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In the Absence of My Best Friend

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-
I ne'er was struck before that hour
-

Christmas had come and gone in the city of Domino. New Years and its festivities had followed not long afterwards. Lethargic students all over the city were slow to start on this New Year and this new week of school.

Mutou Yugi clambered down the stairs. It was 8:15 and he was about to be late for class. He stumbled past his mother, Mutou Akane, who was on her way up the stairs. He heard his mother call for him to at least take a piece of toast before leaving but there wasn't enough time. Yugi rushed past his grandfather, Miraino Sugoroku, who barely got in a 'goodbye' and 'have a good day at school' before the boy stumbled out the door.

Outside, the snow from the previous day was piled up alongside the sidewalk. Cars drove by on the sleek icy road. The few stray Christmas ornaments left over from the weeks before hung from the houses of absent-minded or lazy homeowners. Yugi ran down the street- nearly tripping once or twice- to reach the bus at the end of the block.

Please wait…Please wait… I can't be late.

The bus driver didn't seem to hear Yugi's silent plea. He stumbled on a crack in the sidewalk just as the bus merged back into traffic.

He bent over and tried to catch his breath. He glanced at his watch. There was no point in rushing. He was too late. Pulling the jacket closer around his body, Yugi prepared for the long trek to school.

-
With love so sudden and so sweet,
-

Mazaki Anzu looked up and saw the wild-haired boy that just arrived to class late. She had already been introduced to the class at the beginning of the homeroom period. She brushed her shoulder-length chestnut hair back. Her cerulean eyes drifted to the blond boy in the back of the room waving eagerly to the new arrival despite the chastening look from the teacher lecturing at the front of the room.

Nosaki Miho, who was seated next to Anzu, looked miffed as a look was exchanged between the two boys. "Idiots," she mumbled.

Anzu glanced curiously at her neighbor. Miho returned her a look that said she would explain later. Anzu simply shoved the stray thoughts to the back of her mind and returned her attention to the teacher at the front of the classroom. She couldn't afford to start falling behind on her first day at a new school.

-
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
-

A shadow fell over his desk, "Oi, Yugi, slept in today?"

Yugi grumbled something inaudible under his breath and listened as Jounouchi simply laughed. "How are you, Jounouchi-kun?" He pushed the stray thoughts aside and put on his brightest smile.

"Listen, Yugi," Jounouchi began shifting uneasily. "I'm going to the cemetery this Thursday to see Shizuka and Mokuba. Do you want to come?" The expression in his eyes was pleading silently for Yugi to agree. Yugi knew that Jounouchi was still uneasy about the fact his little sister was buried right next to Kaiba Mokuba.

Yugi placed a hand on Jounouchi's arm. "Don't worry, I would love to meet Shizuka-chan and see Mokuba-kun again."

A graceful flash of pink edged into his line of vision and distracted him very briefly. It was strange. All the girls in the school wore pink uniforms. Why did it seem significant now? He turned his eyes toward the girl he didn't remember being in their class. A slight flush bloomed across Yugi's face as he watched the sunlight dance across her delicate features.

She caught his gaze but quickly turned away- to Miho- the biggest gossip Domino High had ever seen. He broke his gaze off as well. Yugi wasn't stupid. He knew exactly what the other students in the school said and assumed about him. The harbinger of cursed fates, destined to be the reason for the demise of everyone close to him. The recent events concerning the Kaiba family and Jounouchi's sister had not helped to dampen this gossip. It had taken almost six years of friendship with Seto to rid him of that notion.

Jounouchi had realized where Yugi's attention had wandered off to. He faked a sniffle and wiped away a non-existent tear. "Awww…my little Yugi's all grown up. I don't know what to say anymore."

Yugi decided it was best to ignore Jounouchi's antics. "Who is she?"

Jounouchi shrugged. "Some transfer student from Tokyo. Today's her first day."

The word "Tokyo" perked his interest. "Really?" He wondered if she knew Seto. It had been a while since he last heard from his best friend. But then again, Tokyo was a very big city.

"Yep," Jounouchi nodded. "Her mom's the new director of Domino General. She's some hotshot neurologist and I hear they live in some fancy penthouse in Kaiba's neighborhood."

"She kind of looks like Kaiba-kun…" the flush across his cheeks suddenly became a full-fledged blush. "I…didn't mean it like that…"

Jounouchi stared at the girl with a slightly disturbed expression. "That's…an interesting comparison to say the least. I can't even begin to imagine a female Kaiba. That's just too scary a thought. Think about what a bitch she would be," a smirk crept slowly across his lips, but there was something bitter about it in Yugi's opinion. "I never knew you played for both teams, Yugi."

Yugi began to stutter. He had always suspected that there was something more between Jounouchi and Seto. He would hate to jeopardize any chances of that, especially over some stupid words. Not to mention the insinuations were ridiculous. "Jounouchi-kun! I didn't mean it like that and you know it! Kaiba-kun's my best friend!"

Jounouchi waved his hand in a dismissing manner but his posture did not appear to change. "I was just joking. I guess she does kind of have similar features with Kaiba."

"What's her name?"

"Hmmm… Mazaki Anzu, I think, wasn't really playing attention."

"Like you ever?"

"Very funny, Yugi."

-
My face turned pale as deadly pale,
My legs refused to walk away,
-

Anzu's attention was diverted by Miho. She felt the insane urge to snap at her classmate. "What?"

"It's best to divert your attention elsewhere," Miho murmured softly as she led them further away from the wild-haired boy. "You don't even want to look at that one."

"Why?" Anzu stole a glance at the boy again. "I mean his hair is strange and all but he looks nice."

"Looks are deceiving," Miho replied solemnly. "That's Mutou Yugi and you're right, he seems really nice but there's something off about that kid. Every bully in the school has had their turn with him but only once. They never bother him again after the first time. Especially around Christmas, all of them have been avoiding him. The only friend he's had was Kaiba-kun and look what happened to the entire family."

Anzu looked at Miho in surprise. "Kaiba Seto?"

"Yea," Miho nodded. "Do you know him?"

"Sort of," Anzu brushed her hair back. "He helped someone back in Tokyo. I think it was a fire."

"I was wondering how he was doing," Miho remarked in such an absent-minded manner that Anzu didn't think her classmate really cared. "Anyway, the dumbass next to him is Jounouchi Katsuya-"

"The witness in Kaiba-kun's case? The one Kaiba Noa kidnapped?"

Miho nodded again. "That's him, turns out he's also Kawai Shizuka's brother too. You know who she is, right?"

"The painter," Anzu's mother owned a few of Shizuka's paintings. "She committed suicide after her operation failed."

"Poor girl," Miho shook her head. "Jounouchi's no good either. Word is he's the leader of the most infamous gang in the badlands. No doubt Mutou's curse had something to do with that. That boy's cursed. Everything he touches turns to dust."

Anzu made a disgusted face. She was tired of this girl's babbling. "That's enough. Have you no shame? You can't just go around spreading nonsense about everyone else. It's just disgusting."

"What?" Rage flooded Miho's face. "Look, girlie, you don't know anything. I'm just trying to help. Go get yourself killed then, not that I care." She turned and walked out of the classroom.

"Hmph," Anzu crossed the room to where Jounouchi and Yugi were. She always hated gossips like Miho. There was absolutely no proof. It was too stupid to be described with words. The two boys stared at her, one with curiosity and the other with open suspicion. She was well-aware that the entire class was watching her. She bowed. "Hi, I'm Mazaki Anzu. Nice to meet you."

Yugi was the first to return her bow and she found his blush rather endearing. "Mutou Yugi." He muttered.

Anzu waited for Jounouchi's approval. She met his gaze evenly, refusing to back down.

Jounouchi laughed and winked. "Jounouchi Katsuya. You got guts, I like that in a girl."

Anzu couldn't help but smile in return.

-
And when she looked, what could I ail?
-

Yugi stared down at the abysmally gray headstone surrounded by haniwa sculptures 1. It was a bigger headstone than many of the others in the graveyard. He figured Jounouchi's mother must have had enough money to buy such a large plot of land in comparison. It had still been a struggle for both of them to squeeze into the small space.

He felt saddened, as he remembered the sweet face of Kawai Shizuka from a photograph Jounouchi had showed him. It seemed as if she had so much to offer the world. He watched as Jounouchi knelt down by the grave and laid out a bouquet of sunflowers. The blond pulled out a handkerchief from his back pocket and gently wiped the dust from the headstone. When Yugi knelt down and offered his own bouquet of irises, Jounouchi moved to do the same for Mokuba's headstone- which happened to be just next to Shizuka's.

Jounouchi took a deep breath. "Hey, Shizuka. I brought a friend to see you. His name's Mutou Yugi. He's a bit short," Yugi shot Jounouchi a slight glare. "But he's a really sweet kid. You would have loved him." He laid a fond hand on top of her tombstone.

"Konnichi wa, Shizuka-chan. It's nice to meet you. Your brother has told me so many wonderful things about you," Yugi forced a sad smile. "Don't worry about Jounouchi-kun. I'll take care of him and make sure he doesn't get into too much trouble."

Jounouchi stared at Yugi with a slightly bewildered expression on his face. It quickly changed as he pouted like a child. "Thanks Yugi, I think…" He turned back to his sister. "At least you're not alone. I'm sure you've gotten to know Mokuba pretty well by now. He's a good kid. I haven't known him for very long but I know. Let's just hope he doesn't turn out to be like his brother."

Yugi shook his head at the slight jib at Seto. He knew Jounouchi was fonder of Seto than he would ever admit. "It's been a while, Mokuba-kun. I…miss you a lot… Seto-kun does too. I know he hasn't been here to visit you but he really does care."

"I guess the bastard's lucky like that. I'm being hounded by the media and he's hiding who knows where," Jounouchi jammed his hands into his pockets. "Well, I guess things would be hundred times worse if he had stayed in Domino while all of this was happening. Don't worry though, Mokuba. Kaiba's innocent. I know it. You know it. Watch over him, 'kay?"

They stood in companionable silence for a few more minutes. Checking his watch, Yugi tugged on Jounouchi's sleeve. It was time for them to go. Yugi had to go home and help his grandfather in the shop and Jounouchi had an important appointment to keep. They remained silent as they weaved in and out of the rows of graves. The Buddhist temple where the graveyard was located was deadly quiet. Yugi's eyes were downcast, counting the ground as they walked. It seemed wrong to hold a conversation after such a solemn visitation.

Yugi was suddenly jolted from his daze by a nudge to his ribs. He looked up at Jounouchi in confusion. The blond boy simply pointed ahead of them. Yugi recognized the pink uniform of girls from their school.

"Anzu-san?"

The girl twirled around, surprise was the reigning emotion on her face. "Yugi-kun?" She stopped and waited for them to fall into step with her.

Jounouchi grabbed Yugi's wrist and lifted it to look at the watch again. "Ugh… I'm going to be late. I won't be able to walk you back. Mazaki, could you walk him back? I don't want anything happening to him."

Yugi scrunched his face. "I don't need an escort. I'll be fine on my own. It's not like anyone's after me."

Jounouchi stared at Yugi like the other boy had grown two heads. "Where have you been, Yugi? The media and who knows what now."

Yugi waved his hand in a dismissing manner. "I'll be fine, Jounouchi-kun! Today's your first time so you don't want to be late. Just go. I'll be fine. I'll walk Anzu-san home." He threw in the last part and hoped that would be enough to appease his friend.

Jounouchi tossed Yugi a dubious look before taking off down the path. He turned around and waved as he ran backwards. "See you tomorrow, Yugi!"

Anzu giggled when Jounouchi stumbled over his feet. "He's very protective of you."

Yugi looked away with a resigned expression. "I wish he would worry more about himself. He's only doing this because Kaiba-kun asked him to look after me. Jounouchi-kun…would have never associated with me otherwise…"

Their steps fell into sync with each other. Anzu appeared to be deep in thought. She started in a hesitant manner. "I don't know. I think Jounouchi-kun sincerely cares about you, Yugi-kun. Maybe at first it was for Kaiba-kun, but I think he's genuinely fond of you."

Yugi stopped to think about it for a second. Maybe she was right… Jounouchi and he had been awkward at first… They must have developed something akin to friendship by now. Jounouchi had asked him to visit his sister's grave. That meant something, didn't it? A slow smile crept across his lips. "I guess you're right, Mazaki-san."

"Just call me Anzu."

"I'd be honored to."

-
My life and all seemed turned to clay.
-

Anzu unpacked the last of her CDs. Now there was the formidable task of organizing them into the racks. She sighed and threw herself back onto her bed. This exercise in unpacking was more exhausting than a week's dance practices combined.

A knock sounded against her door.

"Come in."

Her mother appeared in the doorway. Mazaki Mio was quite a name in her field of profession. She was considered one of the premiere surgeons in the field of neurology and Domino General Hospital was extremely grateful to have her as its director.

Anzu sat up with her feet swinging over the edge of the bed. "Mama, you're home."

Her mother smiled warmly as she made her way into the room and sat down next to Anzu. "How were your first few days of school?"

Anzu brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. "Things aren't that different from Tokyo. You still meet the same type of nasty rumor-mongering girls. People still pick on other. It's just new faces doing so now."

Her mother wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled Anzu to her side. "It's human nature, sweetie. Anything positive to say?"

"Well," Anzu nearly brushed at the thought. "I met this really nice boy. He's really sweet despite everything he's gone through."

Her mother laughed softly. "Are you trying to tell me something, sweetie?"

Her blush deepened.

A fond and nostalgic smile tugged at the corner of her mother's mouth. "I met your father in high school in this very town. It's so strange to come back to it all now. There are memories of us everywhere it seems. It's less painful than I imagined. I guess I'm still numb."

Anzu leaned her head on her mother's shoulder. Her father and mother had both grown up in this town called Domino and attended the high school Anzu was now enrolled in. It was only after her parents had married that the couple moved to New York to start their family. Her father then died when she was eight. The brain tumor had advanced too far by the time he was diagnosed.

"I went to visit Papa's grave today."

"That's great. I will have to find time this weekend to go visit him."

"He would like that very much, Mama."

-
And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
-

Yugi placed the phone back in its cradle. He could barely contain his excitement. Yami was coming to visit! He raced out of the kitchen to find both his grandfather and mother on the sofa in the living room. He hopped right onto the empty spot between them.

His grandfather chuckled. "Did something good happen at school today?"

Yugi shook his head. "That was just Yami. He says he's coming to visit this weekend and wants to know if he can use the guest bedroom."

"Of course," his grandfather said. "Yami knows he's always welcomed here. I thought it was busy time at the university for him."

Yugi settled down into his previous seat. "Yeah, but he felt bad about not making Christmas."

His mother nodded in an understanding manner. "It was too bad his mother came down with the flu then. Will Rumiko-san also be coming this weekend?"

"No," Yugi said. "Rumiko-san has a project deadline to meet this weekend. She just told Yami to go without her."

"We're going to have to put new sheets on the bed in the guestroom then." His mother moved to stand up.

Yugi immediately jumped to his feet. "I'll do it!" He was gone from the room without another word.

-
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
-

Anzu consulted the shopping list again before deciding on beef. She was left to take care of household chores as her mother was busy getting settled into her new position at the hospital. She picked up a few nice cuts of beef and moved on down the list.

Where was the mochi? Her mother adored that stuff. Tonight was the first time in days she would be eating dinner at home so Anzu was determined to make it a good one for her mother.

She found herself in the pharmaceutical aisle instead. She continued pushing the cart as she referred back to her shopping list. She could have sworn she had written down aspirin earlier. Since she wasn't paying attention to where she was going, her shopping cart hit some other supermarket patron and nearly sent the man tumbling into a display of cough syrup.

Anzu's hands flew to her gaping mouth. She pried her hands away from her mouth and pushed her cart to the side of the aisle. She rushed over to the person she had collided with and began babbling her apology. "Oh, I'm so sorry, sir! It's all my fault. I should have been paying attention but I wasn't. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me." She bowed and stayed down as the person she knocked over stood.

She stiffened her stance but didn't rise when she heard the person laugh. Granted, there was something familiar about the laughter.

"Geeze, Anzu. Way to overreact. That's the nicest anyone has been to me in weeks. Better than the assholes that work here anyway."

She straightened her back and looked up into Jounouchi's amused expression. She relaxed. If Jounouchi was still in such good humor then it meant he wasn't angry with her. "Apologizes again, Jounouchi." She had dropped the requisite –kun just a few days after meeting the boy. He had insisted upon it.

Jounouchi waved his hand in a dismissive manner. "Don't worry about it."

"You aren't hurt, are you?" Anzu continued to question. She still wanted to make sure he was fine.

Jounouchi laughed again and she decided it was a rather charming sound. "It's nothing. Keep worrying about it. I've been in worse scraps before. Why yesterday-" He cut off his words suddenly, but she could tell he had been fighting again from his guilty expression.

She scowled. "You shouldn't. You'll worry Yugi if you keep acting like that."

He looked guilty, and shifted back and forth on the heel of his feet. "I know, but Honda really needed me to back him up. They started it first." He finished in a grumble, like a child caught doing something wrong by a teacher.

Anzu sighed. Jounouchi reminded her of some of the boys she spent time with when volunteering in the children's ward at the hospital back in Tokyo. They often ended up there with broken arms and what not because they were too busy fooling around to pay attention to their own safety. She resisted the urge to mother Jounouchi in the same way she did those boys. One, she knew he would not appreciate it one bit and two, Jounouchi was not a young child she could just take care of.

She focused the basket in Jounouchi's grasp instead. It was filled with boxes of aspirin, boxes of band-aids, boxes of alcohol pads, and rolls of gauze. It was almost as if he was filling first aid kits. Her blood froze. Or he was more hurt than he would let on.

She stepped closer and grabbed the other arm that wasn't holding the basket. He ignored the questioning expression as she rolled up Jounouchi's sleeve. She scrutinized the tanned flesh. There were a few bruises, already well on the way to healing completely, but that was all. "Are you sure you're not hurt anyway? And I'm not talking about from just now. I'm certified in first aid so…"

Jounouchi laid a hand on her forearm. "I'm fine, really, Anzu."

She stepped away and turned her head away to watch her cart. She felt slightly embarrassed for overstepping her boundaries like that. It just made sense at the time. If Jounouchi was hurt then Yugi would worry about the blond boy and she didn't want to have to see Yugi sad. "I just saw your basket," she gestured vaguely in the direction of said basket. "If you ever need someone to patch you up…"

"I don't think that'll be necessary," Jounouchi's voice sounded sort of flat. "But thanks for the offer. Really."

They stood in uncomfortable silence for a few seconds before Anzu moved back to her shopping cart. She picked up a box of aspirin and dropped it into the cart.

"That's a lot of groceries." Jounouchi commented.

"I'm cooking dinner for Mama tonight." She replied with a small smile.

He answered with a similar small grin. "I should pick up dinner for Tou-san while I'm out."

They walked down toward the end of the aisle together. Anzu still had a few more items left on her list, but Jounouchi was done and needed to head home. They bid each other a farewell at the end of the aisle. She pushed her cart toward the refrigerators.

"Hey, Anzu!"

She turned around.

"Yugi and me are going to the arcade this Saturday after class (2). You want to join us?" Jounouchi got some strange looks for calling to her from his position in the check out line.

Her smile widened. "I'd love to!" She shouted just as loudly down the length of the supermarket despite the annoyed looks she received from some of the other patrons.

-
Words from my eyes did start -
They spoke as chords do from the string,
-

Anzu was the first to arrive at the arcade that Saturday after classes. Jounouchi needed to stay behind because of some comment he made earlier that morning and would have to serve a bit of detention with the teacher before he could leave. Yugi had rushed off somewhere to pick up someone and said he would be there soon afterward. She gravitated toward the Dance Dance Revolution machine. To her surprise, Jounouchi arrived before Yugi while she was waiting for her turn on the machine. Jounouchi had looked at the machine dubiously when she asked him if he wanted to try, and Anzu couldn't help but laugh.

She picked an eight feet song on Heavy to start as her warm-up. Jounouchi was kind enough to hold her winter jacket for her. She had watched some of the people who had gone before her and all of them had been not bad. None of them free-styled though. Anzu was an avid free-styler when it came to dancing games. She had been classically trained in ballet first before moving onto learning more modern forms of dance. She had competed in a few free-styling competitions held by some of the arcades in Tokyo. She didn't brag about it, but she figured she was pretty good.

The music started and she lost herself in the beat of the melody. The buttons under her feet flashed in a hypnotic fashion. She was solely focused on the music though. She rarely looked at the arrows though. Like most free-stylers, she had memorized the buttons long ago. She was surprised to see how much of an audience she had gained by the end of just her first song- for which she got an A.

She was met with cheering at the end of the fourth song- the bonus song. She jumped down from the platform and was sweating profusely despite the winter month. She was approached by a few other gamers who insisted on talking about how good she was. She finally pulled herself away from the small crowd to where Jounouchi and Yugi- who must have arrived only recently- were waiting.

"You are good." Jounouchi shook his head in disbelief before handing her coat back.

Yugi moved to her side immediately. "That was amazing. You're a great dancer!"

Anzu blushed for some reason. She had heard others say that before and she had always been embarrassed by such words but never like this.

"Yugi's right," a voice she had never heard before said from behind her. "Good would be an understatement."

Yugi moved in front of Anzu, dragging the last speaker with him. Anzu blushed even more deeply at the sight of the well-dressed man Yugi had his arms on. This person had an uncanny resemblance to Yugi. He was much taller though- probably an inch taller than Anzu. Anzu was drawn to enchanting garnet-colored eyes.

"Who's this?" Jounouchi eyed the stranger with open suspicion.

"Kagashi Yami." The stranger bowed to all of them.

"Anzu, this is Yami. He's a student at Tokyo University and he's visiting this weekend. Yami, this is Mazaki Anzu. She just moved here from Tokyo actually." Yugi smiled at Anzu shyly.

"Enchanted." Yami nodded his head slightly in acknowledgement.

Anzu was struck by the fluidity and grace of his movement- even found in an action as seemingly insignificant as a nod.

"Yami, meet Jounouchi Katsuya, also my classmate." Yugi pointed to Jounouchi.

Yami and Jounouchi held each other's gaze without wavering before Yami's face cracked in a roguish smirk. "I can see why you've caught Kaiba's interest."

Yugi immediately jumped at the mention of Seto. "You've seen Kaiba-kun? He's in Tokyo right now, but I didn't think he would seek you out."

Yami laughed. It was smooth and rich. "I ran into him a few times, much to his annoyance of course. He's still pretty pissed about what happened last time."

Yugi sighed. "Kaiba-kun can be such a sore loser."

Jounouchi threw an arm around Yami's shoulder. Neither of them seemed particularly bothered by the instant intimacy when just having met each other. Anzu supposed it was some strange male bonding thing. "You sound like you have stories to tell about that bastard. Do share."

Yami laughed again and shook his head. "You have to promise to not let him forget anything I tell you."

"Of course!" Jounouchi exclaimed. "Like you even needed to ask."

-
And blood burnt round my heart.
-

Yugi watched as Anzu raced against Jounouchi on the Initial D racing game. He watched the graceful swing of her arm as she swerved the wheel to make a hasty turn. He looked over at Jounouchi's screen for a second and winced as his friend crashed into another wall for the third time. Yugi made a note to himself to never ride in a car with Jounouchi if the blond was driving. However, his attention was always drawn back to Anzu.

Yugi did find her to be an endearingly sweet girl. She was pretty, graceful, kind, and everything else. He didn't have a good reputation at school and sometimes he wondered if that was any fault of his own. She had approached him and became his friend despite all the rumors surrounding him- especially so since the tragedy with Seto's family.

"You're staring again." Yami whispered into his ear.

Yugi tore his gaze away from Anzu and turned his head to look at Yami. He was sure he was blushing again. His face felt hot.

"You like her." Yami continued. The older boy's eyes danced with amusement.

Yugi had been trying very hard not to examine the strange emotions he got around Anzu. There were the butterflies. There was that paranoia he would embarrass himself around her- and he was going to at this rate. All these feelings reminded him of when he had a crush on Yuki in the fifth grade but it was nowhere as intense as this. It was all very confusing and disorienting so Yugi tried not to think about it.

"I…I have no idea what you're talking about." Yugi stuttered. He really wished he didn't stutter like this. It was humiliating.

The expression on Yami's face became serious. He placed a hand on Yugi's shoulder and squeezed. "I wasn't teasing you, Yugi. I'm sorry if I seemed like it. I'm just concerned."

Yugi shook his head. "No, I thank you for your concern. Yami, you have to stop playing baby-sitter. I've grown up and I can take care of myself."

The grip on Yugi's shoulder tightened. "I'm always going to look out for you, no matter how old you get. That's one thing that's not going to change. Why do you think Kaiba and I even try to tolerate each other? We do it for your sake. Speaking of which, any of those classmates giving you trouble because of the whole Kaiba thing? I saw Kaiba getting harassed by reporters in Tokyo. You okay? I'll set them straight if they are."

Yugi sighed. Yami had always been over-protective. Just like Seto. He never understood why the two of them didn't get along better than they did. He gave Yami a reassuring smile. "Yes, I'm fine. They're much more interested in Jounouchi-kun anyway…since he was there and all…"

Yami's gaze slid over to where Jounouchi was banging his head against the wheel after losing the third race in a row. "Is he okay then? He did witness that bastard Noa torturing young Mokuba. He seems okay…"

"The court has ordered that Jounouchi-kun see a therapist every Thursday. He's been going. I've made sure of it." Yugi looked down at the floor. Jounouchi hadn't talked about the sessions with Yugi but it was the blond's prerogative not to.

"That's good." Yami nodded and his hand dropped away from Yugi. "Make sure he keeps going to those sessions. He must have a lot to deal with between Kaiba and his little sister."

Yugi looked up. "You've heard too?"

"Yes, it's hard not to." Yami muttered. The older boy opened his mouth to say something but stopped.

"What?"

Yami sighed. Yami didn't sigh very often and not openly so. "They're thinking about opening up Kaiba's case again."

"What?" Yugi's lower jaw dropped. "It was self defense! Not just for himself but also for Mokuba-kun and Jounouchi-kun!"

Yami pressed a finger to his lips to signal for Yugi to lower his voice. "I know. I know. There's supposedly new evidence uncovered recently that suggests that Kaiba may have had malicious intent when he killed Noa."

Yugi couldn't bring his jaw up again. "You must be joking. Kaiba would never do something like that! He would just never!"

"I hope so too, Yugi," Yami's eyes narrowed. "Unfortunately I can't say I have the same faith in Kaiba as you do. Personally, I think that bastard Noa deserved to die either way. Just promise me you'll be careful, Yugi. If that does happen, you have to watch yourself. Reporters won't be the only thing you have to worry about."

Yugi clenched his jaw shut. "I'm more worried for Jounouchi-kun if that does happen," he looked up straight into Yami's eyes. "He's at the greatest risk of all. They'll probably force him to testify at the trial too. I have confidence in Kaiba-kun. Mokuba-kun will watch over him," he stopped to consider something for a second. "Should we tell Jounouchi-kun about this?"

"Nothing's official yet. Until they issue a warrant for Kaiba's arrest and officially charge him, let's try not worry about it."

"What are you two talking about so secretly over here for?" Anzu's words made them both jump.

"You two finished with your game?" Yami straightened his posture. "Who lost?"

"I did," Jounouchi grumbled. "Four times in a row."

"I am never getting into a car with you in the driver seat." Anzu declared.

Jounouchi glared at the girl. Yugi chuckled. Jounouchi was a sore loser just like Seto, though Seto always managed to appear more dignified about it.

Yami stepped in and diffused a possible situation. "I'm hungry. What about you three?"

-
Are flowers the winter's choice?
-

They ate at Burger World and Anzu told them stories about the summer her mother forced her to work in one of the chain in Tokyo to "gain some perspective." They all got a few good laughs out of her stories. They were seated in one of the booths- Yugi next to Jounouchi, and Yami next to her. It was awkward for her at times. She would accidentally brush against Yami's hand or something else. It was terribly embarrassing for her and she hoped it didn't show.

She found Yami to be a very intelligent and witty man- though the humor was more of the dry sort. Of course, Yami was intelligent. He did attend Tokyo University after all. He was even studying to be a doctor. It also helped that he was rather handsome too. She had yet to figure out his relations to Yugi though. The two of them had to be related in some way.

Jounouchi and Yugi left about two hours later. It was the one month memorial service for both Jounouchi's sister and Kaiba's brother so they both felt obligated to attend. Yugi left strict orders with Yami to walk her home. Yami laughed and wished them luck at the service. It seemed Jounouchi's mother would be there as well.

The two of them left Burger World another ten minutes later. Anzu shivered. She pulled her winter pea coat tighter around her body. She should have worn a scarf. Yami seemed to read her mind when he pulled off his black scarf and wrapped it around her neck.

When Anzu protested, Yami just shook his head and said, "Yugi told me to take care of you and I intend to do just that."

The scarf smelled like cologne. It must have been Yami's cologne. She blushed and muttered a barely audible thank you.

They walked together in silence for a few more moments. She kept sneaking peeks at Yami out of the corner of her eyes. She was just glad she hadn't been caught in the act yet.

"What is it?"

So much for not getting caught. Anzu took a deep breath. "Are you related to Yugi? It's just that the two of you look so alike and…"

Yami gave her a gentle smile. "Don't worry. I get that a lot. So does Yugi. We're not ashamed to say it. We're half-brothers."

"Half-brothers?"

Yami nodded. "We have the same father but different mothers. Our father was a bastard. He was originally married to Okaa-san and then he went and had an affair with Yugi's mother."

Anzu stared openly at Yami.

"I'm sorry if that's too much information." Yami muttered.

Her stomach sank. "Do you hate Yugi?"

He stared at her in shock. "Why would I do something like that!"

"You say that your father cheated on your mother with Yugi's mother…" Anzu shifted uncomfortably.

Yami's eyes darkened to the color of new blood stains. "Of course not. Yugi's mother is just as innocent as Yugi is. Our father lied to Yugi's mother. She had no idea he was married, much less a lying snake. After he got Yugi's mother pregnant and she refused to abort, he just picked up and left. Okaa-san is still technically married to him since she couldn't get the divorce processed through court. Bastard." Yami snarled.

Anzu was stunned by the ferocity of Yami's hostility. Yet at the same time, she could see the fierce protectiveness Yami held for his younger half-brother. It warmed her since she had a sort of common thread with Yami.

Yami shook his head. "Enough of that. How come you transferred to Domino after the beginning of the term?"

"It's a long story," Anzu brushed back her hair. She couldn't explain why she became self-conscious suddenly. "When Mama took the job at Domino Hospital, it wasn't a decision quickly made. Mama had been thinking about it for a while. I was sad to leave Tokyo but I knew it was a great opportunity for Mama."

"I'm surprised you became such fast friends with Yugi. Yugi's only friend for years was Kaiba," Yami looked down as if to study her. "He doesn't have the best reputation at school and bullies are drawn to him like flies to honey."

"He's too meek and polite to fight back." Anzu shook her head.

Yami laughed. "That's true. But just because he doesn't fight back, it doesn't mean he's any less protective of the ones he cares for. You'd be surprised by how fierce Yugi can be." He winked at her.

They continued to walk in silence before Yami spoke again, "Want to go to the amusement park tomorrow?"

"What?" Anzu blinked in surprise.

"I bet you haven't seen Domino Amusement Park yet. It's great. I used to take Yugi all the time when he was a child. It's his favorite place in the world," Yami forged ahead. "We have a tradition of going every Christmas but I was unable to come down to Domino this past Christmas so I feel the need to make it up to him. I'm sure he would love if you were there."

They came to a stop by the corner of the street. Yami gave her a slightly pleading expression. Anzu felt her resolve cave in at the sight of the warm glow of Yami's eyes. Her heart fluttered in her chest.

"I'd love to." She breathed quietly. A wisp of steam trailed from her open mouth, which she had to remind herself to close afterwards.

He smiled gently at her and she sucked in a deep breath to combat the heady feeling that was now taking over her.

-
Is love's bed always snow?
-

"Yami?" Yugi called and poked his head into the living room. He spotted the familiar fringe of hair over the top of the couch. He strolled into the room and jumped onto the couch to settle next to his half-brother.

Yami's eyes didn't leave the television screen when he asked, "How was the memorial service?"

"Jounouchi-kun's Okaa-san wasn't happy to see Jounouchi-kun but she didn't make a scene," Yugi paused and tried not to think about the confrontation that had taken place outside the confines of the Buddhist temple after the service. "For the most part."

"You don't like her." It was a very simple statement.

"No," Yugi was not afraid to admit it. "All she's ever done is hurt Jounouchi-kun. He deserves better than her."

They fell into comfortable and familiar silence. Yugi turned his attention to the television. It was some vampire show imported from America. He didn't understand Yami's fascination with American television. He wanted to ask Yami about Anzu. It was obvious that Anzu had a crush on Yami. It was easy to see from how she acted toward his half-brother when they were all at Burger World.

He gathered his courage to ask but he fell short every time.

"Yugi?"

"Yes, Yami?"

"Remember our Christmas tradition?"

"Of course, how could I forget?"

"I'm sorry I wasn't here to keep it last year."

"I understand. Your Okaa-san was sick."

"I want to make it up to you. You should go tomorrow."

"We're going to Domino Amusement Park tomorrow?"

Yami smirked. "Not us. Just you. Just go tomorrow and you'll see."

Yugi nodded slowly. It was a surprise… What could Yami possibly be up to?

-
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
-

Yugi felt ridiculous in the huge down jacket. He must have looked like an over-sized marble or something. Yami had said that his surprise would be waiting for him near the ticket booth. His half-brother had said he would know immediately when he saw it. Yugi looked around. There weren't a lot of people at the park on a day like this but it wasn't completely empty either.

Then he saw it- or rather, her. Anzu was standing about three feet away from the ticket booth. She was checking her watch. She began to lift her head when Yugi quickly ducked behind the closed concession stand. Anzu couldn't be the surprise Yami was talking about. She must be here to meet someone else, like a date. Yugi didn't exactly understand why his chest suddenly constricted painfully.

He fumbled for his cell phone in his pocket and dialed Yami's number. It rang a few times before the call was picked up.

"Hello?"

"Yami! What is Anzu doing here?" Yugi muttered urgently. He peered around the corner and found her still waiting.

"Don't you like your surprise, Yugi?"

Yugi could just picture the smug smirk on Yami's face right then. "What did you tell her?"

"I just told her about how I wanted to make up for Christmas and that you would love it if she was there too." Yami's reply sounded too nonchalant to Yugi.

"But did you tell her you weren't going to be there?" Yugi gripped the phone tightly to his ear. Why would Yami put him in such an awkward position?

"She only asked if Jounouchi was coming too but I told her no. I can't help it if she assumes that…"

"Yami!" Yugi pleaded.

Yami laughed. "Calm down, otoutou. I called her this morning and told her I would not be able to make it unfortunately since I have to return to Tokyo early because of an emergency. She's still expecting you though."

"But why?"

"It's obvious you have feelings for her. I know you, Yugi. If I had just left it up to you, you would have just continued being her friend and not make a move. Then you'll regret it as soon as she meets some other nice guy and starts dating him. Now you tell me that scenario wouldn't bother you in the least."

He opened his mouth to say just that, but found the words impossible to grasp. The problem was the thought did bother him- too much even.

Yami chuckled at the expected silence. "Now go. It's not polite to keep a lady waiting. And I won't be around for you to scold when you get home because you will take her to dinner after a wonderful day at the amusement park and I will be on my way back to Tokyo."

"But she likes you!" Yugi blurted out suddenly. A few people passing by gave him odd looks and he blushed under their scrutiny.

Yami laughed outright this time. "Be that as it may, you know she wouldn't do anything for me. Now go." And Yami hung up the phone.

Yugi stared at his cell phone blankly for a few moments. He took a few deep breaths to try and recompose himself. What was Anzu going to think? Did she know this was a date? Was this even a date? Dear gods. That was the last direction his train of thought should be heading in. He was going to be nervous and fidgety for the rest of the day. He should go to her now. It wasn't polite to keep Anzu waiting like this. He should really approach her now yet his legs refused to obey him.

He knew that his half-brother meant well but why would Yami place him in such a position? He didn't have any experience with dating or whatnot. He was going to embarrass himself. Anzu wasn't going to have a good time with him today. She might not even talk to him again after today.

Part of Yugi realized he was exaggerating the situation at hand. He shook his head and clenched his fist in determination. It would be even worse if he continued to keep Anzu waiting like this. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe it would be fine and they would still be friends at the end of the day.

He pushed himself from the hard surface of the wall and rounded the corner of the small building he was hiding behind. Anzu didn't notice him approaching right away since he was momentarily hidden behind another group of teenagers. Both the group and Yugi approached the ticket booth when the group veered suddenly to the right. Yugi felt exposed without the protection of others to hide his presence.

"Yugi-kun!" Anzu's face seemed to light up when she spotted him. She couldn't really be that happy to see him, could she?

Yugi's heart was pounding. It was never this bad around Anzu before. Why now? Why today? He hoped the frigid weather excused the deep red flush he was sure had overtaken his face by now. He forced himself to smile at first but found the grin relaxing into a more natural one when Anzu stepped forward.

"Afternoon, Anzu-chan." Yugi was shocked he could get out those three words without stuttering.

"Anzu." She corrected him automatically.

Yes, that smile was geniune now.

-
Not love's appeal to know.
-

Anzu reflected on the wonderful day they spent together. When Yami called her earlier that morning to cancel, she admitted to feeling both a bit disappointed and relieved. She wasn't sure how she could feel two such contradicting emotions at the same time. Yami was something new to her- exciting and thrilling all at once but that feeling scared her too. Yugi was someone she was comfortable with. She never felt as if she needed to explain herself or actively seek approval. It was always there- and in spades.

After a day at the park- they must have been on every ride that was open- Yugi treated her to dinner at a nice little café a few blocks away from the amusement park. They fought a bit over the check, but Yugi insisted on paying no matter what. He said it was a way of apologizing for "her being stuck with him all day since Yami had to leave." Anzu scoffed at the idea. She had enjoyed herself immensely and didn't like the fact Yugi would take light of his own worth like that.

Yugi even insisted on walking her home after dinner. It was around 8:30 by the time they left the café. It was too bad Domino's public transportation system was limited mostly to the downtown and business area. It did serve some of the surrounding residential areas but not Anzu's. It didn't matter though. She enjoyed the company Yugi offered.

They never ran out of topics to talk about. Tonight, their focus was on their aspirations for their future. Anzu told him about her dream of attending Julliard in New York City when she was old enough. She also found out Yugi's interest with all things Egyptian. Yugi wasn't sure what he was going to do in his future but he was considering a career in archeology or anthropology. She thought that was a unique option and it would give Yugi an opportunity to see the world as well.

It seemed as if nothing could ruin their good mood tonight but they passed by the deserted Kaiba mansion along the way. No one was currently living in the mansion with Kaiba Noa and Mokuba dead, and Kaiba Seto in Tokyo. It was maintained for by the occasional caretakers that went in once every week or so to clean. So it was a surprise for both Anzu and Yugi to see the police cars parked in the driveway. The lights of the cars were hard to miss, especially when the mansion was lit for the first time in almost a month.

Yugi rushed over to the black iron gate. He pressed his face into the space between the bars and squinted to see into the distance. He didn't have much luck since there was a large distance of a courtyard between the gate and the front entrance of the mansion.

Anzu followed to Yugi's side. It almost looked as if the police was searching the mansion. Anzu didn't understand why. Kaiba Seto was never indicted for any charges since it was clear he had killed Noa out of self-defense and the former Kaiba Corporations CEO had tortured Mokuba and Jounouchi. The case was closed by the police over a month ago and that was the only reason Kaiba Seto could even leave town. He wouldn't have been able to leave Domino if he was still under investigation.

"What's going on?" She wondered aloud.

Yugi narrowed his eyes. For a second, she was stunned by his resemblance to Yami with that expression. "They really want to open up the case again…"

She gave him a bewildered look. "What? Kaiba-kun was cleared of all charges."

He looked older when he frowned like that. "I don't know."

They backed away when a flashlight focused on them. Anzu thought it was a policeman at first and though the man wore a uniform, it wasn't that of a law official.

"I'm sorry but you'll have to leave the premises immediately." The man declared.

Yugi squinted and asked hesitantly, "Kakashi-san?"

The man lowered the flashlight but Anzu could still see his surprised expression. "Oh, Yugi-kun, it's you. I didn't recognize you. You really should leave. The police have locked down the entire block already."

"Why are the police here, Kakashi-san?"

"I don't know which is just as well since I wouldn't be able to tell you. I'm afraid you shouldn't bring yourself any unneeded attention. The police are probably going to want to talk to you soon." Kakashi looked back at the lit mansion.

Anzu finally realized that Kakashi must be part of the security detail that guarded the Kaiba property. It made sense that Yugi as a long time friend of Kaiba's would be familiar with this man.

"I don't know. The police have a search warrant, not an arrest warrant," Kakashi continued. Yugi didn't interrupt. "I don't know if they've contacted Seto-sama but I'm thinking the Tokyo police is probably keeping an eye on him already. I'm going to call Seto-sama as soon as they let me off. Yugi-kun, you should just forget about what you saw here today. I know you're going to worry about Seto-sama but it's going to get worse if you get involved at this point."

"I'm going to be involved at one point though," Yugi's lips thinned out in a strange new phenomenon. "They're going to want to talk to Jounouchi-kun then. Jounouchi-kun was there."

Kakashi reached down and grasped Yugi's shoulders. "Yugi-kun, just escort your date home and don't look back on tonight. If Kami is willing, tonight will be nothing more than a convenience."

Anzu was tempted to correct the man but knew better. Yugi stepped back and took her hand. He looked up at her, as if asking without words if it was okay. She shook her head to indicate it was fine. She wondered if she was blushing. Yugi gave one last bow to Kakashi. Surprisingly enough, it was she who pulled him away from the scene. She wasn't sure if he could completely detract himself from the situation and he looked grateful for what she did.

What Kakashi said lingered on her mind long after Yugi saw her home. Was that a date?

-
I never saw so sweet a face
-

Anzu closed the door behind her. The front hallway was dark. Her mother must already be in bed or working late at the hospital again. The lights suddenly came on and she jumped at the sound of her mother's voice.

"Anzu?"

"Mama, am I late?" Her eyes darted in the direction of the clock hanging on the wall.

It read a quarter past ten.

"No, not at all but I hoped someone walked you home at this hour." Her mother frowned.

Anzu wanted to blush at the thought but she was sure her face was already flushed from the cold. "Yes, Yugi did. He was very sweet about it."

"What about that Yami fellow?"

Anzu stopped in the midst of slipping out of her boots. "Yami-kun couldn't come today. He had an emergency in Tokyo so he had to leave early. It was just Yugi-kun and I all day." She straightened her posture to remove her coat next. She recognized that sly expression on her mother's face.

"Since you got back so late, did you two have dinner?"

Anzu nodded.

"Did he pay?"

She nodded again.

Her mother clapped her hands together. "What a gentleman! So are you glad Yami-kun wasn't there today?"

Anzu walked into the living room and her mother followed. "I wouldn't know. I've only known him for about a day, Mama."

"But he walked you home yesterday," her mother insisted. "A very handsome young man."

"Mama!" Anzu exclaimed. She didn't know her mother had seen Yami yesterday.

"So will it be Yugi-kun or Yami-kun?" Her mother leaned against the doorframe.

"You're being obscene, Mama," Anzu shrugged off her coat and dumped it on the couch. "Grandmother would be appalled by you if she heard you."

"When I was your age, I wished your grandmother would even look at me…" Her mother replied very softly.

Anzu winced and her shoulders slumped. That was a low blow to her mother. She had always valued this open and frank relationship with her mother. She knew it wasn't normal in the view of Japanese culture but it had to be healthier than some of the repressive relationships she observed in some of her peers. No doubt that living in New York City for some years had left its mark. She owed it to her mother to be honest.

"I'm sorry, Mama."

Her mother moved to her side and enveloped her in a hug. "Love knows no sorry. I shouldn't have pushed. I was just worried about you. Love triangles can never end well."

"It's alright," Anzu sighed. "I don't have any possibility with Yami-kun. He's so much older and he lives in Tokyo."

Her mother pulled away and held her at arm's length. "But you're still attracted to him? And don't exaggerate. He's not that much older than you." Her mother shook her head.

"I don't know him, Mama. Yami-kun seems nice and all but…"

"You know Yugi-kun though…?"

Anzu nodded. "I know that I haven't known Yugi-kun for that much longer but he's dependable. He's safe…"

"Are you sure you're not just settling then? You shouldn't settle either."

Anzu laughed softly. Things always seemed clearer when speaking with her mother. Her mother's very presence forced Anzu to take a better look at situations. "I'm not settling for anyone, Mama. It's a choice. I think my attraction to Yami-kun is shallow at best and will go away if given the time. I have a feeling he wouldn't be interested in me in that way anyway. I can't imagine a future with him but I can with Yugi-kun."

Her mother embraced her again and spoke into her ear. "I'm so proud of you, Anzu. You've already learned the lesson that multitudes of women don't even learn after a thousand heartbreaks. No, you're not settling. Yugi-kun would be lucky to have you."

"If he's willing," Anzu muttered but her mother heard.

The embrace tightened a bit. "He's the fool if he can't appreciate you. Papa's proud of you too."

Anzu closed her eyes and sighed. She allowed herself to be calmed by the warmth of her mother's love and embrace. The rest could wait for tomorrow- for when she would go back to school to see if today had changed the dynamics of their relationship at all.

-
As that I stood before.
-

Yugi arrived early to class that Monday morning. He was the first to arrive at the classroom. Yugi was just glad the bullies couldn't be bothered to get up this early in the morning or come to school this early, even though they might have been wandering the streets all night.

He had a lot to think about- between Anzu and Seto. What happened at the Kaiba mansion placed a damper on yesterday, but it did not ruin the fact he had a fabulous time with Anzu before that. His crush- his feelings for Anzu only seemed stronger in reflection of yesterday.

His musings were interrupted by Jounouchi's entrance into the classroom. Yugi immediate sprung to his feet. The blond looked haggard and tired. A part of Yugi was screaming to tell Jounouchi about the renewed investigation on Seto because Jounouchi needed to be warned- most of all, because the blond would want to know about such a thing. He wouldn't let himself though. Jounouchi had more than enough to deal with at the moment.

The large bruise on the side of Jounouchi's face made Yugi's heart seize. There was a lot Yugi still didn't know about Jounouchi. What he had learned was Jounouchi's reputation was no joke, especially in conjunction with Honda Hiroto of class C. Yugi couldn't say he approved, but it wasn't his place to say or do so. It was part of the reason bullies let Yugi be even though Seto was no longer around to scare them off. It was a reputation Jounouchi was intent on protecting despite his new friendship with Yugi.

Yugi was left to wonder if that bruise was a result of yet another fight or Jounouchi's alcoholic father. People talked and although Yugi knew better than to believe everything he heard, he couldn't help but overhear. People talked a lot more since the death Kaiba Noa and Kawai Shizuka. They said that Jounouchi's mother had left in the first place because Jounouchi's father was abusive. Yugi had never gathered enough courage to ask for the real story.

"Jounouchi-kun?" Yugi asked.

"What?" Jounouchi snapped and Yugi saw the old Jounouchi that used to ridicule him.

"I…I'm…sor…sorry…" Yugi began and stuttered.

A sudden expression of horror overtook the blond's face. "No! Don't apologize, Yugi. It was wrong of me to snap at you. I shouldn't have. I'm sorry."

Yugi gnawed on his lower lip. "I really don't like that you're still doing that. Kaiba-kun wouldn't approve either."

"Well, Kaiba's not here to say anything, now is he?" Jounouchi's words sounded strangely bereft and hollow.

The mood was thankfully broken by a sudden vibrant declaration of "Good morning." Yugi looked around Jounouchi to see Anzu sliding the door close. He was struck with panic as he grappled for something to say in return. How was he supposed to reply to something like "good morning!"

He was spared the need to reply when Anzu continued, "I just wanted to thank you again for yesterday, Yugi-kun. I had a lot of fun."

Jounouchi turned and raised an eyebrow. "What happened yesterday?"

Anzu opened her mouth to reply but no words escaped. Yugi followed the path of her sudden glare, which was fixated on Jounouchi's bruised cheek. "That's new. I would like to ask the same question about your face." She finally said flatly.

Jounouchi rolled his eyes. "Yea, I just got it this morning. It's no big deal."

Anzu shook her head in both a sad and disappointed manner. "Stay here." She ordered and left the room.

Jounouchi didn't allow the silence to reign for more than a few seconds. "So what happened yesterday, Yugi?"

"Nothing," Yugi bowed his head to hide the blush he was sure to be wearing. He hated it when Jounouchi put him on the spot like this. "We just spent the day at Domino Amusement Park."

"And?"

Yugi almost cursed. He should have known he wouldn't be able to get away so easily. "And we had dinner afterwards."

Jounouchi laughed. It was a happy sound that actually made Yugi glad. "I never thought you'd be so fast moving."

"I'm not," Yugi protested. "It was all Yami's doing. He tricked both of us into meeting up!"

"Looks like I gotta give him more credit from now on." Jounouchi winked.

The conversation came to a halt when Anzu re-entered the classroom. She pressed a small bundle wrapped in a handkerchief to Jounouchi's bruised cheek and instructed him to hold it there.

"Where did you get the ice?" Jounouchi asked.

"From outside." Anzu deadpanned.

Jounouchi yelped. "What!"

She just rolled her eyes. "Honestly! I got it from the first aid kit. It's just a disposable ice pack."

Yugi chuckled. Few people could get away with admonishing Jounouchi like that.

Anzu smiled at him. Strangely enough, Yugi felt the tension uncoil and the nervousness melt away into a warm feeling of adoration. Yes, Anzu was perfect to him in every way, even her rather brash behavior at time. Yugi smiled back and was willing to admit to himself for the first time that he might be in love.

-
My heart has left its dwelling-place
-

Yugi checked his email that night. He received one from Yami. It was the usual one that Yami always sent whenever he arrived back in Tokyo to assure Yugi he was fine. Yami then whined about Yugi mothering him and how that was inappropriate since Yugi was younger than him. Yami hoped that Yugi had a fun time on his date (the characters were even bolded, underlined, and italicized in the email). Yugi felt a flush threatening to break out again upon reading those characters. Yami promised he would call soon and for Yugi not to bother replying to his email.

He received a few posts and updates from the Duel Monsters mailing list he was on. That was not unusual. What was unusual was the email from Seto. Yugi had learned that summer in junior high when he was visiting Egypt (2) with his Ojii-san that Seto was a terrible letter/email writer. Years of friendship had taught him that Seto was an even worse telephone conversationalist. Seto was just one of those people who needed to interact with others in a face-to-face manner.

The email was as brief and terse as Yugi had imagined, but he could tell that his best friend hungered for news from home. He settled in to write the long detail email he knew Seto wanted but couldn't bring himself to ask for.

With his fingers poised over the keyboard, Yugi hesitated for a few moments. Should he write to his friend about the police raid at Kaiba Mansion? Surely Kakashi must have contacted Seto by now about that. He shook his head. No, he knew Seto must already know about all that. He was not going to pester his best friend with even more questions.

Dear Kaiba-kun,

How are you? Sounds like everything is going well for you. When are you coming home? I know you need some time away but we miss you. We, being Jounouchi-kun and I. He won't admit it, but he's waiting for you to come home too. He's still hopeless at Duel Monsters but he's getting better. He still refuses to use any cards from your deck. I guess it is kind of unfair considering how built my deck is compared to his.

We have a new student that transferred into our class. You should know her. She's Mazaki Anzu and she was originally from Tokyo. She said you know her mother, a doctor. She's very kind and smart.

To be truthful…I think I may be in love, Kaiba-kun…

-
And can return no more.
- "First Love" by John Clare
-


The Stay With Me arc continues with Proving to Myself