Chapter 28

Amu had to remind herself why she felt compelled to do this. She stood in the entrance of Seiyo High, frozen to the ground while the cheers and echoes of the basketball game rang down the hallway.

She wanted this, right? She wanted to see him. She wanted to explain the situation to him and apologize. The paranoid side of her brain kept nagging at her, pointing out that he might not even want to have her back in his life. He could be completely fine without her and she was the only one suffering from their separation.

Amu angrily blew her bangs out of her eyes before she turned to glare at Ami. "Why am I doing this! I don't want to! I want to go home and rest and form a pity party so I can sulk for the rest of my life while living in pet shops so I can snag a couple cats when they come on sale."

Giving her an unimpressed look, her younger sister crossed her arms. "Oh yes, 'cause I'm sure that's what you really want."

"Since when does it matter what I want?" The older sister whined, fighting the urge to stomp her feet and run away. She knew she wouldn't get very far, though, since Midori was outside parking the car and would chase after her immediately if she tried to make an escape. Amu had to admit, even though it was a little inconvenient, she was glad her family was here with her. Both Midori and Ami were paranoid that something might happen if they let Amu out of their sight, so they insisted on coming along to be her bodyguards.

A rush of cold air whipped against Amu's back as Midori entered the front doors, rubbing her hands together to soak up the warmth of the school's lobby. "So! Where's Ikuto-kun?" She asked, eyes scanning the empty corridors.

"In the gym." Amu murmured, eyes downcast. She silently lifted a finger, pointing to the hall on her left.

"That way."

"Mom, please don't embarrass Amu while you're here." Ami begged, tugging on Midori's sleeve. "It'll ruin the whole 'big reveal' when she walks through the doors of the gym and you're there frolicking behind her while humming show tunes."

Their bickering became distant hums as Amu's stomach plummeted to the ground. She had no idea that Ami had a 'big reveal' planned. Amu had originally hoped she'd just slide into the stands and meet up with Ikuto after the game. Of course everything had to be blown out of proportion with Ami.

High-pitched chatter grew louder as a herd of cheerleaders came down the hallway on Amu's right, clearly making their way to the gym.

Amu stole a quick glance at the girls, her eyes catching with a familiar golden-eyed teenager she loved so much.

"Amu?" Rima stopped walking, letting the other girls go on ahead with Utau leading the group, not even noticing Amu there.

Lifting a hand slowly, Amu attempted a meek wave as she smiled at her friend.

In an instant, Rima's cheer bag was discarded on the floor and her arms were thrown around Amu's neck, embracing her in a tight hug.

Amu wrapped her arms around her with equal strength, biting her cheek to stop the tears that were building up. Rima never was one to show much emotion, so Amu decided that crying in front of her would just humiliate the blond, no matter what their current situation was.

To her surprise, Amu heard a small sniffle come from Rima as she buried her face into Amu's neck, probably from embarrassment, Amu figured. "You idiot. Never disappear again." The blond muttered sternly as she slowly pulled away from the hug.

Amu wiped the tears from her own eyes as she choked out a laugh. "I'll try not to."

Rima sniffled again, more tears building up in her eyes before she placed her hands on Amu's shoulders, looking strictly into her eyes. "Are you okay? You're in good health, no body parts are missing, no memory loss..?"

Amu laughed shakily and shook her head. "I have all my body parts, I remember how amazing of a friend you are, and I'm…in fairly good health… considering what happened." Fresh tears started to make an appearance as the topic was brought up.

Rima noticed this and firmly shook her head. "We don't have to talk about it if you're not ready."

After another hug, Rima inhaled deeply and quickly wiped her eyes before clearing her throat. "Well, I must get back to the game to start cheering and doing all that stupid crap I'd rather not do." She drifted off before her eyes got a little wider. "Oh! And.." She leaned in to whisper in her ear. "I'm going on a date with stupid Nagihiko next Thursday."

"What!" Amu grinned widely as her eyes lit up. "Wh- so you both finally got over your stubbornness and admitted that you've fancied each other for ages now?"

Rima sent her an unimpressed look. "I wouldn't put it that way…but, yes. I'll give you all the details after the game. See you later." She gave Amu another quick hug before hurrying away, double checking over her shoulder to make sure Amu was still there and that she hadn't hallucinated the whole thing. Sending Amu a wave, she turned around and disappeared through the doors of the gymnasium.

"Rima-chan looks good." Midori commented, walking up to stand beside Amu as she wrapped a supportive arm around her shoulder. "I didn't know she was a cheerleader."

"Yeah, she has been for like…ever, mom." Ami commented.

And again they started bickering.

Inhaling deeply, Amu released the breath slowly before walking the few feet down the hallway, stopping in front of the doors to the gym. Her palms had already begun to sweat as her fingers trembled nervously against the door handle.

With her heart pounding against her chest and blood pumping in her ears, she was almost positive that she wouldn't make it into the gym, as she'd be sent to the hospital because of a heart attack.

"You can do it, Amu!" Ami stage-whispered, giving her a thumbs up when Amu looked her way.

Pursing her lips together, Amu nodded once, trying to make her eyes look determined as she pulled open the door and walked inside the noisy gym. The cheers and applause swarmed around her, adding to her headache.

She spotted Rima across the room with the other cheerleaders, performing their routine and cheering at the top of their lungs.

If the cheerleaders for Seiyo were across the room, that would mean the basketball team was over there as well, Amu figured, braving a few more steps into the gym to get a better look at their team's bench.

Nagihiko was sitting on the bench with a few other people Amu didn't recognize. It was just now that it occurred to her that Ikuto may in fact be playing in the game and not sitting on the bench. This made her heart rate increase even more as she took a step backwards, eyes scanning the court.

And there he was, racing against a member on the opposing team, his arms spread out in hopes of catching the ball that was aimed in his direction.

His hair was slightly damp from sweat, but he was still the same Ikuto Amu remembered. His eyes were set in determination and his lips pursed together, his eyebrows slanting downwards. His 'game face' as Amu had called it so much in the past.

She smiled bashfully as she watched him run to the other side of the court with the ball, jumping up and dunking it into the net. The crowd swarmed in cheers and applause as the cheerleaders across the way jumped around happily.

Glancing at the timer, Amu realized why everyone was getting so into it. There was only five minutes left on the clock and so far Seiyo was behind by one point.

Just as the two teams ran back down to the opposite side of the court, the one closest to Amu, Ikuto looked away from the ball for a split second and saw her.

He slowed down to a stop, his jaw relaxing as his eyes widened briefly at the sight of her, standing there in all her tired glory.

She smiled unsurely at him before waving, which brought him back to reality. He was standing in the middle of the basketball court and should have been getting a move on.

Attempting to meet back up with his team, Ikuto kept glancing over at Amu to make sure his brain wasn't just playing tricks on him. But each time he looked over, he was reassured again and again that she was really here. She was okay.

The referee blew the whistle after Coach had muttered a few words to him. Bringing the Seiyo team in, Coach specifically turned to say a few words to Ikuto, who still hadn't got his head back into focus.

He quickly made up an excuse, saying it felt like he was going to be sick and that he was hit with a wave of nausea in the middle of the game.

Kukai just noticed Amu standing in the doorway and realized what was going on, so he quickly chimed in. "Yeah, Coach. Me and Ikuto went through a sketchy drive-thru before coming here. I told him not to eat the hot dog, but you know him, he never listens.." he drifted off teasingly. "He might feel better after either taking a crap or throwing up."

Coach looked at Ikuto with his eyebrows raised, expectantly.

Ikuto quickly looked from Kukai then to Coach, stealing a glance at Amu in between. She was slowly moving out into the hallway. "Y-yeah I'm sure I'll be good after going to the bathroom." He said as convincingly as possible, trying to appear like he was in pain - which he kind of was, as the thought of letting Amu walk away made him feel sick.

Thinking long and hard, Coach stared him down intensely. Finally, realizing he had stopped the clock for a little too long, he made a decision. "You'd better be back here to score that winning point, Tsukiyomi. If you aren't, it'll be your head on a stick."

Ikuto tried not to grin as he nodded once. "Yes, sir."

Without sticking around a moment, longer, he hurried along the side of the court as the teams went back into position, Nagihiko subbing for him.

He pushed open the door to the hallway, coming to a halt and letting the door close behind him as he found Amu with her back to him, staring out a window.

It felt like he had been waiting years for this moment to come.

Glancing over her shoulder, Amu checked to make sure it was him before turning fully around.

"B-before you yell at me and do all other ballistic things - which you have the right to do," Amu began quickly, her voice shaking, "I wanted to say that I'm sorry." She paused to nibble on her lip, an action that didn't go unnoticed by Ikuto, who seemed to be memorizing everything about her while he still could.

"I should have told you the real reason why I broke up with you. A-and I should have trusted you and just…" She drifted off as she wiped the tears off her cheeks. "I shouldn't have been so scared that I decided to keep you in the dark and probably made you feel horrible about yourself, a-and to top it all off I go missing the same day I ended it with you, which probably made you feel extremely guilty." She sniffled and inhaled deeply to slow her tears. "And I'm just…I'm so sorry, Ikuto."

He was silent as he stood just a few feet in front of her. His eyes were hard to read, his hands sitting loosely at his sides.

Amu was beginning to think this was her queue to leave until he finally broke the silence with a soft whisper.

"I really want to kill Kazuomi for what he did." He spoke with venom in his words, his eyes finally showing some emotion as they turned cold.

Amu nodded silently, wiping away more tears. "I do too." She whispered back as her voice broke.

No more words were exchanged as Ikuto fumed in silence and Amu tried to stop crying.

Taking a step closer to her, Ikuto's eyes grew softer once his full attention returned to her, and not thoughts of killing his imprisoned step dad.

"Can I kiss you now?" He asked.

Amu's heart pumped loudly once again. She sniffled and wiped her nose with her sleeve as she nodded, her cheeks flushing. "Yeah." She managed to squeak out.

He didn't have to be told twice for Ikuto to close the distance between them, pressing his lips against hers as his hands cupped her cheeks, brushing her tears away with his thumbs.

Amu placed her hands on his wrists, clutching them tightly to make sure he didn't disappear.

He kissed her over and over, taking in every detail of her lips. They parted briefly, but only to capture each other's mouths once again, Amu running her hands through Ikuto's hair as he wrapped his arms around her mid-section and trapped her to his chest.

Ikuto hoisted her into the air so Amu could wrap her legs around his hips, sliding her arms behind his neck to hold on tightly as she placed another kiss to his lips.

Amu really hoped Ami and Midori weren't still somewhere in the hallway, watching their little reunion, or she knew she'd never live it down. But as Ikuto pulled away briefly before pressing a more gentle, thorough kiss to her lips, she realized she really didn't give a crap about everything else right now.

Finally they parted for a breather and Amu held onto him tighter, burying her face into his neck to inhale his scent and memorize every aspect to it. Memorize the fibres of his shirt and the feel of his hair. He lightly drew his fingers up and down her back, sending a wave of tingles through her body, jolting her heart once again. At this rate, she really would end up in the hospital due to a heart attack.

"I love you." Ikuto murmured before kissing the side of her head softly, resting his forehead in her hair.

Amu pulled away from his neck, blushing like anything once realizing she was still clinging to him like a koala on a tree.

She placed a gentle kiss to the side of his lips. "And I love you." She whispered, planting another kiss on his cheek, then one to his neck. "More than you know."

"Does this mean you'll be my girlfriend again?"

Amu gave a watery laugh as she pulled away again to look at his face. "Of course."

Ikuto slowly let her back down to the ground as Nikaidou waltzed by and shot them a disapproving look over the rim of his coffee cup before disappearing into the gym.

Covering her face with her hands, Amu laughed before letting out a groan as a blush painted her cheeks. "I have to see him in class tomorrow!" She whined.

Smirking deviously, Ikuto reached out and pulled her hands away from her face, lacing his fingers in between hers as he pulled her closer to him and pressed a kiss to her nose. "You should be my date to the Christmas dance." He decided.

Funnily enough, Amu had completely forgotten about the Christmas dance that she had spent the last few months planning for.

Arching an eyebrow, she tried to look annoyed. "Do I have a choice?"

Ikuto's smirk broadened as he leaned closer to her so their noses were touching. "No." He stated before kissing her once again, pulling away quickly and leaving her wanting more.

Amu pouted and attempted to glare at him before recalling what she had bought earlier that day and had in her pocket.

"Oh! I know your birthday was a few days ago, but…" She pulled out a giraffe keychain out of her pocket and handed it to him. "You said a while ago that you wanted a giraffe, right?" She smiled cheekily as he chuckled and accepted the gift, sliding the key ring onto his finger before tucking it into his pocket.

"Thank you." He kissed the top of her head just as the gym doors flew open and Kukai scrambled out.

"Hinamori!" He exclaimed, pointing a finger at the pink-haired girl, who jumped at his sudden bellow. He pulled her into a bone-crushing hug that lasted longer than Ikuto would've liked. "I missed you." He said quietly, his voice taking on a serious tone that let Amu know he truly meant it.

Finally letting go of her, Kukai then turned to Ikuto. "Right. So, Coach is going to have your ass if you don't get on that court in half a second. There's ten seconds on the clock and he needs you there. Nagihiko can't do much with his injury." He turned to look at Amu and lowered his voice. "Don't tell this guy over here, 'cause it'll get to his head, but Ikuto's basically the best player on the team."

Ikuto rolled his eyes at this.

"Alright!" Kukai patted Ikuto's shoulder as he opened the gym door again, holding it open for Ikuto. "Let's go, lover boy."

"Tsukiyomi!" Coach bellowed from the court.

Ikuto nearly jumped out of his skin before he hurried in after Kukai, Amu following in shortly after.

They all resumed their positions as Amu found her mom and sister on the bleachers, climbing up to go sit with them. She must have been positively glowing, because Ami didn't bother to ask how it went, she just smiled knowingly.

The pinkette sat with her hands tucked under her legs as she watched the game play out in front of her.

She recalled the very first basketball game she attended this year, mainly for the reason of seeing Ikuto play - though she never would have admitted it at the time, claiming she was there to support Kukai and no one else. Amu frowned as she realized that she was also on a 'date-ish' thing with Tadase that night. She made a mental note to text him later to see how he was doing. She may not have liked him anymore, but he was a wonderful guy and a great friend - one she still wanted to have in her life.

The crowd started counting down the final three seconds as Kukai dashed across the court, dribbling the ball. He stopped at the halfway point and passed the ball to Ikuto, who caught it after ducking under the arms of his opponent to snatch it out of his reach.

Everyone knew there was no way he'd make it to the other side of the court before that one second was up. So, braving it, he stopped at the three-pointer line and shot.

Nearly everyone held their breath as Amu stood up in her seat along with a few others to get a closer look at the net.

Just moments after the buzzer went off, the ball swished through the net and sent all of Seiyo's fans into a cheering frenzy, everyone standing up and patting each other on the back for a game well played and well won.

Utau ran out and jumped up into Kukai's arms, who happily twirled her around in the middle of the court.

Rima, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic about the win, but Nagihiko ruffled her hair to make her smile, despite trying to keep up appearances.

Sliding in between the crowds of people, Amu hurried down the bleachers and jumped into Ikuto's embrace, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck before placing a kiss to his lips.

She sighed to herself as she rested her chin on his shoulder, the cheering of the crowd drowning out and turning into white noise in the background as she held onto Ikuto tighter, closing her eyes. This was where she belonged. And something told her she wouldn't have to leave him again anytime soon.

And all was well.

Well…except for Kazuomi, who was found guilty of three other cases of rape and first degree murder, and would now spend the rest of his life in prison.

But with that aside, Amu knew that when her dad visited her in her dream, he was telling the truth.

She was going to be okay.

Author's Note: AND IT'S OVERRRRRR. But stay tuned! There will be a bonus chapter that'll be posted uber soon 'cause I already have it written. (I wrote it even before I made the very first chapter of this story. Aahhhah.) So. This is the outcome of being snowed in and lacking a day of school. Thank you all so much for sticking around for so long, even though at times it took me ages to update. Love you all and I'll hopefully see you in my next story! (might post a preview if many people want it) I so far have one chapter created, about Amu and Ikuto being best friends, but then….. WELL BYE.