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After some terrible turns in her life, Ichigo has been struggling to get by. At her lowest moment, her old enemy returns to her life, but this time on different terms. Kisshu has returned to earth, further confusing her world. That, however, is just the start of her problems since a new and pressing danger is on its way, one that might end both their lives. They now have an enemy that seeks to destroy them both.
Ichigo Momoiya walked slowly down the street. Her red hair had fallen into her face and eyes but she did not bother to brush it back at all. The breeze blowing moved it around enough that she could see without having to brush it away. These days her hair was a bit longer because she had not had it cut in some time. The slight wind tugged at her clothes and her shoes scuffed the ground as she walked. She stared straight ahead, vacant eyes still red from tears. She had just been to visit the cherry tree where Aoyama-kun first saw her in her Mew Ichigo form. The tree blossomed so perfectly this year, it was so beautiful. She had gone there several times this week. It was strange and painful going without him but she could not seem to stay away. Each time she expected to see him waiting for her there, but he never was. A few times she thought she saw him there but it always turned out to be someone else. When she saw someone with his hair or a jacket like his her heart stopped. Her body would freeze as she held her breath, wishing with all her heart that it might just be Masaya. Each time it was someone else it cut into her heart just a little bit more. She knew in her mind that it could never be him, but her heart was a different story.
It was turning dark out now. . . She had stayed there longer than usual. Her parents would be unhappy with her but they would not scold her for it. They were terribly careful with her these days, treating her like a delicate doll. At first her mother tried to get her to talk about it but talking to her mother only made it worse. It was not as if she could actually tell her mother the truth, so she had to tap dance around the truth or just lie. . . which did not make her feel better about anything. After some time her parents let her keep silent and none of them ever brought up the topic. Of course it did not matter because it hung in the air like a huge dark cloud. Ignoring it did not make it go away it just made things feel strange. Not that anything could ever feel normal again anyway.
These days she spent a lot of time alone. It was too hard to be around anyone. They always smiled but their eyes were different when they looked at her. At first they tried to help her through it but when they could not get her over it they started avoiding the issue when they talked to her. Acting like it did not happen was useless though since it still existed, just like it did when she was with her parents. It was all she could think about and everyone knew it. Being with people was just so awkward for her and for them, it was easier to stay away from people. Her friends at school were easier to stay away from than everyone at Cafe Mew Mew. However, eventually even they allowed her to have her space. Thankfully there had not been any attacks recently that she needed to be there to stop. Even Shirogane had not insisted she come to work for some time, several weeks. Ichigo had a feeling Ryou and Zakuro were the reason no one was pushing her. At least Zakuro seemed to have noticed her need to be alone.
In her alone time Ichigo did a lot of thinking. She went to the places she and Aoyama-kun used to go, wretchedly painful though it was. Ichigo could not seem to keep herself away from those places. Most days she was in those memories or she was in her room. All she could think of was why; why did it have to be like this, why had it ended this way? After the fight with Deep Blue had ended everything had seemed perfect but it was just a false sense of peace.
"Ichigo, you're home!" Sakura Momoiya chimed as she walked into the house. Her mother was smiling but her eyes were worried and sad.
"Yes, I'm home." Ichigo said as she walked slowly past. Facing her mother was so hard anymore. Facing anyone was hard these days, too hard. Not being able to talk to anyone made it impossible to stay around them for very long. No one understood. They thought they understood but they had no idea how she felt. They were kind and considerate to her face, but secretly she knew they thought she should just get over it. They knew she had to grieve but they thought she should be past it by now. Deep down they were all just thinking she needed to move on with her life. It had been six months since it happened so everyone had begun to think she should be recovering. Everyone was tolerant of her depression but they also weren't. Everyone expected her to suddenly snap out of it and be the cheery, hyper, fun girl she used to be. They didn't understand that she could not just move on, how could she? Just moving on with her life and getting over it was beyond her capability. . . She couldn't, not with everything involved in this.
"Don't you think you should eat some dinner?" Her mother prompted gently.
"I stopped at the Cafe and had something so I'm fine." Ichigo looked away so her mother would not notice she lied as easily. Why was it that when you were depressed everyone tried to get you to eat something? Was that supposed to fix everything? She did not think so, somehow. Ichigo did not feel like eating, it did not matter how many times people asked her to eat something. People just could not understand that even the simple things in day to day life were hard for her to manage. Things like interacting with people, getting up in the morning, or even eating took more effort than she could put forth anymore. Even little things were too much for her to deal with.
She shuffled the rest of the way to her room and went inside. With the door safely closed behind her she could drop what little expression of happiness she had managed to put up. Just barely, she made it to her bed before crumpling into a heap. Her head had not fallen on the pillow but she did not have the strength to move her head the short distance required so she just ignored the problem.
It was hard to believe it had been a year and six months since they put an end to the constant battles with the aliens. She was sixteen now, so strange. All of that still seemed so hard to believe. There were times she forgot it was not over. Some mornings she woke up thinking Kisshu, Pai, and Taruto would show up with a Chimara Anima for them to battle. It was not hard to believe the battles were still going on since she still had her powers. They still had to face some of the leftover Chimara and the occasional attack for the Crusaders, but nothing like it had been with the aliens... or Deep Blue. Supposedly, her powers were supposed to go away after they all defeated the aliens. . . Their powers did go away, but came back soon after.
Kisshu's bright golden eyes gazed over Tokyo, totally unobserved from his vantage point. The cool breeze toyed with his dark green hair as he sat quietly. The maroon bands in his hair rubbed against the side of his face. Tokyo looked so different now than it had the first time he came here. The last battle really had changed the face of this place. There were a great deal more trees and vegetation than there had been when he set eyes on earth that first time. Humans still had their ways of doing things, but it did look better. It looked more like the earth should look. Not perfect, but better. He did not hate the humans anymore though. When he first came here he wanted them all to die but Ichigo changed his thinking. Until he had been around her he looked at humans as nothing more than insects. Pai and Taruto used to see things that way too. It was interesting what one group of girls had done to change three guys set to destroy a planet.
"Mmmm. . . Ichigo, I have missed you."
Even as busy as he and the others were working on their planet all this time there had not been a day he did not think of her. Honestly he tried to forget her, tried with everything in him. He really did want her to be happy. He forced himself to stay away for all this time. Being as busy as he was made it easier, but not enough. Kisshu had finally reached his limit. He just had to see her even if it was only one time. It would be alright if he watched from a distance, he used to do that a lot. Just once though. . . he would have to say hello. It's not as if he planned to do anything to her or try to take her away from Aoyama. She loved that guy so there was nothing he could do. All he wanted was to see her and talk to her one time. It might help him to finally be free from her, maybe he could move on after this. That girl bewitched him in a way he still could not understand.
For now, he had traveled millions of miles to see her. It was pitiful how great her hold over him was but he could not deny its existence. His love for her was just as strong as it had been at the start, maybe stronger. The longer he had known her the greater his love of her had grown. Even if it was just this once, he really needed to see her again.
Ichigo stared out the window at the full moon outside. She toyed with tip of the sheet as her mind worked over all her problems. What was she supposed to do? It was not as if she did not realize she could not continue being this way forever. It really was not as if she liked the person she was now. Eventually she did have to change, had to keep living her life, but she did not know how. How could she change? How could she keep living without Aoyama-kun? How could she go on now that he would not be with her? Not only how, but would she keep living? That was another part of the question. Was she going to die eventually? Might she soon find herself dead? Would she suddenly just die the way. . . Ichigo blinked hard. That was not a question she could voice to anyone. There was no way she could tell anyone, most of all not anyone at the Cafe.
Ichigo curled up on her bed, brown eyes tightly closed, tears streaming down her face. Masaya promised! He promised he would never leave her again! So why? She did not want to cry anymore today but the tears seemed determined to come. Already she had cried too much for one day. Did they all think she liked to cry herself to sleep every night? Did they really think she did not try to stop? Did they think she asked for any of this?
There it was, Ichigo's house. The alien hovered high over the house, big golden eyes drilling it. He watched her at home from a distance many times while they were enemies. The house still looked the same from what he could see. He knew where her room was since he chased her from there once. He tilted his body forward as he thought over his options.
It was late but he did not intend to stay very long. She would not let him stay long anyway, he knew her well enough to know that. He would be lucky if she let him stay more than a minute. At the very least, he hopped she let him stay long enough to talk a little bit. Kisshu's heart was already beating faster and faster as he thought about seeing her again after so long. His head was even starting to spin. He felt like a little kid about to go on a first date. Kisshu could hardly catch his breath. When it came to that girl he might as well have been a kid with a crush. Nothing he did was rational when it had to do with her. Ichigo turned his mind into clay and she could manipulate it any way she wished.
"Ok, it's now or never." Kisshu sighed and swallowed hard to push back his anxiety.
Ichigo had finally managed to stop crying for the hundredth time today. She adjusted the tank-top strap of her nightgown. Her mother got it for her. Interestingly enough the nightgown was pink with the face of a cute black cat on the front. Ichigo found it a bit ironic but obviously never said so. Her eyes felt heavy and tired after crying too much. She swiped at the remaining tears left on her cheeks. This was incredible. Who knew one person had so many tears in them. Eventually, after crying every night for months, shouldn't the tears have run dry by now? How could one person even have that many tears? It had to be impossible. But wasn't everything that happened to her supposed to be impossible? She was not supposed to have super powers or have saved the world at fifteen. She was not supposed to have been able to stop Deep Blue, someone they said had the powers of a god. . . but she had. . . in a way.
"Yo, Koneko-chan!" That voice! It was just like the first time she met. . .
Ichigo's head swiveled toward the voice. "Kisshu!"
"Correcto!" He chimed with that classic grin of his.
"Kisshu? But. . . why? When?" She slid to her feet without yet believing what she was seeing.
He chuckled, "To say hello to you, of course! Just got here tonight."
All she could do now was stare at him in total dismay.
Kisshu glided toward her and chuckled again, "How ya been, Koneko-chan?"
What came over her, she had no idea, but before she knew what she had done her arms were circled around his waist. "Oh, Kisshu!"
A partial smile hinted at the corners of her mouth. She was not quite sure if she believed this was real but she hoped so. For some reason she was incredibly happy to see him. At least, it was as close to happiness as she had been in a while. The minute she saw him and heard his voice again all she could think of was hugging him. Ichigo wanted to hug him and she wanted him to hug her back. She wanted him to hug her, see his smile, and hear his voice. Until this moment she did not realize that she really wanted to see him, but she supposed she did.
Seeing him was like seeing a memory from better days. He was a bit of a ghost from a far better time, a time when the world seemed so much more clear. Back then, she knew what life would bring her, at least more than she did now. Back then she could smile and even laugh - Then, she believed things would always work out eventually. His being here was almost like remembering that former life.
The typical cocky look he normally had on was replaced by one of confusion. "Ichigo?" It sounded like she shocked him. He rested his hands on her bare shoulders, but when she said nothing and did not look at him, he cupped her chin in his hand to gaze into her face. Kisshu's big golden eyes stared long into hers, searching them carefully. His brow winkled, "Ichigo, you feeling alright?"
His arrival brought the tears back to the surface but his probing eyes finished her. The tears slowly spilled out of the corners of her eyes as he stared at her. She turned her head away sharply even though she knew he saw the tears. Ichigo bit into her lower lip hard enough to taste a sudden bit of blood. She held her breath to keep back a sudden sob that formed a lump in her throat.
"What's wrong? What happened? Why are you crying, Ichigo?" Kisshu slipped his arms around her, tugging her closer.
"No, please. . . don't ask me those questions! I don't want to answer those questions, alright?" She leaned her head against his chest and closed her tired, teary eyes. "Just. . . please stay with me like this for a while. I shouldn't ask you to. . ." Ichigo bit into her lip again. "But please, don't leave me for a while." She looked into those baffled, worry filled golden orbs, "Will you hold me for just a little while? Please?"
Nothing happened for a minute. Even the numbers on the clock must have stopped moving as he stared at her, processing her words. But finally he moved. Kisshu directed her to the bed and eased her onto it. He laid her back carefully, hovering over her. He stared down at her, expression unreadable. He was no longer smiling but he was not completely frowning either. Her words must have been a shock since she never would have said them in the past. She knew she should not have spoken them now but it was too late.
It seemed like he was hovering over her for a terribly long amount of time. She wondered if he got the wrong impression from what she said, but even if he did, she was not sure she had the strength to oppose that right now. If he was thinking of doing something like that she really did not think she had it in her to resist. The moment his eyes locked with hers and her head hit the pillow she lost all her strength. Her body, emotions, and mind were much too drained to be useful to her. Right now all she was able to do was feel the tears trickle down her face.
He climbed over her and eased down next to her on the bed. Gently, Kisshu brushed away the tear stains from her face before his finely toned arms pulled her to him. Her moist cheeks brushed the smooth skin of his arms as her head came to rest beside his chest. She had nearly forgotten how strong he was. His chest felt firm but not unpleasantly so. By now all the old warning bells would have been going off in her head but she not longer cared enough to hear them. She let him cradle her motionless body in his arms. Her eyes fluttered shut as he tucked her head neatly beneath his chin. Over this years time she had grown a bit but it seemed he had as well. It was interesting that he still managed to be able to look down at her, floating in the air or not.
"All right, Ichigo, I won't ask you to explain. I won't force you to tell me anything if you don't want to. We can just stay like this." He whispered in her ear.
The sob forming the lump in her throat finally broke free, followed by several others. She slipped an arm loosely around him and buried her face in his chest. She wished she had been strong enough to give him a nicer welcome but somehow this was all she could manage to do. Most of the time she could hold herself together during the day, but at night she always fell to pieces.
This was the last thing she should have requested of him especially since he had only come in a moment before she fell apart, but that did not change anything. No matter what she wanted to do, this was all she could do.
It did feel good to be in his arms though, she could not deny that. It felt good to have someone to hold her and be with her after so long. It felt good not to be alone this time, not to have only eroding agony as her company. To let someone near her after having spent so much time pushing them all away, it felt good to be near someone again.
The sound of her cries made him retch inside, heart twisting in his chest. There had been a lot of ways he pictured her reacting when she saw him but he was not expecting this. He never expected to see her this way. She had been crying before he came, he could tell. Her eyes and slightly flushed cheeks and nose told him that much. Kisshu circled her more tightly in his arms and pulled her close against him. All he could do for her was hold her. He pressed his cheek to her forehead. Right now, he was helpless to ease her suffering, helpless to relieve her pain. Whatever it was that hurt her this way, right now, all he could do to heal it was this.
He had to admit though, being able to hold her like this was something he wanted to do for so long. This was the first time she had ever willingly let him hold her. He could not help noticing she had lost a bit of weight. Her body had always been small but it seemed even smaller now. It killed him to see her suffering but part of him could not have felt happier. This was exactly what he always wanted. She asked him to stay with her, let him hold her without a moments resistance, what he always wanted. He would enjoy holding her in his arms as long as it lasted. It would make having to let her go again that much harder later on but he did not need to think about that right now.
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