Title: Worthy Competition
Author: Risa
Fandom: .hack//G.U.
Pairings: Endrance/Haseo & Haseo/Atoli implied
Rating: K+
Disclaimer: If G.U. were mine Haseo and Endrance would have a hot make out scene, or something.
Summary: As Atoli wanders the streets of Lumina Cloth thinking of Haseo, she stumbles across an unexpected rival only to find that they get along surprisingly well.

A/N: LOL, IDK. Those are my two favorite potential lovers for Haseo. Atoli learned to get along with Alkaid pretty quickly, so I think she'd learn to get along with Endrance, too (she'd kinda have to, seeing as they're both G.U. members.) I hope some fellow HasEn fans out there also love Atoli, because I adore her. Well, anyway, it's my first G.U. fic. I'm a tough cookie, so if this fic calls for major crit, do deliver. I can take anything y'all dish out!

"I guess they're not online yet," said Atoli, standing at the chaos gate of Lumina Cloth. Via Alkaid's request, she and Haseo agreed to participate in a few arena battles with her so she could level up, but that seemed silly. After all, one didn't level up very much in the arena, but she was feeling nostalgic and wanted to hang out. After spending much time in a coma Atoli supposed she couldn't blame her, but it was still quite unnerving. Atoli spent so much time in G.U. trying to get Haseo to notice her, but so many other things got in the way that she didn't make quite as much progress as she could have.

Atoli was thrilled that she got to help Haseo save 'The World' and the network, really. When it all boiled down to it, though, she hadn't really done much. She offered him her strength, as did everyone else, but that wasn't quite as remarkable as the work of some others. That didn't mean she'd give up, though. She was aware of how gentle Haseo had become toward her, how his eyes were as deep and expressive as his personality, and how he lived and thrived on helping his friends. It was wonderful. He was a wonderful person, but sometimes she felt she just didn't stand a chance, not with girls like Shino and Alkaid around.

Atoli sighed a bit as she headed down the stairs toward the alley. No, Haseo didn't quite think that way, did he? It was hard to ascertain how his mind worked. He was just so unpredictable. One minute he was yelling, and the next he was being sweet and kind. She never knew quite what to expect from him, but she supposed that was all part of his charm. Just being around Haseo was an adventure in and of itself.

That was all she had to keep in mind. She couldn't predict Haseo's actions or his feelings, so for all she knew he did requite her feelings. Somehow it didn't seem that simple, though. After spending some time with her, Atoli noticed that Shino could predict his feelings, his words, his thoughts, and it made Atoli so jealous. Just how long had those two known each other before Shino went into a coma? Just what was Shino to Haseo? It was daunting to think about.

"Master En! Why don't we go on an adventure? A date? Come on! I'll lead the way," said Saku from a distance. Atoli hadn't noticed her and Endrance until she looked up, and sure enough they were at the end of the alley. She didn't want to intrude on whatever that was, so she huddled against the wall for a moment. She wasn't sure whether to leave or just keep going, so she stayed and thought about it for a moment.

"Not today… Haseo will be here shortly. I wish to greet him," said Endrance, staring off into space with a wistful expression. Atoli didn't quite understand anything about Endrance, aside from the fact that he also loved Haseo. He was so very open about it, too, enough that memories of the two of them speaking made Atoli blush. She never quite thought of Endrance as a rival, because Haseo didn't requite his feelings. Well, she didn't actually know that. Again, Haseo was as spontaneous as they come, but if he requited Endrance's feelings, wouldn't he have done something by then?

"Again?! I am soooooooo SICK of that stupid Haseo. I'm gonna go find him and kick him right in the butt!"

Without noticing, Saku ran into Atoli's side hard enough to knock her over, but didn't stop to apologize or anything. She just ran off saying every mean thing about Haseo her mind could conjure. It was amazing the kind of swear words children knew these days. If Atoli's mother caught her running off at the mouth like that she'd be scrubbing floors and walls until all the skin on her hands wore off. It was scary to think about really.

"Ouch," said Atoli, picking herself up off the ground. It didn't really hurt since it was just a game, but she had been surprised by Saku's force. How could somebody possibly hate Haseo? Or their rivals in love at that? Shino and Alkaid were wonderful people to Atoli. She was certainly jealous, but she didn't hate them. What she hated was that Haseo seemed to recognize them more; she didn't know what she would have to do to make Haseo recognize her, but she wanted to try something. She would do her best at healing during the arena match.

In the mean time, Endrance was still staring off into nothing, well, not nothing. Lumina Cloth was a beautiful city, even if it was just a bunch of sophisticatedly woven pixels. Still, it was the imagination of the artists at CC Corp that created this world for players to be in, and that in and of itself was beautiful. She supposed that sort of thinking was made Haseo think her silly, but she couldn't help it. She found beauty in the little things. That couldn't be all bad, could it?

"Excuse me, Endrance?" said Atoli in a small voice. They had never exchanged any meaningful words. Sometimes Haseo would form a party with the two of them, and Endrance would thank her if she healed him, but that was all, really. It wasn't that she didn't care for him, but he seemed like the type to keep to himself. That was a shame. A lot of girls at the Arena seemed to like him when he was emperor, and yet he liked Haseo. What must that be like?

"… What is it?" he asked, disinterested as he normally was. That discouraged her quite a bit, but not enough. After all, he always seemed to be like that if Haseo wasn't around. The moment Haseo showed up to the G.U. meetings was the moment the ice in Endrance's expression would melt away, and he would have this gentle smile on his face. There was no mistake, he certainly must have loved Haseo to be put in such a warm mood the moment of Haseo's arrival. It was interesting, and unlike Alkaid, Atoli felt compelled to speak to Endrance.

She supposed they could make a pact, the club of two. Two people who don't stand a chance at winning Haseo's heart, but that wasn't fair. Again, she couldn't read Haseo's mind, thus couldn't think of why he wouldn't like Endrance, well, other than the obvious. Endrance was a guy, and Haseo seemed to like girls.

In any case, she took a deep breath and asked him, "W-would you mind if I waited here? With you? For Haseo?"

"… So he will be here? Of course… my heart never lies," said Endrance, and his expression was dreamy and distant. Well, he didn't exactly tell her NO, so she walked up beside him and leaned against the railing, staring out into the city as he was. The night was lovely, and the people above were lively. Haseo and Alkaid would have a lot of great opponents to fight. She wondered if Endrance would watch them. Well, if it was to watch Haseo it was likely, but would he have rather been by Haseo's side instead? Perhaps she should log out and do her homework instead. The more she thought of Haseo getting chummy with Alkaid, the more nervous she got.

Endrance didn't bother her so much. He just said things exactly as they were with no regrets. Atoli wished she could be that brave.

"He and Alkaid will be here soon. We're going to help Alkaid get stronger, so she can go on tougher adventures… with us, " said Atoli, suddenly not happy with what she had agreed to do. On one hand Alkaid loved 'The World' and she was tough. She was way too tough to be forty levels behind the likes of Atoli just because of unfortunate circumstances. Still, this opened up all kinds of opportunity for her and Haseo to get closer, and Atoli would be helping her with that. Oh, how did she get roped into this sort of thing?

"The reason does not concern me. As long as I see Haseo, my day will be filled with light… that is all that I need… " said Endrance. To Atoli that sounded like giving up. Endrance wasn't much of a fighter, and all the same he was more powerful than any of them. He got exactly what he wanted from Haseo somehow. It seemed a little unfair, perhaps sad that he got more from Haseo without even trying, whereas Atoli got so little. Well, as the saying goes, you get as much as you give. She needed to give Haseo something to make her feelings known to him, and she just didn't know what. She didn't know anything, because she had never loved a boy this way until Haseo.

Atoli's face flushed red, and she buried it into the palms of her hands.

"Is it really that easy? Being content with Haseo's presence and nothing more? Doesn't it ever hurt?"

Endrance looked at her as though she were the most insane person alive. "Hmph, don't be silly. I am perfectly fine."

"Well then, you're-you're very fortunate," said Atoli, on the verge of tears. "I wish I could be like that, but I'm not… I'm… "

"Haseo thinks you're lovely as you are," said Endrance, and just like that Atoli's sadness was frozen in her chest. How could he possibly know that, or even think it? And why would Endrance tell her that? He was supposed to be one of her rivals, but he wasn't a very good one. He wasn't even trying. He only did as he pleased, said what he thought, and allowed Haseo to react to his feelings as he wished. That would explain much, like why he could even stand to be around Endrance. Atoli knew boys who would flip out if they knew another boy liked them, but Haseo was different. He was kind to everyone, especially Endrance, and especially her.


"Did you not know? It is quite obvious."

"I, you see," said Atoli, blushing and stumbling. "Well, he's so kind, and brave, and wonderful. He wouldn't hurt anyone.

"But he has Alkaid, and Shino, and-and you. He doesn't need me."

"I have never heard anything so foolish come out of your mouth. Haseo… he adores you… "

Atoli blushed, and took a deep breath. What an odd conversation to be having with one of her rivals in love. He loved Haseo, and all the same he was encouraging her? Well, calling her a fool wasn't very encouraging, but it was true. She supposed it was true, what he said, that Haseo liked her. He tried his best to be good to her, she know that. Again, though, he was like that with everyone. Nothing made her special, but that didn't mean she could give up. Endrance had all the same competition as her, and he was perfectly all right! There was no reason why she couldn't be as well.

"You know something?" said Atoli, smiling up at Endrance. "He adores you, too."

She could have sworn for a moment that Endrance's heart skipped a beat, but he wouldn't let that show. Not in front of anyone other than Haseo, anyway. She wasn't just saying that to be polite, but somehow he and Haseo shared a bond that none of the girls could compete with. Endrance seemed to be another person who could understand Haseo without fail, just like Shino. This of course made Atoli all kinds ofjealous, and she wondered just how these people seemed to understand Haseo where she couldn't. Not always, anyway.

"Haseo… hmm. Did he save you as well?"

"Did he what?" said Atoli, giving his question a small bit of thought. "Well, of course, he's saved me lots of times, from AIDA, Sakaki… myself."

"I see," said Endrance. "He is remarkable at saving others… "

"Oh, so that's where you are, Atoli!" said Haseo, strolling down the alley on his own. He took Atoli by surprise, suddenly showing up like that, though he was expected there sooner. Still, it was a little embarrassing to be caught in the middle of a conversation about him. She wondered how much of it he'd heard.

Haseo took one look at Endrance and quirked an eyebrow. "Hey Endrance."

"Haseo… " said Endrance, pushing himself from the balcony. He took a few steps toward the other boy, and his expression was completely different than it was before. It was as gentle as a breeze, and that didn't faze Haseo in the slightest; however, Haseo's indifference had a lapse once Endrance started stroking his cheek. If this were real life his face would have probably flushed. "I've longed to see you. I trust you are doing well?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

For whatever reason Haseo wasn't shoving Endrance away, which seemed odd to Atoli. Haseo wasn't exactly the affectionate type. She'd seen a fair share of him shoving Gaspard and Silabus away whenever they hugged him, or attempted to in any case. Because of that Atoli made a point not to try and get too close to him physically, though again Alkaid and Shino seemed to get away with being in close contact with him. What did they (and apparently Endrance) have that she did not?

"Haseo!" said Atoli, trying to break the tension. He seemed to snap back into the real world, because with that he brushed Endrance's hand away and scratched the back of his head. He seemed a bit nervous, and along with that he was very much alone. What in the world was going on? "Where's Alkaid? Is she at the arena counter?"

"She's not coming," said Haseo, and if there were any disappointment in his voice he hid it well. If anything he was probably disappointed that he wasted time bothering to come to Lumina Cloth. In any case, Atoli was pretty disappointed. On one hand, bonding with Alkaid time was cancelled. On the other, he probably wouldn't want to spend any time with her now. So much for those plans. "It's just us."

"Us?" said Atoli, with a hit of a stutter. "You mean you still want to fight?"

"Nah, I was thinking of heading to a dungeon instead. The arena's not really my thing." He tilted his head beyond Atoli toward Endrance. "Hey, you want to come?"

"Of course, Haseo. I would do anything to be by your side… "

"You OK with that, Atoli?" said Haseo. She was confused as to why her being OK with that mattered or not. This wouldn't be the first time the three of them went on a dungeon adventure together, but before it seemed so random. Other times they were accompanied by Pi, Matsu, Kuhn, Zelkova, or anyone, really. She didn't mind any of them, and Endrance was no exception. Like all adventures with Haseo, this one would be fun! Of course she was OK with it.

"Yes! It should be great."

"Cool, I'll meet you two at the Chaos Gate," said Haseo, and with that he ran on ahead. As he went he invited the two of them into his party, to which they complied. It was a shame about Alkaid; at least that's what Atoli wanted to think. She didn't like being the jealous type, since envy wouldn't get her anywhere. Endrance must have known that, thus decided not to entertain the thought of Haseo being with other girls. Well, if he could do it then she would have to learn to as well. She had plenty of worthy competition.

"Haseo is waiting… " said Endrance, walking on ahead of her.


A/N: So how is it? Good? Bad? So-so? I was a total .hack virgin until I was dragged into G.U. with the promise that "you can make Haseo marry another man. Ya rly!" And yet I'm so torn. I love him paired with Atoli, too. XD;; So. So so so. Well, this was my first shot. I think it's fairly IC, but let me know what you all think! Reviews do a ficcer wonders!