She stayed still for quite a long time, contemplating, but eventually Mei decided she needed to move. The room was big, but it felt too small, compressed and guilt and confusion was all around her, needling at her, clawing at her throat. So Mei left the room, heading for the main lounge. Hoping that maybe a little bit of TV may take her mind off of…it. What even was 'it'? Was 'it' the guilt or was 'it' Stevens? Was 'it' D'jok? Or maybe 'it' was her. Either way, Mei didn't want to think. When she entered the lounge however, she was met by the sight of Tia, curled up on the sofa, her eyes on the telly. Next to her was a duvet and a lump. Before Mei could leave the room, Tia had spotted her.
"Mei!" She exclaimed, sounding a little surprised. "You're up early."
Mei painted on a smile and nodded her head, entering the room fully. "I couldn't sleep." She replied.
"Oh no," Tia looked sympathetic. "D'jok and Micro-Ice didn't keep you up did they?"
"Huh?" Mei sat down next to her best friend, making sure not to meet the girl's eyes. "No. Why?"
"Because she wants to blame us for everything." Came a moaning voice from underneath the duvet.
For a split second, Mei worried it was D'jok, but the voice was not that of her boyfriend's and Micro-Ice's head popped out. He looked tired and ill, his hair messy. Tia clucked at him.
"You woke up Thran last night," she contended. "And don't play such the victim," she tapped him lightly on the arm. "It was your choice to go out drinking young man."
"No it wasn't!" Micro-Ice protested, hiding his face again. "D'jok needed me."
Mei felt a swell of dread and guilt at that statement. Tia, obviously sensing the heaviness that could be associated with what Micro-Ice had just said, tried to change the subject quickly. Micro-Ice did not speak again, obviously frozen as he too had realised what he'd just said.
"Well at any rate," Tia muttered, turning to look at Mei again. "What are your plans for today Mei? No training today remember?"
"Oh," Mei had forgotten. She blinked and brought a hand up to her head. "I'd forgotten that," she admitted. "I think I'm going to go out for dinner with a model friend later on." Better telling part of the truth than a whole lie, surely?
"That sounds nice." Tia smiled.
Mei smiled back, but she wanted the conversation off of her. "What about you Tia?" She enquired politely. "Any plans?"
"Rocket wants us to go see a movie," Tia replied, her eyes drifting back to the TV. "And then I think some of the others wanted to meet up for lunch," the girl's eyes flickered back to Mei. "Would you like to come?"
"Oh, um, no," Mei shook her head. "I'm not actually feeling too well," she got to her feet, suddenly feeling slightly panicked. "I might actually go back to bed." And then she hurried from the room.
Tia and Micro-Ice were silent as they listened to her pad away and then Micro-Ice fixed his friend with a perplexed look.
"What's up with her?" He enquired.
Tia shook her head, her eyes still on the door Mei had just departed through.
"Tia?" Micro-Ice sat up, obviously sensing something was up with the girl. "What's up?"
Tia pulled a face and then looked from the door to Micro-Ice. "I don't know," she mumbled, her gaze slipping back to the door. "Something's wrong with Mei. I have a bad feeling Micro-Ice."
Micro-Ice brought a hand up to his messy hair and sat up properly, looking at the door as if it would reveal all the secrets they needed to know.
"You suspect her of something?" He tried to guess, looking back to Tia.
Tia shifted uncomfortably. "I don't want to," she mumbled. "But something about the way Mei's been acting recently…" she trailed off and glanced to the side. Tia didn't like to be suspicious. She had enough jealousy and suspicion when it came to Rocket nowadays, she didn't need more, especially towards her best friend. But the midfielder also knew not to ignore her hunches.
Micro-Ice had obviously guessed at what Tia hadn't said, but implied, and he leapt up off the sofa.
"You think she might be…" he looked from side to side, making everything that little bit more dramatic. "Cheating?" He hissed this last part, looking mortified.
Tia could hardly believe she was having this conversation. "I…I don't know," she returned truthfully. "I'd like to think Mei would never do that…but the way she and D'jok have been with each other recently-"
"They'll work it out though," Micro-Ice interrupted her, looking cheerful before his face dropped. "Won't they?"
Tia didn't respond. Micro-Ice shook his head.
"This is unbelievable!" He announced. "I…You know what I'm going to do? I'm going incognito…I'll follow Mei around, see whether you're right."
"Micro-Ice, no!" Tia protested. "What if she catches you? She's having a hard enough time as it is. We shouldn't even be talking about this." The girl resolutely looked back to the TV screen.
Micro-Ice stayed looking at the door. It seemed his idea was now firmly implanted in his head.
The rest of the day passed relatively normally. Thankfully for Mei, the majority of the team were out for most of the day, as Tia had said they would be.
Mei had no idea where D'jok was, but she stayed in her room the majority of the time anyway, so it didn't matter. Unfortunately for the defender however, her team mates all seemed to return just as she was planning on going out for the evening. Another unfortunate thing was the fact that Mei had no idea what to wear or where she was supposed to be meeting Stevens. She presumed he would want to meet where they had met last time, but there was no guarantee. There was also the fact that the brunette didn't want to attract even more suspicion by dressing up all fancy. Mei wasn't stupid, she'd sensed the scepticism radiating off of Tia.
Sighing, the girl lay on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Well she thought I may as well get going. She roused herself, getting to her feet and padding to her wardrobe. She decided on a frilly yellow vest top, a black leather jacket with quarter length sleeves and skinny jeans tucked into ankle boots. She looked nice, but not nice enough to elicit questions…at least she hoped.
Mei flicked a glance to her clock, it read to be 7pm. She wondered whether it was too early to head out, or whether that would seem too eager. Grimacing, she tapped up and down her room for a while, before eventually deciding to venture out. Swinging round, she pushed the button to open her door, only to be met by a sheepish looking Micro-Ice, who jumped back as he was revealed.
"Oh!" He exclaimed. "Hey…hey Mei!"
Mei gazed down at him in confusion, her mouth slightly open, and then she drew back, her eyebrows arching.
"Micro-Ice? What are you up to?" Her tone was challenging and Micro-Ice balked, falling backwards and performing a camp bow.
"Nothing special," he negated. "You look nice. Off out?"
Mei watched him for a while, her expression unreadable. "…yes." She returned.
"Well it just so happens that I'm heading out too!" The boy gave her a champion grin. "Do you wanna walk to the foyer together?"
Mei faked a smile back, though she felt a swell of suspicion in her chest. "Of course Micro-Ice." She returned.
Micro-Ice beamed at her and then the pair began making their way to the elevator.
"Going anywhere special then?" Micro-Ice questioned as they entered the lift. He pressed the button for the lowest floor.
"Just for dinner with a friend," Mei returned, she raised an eyebrow and looked at him. "I mentioned that earlier."
Micro-Ice was peering at her suspiciously, but he drew back as Mei turned to look at him properly.
"Oh…oh yeah!" He exclaimed, laughing. "Anyone we know?"
Mei shrugged. "No idea," she replied nonchalantly. "Probably not."
Micro-Ice gazed at her, his eyes narrowed. "Female? Male?"
Mei gave him a slightly perplexed look. "Why does it matter?" She put forth.
Micro-Ice shrugged in an over the top fashion. "It doesn't!" He yelped and then he began chuckling nervously, flashing her the occasional glance.
Mei shook her head at him, looking slightly confused, and then the elevator doors opened. The defender took off at a rapid pace and Micro-Ice had to cut short his laughing, jogging after her.
"Well, bye Micro-Ice." Mei said pointedly and then she swept through the doors.
Micro-Ice gave her a jaunty wave and then began walking off. Mei headed for the tree she'd met Stevens at before. Once she had turned her back, Micro-Ice stopped walking in the random direction he'd been walking in and flipped round. He leant against some railings, yanked a holo newspaper from a passerby, and then settled down to watch his team mate.
Mei was obviously waiting for someone. Micro-Ice watched her suspiciously, not paying attention to the angry person next to him, demanding his newspaper back.
"Excuse me young man-"
A blond man approached Mei. Micro-Ice slapped the newspaper into its original owner's hands and then crouched down below the railings, watching as the blond man and Mei chatted for a while. The two began walking off together. Dreading what he could be watching, Micro-Ice began following, taking care to keep out of sight.
Mei and her companion seemed to be having a nice time together; they were laughing a lot. Mei was doing most of the talking while her friend laughed. If he is just her friend Micro-Ice thought darkly. A trickling feeling of doom ran up and down his body. If Mei really was cheating, what was Micro-Ice going to do? Was he going to confront her? Would he tell D'jok?
"Dammit." The striker whispered, pinching at his own cheek as he watched Mei and her friend enter a restaurant.
"Hey, you're Micro-Ice!" Yelped a little girl, running up to him just as Mei exited the street. "You're my favourite Snowkid! Can I have an autograph?"
Micro-Ice pulled his eyes away from the restaurant and turned to his fan, smiling. "Course you can!" He exclaimed. "I'd love to give you an autograph!"
Inside the restaurant, Mei and Stevens were being seated, still chuckling as Mei finished up her story about the time she'd slipped on the runway.
"Here are your menus." Declared a posh looking waiter, placing them down on the table.
Stevens and Mei both smiled in thanks and then looked down at the menus. As silence descended, Mei glanced over her menu to look at Stevens. Her heart twinged, he was looking at her over his menu, eyes fond.
"We're…" she coughed. "We're never going to be able to order if we just keep looking at each other."
Stevens laughed in response. "I am sorry, but to be fair to me, you look lovely."
Mei blushed bright red and hid her face behind the menu, so that Stevens could no longer look at her, he began laughing again.
A familiar voice. Mei's eyes widened in alarm and her blush receded immediately. She looked around only to be met by the sight of an angry looking Micro-Ice storming towards them.
"Oh God." She croaked, feeling as if her whole world was cracking around her.
Stevens looked from Mei to Micro-Ice, his expression unperturbed.
"Mei!" Micro-Ice reached the table and Mei looked up at him, her eyes pleading. "What do you think you're doing Mei?" The small striker demanded as soon as he was close enough. "What is this?"
Mei couldn't answer, she just stared at him. Stevens took it upon himself to answer for her.
"Is something wrong?" He enquired.
Micro-Ice rounded on him, looking thunderous. "Yeah something's wrong! Don't act like you don't know buddy. Mei's famous and everyone knows she's going out with D'jok! What do you think you're doing?"
Stevens' brow creased a little and for one moment Mei worried that he was going to yell back, but instead his expression became one of innocent confusion.
"I am having a meal with Mei." He answered.
"Yeah, I know!" Micro-Ice growled and the whole of the restaurant was looking at them now.
Mei could basically see the headlines: Star defender caught cheating by her own team mate! She tried to swallow but found she couldn't.
"What I'm asking is why you think that's ok? You thought you could get away with this? And Mei," Micro-Ice turned to his friend again. "I know you're having troubles with D'jok, but to-"
"Shut up Micro-Ice." Mei pleaded, her eyes darting round at the curious onlookers.
"I am sorry," Stevens intervened again now. "But I think Micro-Ice, my friend; you may have got the wrong end of the stick."
Micro-Ice turned to Stevens, looking sceptical. "You'd like that wouldn't you? You'd like to fob me-"
"Micro-Ice," Stevens spoke through him again, and a ghost of a smile made its way over his face. "Do you know who I am?"
Micro-Ice stared at him in confusion for a few seconds, his nose wrinkling and then he threw his hands up in the air.
"Yeah I know who you are! You're some crummy-"
"I believe you served me a drink not too long ago," Stevens overrode him. "You nearly sloshed it down my shirt. Though of course you would not remember that."
Micro-Ice just looked perplexed now. Mei felt a swell of gratitude rush up inside her. Stevens was lying for her? He was prepared to deny accusations for her? She found her voice again and though part of her told herself she was just digging an even deeper hole, she spoke up.
"Micro-Ice, remember that time you ran off to join the Pirates?" She pressured.
Micro-Ice scratched at his head. "Only because you guys told me," he returned. "Why…?" He turned to look at Stevens again; the man held his menu up in front of his face, up to his nose and raised an eyebrow. "Wait a minute!" Micro-Ice was looking at Stevens in a whole different way now. His eyes roamed down from his hair to his half covered face and then the penny dropped. "Are you Stevens?" He exclaimed, his voice way too loud.
"Micro-Ice!" Mei yelped slapping her hand over his mouth as Stevens glanced around trying to see whether it had clicked for anyone else.
Now that an argument had been avoided however, people had gone back to their meals. The restaurant was posh enough that Micro-Ice and Mei didn't stick out as Galactik stars. There were plenty of celebrities there, that was why Stevens had picked it. One wouldn't suspect a Pirate to venture into such a popular place.
Micro-Ice was now gazing at Stevens in adoration, his large blue eyes shining. "Wow!" He exclaimed once Mei had removed her hand. "You are, aren't you? I've never met one of your team up close!"
Stevens gave the boy a kind smile. "You seem to know my managers quite well." He remarked.
"Yeah!" Micro-Ice agreed. "Artie and Bennett! They're so cool. Though they're not as cool as you! The way you do that disappearing thing?"
"We might have to do a different disappearing thing soon," Mei growled through gritted teeth. "Thanks to your big mouth."
"Sorry!" Micro-Ice squeaked. "I don't know what I was thinking."
"I do." Mei returned and though she had no right to, she felt a surge of anger for the striker. She was the one in the wrong, because what Micro-Ice had accused her of was true, but he didn't know that.
Micro-Ice's facial expression became one of immeasurable guilt. "I'm so sorry Mei," he mumbled. "It's just, you and D'jok haven't been talking and-"
"Yeah, yeah," Mei felt uncomfortable. Stevens' icy coloured eyes were upon her face, studying her reactions. His expression was unreadable. "Keep it down Micro-Ice; I don't want a thousand journalists speculating about me."
"Sorry." Came Micro-Ice's meek reply.
Yeah Mei thought dryly and she met Stevens' eyes from across the table So am I.