A/N: I wrote this for True Colours' birthday.
Another shift at Café Mew Mew had ended, and Retasu finished scrubbing the last customer's plate. She disposed of it on the dish rack, twisting a faucet to halt the rushing water. Silence ensued.
The sink had become Retasu's main post during shifts nowadays. After Deep Blue's defeat Tokyo Mew Mew did not remain united for long. Some members neither needed the money nor wanted to work as one of Ryou's employees. Ichigo certainly did not, pursuing an education in England with boyfriend Masaya. Zakuro was building her modeling career.
Minto visited the café enough to become a feature of its scenery. She resigned as an employee but continued to arrive as a friend, occupying the same table every day and always ordering Keiichiro's homebrewed tea. Since Purin and Retasu were the only members on Ryou's payroll others were hired, but with constant replacements. Therefore nobody was befriended.
It was when her shift ended that Retasu overheard Purin's voice, yet the topic of discussion was contrary to the child's bubbly personality. "I miss Taru-Taru!"
Minto's own voice followed; no doubt she was sitting idly by with a cup of tea in her hands. "Why? He was a nuisance."
"Taru-Taru was my friend!"
Retasu placed the sink's sponge down. She had not thought about the aliens since Tokyo Mew Mew's disintegration months ago. She began to recall the final battle, almost reliving it. She could remember how all it took for Ichigo's leadership to falter was her heart, how Minto used her initiative (or rather, a slap) to restore their leader's senses, how the aliens each rebelled against their species' salvation…
Every glance, every sound, every word – she could remember everything. But the moment which had imprinted itself was looking into Pai's eyes for the first time. Of course, Retasu had seen them on more than one occasion. However, a barricade prevented her from seeing his soul until the split second he died.
Pai was literally a world away from Earth now.
Retasu blinked, returning to reality. She turned around.
Minto appeared in the doorway, brandishing her coat. "Your shift's over, right? We'll walk you home." Purin's head popped up right next to her.
"Thank you." Retasu smiled.
Retasu frowned, rolling onto her back. In her bed she squinted at the darkened ceiling. If she spared a glimpse at her alarm clock the numbers – obscure without her glasses - would have read one o'clock in the morning. She had just awakened from the experience of a nightmare, where she was forced to watch Pai die again and again and again. Eavesdropping on her friends' conversation was not a good idea.
Retasu sat upright, pulling the string on her lamp. It flickered into life; the room brightened. She noticed something she had forgotten.
Standing at her bedside, she approached the bookshelf.
Retasu's hand wrapped around a doll of her alias, Lettuce. She was going to sell it alongside other dolls she made but became attached.
Retasu was surprised to discover a frown stitched across the doll's face. She pinched at the thread with her fingers. "Don't be sad…" Suddenly she understood what would raise a smile. "I'll make you a friend."
By noon Retasu had indeed made the doll a friend, and forged a smile into the doll's pale round face. When the man its friend was based on materialised in the room, Retasu was fast asleep.
He was tempted to rouse the teenager, but deemed it unwise. Instead he examined the dolls with amusement. "I am not forgotten."
With black beads for eyes, Retasu failed to capture Pai's gaze; lightning in a storm. Pai noticed how the first doll resembled her, but a component was missing.
He smiled. He could fix that.
Retasu was astonished to identify a pair of miniature glasses on her doll's eyes. She crinkled her nose. "That's strange…"
"Strange? Are the glasses not you?"
Retasu froze. She rotated towards the male voice's source, except her blurred vision distorted the presence. It was when her glasses were applied to her face that she acknowledged the presence as a person and not another figment of her imagination. "P-Pai-san?"
Pai slid the glasses onto Retasu's face. "I have not forgotten you."