Author's note: Just a personal exploration of a few possibilities, for Maylu's feelings about Lan and Chaud's concerning his future. Might be a possibility of a sequel, if I get around to it.

XOXOXOX

The card tower was progressing quite nicely. Maylu was on the verge of beating her personal record. For the first time in a week, she felt little flutters of excitement in her stomach. It shouldn't have been such a big deal, except that it had been a busy week for the group of friends that she usually hung out with, and after being socially deprived for seven days, she'd become so bored that she'd been driven to pull out a deck of cards. Surprisingly, however, the task of building a structure from the deck had lured in the whole of her concentration with remarkable speed.

At the moment, the tip of her tongue stuck out the side of her mouth as she carefully lowered a new card into its place. 'Easy,' she thought, her hand inching its precious cargo downward. 'Almost…th--'

BRRRRIIIIIING.

The sudden noise, emerging from dead silence, startled Maylu quite badly. With a little yelp, she dropped the card and watched helplessly as the card structure toppled into a pile on the coffee table.

BRRRRIIIIIING.

Now she recognized the sound as her PET, which she'd left on her dresser in its charger. Grinding her teeth, she rose stiffly to her feet, swept out of the room, and began marching up the stairs.

'I'm going to KILL Roll.' Upon reaching the PET, however, she did no such thing.

She was too busy gawking at the screen.

"There you are!" came the familiar voice.

Maylu blinked. "Um, yep, here I am." Then she remembered the card tower, and a thunderous scowl clouded her features. Despite the fact that under ordinary circumstances she would never say such a thing as she was about to say to the one talking to her, she found herself speaking the words, "This had better be good." These were not ordinary circumstances. Her tower had been ruined and it had been a bad week and now she was pretty sure she was PMSing.

Her caller was taken aback. "Whoa, easy tiger. Did I ring you at a bad time?"

Maylu sighed and rubbed her temple. She knew she was overreacting, though she didn't much care. Still, she tried to ease her temper.

"Sort of. Anyway. Why on earth did you call me, Chaud?"

XOXOXOX

"There's an open bench," Maylu said, pointing. "We can sit there."

Chaud nodded and followed her over to it.

"So, what's up?" the girl asked.

"A few things, actually."

"Oh?"

"Mm. For one, I have to admit I'm curious. Why'd you stop chasing Lan all of a sudden?"

The question was so unexpected, and Chaud's piercing blue eyes looked at her so intently, that for a moment all the girl could do was stare. Finally, she turned away from him and said, "Noticed that, did you?" She laughed a little, but there was no humor in it. "I hadn't thought it'd be so obvious."

"It wasn't," Chaud told her. "It just seemed to me that you were…somehow different around him lately. Still happy to see him when he came around, yet…it was like there was something missing from your eyes. Something that used to be there whenever you looked at him."

She returned her gaze to him, her expression a mixture of bewilderment and wonder. "You seem to have been watching me quite closely."

It was Chaud's turn to look away, though it was out of embarrassment.

"I seem to be doing that a lot lately," he muttered. "With all of you guys, I mean. I've started noticing so many things…I couldn't ignore any of you if I tried." He thought about that for a moment, then added, "Except maybe that Dex kid."

Maylu laughed again, though this time was for real. "I know what you mean." Then she sobered. "I suppose you deserve an answer to your question…" There was a pause, then, "Recently, I was brought to a realization that had always been at the edge of my mind, one I'd been trying to pretend didn't exist. But in the end, there was no way around it.

"The truth of it is…I'm ready for a relationship, and Lan isn't." She gazed down at her hands. "I've been his best friend for years…I can already see he won't be ready for a long time. It's like an instinctive knowledge; I can just feel it. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Even if Lan gets interested in girls any time soon, I doubt he'll do much other than turn into a big flirt. He'll go around, teasing the girls and playing games with them…but he won't look for anything significant with any of them. It'd take up too much of his time. Time he could be using for net battling.

"And…even as an adult…he'll either wait until his body is too old to be active anymore and then settle down to get married, or he'll marry young but won't have much time for his wife, or for starting a family. Likely, he'll get a job in the net police force and spend most of his time doing what he loves best--purging the net of viruses and villains."

Maylu looked at Chaud. "I've wanted to be his girl for so long, but after actually taking the time to face the truth and understand what his future will be like…I can't do it anymore. I can't wait for him. That's just not the life for me. So I'm finally giving him up. It's not easy… I can't just cut off my feelings for him at the snap of a finger, much as I'd like to. For now, I'm just doing my best to control how I behave towards him physically. I won't be tackling him with hugs anymore, or tagging around behind him like some little puppy…" Here she actually smiled a bit. "It's almost exciting, in a way. I've been crushing on the same guy for so long that I haven't even paid any attention to what other boys are like…I wonder what my next infatuation will be like…" Then suddenly she turned red. "But that was more than you asked for and more than you needed to know."

Chaud stared at her for a moment, then shook his head. "You never cease to amaze me. That was an incredible monologue you just gave, there. Way more detailed than I expected. And your thinking seems pretty sound to me. The way you just described Lan…it's definitely conceivable." Then he asked, "So what do you see in my future?"

Maylu started. "Your future?"

"Yeah."

Chaud watched as his friend cocked her head.

"I would say part of that depends on how drastically Lan can change you before you start making crucial decisions about your life," she said thoughtfully.

"What do you mean?" The boy's expression was puzzled.

"It's your sense of duty," Maylu explained. "It seems to me that you don't enjoy working for your father's company. Yet, as you are his only son, you feel it is your duty to take on the family business. As for net battling… that doesn't really seem to make you happy either. I think you probably first started when your father gave you Protoman because he expected you to make use of the navi and reach the top. You didn't want to let him down. You couldn't. Aside from Protoman, he was all you had.

So you trained yourself and your navi to the point where you became a famous prodigy. By that time, though, your heart had changed into something it didn't used to be. You had become aloof and cold; other people were below you. Net battling now became a way for you to prove to the world just how superior you were, and how inferior everyone else was. Not that you've met Lan, you're not so above us anymore…but I think you still feel a sense of duty to get rid of the viruses and criminals on the net. Only now, in addition you want to protect what's important to you. Lan also wants to protect those he cares about…but for him, battling with Megaman at his side is a joy. He lives for it.

"Chaud, your future depends on how much you change and develop. If you finally learn to choose for yourself something that you want to do, then I don't think you will be with the Net Police or with Blaze Tech." She smiled. "And somehow, thinking about what you'll be like when you're older, I can see you as a young man eager to find a special someone and create a family."

Chaud stared at her mutely, stunned. Had she really read him so thoroughly?

Maylu's brow wrinkled with worry. "Please don't tell me that all came out sounding wrong and stupid."

The boy cleared his throat. "Actually…it all came out sounding absolutely right," he said. "That's what scares me." He shook his head. "Maybe you should go into psychology."

Maylu laughed. "No thanks. Music is definitely the area I'm choosing for my career." Then she said, "Chaud, what do you want to do?"

Silent seconds ticked by as the boy stared into space, thinking. What did he want?

"Well I…I like creating things," he began hesitantly. "I like looking at the technology we have and coming up with ways we could make it better. I like seeing what makes things work the way they do. When I'm coming up with designs for new items, I feel…excited." He glanced at his companion uncertainly, wondering if he sounded like an idiot.

But she was simply smiling at him, smiling a gentle, encouraging smile that held no judgment against him. "Sounds like you'd get along great working with Dr. Hikari and Mr. Famous," she noted.

Chaud started. She had a point.

"Chaud, all you'd have to do is start looking for someone you trust with a nose for business-someone who actually enjoys it, of course--and then train them to do your job for you. And," she added thoughtfully, "now that I think of it, you could still work for Blaze Tech. You could be one of the guys who comes up with the sort of technology that your company sells, couldn't you?"

Chaud felt rather dazed, but a certain strange excitement was beginning to grow inside him. "Now that you mention it…there is on person who comes to mind who'd be smart enough to run my company. Although I'd hope she'd gain some height before getting the job. You just can't command quite as much respect when you're that short."

Maylu's eyes twinkled merrily. He was obviously referring to Yai. "So would you propose a merger of your companies to her, then?"

Her friend nodded. "Most likely. It'd be easier for her to head them both if they were merged. Though obviously we'd have to separate it into departments then." He wrinkled his nose in disgust. "I don't really care for the idea of having my company joined to one that sells things like cutesy princess games, among other wares…but a great amount of compromise is going to be necessary in order for the proposal to go over well…"

Then he suddenly halted and turned to Maylu in amazement. "One conversation and you've already got me talking crazy about changing my career, for Pete's sake."

Maylu grinned. "Everything I've heard sounds good so far, especially judging by the enthusiasm in your eyes.

"What can I say? You've suddenly put things in a new light for me, and well…looking forward doesn't seem so bleak anymore." His face was lit up in a way Maylu had never seen before. "You were right about my sense of duty. I felt like I had to grow up and take my father's place. But now…well, he's never been proud of me. When I do what's expected of me, or even exceed expectations, he doesn't acknowledge it. But when he feels I've disappointed him in some way, he sure lets me know."

Maylu could hear the layers of pain in his voice, and she reached out a hand to rub his shoulder gently.

"What good would taking his place do me?" Chaud continued. "He won't congratulate me…nothing will change. And I'll be stuck with a job I don't want." His eyes searched out hers. "But if I choose my own path…I can have a career I enjoy, a chance at my own life. And father or no father, there are other people who accept me for who I am." He smiled. "Lan was the first one to do that. No one else would have been stupid enough to like me the way I was then."

His friend grinned again, and Chaud grinned back at her. Then without warning, he took her vace in his hands and brushed his lips across her cheek.

"Thank you," he said, his voice still full of excitement. Then he rose from the bench. "And now, I've got some plans to start working out."

A moment later, he was trotting up the path they'd originally come down, waving good-bye to her. She waved back, then touched a hand to her face as he disappeared from view.

'What…what in the world happened?' she thought. 'Chaud Blaze just kissed me on the cheek!'

FIN