.

This was Retasu's cue to run for the hills. "IchigosanMintosanZakurosan, h-help!"

"Come back here, you monkey!"

"Neverrr, no da! Hahahaha!"

Pai pressed his back against something on the rooftop of a skyscraper. He smiled ever so faintly at the sight of his porpoise- no, not his porpoise, dodging the monkey's attempts at giving her 'birthday beats'. Although this acknowledgement caused his heart to sink rapidly, thinking fondly of the kiss sent it soaring back through the clouds again.

He watched with amusement as Purin punched the air time and time again. Her reaction each time was priceless, and before she knew it Minto had grabbed her around the waist and lifted her up. "You're not getting away this time!"

In his hand was the box of tissues. He thought Retasu would need them, but Pai had a hypothesis (or feeling) she would not cry anymore. Standing in the rain would not disguise the tears, but make her seem invincible for braving it.

Happy birthday, Lettuce.