The Amber World
by IceRi

Summary: A series of vignettes on the life of Michael Lee, before, during, and after the series. When a replacement is brought in for Edward Wong, Michael has a hard time coping. Could the upcoming holiday season ease his ill feelings towards the newcomer?

Rating: PG, 'cause I say so.

Disclaimer: I own the soundtrack. That's it.

Author's note: Holiday season means plenty of time to write. Thanks for all of your reviews. I'm hoping to hit 50 with this chapter! Also, I'm taking a little tiny bit of artistic license, and pretending that either they all work weekends, or Christmas isn't a Sunday… Without further delay, enter Sakaki.


Replacement

If there had ever been anything that Michael hadn't expected, it was for Edward and Tsubasa to be replaced quite so soon. Something around the office of the STN-J made it feel like the grieving hadn't quite finished yet, though Michael himself had already been through the issue for himself. Karasuma had quite abruptly gone from a somewhat unsure teenager to a confident and cold young woman. She had the third most seniority among the current hunters, and had recently been raised to S-class. Ever since her break down, things hadn't been quite right between, surprisingly, Kate and Amon. There was some type of thinly veiled friction between the two oldest members of the team. That wasn't the element making all of the tension. Or maybe it was just him.

Nevertheless, one Monday morning at approximately 8:45 am, a sleepy looking boy wandered in to the office. He seemed about Doujima's age, which seemed to make her happy, as she perked up in her chair and immediately began checking her makeup. Before Michael could ask who he was and why he was there, he was escorted to Zaizen's office by Amon. He continued working on the hunt statistics for a fairly peaceful witch that both Karasuma and Kate were out checking on at the time.

Almost an hour had passed, and both girls had returned to the office, bringing Michael a much appreciated western style breakfast from the café close to the office, a little place called Harry's. Suddenly, though, Amon sauntered in, again with the young guy in his wake. The chief jumped up right away, and it clicked to Michael right away.

"This young man is Sakaki Haruto. He's a seed, the new hunter, so I hope you all welcome him warmly." Kosaka kept on rambling away, like he had when introducing Michael, but the young computer genius had tuned out. He fixed a glare on the guy, and turned back to his workstation. A replacement. Not a recruit. How could they do that to us so soon? Do the lives of people mean nothing? Through his mental griping, he didn't even notice Sakaki trying to get his attention. Finally, he snapped his head up towards the other.

"What?" He quipped irritably.

"Hey, sorry man. Just trying to introduce myself here." Sakaki held up his hands defensively.

He rolled his eyes. "Michael Lee." He said with a tone of finality.

"Okay, whatever…" He moved away, towards the ever present Doujima. "Who pissed in his breakfast?"

"Oh don't mind puppy boy, he just gets like that when someone yanks his chain." She purred flirtatiously, earning a laugh from Sakaki. The young hacker gritted his teeth and burned with anger. Who did they think they were anyway?


In the days following, he felt his anger towards the new member of the team fading gradually, though he didn't want it to, and clung to every last shred of hatred he had for the young man. It felt like something he needed to do, for some reason, like he would be forsaking a very important memory if he didn't hold on to the injustice. But whenever he turned around, he felt like he wanted to go over and talk to the guy. When he actually bothered to listen, he heard some interesting things, and it turned out that they shared a few similar interests. It was too bad he had gotten off to such a bad start.

It was two days from the Christmas holiday, but since they were all in Japan, there was no day off. However, it was apparent that they had all celebrated the holiday at one time or another, as the pace of work slowed somewhat (to Amon's chagrin). Michael and Kate compared Christmas traditions from Canada and England respectively, and even Doujima joined in the fun when most of them stayed late after work one day to put up little lights around the windows.

Finally, to put it in the most clichéd way possible, 'twas the night before Christmas. Even Amon had given up on the prospect of work, and gone out drinking with his new girlfriend; Zaizen's daughter Touko. Sakaki had, in an uncommon burst of responsibility, stayed late to work on some things he had assigned to get done. Granted, it had been due the week before, and he seemed to be desperately trying to prove himself. Yet another thing Michael could relate to.

After another hour of very little progress being made, a frustrated growl came from behind him. Michael cleared his throat as politely as possible, slightly nervous; he hadn't reconciled with Sakaki over their botched meeting yet.

"What is it, hacker, can't you see I'm busy?" He snapped without even looking up. Michael flinched unconsciously, but resolved not to get his back up. After all, it was Christmas Eve.

"Well, I was thinking, since I'm here anyway, I could finish that for you. Then you could go home, and I'll put it on Amon's desk for tomorrow morning. He'll be happy, in his own sort of unemotional way." He offered, trying not to sound too meek in his nervousness.

Sakaki looked up, surprised at the offer. Michael could see the inner conflict playing out there, but finally the teenager sighed and gave up. He picked up his jacket and his bike helmet. "Sure, whatever. Thanks I guess." The biker took off, and Michael transferred the file over to his own computer. It was a total mess, and the techie chuckled and shook his head before sipping his cold coffee from a few hours before and getting started.


After work the next day, most people left early again, going out to their respective dinners or whatnot. Again, Michael found himself alone with the rookie. However, Sakaki didn't seem to be working on anything, mainly just twiddling his thumbs and waiting for everyone to leave. The hacker stopped and stared for a few seconds, wondering what was up. Surprisingly, Sakaki struck up a conversation with him.

"So, I suppose you aren't too busy tonight, I mean obviously… Since you live here and there isn't anyone around…" He realised he was rambling on and scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. "Do you mind if I stick around for awhile? We could order in or something."

"Sure, it's no problem." Michael paused. "If you don't mind me asking, why?"

Sakaki was caught off guard by the question, and he smiled nervously. "Well we really didn't get off to a great start, and then out of the blue you do that awesome thing for me. Now I'm in Amon's good books again, and I really owe it to you. Besides, I don't really know you at all, and I figured, since we're about the same age, we could be buddies."

Michael smiled, and had to bite his lip to keep from laughing out loud. "Great. Order, I'm starved. We can charge it to the STN, since I need it to live."

Sakaki laughed, dialing a local Chinese food delivery place. "Sweet."

They stayed up late, eating and goofing off, competing with each other at fighting games that Michael had downloaded. In the end, they ended up passing out on the couches sleepily. The forgotten Christmas lights cast a multicolored glow over their faces, lit with smiles through sleep.


Review responses:

plecostomus-of-justice: Well, I've gotten reviews that say it's the perfect amount, and that it's too much, but thanks for your comments. It's always good to get feedback

Kairivoosh: It's very sad. I didn't like writing that chapter.

Lady-Azura: Less than a month! I got it down at least! But I hope to have another chapter up by the end of the holidays.

Tylec Asroc: Thanks for your feedback, as always. I'm glad Karasuma's reaction was recognized for what it was, a real climax of character. As for the ending, I really wanted to convey the amount of, well, angst he was going through. I acknowledge it was out of character, but on the same level, I didn't want to tone down the amount of pain and frustration he was feeling. However, I can't say I know what a teenaged boy would do in that situation, because I am not in fact a teenaged boy. So yes, it really was somewhat there to get the response, because that was my aim.

The-Anibee: Really? I didn't think it flowed well… Thanks for the compliment. Enjoy this chapter!

BlackDeath6: Long awaited indeed. I hope this one came faster for you.

fallenangelofnight: Thanks so much for your in depth review! Hehe, I realize that yellow glasses can cut down on the glare from the computer screen. I just figured that I might take it from a different angle and see where it went. Enjoy this chapter.