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To Bear Love's Cross

Chapter 2

"Amu! You need to get up! If you don't get dressed, we're going to be late for Sunday Mass!"

Amu sat up drowsily, rubbing her eyes. She glanced at the clock; seven o' clock. She had to be at the Church for eight-thirty. "Five more minutes, please," she groaned. Amu's mother laughed behind her daughter's door.

"How about you meet us at Church? You are twelve now, and it isn't too far from here. What do you say?" There was a mumbled "'kay" on the other side of the door and Midori laughed again, walking away. "Just make sure you don't sleep too late."

Amu was hardly coherent. She'd stayed up later than usual the night before. She glanced at the clock again briefly. Seven-ten. Her vision went fuzzy. Just a little bit longer wouldn't be too bad... The sound of the front door closing barely even registered in her mind before she was once again asleep.

Patches of sunlight broke through the leaves of the trees as the wind blew gently. Brilliantly colored flowers were scattered around the landscape. It was a beautiful scene.

Except for the beaten teenaged boy who was walking slowly and clumsily up the overgrown path.

Blood was dripping down Ikuto's cheek and he had a feeling that his left leg wouldn't work quite the right way for the next few days. There was a decently sized slash on his upper right arm. Ikuto was pressing his left hand against said gash. He laughed quietly, almost bitterly. I'm getting rusty. It's been a while since I got hit.

The ground dipped under Ikuto's bad leg and he stumbled to the ground. He cried out in surprise as he hit the grass. He laid there for a moment, not moving. Then, sighing, he pushed himself up and dragged himself to a tree nearby. The only sound was the leaves brushing against each other and the occasional bird singing.

Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong!

Ikuto glanced at the sky quizzically. Church bells?

Amu slowly opened her eyes, yawning. She turned to look at the clock beside her bed. A gasp escaped her lips. No, it can't be this late. She rubbed her eyes, positive that they had to be blurred from sleep. But when she looked at the clock again, the numbers hadn't changed. Eight-fifteen.

Amu shot out of bed and ran around the room, looking for clothes to wear, her hair brush, everything she would need to get ready. It would take ten minutes to get to the church on her bike, which meant she had five to get ready. The way she tried to brush her hair, dress herself, and brush her teeth at the same time was actually quite funny to watch.

Once she looked semi-presentable, Amu glanced at the clock again. Exactly eight-twenty. She ran down the stairs and out the front door, locking it. She hopped on her bike and pedaled as hard as she could towards the church. She could hear the church bells chiming. Oh, no. Five minutes left! There's not enough time to go the main way. Only once choice.

Amu turned off the paved road and onto a dirt path that had long been forgotten. She bent over the handle bars so as not to hit her head on any of the protruding branches above her. Almost there...

Suddenly, a teenaged boy appeared around the bend of the path. Amu came to a screeching stop, almost falling over.

The boy had navy blue hair that-though she was embarrassed to admit it-she desperately wanted to touch because it looked so soft. He was sitting with his back on a tree but even in his position she could tell that he was tall-really tall. Much taller than her, at least. His frame was lean and agile, like a cat's. His eyes were closed. Is he sleeping?

Amu was about to leave and hurry on her way when she spotted something red. Her golden eyes widened. Blood? She rushed over to the teenager-she pinned him at sixteen or seventeen. There was a slash on his right arm and a cut on his cheek. The cut on his arm looked clean, like it had been done with a knife of some sort-Amu shivered at the thought-but the one on his cheek looked jagged and rough as if by some kind of just-sharp-enough-to-cut object. I wonder what it was...?

"See something you like?"

Amu jumped. Was that...?

"You know, when you start staring at people like that when they sleep you look like a pervert."

A blush spread across Amu's cheeks. "M-me? You're the pervert! I wasn't even thinking about that!"

The teenager opened his eyes. His sapphire blue eyes that were so beautiful and deep, though Amu was reluctant to admit it to herself. "You're staring again."

Amu blinked rapidly. "A-am not!"

The teenager laughed. "What, are we in fifth grade now?"

Amu folded her arms across her flat chest. "In case you didn't notice, I am. Who are you, anyways?"

The boy looked her in the eyes. "Ikuto Tsukiyomi."

Amu froze. She'd heard that name before. He was a gang member-no, not just a member. He was a gang leader. The youngest one ever, she'd heard. So why is a gang leader that is so infamous on this abandoned path bloodied up like this?

Covering her shock, Amu held out her hand for him to shake it. "Amu Hinamori. It's nice to meet you." Ikuto stared at her hand and looked back up to her face. Awkwardly and impatiently, Amu bent over to reach for his hand. Her knee accidentally knocked against his leg. Ikuto winced and sucked in a breath.

He's hurt worse than I thought, Amu pondered. I need to help him. But I won't have time to go to Church if I do... Amu shook her head. No, this needs to come first. I can go to a later Mass, but Ikuto can't wait! "You need first aid."

Ikuto snorted. "For this? I've had worse. You know who I am, right? This is nothing. Just a few scratches, that's all." He tried to stand but his left knee buckled under the weight he put on it.

"See? You need help! Don't be so stubborn!"

Ikuto stared at the girl, eyes wide. She's actually gonna help me? Ikuto Tsukiyomi? She does know who I am, right? I mean, she seemed to react to my name earlier... But she stayed after. Who is this chick?

"Come here, let me see your wounds." Amu slowly rolled up Ikuto's right sleeve, trying to be gentle so as not to hurt him more than he already was. Ikuto flinched. "Ah! I'm sorry!"

Ikuto looked away from Amu's face. "I don't know," he said. "That really hurt. I'm not sure if a 'sorry' will be enough."

Amu stared at Ikuto warily. "What's that supposed to mean?" She didn't trust that tone in his voice.

"Well, you could try to kiss the pain away-"

"Y-y-yeah right!" Amu's cheeks were red hot. "P-pervert!"

"Didn't I just talk to you about real perverts a few minutes ago?"

"Sh-shut up! This is what I get for trying to help you!" Under her breath, Amu added, "How did you get yourself this hurt anyways?"

Ikuto, however, heard the girl's question. "How do you think?"

Amu didn't answer. Wasn't it obvious? He was in a gang-the leader of a gang. It had been more of a rhetorical question anyways.

"I need to go get my first aid kit. You stay here, okay? I'll be back in ten minutes!" Amu hopped onto her bike again and went back the way she came.

Ikuto sat in the same place, watching her retreating back. "Amu, huh?"

Meanwhile, Amu had just reached her house and was skimming through her closet, searching for the first aid kit she knew was in there. Where is it...? It suddenly appeared under a pile of clothes. "Aha!" She grabbed the small box and ran back outside. She raced back down the path and slowed to a stop. She looked around. She could've sworn he'd been in that spot. She walked a little bit farther, but saw no blue-haired teenager.

Ikuto was gone.

Almighty and Everlasting God, the eternal salvation of those who believe in You, hear us on behalf of Your servants who are sick, for whom we humbly beg the help of your mercy, so that, being restored to health, they may render thanks to you in your Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

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