Aneko: So when looking back at my old Shugo Chara! Fanfiction, I was displeased. I might go back and fix it, but I'm always one of those people who says things but never does them. Anyways, this one has been coming on for a long time now, from a single line of dialogue, but at the time, I didn't know what fiction it was supposed to go to (Very annoying). Just a few seconds ago, it finally hit me. So, here it is.
Disclaimer: I don't own Shugo Chara! No siree…
She was standing on top of the roof of the building, wind from the roaring planes above whipping her hair into her face. She watched the specific flight that she had memorized, on the ground below as it prepared for takeoff. Down the runway it went, gathering speed until the wheels pulled free of the ground. Her cheek still tingled with warmth from the touch of his lips.
Amu jolted up from her bed as her alarm blasted music loud enough to wake the dead, reaching over to slam down off button before her neighbors woke up too. She blinked her eyes a few times, her mind catching up to the surroundings of her small apartment.
She sighed, running a hand through her hair. Again, she had had the same dream. She had thought that it was all behind her by now, but ever since the start of university the year before, she had been seeing it more and more often. Amu swung her legs over the bed and onto the floor, still cold with night.
Outside, it was still too dark to be called morning, at least in her opinion. She reached in the dark with probing hands for the robe that she kept slung over a chair near the bed so that she didn't have to walk too far in the cold. She wouldn't need it soon anyways, since it was supposed to start warming up any day now. But for the mornings that still made her shiver, the extra cloth was a comfort.
Amu gave an enormous yawn as she headed for the kitchen and coffee. She had class today, and work after, so it was going to be a long day before she could come home. She took note of the grocery list she had taped to the fridge the night before and decided to go ahead and take care of that today as well.
As she was pulling out ingredients for breakfast, there was a small mewling noise, and Amu felt something soft wind around her legs. She looked down and smiled at the small black cat that presented himself to her, looking up at her honey-colored eyes. It had taken Amu a while to find a good apartment that would allow pets, but when she had first seen the little cat at the store, she had known that she wouldn't mind putting forth the effort.
"Good morning, Yoru. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten you. I'll get your breakfast ready in a minute," She reassured the small feline, who sat with his front paws tucked primly in front of him.
While the stove was heating up for her omelet, Amu grabbed a can of cat food from a cupboard and spooned some of it into a dish, setting it on the floor. As Yoru tucked in, she turned on the TV for some quiet background noise while she cooked. While many of her friends didn't care to put forth the effort for breakfast, Amu still liked to cook it herself. It reminded her of home, and it tasted better than the convenience store food. After motherly little Su had disappeared when she was younger, she had gained a much greater appreciation for home-cooked food, and even if she wasn't the best, she was at least decent at it.
After both human and cat's dishes had been cleared away, Amu rushed into her room to dress and gather her books together. No matter how hard she tried, she always seemed to take too long with breakfast and not have enough time to get ready for class without rushing. If she wasn't careful, she'd seriously be late one of these days.
"Maybe I should stop watching TV while I eat," Amu thought aloud as she struggled into her jacket. She scooped up her books and barely remembered to grab her key before rushing to the door. She locked the door and was jogging down the street in moments.
Thankfully, the university was close enough to walk—or in Amu's case, run—to, and she was on the grounds with five minutes to spare before her first class.
"I made it!" She puffed aloud, trying to smooth her hair down and catch her breath before she walked through the door.
"You look very disheveled this morning, Amu."
Amu turned at the soft voice.
"Oh! Good morning, Rima!"
The petite younger girl smiled at Amu. Over the years, she had become even more beautiful than before. It was rumored that, though girls were supposed to give chocolate to boys, that on Valentines day, the boys fought over giving it to her instead. But when Amu asked her about it, Rima just shrugged and smiled.
She also still had her insatiable love of gag.
"Will you go shopping with me after class today, Amu?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I can't. I have to work later. I don't really have any free time."
Rima tilted her head to the side, like a puppy. "Oh, really? Hmm…I guess I'll just ask Nagihiko, then. He can carry my bags." She pulled out her phone and began to type a message.
"Doesn't he have practice today?" Amu asked.
Rima didn't look up from her phone. "No. He just finished performing a show over the weekend. He's about to start working on a new one, but he was given a few days of rest before he starts."
Amu bit down a smile. It seemed apparent to everyone except Rima herself that she had long liked the purple-haired Japanese dancer. And it was no secret that Nagihiko returned the feelings. It was just a matter of time before Rima would realize it.
"By the way Amu, have you decided what you want to study yet?"
Amu looked up into the sky. "No, I haven't. I mean, I have a few ideas, but nothing definite."
"What about you, Rima?"
Amu laughed. "Of course."
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing! I was thinking that it suits you perfectly."
"Whatever…Have you heard from Tadase or Kukai lately?"
"No, I haven't. Tadase-kun said international calls cost a lot of money, so before he left, he said that he wouldn't be able to call while he's away. But he said he might email me."
"He still likes you, doesn't he?"
Amu flushed pink. "Rima!"
Rima laughed. "I'll see you later, Amu. I've got to get to class."
"Huh?" Amu looked down at the watch on her wrist and noticed the time. "Oh, crap!" She took off again, and slipped into class just as the instructor was clearing his throat to begin the lecture.
Amu couldn't help daydreaming during class. It was a history class with one of the teachers who had a monotonous voice, and she was desperately bored and tired. She thought about all of her friends. Rima was the only one who was at the same University as she was. Nagihiko, his future already planned out for him by his traditional family, had not gone on to university. He was instead honing his training, and was already recognized as a beautiful dancer. Kukai and Yaya had both gone to specialized schools for soccer and ballet. She didn't see them as often as she would have liked, but they seemed happy. Tadase was studying abroad in England and wouldn't be back for a almost a year.
Thinking about the blonde young man made Amu blush. He made it no secret that he loved her. He had visited her house so many times that her parents had started to treat him like another one of their children. Tadase never demanded to know her feelings. Instead, he seemed content just to be near her, which relieved her. If he had asked her how she felt about him, Amu was not sure she could have responded.
When they were younger, Amu had admired him greatly, putting him on a pedestal as a prince. While she still cared for Tadase as a friend, Amu wasn't sure she could tell him that she loved him. It was strange. He was such a gentle, tender person. Surely any girl in her right mind would want to be with a guy who was so—well, prince-like. But Amu just couldn't think that way about him anymore. He was almost too gentle. What she wanted was…
"I'll definitely make you fall in love with me."
An airplane disappeared into a huge, endless sky.
Amu jumped, blinking, and shook her head vigorously, distracting several people in the rows nearby.
She had put that behind her now. It was time to move on. It had been too long, and she had to learn to let go. If she couldn't figure out how to do that, she'd never be able to get on with her life.
Still, her mind was attracted to him like an insect to a bright light bulb. She had kept in contact with Utau, though usually, all the older girl wanted to know if her brother had contacted Amu at all. The singer seemed to think that if he didn't contact his sister, he shouldn't contact anybody. So Amu was always the first one she would suspect, and she called at least once every couple of weeks. It wasn't helping Amu forget. Even if Utau was dating Kukai, she still had a huge, perhaps unhealthy, brother complex.
Class slipped by that day in a blur of nostalgic thoughts, with lunch together with Rima in squeezed into the middle. When the younger girl saw Amu's brow creased in thought as she ate her obento, Rima rolled her eyes. She was all too familiar with Amu's current train of thought. "You think too much sometimes."
Amu stared down into her lunch. "I can't help it. I'm trying not to, you know. It's been almost eight years. I'm trying my best to forget."
Rima sighed. "If that's true, then how come you never give Tadase a real answer? Why don't you go to a goukon? It seems to me like you're just putting it off. You say you're trying to forget, but you're really just hesitating. You want to forget, but you don't at the same time."
"I know that." Amu pulled her knees to her chest and rested her head there. "I know…"
Rima reached over and patted Amu's head. "Sooner or later, you're just going to have to decide whether you're going to move on, or stay where you are. Our guardian characters taught us about what we could become. Where you are now is a similar place to back then. All you've got to do is decide if you'll wait for him, or if he's had enough time by now."
Amu rolled up her sleeves before hoisting the large box on the floor into the air. It was a little heavy, but Amu had been working at the convenience store near her apartment for a while now, and she was getting used to it.
"Hinamori-chan!" Amu's coworker popped his head around the corner of the isle she was in. "I have a quick errand to run! Could you watch the register for a few minutes?"
"Sure, just let me put this in the back." Amu dropped the box off in the storeroom before returning to the front, snagging a magazine from a rack on her way to the chair behind the register.
"I'm just going down the street a little, okay? I should be back in ten minutes at the most!" The shop bell chimed as he left the store, and Amu was left alone in the quiet evening.
It wasn't that late yet, but it was already getting dark and there wasn't anyone in the store at the moment. It was at the end of the week, days when husbands came home from business trips and colleagues went out drinking in celebration of some deal well made, so there most likely wouldn't be many customers tonight. Amu was fine with that. Her day had already been busy enough, and if all she had to do tonight was move boxes and sit at an idle register, that would be completely okay.
Still, it would be a boring night if no one came in. Amu flipped through the magazine she had picked up, not really reading the fashion tips about applying makeup. Really, she just wished she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life. People used to marvel at the fact that she had had three—four, for a short time—guardian characters. Tadase-kun had told her that she "had a strong power." That wasn't true. Not at a. All it meant was that she was that much more undecided than her friends, who all had a single, clear wish in the form of on guardian.
Amu sighed and leaned back against the counter behind her. She needed to stop thinking about this for a while.
At that moment, the shop bell rang, and Amu looked over at the door. Three young guys had come in, and were peering around the shop. Amu's eyes narrowed. These three had been here before—some big shots who thought they knew everything and that they were irresistible. The last time they were here, they had attempted to flirt with her. Unlike before, though, this time she didn't have her male coworker around to help shoo them off. They caught sight of her behind the register. The blonde one with two ear piercings smirked.
"Hey, cutie. Did you miss us? It's been a while."
"Yes, it has," Amu said, refusing to allow a quake in her voice. "Let me know if I can help you with anything."
He raised an eyebrow, and his lackeys exchanged a grin behind him. "Hmm, then how about you?"
He reached out to try and touch her, but Amu smacked his hand away. "I meant anything that's for sale in the store," she articulated.
"Aw, you don't have to be that way. I promise if you come with us, you'll have lots of fun." He rested an elbow on the counter and tried to look charming. Amu glanced at the clock on the wall by the door. She really hoped her coworker would be back soon. She was terrified of what the three might do before he returned.
The store bell chimed as a man in a black coat and hat came in, and Amu sighed. Even if it wasn't her coworker, someone else's presence would prevent them from doing anything. The man drifted off into a corner of the store, and the blonde continued his (un)persuasive talk.
"Come on, now. Just one little date. It won't hurt."
"No, thank you. I told you before that I'm not interested."
"You don't know what you're missing, you know. A lot of girls would kill to go out with me."
Amu couldn't resist rolling her eyes. "Well, good for them. Unfortunately for you, I'm not "a lot of girls." Please get your arm off the counter. I don't want to have to clean it twice tonight."
The cloaked man in the corner gave a cough that sounded suspiciously like a covered laugh. Amu would have paid more attention, but she was quite distracted by her current…problem.
Mr. full-of-himself frowned. "Only an idiot wouldn't take me up on this offer. You must be really stupid. Come on, just go out with me already."
Amu frowned herself, and opened her mouth to respond, but a deep, aloof voice made the words die in her throat.
"How many times do you have to hear her say no to understand that she really means it? I—diot."
The blonde's face turned red, a vein twitching in his head. "Idiot? Why you—!" He turned around to give the talker a punch to the face, only to run into the man in the dark coat. The stranger happened to be a good foot taller than the blonde was, and he swallowed as he looked up. The dark man crossed his arms, smirking. "Oh, and in case you were wondering, calling a girl stupid isn't a good way to get her to go out with you. Idiot."
"I'm not an idiot!" The blonde seethed. He swung a punch at the stranger, but the man dodged to the side and gave the kid a kick to the rear, sending him sprawling.
"Oops." He stuck out his tongue. "If you leave now, I promise not to humiliate you any further."
Ear-piercings growled. "You'll pay for that." He got to his feet and aimed another punch. This time, rather than dodging him, the man pulled out a long case and blocked. When his fist connected with the hard surface, the young man howled in pain.
The man in black tilted his head to the side. "Sounds like you put quite a lot of force behind that." He looked over at the lackeys. "You should probably get him to the hospital. Go on now." He shooed them off with his hands.
The other two needed no other advice. They grabbed their friend and headed to the door without looking back.
Amu's gaze was glued to the case her savior was holding. The shape, the size of it. She had only seen one other like it, a long time ago. A strain of violin music passed through her mind like a breeze and was gone again.
He tipped the hat back with his thumb, smirking at her. "Yo, Amu."
"…Ikuto." His name was a whisper, a sob, a growl, a sigh, all at the same time.
They stood regarding each other across the few measly feet of linoleum flooring.
"It's been a while, huh, Amu?" Such a deep voice. Still as cocky as ever, but more like his father's, she guessed.
Amu's eyes flashed. "A while, Ikuto? I think that's a bit of an understatement, don't you?"
Ikuto shrugged. "I suppose so."
Nothing ruffled him. Nothing ever ruffled him, and Amu found that it irritated her even more than it used to.
She sighed, a hot, uncomfortable feeling welling up in her chest.
Ikuto tsked. "You shouldn't sigh. All your happiness will fly away."
"I don't want to hear that from you, Ikuto."
"Someone's being prickly tonight."
"Yeah, and someone hasn't been in Japan for the last eight years," Amu snapped back.
Ikuto's eyebrows rose, and he opened his mouth to reply, but just then, Amu's coworker returned.
"Hinamori-chan, I'm back! We're close to closing, so if you want to go ahead home, feel free to."
"Oh, okay. Thanks." Amu met Ikuto's eyes and looked away again. "It was nice seeing you. Bye." And that was all she said before walking out the door.
Amu sniffed, her nose pink with cold. She wrapped her arms about herself, trying to stay warm. Once again, she sighed.
"So why exactly are you here?" She asked, turning to the dark haired man a few feet behind her.
"Oops~. Discovered," Ikuto hummed, not the least bit frazzled by her temper.
"Stop following me and go home!"
"Oh? Who said I was following you? What if I just happen to be going the same way as you?"
Amu narrowed her eyes. "I highly doubt that."
"Besides, it's not safe for a young girl to be walking around by herself at night."
"I've taken defensive classes, Ikuto. I can defend myself just fine." At one point in high school, Kukai had been attending a karate Dojo, and he had invited Amu as well as Rima, Yaya and Utau to take a few self defense lessons. They had been very educational, and Amu had ended up taking quite a few, and still practiced with Kukai on weekends sometimes.
"A few defense classes?" Ikuto chuckled and sidled up next to her. "In theory, that's a great idea, but there's a difference between boys and girls, you know."
"Huh? What do you—"
Amu squeaked as Ikuto grabbed both of her arms, backing her up to a wall and pinning her there with her hands above her head.
Amu struggled against his hold. "Ikuto! Let go of me!"
"You see?" Ikuto tapped her the nose. "Even though you took some defense classes, I'm stronger than you. And none of that training will help a bit if you get taken by surprise."
"Fine, you made your point, so let go of me already!"
Ikuto smirked. "Don't wanna."
Amu frowned and stomped on his foot. The results were immediate, and she brushed herself off, suffering no remorse as he drew back wincing. Amu started walking on again without looking back to see if he would follow.
"Don't treat me like a little kid anymore, Ikuto. I know that it was fun to tease and bother me when I was in elementary school, but we're both adults now."
"An adult, huh? You grew up awful fast."
"No, you were just never here to notice," Amu snapped. "Excuse me, but this is my stop." She turned into the building in front of them.
He had the nerve to follow her. But then, alley cats always did go wherever they wanted, even if no one else appreciated it. He even got into the elevator with her, all the way to her door. He didn't say a word, but Amu knew without looking that he had an insufferable smirk on his face that would drive her nuts if she looked.
She took out her key and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "You don't honestly think I'm letting you into my apartment, do you?"
Ikuto raised an eyebrow. "That depends. Do you still leave your window unlocked?"
Amu flushed. "No!" She slammed the door behind her and locked it.
Once she reached the living room, she melted into a puddle on the floor. In her pocket, her cell phone buzzed, and Amu pulled it out to see a text message from Utau, and she could just imagine her demanding tone.
"I just got news that Ikuto was returning to the country tonight. He hasn't gone to see you before he would come see me, has he?"
Amu groaned. "Why didn't you tell me that sooner?"
"Wow, you look exhausted, Amu," Rima noted the next morning.
"Rima," Amu moaned.
"What? What's wrong?"
"He's back. In Japan."
Rima's eyebrows rose. She didn't ask. She didn't have to.
Amu dug her fingers into her hair, intent on pulling some of it out. "What do I do? What am I supposed to say? I mean it's been eight years, for crying out loud! I can't just smile and go "Oh, hi, how are you? It's been a while." Gaaaah!"
Rima paused before speaking. "So? How was he?"
Amu grimaced. "The exact same as I remember him. He hasn't changed an inch. Well, I mean, he got taller. And his voice is deeper. But other than that, he's exactly the same."
"Did you tell him you missed him?"
"No, I didn't get the chance to—Rima!" Amu flushed. Rima laughed. "You tricked me!"
"No I didn't. You answered that yourself."
Amu groaned. "My head hurts."
Rima regarded her as she puzzled over her predicament. The smaller girl hid her slight smile behind her handkerchief. This was a good thing. Whatever happened, the whole thing would finally be resolved.
Amu stretched her arms over her head. It always felt freeing when she finally ended her last class of the day.
"Are you ready?" Rima asked, watching her.
"Mm-hmm," Amu nodded. "Just let me grab my books." She didn't have work today, so she was going shopping with Rima.
It had been a few days since she had seen Ikuto. He hadn't appeared before her again, so Amu was starting to think that he was going to finally let her be, or that he had left the country again. She guessed it was the second one. Ikuto never left her alone for this long if he was close by.
If he left the country again, maybe she could finally forget him.
Rima kept up a pleasant conversation all the way to the front of the college, and Amu even managed to look like she was interested. But when she caught sight of a tall figure with a head of silky hair, she stopped in her tracks.
"Amu? What is it?" Rima followed her gaze and saw him standing there. "Ah."
Amu was about to turn around and go the other way, but Ikuto had already seen her and was headed in their direction. If she left now, he'd just tease her about it. So she waited for him to saunter his way over, her back feeling stiff. Rima was glancing back and forth between the two, an expression almost as aloof as Ikuto's on her face.
"I'm here to pick you up from school, Amu," Ikuto said.
Amu crossed her arms. "I'm sorry, but I'm going out with Rima today."
"Aw, you didn't tell her about our date?"
"Date? We don't have a date!"
"Oh, a date?" Rima raised an eyebrow. "You know Amu, now that I think about it, I really don't have time to go shopping after all. I have somuch homework, and I should probably be getting home."
"What? Rima! You just made that up!"
Rima smiled and waved. "You two have fun. Don't stay out too late, now. Amu has class in the morning."
Ikuto waved back. "I'll be sure to get her home before her bedtime."
"Stop deciding stuff without my permission!" Amu objected to the two. She was sure that they had been in league with each other for this. Rima just waved as though Amu had not spoken and went on her merry way.
"Oh, I don't believe this…"
"So, Amu, where would you like to go on our date?"
Amu glared at him. "I will be going home. Where you will notbe following me."
Ikuto cocked his head to the side as he watched her walk away. "You've been very prickly ever since I got back, Amu, dear. I thought if I gave you a few days you'd settle down, but you didn't. What's got you so upset?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Ikuto dear," Amu mimicked him. "I guess it was just my imagination that the past eight years happened. I guess I'm supposed to just be flustered and childish and naïve around you, just like I used to be."
"I never said you were childish and naïve."
Amu rolled her eyes. "Goodbye, Ikuto. I'm going home. Please just leave me alone."
This time, he didn't follow her. Amu almost thought that the back of her throat and her eyes were burning, but that couldn't be. It was just her imagination.
Amu leaned on the edge of her balcony railing, staring down into the street below. It was late, and there was no one out. She would have to sleep soon, or she would be absolutely miserable in class in the morning. There was a meow behind her, and Amu turned. Yoru was sitting next to her. Amu laughed.
"Come on Yoru, let's go to bed. There's nothing out there. And that's no place for you." She picked him up and walked inside, sliding the door closed behind her. She crawled into bed as the feline began to knead the bedspread, and she smiled at him. "Good night."
Amu woke up shivering, which was unusual. Her apartment wasn't that cold since it was in the middle of the building. She tried pulling the sheets tighter around her, but it didn't help. She cracked an eye open and looked around, and then she was rolling out of bed, her eyes wide as she took in the balcony door that was open a crack. She scrambled over and closed it, then peered around her room.
"Ikuto?" She called, her voice strangled. There was no response, but Amu wouldn't leave it at that. She flipped the light switch, blinking at the sudden brightness, and looked around again. There was still no sign of the cat-boy. Still suspicious, she walked through the rest of the apartment, scanning every inch of space and even opening all the closets. She wasn't going to wake up to find him in her bed again.
After going through once, she checked again, just to be sure, but did not find him. Satisfied, she accepted the sleep that pulled at her eyelids and returned to bed, snuggling down under the covers to forget about the open door until the morning.
After only a few more measly hours of sleep, Amu tumbled out of bed once again to prepare for the day. She made her breakfast and plonked herself down in front of the TV and the weather report. A nice, sunny day was ahead. It wasn't until Amu was pulling her shirt over her head to change that she realized that something was off. She looked around her room, uncertain. She couldn't place it, she just knew that something was different.
Had Ikuto really been here after all?
Amu froze in picking up her hairbrush. It wasn't who had been here. It was who wasn't. She hadn't prepared Yoru's breakfast earlier. Even when she forgot, he made sure to remind her immediately, sometimes with an unwelcome nip with sharp teeth.
"Yoru?" She called, looking under her bed. There was no answering meow. Even Just as thorough as she had been last night looking for an intruder, she was even more thorough now, frantic for even just a tuft of that black fur hiding behind her desk or under the couch that would lead her to him. It became clear that her cat was nowhere in her apartment.
Then last night, she must not have closed the door all the way, and so when he saw that, he had squeezed through.
Amu dropped her books. Class or no class, she was going out to look for him, and she wouldn't stop until she found him. Taking just her phone and her apartment key, she ran out the door, texting Rima that she wouldn't be in class.
Where could he be? She wondered, biting her lip. Yoru had never gotten outside before. She had no clue where she should look for him. She really wished she had someone who knew about cats to help her.
Ikuto would know…Amu shook her head. Sure, Ikuto would know. But how could she dare to ask for his help now, after she had been so short with him yesterday? He would probably say no if she asked.
What if Yoru was run over by a car? Or attacked by a dog?
She didn't know where Ikuto lived. He had been to her house, but she had never been to his.
Yoru was so small. He could get stuck in a tree, or a small child could unintentionally hurt him.
Ikuto knew all about alley cats and their ways. Yoru wasn't an alley cat, but he was still a cat.
She wanted to find him as fast as possible, so that he couldn't get out again.
Without realizing it, Amu had been walking while she had been thinking, and she found herself in the park. The same park where, years ago, she had found Ikuto playing his violin, where she had found him, injured, beneath a tree, where he had told her they were enemies, but continued to seek her out anyways.
And he was sleeping beneath that same tree when she found him. Amu stood a good distance away. Should she ask him? It wasn't too late to just go around and search by herself. But that could take a long time.
Taking a deep breath, she walked over to him.
At the sound of her voice, Ikuto's eyes fluttered open, and he looked up. "Amu…?"
"I-Ikuto, I…can you help me?" Her voice was too quiet, there was no way he would hear her.
Ikuto stood up, brushing himself off. "What's wrong Amu?"
It was like she had never snubbed him yesterday at all as he gave her all of his attention. Amu let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. "My cat—he got out of my apartment. I have no idea how to find him, and I thought that…you might."
Ikuto raised one eyebrow, a smirk tugging at his lips, but he had the good grace not to tease her. "What does he look like?"
"He's black with golden eyes. He's wearing a red collar that has my name and address."
"Has he ever gotten out before?"
"No, this is the first time."
"Then even the cat has no idea where he's going. It's all going to be new to him, and he's either going to be terrified of it, or excited. If he's terrified, he'll go back to your place and hide under the stairs or something, so you need to go back and wait outside your apartment building."
The butterflies in Amu's stomach flew up in a storm. "But—!"
Ikuto put a finger to her lips, and for once, Amu let the gesture go. "You have to trust me, Amu. I'll find him."
Amu was about to walk back to her starting point, but Ikuto stopped her. "Give me your cell number so I can call you if I find him."
After a quick exchange, Amu headed back for the nerve racking wait. She checked around her door and all around the outside of the building before settling herself down on the stairs.
Several times, she had to stop herself from playing with her hair, or picking at a loose thread on her shirt. It felt so unbearably long. Even though Ikuto had once been so much like a cat, it had been years. Would he remember how to think like one?
When her phone went off in her hands, Amu nearly dropped it in surprise. She answered it, her voice and hands trembling.
"I found him," Ikuto's silky voice murmured in her ear.
Amu leaned over, feeling dizzy. "Oh, Ikuto, thank you. Where was he?"
"By the river bank. I'll head back in a minute, so—"
"No, wait, I'll just come there!"
Amu hung up and started running. That wasn't too far away at all. What had felt like an eternity of waiting had really been about half an hour. He had been fairly close by the whole time. Amu kept running. If she had walked, it wouldn't have taken too long, but she wanted to be there as soon as she could.
She found them, cat and man, sitting on the hill next to the river. Yoru was enjoying a through scratch from Ikuto as they both lazed in the grass under the sun. She should have known that they would get along. Ikuto spotted her running and sat up, picking the cat up with him. He was holding him out when Amu reached them.
"Yoru!" Amu cried taking the cat. Only after checking him over for injuries did she realize that she had blurted out his name like that. She held her breath.
Ikuto didn't comment. "It's a good thing I found him. If he had been much closer to the water, I think he would have fallen in without realizing it."
"Thank you so much Ikuto. I'm so glad he's okay. I thought he could have been seriously hurt. Thank you. Thank you so much." She couldn't stop the gratitude that welled up in her.
"He seemed fine with being outside. You could always let him be an outdoors cat, then this wouldn't be a problem if it happened again."
Amu shook her head. "There's no way I could ever do that. I would always worry that something had happened to him, or that he wouldn't come back."
Ikuto stared at her. "Cats may be solitary loners, but they always go back to the people who love them."
Amu looked away. "I should get him home. I don't want to lose him again." She started back up the hill, more slowly this time. She halted in her tracks when Ikuto's amused voice rose above the sound of the water below.
"So, a black cat with golden eyes…named Yoru?"
Amu refused to be nervous or flustered. "What about it?"
"It seems you missed me more than I thought you did." She could hear the smirk in his voice.
"Maybe I used to…but don't anymore."
"Heh. What if I don't believe you?"
Amu rounded on him. "Try."
Ikuto looked up at her with clear eyes. "Don't want to."
Amu growled. "What do you want from me, Ikuto?"
"A straight answer."
"You first," Amu shot back. Of course he wouldn't. He never did. Getting him to be up front about anything was like…like trying to catch a stray cat. Not coming when he was called, only when the mood suited him.
"Fine. I love you."
At first she thought she had imagined it. She met Ikuto's eyes, her voice faint. "W-what?"
"I love you."
There could be no mistaking it this time. The words fell, so stark and so plain in the cool air between them. Amu opened her mouth, but couldn't think of anything she could have said.
"I love you." He took a step up the hill. "I love you."
Amu's face was turning red at a steady pace. She blinked away the heat in her eyes. "S-stupid! You don't have to keep—"
"I love you."
"I love you."
"I love you."
He closed the distance between them, letting his hand fall feather-light on her cheek as he wiped away tears.
"I love you," he whispered. "And I always have."
He kissed her forehead, he kissed her nose, and finally, he kissed her on the mouth. When he let go, he pulled her to his chest (much broader than it used to be).
"You don't have to cry about it," he said as he rested his chin on top of her head.
"H-How can you just…come out and…say that so easily?" Amu asked between shuddering breaths.
"You told me you wanted a straight answer, didn't you?"
"But you—I didn't know you were going to do that!"
His chuckle reverberated from his chest and against her ear, making her blush. "You weren't really expecting it when you were younger, either." That was true. "So please, Amu, will you tell me why you don't want anything to do with me?"
Well he had been embarrassingly honest, so she should probably do the same. Amu pulled out of his embrace, watching the grass at her feet. "I…missed you a lot, and you—you came back like you had only been gone for a few days, or a few weeks. But Ikuto, you were gone for eight years.That's a long time. It's like you came back and were expecting me to be welcoming you with open arms. You didn't call, you didn't write. You didn't contact me at all."
"I know. I couldn't."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Ikuto sighed. "If I contacted you, in any way at all, I would have wanted to come back here. I would have wanted to come back so I could hold you in my arms and never let you go again—to the kiddy king or anyone else." Ikuto stared at her, his gaze intense. "But that's not right. You…were a child. I had to let you grow, and I had to grow too. Feelings can change, and we were young. If I had run back to you after contacting you, I probably wouldn't have gone back out to find my father again."
If he had never gone to find his father, it would have haunted him for the rest of his life. Amu knew from the way he used to talk about his father, the way he would get a nostalgic look on his face and an innocent smile that he wasn't aware of.
Amu looked down at Yoru, who was nestled in her arms. "I haven't really had this cat for very long. He's not even a year old yet. He used to be a stray, but they found him and rescued him…Do you want to know why I named him Yoru?"
Ikuto gave her a real smile. "I can probably guess."
Amu smiled back and returned to his arms.
Aneko: Ta-daaah! THAT'S A LOT OF WORDS! But dude, I wrote this in like, five days, so yay for me! :D
Oh, I am infinitely in love with Ikuto because he's tall dark and handsome, and because he was a cat in Shugo Chara!
A warning to people who don't know anything about cats: A lot (I won't say all) of cats that I know would not allow you to hold them for that long. Especially not my cat. She freaks out only a few seconds after being picked up. But yeah, cats are my darlings. :3
So, do you know why she named him Yoru? ;)