A/N Hey everyone, yes, unfortunately, this is not an update for Safe and Sound, but i was listening to the BEST song by the Script, Walk Away, and came up with this. Hopefully you guys will like it :)
Contrails zoomed on by as Amu smiled prettily against the classroom back drop. Idly, her fingers traced the contours of the Humpty Lock's crystal clovers as her eyes wandered back up to the sky, watching the silver plane zoom right on by. It wasn't his, she already knew that, but every time a plane passed by, she couldn't help the almost natural instinct to look up and wish he was there, looking down at her from a thousand miles up in the air.
But still, the smile didn't leave her face. She wasn't sad. Lonely maybe, but not sad. He would come back, he promised. And Ikuto never broke his promises, not ever. So when he said he'd love her forever and one day come to sweep her off her feet, he would. She trusted him. Maybe the only one she really did.
Still…it was lonely. She didn't walk by the park and half expect to see the blue haired boy lounging lazily on the grass. When she walked under the gazebo where he played, she could only smile softly, stroking the worn out wood with her fingers, wishing it was his navy hair. Sometimes she would sing. She would bring her hand to her heart and hum Ikuto's instrumental melody before filling the air with her longing lyrics. "Where are you?" they'd cry, their melodies melting in the warm summer sun, "Where did you go?" they'd call, but still, her smile never wavered.
When she trudged tiredly to school, her eyes would helplessly scan the treeline for the sleeping form of a high school boy even though she knew he wasn't there. Not anymore. Maybe someday, but not today. She didn't really much like todays. She would have much rathered a tomorrow. Because tomorrows always brought new hope. Tomorrow would be the day the phone would ring. Tomorrow would be the day a mysterious letter in black writing would appear on her doorstep. Tomorrow he'd smile and say, "Amu, I'm coming home."
How long had it been? She twirled her hair on the ends of her finger, staring past Nikaidou and the blackboard, just thinking, biting her lip curiously. The last time she actually saw him, the last time he had hugged her, smelled her hair and squeezed her tight, the last time he had said he loved her, that was at the wedding. Ikuto never came back after that. She didn't know if he planned to, but knew why he didn't. He couldn't hide anything from her.
But then again, neither could she.
But that wasn't right, technically she had heard from him. It had been three years, seven months and some odd days since he'd been gone, but he had called nine times during all that and sometimes, she got the odd letter, 12 to be exact. Despite loving the sound of Ikuto's voice, it was the letters she looked forward to the most. He had beautiful writing, loopy, but elegant. In letters, Ikuto wrote things he would never say. He would never give a return address, probably so he wouldn't be able to hear her responses.
She knew why he didn't want to read them too.
But even though he would never read them, she wrote them anyway. After reading a letter from her not-boyfriend, but not-nothing Ikuto, emotions would rise up her belly and clog her throat and if she didn't get them out, if she didn't bleed them in ink, she would probably dissolve in a puddle of emotional nothing.
Maybe he would read them someday, when he came back. When he kissed her and made her his girlfriend. Maybe when he first proposed. Or maybe when they were married and just moved in. He would rip open the brown tape from an even browner box and pull out a stack of letters never sent, wrapped in red ribbon and glance curiously at it before poking her in the side.
She'd look at it sharply before blushing, stepping back as she did. She'd walk out the door, closing it softly as she left and tell him to read them on his own. They needed no explanation; he would know when they were from. And when he was done, there'd probably be a shining in his eyes and he would wrap his arms around her from behind and take a heavy breath. He'd be sad, so very sad. Because despite what everyone thought, despite the cold face he put up, Ikuto was a kitten, so, so sweet and so, so vulnerable, loving too much and holding on too tight.
She would turn around in his embrace and, showing him her glittering ring, andwrap her arms around him, hugging him gently, "I love you." She would tell him.
"I love you." He'd reply.
I love you…She wished she had told him, before he stepped on the plane, before he walked through the metal detector, before he left at all. She wished she had told him, but she hadn't. But she supposed that wasn't really her fault. She was only twelve after all, what did such a little girl know about love? She didn't understand, not then, maybe not even now, about the world and love and why Ikuto did what he did, but now she knew.
Like she said, he couldn't hide from her.
Still, even after knowing she wanted to say it, she didn't. At least, not to him anyways. She would write it in her letters, actually, that's mostly what they contained, wishes and wants and desires and all the things she would never tell him because there was a reason why he kept their conversations short. There was a reason he never wanted her to reply. There was a reason he barely seemed to want to keep in contact with her at all.
And she loved him for it.
But even though she didn't say it, she knew it, and he knew it too. She knew he did. It was apparent in the way she talked, in the way he responded, in the way he never brought the word up, how he never told her he loved her again, not after he left. Sometimes he'd write it, in his letters, when he knew she'd never respond, but otherwise, he never said a word.
And Amu never brought it up. Because she knew why he didn't, and she loved him, so she'd wait. It wouldn't be long. She knew it wasn't all about her, she knew Ikuto coming back had nothing to do with her at all, but still, she kept that small hope in her heart and she allowed herself to hum Ikuto's melancholic tune in her head. She was almost seventeen. She was older, more grown up. She had breasts and slim hips and her hair was slightly longer and yet her beautiful golden eyes still glittered with childlike innocence.
She was all grown up, but Ikuto was bigger. He was twenty-one now. A real adult. She giggled slightly, eliciting curious stares from the students around her as she shook the hair in her eyes. She was in a relationship with an older man. It really wasn't all that funny, but for some reason, it made her laugh. Maybe it was because, in her mind, Ikuto would always be seventeen. Maybe because that was when she met him, or maybe it was because she had finally caught up, but it was probably that, like she had told him before, she never got to see him grow. She didn't get to see his new expressions and faces, not anymore. But that was alright, it wouldn't be too long until he came around. It wouldn't be long at all.
Tadase stared hopelessly at the content looking rosette, clenching his fist and twisting his lip petulantly. She had been twisting the Humpty Lock again and that could only mean one thing; she had been thinking about him again. When Ikuto left, him and Tadase had been on good terms, reconciling after a long since misconstrued animosity, Tadase had been happy to have his older brother again. But that happiness had slowly melted back into hatred as Amu became more and more infatuated and less and less like the girl he wanted her to be.
Old habits died hard.
Ikuto was gone; he had disappeared off the face of Japan to appear in Europe and was never seen again. It had almost been four years, yet here she was, still snapping her neck at every airplane that passed by and continuously clutching that stupid lock.
The Humpty Lock, a symbol supposed to be of the Guardians was now a constant reminder of what she and the holder of the Dumpty Key had. The Lock and the Key. That would have been a perfect name for the two of them. He looked away, unable to stand the gentle smile on his love's face. A smile never meant for him. He didn't understand. Ikuto had been gone, barely even checking in and when he did, not even giving a return address to reply back to. It was ridiculous, how could she still be waiting for him? He was never coming back, that's just what alley cats do. They come purring at your door, all pathetic and craving sympathy. They'd walk into your house like it was their own and settle down; forcing you to love them and care and suddenly, that cat is what you came home for. You absentmindedly bought food for it at the store and slowly, you start to learn all its strange habits. But the second you're used to it, the second you come to love it, it picks up and leaves. Smelling the commitment, and smelling somewhere better. Not even saying good-bye, it pushes open the door and leaves you to greet an empty house and if you're lucky, a tattered note good-bye.
Ikuto was never coming back. And if he did, he wouldn't be in love with Amu, not anymore. Four years was a lot of time to miss a person. So long in fact, that they should have given up years ago. But not Amu, no sir. After he boarded the plane, she didn't even cry. Utau had burst into tears and only calmed down once Amu's understanding arms swept her in a cocoon of compassion. Utau had worked so hard for her brother; she had done everything she could, doing bad things, horrible things, just to keep her brother safe. At one point, he was her entire world, and seeing him leave, watching him board that plane and then fly away, must have broken her fragile little heart.
But despite all that. Despite seeing her best friend sob in despair, Amu's cheeks remained dry. All she had, was a hopeful smile for the future, a future where he knew would never come. He wouldn't come back for her, not Ikuto. Not the black cat of misfortune. If only she could see, if only she could see how perfect they were for each other. With him, she could be who she really wanted to be, cheery and enthusiastic and girly. He had heard her crying to herself about how she wished she could wear dresses and be cute, but couldn't. He knew that she truly wished to be like her preppy guardian and he knew that with him at her side, with his encouragement and kisses, she'd finally get where she wanted to be.
After seeing Amulet Heart, after seeing her potential, after seeing her true self, he knew she was the one. And he could tell she wished she could be her other self just as badly. In battle, she always chose Ran to character transform and despite Suu, or even Dia being far more powerful and capable in cleansing X-eggs, she would almost always pick her pink guardian. Secretly, in the subconscious part of Amu's brain, she longed to be her determined, powerful mirror self.
He knew it. It was just so obvious. But she could only be that girl if she were with him, couldn't she see that? Couldn't she see that it was only him who could make her happy? Besides, he knew about the letters, he knew about the phone calls, hell he even knew about what happened before the wedding, he knew there was a reason they were holding hands.
Nagi had told him everything after he caught Tadase moping about their relationship. It wasn't that Nagi was being a traitor, he had hoped that by showing Tadase how close those two were, he'd finally let go and move on with his life. But Tadase only latched on harder.
Nine phone calls. Nine. And only twelve letters. That wasn't even okay if he had been gone for only a year! It was ridiculous! Couldn't Amu see he didn't give a damn about her? Couldn't she see that she meant nothing to the evil black cat? If he really loved Amu like he claimed to, he would have called her every day. He would whisper sweet nothings in her ear and told her he loved her every chance he got. He would say how much he missed her and how much he longed to hold her. He would say she was his everything and that he couldn't wait until he got home.
But he didn't.
According to Nagi, he didn't say anything at all. Their phone calls consisted of normal everyday kinda chatter and updates on his life. He'd ask her how everyone was doing and if she was still Cool-and-Spicy. He'd tease her a little and maybe, sometimes, if he was feeling particularly lonely, he'd whisper something sweet before hurriedly saying good-bye, relishing in the last remnants of his girl's voice. Amu showed no one her letters, not even when Yaya begged and pleaded and Rima burst into fake tears. She would shake her head and say, "They're Ikuto's letters, only meant for me."
It made him quiver with jealousy. What could he possibly be writing in those letters that made them so very private? What was he telling her, to keep her hanging onto him like a lost puppy. Ikuto didn't love her. He didn't even want to talk her. He barely kept in contact and didn't even give her an emergency number or address or anything. As far as he knew, no one had a sure-fire way to contact him at all, not even his mother.
He just didn't understand. How could she still be so faithful? How could she never shed a tear? How could she only smile? How could she possibly believe in a love that never existed?
Tomorrows are always better than todays, but it seemed Amu had forgotten about laters. Later was a wonderful thing really. You never really expected anything particularly interesting from a later, and yet when something amazing does arise and you're shocked and amazed and just so unbelievably happy, you can sometimes see later standing in a corner, a smug tug of the lips as it sticks out its tongue as though to say, "Hey, I told you so."
It was slightly battered, worn out by too many fingers and too many hands; it was browned at the edges and slightly waterlogged near the address. The familiar handwriting jumped out from the paper as Amu ran towards her doorstep, stooping down low to scoop up the lovely letter before throwing open the door in a hurry and flying up the stairs.
Throwing her bag carelessly in the corner, she flopped on her bed expectantly, a fluttery feeling swelling in her stomach before she closed her eyes and brought the letter to her nose. Sometimes she could smell something. A hint of cologne or Europe. Something that reminded her of strong arms and shining eyes. Inhaling deeply, she flipped the letter around and gently ripped the licked lining open and slipped her hand into the paper envelope.
Pulling out a single sheet of stationary, Amu grinned as the familiar pattern of cartoon strawberries lined the heading of the page. He had found it in a street vendor's stock and bought it out of sheer impulsiveness. He thought she would laugh when she saw it, and she did. It reminded her of the amusement park, fairy-lights twinkling and night time smiling.
Unfolding the paper, Amu's fingers clenched against the edges of the page, crinkling the sides. His writing danced around the page and in her head, she could hear his deep voice reading it aloud;
One day, I'm going to take you to Greece, Mykonos to be exact. It's beautiful here. The water's so blue it's incredible, but it's not as beautiful when you're alone. I got a new lead on my father, turns out he joined another orchestra and travelled to Germany. Maybe I'll find him there. I hope I do. Europe's musically talented, but it's nothing like Japan, and it's nothing like you. I hope you're alright over there. I hope Tadase's protecting you like he should while you're fighting. Hikaru and Gozen are still too young to fight right? I thought with Easter gone the fighting would end, but I guess people's dreams are so much more fragile than I realized. I didn't really realize a lot of things until now. I used to hate Japan, or at least the little part of Japan I called home. Home was Gozen and Easter and Kazoumi and my father's disappearance. And then you came along, a blushing girl with more charas than I'd ever seen. I promised you I'd come back, and I will. I promise I'll come back. Everything I love is in Japan, Utau, my mother, and you. I've been away a long time, and I'm not an idiot as to think you haven't maybe found someone else. But no matter what, no matter who you love, you'll always be the one for me. You were the only one who made me feel something. When you're with me, you're not Cool-and-Spicy, no acts, no facades, just you. But I finally realized, it was always the same with me. I wasn't Tsukiyomi Ikuto, or Hoshina or Easter or Black Lynx or the black cat, I just Ikuto. No san, no kun, just Ikuto.
And I never got to thank you for that.
You gave me something to try for, gave me a reason to start defying Easter again. And now that they're gone, I thought I would never get to see you again, but I can promise you one thing Amu, when I come back, I'm never letting you go. The second I land in Japan, the next time I leave will be with you with me.
By the way, happy belated birthday strawberry, there's something for you at the bottom of the envelope. I want to prove to you that I'm coming back; I want you to know that I mean it, every word I say to you, everything I tell you-
She wasted no time. Inside the paper cave, her fingers locked on a smaller envelope, a white one, with no writing on the front. From the round indentation of the paper, a small hammering in her chest shuddered in beat with her fingers. Flipping open the flap slowly, Amu fingers curled around a stunning crystal ring as her eyes widened in happy surprise and her mouth opened.
It was a simple band, made of silver with a carefully cut crystal in the centre, it was no wedding ring, but it was beautiful. And when the light hit off the edge, she knew instantly why he had chosen it.
Everything I tell you, it's all real. When you shine it under the light, a rainbow comes out, pink, yellow, green, blue, you can be whatever you want to be Amu, because I love everything about you. So like all promises, you can seal it with a ring, a promise ring.
I won't know if you wear it, not until I come back anyway. This is my last letter Amu. I'm going to find my father, I'm going to find him as quick as I can and then come back home.
Finally, the tears Amu had been holding in for so long burst into flowing rivers on her cheeks as her eyes read the last few words. She didn't know how long it would take for him to find his father, she didn't know how long it would be until she would hear his voice, but as the tears streamed down her cheeks, the first tears she had ever shed for the blue haired boy, her heart settled in understanding.
She knew why this was good-bye, just like she knew everything else. He was scared. Behind that freezing cold outer character, there was a defenseless boy, vulnerable and scared. The reason he barely called, the reason he would never let her reply, the reason he would never say "I love you," he was terrified. He was so, so terrified of Amu saying "I love you" back. He was terrified she'd tell him she missed him. He was terrified of her finally allowing herself to cry and bursting into tears, saying how lonely she was without him.
Because if Amu cried, if Amu said "I miss you," followed by an "I love you," Ikuto's heart would break. It would shatter into a million pieces and fall across the floor and he'd probably start crying himself because he was so, so lonely there all alone. He had been searching and searching, never finding what he what he was looking for. It had been days, months, years and he still had nothing to show for it. But worst of all, worst of all was the ghosts of his one true love's face in his mind before he slept, the scent of strawberries in his nose and the cold he felt under the covers as he lay under the cloak of night.
It was how much he missed her and wanted her and needed her and loved her, God he loved her. If Amu had finally confessed and said what he knew she wanted to confess, he wouldn't have been able to handle it. He would be so homesick and Amu-sick and want to kiss her so bad he wouldn't know what to do with his damaged heart because he just didn't know what to do. People thought he was alright, that this was his choice and that alley cats didn't have much to leave anyway. But they were wrong, so, so wrong. He had everything to leave and lose.
He had left a reconciled mother, a loving sister and worst of all; he had left his only chance at love. Amu was something special, something amazing. When she first met him, she should have walked away, should have left him and never looked back. He had only brought her trouble, but she had let him in, she had hugged him and taken care of him and loved him and let him love her. Amu. God she was angel, what she saw in someone like him he would never really know. She could have had her pick of boys and lovers, but she stuck by his side until the end, bringing him that magic touch to break even Kazoumi's curse.
He loved her so much it hurt, he missed her so much he teared, but if she were ever to tell him she felt the same, he'd lose it so quick, he would never be able to find his father. And Amu, sweet, amazing, perceptive Amu knew that. She knew him so well; it was crazy how they never noticed it until now. He could tell that she knew why he always talked about superficial things. Why he only wrote how much he missed her in letters and written word. When they were on the phone, it was easy to interrupt and say something heartbreaking like "I love you." On the phone, it was hard to keep from saying things you don't mean. In a letter, especially if they can't write back, you can write whatever you want. And she understood, she understood that the less he talked to her, the more his love for her grew.
It was odd, it was twisted, it wasn't fair, but that was the truth. Hearing her voice made him want to fly on the next plane so bad, he always made sure hide his wallet in the safe before he called her. All he wanted was to be with her, to be next to her, supporting her, laughing with her, being with her.
He wondered how long he could possibly last without seeing her, but then thought of the glittering ring on her finger and smiled. When he came back, she'd be a real adult and then he'd woo her like a proper man. He'd propose to her out of the blue, surprising her so much she'd stutter and blush and maybe freak out for good measure. They'd get married under white flowers and have cake she'd make herself. It would be a small wedding, their friends and family. They'd move into a small house and they'd unpack and they'd fall onto the bed and hold each other so close, there wouldn't be a beginning or an end, only an us.
He promised himself to her, he could only pray she swore herself to him.
Like she always did after reading a letter from Ikuto, Amu pulled out her own piece of stationary and off-white envelope. In curly letters, she wrote his name before slipping it inside, placing it on the stack of all the other letters left unsent.
As she slipped into bed, the soft moonlight caught her ring as it glittered brilliantly. Bringing it to her lips, she kissed it softly before closing her eyes, visions of teacups and ice-cream and night dancing in her heart. The words of her own letter rotating around in her own head.
It wasn't until years later, six to be exact, that she ever saw that letter again. Like she had predicted, the wedding ring on her finger glowed in happiness as she hummed, carrying a box up to her-no their new room. "Ikuto! Help me out here!" she called, pointing downwards with her eyes.
A tall, chiseled statue of a man turned around and smiled kindly at her, his arms wrapping around her own to lift the box from her grip and place it on his-their dresser. Stuffing his hand into the box, his hand hesitated over a bundle of old letters wrapped in ribbon. "Are these…?" his voice broke softly and Amu nodded gently. Stepping towards him, she carefully pulled the stack out of the box and let the ribbon fall.
The first letter she pulled out was also her last. When he opened it, Ikuto's sapphire eyes melted in happiness and sadness and everything in between. Dark hair shading his eyes, he collapsed into her, pulling her into him and hugging her heavily. Closing her eyes softly, Amu pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"I love you."
Squiggled in the corner was the first rough design of a triple tiered wedding cake and three words that changed everything.
I'll be waiting.