Marmalade Mercury: Ep 8b

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 8b: MIXED EMOTIONS. WHAT’S WITH THOSE TWO?

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<commercial break; Usagi, Mamoru and Kaijin skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

The words had come from Ami’s mouth before she was entirely sure that she’d spoken them. Ami felt her face start to redden and was glad this was all on the phone.

“Er, relationship?” Ami heard Minako say, somewhat warily. “Well, there was mention of how Sewaya seems to like me… or did you mean Urawa mentioning you?”

“I… s-something like that though not necessarily me,” Ami stated, trying to keep the nonchalant air in her voice. “That is, I mean, with all that’s been going on, I was just curious…”

Her voice trailed off.

It was apparently Minako’s turn to pause briefly.

“Ami, Urawa still likes you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she finally put forth.

‘But where do YOU stand on all this?’ Ami felt like asking. But somehow she couldn’t bring herself to do that. “Oh,” was all she managed to say in reply.

She’d been a little too bold and now felt lost. Maybe it would be better to bring this up with Minako another time, like at the study session? It would be more personal than the phone.

“Er, anything else, Ami?” Minako inquired ambivalently. “There’s a call I should make myself…”

“No… thanks… I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Ami concluded. Quick farewells were exchanged and Ami hung up the phone. She leaned back in the chair at her desk and closed her eyes.

That… hadn’t exactly cleared things up, had it. Though at least Minako had said Urawa still liked her. Ami frowned. Yet… that didn’t necessarily exclude Urawa from liking Minako TOO, did it… was she still at square one?

On a sudden impulse, Ami opened her eyes, reached back for the phone, and dialled Urawa’s number. His line was busy.

*****

Minako hung up the phone after placing a quick call to brief Urawa. They’d agreed to keep each other updated. And it seemed like Ami was getting uneasy now… but Minako wondered if she’d been too vague.

After all, the plan was to get Ami to recognize Urawa as a good person to be in a relationship with, despite what had happened in the past. It was not to make Ami give up on Urawa completely.

Minako stretched out on her bed. Actually, the more she got to know him, the more Minako liked Urawa as a person. You could tell he cared about Ami, and he certainly seemed less distant than Greg. Which kind of made everything just that more peculiar… what DID Ami see in Greg?

*****

The next morning went pretty much as any other for Ami. She hadn’t tried calling Urawa back – what would she say, anyway? And Greg didn’t ask any questions about what she’d been up to the previous night.

School also went as usual. Usagi apologized for the later study meeting (but apparently it was okay with Rei), Ami lunched with her and Makoto and she also saw Urawa in class and the hall a few times – but he hadn’t really approached her to talk. Juku went as it had the previous day.

Ami almost wished something unusual would happen, a power outage, a rainstorm, anything. It was almost annoying how all was right with the world when her life seemed more in turmoil than ever. Which was a totally irrational thought that Ami quickly pushed out of her mind.

Nevertheless, as Ami finally trudged up the temple steps in the evening, she reflected on the fact that here, at least, something was likely to happen. Yet as Ami arrived outside the door, that something was starting to sound like a quarrel.

“…being way too paranoid here!” came Rei’s voice.

“But he talked about her half the time we were together,” Usagi retorted. “How she’s studying to be a teacher, how he went out with her and Motoki a few years back…”

“But you said you ASKED about her.”

Ami slid open the door and peered inside. Rei and Usagi were having a verbal sparring match on one side of the table while Makoto and Minako sat at the other. Textbooks were open but neither pair was looking at them.

“Uhm, am I interrupting?” asked Ami, raising an eyebrow.

“Ami!” said Makoto, turning and smiling at her. “No, not at all, maybe you can get us back on track… we were all a little stumped on question 10…”

“And got distracted,” put in Rei, glancing at Usagi.

“I was just saying I’m a little unsure about this Kato person,” Usagi muttered, half to herself.

“Kato?” Ami echoed uncertainly as she slid into position at the foot of the table.

“An old friend of Mamoru’s,” Minako elaborated. “Usagi’s nervous because of the way she showed up out of the blue.”

“Well, wouldn’t you be wary of someone who looked like they were showing interest in your boyfriend for no apparent reason?” Usagi commented. “I mean, what’s with those two?”

Ami raised her eyebrows and glanced at Minako out of the corner of her eye, to observe her reaction.

But Rei replied first. “Usagi, they’re friends… that’s reason enough, no need to look for implications that don’t exist,” she pointed out.

“Well… yeah, I know,” Usagi admitted. “I guess I’m just unsure because I’m not fully aware of how the friendship started.”

Ami now noticed Minako turning slightly to look in her direction and she quickly turned her gaze to the textbook she’d just pulled out of her bag. Was it just her imagination, or could this all relate to her situation as well?

“If Mamoru had dated her – or felt uncertain about your relationship – don’t you think he would tell you?” Rei observed. “You two don’t tend to keep secrets.”

Ami furrowed her brow. Well, Minako had told her about liking and previously dating Greg. Would it not then follow that she would say something if she liked Urawa?

On the other hand, Urawa hadn’t said anything about liking Minako… not that Ami had been able to talk to him yet. But she didn’t seem able to talk to Minako either. So why the blossoming of their friendship? Should she confront Minako after the session?

Ami sighed involuntarily.

“I agree with Ami,” Makoto put in quickly, overriding the Kato ‘discussion’ that was starting up again. “Not that I’m thrilled about studying but we’ve sort of beaten the other topics to death… and I really need to look at this Physics because the teacher said we’d be building on it later.”

Rei paused mid-sentence and nodded. “Okay. We don’t want this to go on all night after all,” she asserted, glancing at the clock.

Things calmed down somewhat after that and Makoto managed to get a preliminary grasp on her physics problems. They all did a bit of math too before deciding to call it a night. And it wasn’t until Ami was halfway home when she suddenly realized that in the confusion of Usagi’s problems and the textbook exercises… she’d forgotten to confront Minako at all.

Ami sighed for what felt like the umpteenth time.

Why couldn’t this all have one simple solution – like question ten! What was she to do?

She realized that her friends hadn’t even asked her specifically about her relations during the session, like last time. The idle discussion had apparently been taken care of before, with Usagi. And Ami knew she should be delighted by how much work they’d accomplished – but she just felt muddled with respect to the rest of her life.

All right, Ami asserted, time to analyze things then.

The main problem was: Greg or Urawa? The secondary problem was Greg with Minako or Urawa with Minako. The former being what Minako would logically pursue – but it was the latter that seemed to keep turning up.

Greg had rejected Minako once long ago… had he done so again? Maybe that had changed her mind – yet why then pick Urawa over any other boy? There had to be a reason… did Urawa know what it was? Ami walked methodically, thinking, and she didn’t see the person coming the other way until she was practically on top of him.

“Out late, Ami?” came the tentative voice in front of her.

Ami looked up, wide-eyed. “Urawa!” she greeted, reflexively taking a step back. Was this good luck… or bad? It was typical luck these days anyway.

Urawa smiled. “Just picking up a few groceries myself,” he commented, holding up a bag. There was a pause. “Well, I’ll be on my way…” Urawa finished, continuing to walk past.

“N-no, wait,” Ami said, quickly trying to formulate a question. “Urawa, what were you and Minako talking about the other day?”

Urawa paused. “Which other day?” he inquired.

“At the Tower,” Ami clarified, wondering where she was going with this.

Urawa blinked then shrugged. “Er, not a lot. Sewaya generally…,” his voice trailed off into a vague gesture.

Ami nodded. “Urawa… do you like Minako?” she exclaimed quickly, before she lost her nerve.

Urawa stood for a moment.

How was he supposed to answer that? Where was Minako when you needed her? “Well, sure… as a friend,” he replied, hesitantly. “After all any friend of yours is a friend of mine, right?”

“Well, yes,” Ami relented.

She almost asked ‘Do you like me more’, but that sounded terribly egotistical – and if the answer was ‘yes’, he would probably be hurt by the allegation. ‘Do you like her as more than just a friend,’ had the same implications. She couldn’t accuse him of something that he was likely innocent of!

And now Urawa was just looking at her dubiously.

Ami forced a quick smile. “Just making sure she’s not bothering you,” Ami said swiftly. “I’ll see you in school tomorrow…!”

Ami hurried off, barely hearing Urawa’s goodbye. She couldn’t find out things through Urawa. She couldn’t risk inadvertently hurting him. This WAS just all theory – based on facts, but with no proof.

But if she couldn’t talk to Urawa, and she seemed unable to say the right things to Minako… who was left? WHAT was left? ‘What do I do?’ Ami mused, tossing out the mental cry once more, in frustration.

She opened the door to her house, mind spinning. She registered the fact that her mother and Greg seemed to be talking in the kitchen or something, but Ami had lost her appetite. Or at least she didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

She hurried up to her room, closed the door, locked it, dropped her books, and hurled herself onto her bed. She had to pursue this analysis further… after all, it was over a week and a half now since the problem had presented itself! Practically an eternity!

She didn’t want to lose Urawa. That thought finally pushed itself to the front of her mind. She didn’t want to lose him. Not again. Yet… she wasn’t losing him like last time. He wasn’t moving now, she was just seeing… less of him.

And for goodness sakes, hadn’t it been like that their last couple of months together anyway? So why the angst?

Because he might be going out with someone else, Ami realized. After all, when he’d left, she’d always imagined him finding some other nice girl abroad and forgetting all about her… and instead it looked like he was finding some other nice girl HERE and forgetting all about her. But in that case…

“Ami? Are you all right, dear?” Her mother tapped quietly at her door.

“F-Fine!” Ami called back quickly. “Just have some work I need to get done…!”

There was a pause. “Well, all right, your dinner’s on the table when you’re ready…” her mother replied.

Ami rolled over and grabbed a pillow. But in that case, her fears were really unfounded. Urawa had said he liked her, numerous times. So why was she was still imagining the situation she’d set up in her mind several months ago?

Ami frowned. But it wasn’t like tossing that scenario aside and deciding to go out with Urawa would immediately solve everything. For one thing, if Urawa and Minako really WERE starting some kind of… camaraderie, Ami didn’t want to infringe on the happiness of her friends.

For another thing, it might be awkward handling a return to the prior relationship. But more than that, choosing Urawa would also mean… would mean…

“Ami? Not hungry at ALL tonight?” came Greg’s voice, accompanied by a few taps on her door.

Ami squeezed her eyes shut. Choosing Urawa would mean NOT choosing Greg…

“Ami?”

“I’m f-fine!” Ami called back, trying to keep her voice from catching. “I’ll be down a little later!”

There was no reply to that, though it almost sounded like Greg had tried opening the locked door.

Discarding the pillow, Ami drew her knees up to her chest and encircled her legs with her arms. Well, what WAS it about Greg anyway?

His feelings for her seemed anything but straightforward. He seemed to write certain events off with ease. He never looked concerned. He wasn’t the type to get into profound conversations. If you disregarded that kiss (which he hadn’t taken too seriously!), maybe they were just getting to like each other as housemates.

Why be considering him as a potential… boyfriend?

She continued to turn that around and around in her mind.

There was more tapping and Ami lifted her head to look at the door – before she realized that the tapping wasn’t coming from the door. She jerked her head back in the other direction in surprise, then shock.

There was a small balcony area that overlooked the street. It was accessible only from her room. And it was where Greg was standing. Ami jumped off her bed to let him in.

“How did you get out THERE?” she inquired, aghast.

“Came over from the adjoining balcony,” Greg noted, brushing off his hands.

Ami glanced out. The balcony for the other room was several meters away. There seemed to be very little in the way of handholds in between.

“You’re kidding…” Ami gasped. But there wasn’t a ladder around either. Ami spun around, looking back into the room. “What were you THINKING?” she demanded. “You could have been badly hurt!”

“I figured it was the best way to get your mind off your problems and onto something else,” Greg commented impassively, tilting his head to the side. “You certainly didn’t sound ‘fine’ when I knocked, or look ‘fine’ from out there.”

Ami stared.

“Besides, the exercise was good. And don’t worry about me, I wouldn’t have made the attempt if I didn’t think I could do it successfully.” He put his hands in his pockets nonchalantly.

Ami searched for her voice. “You… but that was so dangerous!!”

Greg shook his head and his features hinted at a smile once more. “Ami… you have to learn to live a little. Don’t get so held up on something that you lose track of everything else. Take time to smell the flowers, skip the stones… climb the walls.”

He winked, but Ami found she could only stand and stare at him incredulously.

Finally, Greg reached out and poked Ami’s shoulder. “And the dinner your mother made is getting cold,” he commented as he proceeded past her. “You have to eat, Ami-chan! Can’t have someone with your IQ wasting away…”

Then before Ami could find her voice again, he had unlocked her door and departed through it.

Ami glanced back from her bedroom door to the balcony. And immediately knew the answer to the earlier question of why she was considering Greg.

Because, beneath the facade, Greg genuinely cared. Somehow, deep down, he was just like Urawa… the kiss, getting her a gift, showing her that picturesque spot, even taking foolish actions because of her.

So why didn’t he present things more obviously or sincerely? Ami shook her head. She wondered if the answer to that question would clear everything up…?

Her stomach grumbled. In the meantime though… Ami left her room through the now open door and hurried downstairs. Greg had been right – she really WAS quite hungry.

*****

Urawa lay back on his bed. That earlier conversation with Ami… well, it had been unnerving. Ami actually seemed to think there might be something between him and Minako.

But wasn’t that the idea? Or maybe now HE was reading too much into this… Urawa abruptly felt a familiar dull pain in the back of his head and he closed his eyes.

*The arcade … a Sailor Moon video game online … the date on the banner … tomorrow?*

Urawa’s eyes blinked open again and the vision was gone. But the gist seemed to be big things at the Game Centre. Maybe if he dropped some hints to Ami about it, they could have an ‘informal’ meeting there… just to talk, maybe to reassure that things might not be as they seemed?

Urawa wasn’t certain if it would be more reassuring for him, or for Ami… but after all, what was the harm in going to the arcade?

<closing theme>

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