A/N: Hoshaw, update. Hope you enjoy.

Summary: Love's supposed to be a game of 'give and take'. No kidding. If love looks hopeless, just take a step back, 'cause there will always be another chance. But remember: look before you leap and think before you do anything. If you don't, sooner or later, you're going to regret it. No doubt about that.

Warnings: Femslash/shojo-ai, cursing.

A Game of Give and Take

Elli: She's one of the few that I know who's definitely smitten with me. Heh, this cool little nurse works at the local clinic with Doctor Trent. What can I say about her: she's caring, completely adorable, lovable and would make the perfect housewife. Hm...I guess that could be considered a little sexist...

I wouldn't mind her as my wife, to put it simply. If–God forbid–I don't end up with My Empress, then I can see myself with Elli. She was pretty nice to me when I first arrived in Mineral Town, even if I mostly kept to myself.

Hits: Perfume, Elli's Leaves, Hot Milk, Me

Miss: Weeds, random bugs, poison mushrooms

Hotspots: Usually hanging around in the Clinic (duh), her own house and the Supermarket. I barely see her anywhere else.

Etc: Her heart level is most likely a yellow or red, maybe somewhere in-between. Hm, but I could just be overconfident. I dunno, I dunno...I hardly know much about her, actually. I guess it's because I'm still stuck on Karen...

Enough already! Popuri's up now...

དྭད

Fall 12, 12:00pm
Northern Mineral Town

Ah, I wasn't hurtin' too much. I mean, I should have know, I should've known...I couldn't take Mary away from Gray, it's just wouldn't be right.

I crossed my arms and continued walking east, Hineas still bounding happily by my side. Yeah right, I scowled inwardly, my horrible mood floating back to the forefront of my mind. You wanted her, Claire, you really did. Too bad she's in love with Gray. I bet that hurt, Claire, bet that hurt.

I simply huffed and picked my head up, intent on not having my dismaying inward-rant cloud my mood. I don't even know why I put myself through all this torment; Maybe it's because you're a masochist. Hah, yeah fucking right.

"Hey Claire."

Nearly tripping over my own feet, I paused and slowly moved my eyes downward and to the left. I blinked a couple of times before clearing my throat, quickly replacing my frown with a large grin.

"Yo, Karen." I replied amiably, casually walking over to her (when did I arrive in front of the Supermarket? I really need to pay attention to my surroundings). "How're you doing? What are you doing, anyway?"

She merely smiled back at me, leaning back against the wooden bench and tilted her head back. "Dad's taking care of the shop right now, he doesn't need my help. Mom's out talking with the other women, so I decided to take a break."

Yes! "Can I sit next to you?" I venture, keeping my expression completely nonchalant.

"Sure, I don't see why not."

Score. Wasting no time, I quickly slip to her side and set my ass down. "So," I started, turning a bit to look at her. "Moon Festival is tomorrow."

Karen snorted. Raising a hand to her forehead, she gently brushed a bang from her eyes as she look over at me. "Yeah, Moon Festival." She scrunched up her nose, "I never really participate in those things. I mean, I don't think it's lame or anything." She added quickly, allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief. "But...I don't know. Time seems to fly on by, so I never seem to have time to join in."

"You come to other festivals, though." I pointed out.

"True...have you ever been to the Moon Festival?"

"Yeah," I started, "Once. Last year, with Cliff."

A small smile pulled at the side of her lips, "Cliff, huh?" She leaned closer and elbowed me playfully in the ribs, "That's cute, actually. So, is it a lot of fun? I guess I could do it tomorrow...but I won't be doing it on Mother's Hill."

Now's your chance, Claire. Don't settle for one disappointment after another–wait! Mary, I didn't want her. Whatever! Just don't take no for an answer. I leaned in, "You know, I probably have some free time, so I could go with..."

But I don't think she was listening–maybe she was still musing to herself? "Rick asked me a few days before," Karen started absentmindedly, her eyes dropping to the ground. "I told him 'no, I don't do crap like that', but...would it be wrong to totally change my mind on him?"

I was not the jealous type; if the situation looked hopeless, then I'd step back, because there will always be another chance. ...Always.

My head lowered, "Nope. You guys usually meet here, right?" I raised both of my hands and clenched them into a fist, "Dude, ask him. I'm sure he'll be pretty fucking happy."

"Bet your ass he would." Karen flashed me a grin–ack, that's one of the things I liked about her: she wasn't a damn prude. She didn't scold me whenever I cursed, and my perversion didn't go completely over her head, like most of the other women. I inwardly sighed: we're like a match made in heaven. If only I'd gotten here sooner.

Hineas started running around in circles, bit my overall bottoms and rolled around on the ground. I knew that was my cue, he was only warning me; abruptly, I stood and picked my dog up. "Well, Hinny is getting restless, so I guess I should be leaving."

Karen blew him a kiss before I quickly stalked off. No sooner did I leave did I hear Rick greeting his close friend. "Thanks, boy..." I mutter to Hineas, petting him softly on his head. He looked up at me and barked, before jumping out of my arms.

Well, guess I know what I need to do, right? Right. Popuri. I bit my bottom lip...should I really even bother?

དྭད

Fall 13, 10:00pm
Mother's Hill

There was one thing that I really, really hated about this town. Hunched over, sitting on the grassy peak, I fumed silently to myself. Just why the hell didn't Zack collect crops on holidays? It was just real annoying: all those crops and produce I had inside my basket; it was damn near full, and I still had three chicken eggs left!

But if I put them in there–in the shipping bin–they'll all just go to waste. Damn you, Zack.

I let out a deep breath and stared upward, my eyes locking onto the full moon. This sucks. Being alone on this holiday, that's like the worst ego hit in the history of ego hits. Apparently I'm not as popular as I'd first thought.

Hm, maybe I should've invited Popuri. Sometimes my stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

"Claire...?" I freakin' jumped at that. "I...well, I never really thought you'd be here. Can I join you?"

I turned slightly, eyeing the lady standing (nervously) behind me. Elli...Elli? My brows furrowed: what was she doing here?

But she must've seen the look in my eyes, and taken it the wrong way, because the nurse started to take a few steps back. "Sorry. Are you waiting for someone else? Did I disturb you? I guess I should get going..."

"Ptch," I waved a hand, "Come here. I wasn't really waiting for anyone in particular."

What I guessed was a sigh of relief escaped Elli's lips as she sauntered over and settled down on my right. She beamed, pressing two closed hands down on her lap. "It's a beautiful night, don't you agree? I love the moon–it looks so pretty when it's full."

I smiled, moved in closer and brought up my hand, brushing my fingers against her cheek, moving stray strands of hair from her face. "The moonlight really does you justice, Elli. You're even more stunning at night..."

"Hehe, hey Claire!"

Oh, oh no. Wow, worst timing ever. Worst luck ever. This day was just getting worse. I stopped before my lips landed on my sweetie's cheek, and stared back.

With such bright illumination, boy did Popuri look absolutely...gorgeous. She smiled down sweetly at me, ignoring Elli completely. "I knew I'd find you up here, Claire. Never expected you to be with another woman, though. Good evening, Elli." She greeted with complete charm before she walked to my free side and plopped down.

I inwardly groaned and drew away from the nurse, who, at the moment my rosebud showed up, had stiffened.

Awkward.

Sitting cross-legged, I decided to make the best of the situation. With my arms, I wrapped them around my two sweethearts(?) and drew them close to me. But that turned out to be a not so smart idea. Almost instantly, Elli wrapped her right around my waist, while Popuri had her left circling my neck.

I took in a deep breath. "It's such a nice night, isn't it?"

"Uh-huh."

"Yeah, it is..."

I bit my bottom lip and focused straight ahead of me, staring at the dim lights on the opposite side. Forget-Me-Not-Valley, that was it. A cool breeze blew past us, and I could hear the rustling of the trees, and the enchanting hoots of the town owls.

"Beautiful..."

"Who is?" Popuri questioned, making me instantly regret opening my stupid mouth.

I shrug (which was pretty hard to do), "The scenery. I've never been to the valley before, but I hear good things about it. And, from up here, at this time of night...it's absolutely beautiful..."

Elli snuggled closer to me, resting her head on my shoulder. "I agree wholeheartedly. It's...romantic..." She murmured, her voice holding that tone. One that blatantly said: 'Kiss me'.

But I wasn't going to screw anything up now. So, instead, I just nodded slowly.

A mere few minutes later, Popuri began muttering, "I'm cold..."

And Elli replied, "It's getting late too..."

"I'm guessing it's a quarter to twelve."

At that, Popuri yelped, untangled her arm from me and jumped to her feet. "Rick's probably worried. And if he's worried, mama's probably worried. I can't have them worrying about me. I have to go."

I gazed up at her, and she stared down at me. That's right, Popuri wasn't Elli–if a kiss is what she wants, a kiss is what she's going to get. Murmuring a few words to Elli, I rose and faced her.

"It was nice spending some time with you," I whispered, moving closer to her so no one but my rosebud could hear my words. "Have a good night...do you want me to walk you home?" That offer was followed by a small nip at her ear.

Popuri giggled and leaned on me, both of her hands on my shoulders. "No, it's alright..." She relented, her eyes moved up to stare into mine. "You can't leave Elli here by herself...I'll be safe, you don't have to worry."

Stupid Claire, stupid Claire, that was a hint! Of course she wanted me to take her home, but at that moment in time, I didn't catch it. "If that's what you want..." Cupping her chin in my hand, I tilted her face up and placed a brief, but hard kiss on her lips.

The look of shock on her face made me kick my internal-ass a couple of times; damn it, was that too forward? So, it was short, but...I've never kissed her on the lips before. Come to think of it, short of those on the cheeks or hands...I've never kissed any of the ladies in Mineral Town before. Oh wow, bad...bad mistake.

But quickly, the look of shock disappeared and was soon replaced with elation. Elli, who'd been all alone on the ground, got to her feet.

"We should be on our way. Claire can walk us both home." She suggested, her face unreadable.

She was a life-saver. Putting on my playboy smile, I allowed both ladies to take either one of my arms and all three of us slowly descended Mother's Hill.

དྭད

It didn't take too long to reach the Poultry Farm. Once we reached the front gates, Popuri detached herself from me and rushed off, leaving the both of us with a 'G'night! See you tomorrow!' and a wave.

Elli smiled faintly at Popuri and we both turned, taking the path to her own house. Inside, I was extremely happy–and relieved. It seemed that none of them had any...'ill-will' towards each other, so I guess (for now) I was in the clear. Thank the goddess...

"Well, here we are, Miss Elli." I said playfully, bowing. When I stood back up, sweetie was looking at me. Hard. "Something the matter?"

And that hard, scrutinizing look turned into one of complete and utter longing. Yeah, I knew I was right: she was smitten with me. Maybe even totally, helplessly in love, too. Just like in those good old romance novels.

She shrugged, "Nothing important, really. But Popuri..." She paused before starting again. "You know, people gossip, right?"

Uh-oh. "Yeah. I don't really pay much attention to it, though. It's all gossip."

"I've heard things about you."

"R-really?" I blinked; should I be surprised? "Like what?"

Elli shrugged again, "It's no secret around town, Claire, that you're a total flirt. A playboy–well, playgirl, actually. That's the type of people...those are the type of people that can't settle down; I guess they're like a free spirit, or something. So...I guess..."

I watched as she trailed off again...just where was this going?

"With Popuri back there, on Mother's Hill, it kind of burned me up." Oh snap. "I could say 'I'm not sure why', but that wouldn't be telling the truth, 'cause I do know. It's like a game to you, isn't it, Claire? That stunt with Popuri, that's all it was, right? A stunt?"

"I...uh..." Smart one, Claire. Smart one.

Elli continued to look at me, her eyes unwavering. Guess she was serious. "Answer me this: Do you love her?"

Think fast! An image of Jack yelled in my head. "No." I blurted out without a second thought.

"Is there...someone? Anyone? Woman or man...?"

Think fast, again! "One..." I answered, after a small pause. "And...well, a woman..."

And a brief look of relief washed over her face. Her shoulders sagged, like everything had been resting on that one word: 'One'.

"I'll see you later then, Claire." She answered, all seriousness gone from her face.

C'mon, Claire. You can't let her go just like that, leave with a bang. I had a habit of doing things strictly on first impulse...I really, really need to stop doing that and just think before I leap.

Without putting much thought into my next action, I reached for her, just as Elli turned to enter her house. Softly pushing her against the door, I leaned in, tilted my head and kissed her.

It wasn't the same kiss I had given Popuri just a mere half hour ago; this wasn't short and fleeting. I placed both of hands on her cheeks, lifted her head up and deepened the kiss, pressing my mouth harder against her's. And, to my surprise, she started to kiss me back. Bringing both of her arms up, she wrapped them around my neck and pulled me (possible? I think so) closer.

I was going to regret this. I know I will, I know I will...