Summary: The both wanted to adopt him—she, out of pity and he, for his own benefit, yet they both refused to give the little kid up to each other. "Well, since you guys are totally attached to him anyway, why don't the three of you live together as a happy family?" Thus a complete trouble inside the house starts—an always-ecstatic mama Mikan, a killjoy papa Natsume, and three-year-old Youichi completely amused at his new parents' 'relationship'. Oh boy.

Disclaimer: Do I have to repeat this over and over? I certainly do not and never will own Gakuen Alice. I own the story plot, but I give Higuchi Tachibana-sama the credits for making this anime.

My Strange Family

House Rule 7: Support Each Other

"People are pretty forgiving when it comes to other people's families. The only family that ever horrifies you is your own."

-Doug Coupland

Mikan looked down at the floor, smiling an unbelieving one while shaking her head.

Natsume, in Japan, really?

If this was a dream, it would surely be a horrible one, because she believes that it was downright impossible! Although these consecutive nights she kept on dreaming about him, this particular one seemed to be real. And well, it actually is.

The last time she checked, she was there in a room with him, being harshly told to go back here in Japan, without even a single idea if he'd come back. But what a surprise when he suddenly barged in and greeted her and their adopted child thirty, no, thirty-one seconds ago as if nothing bad ever happened between the two of them.

Well, for Pete's sake, everything has gone horribly bad!

Including the fact that he's back.

If this just happened a few weeks ago, right before she went to New York, she might have already jumped in his arms and told him how much she missed him, but no. Natsume actually decided to choose his pride and push her away. So what was she supposed to do?

Mikan exhaled and looked up at him with a frown on her face, and when she found him walking with a moderate pace towards her, she immediately turned her back against him, her knuckles against her chest which affirmed the fact that she is clearly nervous about the possible things that might happen. One of them being approached by him.

"S-Stop right there." She closed her eyes and drew her hand, if possible, closer to her chest. And once she heard that he stopped walking, she gave a quiet sigh of relief, albeit still not giving him any of her attention.

It's not that she hated his presence near her. Yes of course she is still mad at him, but since the reason for this uneasiness was partly her fault, it would be too overboard just to think of hating him.

Furthermore, she knew she can never hate Natsume.

It's just that, after all what happened—the pressures, the conflicts, the tears and whatnot's, she doesn't know how to face him, especially, when something nearly happened for the second time.

Natsume, on the other hand, silently nodded and looked back at Youichi who is giving him a small, encouraging smile. And man how guilty he felt at the moment!

Youichi ran up to him and giggled when his father gently patted his head, kneeling and smiling in front of him.

"How about you go get the presents first I bought for you in the car?"

"Really papa?!" Youichi exclaimed with glee, and when Natsume nodded his head, he quickly went out towards his father's car, leaving his adoptive parents to give time for themselves.

Mikan swallowed.

For all she knows, it was one of Natsume's tactics to have her alone. Before, it was good, having their alone time to be contented just by having each other's company, but not now. Not when everything seems so wrong. Not when all she needs is just to be in her room by herself.

"I finished my business in New York."

Mikan silently cringed when she heard him spoke with his smooth voice. For goodness' sake! That was the tone of his voice that she both loved and despised at different times, and man was she feeling defeated at this moment when he dared used it when she was mad at him. But no, she isn't going to give up and forgive him easily.

"That's... That's good." She flippantly said, reaching for the messed-up washed plates resting on the table surface, attempting to place her attention to all but him. Now this is what she calls confrontation which she isn't ready for. Who would be happy anyway when the guy you're trying to forget suddenly shows up with a joyous aura, smiling like nothing ever happened?

Surely, she wouldn't.

"I came back immediately after I settled out everything there."

Once again, he spoke in a gentle tone, hoping that this time, she would talk to him face to face, which was yet again proven wrong when she answered with a small and nonchalant 'Oh, really?' without looking at him.

Well, who could blame her?

He admits that it was obnoxious of him when he heartlessly told her to go back here in Japan, but remembering the reason why he did that in the first place made his thoughts in a perplexed state. How in the world is he going to tell her that he acted that way out of excitement? If ever he wasn't able to control himself that time, both of them might have lost their most important thing now.

But then again, that isn't the issue.

In fact, he would be more than glad (ecstatic, even) if he'd be the one—and only, since he can't bear the thought of another guy stealing her away from him—to have all of her. And of course, Sakura Mikan is the only woman in his life that he would allow to do wonders to him.

Now that sounded a little too perverted.

Back to the matter at hand, up until now, he thinks that it would be valid to say that doing that—rejecting Mikan that time—might distract him, which partially happened, so in order to end everything immediately and go back home, he decided to show his rude side and alas! She did go home after that.

Covered with guilt, he immediately booked a flight to Japan after his old man told him that he could go home... which he did a few hours later.

And well, he even expected Mikan having that teary-eyed face, welcoming him with a warm hug, but unexpectedly, she ignored him... continuously.

"I missed you." He whispered, but enough for her to hear, and he was totally sure that she did when he sensed her tensing up.

Does that mean that she missed him too?

"I-Is that so? I'm flattered... thanks."

He's not that sure anymore.

"What? Didn't you miss me?" A moment of silence ensued. "The last time we were together, we almost got ourselves engaged again in-"

"Natsume... should you really be reminding us of that?" Mikan turned around and faced him with a frown. What was about to come out of his mouth anyway? That night when they were kissing? Didn't he despise that act? Then why in the world would he bring that topic first of all when he just came back? Why, of all the things to talk about—like apologizing for leaving, would he ask about the night that she thought she would finally have his forgiveness?

"And why must I forget the things that happened between us?"

Liar. She really wanted to say that. Something almost happened. But nothing pleasing did. All she remembers that night was leaving without him, along with the pain that he gave her. Although the kiss was a big thing for her, it was suddenly buried by the fact that she appeared to be a fool who was being rejected by the man she loves.

"Why then must we remember those?" With furious eyes, she looked at him, only to find him looking back at her with a gentle pair of eyes that can never be compared with the ones he showed her weeks ago. "The last time I checked, you were the one who decided to stop those things that nearly happened between us. It's your own choice—your obligation to do something about your family."

Right now, she doesn't care if she is being obvious that she was upset over what happened, but she really can't deny her feelings anymore, can she? It's almost like giving herself to him in full submission, but it was totally embarrassing on her part that he doesn't want her.

"Are you mad at me?"

"Mad?" Mikan scoffed, followed by a bitter smile. "Mad. Mr. Hyuuga Natsume... why should I get mad at you? You didn't do anything wrong." Pausing, Mikan looked at him and shook her head. "You were just being a responsible businessman who puts business as his first priority. And oh, that time at New York? Forget it. Don't mind all the things that I said."

At that, Natsume mentally slapped himself. So she really did despise that time when he distanced himself from her! He never expected it to turn out bad. And now that she already gave him an idea how much she loathed what happened, he wasn't sure enough if she would forgive him with just a paragraph of explanation.

Damnation is in his hands.

And the worst? She may not let him lay even a finger at her.

Now, how would his dreams of having thirty babies with her come true?

"If I entertained you, I may not be able to control myself." Natsume looked down and licked his lips.

It was really hard, he admits. Hard that he would have to explain himself carefully without making her feel bad. It was supposed to be in favor of him, since he knows too well that he didn't do anything wrong anyway.

Oh well, freak. Sure he did something terrible.

But thinking back, had she not met his grandfather along her way, nothing of this could have happened. To sum it all up, it would be both Mikan and his grandfather's fault why they ended up this way.

But isn't it unfair? He was also hurt too.

To be honest, all the pain and hatred he felt when he arrived in New York vanished in an instant the moment he saw Mikan, but he needed to do his part, even if that includes hurting her in the process.

She may never understand why he did that in the first place.

Never.

He looked at her again and narrowed his eyes, examining what would her reaction be once he tells her the whole story behind what happened in New York. Heck, it's not like he cheated, right? That would be the last thing he'd do: to hurt this woman in front of him who turned his world upside down.

"Do you know how much I am restraining myself that time? Don't you know that I did that just so I could finish my business there and get back here as soon as possible? Mikan, please…" Once again, he walked towards her, and unfortunately, she stepped back; avoiding him like he was some kind of a malignant disease.

Natsume halted and sighed. If there was no way of being forgiven by her, then there's no way of forgiving her either.

"You know... you said it well. You have no right to be mad since you were the root of the problem in the first place." He smiled a bitter one, looking at her with ire.

At that, he got her frowning at him for a second. He almost took his words back when he was welcomed with a pained expression, but the second she glared at him, he was glad he didn't.

Damn this woman and the things she does to him!

"So you said." Mikan silently laughed and shook her head. "I know I've done you mischief. But how many times should you pierce that stupid mistake in my heart until I'm shattered enough?"

There was a moment of silence, as if every sound that makes its way to stop their conversation is useless: the sound of the door opening or the sound of Youichi calling out to the both of them… not even the cries that escaped from the young boy's lips.

The raven-haired man turned his back at the brunette, attempting to walk away, but the moment she spoke with a heavy voice, almost crying, he stilled himself, standing motionless.

"Natsume... I tried to understand you. I humbled myself and did as many things possible in hopes of winning you back. I did as many things possible just so this family would survive. More than those sleepless nights—those torturing, sleepless nights thinking if you're alright, if you're eating well, if you even spared a thought for Youichi and me... being silently told by you that I'll never be able to get through your heart pains me. You, helping your grandfather... I'm not mad at that. In fact I'm glad that you could actually do it even though you think he is not worthy of your help. But why can't you do that to us? Why can't a sorry and a proof of it satisfy you?!"

"Do you think that's easy?!" Natsume faced her, his eyes full of emotions, and one of them being rage. With that, Mikan flinched and looked down, avoiding his furious gaze.

She had never seen Natsume this angry before. Sure there were times when she would hear him shouting and cursing over the phone when he talks with, she thinks, his people from the company, but that was it. It didn't even lead to the point that he'd be so mad that he would be grumpy all day and divert all his frustrations to her and to Youichi.

That never happened.

But why does she have to be the reason of the anger she has never seen in Natsume's eyes? Why is it that she was the one to urge that deep emotion from him?

"Do you think it's easy for a person like me—who was being doubted by two of the most important people in my life to forgive that easily? Helping my grandfather? No. I did not do it because I wanted to. I did it because it was something you asked for. Why do you think that you're the only one who's working hard for this family to survive? I went with my grandfather just so I could prove to you that I'm worthy of you—of proving myself to that old man that I am capable of supporting you and Youichi by myself even after that stupid contract—despite the fact that I don't need anyone but the two of you. You know I don't take orders from other people. But you Mikan, out of my family, you're the only one who can make me move with fear and trembling in just a snap of your fingers. And you said pain? Mikan, don't forget that I am already broken the moment you denied me of your trust."

Mikan guiltily stepped forward. To be given a look like that from him made her tremble. Other than seeing him getting angry like that, this was also the first time that he rendered her speechless when she saw him being vulnerable. If he had this look on their first small fight, she would've laughed at him. But to see him at this state, it plainly told her that they are indeed in a big fight and are nowhere near reconciliation for now. She thinks so. And she was sure Natsume thinks so too.

In a small voice, Mikan spoke and looked at him straight in the eyes, which in return, having his piercing stare shot back at her.

"Then why? Why would you go so far pushing me away? Are you even so sure and aware of the reason why you're like this?"

"I wasn't!" He shouted and shook his head.

Natsume knows himself that his wife would definitely ask him about this one day, he just didn't expect that that 'one day' happens to be tonight, and honestly, he isn't ready for this.

But damn this pride. If choosing that abomination meant losing her, then it would be a big, fat no.

He bitterly smiled and frowned before continuing. "I wasn't. But the time you went there to see me, now I am. To go this far to inflict a pain on you, I am well aware of something I shouldn't have had since I met you."

Mikan returned his frown.

"Having a hard time coping by myself during those times when I'm away, missing your voice, Youichi's laughter, your cooking, the way you hold and kiss me, your presence that makes me a completely different person... if those things are what could be a concrete proof of my suspicions why I'm like this, then yes. I love you."

Mikan gasped. Did she hear him right?

He loves her?

Once those words came out of his mouth, she knew she was happy—happy that the love she has for him isn't unrequited at all.

But how is she going to deal with this right now… when they are having a tough situation? It's not like she'd jump to him and tell him that she loves him too.

No—that would just ruin their current situation. Not that she hated it, but she doubts if Natsume would just welcome her in his arms that easily.

"I freaking love you so much that I felt so betrayed for not being trusted by the woman I never expected to fall in love with."

She shivered. Those words from Natsume. How was he able to elicit an emotion like that when he was trained to be cold inside out?

But to hear that from the man who has a stone for a heart and an ice for a personality makes her smile inside.

Who knew Natsume could be this sweet?

"Isn't it ironic? The man who knew nothing about trust and has a heart that is completely guarded by walls is now being doubted. I never expected that I'd be this fucked up... especially in your hands."

And as expected, he isn't going to forget this thing just like that.

What would be the benefit of having his love when he hates her anyway?

Like he said, it was ironic. He scorned her because of love for her. Now, isn't that confusing?

Why does she have to experience bliss for a second that turns into prolonged agony in an instant? What's the use of being loved by him if he cannot even forgive her?

If setting him free was the only way, then so be it. At least she's glad that she got to know that she's loved in return by the man she loves.

"We can always cancel the contract and I'll free you from all obligations. If you think that the only way to solve this problem is to hate me… then do so… if that would make you forgive me."

In the end, she still found herself making decisions that would surely hurt her. But she knows. She knows that this is for the best.

Besides, that was their original plan, wasn't it? Live with each other for months, and after Natsume gets what he wants, he'd give Youichi to her and they will separate ways.

During their first day, it seemed too long for Mikan, but right now, all she wanted was to go back in time and savour all the times they were together. May it be the times when Youichi was being cunning or Natsume when he was being perverted… towards her and her alone.

Parting, she can never accept that. And it will always lead to that.

But the next words from Natsume before he walked away and went in his own room made her heart beat erratically.

"I can forgive you Mikan. I can. And I don't care about the damn contract. All I care is turning that stupid fantasy of mine to reality. But don't you dare take even a single step out of my world you created... or I really might just hate you for the rest of my life. Remember that this is the first time that I fell in love... but also keep in mind that I never let go of something... or someone that's mine."

Thankfully, that gave her hope.

My Strange Family

"And so... the next step we should take while our General Manager isn't here yet is to do surveys about our product on several malls around Tokyo. That way, we'll have our evaluation and preparation for our next project, especially, now that we have Mr. Sono, the manager of the actress Harada Misaki, as our client. So we have to be careful, I heard that he's not that easy to please, most especially when it concerns his talents. If you don't have any questions, we can continue this discussion next week. Have a great Christmas everyone."

With a smile, Ruka gathered his papers atop the table and announced his words of 'goodbye', 'Merry Christmas' and 'take care' to his co-workers before finally exiting the room. He was also full of greetings and being greeted back while on his way to his office, but what surprised him the most though—except for the gifts he might receive tonight, was the figure of his fiancée, sitting on the couch in front of his table.

"Hotaru?" He frowned then smiled when she stood up before walking towards him and giving him a kiss on his lips. No wonder, he's happy when he's the only one capable of making her act like that.

Man, it was really hard to get her to look at him when they were just kids, and looking at the situation now, he was more than glad that he is her boyfriend, and she is his wife-to-be.

How excited he feels just thinking of a little Hotaru who, he was sure, would be undoubtedly spoiled to death by him.

"Are you done?" He snapped from his train of thoughts when Imai Hotaru herself smiled and looked up at him.

That was also one of the things he loved about her.

She would look up at him lovingly with those ice-cold eyes whenever she talks to him and sure, he loves the fact that he was taller than her.

Nodding, Ruka smiled back.

"Oh, yeah, I just finished the meeting. How about you? I thought we agreed to meet at my place?"

"I have unexpected errands so I just dropped by. Your phone was even off that's why I came personally." She crossed her arms against her chest and sighed. This is worse than being involved into the plans of rescuing Natsume which occurred weeks ago. If only that cousin of hers wasn't experiencing a tougher situation than her, she might have already punched his lovely face.

But then, she had to be considerate just because it involved him and their grandfather.

Ruka, noticing the woman's stature, smiled and dumped all the papers on his table before leading her outside to his car.

"How about I go with you? Everyone is dismissed anyway since it is Christmas eve. And I don't have anything to do."

He sighed in relief when she smiled and nodded. Ruka knew what happened when Hotaru came to New York. It did tire him, working things out for the company and all when Natsume wasn't around, but if it meant helping his best friend and fiancée, it would be all worth it. And he even understands what his girl has gone through, so making her mad was the last thing he knows he had to do.

"Well, if you insist. Anyway, have you informed Natsume?"

At the mention of his name, Ruka shook his head and stopped when they arrived in front of his car. Once they have settled themselves inside the vehicle, he spoke in a soft voice. "Not yet. I did call him last night when I heard that he just came back, but I didn't bother him much about the dinner. Well, you see, he sounded too… I don't know… occupied and pissed? Man, he should stop answering me with one to two-syllabled words." He cringed when he remembered last night, Natsume sounded upset when he called him, so he didn't tell him about having dinner with his family tonight. Maybe, he needed a long rest. After all, he knew that being a Hyuuga was stressful, especially, when you're one of the heirs.

"Oh really? I shouldn't be surprised then."

That made him look at his girl in response.

"Why is that?" He questioned the same time he started his car's engine.

"My bastard of a cousin was being sickly sweet enough to declare his undying love for Mikan."

And for the second time, he was surprised. Out of the blue, Ruka stepped on the brake and looked at the woman beside him with wide eyes.

"You're kidding."

"Since when did I joke around about serious matters? Mikan called yesterday, and if I got it right, they had a big argument. And another thing, step on that brake hard once more and I'll make sure that you'll never be able to reproduce your genes, Nogi."

He sheepishly smiled when she glared at him. Talk about upsetting her as his last move.

"Oh, uh, sorry. But are you serious about that? I mean, I know and I can sense that Natsume has feelings for Sakura Mikan… but to voice it… oh my freaking butt."

Hotaru shook her head and sighed. "That's not impossible. If I were a boy, I might have taken a liking to her as well. And for the record, shut up. You act like you're a frustrated sissy."

That made Ruka glare at her. "Well, you know what? I'm glad you're a woman—my woman, and hey! I'm not a sissy! And can we stop with these ridiculous two-topic sentences?!"

Ruka started to drive again when Hotaru spoke, and as usual, her reply just simply told him that he lost the argument. And of course, she won. Damn the Hyuuga blood that runs through her veins.

"Deal with it. Both with these two-topic sentences and the fact that it didn't go well."

"Didn't go well? What do you mean?" Ruka frowned. Not only were they having two-topic sentences. The woman gladly engaged themselves in a riddle, which he totally despised.

"You'll find out soon enough."

But what he hates the most about riddles is when the answer would be left hanging for a long time.

My Strange Family

"Good morning papa!" Youichi exclaimed with a huge grin on his face as he saw his papa walking out of his room. It was a surprise that he smiled at him this early in the morning when in fact, something terrible happened last night. He hated it when his parents are fighting. But today is different.

Now that his papa is excreting a different—a good one—aura, he is now certain that he and his mama would talk to each other again. Unlike yesterday, the tension right now in front of him is much lighter, and definitely, they'd be lovey-dovey again later.

He'll bet everything on it… including the Pokémon cards his classmate Ren wants from him.

It's also been a long wait anyway. If the old man didn't come and get his papa, he's sure by now that he'd hear those loud sounds and bangs and shouts—as senior Tono would describe it—from his mama and papa. Wait, that wasn't right. If the old man didn't come and get his papa, he's sure by now that his baby sister or brother is now inside his mama's tummy.

Although it is weird, he learned to accept the fact that babies are supposed to be inside mommies' tummies.

Even if it means his mama ate his baby brother or sister, then it is fine, as long as he'll be a big brother soon.

Youichi grinned mentally. That was his greatest achievement—plans successful.

He knew it. He knew he'd triumph ever since the time he saw his mama and papa doing 'it' which he still doesn't get.

But whatever that 'it' is, he's guessing that it makes his papa and mama happy.

Very and utterly happy.

Satisfied with his thoughts and goals, he looked at his mama who by now is biting her lips.

Wait. Isn't she supposed to kiss his papa good morning and get lovey-dovey again? Goodness, senior Tono is right. Women are veritably hard to deal with… and yes, that includes his mama.

"Good morning." Natsume smiled and nodded at him, before looking at Mikan whose back is turned away from him. Sensing that she isn't gonna talk to him anytime sooner, he walked towards the kitchen table and as he was about to sit on his chair, the image of two plates: one in front of Youichi and the other in another side welcomed him. Technically speaking, no plate is placed in front of him. "Wait. Where's my breakfast?"

"Oh sorry about that." That completely made Mikan face him, which he was glad she did. But what she said totally didn't make him smile. "I completely forgot it. I only prepared breakfast and hotdogs for Youichi and me."

Now, that was what he calls revenge. Only, it didn't seem as challenging as he expected it to be. It's not something that would equalize with the level of misery they had last night.

If it's breakfast she would abnegate him of, it is breakfast he would get from her. Forcefully.

Challenge accepted.

Smirking at himself, Natsume shook his head when Youichi spoke.

"Papa, if you want, Youichi will share-"

"No honey. I think mama wants to share it with papa instead." And he almost showed himself sneering when his wife frantically looked at him with a huge frown.

"Wait, what?! I never agreed to that!" Mikan shouted and banged her hands on the table. It was clear as the snow today that he's making fun of her. What? Last night he was mad, and now, he was teasing her?

Has her husband gone crazy with the stuffs he was taking care of in New York? If that's the case, it was surely pitiful.

"And I never agreed at you, spending the night yesterday without me."

That made her stop.

What in the world is he babbling about now?

"W-What are you talking about?! Why would you expect me to spend the night with you, uh, last night, huh?!"

"I was waiting for you at my room."

Mikan stared at him dumbfounded. Yes, her husband, Hyuuga Natsume, has just gone mad.

"Oh no, you weren't."

"Yes I was. What do you think would a healthy, frustrated man expect from the woman he loves after confessing his feelings for her in this cold weather?"

Well, that was embarrassing. It's not that she's embarrassed because of Natsume. It's just that he's talking about it casually in front of Youichi.

Oh wait. That was exactly what she wanted, a love that was declared in front of their son. Except that it was him who confessed and not her.

That lessened the embarrassment.

But still! Even though he didn't say anything related to that with a loving smile on his face, it was enough hint for her to take that he may not let go of her, but that didn't mean that they'd be at peace immediately.

"I-I don't know! And I don't care! Besides, weren't we having an intense argument last night? Why would you expect me to come to your room anyway?!"

"To have a heated make-out session. That's what married couples do after a big fight, right?"

Mikan's eye twitched. Even though she dearly loved this guy, she just could not take every perverted words that come from his lips.

"Damn it, Natsume! Are you nuts?! You were totally mad at me and-"

"Do you want me to?"

And that completely sent her gawking at him. Does she want him to? Does she?

Damn, no.

But Natsume was playing with her. He was really ferocious last night, yes, there's no way she can deny it. So, why is it that he's telling her the opposite things he told her? Has he forgiven her already?

No. That's impossible.

If he was playing with her, then so be it.

"Yes."

Her steady gaze challenged him, but she knew she did a wrong move when he gave her a look of his own. Only, there was something added to it.

Freak.

"Oh, really?" He smirked—a move from him that she hated the most. And when he didn't tear his gaze away from her—which she annoyingly admitted, and oh that smirk that widened—she knew she was screwed. "Uh, Youichi, honey?"

"Yes, papa?"

Mikan's brows deeply furrowed and glanced at the innocent child smiling happily at the oldest Hyuuga. Well, this is totally outrageous.

"Since tomorrow is Christmas, would a baby brother or sister be enough for a Christmas gift?" He finally looked at the three-year-old kid, smiling while ignoring the gasp that came out of Mikan's mouth.

As she regained her self, Mikan glared at Natsume. Trust this guy to turn the tables one-hundred and eighty degrees.

"What the hell, Natsume?!"

Again, he looked at her and nodded while giving her a thumbs-up. "Oh yeah, keep that up sweetheart. That's exactly the tone I'd like to hear from your mouth later at night."

"Wha-"

Natsume, aware that he finally caught her full attention, smirked and purposely ignored her protests. Well at least, they could have a good start of conversation, even if it's something that annoys her.

"So Youichi, honey. Is that okay?"

And he smiled in satisfaction when she strode towards him and blocked his view of Youichi. Great, now her attention is fully directed at him.

"Hey!"

"Really papa? I'll be a big brother soon?"

Youichi isn't helping either!

"That depends. If you'd like to sleep at uncle Ruka's place tonight after dinner, then yes."

"Youichi likes!"

Mikan slammed her palm against her face with a loud sound at the declaration. Who knew Youichi would be the one to betray her?!

Oh wait, she forgot. It was actually his desire to have a sibling. Damn this father and son tandem. Embarrassing her may not be Youichi's purpose, but his reactions are Natsume's ace to push her at her limit. Gosh, how she hates how cunning he is!

"Then it's settled."

Natsume smiled, unaware of the glare that's forming on his wife's face. Well, for one, he's not affected. Yeah, not at all.

"Wait, wait, wait! Who in the world agreed to that?!"

Natsume shrugged.

"I did. Youichi did."

"And I didn't!"

She shouted. The nerve of this guy to make fun of her!

"Do I look like I'm giving you a choice?"

Her eye twitched. If this is how he plans to start his game, then she'd join this little charade he initiated. Two can play this damn game.

"Well, darling?" Mikan smiled in between her gritted teeth, her eyes not living her husband's ones, which she found was looking at her challengingly. "You better keep your hotdog inside your pants or I'll really make sure that Youichi will never be a big brother!"

Youichi grinned. Now his mama and papa are openly talking to each other again! This is just like the time when they were, uhh, doing it! But who cares? They are now finally having a decent breakfast again. But remembering her last words, Youichi looked up and frowned at his parents.

"But mama…" He started and paused that made them look at him in wonder. And once he got their attention, he continued. "…aren't you and papa supposed to eat the hotdog together? Why put it in papa's pants? Isn't it more fun to eat it than hide it?"

Mikan stared at him in horror. Natsume grinned before looking at her.

"Yeah, mama, why put it in papa's pants if we can always have fun with it together anyway?"

My Strange Family

"Papa, does it still hurt?" Youichi looked up at Natsume with a bothered face.

Who wouldn't when your papa was just slapped in the face by your mama? Not only by that was he bothered, but also by the fact that the possibilities of the reconciling soon was slowly fading away.

But the reason as to why his mama Mikan did that, that, his little brain cannot comprehend. Well, as far as he knows, his papa Natsume didn't do anything wrong. Besides, they just talked about hotdogs! Why would she have to go that far and hurt his papa?

He's not mad at her. No, he isn't.

Youichi was just surprised that she seemed angry when his papa suggested that he'd give him a baby brother or sister for his Christmas present. Perhaps, she doesn't want to give him a gift?

That thought alone made him tear up. If he can't have a baby sibling, then what's the use of spending Christmas?

At the sight of Youichi frowning and nearly in tears, Natsume shook his head and smiled, all the while holding the ice pack tightly against his cheek.

That was his fault. He could he forget how hard Mikan slaps? He should have learned his lesson that time when he saw her naked!

But who could blame him? Just as he said, what would someone expect from a man who just confessed his love for the woman he loves and finds attractive… even in this season, when she was fully clothed by jackets and thick clothes?

Damn his hormones. Again.

"I'm fine, so don't worry. That's just the way of mama showing her love… I think." The last words came as a whisper, and he knows Youichi doesn't need to know about it. Upsetting the child in this season would be the last thing he'd do.

So when the three-year-old kid smiled and nodded, he, in turn, smiled and stood up carrying him, walking towards the kitchen to prepare something to eat while waiting for Mikan to arrive home from shopping. Due to the unexpected change of weather, the plan of the three of them going out was cancelled. So in the end, Natsume was helplessly left with Youichi.

Not that he minded it.

In fact, he missed the times when they spend time alone as father and son, just the two of them. It's just that, he's worried about his wife who went alone in this cold season. But being the sweet wife she was, she threw him a glare along with the warning that goes around 'taking care of Youichi very well if he doesn't want to spend the night alone again' before walking away.

He's really looking forward tonight.

At first, Youichi didn't succumb to the idea of letting her mom go alone, but when she assured him of her safety, he willingly let go of her hand while watching helplessly go away without him and his papa.

In exchange of that though, he promised to spend the day with him playing, telling stories… and that includes of course having Youichi help him about the red, vast mark on his cheek. That would be one of the things they both would spend the time conversing about.

Well, talk about man to man conversations. Except, he needs to remind himself to limit the topics he'd talk with him. Especially, that 'Birds and the Bees' story.

Mikan would surely get mad at him if he ever started planting inappropriate things on Youichi.

He scoffed. Why would he do that when he can always show demonstrations with his son's mother anyway?

Oops. Well, his thoughts escalated quickly.

What they both don't know was that hours have already passed… five whole hours, twenty minutes and four seconds to be exact, and Mikan hasn't come back home yet. Maybe, there are too many last-minute Christmas shoppers on the mall.

As the two settled themselves on two bowls of corn soup, the doorbell rang, significantly telling them that there indeed was a person.

Youichi's face lit up and ran towards the door with Natsume chuckling behind him, ready to welcome Mikan back.

But the next thing they knew, as the door opened, Natsume had his brows furrowing when he was greeted by the sight of someone he least expected to see.

"Andou."

My Strange Family

Mikan groaned once the bags she was carrying started to slip out of her hands one by one. After all, it was a bad idea going alone without the help of her husband or Youichi.

She made a loud snort when she remembered that it was entirely that guy's fault in the first place.

How is she going to talk to him normally when he just told her that he loves her again and again? Definitely, it would make her feel embarrassed. Natsume might not take (the situation after confessing, not the meaning) it seriously, but it was enough for her to feel awkward around him.

Damn, when will she get this over with?

Sighing in relief once she spotted that she's near home, Mikan paced fast and smiled. Thankfully, her agony of walking through those thick blankets of snow will now end. But as she reached their door, she frowned in confusion.

Is it just her? Or is it being awfully silent inside?

Perhaps, the two of the most important guys of her life are now sleeping.

She can't help but grin at the thought.

With a smile on her face, Mikan opened the said door and to her surprise, she saw Natsume and Youichi sitting silently in front of the blue-haired guy whom she recognized was Andou Tsubasa, the one who took her to Natsume when she arrived in New York.

Her husband looked at her with a calm and troubled face. As to why he had that expression, she didn't know. Youichi, on the other hand, was silently crying and had his head bow down.

Now this is more confusing. Why is he here? If she saw him in New York, that must mean he's affiliated with Natsume's grandfather. And because he has connections with the Hyuugas, it is possible that he's here to take Natsume again.

Just thinking of spending the days without Natsume again made her cry inside. She already messed up the first time. There was no way she'd make the same mistake twice.

That's just… not right. It was time for her to fight for him.

After setting down the bags she was holding, Mikan walked towards them still in deep thought and shot a questioning glance at Natsume.

Her nervousness rose when he didn't utter a word.

But when she looked at the older guy, the latter smiled apologetically at her and once more, looked at Natsume.

"It's up to you if you'd believe me or not. Your grandfather tried to keep it from everyone else, and I did too. But… I don't think it would still be the best thing to do now that this happened." He spoke gently, and the last sentence caught Mikan's attention. What exactly happened? But before she could ask anything, he stood up and looked at her with a sincere smile. "Don't worry. I did not come here to take him again. I was just instructed to wish you a happy Christmas from Natsume's grandfather."

And with a final bow, the man went out, not before looking at Natsume for the last time.

Mikan, now in full relief, glanced again at the red-eyed man, who, until now, isn't even uttering a word or moving.

What could possibly the reason why Natsume acts like this? If he's not being asked to go back to US, then why is he being silent? Furthermore, what is it that made Youichi cry?

Said child, who's now looking at her with chubby tears, ran to her and hugged her tightly.

Confused once more, Mikan looked at Natsume, who's now looking at her with lamentable eyes.

"Mama…" Youichi cried even more as Mikan frowned. What in the world is happening?

"…grandpa. Grandpa is dead!"

My Strange Family

Mikan looked behind the door one more time. Once she was sure that the child is safely tucked in his bed, she sighed and went out to the kitchen, only to see Natsume holding a can of soda in his hands.

Now, this one is harder to deal with.

Sure she had difficulties with Youichi, but she did fine with it. Just a few soothing words from her and he already fell asleep.

But Natsume is a different story.

She knew she can never make him feel fine just by bribing him a few words like what she did to the child.

Addition to that, her husband is pretty stubborn.

But no one can blame him right? If she was in his feet, she'd never know how to react by learning that her grandfather already died. Yet even though he might not listen to her, she was sure that sympathizing with his loss would be of help.

Just silently supporting him would make them feel alright.

Swallowing, Mikan walked with semi-loud footsteps towards him, and stopped when she reached him, just standing in front of the twenty-eight-year-old guy.

"Natsume…"

"I'm not sad, not affected, or what." He stiffly said and paused, before giving a bitter smile and drinking from the can. "In fact, why would I be? Shouldn't I be happy?" He looked up at her and she shook her head.

Now, this would be a long talk.

There was silence for a moment until Natsume spoke.

"Andou… was my late grandma's grandson with another man." He hazily stared at her. Mikan, in return, didn't show that much expression. Besides, there are other things to take focus on, and that includes Natsume's troublesome relationship with his grandfather.

Now, she wonders if everything about what Hotaru said would be revealed. And remembering that one particular thing about Andou Tsubasa being the one chosen for Mr. Hyuuga's heir, Mikan has a strong hunch that this has something to do about that issue.

"I hate it when I lose to people who are not even worthy of my attention. I detest it. Truly hate it." He shook his head and laughed. "That damn old man. If he just told me directly before that Andou has always been part of the family, I would have accepted it."

And he laughed even more.

"Man, I was always fair with competitions. All these years, I was just competing with no one but myself? Fuck that." Natsume banged his fist on the table and looked up at Mikan, who's now looking at him with worry. "Is it bad that I was a useless sick child and had to give all the rights to another person who was not even a Hyuuga to begin with? Am I that unfair?"

Unfair.

Mikan had already seen what's fair and unfair in this world. But to see Natsume struggling with this one piece of fact, it made her angry. He never deserved this. Seriously? Fighting without knowing a thing?

But it wasn't the old man's mistake either.

To protect Andou Tsubasa, he'd go far even though it means nearly disowning Hyuuga Natsume. He is totally a half-good and a half-bad person: to take care of someone he isn't his to begin with and throwing away his very own grandson.

Mikan, fed up of seeing her husband in distressed state, hugged him, his face buried on her stomach. And she broke into a small smile once she felt her shirt getting wet.

So it did affect him.

That just meant that Natsume cared for his grandfather all this time, even though he did unfair things to him and vice versa.

But she was glad that she was able to know this side of Natsume. At least, she's learning a lot about him.

And now, she understood why he was mad for not being trusted: because of fear that he might get rejected again.

But hey, that was trash! Why would she reject him when she was totally head over heels in love with him?

Smiling, Mikan comfortingly patted his head, allowing him to release all the pent-up frustrations gathered in him for many years.

This made her feel like a real wife now.

"It's nobody else's fault. You didn't know anything so you were in a different perspective of looking at the situation. It wasn't your grandpa or Andou Tsubasa's fault either. You guys are just victims of one wrong move. I'm not saying that it was your grandma's fault." She shook her head and held his shoulder tightly. "Things happen, Natsume, may it be good or bad. You may have had a bad beginning, but it's not too late to walk on a different pathway to make a great and satisfying ending. I'm sure, that's what your grandfather wants. Maybe he did those things just so you'd be able to stand on your own. Everything will be fine soon. And look at you now: the arrogant, bastardy husband of mine." Mikan grinned and pushed Natsume away, who's now glaring at her.

"Kidding." She said with a smile and kneeled in front of Natsume, cupping his hands in her cheeks. "I mean, look at you. You're now independent. You can make smart decisions and can take of your own… and others."

At that, he smiled. Who has better ways to cheer him up other than his wife? Maybe, that was one of the things he loved about her.

"I know. Because I'm great."

Mikan playfully glared at him and pinched his cheeks. Damn him and his ego. Who has better ways to ruin a great atmosphere other than her husband? But then, his wit was definitely one of the reasons whys she fell for him.

"But it's true that I'm not that sad..." He mumbled. "…maybe because we never spent times as grandson and grandfather before. All we were concerned whenever we were together was all about business. So don't worry about me. I'm fine. It was just a shock about the news. Besides, what's the use of sulking? Everything already happened. He's already buried six feet below the ground, just as he wished."

That, Mikan understood. She nodded and stood up, kissed Natsume's forehead and sat on the chair in front of him.

"You may have lost a family member, but you also gained another two, right?"

He laughed and nodded. But the smile he had turned into frown, which made her frown in return.

What is it this time?

"Can't it be three?"

She coughed.

"What?!" She half-shouted and winced when Natsume put his index finger atop his lips and glared at her.

Was he really serious about making babies?

"Why should we be three? You haven't forgiven me yet." If it's game he wants, it is game he will get. Mikan sneered mentally. The nerve of this guy to play this game!

"I already have. You know too well that I can never stay mad at you for so long."

Mikan smiled at that. Oh, and the game? Forget it.

She just felt that they'll be in good terms again.

"But you were the one who's mad, woman. Why did you slap me anyway? In front of Youichi no less." Natsume stared hard at her while gripping the can in his hands tightly, which resulted to the poor thing having a dent. Mikan silently giggled.

Natsume was too cute for his own good!

The way he speaks…

"And you also…"

He frowns…

"And this morning as well, you…"

She loved the way how his eyes would look at her lovingly and as much as she hated to admit, she loved the way when he looks at her perversely…

"Mikan, are you listening?"

And the times they kissed, on the sofa, the time before he went to New York, and in some room there in US…

"Hey, Mikan, what are you daydreaming about? It's rude not to listen when someone's talking." Natsume frowned. Even though the woman is looking at him, he knows… Natsume himself knows that her attention is diverted somewhere else. Goodness this woman. It's a great thing that he loves her or else he'd surely-

"I love you."

-punch her.

Wait.

"What? What did you… just say?"

Mikan, who unconsciously declared her love, bit her lip. This is now or never.

They already both struggled within those times that they were away from each other. And for goodness' sake, this is everything she wanted!

He loves her, she loves him, end of the story.

Maybe, this is the price after all the hardships they went through.

Sighing, she smiled and lovingly looked at him. "I said… I love you."

She doesn't care if this is the right time to say this, but she cannot just miss this chance. Who knows? If she didn't tell him clearly now, something bad might come up again, and she may never be able to tell him how she truly feels.

Besides, if the news of his grandfather's death didn't come, this will never happen.

"Are you serious?" He looked at her, his face slowly breaking into a smile. And it completely did once she nodded.

"I'm sorry that I didn't trust you. But I never really wanted you to leave. I promise…" Mikan exhaled and smiled at him lovingly. Now, everything really is turning out right. "…I'll stick with you, trust you and love you no matter what. So, sorry?"

"I thought I've told you I've forgiven you?" Mikan swallowed once more when he gave her a faux confused face. "But I think, there's a better way to show how much you love me and how sorry you are, and then I'll show you how much I love you in return." He maliciously smiled. Damn. He still manages to be perverted even after hearing some terrible news! "How about we have Youichi's baby brother or sister under construction in a minute?" He winked suggestively.

All the tears he shed this night were all gone, and instead it turned into smiles and all. Because he said he's already fine, she just had to trust that, even though he has another ways of proving it.

Oh this perverted husband of hers.

But still, she stood up, her smile turning into laughter while tugging his hand.

"Your room is soundproof right?"

Thankfully, it is.

My Strange Family

Typed on: May 14, 2013

10:00 pm

Posted on: May 24, 2013

Author's notes: Er, hi? Now don't kill me. And I'm really sorry for causing too much delay. Haha!

Guess what?! I passed the exam with flying colors! Well, it was a long story, but meh. Haha! At least I passed.

And oh! I just hope you're satisfied with the ending. If you have violent reactions (LOL) or what, please do tell me. :D

I just realized that I actually described Youichi as a three-footer kid (reference to chapter 1), and I apologize for that. I don't have any sense of measurements or maths in my system, so again, do forgive me. Let's just think of Youichi's form as that one in the anime. ;)

I'd like to thank my dear friend Crimson Flares for supporting me till the end. Haha! :D she rocks. ;)

I don't have anything to say really, but if you have questions regarding this chapter and the previous ones, please do ask me, and I'll answer you as satisfying as I can.

Before I end everything here, I just have to clarify some things:

One, please be patient. I'll introduce our three main characters' background, so yeah. Two, this chapter is the end of the Natsume arc, so the next one would be Mikan. And three, there are some changes regarding to Natsume's family, which isn't yet introduced. Erm, and if you have something about Tsubasa and Natsume, do inform me. :D

Well, it's already late here, so, goodbye for now! And thanks again!

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Once again, thank you and have a good day or night!

-Erieh Yamazaki