A/N: Some quick things:
1) The main pairing is KisshuxIchigo, but there will be some other pairings as well, like PaixLettuce and TartxPudding.
2) This story would be more plot-orientated and exploring/developing of character relationships and whatnot rather than an actual(?) 'love-centric' story.
3) There are OCs in this.
It's not too late to leave if this isn't what you're looking for. Otherwise, please, you're more than welcome to stay! :D
The aliens' sudden appearance had catapulted the room from its tense, gloomy ambience. Ichigo shot upright in her chair, then proceeded to join the other Mews in front of Keiichiro and the various technology and large screens behind him. In comparison to their last meeting, Pai had grown even taller.
His difference in height, however, was not too pronounced- though that couldn't be said about the rest of him. Pai had gained noticeably more muscle over the years, although his clothing style had remained the same. A self-assured, authoritative aura had overtaken whatever hint of tenderfoot-ness Pai had before.
Tart, too, had grown both psychically and physically.
As she laid eyes on them, she couldn't help but notice a certain green-haired someone was missing.
"Taru-taru, I've missed you!" Pudding was the first one to break the silence, flinging her arms around the alien's neck. Taruto looked somewhere between being shocked and embarrassed as he tried to pull her off with little effort. "T-That's- Let go of me!"
"Where's Kisshu?" Ryou asked curtly.
"Kisshu's not with us." A pause. "We don't know where he is."
Ryou opened his mouth but Lettuce interrupted out of concern. "...What does that mean, Pai-san?"
"I'm sorry for not saying this earlier," Pai's tone bordered on low and apologetic, but was still predominantly neutral. "Kisshu has been missing for a few months now, and our efforts to find him have been in vain. However, we've received intelligence that Kisshu had been to Earth a few days ago, and we came here in hope of finding him."
"If he was here, he didn't use a considerable amount of disruptive alien energy because our radar would have picked it up." Keiichiro turned around after he did a quick check on computer.
"We don't know," Pai answered their queries. "I have some ideas... but they cannot be confirmed yet."
"So you need our help to find him." Ryou raked a hand through his hair and resisted sighing. Then he was suddenly alert. "Didn't you say you saw him, Ichigo?"
That was exactly two weeks ago. They had visited a pop-up fair that was situated in a nearby park, and amidst the bustling of the crowd and searching for her fellow friends, Ichigo had spotted a certain green-haired someone.
She had called out to him and he turned, and for a few seconds brown eyes met gold before they almost lost each other in the crowd.
"I-I don't know... I mean, I think I saw him." Ichigo said. "But I could be mistaken. It could've almost been anyone, and besides, he had someone with him."
Tart joined the conversation, "Someone?"
Ichigo nodded. "A girl with silver hair, and red eyes."
There was a slight scrunch on Tart's features as he searched his memory. It took a while before realization followed.
He turned to Pai. "You don't think..."
"What?" Ichigo asked impatiently as the aliens exchanged looks, both shocked and disbelieving.
"There is someone we know of that fits that description." Pai said tentatively, followed by a quick correction from Tart. "Not know, exactly."
"We have some needed information on our ship that we could prepare and transfer here...-"
"We'll help you," Keiichiro offered. "The cafe has plenty of extra rooms..."
Pai said gratefully, "We really appreciate all your help."
"Ichigo," Pudding leaned in with a conspirative whisper, hand cupped to her mouth. "There's a guy watching you there."
The girls were huddled at the table by a window in a cafe. They had done the job of preparing Tart and Pai's room fairly quickly, and since the guys were nowhere done configuring, transferring, and sorting the data on alien technology to whatever equipment they had, the Mews had decided to drop by a recently opened cafe on a street not far off from where they came from. Flooded with sunlight that mingled with the comfortably cool indoor air, the cafe also had good furnishing, friendly staff, and decent food that added to its cozy and relaxed vibe. It was the preferred hangout of teenagers and young adults alike, and had already gained favorable reviews in the little time it operated.
"That's Nagata, from school," Ichigo answered her friends' quizzical looks, returning the wave and smile to him. "He's a new student- transferred here not long ago. But I don't know him that well."
"He's cute," a cheeky grin crossed Pudding's face. "Is he as popular as-"
As quickly as she started, Pudding stopped. The mere mention of Aoyama Masaya, or anything that remotely reminded them of him was taboo, at least around Ichigo, her friends had decided. But even if the abrupt halt hadn't given it away, the sudden, palpable tension and monkey girl's guilty expression sure did.
"Well, he's caught some of the girls' attention," Ichigo cut through the silence as if oblivious. She had already caught on to what her friends were up to, and not for the first time, she played along.
No longer the Ichigo from three years before, the Ichigo today was stronger, more independent, mature, and determined not to let her friends worry about her. They'd been there for her, even in her worst times and she didn't want to be a burden, to let them down. It was for the good of everyone, and more so for herself.
She was about to speak again when Mint lifted her cellphone to her ears. "Hello?... Right... Okay," the latter closed her phone and addressed her friends, "well, we gotta go."
No one said anything till they stepped outside and begin making their way to Cafe Mew Mew.
"What do you think they've found out?" Ichigo had her hands in her pocket as she trudged up the sidewalk.
"Hopefully the girl's identity." Came Mint's reply from behind her.
"Hmm, I wonder how she's related to Kisshu, Pai-san and Taru-taru?"
"She could be Kisshu's girlfriend." Mint shrugged as she caught Ichigo's look. "What? It's possible. It's been three years after all."
"So he left just like that?" Pudding wondered out loud.
"I don't think so," Lettuce said carefully. "Kisshu is more responsible than that. And maybe she's working for someone?"
"I think so too," Zakuro agreed.
"Maybe she's an enemy and she kidnapped Kisshu. He wouldn't disappear like that without notice."
"You're right," Mint admitted. She flashed a benign smile over her shoulder as they neared the cafe. "Well, good thing they've got us to help them, huh?"
Ichigo grinned back. Mint was right, there was nothing to worry about. They had been through a lot together and this would be no exception. She was all the more confident that with Pai, Tart, Ryou and Keiichiro, everything would work out fine. They would find Kisshu and bring him back, kicking the asses of any adversaries they would encounter on the way.
The Mews disregarded the 'Closed' sign outside as they stepped into the cafe. Streaks of sunset from the windows bathed the place in a mixture of orange warmth and light, and all around them the chairs were stacked on tables as they had been before- the only indication that the cafe was closed for the day.
They were headed in direction of the basement when a noise caught their attention.
"Want something to drink?" came the voice of Keiichiro when they peeked into the kitchen.
"It's okay, we just drank!" Came Pudding's reply.
"What are you doing out here?" Ichigo enquired before she noticed three more drinks that were sitting in a tray before him.
"Should we go to the basement?" Zakuro asked.
"No, they're not done yet," Keiichiro said with a smile. "We actually called you back to tell you that you could go for the day."
"Really? What about...?"
"We'll still be working. You ladies can come back tomorrow at nine o clock, alright?" he answered Lettuce, his usual smile never ceasing.
"See you tomorrow, Keiichiro-san!" The Mews called out before they headed to the locker room to retrieve their belongings.
Keiichiro had responded with a "goodbye, take care of yourselves."
That was 4 hours before. Now, Ichigo was splayed out on the couch, the blaring of the television long forgotten.
Her eyes were fixed on the ceiling. She couldn't sleep. Not when her mind was plagued with questions that eventually led to things that she'd usually try to avoid.
The mystery girl. Kisshu, their days three years ago, Masaya...
It was almost funny to think that Ichigo had been reminiscing a lot about her world-saving days recently. It was a common occurrence since the lowest point of her life, and even when she was occupied with other aspects of her life, it was always at the back of her mind: thinking back to the days when things had been simpler. They had been tired, worn out from battles and their duties as Mews, but happy. Her love with Masaya was budding, then it bloomed blissfully. Not for the first time, Ichigo wistfully wished to turn back time.
With a spurt of delayed determination Ichigo forced herself off the couch, turned the television off with the click of a button, and wandered into the kitchen.
She flicked on the light switch as she headed for the fridge. It was when she opened the it that she remembered; the fridge was near empty save for half a carton of eggs, a slab of butter and cold water. Closing it, Ichigo caught sight of the piece of paper with writing stuck to the door.
Well, she thought as she removed the magnet and grocery list, might as well go out to get the groceries and clear my mind!