Whoa, how long has it been? (One year, four months, 27 days) NOBODY KNOWS! Thank you all for being patient! I can't guarantee the next chapter won't come until next year, but thank you for your patience! Now, we get to get into the next part of this journey.
"You want us to what?" Gumi exclaimed.
"Don't you think we've screwed with her enough?" Miku huffed. "She got run over because of what we did. Don't you feel even a little bad about that?"
Gumi avoided her eyes and crossed her arms. "Not my fault she ran all the way out to the street…"
"But you were part of the problem," Aria piped in. "And you need to take responsibility for your part in making her miserable." She looked up from her magazine and growled, "And if you try to give her a tattoo ever again, I'll split your spine in half." Gumi flinched, knowing Aria was perfectly capable of doing so.
"Fine!" she grumbled. "We'll try to be nicer to the loser. I can't promise anything, though."
Cul stared up at the ceiling. "I'll do my best to back off," she agreed. "I don't wanna see anybody like that again. Between Miku being a mess, the teachers going nuts, and Loser's mom going psycho on us… I'm as ready for this year to be over as Loser must be…"
Miku rolled her eyes. "Call her Luka," she ordered, gaining incredulous looks from her two friends. "We're going to do what we've always done and lead by example. The rest of the school might not think it was their fault, but we're not going to let them get away with hurting her anymore. You two are to beat down anyone who tries."
"You're sure going through an awful lot of trouble to make things up to Los-Luka," Seeu stated from where she was filing her nails in the corner. "Seems like overkill to me."
"Because ducking down and keeping my head down is the coward's way to do things," Miku replied. "I'm no coward. I'm doing this the whole way or I set the whole school on fire." Gumi's face lit up. "No." It fell back into a disappointed frown.
"Whatever you say, fearless leader," the blonde sighed. "But if it'll mess up my hair, I'm not participating. If one of the idiots messes up my hair while trying to get to her, I can't guarantee I won't beat someone into the ground."
Miku smirked. "That's why we're friends. Now, we need a battle plan…"
"She should be coming back to school tomorrow," Aria spoke up, setting her magazine down. "Gumi and Cul are going to meet her once classes start and escort her to class."
"Aw, come on!" Gumi groaned.
"You don't have to be right beside her," Aria snapped, rolling her eyes. "Just, like, walk in the same vicinity and make sure she doesn't have trouble getting to her class. Seeu and I will walk her to lunch and back to class. And Miku will walk her to our computer class with Mr. Shion."
"Miku's got the easiest job!" Cul exclaimed.
Aria's eyes flashed. "Why don't I push you in front of a car and get you sent to the hospital. Let's see how much you would want to be around me after that." Cul lowered her head, catching the point easily.
"That's that, then!" Miku chirped, racing over to hug Gumi and Cul around the waists. "I know this is a lot to ask, you two, but thanks for going along with it anyway."
"Yeah, yeah," Gumi grunted. "So long as there's enough idiots in the school for me to pound on aside from her, I don't really care what I gotta do to help ya redeem yourself."
"I just want things to return to mostly normal," Cul shrugged. "This is close enough. At least we'll see Los- uh, Luka, at school again. That's enough for me."
Miku smiled. They really would probably follow her to Hades if she asked them to. "Thanks, guys. Now, let's begin the actual study session."
The next morning, the air in the school was tense. Thanks to Neru, news of Luka's impending return had spread like wildfire. No one knew what to expect or how to act once she came back. They knew her as the school loser, but could they continue that form of thought after she'd been hit by a car? Safe to say, everyone was on edge.
Gumi and Cul waited near the trees as per discussed. They each leaned against a tree on either side of the walkway. It was far enough apart for them to be relatively unnoticed to passersby. Neither of them quite knew how to feel about the arrangement, but even Gumi grudgingly admitted that she didn't want to see anyone get hurt like that again.
Cul spotted the pair of pink heads coming closer first. She watched as they both crossed the street before the taller one waved goodbye. If she remembered right, that was Loser-Luka's brother, Luki. They'd have to steer clear of him. Didn't want a confrontation while trying to do the right thing. Luka made her way down the walkway, students parting for her as she did. Groups began whispering as she passed, many of them eyeing her curiously or cowering back uncertainly.
Gumi and Cul pushed off from their trees and began following her trail, both of them taking in the differences about her as they went. The most jarring thing was that her wardrobe had changed. Instead of her usual jeans with a T-shirt and light jacket, Luka wore a long dark purple skirt and a lavender long-sleeved turtleneck. Neither had ever seen her in clothes like that and wondered if the car crash had really caused her to change the way she dressed.
As they entered the school, more whispering lit the air, with both juniors shooting glares as they passed. They were forced to be slightly closer to Luka now that they were in the hallways, but she seemed not to even notice they were there. She disappeared into her classroom and they each breathed sighs of relief, heading off to their own class.
"So?" Miku whispered. "How was she?"
"She seems… different," Cul responded. "Like, she's not wearing her usual clothes, ya know?"
"Yeah," Gumi added. "It's just a skirt and turtleneck."
Seeu perked up at that. "You don't think her injuries were great enough for her to no longer be able to comfortably wear pants, do you?" she mused.
"I don't know," Miku muttered. "She did look pretty banged up when I saw her in the street."
"We'll have to keep an eye on this wardrobe change…" Seeu hummed. "I'm curious to know what else she's got in her closet."
Meanwhile, in Luka's class, all of the seniors watched her warily, especially the ones sitting directly in front of, behind, and beside her. None of them knew how to react to her being back after not seeing her for a few weeks. Some of them wanted to talk to her, but could hardly even think of something to say.
Luka ignored them all, reaching into her new backpack and pulling out her class notebook. Flipping to a fresh page, she quickly wrote something out before holding it up for them all to see. Curiously, her classmates leaned closer to read the page. In neat handwriting, it read, Please stop staring. All of them blushed and averted their eyes, opting instead for shooting her occasional glances.
Lily paced the teachers' lounge. Thankfully, there was plenty of time before classes started, so she could calm her nerves. Currently, she decided to give her old friends a call to help with those nerves. "Toka, what if she doesn't even want to be in my class?" she asked. "I mean, she's been giving me work like this for ages and I never noticed a thing. How can she possibly trust me to teach her if I couldn't even pick up on an obvious detail like that?"
"Lily, I know you're anxious," Tokahama sighed. "I definitely would be if I were in your shoes. But you can't think about your anxiety at a time like this. She's hurting and she needs to know that the people who told her they loved her when she was little are still the same people looking out for her now. Teach like you regularly would, and just… try to pay attention to all of your students from now on, not just her. Luka needs attention, but smothering her won't be much help either."
"Okay." The blonde took several deep breaths. "Okay. I can… I'll do my best. I just… I can't believe I was so blind…"
"You didn't want to see it," Tokahama told her softly. "The thought that anyone could hurt someone as sweet and loving as Luka is something even Flower and I couldn't bear and because of it, we, all of us, waited until it was too late before we did anything. But you have the opportunity to do something now, Lily. You shouldn't waste it. Get in there and be who you need to be, for her and for the rest of them."
With a deep breath, Lily nodded. "Right. Thanks, Toka. I… I really am sorry."
"So am I, but let's try to set it right." The line clicked and he was gone, no doubt back to work. Back to work just like she would be.
Setting her jaw, Lily stepped from the teachers' lounge and headed for her class just as the warning bell rang.
Honestly, I've been putting so many of my fics through reboots and reworking how they'll be going, I'm unbelievably thankful to all of you for being patient with me. I know it's probably not easy, so thank you so much.
Remember, sneak peeks and updates are available on my tumblr, gothalbinoangel-fanfiction. Where you can also ask questions.