Chapter 1: Chapter 1
"Hinamori-san," The boy exclaimed, blushing furiously. "I like you! Please go out with me!"
"I'm sorry." The girl responded without hesitation, bowing low. "I made a promise with someone and I fully intend to keep it. So.. I can't go out with you."
Amu sighed as she watched the boy walk away dejectedly. Technically, she wasn't the one who made the promise, but she was eagerly awaiting the day her stray cat would come back for her. She wondered if she was 'adult' enough now.
It was 5 years after he had left and her Shugo Charas had returned to her heart a few months ago, so she should be ready. Or at least she thought. She had turned 18 a couple months ago, and was about to graduate from high school.
Ikuto hadn't needed to look for his father anymore, since Tsukiyomi Aruto had showed up at Nikaidou-sensei's wedding, but he decided he wanted to leave anyway. He had to see the world for himself.
I'm older now than he was when he left, She thought.
She looked up at the sky, briefly letting her eyes linger on the trees. He was always showing up unexpectedly from a branch just out of her reach. She wondered if he still did that.
A quick flash of pain crossed her heart at the thought of him popping up in some other girl's personal space.
No. She shut down such negative thoughts. She lightly touched the tip of her nose, He promised.
When Amu got home she saw her little sister, Ami, in front of the TV singing along with her most recent idol. Her newborn Shugo Chara dancing around the air with her. It was a bittersweet day when Ami came barging into her room to show her the egg. It was so unlike Ran, Miki, Su, and Dia's. It was pink and frilly, just like Ami.
Amu greeted her mother halfheartedly and made her way up to her room. One day, She told herself, I'm going to stop feeling lonely in my own room.
She desperately missed the sound of her Chara's playing and making fun of her. She could really use someone to talk to after having to turn that boy down. Dia would have known just what to say.
She flopped down onto her bed, only to jump right back up when it grunted in pain.
"Ikuto!" She gasped, as she ripped the blanket off of him.
And there he was. Her stray. He was holding his side, where she had landed on him, and clearly trying to hold back tears of pain. "Yo."
Ignoring that he was already in pain, Amu began hitting him on his chest. "You should've told me you were coming!"
He just grabbed her hands and pulled her onto the bed against him.
"What's wrong?" He asked, "You sighed pretty loud when you came in."
"Oh," Amu hesitated. Would he get jealous if he knew another boy liked her? He already knew Tadase did, but that was years ago and her prince had long since moved on.
"What is it?" "Um.. It's nothing, really.." She fidgeted. "Just, a boy in my class asked me out after school."
He tensed up so slightly she almost missed it, but the way he turned his head away from her was unmistakable. He was still bad at showing his expressions it seemed.
"I said no," She added, answering the question she could practically feel radiating from him.
Ikuto let out a breath and turned back to face her, looking relieved but conflicted.
"Have you been...," He hesitated, struggling with releasing the words. "I mean, this whole time...?"
"You haven't dated anyone else this whole time?" He had turned away from her again, but she could see his ears turn bright pink.
A memory sparked.
"Don't touch anywhere erotic, you perverted kid," He smirked up from her lap. "My ears are my weak spot. Just like you."
Amu reached out to stroked his ear and he flinched back, turning to stare at her wide eyed and blushing.
"No I haven't," Amu replied, grinning.
"You perverted kid."
Amu laid back against the pillows, and after a moment Ikuto did the same.
"You..." He started, again looking like he didn't want to say whatever it was. "You should probably try it..."
"Try what?" Amu asked.
Amu blushed, "Is this...? Are you..." She stuttered, "Me and you...?"
He smiled at her gently, "Sorry no. Not me and you. Just you."
Her heart missed a beat. "What?"
"I've been thinking about it a lot while I was gone. Amu," He said, seriously, holding her gaze. "I'm still a lot older than you. And waiting around until you turned 18 feels... kinda weird?"
Amu could feel tears start to build up in her eyes. If this was how it was going to be, he should've just stayed gone.
"I still love you, Amu. I always will," He continued, taking hold of her hand. Almost like he could sense she wanted to run away. "And I'll still be here when you're ready."
"I'm ready now," She interrupted.
"But," He shushed her. "You deserve a chance to explore your options. Find yourself. I just want to know that when you pick me it's not because you fell for me when you were 13."
A single tear ran down her cheek. "Get out."
"Just leave, you stupid cat!" She shouted. "Why'd you even come back?"
Ikuto didn't answer her. He just reached over and kissed her lightly on the nose. His promise from before hung heavy in the air. Then he got up and left, jumping down from her balcony.
Amu cried herself to sleep, clutching the pillow he had been using.
When Amu woke up, she had 10 texts from Utau and 4 from Kukai. She decided it was probably safer to open Kukai's first.
'Yo Hinamori, Utau asked me to text you.'
'Hey.. Utau seems pretty worried?'
'What happened? She won't tell me, but she keeps asking me to get you to talk to her?'
Amu sighed. She should have known. Kukai and Utau had moved in together about a year ago, so of course she would rope him into texting her as well.
Hesitantly, Amu opened the first of Utau's texts.
'Amu, what happened? Ikuto just got back and he looks really depressed? (He's staying with us BTW, if you want to find him later.) He won't talk to me...'
The rest were variations of 'Text me back' or 'Call me'. Amu didn't want to do either, but she figured it wasn't fair of her to just let Utau worry.
'It's fine. Don't worry about it.' She typed. 'Sorry for the late reply, I just woke up.'
Seconds later, Amu's phone buzzed with Utau's reply. 'Are you sure? Ikuto's still not coming out?'
'Yeah. We're good.'
Amu turned off her phone and buried her head back into her pillow. So it wasn't all just a bad dream after all. She let out a shaky breath and pushed herself up. Her face felt puffy from all the crying and she had promised to go watch Nagihiko's new performance. He would notice right away that something was wrong, and Amu seriously debated whether or not she'd call him pretending to be sick.
In the end, she decided she had better go and get it over with. As usual, his dancing was superb. He had developed his own style of dancing, mixing his feminine upbringing with his natural masculinity. It was amazing to watch. Amu almost forgot about her heartbreak.
Rima was captivated, as well. She looked like she forgot Amu was even sitting next to her. Even after 5 years, she continued to act like she wasn't head over heels for Nagihiko, but Amu wasn't fooled for a second. Nagi, of course, never pushed her. He would make offhanded comments about liking her just to watch her get flustered though.
"Amu!" Kukai shouted, jogging up to her after the show. "You never texted me back. Did you get in touch with Utau?"
"Yeah, I did. She didn't tell you?"
"Nah, she's been at rehearsals since early. She's had me trying to get Ikuto to talk this whole time," He looked at her pointedly.
Amu turned away from him, "Ikuto's never been very talkative anyway."
Luckily, he let the subject drop as Nagi came out from backstage no longer dressed as a woman. They all went to a cafe to congratulate him. After a bit, Yaya and Tadase came to join them. Even though they were all spread out in different high schools, they still took the time to get together every couple of weeks.
Amu could feel Rima and Nagi watching her a little too closely. They were always the first to notice if she wasn't happy, being her closest girl (sorta) friends. She promptly ignored them, instead focusing on the rest of the group. All of them had lost their Chara's except for Yaya and Tadase. Both of them were still holding tight to their dreams, yet getting no closer to them. Lately, they would come over to her house just to let Pepe and Kiseki play with Ami's new guardian.
As the group began to leave, Nagi and Rima each took hold of Amu's hands and pulled her along with them into an alleyway. It reminded her of a certain someone. Amu knew she wouldn't get out of this talk once Nagi put his long hair up into a ponytail. He knew missed telling her problems to Nadeshiko.
"What's wrong?" He started, changing the pitch of his voice. Now that he was an adult, it wasn't as smooth of a change and usually defused some of the tension in it's hilarity. Today it didn't seem to help.
"Nothing's wrong," Amu lied, unconvincingly.
Rima reached out and held Amu's hand in both of her own to show her support.
"Ikuto came back."
Nagi beamed at her, "That's great, Amu!" His smile dropped slightly. "Why does it feel like it's not great?"
"Isn't this what you've been waiting for?" Rima pitched in.
"He..." Amu stared hard at the floor, fighting the tears. "He said I'm still too young for him, and I should try dating other guys."
"What?" Rima exclaimed, looking furious. "How dare he!"
Nagi paused then said, "Maybe he's right?"
Hurt and betrayal flashed in Amu's eyes and he quickly added, "Not that you're too young for him! It's just.. your teen years are supposed to be when you learn about yourself and what you like and don't like. You spent all those years waiting for him... So you didn't really have a chance to learn about yourself. Hardly anyone stays with the person they dated in their teens, so he probably just doesn't want to rush into things with you and have it end in disaster."
"It worked out for Kukai and Utau."
"Some people are just lucky," Rima said. "And Kukai and Utau are both stubborn, but they also work hard at what they want. Including relationships."
Amu let the pair wrap her in their warm embrace as she cried against them. She had always thought things would get better when Ikuto came back, and she could finally feel at home again.
They brought her back to Nagi's house, where they had a sleepover with just the 3 of them. Having been brought up as a girl, his parents were cool with it. Rima and Amu conveniently told their parents they were with Nadeshiko.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
When Amu got home the next day, Utau was sitting in her living room watching Ami sing and dance for her. As soon as she saw Amu, she got up and patted Ami on the head before dragging Amu up to her bedroom.
"You turned off your phone yesterday." Utau was always quick to get straight to the point.
"Sorry, I was at Nagi's show."
"He's disappeared again," Utau ignored her poor excuse and turned the conversation back to Ikuto. "but he left his stuff so I think it's just for the day."
Amu tried to smile convincingly.
"What happened?" Utau tried for a more gently tone.
Amu tried to explain everything, and included Nagi's insights as well. She still felt a little weird about confiding in Utau about her love for Ikuto, considering he was both her brother and her first love. Utau seemed perfectly fine with it, though, and sympathized with her.
"He might be right, but in any case unless there's something he's not telling me you actually already have more dating experience than him," Utau said. "You dated Tadase for a bit. Ikuto's never had a girlfriend in his life."
"Seriously?" Amu tried to ignore the fluttery feeling in her heart.
"Yeah, what with Easter and then being hung up on you."
"Not even these last 5 years?"
"Not that he's told me... but I doubt it. He's always asking me about you." Utau rolled her eyes like the thought annoyed her. "Just talk to him and maybe give it some time."
A horrible thought came to Amu which she blurted out without thinking, "What if he did find someone and that's why he's doing this?"
Utau stuttered for a moment until she finally was able to force out a coherent sentence. "N-no! You told me he said he'd be here when you were ready so that can't be it... right?"
"That's not it at all."
Both of the girls snapped to the side following the new, unexpected voice. Sitting with his back to them on the edge of the balcony was Ikuto with his head in his hands.
"You guys..." He mumbled. "You really just jumped straight to some wild conclusions, didn't you?"
"H-how long have you been there?" Amu squeaked.
"Eavesdropping is rude, you know," Added Utau, much more relaxed.
Ikuto didn't turn around. Instead, he just shrugged and said, "Not long."
"Maybe we wouldn't have to jump to conclusions if you would just be clear about things!" Utau yelled.
Ikuto turned to frown at her and then looked straight at Amu, "There wasn't any hidden meaning or reasoning behind my words. I meant exactly what I said."
Amu tried to accept that, but couldn't help that it didn't make her any less upset. "What if I don't?"
"What if I don't date anyone else? Is there a time limit on how long you think I need?" Amu asked. "Besides, can't I 'find myself' without needing anyone else?"
"Of course you can," Ikuto smiled gently. "I'm not saying go ask out the first guy you see. Just do what feels natural."
Amu mumbled something quietly. Utau was close enough to hear her and couldn't help snickering which caused Ikuto to raise an eyebrow.
Amu blushed and looked away, so Utau answered for her, "She said, 'It would feel more natural to be with you but whatever'."
Ikuto looked like he was torn between whether he wanted to give her an exasperated look or tease her. Before he could decide, Amu turned up her nose at him and said, "Fine. Come on, Utau. You said you and Kukai found a new ramen place you wanted me to try."
Amu grabbed Utau's arm and forcefully dragged her along, leaving Ikuto alone in Amu's room.
As soon as they were gone, Ikuto plopped onto the bed. I'm doing the right thing... right? He thought.
He had been working so hard on growing up himself, and still wasn't sure he had caught up with the rest of his age group. He still felt like a kid. At this rate, even Amu was going to surpass him.
He rolled over and buried his head in her pillow. It smelt like her. He supposed that Amu surpassing him might be what he asked her to do in the first place, since he seemed stuck. Traveling the world was meant to help him. At times like this, he wondered if Yoru left him too soon.
At the end of the day, Amu came back to find Ikuto fast asleep and cuddled up to one of her many pillows. She smiled slightly and quietly went about her night time routine.
Should I wake him? She thought, looking down at his peaceful face. Even now his sleeping face looks kinda like a little kid.
She decided they've already slept together plenty of times before, and now she had an actual lock on her door. Very gently, she pried the pillow from his grasp and laid in it's place. He instantly grabbed hold of her waist in his sleep and sighed contently.
Even though she was exhausted, Amu stayed awake just gently stroking Ikuto's hair. It might be a long time before he let her see him like this again and she didn't want to waste a moment of it. This was what she had waited 5 years for.
"Dont-," He murmured. Amu's hand stilled in his hair. Did he wake up?
"Don't leave me behind," He whimpered.
Amu's eyes widened. He was having a nightmare. She continued running her fingers through his hair, hoping it soothed him even a little. His arms tightened around her and his eyebrows furrowed.
"Shh.." She held him tighter to her. "It's okay. You're okay."
She glanced down, but he was still deeply asleep. Is he dreaming of me leaving him behind? Amu thought. I'd have to catch up to him first, though.
She knew it'd be nicer to wake him instead of leaving him stuck in his own mind, but would he leave after? She didn't want him to.
Don't be selfish, Amu. She thought. Well... just a little.
She watched him, stroking his hair, for another minute or 2 and then placed a soft kiss to his forehead.
"Ikuto," She shook him gently. "Ikuto, you're having a nightmare. Wake up."
After a few more tries, his eyes struggled open. He took a moment to focus on her before bolting upright. He relaxed when he saw his violin resting against the desk on the other side of the room. Amu wondered if he was still affected by the time it was taken from him.
"Sorry," He turned to her. "I didn't mean to fall asleep here."
"It's okay. It felt like old times."
He smirked and opened his mouth to tease her but she cut him off, "You can stay."
He looked like he was getting ready to reject her so she cut him off again, "Please. Just... let me be selfish for tonight?"
"If you stop watching me sleep, you pervert," He joked, earning him a solid punch on his arm. "Come here."
Amu rolled her eyes at him, but fell into his waiting arms anyway. "Your feet are cold." Amu complained, playfully.
They laid back, wrapped up in each other, and both of them felt complete for the first time in 5 years.