Author: mathtans

Writer and high school mathematics teacher.

Marmalade Mercury: Ep 5a

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mb

*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 5a: CONFRONTATIONS. CAN A MEDALLION HELP?

<opening theme>

mm

All was silent outside the Mizuno residence. The street was deserted with the exception of two people.

Ami and Urawa stood and stared at each other in the dimming light as the sun began setting in the background. Urawa suddenly cleared his throat. “I’m sorry…” he said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said–“

“No…” Ami cut him off, finally finding her voice.

Urawa stared. “No… as in…?”

“N-no… no, it was nice of you to tell me… I just… I don’t know what to do,” Ami admitted, shaking slightly. “I… I only wish you’d said something then.”

Urawa nodded. “I… suppose I should have… I guess I just didn’t want to make you choose. I wasn’t sure… well, what would you have done?”

Ami shook her head. “I… I don’t know. I don’t really want to think about it. I mean… despite what the circumstances were of our… breakup… it happened. And you can’t change the past. And now is now. And… and… and I’ll need time to think about this.”

Urawa took a step closer and took Ami by the shoulders. Their eyes met. “All right,” Urawa agreed. “No problem, I can give you time. Just so long as you sort of know where I’m coming from… and why I may sometimes act in haste and such…” He paused. “I can’t help it, I don’t want to lose you now,” he added, almost unnecessarily.

Ami’s eyes quivered as the two of them continued to stare at each other. If only she could just call up her feelings for Urawa again… then things would be all right.

Urawa… months ago… the ferris wheel… their faces began to move closer together. It would be as it was…

“Hello, should you be doing that in public?” a voice interrupted.

Ami jumped back from Urawa as if she’d been struck. “Greg!” she cried out.

Urawa clenched and unclenched his fists as he turned to face the new arrival who had come up behind them. “YOU have to have the WORST timing of anyone I’ve ever MET,” Urawa pointed out with a frown.

Greg shrugged. “I don’t know, I have the feeling I arrived in time,” he commented.

“And who are YOU to judge?” Urawa returned. He wasn’t usually aggressive by nature, but this was too much… I mean, what gave this guy the right to intrude like this??

Greg probably didn’t even know Ami half as well as he did! He’d known her for months. Not going out all the time, but communicating, talking… Ami, with her amazing intelligence, kind heart and stunning looks. Ami, who he had left because it had seemed like he couldn’t be there for her, and she deserved more than that. Except he had been unable to forget her – and he could be here NOW.

“I don’t just mean TODAY either,” Urawa continued, frustrated. “Somehow I get the feeling you’re keeping one step ahead of me, and I don’t like it. I DON’T trust you! I don’t think I really like you either!”

“And I’m pleased to meet you too,” Greg returned, airily. “Do you want to have lunch sometime or just keep arguing here?”

The two rivals stared at each other.

“Stop it…” Ami abruptly murmured, off to the side. The two males turned to look at her. “Stop it, please!” Ami cried out, lower lip quivering, seemingly on the verge of tears.

Then before either of them could react, Ami ran into the house and slammed the door behind her.

Urawa jabbed a finger at Greg. “NOW look what you did!” he accused.

Greg raised an eyebrow. “I’ve just been standing here talking, you’re the one waking up the neighbourhood,” he pointed out.

Urawa’s frown deepened. “Fine,” he said, lowering his voice. “Then why don’t you just run on home before… before your actions cause real trouble.”

Greg paused, then shrugged and walked up to the front door of the Mizuno residence.

Urawa stared. “Hello? Did you not CATCH that?” he questioned, raising his voice slightly once more. “Where are you going? Don’t act as if you own her house!”

Greg turned back. “This is where I live at the moment,” he revealed. Urawa’s jaw dropped. “And before you disturb everyone within a kilometre radius,” Greg continued hastily, “this was a coincidence and a favour courtesy of her parents. Ami had nothing to do with it, and she doesn’t want people talking. So it might be wise to be discrete.”

Urawa glared. “Right, a coincidence. Like I believe that,” he contested.

Greg shook his head. “I don’t really care what you believe. Goodbye,” he concluded, and he walked inside the house, closing the door behind him.

Urawa continued to stare at the door, hands unknowingly clenching into fists again. “DAMN YOU!” Urawa finally cried out before running off, flustered, frustrated and upset.

Ami turned away from the scene she’d witnessed from behind the curtains of a second story room.

It was all getting out of hand… she’d… she’d have to choose one of them to stop this! But… but who…? She couldn’t choose! Not now! A single tear trickled down her cheek. It was shortly followed by several others.

*****

“Usagi, you really have to study your mathematics!” Luna, Usagi’s guardian cat, insisted. “You have no excuse for not doing it, there hasn’t been a need for Sailor Moon in two months – and you have a test next week.”

“But it’s sooo hard,” Usagi protested. “I mean look at question 15… they don’t even give us any useful numbers to work with!”

Luna sighed. “Maybe you should talk to Ami,” she suggested. “Or better yet, have another study session with the others, it’s been a little over a week since you got together, hasn’t it?”

“All right, all right,” Usagi yielded with a sigh. “But I don’t think that it –” she was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Usagi reached absently for the extension in her room, calling out “I got it!” to whoever else was in the house. “Hello?” she said.

There was a sniffle on the other end. “U-Usagi?”

“Ami?” Usagi verified. “What… what’s wrong?”

“I- I didn’t know who to call… I- I don’t know what to do…,” Ami whispered with a small sob. “I c-can’t concentrate anymore… there’s the two of them… too different… hate each other… have to pick… and our b-breakup was a mistake!”

“Wait a minute, calm down Ami… now is this about Urawa? Or Greg? Or something else?” Usagi questioned.

There was a pause as Usagi heard Ami blowing her nose. “B-both,” Ami’s voice came again – sounding slightly stronger. Or was that her imagination? “T-they were both here, Usagi… but… but I wasn’t supposed to break up with Urawa. This shouldn’t be happening!”

Usagi shook her head. “Slow down, Ami!” she implored. “Back up, what exactly happened tonight?”

Usagi lay back on the floor as Ami related the highlights of the evening’s encounters.

When she finally concluded, Usagi let out a low whistle. “I see. Well, that’s certainly a lot to lay on you all at once, I must say… makes me think of the time I found out Mamoru, of all people, was Tuxedo Kamen…” She paused. “But, er, what exactly makes you think this is forcing you into a decision?” Usagi finally mused.

“B-because if I don’t choose they’ll hate each other!” Ami said sadly. “Or hate me! Or what if one of them gets hurt… all because of me…”

Usagi sighed. “Ami… stay calm. You’re dreaming up worst case scenarios that are very unlikely to come true – after all, if both Greg and Urawa really like you, they’ll respect your wishes and your decisions. I’m sure the last thing they want to do is make you feel pressured or uncomfortable, right?”

“I… I suppose…,” came Ami’s uncertain response. “It’s just after this… what with the situation now and the kiss from before I just…”

“Whoa, wait, what kiss??” Usagi interrupted, eyes wide. The scope of this problem suddenly seemed a little larger than what she’d thought. “Who kissed you?”

Usagi could almost hear Ami wince on the other end of the line. “Oh… er… well, Urawa the other day – but… both… both of them actually…” Ami admitted.

“What??” Usagi practically shouted.

How could Ami have kept this a secret? This news was, well… BIG!

“Congratulations! When was this? How was it? Did you enjoy it…?” Usagi blurted out.

There was an awkward silence on Ami’s end of the line for a few seconds.

“Usagi, what ARE you going on about?” Luna spoke up over the conversational lull. “Is Ami having difficulties over something?”

Usagi blinked at Luna, remembering why Ami had called in the first place. Nodding briefly to Luna, she turned to the phone again. She was reminded of Luna’s study suggestion earlier; that might help take Ami’s mind off things.

“Okay, er… look, nevermind that right now. I’m having some trouble in math at the moment myself – hey, maybe the five of us can get together at the temple tomorrow and help each other out…?” she offered.

The silence on the other end of the line continued briefly, then was broken by the sound of Ami’s hesitant voice. “I… I suppose…,” she agreed.

Usagi grinned. “And in the meantime, Ami, don’t worry yourself over the situation. It’s not something to lose sleep over.”

At least, it didn’t seem to be… though if Ami was actually getting KISSED… well, who’d have thought it. Still, at least Ami sounded a little better now than when she’d called, that was the important thing.

They exchanged a few final words, then Usagi hung up the phone. For some reason she was reminded of the time Ami had caught the bouquet at the wedding for that teacher last year…

“Is Ami all right?” Luna asked, cutting into her thoughts.

Usagi blinked. “Er, yes, she’ll be okay,” Usagi assured.

Luna nodded. “Well… in that case, perhaps we should get a little work done on this assignment before tomorrow…?” she hinted. Usagi was unable to hold back a moan.

*****

Of course, it hadn’t been as bad as Ami had thought.

Thursday seemed to pass pretty much just like any other school day. Well, discounting the little glares that seemed to be passing between Urawa and Greg… though that was almost becoming routine, Ami reflected. Urawa had actually been avoiding her for part of the day too – obviously respecting her need for space and for more time.

Usagi had been right for the most part; and while this stalemate couldn’t continue indefinitely, it was nice to think that she wouldn’t need to constantly fret over it. Would she?

“Ami!” Ami turned. Makoto was walking towards her. “Ami, glad I caught you… that study session tonight’s gonna be postponed a while,” Makoto warned. “Usagi has detention for not finishing her homework or something, plus Rei’s grandfather is apparently making ancient sacrificial prayers at the temple for a while. We’re still planning on meeting for a short while later though, and you could come by after your juku…”

Ami nodded. “Sure. Thanks for the news,” she acknowledged.

Makoto nodded back. “In the meantime, you want to stop by the arcade?” she proposed. “I heard they have a new game.”

Ami paused, then nodded again. “Ok,” she acquiesced.

She often spent the time she had between the end of class and juku studying or reading in the library; sometimes she went home for a while, though the only time she’d been home early since Greg had moved in was the time she’d accidentally rummaged through his stuff.

Definitely the sort of thing she wanted to avoid.

So today… maybe going out with one of her friends for a change would be a nice diversion. Heck, she could probably use one before this love triangle stuff drove her around the bend. Just to get away from it for a while…

As if reading her thoughts, Makoto discussed schoolwork and other trivialities on the way to the Crown Game Centre. They arrived and greeted Motoki, who ran the place, before heading to where the newly installed game was.

Ami blinked. Makoto grinned. “Sailor Moon video game?” Ami said, smiling slightly.

Makoto nodded. “Go figure, hm? Sailor V no longer has the monopoly on video merchandise. Apparently you can pick any Senshi!” She looked around the machine. “Doesn’t seem to be working right now though,” she noticed, somewhat disappointed.

“Won’t be hooked in until Monday,” a voice behind them commented.

‘No…’ Ami thought. ‘It couldn’t be…’ The two girls spun around, Ami’s hands grabbing her bookbag a little tighter. Greg smiled back at them. “Fancy meeting you here,” he remarked casually.

<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Urawa skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

Marmalade Mercury: Ep 4b

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 4b: SECRETS OF THE PAST. THE TALE IS TOLD.

mm

<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Urawa skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

The next day basically began like any other. If you ignored the fact that Urawa had been waiting by her locker in the morning, so Ami hadn’t gone inside right away. And also the fact that he approached her at lunchtime, to be thwarted by the timely arrival of Usagi.

Ami supposed she would have to deal with the situation before too long. But the memory of Urawa’s kiss still lingered in her mind, the whole experience still rather upsetting. So she didn’t want to seem too available, fearing he might take that as reason to continue.

Plus she still hadn’t determined what to say. If he was still waiting at her locker the next morning… then… then they would have a chat…

He came after her at the end of classes as well though; Ami saw him approach through the crowded hall after the bell. With Usagi in detention and Makoto nowhere in sight, it looked like they would have to speak.

Ami wasn’t sure what to do… she hurried out of the school ahead of Urawa, but a quick glance showed him following her. It wasn’t time for juku yet, so she couldn’t use that as an excuse… how could she…

Ami suddenly caught sight of a red bow by the exit to the school grounds. Minako? Ami hurried over.

“Minako! What chance, could you walk with me?” Ami asked.

Minako paused. “Ami… hi… actually, I was sort of waiting for someone else.”

Ami glanced behind her again. “Please… I’m- I’m trying to avoid Urawa at the moment,” she implored. “He may not interrupt when there’s two of us.”

Minako frowned slightly then shrugged. “Oh, all right, let’s go to the Crown Cafe then.”

The two girls hurried off and another glance showed Urawa was not following. Ami breathed a slight sigh of relief and Minako looked at her quizzically.

“So why are you avoiding your old flame, Ami?” Minako asked.

Ami pursed her lips. “There’s issues… with us. I’m not ready to talk with him at the moment,” she answered.

Minako nodded as the two girls walked into the Cafe and took a seat, ordering drinks. “Okay… guess I won’t pry then. For the moment anyway,” Minako said with a smile. “Unless you want me to,” she reassured.

Ami shook her head slightly. “I’m… working it out. I’m just glad you happened along when you did.”

Minako nodded and took a sip of her drink as it was served to her. “Actually, I was looking to run into Greg,” she admitted. “Can you believe it’s been over two days and he hasn’t called yet?” Minako shook her head. “I must be losing my touch or something…”

Ami gripped her cup slightly tighter. Of course, Greg. Why else would Minako have dropped by the school?

So he hadn’t called yet. Was that good? Or was that just Greg being Greg? Ami paused, suddenly realizing what an opportunity had been presented to her.

She took a sip of her drink to compose herself then came out with it. “S-so where do you know Greg from then?” Ami asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Hm?” Minako looked up. If she noticed Ami’s slight anxiety she gave no sign. “Oh, of course,” she said, nodding. “It was… about two years ago, I guess… we met back in England, he was visiting there. He certainly gets around doesn’t he!” She smiled.

“Anyway, he was there for a period of about six months, and we went to the same school. He was fairly popular then too, but never wanted to go out with anyone, didn’t hang around much… always seemed to keep to himself. Of course, he couldn’t resist me though,” Minako noted, twirling a strand of hair in her fingers, grin broadening.

“So… he asked you to go out with him?” Ami prompted, uncertainly.

Minako titled her head slightly then shrugged. “Well, no, more the other way around I suppose,” she admitted. “But I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I mean come on, everyone has to get out sometime, it’s only natural – I mean, even you’ve been out with Urawa. Not that I’m exactly comparing the relationship,” she added.

“We talked, and he eventually agreed to give a relationship a trial run for three months, with a possible extension. So we went out… didn’t really get intimate or anything but still had fun together. Then after the three months…”

Minako frowned slightly. “He broke it off,” she divulged. She took another sip from her glass, shaking her head. “And our breakup was sort of weird, too…”

~~~~~

“I suppose you know what day this is?” Minako said with a smile. She and Greg had gotten together in the park that afternoon at her request.

“Umm… National secretary’s day?” Greg joked, smiling at her.

Minako rolled her eyes. “No you goof, we’ve been going out for three months now to the day,” she corrected. “And I want you to admit you’ve been enjoying yourself.”

Greg nodded to her. “All right. I admit I’ve enjoyed myself.”

“See? This relationship stuff isn’t so bad,” Minako asserted.

Greg nodded. “Maybe we can do it again sometime.”

Minako smiled then paused. “Sometime? Uhhh… why not now?” she proposed.

Greg turned away slightly. “The agreement was for three months,” he reminded her. “It’s been three months. It was nice, but… I’d rather not pursue anything further.”

Minako blinked at him. “Why not? Do you have to leave or something? Is there someone else? Did I say something wrong? What…?” her voice trailed off.

Greg shook his head. “I am leaving in a while, but that’s not it. There’s no one else. It’s not you. It’s just me. I… I can’t do this any more,” he stated. “I’m sorry. Thanks for a wonderful three months,” he finished, starting to walk away.

“W- wait a minute!” Minako shouted, grabbing him by the shoulder to stop him. “What are you talking about? Just ‘thanks, sorry, see you later’? That’s hardly an explanation…!”

Greg shrugged. “It’s the only one I really have right now. Best hopes for the future.” He began to move off again.

“So that’s it?” Minako stared. “Not even a goodbye kiss or anything?”

“I’m not worthy of that,” Greg called out as he walked, without even turning around. “Sorry,” he repeated.

Minako opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, trying to figure out what to say.

“You’re crazy!” she finally shouted out after him. “What, love just isn’t in your vocabulary any more? Is it impossible for you to care about a girl?”

There was no reply. Greg disappeared around a corner.

~~~~~

Minako shook her head again. “Anyway, he left England a while after that; went home I think. I didn’t reflect on it too much at the time… and well, soon after came Artemis and…”

Minako paused to make the “V” sign on her forehead. “So I basically forgot about him. But now to see him again… I don’t know, sort of like fate, don’t you think?” Minako concluded.

She downed the rest of her drink as Ami shrugged in reply. “What do you think about him?” Minako finally inquired.

Ami blinked. “Oh, he’s… interesting,” she admitted. “Still seems to keep his thoughts to himself…,” she said, calmly as she could.

Minako quirked an eyebrow. “Uh huh. So I don’t suppose you’d have an address for him then…?” she continued hesitantly.

Ami stared into her half empty cup. Well, she’d told Usagi and Makoto… and it was really only a matter of time before Minako and Rei would find out anyway. She glanced around briefly to be sure no one else was within earshot.

“Actually, don’t tell anyone but… he’s… he’s staying with me…,” Ami murmured, quietly.

Minako raised both eyebrows. “He is, is he?” she intoned. “Well, well… I guess that puts a different spin on things… is this what Usagi meant last week – talking about you and him?”

Ami shook her head. “She only found out yesterday… my dad made the arrangements when he was in Canada and I didn’t find out until after,” Ami explained. “So he’s in our guest room.”

Minako nodded and looked at her empty glass. “Hm. I can’t seem to think of a delicate way of putting this…,” she mused aloud. “But basically… Ami, are you thinking of going out with him then?”

Ami blushed visibly. “I… n- no, I don’t think so… I mean… I don’t know…,” Ami stammered.

Minako sighed. “All right, let me try putting it this way… would you have objections to me going out with him? I can back off if you like. I guess I just assumed that you and Urawa…”

Ami stared, speechless. “You… want to date Greg again?” she finally forced out.

‘Now what do I do?’ her inner voice cried out.

“Maybe,” Minako said, non-committally. “After all, never give up, right? Plus it would be better than dealing with the guy who arrived at my school…,” she paused and shook off the thought with a slight frown. “Anyway – as I say, if that bothers you though…”

Ami shook her head, perhaps a little too quickly. “N- no, that’s… okay. I mean, that would be more Greg’s decision anyway, wouldn’t it? I- I don’t have any claim. Why should I mind?”

Yes, why should she mind? Greg might prefer Minako anyway… he could have been shy in the past. Then, if he was out of the picture, perhaps things could return to how they were before, with her and Urawa. And life would be back to normal.

Ami frowned. Somehow… somehow it didn’t seem that simple though. If only… if only she was sure what she FELT.

Ami realized she was clutching her cup tightly and forced herself to stop. She smiled back at Minako. “It’s okay,” she reiterated, hoping both that she believed it… and that her statement wouldn’t complicate things. “At the moment,” she added, almost as an afterthought; just to have a safety barrier.

Minako stared at her for a minute or two then shrugged. “Er… all right then,” she concluded.

Ami nodded as she finished off her beverage. A change of topic was probably in order. “So, who is it who arrived at your sch…,” she began, but her voice trailed off when she happened to glance at her watch.

“Uh oh,” she moaned, interrupting her own thought. “If I don’t hurry I’ll be late for juku! Th- thanks for the chat, Minako, I’ll see you around later!” she finished, hurriedly.

Minako smiled as Ami stood. “I’ll be around,” she answered. The two girls exchanged goodbyes and Ami hurried on her way.

*****

Ami peeked out of the seminar building, but Urawa was nowhere to be seen. It almost surprised her, and she wondered if she should be pleased or not that he seemed to have given up.

It didn’t really please her. Now she felt guilty for not talking with him earlier.

Ami shook her head as she walked home. Well, tomorrow morning then, they’d talk… because despite what he did, she certainly didn’t want to lose him. Especially if Greg and Minako got to talking and… well… no, she was overreacting. She hoped.

Did saying that she didn’t care who Greg went out with mean that she didn’t like him? Had she said that? Ami frowned. Geez, she had to stop thinking about this situation so much! What would be, would be, right?

She turned her attention to the class she’d just been at and tried musing over the new mathematical notation they’d been taught. Her thoughts on that subject lasted a full five minutes… until she turned the final corner, looked up and saw Urawa waiting outside her house.

“Ami… please don’t run…,” he beseeched her. Ami stood nervously, then slowly approached. Somehow she felt like she couldn’t have run even if she’d wanted to.

“Ami,” Urawa started, “you’ve been avoiding me. I can sort of understand that given how I acted – but please understand I REALLY didn’t mean for it to come out like it did… or for it to upset you like that…” He paused, and Ami nodded. Words were trying to form on her lips, but they weren’t coming out.

Urawa pressed on. “I probably wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the fact that I’m worried I’m going to lose you; plus I guess you were partially right… in my mind we never completely broke up. You know I’ve regretted what happened and if I’d only seen this in the future, I never would have let it happen. So to hear this stuff about Greg now, it’s… distressing.”

Urawa suddenly paused as if considering something.

“And there is one thing I’ve been holding back from you…,” he admitted. “About our breakup.”

Ami simply waited uncertainly, her throat dry. Urawa seemed to take that as an invitation.

“It… it didn’t seem too important at the time,” he revealed. “But the day I left Japan… it was actually the same evening as your ‘Snow White’ play. I figured you’d probably want to see me off and all that, and would have to drop your part… which may not have been a big deal, since you were short a dwarf already and, er, adapting parts of the story anyway. But there was a vision I had the day before we… parted.”

He paused again.

“I saw you at the play… I saw a cardian attack… and I saw you, Mercury, freeze him. Thus I was worried that if you weren’t there… something else might happen. Something bad.”

Ami stared, speechless. Of all the things Urawa could have said, this was probably the last one she’d figured on. He continued, relentlessly.

“I figured if I told you, you might shrug it off and come anyway, leaving it up to your admittedly capable friends… but I didn’t want either of us to feel responsible if it was YOUR attack that turned the tide. Plus I’ve found there’s an inherent danger in revealing too much about the future to others. So, considering I was going away in any event… plus given how worried I was about our relationship surviving the distance and my fear about tying you down… I decided it would be best if I just left. And I never intended to tell you. But if I hadn’t been so hasty, if I’d said something, if we’d stayed together for what turned out to be a rather unanticipated brief period of time… would things be as they are now? Because… because I won’t just give you up to him without a fight!”

Ami swayed slightly on her feet. Could it be possible? Their breakup… somehow the result of a miscommunication? Misinterpretation? Misunderstanding?

There was now apparently no doubting that Urawa cared for her… and… and she… she… Ami shivered, quelling the urge to cry out. She didn’t know what to do! What was she supposed to do??

<closing theme>

Marmalade Mercury: Ep 4a

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 4a: SECRETS OF THE PAST. THE TALE IS TOLD.

<opening theme>

mm

Ami lay in bed, staring out the window. She had thought there would never be a time when she didn’t feel like going to school, but here it was.

For while school was educational, even fun, it was also where Urawa would be. And she didn’t want to see him, not now, not after yesterday. She leaned against the windowsill and squeezed her eyes shut.

Whatever had Urawa been thinking? She tried to review the turn of events of the previous day in her mind again.

~~~~~

“No time like the present?” Urawa whispered.

It was a question, but one Ami felt unable to give a quick answer to. A minute passed as Ami tried to figure out if Urawa was serious or not…

And then before she could protest, Urawa kissed her.

Ami accepted it, mostly out of shock than anything else. It wasn’t like Greg’s kiss though, not light and simple, it was more intense, more urgent. Not unpleasant, really.

But somehow not right either… not right… Ami broke away and backed up against the row of lockers.

“No…” she murmured. Then, more forcefully. “No, no… what… what are you doing?” she demanded, staring at Urawa, eyes wide.

Urawa stared back. “You agreed it might be fun to compare…”

“No,” Ami interrupted, shaking her head quickly. “No, you’re… you’re acting like things were three months ago! It’s not three months ago, it’s now! You… you can’t just pick up where you left off!” she objected, shaking slightly.

“Ami…” Urawa breathed quietly.

“It’s… it’s too fast… we’ve never kissed before…”

“Ami, I didn’t mean to upset you…”

“No, I… I… I can’t deal with this now,” Ami finally asserted, and with that she ran off before Urawa could continue.

Making it the second time in as many days that she’d run away from someone who supposedly admitted to liking her. But she doubted Urawa would take it in stride like Greg had.

Her Monday morning had been like any other, Greg not mentioning anything about the events at the amusement park on the previous day. Nor had he said anything about it that evening when she’d arrived home.

~~~~~

‘Nor will he today,’ Ami concluded with a sigh, opening her eyes again to face the rising sun.

Two kisses… so drastically different. Two people, also different… like night and day. So which one did she like? Which one… Ami turned to look at her desk, upon which sat a Mercury plushie and the star candy she’d carried away with her the previous day.

She frowned, then turned back to the window and shook her head. She searched within herself for the centre of calm she needed.

She couldn’t let all this get to her, or allow it to interfere with her studies! She refused to let love dominate her life!

*****

“Ami, here you are!”

Ami looked up from her textbook. Both Usagi and Makoto were looking down at her, peering around the tree trunk. She waved slightly.

“Ami, we’ve been looking for you over half the lunchtime,” Makoto continued. “Why’re you hiding out here?”

Ami shrugged. “It’s a quiet place I can study,” she replied. “I just wanted to get away for a while.”

“Ami, don’t give us that,” Usagi chided. “You’ve been pretty much avoiding everyone since yesterday morning. Is it because of the rumours that were floating around?”

“Yeah, if there’s a problem or something, we’d like to help,” Makoto chimed in. “We are your friends, after all…”

Ami sighed. Part of her wanted to just tell them everything. But another part of her feared what her friends might say. Oh, not that they’d tease her or tell anyone or anything… she was pretty sure she could count on them to be discrete… but more that they would encourage her to get involved in a relationship of some type.

And right now Ami wasn’t sure she wanted anything of the sort.

“Ami…?” Usagi prompted again.

Ami bit her lower lip. “Promise you won’t tell anyone…” she murmured. Usagi and Makoto sat down nodding.

Ami glanced down at the open textbook in her lap.

“My… my parents made some arrangements while my dad was overseas,” Ami began. “And while their intentions were good, they just forgot to tell me about it until… until it was too late to back out. And so the net result is… well… now Greg Anderson and I… we’re living together,” Ami admitted.

She waited for her friends to say something, but there was only silence. Ami glanced back up to see Usagi and Makoto staring at her uncertainly.

“So, what, you and Greg are…,” Makoto whispered.

“Housemates,” Ami finished, uncertainly. “It’s… it’s not THAT terrible,” she put in quickly. “I mean, he stays in the guest room down the hall from me and my mom. It’s just a weird situation… but with how things have been, people might get to thinking…”

“Oh!” laughed Usagi. “Okay. You just sounded so serious that I thought…”

“Er, what exactly’s the situation then?” Makoto cut in briskly. “He hasn’t done anything to you… has he?” she said suspiciously.

Ami shook her head. “No, no, he’s not harassing me or anything, really… it’s just… with him here… and now with Urawa back… I don’t know what I should do…”

Makoto nodded, and paused. “So do you like Greg then?” she asked.

Ami bit her lip and shrugged. “I… I don’t know,” she confessed.

“Do you still like Urawa?” Usagi questioned.

“I don’t know,” Ami repeated glumly. “I’m starting to wish neither of them had ever shown up.”

Usagi and Makoto exchanged a glance.

“I didn’t realize this had become such an issue with you, Ami,” Usagi remarked. “But I have a feeling that deep down, you don’t mean that. Take some time to think, and if you want to bounce some thoughts off of us, we’re here for you, you know that.”

“This isn’t something you need rush into,” Makoto agreed. “Just go one day at a time. And if you just want to be friends with either of them… be friends. Ultimately it will all be your decision, no one else’s.”

Ami nodded as she glanced back down at her text.

They were right, of course. She had probably blown things a little out of proportion… plus there was no real hurry to decide anything. She just didn’t like keeping Urawa and Greg in suspense – she’d seen the two of them glancing at each other in class that morning.

Urawa hadn’t looked very comfortable, and Greg… well, he’d been as hard to read as always. There was also the fact that the longer she waited on a decision, the more rumours that might start up. But… it was her decision. Yes.

A bell rang, signifying an end to lunch.

Ami quickly gathered her text and half eaten sandwich and stood along with her friends. “Feel any better now, Ami?” Usagi asked.

Ami nodded slightly and smiled. She did feel like some weight had been lifted from her shoulders… but of course, she’d only really laid half her cards on the table. There was still the matter of the kisses…. and Minako.

*****

Ami walked inside the house and slipped off her shoes. She’d had to avoid Urawa twice that afternoon – once after school, and once after juku.

She supposed it was a little silly of her to do so, but she just didn’t want to talk with him face to face yet. Or with Greg for that matter; not until she’d sorted out her feelings. Unfortunately, Greg she couldn’t really avoid.

To her surprise though, he wasn’t in the kitchen when she entered, so she ended up eating by herself.

On the way to the stairs, however, she heard him mumbling chess strategy in the living room. Thus Ami waged a brief inner battle with herself… and curiosity won out. She poked her head around the door, just to observe quickly. Greg heard her.

“Evening, Ami… enjoy dinner?” he asked, glancing up from the chessboard in front of him.

“Er, yes, fine,” she replied. “Don’t mind me, I just thought I heard you mention the Kolchinsky gambit…”

Greg nodded. “Yeah, I did, but I don’t think it applies here. Yet somehow I think there’s mate in three.”

Ami advanced a bit into the room, the notion of a chess problem intriguing her, and looked closer at the board. She frowned. “Mate in three? The king is so well protected I don’t think a mate is imminent at all…”

Greg shook his head. “No, actually, mate is quite imminent. I can certainly see it in four… just move the knight in here, thus forces the king to castle, then attack the right side with the bishop and queen…”

Ami blinked as he moved the pieces. “Checkmate,” she admitted, feeling somewhat foolish not to have noticed it before.

Greg nodded. “I played a fair game of chess back in Canada,” he admitted. He looked back up at her. “You’re troubled by something. I can tell in your eyes and your inattentive chess play,” he pointed out.

Ami blushed lightly. “No, nothing really… nothing you can do anything about, anyway,” she insisted.

She moved to go before Greg could say anything else, but he was already standing.

“Here, come with me,” he said, taking her by the hand.

“Greg, I don’t –” Ami started.

“Wait, I got my bicycle sent up… do you have a bicycle?” Greg interrupted.

“Well, yes, but I don’t ride much, I –“

“Good, I thought that other one was yours. This won’t take long. Just follow me,” Greg intoned, leading a semi-unwilling Ami out of the house.

“Shouldn’t we at least tell my mother that –“

“She’s busy upstairs, we’ll be back before she knows it… and it’s late, so don’t worry about being seen by classmates.”

Thus Ami found herself riding along the road of the slowly darkening city, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. She’d come home, semi upset about her personal life… seen Greg in the living room… now they were riding through Juuban.

It was nonsensical… yet somehow it seemed perfectly normal. Ami’s thoughts were abruptly interrupted by his voice announcing “We’re here”.

Ami looked over at Greg – and behind him. The view was quite astounding from where they were!

Ami glanced about a minute to get her bearings; they’d gone off the main road a bit, back onto a trail through the trees. Ahead was a clearing, with a hill that sloped down into a small lake.

The sun had mostly set, but there were still some streaks of colour in the background sky, and yet the moon also reflected slightly off the surface of the water, rippling as waves moved through courtesy of an unknown source. A bird called out from a nearby tree.

“It’s… beautiful,” Ami breathed.

“Better right at sunset,” Greg commented, setting his bike aside and moving closer to the water. “But quite tranquil this time of day too.”

“How did you come across it…?” Ami asked, moving to join him. “I mean, I’ve been in this area before, but this particular perspective…”

“Oh, your tour the first day inspired me to look around myself,” Greg revealed. “Discovered this place one day last week when you were at juku. Helps one to relax, I think.”

He picked up a stone and skipped it across the water experimentally.

“Three skips,” he commented, picking up another stone. “You try,” he added, offering the stone to her.

Ami blinked as she looked from Greg to the stone. She nodded slightly, and took it gingerly, weighing it in her hand. She gazed out at the water, considering its level and her distance, then took a measured step and let fly. The stone skipped once and sank.

Ami frowned as she heard Greg laughing behind her. “What?” she demanded, turning back.

“Ami, you’re thinking too much,” he ventured. “I could almost hear the gears turning in your head.” He picked up another stone. “Try again, and this time don’t analyze. Relax, no one cares if the rock reaches the other side of the lake or not! Ease up – go by instinct.”

“Hmph,” Ami replied, accepting the other stone nonetheless. She then flung it at the water quickly, without conscious thought, just to show Greg.

And watched as the stone skipped merrily across the water four times before sinking.

“See, some things come easier when you’re not thinking about them,” Greg pointed out.

“That was more like luck,” Ami protested, continuing to stare at the spot where her stone had disappeared.

“Uh huh. Let’s see you do it again then,” Greg challenged. He advanced with a few stones and handed half to Ami.

“Fine,” she said with a smile.

The two of them began to launch stones across the water, calling out the number of skips as they went. It was when Ami had managed to get a stone to skip six times that she suddenly realized Greg had become very silent.

Ami turned, to see he was now standing still – and staring at her. Staring… yet his gaze seemed to reveal nothing. Ami stopped and returned the look. For a few minutes, silence reigned.

A breeze suddenly rushed through the trees and Ami shivered slightly as she realized darkness had set in several minutes ago.

Greg turned away. “We should get back, just in case your mom does come downstairs,” he noted, going back to his bicycle.

Ami stood a moment longer. “R-right,” she finally agreed, hurrying to her own transportation. What exactly had he been thinking?

As the two teens pedalled back to the Mizuno residence in the darkness, Greg turned to Ami. “By the way, can you keep that place our secret?” he asked. “It’d be bothersome to have a bunch of people come by and spoil the serenity.”

“Right…” Ami agreed again, though her thoughts were not completely on the current situation. She’d just realized what Greg had been doing; giving her a break. Creating a diversion for her from her problems!

Sort of ironic, considering Greg was, in a way, one of those quandaries. But the almost unnerving thing, however, was that it had worked…

<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Urawa skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

Marmalade Mercury: Ep 3b

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 3b: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS! WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?

mm

<commercial break; Minako, Urawa and Sewaya skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

“Ami, if you don’t smile I may just have to tickle you.”

“What??” Ami gasped, turning to look at Greg. He shook his head at her.

“Amusement parks are supposed to be fun… we’ve been here fifteen minutes and you keep glancing around like you’re afraid someone’s going to jump out at you at yell ‘boo!’,” he pointed out. “Try to relax a little. If it makes you more comfortable we could split up…”

“N-no, no… that’s okay,” Ami said.

No point in possibly hurting his feelings over her admittedly silly paranoia. Of course, it didn’t exactly help that the last amusement park she’d been to had been with Urawa last year, when they’d been on the Ferris wheel. Or that the time Ami hadn’t spent in her room studying on Saturday had been spent worrying about what might happen today.

“It’s just there’s some things on my mind,” Ami admitted.

“Forget them. Take it easy. Look, here one of those UFO catcher games, I’ll win something for you… what do you want?” Greg offered.

Ami blinked looking from Greg to the game and back. “Er… I, I don’t know…,” she said.

Greg waited expectantly. Was he serious this time?

“Er, how about that blue one,” she said, indicating a rather cute little kitten.

Greg nodded. “Right, let’s see if I can figure this out then,” he said, starting to manipulate the machine.

Ami turned to scan the crowd again, absently. What if Urawa had come to the park too…? She shook her head. Her thoughts shouldn’t be of Urawa when she was with Greg. Just like they shouldn’t be of Greg when she was with Urawa. It made no sense.

She looked back briefly at Greg as he worked the crane into position. Was it her imagination or was Greg being overly nice to her today?

She paused, looking down. Of course, he was never really mean… and he had been gracious enough not to bring up that incident on Umino’s show yesterday. But then, he never did seem to bring things up himself, did he… it was so hard to figure him out. Maybe that was part of his charm…

“Here you go,” Greg said. Ami turned and looked up as he held out a doll. Ami stared.

“A Sailor Mercury plushie?!” blurted Ami. He HAD to be putting her on. And surely he didn’t know she was…

“Sailor Mercury? That who it is?” Greg remarked. He frowned slightly. “Is it wrong? You did say the blue one, and if she isn’t as blue as your lustrous hair, I’ll eat my math homework…”

Ami closed her eyes for a minute and shook her head. “No, it’s fine, thank you…” she replied, allowing herself a small smile.

Not his fault, she should have been more specific… anyway, it was a nice doll. She took it from him and gazed down upon it. A little chill ran down her spine. It was almost like her first gift from Greg…

“Ami!” came a voice off to her right.

She looked up, startled, then relaxed a bit seeing who it was. She hurriedly tucked the plushie into her bookbag, out of sight.

“Usagi… Mamoru… didn’t expect to see you here,” she greeted them.

“Well that goes double for us,” Usagi commented. “Not to mention you and… Greg,” Usagi said, winking and stressing his name slightly.

“Now, now, Usako,” Mamoru chastised her playfully. “It’s a fairly large park and they may not have come together, after all.”

“Well, it’s nice to see you two together now then,” Usagi continued, undaunted. “Anyway, we just came over to the games area because Mamo-chan said he’d win me something.”

“Er, I said I’d TRY…” Mamoru corrected.

“Oh, you can do it, I have faith,” Usagi countered, holding onto his arm and smiling up at him. “But we noticed you and just thought we’d say ‘hi’,” she added turning back to Ami. “Nice to see you getting out.”

Ami smiled. “Nice to see the both of you, too. As long as you’re not going to be jumping to conclusions again,” she emphasized.

Usagi rolled her eyes. “Perish that thought,” she replied. “Anyway, I won’t keep you… just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she finished.

Mamoru raised his eyebrows and looked down at Usagi, eliciting a giggle from Ami.

“Don’t mind us. Have fun,” Mamoru put in.

Greg watched somewhat bemused as Mamoru and Usagi continued onwards. “Usagi’s boyfriend I take it,” he commented. “He almost looks old enough to be her teacher.”

“No, he’s still in University,” Ami said, shaking her head.

She smiled slightly. Oddly, seeing Usagi had put her a little more at ease. It still might be best not to stand out in plain view though. Even with the crowd here… She turned.

“Want to go into the Hall of Mirrors over there?” she motioned.

Greg turned. “Sure… I’ll see you in there in a second, just need to retie my shoelace…” he said, bending down. Ami nodded and proceeded over to the attraction.

Walking inside, it was like walking into a crystal or something, her image reflecting off every surface, sometimes at crazy angles. She moved through uncertainly. Odd how they could create tricks of the light and illusions of passages.

She turned. Where was Greg? Had he been held up? Ami almost hit her nose against one of her reflections as she looked about her. This was quite confusing! Might be interesting to analyze it sometime with her computer… she felt her way along.

What had happened to Greg? Surely he couldn’t be that far back… Ami found herself at a dead end and retraced her steps. Had Greg just let her go in here to see if she could get through? Was this another of his strange jokes? Or… maybe something had happened to him? Or even… was he trying to… get rid of her?

Silly as her thoughts seemed, Ami suddenly felt more urgency as she tried to get through the maze.

This way… no, wait there was a passage… no, she was sure she’d been here before… no… no… Ami resisted the urge to cry out. This was silly, this was all so silly… but where was she… and where had Greg gone… and where was the passage… and there were too many of her in here and what should she do and she had to get out, find the exit where was the exit it was another mirror and she was trapped and what was going on and the EXIT, THERE it was at last.

Ami hurried out of the building, breathing a sigh of relief… that caught in her throat at who she saw before her. Greg. With Minako. Holding hands. This just wasn’t happening, was it?

Ami stood silent for a moment, wondering if she shouldn’t just slip off and leave the two of them together. But then Minako caught sight of her.

“Ami!” Minako called out. “Hi! My goodness it’s amazing the number of people I know that I’m running into today. First Usagi, then Greg, now you!”

Ami approached cautiously, her heart in her throat. “You… you know Greg then?” she asked, surprised at how calm her voice sounded.

Minako nodded. “Sure, we go way back… how do you…? Oh, wait, transfer student named Greg at your school, of course… I didn’t even think,” she realized, putting two and two together. “You didn’t say it was Greg ANDERSON. I mean, I know him from before I moved into the area… hm, possibly even before I met Artemis! Greg, you’ll have to give me your current phone number… where are you staying?” she asked, turning back to him.

“Er…” Greg paused, glancing back at Ami.

Ami shrugged. It looked like yesterday’s fears had not been unfounded after all.

“Er, it’d be easier if you gave me your number… I promise to call,” Greg told Minako.

Minako paused, then wrote her number down. “All right, but you’d better call!” she said, slipping the paper into Greg’s pocket. “Or I’ll have to send people after you!”

Minako grinned. “Anyway, I have to be getting home… talk to you later! Oh, bye Ami,” she added as she moved off.

Ami stared at Greg for a minute. “You didn’t tell her,” she observed.

Greg shrugged. “She seemed to know you. I didn’t feel like explaining things right now, but didn’t want to give her the wrong idea,” he answered.

‘Give her the wrong idea?’ Ami thought. ‘What idea is that?’ “So you two were close?” Ami said uncertainly.

Greg shrugged again. “Well, yeah, kinda. We went out for a while, did the usual stuff.”

The bottom dropped out of Ami’s stomach. “Oh. Usual stuff. Right.”

“Holidays I mean, that sort of thing,” Greg clarified airily. “We never went too far. You were the first girl I ever actually kissed – and I didn’t expect you to be awake.”

Ami felt her body turning to jelly. How could he just toss that out so calmly??

“Then you admit… you actually… you… WHY?” she demanded, forcing out the question that had been plaguing her all week.

Greg quirked an eyebrow at her. “Why do you think, Ami-chan? Obviously because I LIKE you,” he declared with a shrug.

Ami searched for her voice. Was he SERIOUS? He didn’t sound that serious, he just sounded like he did all the time. But did he really…?

Greg winked at her and tilted his head slightly.

He wasn’t being serious. This had to be one of his STUPID games… the other options were… were ones she didn’t want to think about. It was all too much.

“You… you shouldn’t talk about love so flippantly!” Ami heard herself say, and with that she turned and hurried away, just wanting to return home, to get away from Greg, away from Minako, away from the park and the world that seemed to be crashing down around her.

She remained in her room most of that night, studying, dismissing the day from her mind as best as she could.

*****

“You were out with Greg.”

It was a statement, not a question, but Ami felt it deserved some sort of response anyway. “S-sort of,” she admitted. “We were together at the amusement park yesterday. It… it didn’t really mean anything though,” she emphasized.

Actually, Ami had a feeling that it had meant something, but even now, twenty four hours later, she preferred not to consider it.

Urawa nodded to her and popped a candy into his mouth. “You like him.”

Again, not really a question. But it hung in the air of the deserted school corridor, the other students having left the immediate area following the conclusion of their Monday classes.

“I-I don’t know,” Ami murmured, her eyes shifting down to her feet.

A couple of other students had also seen her and Greg together on Sunday. Of course, given Umino’s Friday broadcast, word had gotten around. To Ami’s relief it hadn’t been as bad as she had feared; most people seeming to disbelieve the claim due to her history, a lack of proof, or whatever.

It didn’t matter, really. Though it had been enough for Urawa to request a talk with her at the end of the day.

“I see,” came the response. There was a pause. “I’m prepared to win you back any way possible,” Urawa abruptly continued.

Ami remained silent, eyes on the floor, not sure what to say this time. There was a longer pause.

“Star candy?” Urawa offered, breaking the silence.

Ami looked up; Urawa was offering his bag of candy to her. “Er, all right…,” Ami agreed, hesitantly taking one. She smiled slightly, trying to lighten the mood. “Some say these types of candies indicate a bond of friendship.”

Urawa smiled back. “Yeah, I’ve heard that. I’ve actually heard a few different tales to do with these.” He paused and looked at a candy in his hand. “I think it’s also been said that they… taste like kisses. Weird, huh?”

Ami giggled and looked down at her own candy. “I wonder how they can claim that,” she mused. “It’s an odd comparison.”

“One that might be fun to explore sometime…” Urawa commented.

“I suppose so,” Ami nodded. There was another pause and Ami shifted her gaze back to Urawa.

She almost jumped back when she found Urawa standing directly in front of her, looking into her face.

“No time like the present?” he whispered.

This time it was a question. But there was no answer. The two of them stared at each other for another minute… then before Ami could protest, Urawa leaned in and kissed her.

<closing theme>

Marmalade Mercury: Ep 3a

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 3a: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS! WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?

<opening theme>

mm

Ami pulled a sandwich from her lunch box and began nibbling on it. Thursday had passed pretty much without incident, and it was finally the end of the week.

‘And what now…’ mused Ami. She still wasn’t sure if she should ask Minako about Greg or not… she certainly couldn’t ask Greg. But she also couldn’t deny Urawa an answer forever; she had almost sensed Urawa watching her, waiting for her to approach him, but it may have been her imagination.

As she flipped the page of a textbook in front of her, a shadow fell over it. Ami looked up.

“Feeling better today, Ami?” Usagi asked, taking a seat next to her on the grass.

“I suppose,” Ami answered absently.

“Glad to hear it!” Usagi replied. “Don’t let Urawa’s arrival get you down… or Greg’s for that matter. Remember you have friends who’ll be behind you all the way,” she said with a wink.

Ami smiled back. “I know. Thanks,” she said.

Ami paused to take another bite of her sandwich as Usagi took her lunch and a radio out of her book bag.

“Usagi… have you and Mamoru… kissed?” Ami inquired tentatively. That was the other thing on her mind… what Greg’s intentions were towards her.

Usagi shrugged. “Well, yes, I suppose…,” she answered. “Nothing major but a peck now and then as a way of showing our affection… why?”

Ami shook her head. “No reason, really,” she hedged. “Just… curious.”

She supposed that her… kiss… hadn’t been too prolonged either. Actually she was starting to wonder if she’d just dreamed the whole event.

“Don’t be getting too far ahead of yourself now, Ami,” Usagi interrupted her thoughts with a grin.

Ami blinked and nodded, looking back at her sandwich. She disliked involving her friends with things that were really just her personal problems… they had enough to deal with themselves. But this whole situation was really having repercussions for her…

What would they say? Could they really help anyway? Maybe if she just told Usagi about her living situation… doubtless Usagi or her other friends would find out sooner or later if they dropped by.

“Usagi…” Ami began.

“Hold on… Umino’s show’s about to start,” Usagi said, fiddling with her radio.

“What?” Ami said, puzzled.

“Don’t you remember? Umino got approval a few weeks ago to have some airtime for a local school talk show or something… to be broadcasted over lunch. They’ve been setting up stuff in that abandoned room for the past while and today’s his first programme,” Usagi reminded her.

“Oh, right,” Ami nodded, recalling. She remembered the name had been a bit unimaginative… Time for News… Views over Lunch… Lunchtime Views, that was it.

“He’s on!” Usagi said, turning up the volume a bit.

“Hello Juuban Jr. High,” came the slightly static-filled voice from the radio. “Umino Gurio here with an amazing first edition of Lunchtime Views for you! With any luck, we’ll do so well we’ll go into syndication! Ha, ha! But anyway… <a slight shuffling of papers could be heard> Today’s first ever guest sharing his views with us will be that of the most popular transfer student since Ginga Seijuurou – all the way from Canada, Greg Anderson!”

Ami began choking violently on her milk. He wouldn’t… would he?

“You’ve probably seen him around the school… fairly tall, brown hair and a confused look as he adjusts to life in our school and in Japan,” Umino’s voice droned on. “Greg, glad to have you with us.”

“Thanks, Gurio… or is it Umino?” came Greg’s reply.

“Everyone calls me Umino, run with it,” he replied. “So what brings you to Japan?”

“Oh, just expanding my horizons, trying to develop good cultural relations… while brushing up on my Japanese. I guess you could say I have a bit of a thirst for knowledge at times…”

“Mmm hmmm, mmm hmmm… well thought out answer. Actually, speaking of such, it’s been reported to me that you’ve been seen arriving at the school a few times with Juuban’s brightest young student, Mizuno Ami. If you’re looking for knowledge, you certainly lucked out! How did you happen to meet her? Is she helping you in your studies?”

“Well… actually…”

“N-no, I-I’m not associated with him in any way,” a third voice interrupted, gasping for breath. Usagi’s gaze shifted from her radio to the empty place where Ami had been sitting a few moments ago. She blinked in shock.

“Ami… this… this is an unexpected surprise,” commented Umino.

“We… we just met because we practically live next door to each other,” Ami continued. “So I was helping him find the school. But there’s nothing else going on!”

“Hm, was I going to say that?” came Greg’s bemused voice.

“Greg…! I don’t want —” Ami’s voice trailed off into a mutter. There was a minute or so of quiet murmuring in the broadcast studio.

“Well, it seems like we could have the beginnings of a relationship here,” Umino’s voice suddenly rang out.

“No!” came Ami’s protestation. “You newspeople always overdo things!”

There was abruptly a loud <WHAP> followed by a <CLUNK> and a strangled noise from Umino.

“Eep! G-gomen nasai!” Ami gasped. There was a long pause. “A-are we still on?” Ami’s nervous voice sounded. Another pause.

“Er… I think that’s our time,” Umino’s voice finally returned, though somewhat unsteady. “Be sure to tune in next week when we’ll have Osaka Naru giving us her views about the usage and overusage of batteries and power cells… Until then, this is Umino saying… er, enjoy your lunch…”

The air went dead and Usagi switched off the radio. She paused, then picked up some of the things Ami had left behind and headed for the broadcasting centre. Was it just her, or had Ami been behaving somewhat oddly of late?

*****

Ami slipped out of the broadcast booth and ran down the hall. She almost ran into Makoto, who was coming the other direction. “Ami! You okay?” Makoto asked. “I… heard the broadcast. What happened?”

Ami looked up, sorrowfully. “I’ve never been so embarrassed in all my life,” Ami whispered to her friend. “The whole school probably heard me… what on earth was I thinking…”

“Ami! Ami, don’t worry about it!” Makoto said in surprise. The poor girl was almost in tears! She grasped Ami by the shoulders. “This was just one of those crazy things that happens and then gets forgotten, I’m sure of it. And if anyone teases you, you just tell them they have to deal with me first,” she added with a wink.

Ami found herself unable to avoid smiling a bit as she looked up at Makoto’s face. She sighed and gave a slight nod, eyes falling back down to the floor.

“Ami!” came another voice. Oh no…

Ami bit her lip, as Greg come up behind her. Not now, she didn’t want to talk now…

“Just thought I’d let you know Umino will be fine,” she heard him say. “You just surprised him, that’s all. He actually thinks he might get good ratings from this…”

“What went on in there?” Makoto asked, looking over at him.

Greg shrugged. “Ami clocked Umino with a textbook,” he revealed.

“I… I was gesturing and… forgot that I was holding it…” Ami admitted quietly, clutching the aforementioned text to her chest, squeezing her downcast eyes shut.

Makoto looked back at Ami then around the hall. Some other students were starting to gather.

“Maybe we should move off until classes resume,” Makoto suggested to Ami. Ami gave a slight nod.

Makoto looked back up at Greg. “Somehow I don’t think you can be of help here,” she hinted. It was hard to tell exactly how Greg was mixed up in this, but his presence had seemed to make Ami retreat even further.

“Sure, you two go on, I’m going to go back and help them at the broadcast centre,” Greg said airily, moving back the way he came.

Makoto watched him go for a minute. It was interesting, she realized… despite his popularity, they didn’t really know that much about him. And last time that had happened with a transfer student, he’d turned out to be Ail…

Well, best not to go there for the moment. She led Ami away from the growing number of curious Juuban students and towards Usagi, who had appeared at the end of the hall.

*****

Greg flipped through the pages of a book with a sigh. That lunchtime report had been a terrible fiasco… he’d never dreamed that Ami would charge in like that. She was really serious about not letting anyone know he was living with her.

Not that he would have told without her permission anyway, but she apparently didn’t know that. If only he had… could have… no, that was the wrong way to approach things. Wrong. All wrong.

Greg slammed the book shut. This wasn’t what he was looking for. He replaced it on the shelf.

“Don’t like that one?” came a voice.

Greg turned to see a guy standing at the end of the aisle of books in the library. “No, none of these seem right,” Greg replied with a shrug.

“What are you looking for?” the guy prompted.

“Books on writing. There don’t seem to be a great deal that are of use to me here.”

“True, the selection isn’t too broad on that subject,” the stranger agreed. “Though I do have a fair number of books on that subject back at my place… if you want to come by…,” he added with a smile.

Greg blinked. Was this guy… who the… “Uhhhh, no, thanks, it’s just a passing interest,” he said, backing off slightly.

The guy gave him a bemused look and another grin.

“And you know, I think I have class now,” Greg continued quickly. “I’ll have to see you around.” He hurried to the library door. Well, better safe than sorry. That had been a bit too weird…

*****

Ami ran a hand through her hair as she got home that evening. The weekend, finally. It had seemed so far away, especially that afternoon.

Makoto and Usagi had helped her feel a bit better, but she still could have sworn everyone was looking at her afterwards. Then Urawa had cornered her after class, asking about Greg and if he had been bothering her. Of course, she’d seen THAT coming.

Ami had had to convince him that she was fine, and that there was nothing going on he had to worry about. She hated not telling him the whole truth. Despite the fact that Urawa had left her those months ago, he obviously genuinely cared about her. But how would he react to… everything?

Especially given the fact Ami had been avoiding talk about their relationship… she just didn’t want to lead Urawa on until she was sure that she really only loved him. He deserved that much.

Ami shook her head. Urawa and Greg. Greg and Urawa. One was kind, open and caring. The other was teasing, detached and enigmatic. If it weren’t for that kiss… but was that all? Was that the only thing that made her pause?

Ami closed the front door behind her and slipped off her shoes. She could hear her mother and Greg talking in the living room so she peeked her head around the corner.

“Ami!” her mother said with a smile. “We were just talking about you.”

“Oh?” Ami asked, proceeding into the room uncertainly.

Her mother nodded. “Dr. Tavolite had two tickets to that new amusement park – good only for this Sunday. But it turned out he couldn’t use them, so I convinced him to give them to me. Of course, I can’t go since I’ll be on call, but I thought maybe you would enjoy going. You shouldn’t spend ALL your time on the weekends studying, after all dear… and since there’s two tickets, perhaps Greg could go along too.”

Ami opened her mouth then closed it again, searching for her voice. She HAD hoped to just stay at home… even though she hadn’t really gone out much in the past three weeks, now that she thought about it. But if she went out now… after today… and with GREG… what if she met someone she knew? What would she do?

“I’m game if you are,” Greg said noncommittally from his position on the couch. Her mother looked at her in anticipation.

“I… er… sure…,” Ami managed to get out.

She didn’t want to turn down her mother’s offer after the trouble she seemed to have gone through to get the tickets… but really, what had she gotten herself into now?

<commercial break; Minako, Urawa and Sewaya skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

Marmalade Mercury: Ep 2b

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 2b: START OF A RIVALRY? URAWA’S RETURN.

mm

<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Urawa skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

Ami was still trying to figure out what to say when abruptly a bell sounded, and Urawa looked around. “Look, I’m sorry for springing this on you,” he said to Ami. “I thought we’d have more time… you’d better get to class. We’ll… we’ll talk tomorrow.”

Ami nodded mutely as the words sank in, and she quickly hurried off, mind whirling.

*****

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur to her. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She’d had her first kiss from a guy she’d barely met. And Urawa was back. Of all the things to happen…

Well, she couldn’t deny she’d had feelings for Urawa. But were they still there? And what of that exchange student? What was it she was feeling about him? And, perhaps more importantly, what did he think about her? Ami wrestled with the questions in her mind, but could come to no clear conclusion. She was just as confused as she’d been hours ago.

“Ami? Are you listening?” Minako asked her.

Ami blinked, remembering where she was… studying at Rei’s temple with Minako, Makoto and Rei. Usagi was late, as usual. “Sorry, could you repeat that?” she asked.

“Ami, you’re not usually this unobservant,” Makoto pointed out. “Are you feeling all right? Has something happened?”

Ami found herself unable to suppress a giggle. What hadn’t happened to her of late? She shook her head with a sigh. “No, nothing…” she replied, more soberly. “Well, not exactly…” she corrected.

After all, maybe her friends could at least shed some light on the Urawa situation…

“That is… I… Urawa’s back in town,” she finally blurted out.

Her friends paused in surprise. “He’s visiting Japan and came to see you?” Rei prompted.

Ami shook her head ruefully. “He’s living here again… and going to my school…” Ami took a deep breath. “And he wants to get back together,” she admitted.

There was a pause as Ami looked uncertainly at the expressions on her friend’s faces. “The guy has a lot of nerve,” Makoto commented. “Dumping you, vanishing for months and then suddenly trying to pretend nothing’s happened.”

“Well, it’s not exactly like that –” Ami began.

“Oh, I don’t know, I think it’s romantic,” Minako pointed out to Makoto. “Urawa’s obviously never gotten over her… and they did make a good couple, you said so yourself.”

“I’m not sure if that’s –” Ami started.

“I don’t know,” Rei added. “This all seems rather sudden. He might have some as yet unknown reason… I remember he could have visions of the future. What do you think, Ami?”

Ami shrugged. “I… I don’t know,” she responded, somewhat dejectedly. She shook her head. “I’m not really sure what I feel anymore.”

“Feel about what?” Usagi asked, walking into the room.

“About Ami having a boyfriend again,” Minako clarified.

“Ah, are we talking about that new student from overseas?” Usagi inquired.

“An overseas student?” chorused the others. Ami moaned and put her head in her hands.

“We were talking about Urawa being back in town,” Rei indicated.

“Oops…” put forth Usagi. “Actually, I remember seeing Urawa this morning too,” Usagi recalled. “So he wants to restart their relationship?”

“Wait, who’s this exchange student?” Minako wondered.

“You mean that Canadian student at our school?” Makoto asked. “He’s gotten pretty popular in two days. I’d say he reminds me of my old boyfriend – but you’d probably see that line coming,” she noted with a smile.

The others rolled their eyes while Ami tried not to look worried, hoping to her self that this was just another of Makoto’s jokes or short-lived whims.

“But if that’s him what’s he have to do with Ami?” Makoto continued, undaunted.

“Yes, that’s him,” Usagi verified. “Ami was showing him around before class yesterday.”

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Ami said hurriedly. “We reside… close by. I just sort of ended up as a guide.” Better not to bother her friends with the rest of her problems. At least, not right now.

“Soooo… is this why you’re hesitant about Urawa?” Minako asked slyly.

“I don’t believe it. Suddenly Ami gets all the guys,” Rei said, shaking her head.

“It’s not like that,” Ami protested. “Greg is just an acquaintance… I barely know him! And Urawa, well, I’m just not sure how I feel about him anymore…” her voice trailed off as she started at the smiling faces of her four friends. “Oh, stop,” she finally muttered, blushing furiously.

“Okay, okay,” Makoto said, with a wink. “But if you need any help or advice, you know we’re here for you…” Ami nodded, and gave a small smile.

“Speaking of help, I don’t understand half of what this assignment is asking me to do,” Usagi admitted. “Ami, do you have time to explain this before you go…?”

Ami giggled. “Of course,” she agreed.

*****

When Ami got home that evening, she again found Greg alone in the kitchen. There was another thing… if she got back together with Urawa, what would he think of the current rooming situation? And what would Greg think?

Ami sighed for what felt like the thousandth time that day. At least it looked like her mother had managed get around to doing some cooking earlier.

Greg waved as Ami walked in and took a seat. “Good evening,” he said. “Your mom found time to cook tonight. It’s quite good… I’ll have to compare sometime to see if beauty isn’t the only thing that runs in your family,” he commented.

Ami shrugged as she picked up a fork. “It’s amazing what genetics can tell you these days,” she remarked, somewhat despondently.

Greg raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Ami looked up. “Why do you think anything’s wrong?” she returned.

“Well, you seemed preoccupied back in school…” Greg observed. “And just now you didn’t react at all to my comment. Usually you’d blush or something. …kind of like how you’re starting to now.”

Ami turned her face away, mildly embarrassed. “Look, I… I’m fine. There’s nothing you can do, so don’t worry about it.”

There was a pause. “All right, I won’t pry into your personal affairs if you don’t want me to,” Greg finally said. “But I’m sure whatever it is, it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be. If it’s not urgent, forget about it for the time being. Go shopping. Talk with a friend. Study. Things will get better I’m sure.”

Ami turned back with a frown. “Greg, problems don’t go away if you ignore them,” she objected.

“But there are times to deal with problems and times to decide to deal with problems later,” Greg responded. “And you look like someone who needs a bit of a break. Some decisions in life aren’t due in before class the next day.”

He shrugged and got up from the table.

“It’s just a shame not to see that lovely smile of yours,” Greg added with a grin. He paused again, then went and put his dishes in the sink. “Anyway, enjoy your dinner…,” he concluded.

Ami watched as Greg walked out of the room. She absently took another bite, contemplating what he’d said. She wasn’t sure she completely agreed, but one thing seemed clear… worrying about it would get her nowhere right now. She just wasn’t used to this sort of thing happening… it happened to other people if at all!

Well, the situation wasn’t out of control yet. She’d talk with Urawa tomorrow, maybe get him to give her time to think things over. That decision made, Ami finished her dinner with a smile and hurried off to do her homework.

*****

“Well, you seem happier today,” remarked Greg as he and Ami arrived at school. Breakfast had pretty much been as usual; minus the marmalade.

“Must be your imagination,” Ami replied with a hint of a smile.

Greg paused. “No… my imagination gives me much more interesting images…” he commented, rubbing his chin.

Ami blinked then shook her head. Did he ever stop? “Do I want to know?” she inquired.

“Probably not, most of it involves chemistry,” Greg replied with a shrug. “Anyway, see you in class,” he finished, hurrying off.

Ami proceeded on to her locker, frowning slightly. Who was the real Greg anyway? Did she want to know?

“Ami!” came the familiar voice.

Ami looked up. She felt prepared this time. “Urawa,” she greeted him.

“Ami…” Urawa continued hurrying up. “I’m sorry for springing everything on you yesterday, it… it was probably a lot to digest. And if you need more time to sort things out, that’s… that’s fine with me.”

Ami paused, her mouth open and those very words on her lips. “Er… yes, I’d… I’d appreciate that,” she stated in surprise.

Urawa nodded. “I’ll level with you, Ami. I… I wasn’t going to push the point. After transferring I was going to take it slow. But had a vision a few days ago of you… and someone else…”

Urawa shook his head.

“For some reason, that just got to me. But at the moment you still seem unattached – and of course, you showed me the future is mutable. So I guess I was just too eager to change things.”

Ami blinked. “You saw me… and someone else?” she whispered. “Who?”

Urawa shrugged. “I’m not sure who. I didn’t recognize him…” Urawa smiled ruefully. “Heck, I suppose it might just be someone you’re tutoring and everything is just my overactive imagination. But it made me realize I still care for you, and now that I can be here… but you obviously need time. I’ll be starting classes again today, so I’ll be around. Though please think it over…”

Ami nodded, mutely. Urawa smiled back, waved, and proceeded down the hall.

Ami removed her shoes from her locker, mind whirling again. Had Urawa had a vision of her with Greg? Was it due to them living together, or something more? There was still the matter of that kiss… but Greg didn’t seem to understand her feelings about that. Or at least he gave that impression.

Then again, maybe in the vision she hadn’t been with Greg at all! Ami shook her head. Things were getting complicated again.

*****

Ami found she was the first to arrive home that evening; her teacher had been ill so juku had been cancelled and she’d declined Usagi’s invitation to go to the arcade. She felt like she needed some time to herself, especially now that it seemed both Greg and Urawa were going to be in her classes.

There seemed to be a parcel inside the door; figuring her mother had signed for it, Ami took it into the living room. There didn’t seem to be a label on it… perhaps her it was from her father.

Ami opened the box, wondering what he could have sent this time. She started looking through the contents in confusion.

Some English novels… videocassettes… notebooks… this wasn’t from her father. Who…? Ami suddenly blinked at the writing on one of the books.

These were Greg’s things! With a gasp, Ami started putting everything back in the box, blushing furiously. She was going to have to get used to the fact she was sharing this house!

In her haste, a photograph accidentally fell from one of the books. Ami quickly scooped it up, then paused and did a double take. It was a picture of Greg… but… he was with… with… Minako???

Was she imagining things? How could they possibly know each other?? And if they did know each other… in what capacity? What did it all mean?

“This can’t be happening,” Ami murmured, unable to tear her gaze from the photo. “This… just… can’t…” she repeated, her voice fading into nothing.

<closing theme>