Author's Note: This is a gift to the awesome, fabulous Jean Cooper. Not only has she helped encourage me to keep writing and offered suggestions when I desperately needed it, but she's also a great person to just talk to about anything and everything. I really hope I did this some justice for you, Jean!

Disclaimer: I don't claim to have ownership of the characters as they all belong to Marvelous Inc.

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Word to the Wise

"Come on, Gray, I'm sick of just sitting here and listening to you complain," I sighed, kicking back in my chair and resting my feet on the table. "Let's get us a couple bottles of wine and go to the beach."

"If you're asking me out on a date, you can forget it," the man growled from his bed, refusing to humor me even a little. I glanced over with a bemused expression to find he'd pulled his hat over his eyes, and I just had to laugh to see he was actually blushing. The poor man always did have a way of mistaking these things...

"Maybe I should've worded that better," I chuckled as I went to stand and make my way over to join him. He muttered something nasty under his breath, but I only grinned since I knew he didn't mean a word of it. However, I still had to laugh when I snatched his hat off his head and plopped it on my own. "I mean it, buddy. You've got to learn to lighten up a little about these things, especially with it being summer an' all."

"Dammit, Kai, give me my hat back," the fiery red head snapped, snatching it away from me. I tried my best to frown, but it ultimately became a grin again instead. Even so, his blue eyes were as cold as ever when he laid back down, and I knew I was probably fighting a losing batter when it came to trying to convince someone so stubborn to change his mind. Of course that didn't stop me from pushing a few more of his buttons simply because I knew how to. "Besides... you know I hate summer," he continued to grumble. "Too friggin' hot..."

"Maybe you wouldn't feel that way if you didn't wear that heavy carhart of yours," I offered. "You know, you could be quite the ladies' man if you'd let them see a little more of you," I teased, tipping back the brim of his hat once more.

"Get the hell out," he deadpanned, glaring a hole right through my forehead. "Or I'll fucking throw you out myself."

With that, I figured I'd gone far enough, and I left him to sit and brood over whatever it was that had worked its way up his ass this time. Not that Gray wasn't irritable by nature, of course, but he did seem to be more on edge than usual which made me wonder just what it could be that was eating at him. I couldn't ask him about it now, though, since I'd just gone and pissed him off for the night, if not the next couple of days or even weeks. It was always hard to judge how long he'd be angry with me, it seemed...

Still, the thought of drinking wine out on the beach was too nice of one not to treat myself with, and so I asked Doug for a couple of the winery's best for myself before heading out the door and back into the night. Really, it was a beautiful evening to be out as the crescent moon hung overhead giving off just enough light to see by. Not to mention there wasn't a cloud in the sky... and yet it seemed that no one else had found it worth enjoying. They were all either in their homes or at the bar by this time, and it really was such a shame to think that they'd rather be doing what came naturally to them instead of finding something new to entertain themselves with.

I chose not to let it bother me, though, even if I had been hoping for some company. After all, this was the first time in a great while that I found myself alone, and the silence was all but killing me. I always needed someone to talk to about nothing in particular.

As luck would have it, I actually found that someone, too.

She was hard to see at first since she'd decided to sit over on the wood that was always piled up just out of the way. However, when I did catch sight of her, I smiled to see she was apparently lost in thought and gazing up that stars, and I took it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation.

"Hey there," I greet her which made her jump. "You picked a lovely night for star gazing, you know," I mused with a chuckle to see her reaction and plopped down in the sand just below her. She only stared at me at first while the moonlight shone off the glass that shielded her eyes from clear view, but she finally offered me a faint, almost shy smile in return.

"Well, yes, I suppose it is," she agreed with a polite nod. "I can't say I was expecting any company, though..."

"Am I interrupting you then?" I asked, popping off the cork of the first bottle with ease. I offered it to her, but she only shook her head which cause her dark braid to whip behind her. She was an awfully quiet one, but I suppose beggars couldn't be choosers in such situations. Even a one way conversation would be better than nothing at all.

"No, you weren't interrupting me," she assured me with a smile. "I just wanted to enjoy the beach is all." While I continued to gaze at her out of the corner of my eye, I began to think that I knew the young woman from somewhere, and so my mind began to try and process what I was seeing in case it might trigger the memory of her name. She was a little on the petite side although she had some curve to her hips, and she also had something of a school girl look going on with her plaid skirt and mary janes. However, judging by the way she talked, I could tell she probably knew more about the world than I ever would. "Why are you here, Kai?" she asked suddenly. "Gray told me you weren't usually down here at night."

"Oh, you must be Mary then," I mused with a grin. "Gray's girl, right?" She immediately frowned as soon as I said it, but I didn't really see why. After all, given the way the guy talked about her, when he was willing to that is, I naturally assumed they were going together. By the stern glare she was sending my way, though, I apparently couldn't have been any more wrong, and she wasn't going to be nice about it, either.

"Does that make you Popuri's man then?" she deadpanned which made me wince slightly. Ouch... way to hit just where it hurts... This girl was good, and I could already tell that might pose a problem in the not too distant future.

"Playing a little dirty there, aren't we?" I replied, trying to laugh it off. However, Mary was still looking rather smug since it was painfully clear to the both of us that she'd hit a sore spot with me. Needless to say, it also made my first sip of wine go down a tad bitter, and I grimaced at the taste before finding my voice again with a slight cough. "I'm guessing he was the one to tell you about her and me, though," I said thoughtfully, wondering just how much my roommate had to say about me. Probably nothing good, knowing him.

"My mother told me actually," she corrected me. "She said Sasha told her that you and Popuri had a falling out over another girlfriend of yours in-"

"Hold on a minute," I interrupted her. "She was just a friend of mine," I insisted as I lay back on a board. "Like I told Popuri, I make a lot of friends out in the world, and some of them just so happen to be girls. But just because they are, it doesn't mean I've done anything with any of them."

"So the kiss you supposedly gave this 'friend' of yours was only a rumor then?" she pressed doubtfully. When I simply shrugged in reply, she gave a rather curious look, but I didn't say a word more about it. Instead I tipped back the bottle again and took another sip. "You probably get away with a lot going from place to place, I bet..." she murmured, drawing up her knees and resting her arms over them.

I glanced back up at her as the breeze brushed away her bangs, and I couldn't help but follow her gaze to wherever it happened to lead. Although we were both staring out across the same ocean, I was sure she saw far beyond the horizon even with the summer haze still lingering over the water. Maybe she was seeing Paris or Rome, but then again, she might've seen Miami or Los Angeles for all I knew. Who could really say? All I knew for certain was that it was as far away from here as she could get. Of course, I might've only known this because I'd found that very same far off gaze in another pair of eyes not too long ago.

They'd been red back then, though... not blue.

"You want out of here then?" I asked her, lifting my head to look at her straight on. Mary hesitated for a moment, or maybe she was only thinking the question over, before she gave me a slow nod. "Where to?"

"Does it really matter?" she sighed, shaking her head once again. "It's not that I don't like it here," she explained quietly, "but I'd still like to see some of the world before I decide how and where I want to live the rest of my life." I couldn't help noticing how carefully she chose her words then, picking over them almost as if they were stepping stones, and I found myself wondering why she would even bother to do so in the first. After all, it wasn't like she had a reason not to trust me. "You must have a lot of stories, though," she said as she came down to join me on the sand. "If you have some time, I'd really like to hear some of them."

At first I only raised an eyebrow since I didn't really get why she was asking me, but it was then that I remember that the woman was a librarian. And a writer, too, if what Gray told me was right. While I wasn't sure how much she'd actually get out of hearing me ramble on about my travels, I figured I'd still humor her a little. I'd been looking for some meaningless conversation anyway, right?

"Sure thing," I agreed, taking another sip of wine for myself. "But... you have to drink with me," I teased with a wink. When she eyed me a bit suspiciously, I only laughed and assured her, "It's just more fun that way, don't you think?"

Mary waited for a little longer while I continued to hold out the unopened bottle to her, but at last, she gave me a stiff nod and took it from me. I was still surprised to see her tip her head back to take a swig, though. However, when she brought it back away from her lips, I could see the pride she took in it just to see my shocked expression. Of course, I only laughed it off, but I had to admit I was still impressed by her unexpected talent.

"Right then..." I chuckled before rolling about the wine in my own bottle thoughtfully. "Now just where do I begin..."

--

"You've got to be kidding, Kai! Why would you do something like that?" Mary shrieked, her face flushed from either the alcohol or her own laughter. I only grinned as I finished off the last of my own bottle. Hers had been long since abandoned along with her shoes, and so I tossed mine over to join hers by the wood pile behind us.

"Well, they were being too wussy about it," I insisted with a huff. "All it took was a couple hours stuck in a closet, an' now you can't e'en get 'em apart from each one another before they start worrying about the other." She nodded in understanding, but then she began to giggle quietly to herself which I thought was rather cute in its own way. After all, I never would've expected her to be the giggling type being that she seemed to be so serious at the start of the evening. Then again, maybe no one gave her the chance to do something like that before, either. "But I kinda wish they'd figured it out on their own, you know?"

"Some people just need a little push," she reasoned with another nod. The girl was starting to remind me of a bobble-head with all this nodding business of hers, but she was too cute to really compare the two. "Didn't you like her, too, though?" she asked, tilting her head off to the side.

"Doesn't matter," I replied, waving it off. "Those two were really into each other, so I didn't mind bowing out of that one." I was actually being honest about the whole thing, but Mary still looked rather doubtful about that as she continued to stare blankly at me. She kept her gaze on me steady even as her glasses threatened to slide right off the end of her gently sloping nose, but before she had the chance to push them back up, I took them off of her. "How do I look?" I asked as I slipped them on.

"Like an idiot," she teased. Then she snatched my bandanna off my head and tied it around her own as a playful act of revenge.

"Cute," I chuckled, causing her her face to turn an even deeper shade of red. "Purple's a good color on you," I assured her with a playful wink. She shook her head vigorously, but I didn't laugh this time around. Instead, I actually let myself be serious for once. "It's true..."

"I don't like liars," Mary scoffed, looking away from me and back out over the ocean. I only sighed then as I flopped back into the sand, resting an arm behind my head and the other on my forehead. Over her black frames, I simply gazed up at the sky above us while I waited. These were usually the times when people had a habit of opening up to me, for whatever reason, and given how quiet she'd suddenly become, I had a good feeling that time had finally come. That's probably why I wasn't all that surprised to have her suddenly start talking to me about the man with whom she claimed to have no relations to. "Gray and I had a fight today," she admitted, keeping her face turned from me.

"About what?" I asked, stifling a yawn. She didn't say anything at first, but I'd quickly learned that, even drunk, she liked to think these things over before she gave an answer. Not that it was a bad thing to do, of course. She had a lot more sense than I did when it came to that sort of thing, after all. "If you don't mind me asking that is..." I added as an afterthought.

"Not a problem," she replied with a soft sigh. "It was just over something incredibly stupid," she explained further, the frustration leaking through her words. "He doesn't want me to leave is all."

"Oh, so you told him you wanted to travel, and he's worried you're not going to come back," I chuckled as all the pieces came together in my mind. Gray had always been hopelessly easy for me to read, but this whole scenario was interesting for some reason. While on the one hand I could understand where he was coming from, I was naturally inclined to side with her on the matter. Sure, my bias was expected, but I didn't really see the problem with her going off to see the world before possibly settling down in this small of a place. Any girl would want to do the same, of course. Well... I would think so anyway...

"But it's not his decision to make," she muttered to herself. "I know why he's worried, but it's something I really want to do for myself." I thought to tell her to 'just do it then,' and then I decided that probably wasn't what she needed, much less wanted, to hear which left me unsure of what to say. Maybe I didn't need to say anything, though. However, I wasn't used to keeping quiet for long, so it was inevitable that I had to go and say something completely stupid and irrelevant instead.

"You know that girl everyone said I kissed?" I asked suddenly, glancing over towards her. "I didn't do anything like that." Mary only blinked in confusion, so I did my best to explain myself further without sounding like a man in denial. "Popuri just found a picture of me and her with us joking around, but she apparently thought there was more to it than that."

Of course, it probably didn't help matters any that said friend wrote 'with love from the girl you almost kissed' on the back of the damn thing, but... I figured that detail was probably better left alone.

"So why didn't you say anything?" the librarian replied. "If you just told her what actually happened, you two could still be together." I simply sighed and crossed my legs as I continued to stare up at the stars, but it seemed that she was expecting an answer out of me one way or the other. If I didn't give her one, she was apparently going to make one up herself, and soon enough she did just that. "Unless you really didn't want to be with her anymore..."

"That wasn't it," I yawned, closing my eyes while I did so. "I just know how hard it is for some girls to wait for a guy like me who only sees them once a year," I reasoned as I nestled deeper into the sand. "Even if I told her the truth, Popuri made it clear that she already doesn't trust me... and I can't live like that." Having someone always doubting me, wondering if it's okay for me to talk to a girl without being labeled as a player, asking myself if I don't like one of my friends just a little too much... It was all too big of a fuss for any man to deal with, and that meant it was even more so for a man like me. "And now that she hates me, I don't have to feel guilty about leaving after every summer."

"What if someone wanted to go with you, though?" Mary asked. I opened a weary eye to find she was standing over me now, just far enough back that I couldn't see up her skirt, but I simply offered her glasses back instead of answering right away. I really wish I didn't have to give them back, though, since she seemed so much happier without them. Then again, maybe I just thought that way because I liked to be able to see her eyes clearly. However, when she went to untie my bandanna, I just shook my head.

"Keep it," I told her. She hesitated at first, but after a moment, she retied it securely back over her dark hair which made me smile and then chuckle to myself. "But are you saying you want to come with me? I won't be coming back here for another year, you know," I reminded her quietly. Mary stood there for a while longer as she thought it over, and yet again her gaze went back to the sea. How many nights did she wander down here... just to look across the water and dream of what was on the other side?

"I'll think about it," Mary said at last before turning to head back to town. I, on the other hand, stayed right where I was, dozing off in the sand as I finally let my own weariness wash over me. I knew I should get up to try and talk her out of leaving home, but... I didn't really feel like it. Like she'd said so herself, it was her decision to make.

That... and the fact that I was starting to think I needed someone like her around to talk about nothing with more often.

--

Author's Final Note: Just so I don't get a lot of flack for this... Basil mentions in (M)FoMT that although Mary doesn't usually drink, 'she sure puts a lot away when she does!' and therefore, I felt that it wouldn't be OOC for her to enjoy some wine with Kai. True facts. :)