*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*
EP 9a: VIDEO VENDETTA. THE GAME IS AFOOT!
Greg absentmindedly popped some bread in the toaster and finished heating up the two breakfast plates. Ami’s mother had left for her usual morning shift already and Greg was just waiting for Ami to come downstairs now.
He wondered what Ami was getting so upset about recently – not for the first time. Last night he’d felt especially concerned when Ami had proceeded directly up to her room for the second night in a row.
Actually, he was pretty sure the cause was both his and Urawa’s actions – even though he was trying to minimize that by not getting too involved – but it meant he was at a loose end for knowing what he could do to fix things. He’d almost asked last night if he could do anything, help somehow… but when he’d finally gotten into her room, he’d found he couldn’t say much beyond what he had. So it seemed that he would just have to continue trying to keep Ami from obsessing over the situation… and hope she could work it out.
Greg started eating and Ami showed up a few minutes later.
“Good morning…” she said, tentatively. They hadn’t had much of a chance to speak the previous night. Ami wondered if she should say something now.
“Morning,” Greg replied casually. Ami slid into the opposite chair and started to eat her own breakfast.
They slipped into the usual breakfast routine, eating with some idle chatter, mostly about homework. But Ami finally decided not to let the opportunity slip by. If there was one thing the analysis of last night had told her, it was that she had to start taking some more decisive action. It was the only way to resolve the situation.
“So, Greg… what was your actual motivation for climbing onto my balcony last night?” she inquired as he rose to place his dishes in the sink.
Greg didn’t turn. “As I said, to distract you and get some exercise…”
“Greg, please don’t dodge the question this time,” Ami responded.
Greg turned and blinked.
Ami fought the impulse to blush. “Look, I… I just mean that… well, I’ve been doing some thinking. You always seem to be doing things for me… but is it really for me? Do you even know you’re doing them? Is it just because we’re living together? What?” If she could only figure out why Greg was covering up his feelings.
Greg raised an eyebrow. “It might be that you’re thinking a little too hard,” he ventured.
“You’re still being evasive,” Ami pointed out.
Greg laughed and leaned on the counter. “All right then. If I say I only climbed onto your balcony because I was bored and wanted to see your reaction… would that help?”
Ami paused. “I… maybe,” she responded, suddenly uncertain. So it didn’t mean anything?
“Then what if I said I did it because I was genuinely concerned for your well being?”
“I…” Ami stopped, flustered. “Greg, why do you always say and do things so… offhandedly? It’s hard to know when you’re actually serious.”
Greg’s smile faded slightly. “We all have our secrets…” he replied quietly. Ami blinked and opened her mouth to ask what he meant, but Greg was already turning to leave the kitchen. “I just try to keep you on your toes is all,” he declared as he parted, tossing the full smile back over his shoulder. “Now better hurry up so we’re not late for school.”
Ami looked back at her plate with a frown, quickly finishing her meal. Perhaps she knew even less than she thought she did…
Greg flipped through the pages of the book without reading. He couldn’t read… his thoughts kept going back to Ami. It looked like he would have to watch what he said around her. He’d almost forgotten himself that morning! It was important not to open up to anybody, especially her. The balcony thing had probably been a bit too much after all… maybe it would be best to try and sever ties with Ami.
Stop the teasing, stop the hinting, stop doing things for her – after all, couldn’t that solve things? She’d end up with Urawa, no one would ask him any personal questions, and everything would be okay. Sort of like how things had gone in England… he’d been able to wrap matters up there with no problem. So how was this situation any different?
Greg sighed, finally closing the book. He knew what the difference was: Ami herself. And he wasn’t even going out with her! Maybe the fact that they were living together was more of a curse than a blessing. The physical proximity invited an emotional one too.
Greg shook his head, picking up his book and getting up from the library table. Well, he knew he couldn’t avoid worrying about her well being, somehow that just wasn’t in him. So he’d just have to work faster while living here, stop spending so much time on frivolous things – like this reading. As if he could use it to become a great writer anyway. In the meantime…
He found he didn’t like keeping things from Ami. Someone so lovely, deep blue eyes complimenting her hair so well… but he should have known she’d start wondering about him after a while, a person of her intelligence. And if he completely admitted his feelings, not only might that cause problems for her, but if they really got together afterwards and she discovered that…
Well, anyway, if he didn’t see her quite so much, maybe that would help. And if he did see her, he supposed he’d simply have to keep dodging, like he had this morning. Because some things… you just couldn’t tell anyone.
Greg replaced the book on the shelf and headed out of the school’s library, glancing at his watch. Classes were probably going to start again soon…
“Hey! Library again, huh? Still looking for books on creative writing?”
Greg turned. After a couple of seconds he recognized the guy from two weeks ago… the one who had kept smiling at him and who had asked him back to his house. “Uhhh, yeah…” he said uncertainly.
“Didn’t catch Umino’s “Lunchtime Views” then?”
“No,” Greg responded, taking a step back as the other guy took two forward.
“I suppose you’re still not interested in the books back at my place then?” the stranger responded, peering at Greg with a quirky smile.
Greg snapped his fingers. “I forgot! I need to call someone about an important matter before classes start! Er, sorry, maybe I’ll see you around some other time…”
Good enough excuse – maybe he’d even try calling the Game Centre and ask to work a little late this evening. Avoid any possible confrontations with Ami in the evening that way too. Greg backed off another two steps then turned and hurried away.
The other person watched him go with an amused look on his face. “So…” he murmured. “You still don’t know who I am…?” He glanced around and was about to move off when he caught sight of telltale odango moving in his direction.
“Usagi!” he called, moving to meet her. Usagi turned to him as he approached and rolled her eyes slightly. “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Lunchtime Views himself. Hi Kaijin.”
“Ah! You caught the show then! How did I sound?” Kaijin inquired, clasping his hands together.
Usagi shrugged. “Like a guy on the radio – half full of himself. Most of the school knows you, you don’t have to reiterate who you are three times.”
Kaijin smiled. “Well, I just wanted to be sure you were one of the ones who did know me. After all, if the prettiest girl in the school doesn’t know who I am, well, is there still reason for me to live?”
Usagi’s eyebrow twitched slightly. “Uh, look, I’m just here so I can return a book for Ami-chan…”
“Ah! What self-sacrifice, I’m impressed! While you’re here, perhaps I could even offer you some reading selections for yourself. Or perhaps we could set up another time that would be convenient – say, after school?”
Usagi sweatdropped. “Uh, I’m just here returning a book for Ami-chan…”
‘Subtlety is not the key with her,’ Kaijin realized. “Just wondering if you’d be interested in a date,” he elaborated.
Usagi jumped. Partially at the statement but mostly because the bell abruptly rang. “Uh, sorry, busy now, running late, gotta go!” she exclaimed, running past Kaijin and into the library then tearing back out a few seconds later.
She cast an odd glance over her shoulder as she went and almost bumped into a bunch of other students. Kaijin watched her go, shaking his head slightly. Shame – she really was the prettiest girl he knew. Ah well… she hadn’t said yes, but she hadn’t said no either. Kaijin wandered off in the direction of his next class.
Urawa drummed his fingers impatiently on the desk, glancing at the clock. Class was almost done. He had to corner Ami after school about the whole going to the arcade deal.
He’d missed her in the morning, she’d been busy at lunch, and he hadn’t thought of a nonchalant way to bring it up in between classes. Actually, he couldn’t really think of a nonchalant way to bring it up now, but that was no longer the point. He’d just sound casual. Something like…
The bell finally rang, shattering Urawa’s mental preamble. Blinking for a minute, he quickly remembered what he was trying to do and sprang up, hurrying out the door. He rushed to Ami’s shoe locker… but Greg was there ahead of him.
“…new video game’s finally online and Motoki asked me if I could recruit some extra help after school, just for today. I thought you might be a candidate.”
“Well… I had planned on just going home since there won’t be any juku…” Then Ami paused. Maybe it would provide more insight into Greg himself? “But, uh, I guess it would be okay – for a little while,” Ami agreed, hesitantly, searching for a reaction. Any reaction. “Will I have to do anything too technical? I…”
“Great!” Greg replied, cutting her off. “Don’t worry about things being difficult, you can just man the cash register or something.”
Urawa practically fell on his face, but managed to keep himself upright and unobserved in the crowd. Greg was beating him to the punch… again! “And how about that Usagi character too?” Greg continued. “Or that one with the ponytail?”
Ami smiled weakly. “I’m afraid Usagi has detention and I think Makoto had plans…” She paused. “Actually, how do you know the Sailor Moon game’s online now? You didn’t mention it this morning.”
Greg shrugged. “I happened to call the Centre during lunch.” And while Motoki had been all for a little later work… somehow, avoiding Ami just wasn’t in the cards. “See, Motoki finally got this part in last night after I left, and he wanted to get everything working for today, it being Friday,” Greg concluded. “He was pretty much prepared at a moment’s notice but is worried about being understaffed. I figure I can’t let him down and I remembered I saw you in the arcade the other day…”
Ami nodded. Well, Greg obviously cared about some things… there didn’t seem to be a clear indication as to whether he had asked her as a student or as a friend though. Pondering this, she followed Greg out of the school.
Urawa watched them go with a pained expression. “That guy STILL has the worst timing of anyone I’ve ever met!” he muttered.
The banner had already been strung out front when Greg and Ami arrived. Urawa trailed along behind them, unseen, more out of a lack of anything else to do now than for any other reason. There it was, just like his vision.
Sometimes seeing the future could be a real pain – it never let on about extra, important details like the fact that Greg was an employee. His “plan” had been doomed to failure from the start. Maybe this was fortunate though… would his asking of Ami seem pushy? Would it have spoiled his and Minako’s plans?
“…what are you staring at?” came a hushed voice behind him.
Urawa blinked, as he realized he’d moved into a crouching position and was now peering around the door into the Game Centre as people walked by him, going in and out. Flushing slightly, he turned to the person behind him. “Uh, nothing, I was just…” He froze. Minako peered past him and around the corner herself.
“Oh, I see – it’s Ami!” she noticed. “…and Greg,” she realized a second later. “How long have they been working here?”
“Eruh, Ami doesn’t work here, she’s helping with that new game,” Urawa said, gesturing at the banner. Just the right person to meet actually. “I don’t know about Greg.”
Minako nodded as she glanced at the banner. “I was wondering what the commotion here was about.”
“Minako…” Urawa began hesitantly. “Do you think things are working right? With Ami?”
Minako blinked back at him. “I thought you told me yesterday that Ami asked you about me.” Urawa nodded. “Well then, no problem,” Minako concluded brightly. “She’s obviously concerned about you. So we simply make her more conscious of those feelings.”
“But right now she’s in there with Greg,” Urawa pointed out.
“So we go in there and mingle with them,” Minako concluded with a shrug.
“Uhhhhh,” Urawa began uncertainly, but Minako was already moving. Urawa hurried after her. But they hadn’t gone two feet inside when there was a loud yelp from behind them.
“Urawa! I thought that was you!” came the familiar voice of Sewaya Kanren. “What are you doing out with her again? What are you trying to pull? How could you do this to your cousin??”
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