Thick as Thieves
Chapter 7: The Room
Yukito Fukada left the Academy two weeks after Natsume received Kira's response. He didn't need long to decide. When he heard he had been selected for the study, he was dumbfounded but then his expression immediately turned to pure joy. Natsume and Mikan were both there when he received the news. Instead of shaking the hand of his doctor, his nurse or the kind gentleman that represented Kira's organization, he jumped out of bed and hugged them both. Somehow, he just knew it was their doing without them having to say so.
"Thank you," he told them. "I don't know what strings you pulled. I just— thank you."
They had a lengthy conversation after that about lab rats and painful experiments. Natsume and he started swapping stories about Alice attacks and ways to cope with it. Mikan asked him what he intended to do there. He asked them what they planned to do when he was gone.
"I think what's making me happy is that I get to leave," Yukito told them. "I don't hate the Academy. They've taken care of me in their own way but this place… this room and this campus is such a small slice of what's out there."
Natsume, ever the downer of the trio, commented, "You know, they'll probably keep you inside the compound most of the time."
He laughed. "I don't doubt that. But if your mentor is anything like you, when they know there's no hope left for me, he's going to fight to get me out."
Natsume knew that was true and that was also why he was certain Yukito would be in good hands. Mikan was fidgeting in her seat.
"Are you scared?"
"No," Yukito said. "I'm excited. I'm nervous. But I'm far from scared. When you know you're dying and you've lived with the knowledge for quite a while, you don't scare easily."
"I'm going to miss you," Mikan said. She knew Natsume was looking at her and so she squared her shoulders and refused to give in to tears. They talked about this. Natsume had guaranteed that he would walk out the minute she started crying and she didn't want that. She needed Natsume to just be there.
"I'm going to miss you too, kid."
The 'kid' in the end didn't bother her as much as it would've before. She didn't know when that had changed for her. Somewhere between winning against Natsume at chess and writing to Kira Samushiro, she had stopped wearing her crush goggles. She was glad she did because it allowed her to truly know Yukito Fukada before he was gone.
They stayed with him until a nurse had to tell them to go. They said their goodbyes, exchanged hugs then left. That was the last time they saw Yukito. He set out while everybody else was sleeping, in an hour when students weren't allowed outside their beds. However, to paint a more accurate picture of his departure, it should be said that two students were wide awake when he finally stepped outside campus.
Natsume Hyuuga was on the roof. Mikan Sakura was right next to him.
When classes ended the next day, Natsume felt a familiar edgy feeling as though he was waiting for something to happen. He didn't know what it was but the moment the final bell rang, he started heading for the hospital with no particular goal in mind. He went up to the reception desk, a formed habit now, and signed the visitor's log book.
"Are you here to get your things?" the nurse asked kindly.
The question was like a douse of cold water. Of course, that must be it. He still had his possessions to collect so it was only right for him to be there.
"You can join, Ms. Sakura."
Something inside him quaked. So she was already here. Mikan must have missed her Bedazzled Jenga set quite badly. While he was in the elevator, Natsume found himself staring at his reflection. He had lost some sleep just talking to Mikan last night. Her composure had surprised him because he had expected her to lose it and start crying throughout the night. Instead, they discussed Yukito Fukada's prospects and retired to their own rooms as amicably as could be.
When Natsume reached the room, he had to stop at the door. Mikan wasn't doing anything productive. She was sitting cross-legged on Yukito's hospital bed, cradling his kettle in her hands. She was staring at it blankly as though she didn't know what to do next.
Mikan Sakura was brooding.
She snapped out of her kettle trance and turned to him. "You're here too."
"I came to get my things."
"Me too. I guess not all squirrels forget their hiding place," she said. It was an attempt at humor but her voice trembled in the end.
Natsume had about five seconds to decide. He knew he could leave her there so that she could be maudlin to her heart's content. He still had time to escape and Mikan wouldn't hold it against him because he just wasn't the type of guy to offer a shoulder. He could desert her now and go for a snack until it was safe to come back and get his stuff. He knew all these things and yet Natsume decided to step inside the room because friends just don't do that.
He approached her tentatively. Mikan bit her lip. "Are you sure?"
He nodded mutely.
"Is it okay to cry now?"
"Will you be annoyed?"
Mikan laughed at first then her tears just started falling. He didn't know how much she'd pent up in the last two weeks but it was coming out like a river at that moment. She had always been a crier but the way she was weeping now put all those other times to shame.
Natsume shook his head then sat down next to her. He placed a hand on her head, guiding Mikan so that she could weep into his chest. "Crybaby."
"Shut up." They stayed that way until Mikan was able to hiccup past her tears and start mumbling. "It just hurts. I don't know. It's stupid. I walked in here and it felt different. It's like the sun stopped shining so I can't smell anything anymore. Does that make sense?"
"No," Natume answered with a dry smile. "But go on."
Mikan hiccupped again. "And then I started going through our stuff and I realized how much we took from each other just so that we can make things better for him. I started thinking about all sorts of things but I think what hit me most was that— that—"
He rubbed her back. He was half-laughing now. "What?"
"I'm so glad I still have you."
The laughter was arrested in his chest. The hand tracing circles on her back stopped. Mikan didn't seem to notice though because she simply pressed her face against his shirt, soaking it through. Natsume exhaled then moved to grip her shoulder.
"Silly girl," he muttered. "I'm glad to have you too."
If anything, that only made her cry harder. As she used up her water supply, Natsume glanced around. He saw his Mecha collection on top of her shelves. He spotted his game console, her cotton sheets, his dart board and her Jenga set. He saw a lot of things in that room which was a perfect combination of the two of them. It showed him a coexistence that was strongly founded on friendship.
"Natsume?" Mikan asked hesitantly. She finally straightened up to catch his gaze. "Do you think, maybe, we can be better friends from now on?"
He didn't think they could ever be just friends but now wasn't the time to tell her that. He smirked. "Sure, no-star. You just have to promise never to stink bomb my room again."
Mikan laughed through her tears, something she was sure to continue doing in the future whenever it concerned Natsume Hyuuga. "Deal."