Natsume had always been frozen; he could remember no other feeling in his heart.
He did recall the many times he had laughed when his mother was alive, before the accident, before the academy, before everything; but he couldn't recall the sensation.
They say happiness is not something you experience, but something you remember, but then, he could do neither.
At least, until she came.
Now he wasn't so sure.
He would actually feeling like smiling, but would hold himself back, though only because the sensation was so alien to him. Almost as if he didn't know how anymore.
He had always watched her from his tree, even when she wasn't there to share it with him.
He remembered how she had helped Youichi get to his room, back when they were still complete strangers. She'd helped him lovingly even though he was extremely rude to her.
He remembered how she'd clumsily tripped and fallen over a downed branch, hurting herself badly. He remembered the way that it had irked him, and got him all worked up, though he still wasn't quite sure why.
He remembered watching her dance with Hotaru at the Christmas party, from the very same tree. He remembered how often she had laughed, and how warm he had felt inside. That had been the first time he had thought to call the emotion 'happiness'. A realization, that had only made him feel more confused than ever, though it felt so right, as if it was the way things were meant to be.
Then he remembered the time a high school student had made inappropriate advances on Mikan. He had felt the need to burn the person to a crisp, and would have done so if Tubasa had not interfered in time. As much as he hated to admit it, he did owe him for that. Natsume had been in a murderous mood long after that. He put it down to his over protectiveness and his tendencies to be territorial about his friends, but deep down he knew that there was a lot more to it than he what he saw, than what he let himself see.
He sat now, watching her. She was reading diligently.
Hotaru had given her a book to read the day before, a rare thing that she didn't charge for. Mikan seemed to have taken a liking to it, she had finished over half the eight hundred page book in little over a day.
He watched how the fading light played over her skin and hair, admiring her complexion from his place in the branch above her, while she sat reading in the grass. She was beautiful, and for the first time he didn't contradict himself after thinking it.
Her pace slowed the next few days as lessons started again. She didn't stop though; she would find time to read for at least half an hour each day if not more.
Natsume always watched, her without exception, and she, without exception would read outside, always under his sakura tree.
He loved to watch her face. When she read, it was calm and peaceful, excepting the small giggles and gasps she let out, always completely absorbed.
He loved watching the way the light would play over her face, filtering through the trees some days, when she read in the afternoon, highlighting and emphasizing every part of her perfect face in turn.
He would watch the light slowly illuminate her face in the morning making her look like a fallen angel returning to God's grace.
And approaching dusk, he would watch as she read in the faint light, the different colours of the sky reflected themselves on her face, he noticed how the deep pinks and reds would become a shell pink on her face, a few shades deeper than her peach complexion; how the blue would be much softer, and the purple less red.
He had watched her grow up, he watched as she developed a full-fledged interest in reading; he had watched her body and mind grow and change, but she was still the same to him. He had always watch her, he would always watch her. He somehow had to, even if he couldn't or wouldn't understand the reasons for his compulsion, he couldn't stop watching her, but not as a stalker would; rather as her protector, and she never saw him either.
He stood under the tree and watched her as she ran up to him calling out to him. He let her take his hand and drag him to the bus to central town. On the way back he watched her sleeping form, knowing she was exhausted, but happy.
He realized slowly that she had completely warmed his heart. She had left it as it was, strong and unrelenting, but without the cold and emptiness that had filled it before, filling it with...
His heart was still strong, far stronger than any metal could be, but it was no longer lonely. And so, much stronger than it had been when it was empty. Now he had a substance, something more personal to fight for, much more than protecting close friends and strangers he would never meet.
It had become all about her now. And that was a good thing.
She had filled a place deep within him, a place that he hadn't realized needed filling in the first place.
She had made a hairline crack in his armoured heart, slipped in through it without him even realizing it, without harming him or his armour.
And he was glad that he hadn't realized, because then he would have tried to stop it.
He knew that there was no stopping it, now, that Mikan would have gotten to him anyway, even if he had noticed, but he was glad it had happened it way it had.
It felt comforting, now that he knew.
He had someone he loved.
Someone he would do anything for.
Someone to live and die for.
And that he was no longer completely alone.
He would make polka fall for him, that shouldn't be too difficult, if she hadn't fallen hard already.
He smirked down at her. He knew he was being arrogant but he had every right to be. He knew that Mikan was anything but predictable, completely the opposite, but he too had his inert charm, focused solely on her.
He watched the scenery outside the window, as the sun passed by. Suddenly he was looking at everything from a different perspective. His realization had changed his very aspect of life...
The world was no almost alien to him but he knew that even though the very last, smallest corner of his heart was thawed, but one part of it would always, without exception be frozen. There was no healing that.
The eyes of his heart would always be frozen.
Forever frozen on her, watching Mikan. Not even when he faced death himself would he turn his eyes away, he would never stop watching Mikan.
Nothing could change that.