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Jounouchi and Kaiba were not celebrating Valentine’s Day.

The vase may happen to be filled with fresh flowers, and their words a bit sweeter.

But they do not celebrate such a commercial, sacchrine holiday.

Dinner might be cooked a bit more carefully today, and the wine a generous pour.

But no, they’ll never say to one another the words.

They may speak over dinner about their first rendezvous and their friends celebrating Valentine’s Day, but they will not be partaking.

Who could need such a contrived day?

If they remember to say I love you more kindly, it’s probably because they’re both in agreement, that they don’t need a holiday to celebrate the precious peace they’ve created between them.

And not because it’s Valentine’s Day.

Chapter Text

Walking through the New York mall, Anzu makes out a familiar voice selecting ties from a carousel and turns to find Kaiba Seto.

Wondering what brought him out here, and not one to be a stranger, she asks as such.

It turns out Kaiba is in fact on business, seeking performers for the opening of a new KaibaLand.

He of course, seemingly snidely asks after her friends. And she replies pointedly that they are well.
She isn’t surprised that this slightly less ruthless Kaiba would extend her a dinner reservation as well.

What she doesn’t expect is ending up with an all-expenses paid gig for her and her choice of classmates to San Francisco.

Seems Kaiba Seto does know skill when he see’s it, and how to be a decent friend after all.

Chapter Text

Odion not for the first time, wonders if the seating arrangements were thoughtfully chosen.

Then again, his sister had insisted that this was the best way. Honda and Jounouchi made sense, but why Kaiba Seto had been seated with Jounouchi Katsuya mere inches from him was puzzling.

The two were currently arguing about which station to settle on, when they hit a high-powered electronica song that seemed to settle both of them down.

That peace of course was short lived as both of them then launched into a back and forth about one another’s musical tastes and the words being exchanged were not always friendly.

These two were somehow friends though despite what it appeared, as they were familiar with one another and made it here together. Odion thought they argued like the old couples he’d see when he went out to the village square.

Despite what animosity they seemed to harbor, they were both so engrossed in one another they nearly didn’t realize they’d arrived for the very food stop they were newly disagreeing on.

Odion thought that love was strange and many colored. He wondered when they too would notice.

Chapter Text

Like Yugi, Bakura Ryou knew what it was to have a spirit play house inside him.

But that was it.

He did not know what it was like to have said spirit befriend him.

Nor did he know what it was to share that secret with so many around him.

The spirit that plagued him was one that never spoke to him in the quiet hours of the night.

Not of pleasant things at least.

And Bakura Ryou was envious. He was envious of Yugi for what he had.

Envious that Yugi did not lose all control when he was taken over.

That he could converse with and bond with his spirit as if they were friends.

Bakura Ryou was envious, that all he had was a dark hollow place and a memory full of gaps.

And a fear he wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

Chapter Text

Mai sat with her sparkly blue phone case resting on her chest as she waited for Jounouchi to return with their drinks.

The boy had probably started to drink his on his way over here.

Sure enough, she turned to find just that.

She couldn’t blame him on such a hot day.

Mai took her drink gratefully, with a coy smile. And comment on Jounouchi’s obedience.

To which he seemed to flare his nostrils and turn back to his own drink in a huff.

The boy was cute and deserved a worthy partner. He was after all the strongest person she knew.

He seemed, like her, more interested in keeping up with dueling though.

Which they did, as they sat and chatted. Mai asking after Shizuka and the others.

Mai couldn’t help poke fun at him for his devotion to them, even though she understood its tremendous importance.

They helped each other through so much, and they’d helped her.

She was grateful for their support. They’d found a way under her steely shell it seemed.

For Kujaku Mai felt warmly towards the boy sitting beside her and wished to see them all again soon, something she wouldn’t have dreamed of a year ago when she was involved with Dartz.

They’d changed her heart and her mind, and for that she’d be forever grateful.

Today was a beautiful day. And she was glad to put the past behind her though.

And maybe even one day rest her head near Jounouchi’s more than just to conspire about duel monsters tactics.

But for now, they were friends and would always be such if nothing more came of it.

Chapter Text

Anzu Mazaki was just fiercely protective of her friends.

At least that’s what she told herself, as she swatted away, with a verbal onslaught, another adoring admirer of Yugi.

He really didn’t need to get distracted while he was dueling. And these people just simply weren’t right for Yugi.

They didn’t understand him like she did, hadn’t been by his side through so much, and know his likes and dislikes. How dare they.

Yugi was her best friend, not theirs.

And she wanted him to stay that way. In fact, if Yugi Mutou wanted to be something other than friends, Anzu was more than fine with that.

And as she made her way through the waiting crowd beside him, she knew she’d be having some words with him later.

Because enough was enough. Some girl out of nowhere was not going to steal Anzu’s thunder.

Because Anzu loved Yugi Mutou, and she had a strong hunch that he loved her.

And they were ready to say as much to each other.

Because anymore of these suitors trying to throw themselves at Yugi was going to give her an aneurysm.

And nobody wanted Anzu Mazaki that mad.

Anzu was fiercely protective. And she was going to protect what she saw as hers.

Chapter Text

There came a time, that if Seto Kaiba were to remain Seto at all, he’d need to let go.

He’d need to let go of the hatred he held in his heart for anything less than total control and perfection, for working together and having more on his mind than the next competition.

If Seto Kaiba remained the same, he’d be lost to his own quest for power.

Kaiba Seto would only be Kaiba, and not much would separate him from the man he so despised, his stepfather.

He would no longer be the brother he’d promised to himself he’d be for Mokuba.

Kaiba Seto would be taken over by everything he hated, and there’d be little saving him.

That’s why, standing together after Battle City, he vowed for a new start. One where him and Mokuba would truly be together as a family. They’d build KaibaLands all over the world like they’d planned.

Kaiba Seto would let go of his hate and resentment, a little at a time. And learn to have fun, as Jounouchi had tried to teach him.

He had so much care he wished to give but he’d forgotten it along the way. He wanted to help children who’d been orphaned like them.

He wished to bring joy, not the bitterness that swelled in his heart when he thought of what Gozaburo would have said to him, and the misguided quest for power he’d set him on. All in the guise of security and glory.

There was no glory if it meant hurting his younger brother, never smiling with him and forgetting the dreams they’d cherished together.

Kaiba Seto would need to learn to be a good friend, to himself and his brother, and to those around him.

To remain Seto, he’d learn to be a kind brother again, duel just for fun and be a good friend to those who helped him along the way.

Kaiba Seto would need to change, if he wanted to remain Seto at all.

He could no longer hold Seto at arms-length, he’d need to embrace himself, once again.

Chapter Text

Hiroto Honda loves Shizuka Kawai

At least he thinks he does.

She has the most beautiful auburn hair

And her dark green eyes sparkle when he makes her laugh

That’s what he saw when he first met her

But that isn’t all he loves about her.

She has Jounouchi’s resilience

And a gentle strength of her own

Watching her aboard the Battle City blimp

Honda knows he must love her.

Why else does he want to protect that laugh

And bask in her strength?

Chapter Text

Yugi places the package he’s brought alongside the others at Anzu’s birthday party

Everyone is busy playing games and munching on snacks when it finally comes time

Anzu descends excitedly upon the gift table, her eyes alight

Jounouchi got her a beautiful top from her favorite store

And Honda a new pack of cards to add to her deck

When she finally gets to Yugi’s gift, she carefully opens the wrapping

And squeals in delight

He’s gotten her a miniature dark magician girl phone charm

She rushes to add the charm to her phone.

As she makes her way back, Yugi adds, “check your texts”

And she flips open her phone

To find a message asking for a date

Anzu squeals again in excitement

And rushes to hug Yugi

Exclaiming, “Yes, I’ll go out with you!”

A day they both knew was long in the making.

Chapter Text

Holding a bouquet of flowers, Yugi can’t help but feel anxious

He’s dreamt of this day for so long, he doesn’t want to mess anything up

He sees Anzu rounding the corner and he takes a deep, grounding breath

It isn’t until he sees Anzu’s beautiful smile that he knows everything’s going to be okay

They’ve been through the world nearly ending, they can handle a couple of hours

Sure, said date was their first and they’d be discussing things they’d never talked about before

But it was freeing, they could fully be themselves around each other now

Yugi considered himself lucky

They were already best friends

And with that knowledge, he turned to bump right into Anzu

She laughed and gave him a warm hug

Yes, things were going to be just fine.

Chapter Text

Mazaki Anzu loves her friends.

She loves that they are there for her when she needs them.

But most of all, loves that they are there when she doesn’t

They laugh together as they flip through old records

Sing when they’re walking on their way to school

And they dance with her terribly when she least expects

Mazaki Anzu loves her friends when they are there for her

Even when she didn’t know she needed them to be

And how they comfort her is in their own way

Yugi- gentle, caring and kind

Jounouchi- laughter, anger and optimism in one

And strong, dependable Honda who listens every time

Yes, Mazaki Anzu loves her friends.

They are there for her when she needs them most

And most of all when she needs them less

Chapter Text

Mokuba Kaiba is thrilled.

His brother is finally back.

He’s starting to smile like he used to.

And their going to venture together and create KaibaLand

It’s what Mokuba’s been wanting all along

To truly talk to Seto again

And make their mark on this world as Kaiba’s

Gozaburo’s reign was in the past

But they could use his name to build a better future

For themselves and other children

And Mokuba is: thrilled.

Chapter Text

It’s cold aboard the battle ship. So Jounouchi goes in search of a blanket.

He lent the thin sheet that’d come with his bed to his sister.

Making his way down the hall, he finally spots a figure standing near the scoreboards.

Kaiba Seto looms tall and unmoving in the dark.

It would have intimidated Jounouchi if he hadn’t gotten use to his frame by now.

Kaiba turns to see him approaching.

“Hey, Kaiba, it’s freezing in here,” Jounouchi says once he’s nearer.

“What happened to your blanket, mutt?” Kaiba retorts.

“Not the point, but I gave it to my sister.” Jounouchi responds, defensively.

Then without a word, Kaiba summons him to follow and they make their way to a small compact closet.

There's an office door adjacent that been left ajar. And through it, Jounouchi can see Mokuba wrapped in Kaiba’s coat asleep in a chair. The kid must have been up late.

“Pick a color,” he hears and finds himself pulled back to the scene before him.

Jounouchi surveys the choices and settles on a blue blanket.

“Good choice,” Kaiba says, to Jounouchi’s surprise.

And Jounouchi throws the blanket around his shoulders to stave off the chill.

We don't need the puppy dog shivering in the cold, keeping everyone up with it's whining," Kaiba finishes with a sly grin.

"Watch it," Jounouchi warns.

“You’re really up late Kaiba. I know Yugi will win in the end but I wish you luck tomorrow.” He finds himself saying.

“Believe what you want, but only the morning will tell.” Kaiba replies back, fists only slightly clenched at Yugi’s name.

“Well get some sleep, rich boy, or I’ll have to cheer your opponent.” Jounouchi continues.

Kaiba stills at that.

“Good night,” Kaiba whispers at last.

And turns to head in the direction of his room.

“Good night!” calls Jounouchi, doing the same.

Chapter Text

Kujaku Mai loved Jounouchi Katsuya.

She loved his caring, noble heart

And the strength with which he protected.

But Kujaku Mai no longer needed protecting.

And as much as she loved his silliness

And that brave, bleeding heart,

She couldn’t forget who she was

A nomad, a wanderer, a seeker

A seeker of a challenge and a thrill.

Jounouchi was learning to let go of that

And settle into a safe, reliable man.

They were two worlds apart

And Kujaku Mai loved him,

But she loved herself even more

And that meant leaving him behind.

Chapter Text

Jounouchi’s fists knew how to talk.

He didn’t understand why Yugi’s didn’t either.

The boy would not fight back when they’d bully him,

He’d just stand around and wait for someone else

Pleading in his soft voice.

And when it came to the puzzle he loved so much,

Anzu did come to his rescue.

Irritating as it was.

They were friends, so I suppose they could count on each other.

Jounouchi wondered what that was like, but he didn’t have to wonder long.

For the next time a fight came for Jounouchi, Yugi was there, ready to defend him.

He really had no business defending anyone, but he truly didn’t like the violence.

But most of all, Jounouchi thought, he didn’t have to do this. So why was he?

Jounouchi wondered who was really the one who needed to become a man.

And so, he decided, he needed an ally on his side, and Yugi was a sure bet.

He’d be there even when it was inconvenient for him and unsafe.

If that wasn’t a friend, then, Jounouchi didn’t know what was.

And a friend deserved their stuff back, so

Jounouchi retrieved the puzzle piece he’d so thoughtlessly tossed into the pool the other day,

Because now it meant something

It meant the start of his friendship with Yugi.

Sure, the little guy still couldn’t talk with his fists.

But he knew how to stand up as best as he could.

And that to Jounouchi deserved praise.

Chapter Text

Jounouchi couldn’t believe his luck, he’d come across a stall just waiting for him to retrieve his breakfast.

This shop owner must be new, because they weren’t guarding the bread that rested on their cart as closely as the other vendors Jounouchi was used to.

And as he slid by the cart to retrieve said breakfast, sure enough, he began to leave without incident, until he turned and ran right into a woman dressed in a simple cloak.

But the glint of the gold of her earrings, caught his attention. This was no ordinary woman.

“Watch where you’re going!” she called out, and to his surprise, the vendor who’d seen him looked up then.

“Hey, you two!” they called, “empty your pockets! Guards!!”

Then Jounouchi ran. And he found himself grabbing the woman’s wrist to rush her along.

The two of them raced together through streets and past shouting vendors. They finally found an empty alley in which to catch their breath, but not before narrowly escaping the guards passing by their hiding spot.

“Are you okay?” Jounouchi asked. He felt guilt blooming in his chest at having involved this poor woman in his stealing.

“I’m fine, believe me.” She replied, still catching her breath.

“Thank you,” she continued, “for helping me back there.”

“You’re welcome, I only wish I hadn’t gotten you involved in the first place,” Jounouchi laughed, relieved.

“Did you steal that bread?” the woman asked.

Jounouchi pulled out the hunk of bread he’d taken, and broke into it, with a wry smile. “Had to.”

“I’m Anzu,” the woman responded. And then, with a smile of her own, she pulled out an apple from her robes, too shiny to have been from anywhere but the stall next to the bread vendor.

“Some apple with your bread?” she then asked.

With a surprised smile he accepted, as they both split their breakfast and chatted.

And Jounouchi knew he’d be seeing this woman again.

Chapter Text

So much had passed between them.

Bakura had been like a thorn in their side,

Constant, throbbing, seeking to inflict pain.

That he wondered if they’d want anything to do with him.

Would they shun him, keep their distance?

Leave him to fend for himself as he had for so long?

Bakura didn’t know what to anticipate.

They’d be justified, he thought, at times,

In shunning him.

The Evil spirit that had possessed him had wreaked so much havoc

Hell bent on nothing but power and pain.

And Bakura left with little more than an explanation

That it wasn’t him, he was simply, and terribly possessed.

Sometimes he even thought of ending it,

Putting a stop to the madness of fighting,

And waking up in strange places.

And the pain the Spirit caused so many.

But he knew that would only be a temporary fix,

The Spirit of the Ring did not rest,

Even for death.

After all was said and done,

Bakura would understand,

If they found it best to seek some peace.

Instead,

He found a steadying hand when he collapsed in the Pharaoh tomb.

And an invite to lunch with Yugi and his friends.

After all they’d been through.

They still held on to the goodness that was in each person.

As it seems they would not let Bakura fall.

They’d keep him afloat with friendship and laughter.

That they each kept like an oath.

Bakura was welcomed and even understood.

What else could he have expected from these friends,

Who fought for the world with friendship on their side?

Chapter Text

Kaiba Seto and his younger brother had been left with nothing at an orphanage. Gozaburo had wanted to use Kaiba Seto’s technology. And they’d been betrayed by the very men who were meant to help them, the Big Five.

Kaiba Seto had many reasons not to believe in trust. It seemed to get him little else but backstabbed.

But it’s lack is also the very thing that defeated him in the end, and his beloved Blue-Eyes White Dragon.

So when Yugi, comes forward, trying to convince him to come along with him and his friends to Pegasus’ Castle, it all seems absurd.

He’s read all about people working together, even knows the value of it for work. But these friends don’t just play at it, they truly mean it.

So instead of toy with new philosophies, he goes with what’s gotten him this far and plays alone.

It isn’t until he’s standing atop Pegasus’s castle, waiting to challenge Yugi, that he is conflicted.

What if they can find a way together? But Kaiba doesn’t know what that would look like, all he’s seemed to have known is betrayal. How could Yugi be any different?

So he challenges him, to the very brink.

Standing with his life in the balance, Kaiba can see he has only one shot at defeating Yugi, getting him to forfeit. And in the heat of battle, working with Yugi is far from his mind, even as they insist.

How could they know, the pain of trust?

Only Mokuba he’d ever trusted.

And he needed him back.

Chapter Text

Loser. Mutt. Mediocre.

Kaiba Seto could call Jounouchi Katsuya a number of things.

He could continue beating Jounouchi at duel monsters.

But Jounouchi knew he couldn’t take away what stood behind him,

Years of coming back from such defeats and never giving up.

He could never fault him for trying, for his courage and his trust.

Jounouchi had also had to learn to trust just like Kaiba,

That more than sheer power mattered.

As Jounouchi'd been in street fights, bullying and all manner of trouble,

All to show he was on top too, and no one could mess with him.

It seemed Jounouchi was still learning to remember that lesson,

As he picked a fight with Kaiba Seto on that fateful day of Duelist Kingdom.

And rightfully defeated he knelt on the ground, hearing those same names.

Loser. Mutt. Mediocre.

God Kaiba was a pain in the ass.

But what Jounouchi also heard, was a challenge.

One that rang all the way to Battle City and beyond.

For Jounouchi loved the game as much as Kaiba.

But he loved standing up to Kaiba even more.

The rich boy could deny all he wanted,

But he finally seemed to be enjoying his time,

Bantering and dueling Jounouchi.

And it was dueling him at Battle City,

Jounouchi came to understand,

That Kaiba made him stronger.

All while they had fun.

Two things Kaiba might have scoffed at

Had his brother not intervened and asked for as much.

As Mokuba missed his brother, the fun and smiling one.

So Kaiba Seto had vowed to bring back just that.

And Jounouchi couldn’t wait to duel this new Kaiba.

One that smiled and barbed,

And told Jounouchi exactly where he belonged.

Because Jounouchi loved proving him wrong.

All in the name of fun and growing strong.

Chapter Text

Pegasus remembers painting.

He loved to focus on each delicate stroke and color.

One by one, bringing together a completed piece.

His love for Cyndia was like that.

He’d bring them closer one stroke at a time,

Holding fast to the memory of her lips on his.

And just like the events he enjoyed so much,

He planned every stroke of his tournament.

Day by day, Yugi grew closer to him.

And so too his reunification with his beloved.

As each piece drew nearer,

He could feel her in his arms again.

The Millennium Puzzle would be his.

And so too any soul that dared stop him.

Till his piece was complete.

Chapter Text

Dueling waterside, Kaiba Seto surmises, Jounouchi Katsuya is a hasty duelist. He plays too many cards without a second thought. Jounouchi will learn in due time, including right now, that his skill is no match for Kaiba. He should have thought just as carefully about picking a fight with him if he didn't want to end up as a guinea pig.

Duelist Kingdom was not a tournament for Kaiba, but a rescue mission. It seems it might be for Jounouchi as well, something about his sister and her eyesight. But nothing will get in the way of rescuing Mokuba, including competition.

The friendship philosophy may have worked for Yugi, but Kaiba hasn’t seen enough to change anything so hastily.

XXX

When he reaches the docks and see’s a possessed Jounouchi dueling Yugi, Kaiba can only think that this is the end result of what he’s thought all along. No one is your comrade. You alone can rely on yourself.

But Jounouchi breaks free of his mind control. The power of their friendship having been the catalyst. Kaiba can scarcely believe it. So, he doesn’t, and thinks it must be a poor excuse for mind control. But even he isn’t convinced.

Regardless, Jounouchi fights to save Yugi after calling a draw, at the expense of saving himself. These fools were dedicated to their friendship far greater than anyone Kaiba’s seen. But when he witnesses Jounouchi’s little sister dive into the water to save Jounouchi, he is reminded of Mokuba and his fierce spirit. Maybe the power of a bond is worth protecting after all.

XXX

The competition has left Kaiba worn and exhausted in a way he didn’t expect. He’d lost to Yugi. A bitter enough defeat. But he’d also had to confront Guzaburo’s influence on him. And Kaiba is tired of hearing about the old man. But he isn’t done until Mokuba too reminds him after his duel for bronze with Jounouchi that, he misses the big brother who use to smile and cherish their dreams. And Kaiba knows things have gone too far.

Maybe Jounouchi was a poor duelist, but he had a point that he needed to have some fun. The blonde still seemed intent on pursuing him as a friend and competitor though, and Kaiba found this strangely comforting. An old dog trying to learn new tricks. And as he teases them for thinking he’s anything but fighting and alive, he leaves the island with a refreshed spirit.

XXX

In the boat on their way to the Pharaoh’s tomb, Jounouchi deems himself a worthy opponent of Atem. Kaiba Seto may be warming to the idea of friendship, but he will hold fast to the fact that he is the superior duelist, and he isn’t afraid to say it with a hand block to Jounouchi’s face. They’ve become comfortable enough for such gestures now.

Yugi is of course the one to duel Atem. It makes the most sense. But Kaiba is again left wondering why he has agreed to come along, when the realization dawns on him, not for the first time, that these people see him as a comrade. Though prior, he would have scoffed at this and tossed it aside, they have bred a certain familiarity.

Kaiba knows he’s been hanging around them much longer than he’d thought though, when he starts to regard Anzu as bold and Jounouchi as humorous and even brave, as his idiot ‘friends’ seemed notorious for finding themselves in danger. And maybe that’s exactly what he’ll settle on for his appraisal. But he’d be hard pressed to admit that to any of them.

Chapter Text

Kaiba Seto isn’t sure why he decides to reroute his trip to Cairo. He had just wrapped up a business trip and was on his way home to Mokuba. But Ishizu had alerted him to the Pharaoh’s final days here on Earth, and it was too curious of a situation to not entertain. It wasn’t everyday such a phenomenon was said to take place.

Further, this had been his rival for so long now. He’d obsessed over not only Yugi’s deck but the strengths and weaknesses that influenced him as a player. He hadn’t taken into account that the Spirit was the one behind Yugi’s confidence, but was the best explanation after what he’d seen aboard the KC blimp during Battle City.

Yugi was stronger for Atem, that was clear. And as much as Kaiba sometimes despised the idea, the fact that there was an ancient connection between him and his Blue-Eyes White Dragons, aroused curiosity enough. And if it were true, he too wished to say good-bye.

So, it was somewhat unfortunate to find that he’d missed the Pharaoh’s passing to the afterlife. But he did find Yugi Mutou there, sitting knees pulled inwards, facing the Pharaoh’s tomb. His name was Atem as it turns out. And Yugi tells him of a woman named Kisara, who’s Ka is that of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. And Kaiba listens, not because he necessarily cares too much about what's said, but he can tell Yugi is in distress.

The others are off sightseeing but Yugi decided to stay behind. This was unusual for the friends so dedicated to each other, but Yugi had been separated from his hosted Spirit, this must be upsetting.

So Kaiba listened until it was time for him to go, and he wondered if he should ask after Yugi.

“Did he have any final words?” he asks instead.

“He wished us well, including you Kaiba,” Yugi responded, eyes still downcast.

And Kaiba knew he had to ask. Yugi was looking more distressed than he’d previously assessed.

“Then what are you still doing here?” Kaiba inquired.

Yugi looked up then, a bit surprised at the question. Then he turned his eyes downwards again, whispering “I miss him. I wish we’d had more time together.”

And to that, Kaiba didn’t immediately know what to respond.

“I can get that. But you have to move on. He had his time here.”

Yugi nodded still looking somewhat sullen.

Then Kaiba continued. “I still plan on beating you in a duel Yugi, since you were the victor of the two of you,” then he paused, “I too came to say my farewells, but it seems I was too late,” and there was something like regret in his voice.

“I never expected myself to be tied to something so ancient. I wanted to come and see for myself. And I suppose thank him for making me a stronger duelist.”

Yugi was looking intently now at Kaiba.

“I pride myself as a duelist Yugi. And Atem was a great one. He gave you what you needed. If his memory meant anything to you, you’ll move on. I doubt he’d want you to linger here while he’s at rest.” he finished.

A small smile crossed Yugi’s lips. He looked a little less sad now.

But instead of thanks, he nodded, raising his right hand in a thumbs up, a soft look overtaking his features.

Satisfied, Kaiba turned to leave, whispering his own farewell to the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle.

Chapter Text

Anzu knew the truth now. The Spirit of the Puzzle was separate from Yugi.

She’d started to wonder where those bursts of confidence that would take over were coming from, and now she knew. Her Yugi, was not the same as the spirit of the puzzle.

Her kind, caring Yugi was the one who called the shots in the end though, as she remembered his duel with Kaiba atop Pegasus’s castle.

But instead of clearer, the lines became even blurrier to Anzu as she saw him face off, duel after duel, and then against his hosted spirit, winning as she knew he could.

Anzu struggled to say good bye though, to a restless spirit that wasn’t meant for this world. A Spirit that had found it’s way into her heart after they’d saved her life. But who was it, truly, Yugi or the Spirit who had saved her?

With time, she decided it didn’t matter. She’d loved the mystery and assurance the Spirit had provided in her hour of need. It was only natural. But now he was gone, and in time she realized it wasn’t just the Spirit who had saved her, it was Yugi as well. In fact, without Yugi’s friendship and caring, she may not even be here.

The Spirit, Atem, had shown them all the strength of their friendship time and again, as they rallied together to fight for the fate of the world. If it weren’t for him, she wouldn’t have seen how brave and courageous her Yugi could be.

And Yugi had changed, standing taller and more confident on his own, as a duelist, and a man. And Anzu found herself feeling as she had when she first heard Atem’s voice, full of reassuring confidence, but it was Yugi’s voice now. She found herself wondering again, if it mattered Yugi and Atem were separate entities.

Her heart began to flutter as it did at times when she had seen Atem’s confidence in Yugi’s eyes. But it was no longer Atem’s, it was Yugi’s. And she found herself thanking Atem, for befriending Yugi. Yugi had learned from Atem as much as the other way around. Atem made Yugi face his fears and fight battles Yugi might only have dreamed of. And now Yugi was stronger for it. And Anzu loved him all the more.

Yes, she loved Atem, but she loved Yugi even more, for he was hers, kind, corporeal, and strong. Yugi was meant for this world, and she was starting to think, for her. Their friendship was so precious and beautiful to her. But her heart bloomed something new, and she knew one day she would speak to him about what she was beginning to feel.

And when she did, she hoped her admirable, brave Yugi would share in her affections. Her heart told her, it could only be so, from the way he looked at her, so tenderly at times.

But one day, she’d know the answer, when she was ready; and that time was coming soon. For their eyes were lingering more often, and their touches gentler than ever. One day soon, she knew she’d be saying what she felt in her heart. That she loved him, with all of it, and wanted him by her side. As a friend and a lover, if he’d have her. And she had hope, that he would.

Chapter Text

Jounouchi was a hardworking man. With the charisma and effort, he brought to his work, she could have anything she wanted being with him.

But that’s not why she stays. It might have been if you’d asked her a handful of years ago. But she’s independent enough that she can provide for herself. Yes, the stability helps and, he’s no longer a teenager with something to prove to the world.

But no, she stays because she’s in love. She’s probably been in love with him for years. But she isn’t sure the exact moment.

Somewhere in between seeing him look out for his sister, dedicate himself to his friends and his willingness to give his soul for hers. He’d proven himself to be a man of honor time and time again.

It’d taken Mai time to value that. She’d been alone for so long, unable to rely on anyone.

It’d taken Mai time as well to find herself again after Yami Marik’s abuse and her time with Dartz, but she’d come back. She’d promised herself she’d face Jounouchi again after everything he’d done for her, and she had. And he’d welcomed her back with arms wide open, grateful his friend was back to herself, if not better.

And she was better, better than she’d ever been. She’d banished Marik’s ghost and made a true path for herself as a duelist, no longer just chasing empty dreams.

And Jounouchi joined her along the way. They went from one tournament to the next, facing off when they needed to. They’d bicker as always, but Mai never forgot his heart, so kind and strong. And when she kissed him for the first time, she told him as much, both drunk on the high of a win.

Then, finally it was at a tournament in Vegas, after some false starts, that he told her, told her that he loved her. And she, remembering the lessons of their youth, told him the truth. That she returned his affection. Because she understood, that what was between them, was precious. Whether they were friends or lovers.

And now they’d found a steady life for themselves. Something that worked for them, with dueling never far from their agendas.

And one day, Mai realized, that in loving Jounouchi, she was always home wherever he was not matter what they had.

Chapter Text

The truth was, Kaiba Seto was out of Jounouchi’s league. He was smarter than Jounouchi could ever hope to be.

But, even still, Jounouchi dared to challenge him. Because for all their glaring differences, they were strikingly similar in many ways.

Jounouchi was just as persistent and defiant. And they both had things they desperately wished to protect, whether it be against sibling kidnapping baddies or for their own path.

Jounouchi would keep challenging him till he became strong enough to beat him. And even if he didn’t, it’d be worth the challenge as he had faith and friendship on his side. Kaiba was learning these things too.

One day they’d come full circle. With Jounouchi fighting him as a comrade. All while having fun along the way.

Chapter Text

The afternoon sun was hanging low by the time Anzu and Bakura made their way out of school. They had decided to head home together after volunteering to help one of their teachers sort out an upcoming class event for the Halloween season.

“I’m really excited to see what the students will think of all of our efforts,” Bakura was saying, when they were interrupted by another group of Bakura’s admirers. This time, they had a number of letters and flowers one of them was brave enough to deliver for the others.

Bakura was always kind to his admirers and allowed them to pester him a while before letting them know he and his friend had to be off. Anzu told them to leave Bakura alone and they both began to make their way again as the retreating gang of girls threw parting glances in Bakura’s direction.

“It must get frustrating,” Anzu said, “all the attention, I as a girl get tired of it.”

“Yes, it can be exhausting, but I try to take in in stride,” he replied.

Then he continued, “I’m glad I can give people something positive to focus on rather than everything the dark spirit did.”

Anzu nodded, “that’s understandable.”

Then was surprised to find Bakura extending the bouquet of pink and peach flowers to her with a resolute smile. “Here, consider them an apology for what he did,” he continued, “beautiful flowers for a beautiful girl.”

And Anzu accepted the bouquet with a surprised smile, “thank you!” she said, “I can see why they all like you.”

Chapter Text

The next time Jounouchi challenges Kaiba to duel, he doesn’t expect it to be in front of such a crowd.

Because as expected, he doesn’t win. But he’d given Kaiba more of a run for his money than he’d ever expected possible. And that’s what matters to Jounouchi.

What Jounouchi can’t believe are the circumstances that led to them dueling a third time in the first place. He thinks Kaiba agrees out of sheer familiarity and a desire to trounce him.

The same old jokes fall from Kaiba’s lips, mediocre, third rate. But none of them bite as much as they used to, rather performative.

Because it’s not news that Jounouchi’s the weaker duelist and Kaiba’s “still haven’t learned,” comments are indicative. But he can’t seem to begrudge Jounouchi the duel.

Almost as if he’d anticipated it. As if he enjoys spending some time telling Jounouchi off. The cocky smile Kaiba delivers him when they began their duel is telling enough.

And the fact that Jounouchi’s willingness to come back isn’t disputed as much by Kaiba is starting to look something like acceptance of his perseverance. A perseverance Kaiba is familiar with, as he’s shown it himself, when standing up to Gozaburo again and again. Except, he couldn’t afford to lose.

And that’s what Kaiba couldn’t seem to shake the second time they’d dueled, that Jounouchi actually had some fun. It’s only a start, but Jounouchi’s glad to see Kaiba out and dueling for no other reason than to do just that and deliver some grueling banter.

And Jounouchi will keep to his promise to continue to work to be stronger, to duel Kaiba until he can beat him one day, because that’s Jounouchi’s path as a true duelist. And if Kaiba learns to smile a little more along the way, then so be it. Jounouchi is happier for it.

Even if Jounouchi never beats Kaiba, it will be well worth it, for Jounouchi will be stronger and have gotten Kaiba, an admirable opponent, to perhaps consider befriending the idea of fun.

Chapter Text

Kaiba Seto walked out of the duel arena after his match with Yugi feeling as if he had awoken from a coma.

Time and space had lost their meaning. He was a young boy again, learning power was everything.

So why was he here, having lost, to heart?

The years prior seemed like a haze of pursuit, now stalled in their tracks.

Yugi had told him that he didn’t yet believe in the heart of the cards and until he did, he could not win.

Then had come the intense crush to his mind that left him now reeling. Not only from the loss, but why.

If Yugi was right, then for all intents and purposes, Kaiba had been awoken from a coma as he didn’t understand this new world in which he could lose to something so fairytale like as the heart of the cards.

It was a ruthless coma, of the pursuit of power, because power meant success and safety. And Kaiba strove to always be the best for himself and his future.

But what if there was a chance, he was wrong?

He needed to get away and think.

Of course, that would have worked out better if Pegasus wasn’t trying to take over Kaiba Corp and had the nerve to kidnap Mokuba.

He at least got his deck back, and had the chance to witness the heart of the cards nearly win again, saving his life. The friends Yugi loved so much, cheering him on.

And ultimately, the heart of the cards did win again, as Yugi showed himself the better duelist by defeating Pegasus and winning back those souls that had been stolen away. It was a strange marvel.

Hugging Mokuba now, he could perhaps see Yugi’s point. After all, the heart had led him to the Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Yugi and his friends, and back to his brother.

Chapter Text

Bakura’s chest was solid and warm against hers.

And that’s what she needed right now.

So perfectly safe and warm. At least she hoped it was safe.

If Bakura’s soothing voice as she described her troubles, sounded harsher than usual, she ignored it.

Soon, Atem would be gone. And she’d be without his strength and reassurance.

So, she found a safe place, away from her grieving friends, in the arms of one who wasn’t so close. But close enough to make her feel.

And as Bakura placed kisses along her jaw and pressed his hips against hers, she forgot for a moment the pain of letting go, and simply basked in the heat between their bodies. Allowing herself to come undone beneath him as she wished she could Yami.

Bakura bit and teased, and she allowed herself to be carried away. Aware, somewhere in her, that this was not the soft gentle Bakura Ryou, but something ancient. Like Yami Yugi.

And she yearned for it. Despite knowing she was teetering, like one of her dance moves overstretched. She could be risking her life falling into bed in the yawning dark with this Bakura, but somehow, Anzu couldn’t bring herself to care. So tired of holding back her longing for something ancient.

And as Bakura plunged into her heat once again, the excitement flared in her again as well. The blue feeling of leaving behind so much magic and intoxicating mystery fading. It was hers, for the few hours Yami Bakura, -yes, it was him, undoubtedly, though she found her fear numbed by her turmoil- focused all his attention, hungrily on Anzu, it was hers in which to bask.

It didn’t hurt that Bakura’s body was a beautiful host. The longing of so many of her peers. Holding him close had been easy, and the pretense of Yami Bakura pretending to play a gentle schoolboy all but disappeared when she pressed her body against his, seeking the ancient one, his darkness and solidity, enveloping her and taking her somewhere she’d never been.

Chapter Text

Finally, another average school night, save for the ancient Spirit that was dominant beside her, as Yugi, concerned for his wellbeing, allowed him to take control and have another outing with just Anzu, as the previous had gone so well.

A traveling fair was in town, and they were both in line for some cotton candy. Surprisingly, to Anzu, she was learning from his stories, some that would have surely shocked any passerby, that in ancient Egypt, some of these rides and games were common. And he seemed to feel a sense of peace being surrounded by these bits of home. Anzu hoped too, that such peace would breed well for her and Yami.

“Let’s check out the Ferris wheel!” she exclaimed.

Curious, Yami followed. And as she stood beside him in line for the ride, she noted his expression changing from content to anxious.

“Is something wrong?” Anzu inquired.

“It’s just higher than I anticipated,” Yami replied his usually confident voice trailing off.

“Relax, I’ll help you,” she said, taking his hand, and rubbing soothing circles on the inside of his palm.

Yami Yugi’s body seemed to visibly relax at her touch. And as they readied to board their cart for the ride, she didn’t let go of his hand, taking it instead in her lap.

“Deep breaths, just focus on me,” Anzu reassured.

And Yami seemed to be doing just that, focusing his gaze on her face rather than the ascending cart.

“It is actually very peaceful up here,” he remarked once they’d reached the top of the wheel. “I’m glad to have come up here with you, Anzu.”

And, Anzu, beaming, replied, “I’m glad to be here with you too.” His hand, solid and warm in hers as the cart stopped at the center, allowing them to better take in the view surrounding them, distant but bright.

And high above the bustle, Anzu for all the world, wished to kiss him, so she turned, already finding Yami Yugi looking back at her, his eyes unwavering, as they moved closer and brought their mouths together in a gentle kiss.

She could figure out the consequences later, but for now, Anzu felt like a lucky girl, as they, arm in arm, stepped off the ride and on to another adventure.

Chapter Text

The weather outside was awful. Contrasting the intricate atmosphere of the delicate tea shop Shizuka loved to frequent every time she came to town.

Anzu relished the soft puffs of steam rising from the contents of the tea cup before her. It was green, like the eyes of the girl sitting across from her.

Anzu looked up, seeing Shizuka smile contentedly, sipping her pink flowery tea. Anzu always felt a bit out of place in here, but she came, for Shizuka. And the drinks were admittedly good.

“Thank you for the birthday treat, Anzu,” Shizuka said.

“Of course,” Anzu replied, “it’s your special day!”

“And for letting me stay over last night,” Shizuka said, with a giggle.

At that, Anzu blushed. She’d not wanted to bring it up herself, but since the girl had…

“Shizuka, what happened last night... I mean, it’s okay, if you don’t feel the same way.” Anzu stammered out.

Shizuka took her hand then. With the same gentleness she had the night before.

“Anzu, I’ve always admired you,” Shizuka began.

Anzu braced herself for a rejection.

“And now I know you’re just as good a kisser as I’d imagined,” Shizuka finished.

Anzu let out a sigh of relief.

“Let’s maybe just wait to tell your brother…” Anzu said in reply.

“And I think you’re an excellent kisser too,” she continued, leaning forward with a coy smile, etiquette be damned, and captured Shizuka’s soft lips with her own.

Shizuka gave a sweet smile when they parted.

“You taste like strawberry,” Anzu said, and leaned forward to kiss the girl once more, tea forgotten.

Chapter Text

The clatter of dishes could be heard as the shop prepared to close for a meal break.

So, they finished up their tea and headed outside.

“The weather’s cleared up a bit. Let’s take a walk.” Shizuka suggested.

And Anzu obliged.

They walked along wet pavement and took in the little shops that lined the street on which the tea shop resided.

Pausing in front of a perfume stall, Shizuka recalled the smell of Anzu’s hair the night before. Soft, and minty. And she, feeling bold, took Anzu’s hand.

To the world they appeared just a pair of young girls perhaps. But Shizuka knew what she felt for the woman beside her. She’d known it well before she came undone in Anzu’s arms last night.

Anzu smiled at her, one of her bright, happy grins. The one that’d comforted Shizuka, her brother and so many more. Shizuka felt happy just to bask in its light.

As they came to the end of the street, the rain began to fall again. Quickly soaking their clothes and hair as they'd forgotten an umbrella.

“We need to get you home, and out of those clothes,” Anzu said, turning towards her, hand still clasped in Shizuka’s.

Shizuka gave a sly grin, “only if you’ll join me.”

At Anzu’s surprised, happy smile, Shizuka felt she could have floated away.

Grasping Anzu’s hand tighter, she urged the other woman forward, eager for a soft place to land.

[and a snippet]:

Shizuka yawned.

They’d both been up late the night before. But, looking up at the girl across from her, she remembers the nervous laughter before they’d succumbed to one another, and doesn’t feel so tired anymore.

The soft touches that led to even quieter moans, replayed in her mind. Making it hard to focus on anything else.

Chapter Text

He had bled for this mission, more times than he’d care to count. He wasn’t going to let this sniveling child sabotage his chances now.

Yami Bakura rose from his bed as he felt his host’s body trying to regain control. The strain had become just another ghostly twinge to him over the time he’d occupied this boy’s vessel.

Why couldn’t he see? All he needed was to be complete. If the boy would simply cooperate, he wouldn’t need to force him out so often.

Instead, he is left to deal all the blows alone. Yami Bakura watched as Sugoroku Mutou’s body fell to the ground. The foolish well-wisher. What did he know of feeling torn and incomplete?

Dealing with his vessel’s friends would be another matter entirely, but he’d soon get to that. After all, there were no bridges he wasn’t willing to burn.

Chapter Text

Kujaku Mai rummaged around in her handbag for the lipstick she knew she’d packed.

Pulling out the reflective gold tube, she reapplied her classic lip color and made her way out of the restroom, eager to return to the party.

It’d been a while since she’d been able to go out and get dressed up. It’d been a while since anyone had with the pandemic raging as long as it had.

On her way back to her table she made eye contact with a man who looked startlingly familiar.

“Kaiba!” Mai said, “well, I’m not surprised to see you here. Every bigshot made an appearance.”

“Mai,” he said in reply, “nice to see you here, and well. You look... good,” he finished with a slight quirk of his mouth.

“Thanks,” she responded, “let’s take a seat, catch up.”

“Depends, will the geek squad be joining us?” he quipped back.

“No, but do play nice with them,” she said, “or I may not be so friendly.”

“Something tells me I don’t want to miss that chance,” Kaiba responded, smiling slyly, “so I’ll leave them be, maybe even throw Jounouchi a bone or two.”

“That’s better,” she replied, a coy smile playing on her own lips.

“Now bring on the wine, because I don’t talk for free. And we’ve got at least a pandemic’s worth to make up for,” she continued.

“Consider it done,” he said, offering her his arm and another look that promised more than just a good conversation.

Chapter Text

Mai stirred the coffee she’d just added a generous amount of creamer to.

Spending the night with Kaiba Seto had been a wild ride. She could hear him wrapping up in the shower as she took the first sips of her morning joe.

As the shower turned off, she recalled the kisses, nips and touches from the night before. It’d been unlike any lover she’d had. On par with her for once. Not demanding or fumbling at the sight of a pretty woman. But slow, confident and just the right amount of pushy. She’d thoroughly enjoyed herself.

When Kaiba exited the bathroom, she found herself taking in his tall frame once again. She’d imagined what the man looked like naked ever since she’d seen him on a billboard, but she counted herself lucky to have earned her way into the CEO’s bed.

“Made you a cup,” she offered, gesturing to the awaiting cup of hotel provided coffee.

“Thanks, let’s grab some breakfast? I’ve got some time before my meetings,” Kaiba suggested.

“Love to,” she replied with a smile.

Over the course of breakfast, they discussed whatever they hadn’t gotten to the night before, drawn in by one another’s wit and charm, laced with alluring arrogance.

“They didn’t believe me, but they paid for that mistake,” Mai was saying, of a recent duel she’d had.

Soon the topic turned to the brunette’s work.

“We’ve made great strides in our research,” Kaiba explained, “since the initial version you tested out.”

The blonde paused at the mention of that time. Something had been nagging her, and she realized now just what it was.

“You should know, I wouldn’t have tested it out if I’d known what they were up to,” Mai clarified, glancing down for a moment at her half-eaten omelet.

“That’s heartening,” Kaiba said, with a slight smile. “I’d prefer my partners have my best interest in mind.”

Mai chuckled sweetly. The admission had been the closest she’d come to admitting any true allegiance to the man sitting across from her, and she supposed one of affection as well.

“Anyways, your too cute to go out like that,” Mai continued, “plus I prefer my partners corporeal.”

Chapter Text

A special on the local zoo monkeys blared over the little television in Yugi’s living room. They were discussing how the winter months can be hard on the animals and were showing clips of them in their enclosures.

They know they’re all likely thinking it. And in typical fashion, it’s Jounouchi who bites first.

“I just keep remembering what they did to Honda. Trapped in that metal body.” His hands balled into fists. They’d not addressed it much ever since making it back home. I guess now was the time.

“Yeah, it was lonely. I didn’t know if I’d make it out of there for a while! Freaked me out like nothing else,” Honda explained. Then he turned to take in the monkeys on the screen.

“I would have been having a panic attack!” Anzu continued.

“You bet I was!” Honda replied.

“Explains why you were so jumpy,” Jounouchi mumbled.

“I’m so sorry, Honda,” Yugi lamented.

“Yeah, well I’m glad I found you guys in the end and,” he gestured to himself, “I’m still here.”

They each nodded in gratitude, and returned their attention to the special on television.

“It’s funny how they picked a money though, isn’t it?” Jounouchi inquired innocently.

“Yeah, they even got your hair on point,” Otogi chimed in.

“They weren’t far from the mark,” Jounouchi said, chuckling.

Honda remained silent.

“Didn’t our math teacher make a comparison to you and monkeys the other day?” Anzu inquired absently.

“Yeah, something about just needing to count bananas,” Otogi offered.

“Oohh!! Hey!! Stop comparing me to a monkey!” Honda said angrily.

“Sorry Honda, didn’t mean to upset you,” Jounouchi said.

“Hey, I get it,” Otogi responded sympathetically, “it’s like you and dogs Jounouchi.”

Anzu giggled. “Well, there may actually be some truth there,” she teased.

“Come on guys, Otogi said as he rubbed the top of Honda’s head, “let’s give them a break. They’ve both been humiliated enough after all. Clearly it still stings,” he noted of Jounouchi’s now equally balled fists.

Honda began to fidget and itch himself in irritation as he took another bite of the banana he’d been holding off on eating.

Anzu gave another giggle, “monkey see, monkey do.”

They all laughed.

“Hey! I said quit it! You don’t get it! That could have been the end of me you guys!” Honda implored.

“I could have never been sitting here talking to you,” he continued.

They all grew silent then, realizing they’d gotten carried away.

“Sorry Honda,” Anzu said, “we’re all still trying to process it too. We’ll cool it, ok?”

Honda, still tense, sat back down on the ground and folded his arms. “Thanks,” he mumbled, “but somebody change the channel!”

Yugi did as he asked, switching it to another local news station. There wasn’t much discussion about monkeys, or Honda and bananas for that matter, thereafter.

Chapter Text

Gozaburo liked to think he inspired growth - an inquiring mind and the persistent pursuit of self-betterment.

Naysayers whispered he didn’t know much of the subject. He’d never watched the slow and careful way in which a plant bloomed or studied how the mind truly thrived.

He didn’t understand that what he was growing beneath the soil with his demands and his games were anger and resentment.

Sure, Seto and Mokuba grew to be smart, sharp and resourceful children. But that was not, despite what he thought, because of him, but rather in spite of him.

For as he starved love, the hate that grew within these boys consumed even him, leaving a garden to weed in its wake.

Chapter Text

Honda couldn’t believe he’d somehow gotten Jounouchi to allow this. But here he was sat with Shizuka Kawai of all people. One of the cutest and sweetest girls he’d had the pleasure of meeting.

He’d spent the morning carefully preparing food for their outing and selecting the best picnic spot.

After picking up Shizuka from the train station, they’d made their way as planned to the local park he loved to come to. It boasted a lovely little koi pond and the Sakura was just about to be in bloom.

Shizuka and him had been sharing their love of animals during their conversations over phone, so, as a surprise, he’d decided to bring Blankey with him.

“She’s so fluffy!” Shizuka cried, petting her sides as Blankey looked on adoringly, wagging her tail.

Honda gave a pleased smile and mentally patted himself on the back for thinking of bringing her.

“She’s a good girl, and I can tell she likes you,” Honda replied.

Honda spread out the blanket he’d brought for their picnic and secured Blankey to the shady tree overhead.

“Sandwiches!” Honda declared proudly, pulling out the items from the cooler he’d brought along.

“Thank you,” Shizuka said, taking the food offered, “I didn’t have much on the train.”

“I made these special with olives, your favorite,” Honda explained.

Shizuka was mid bite when a couple said olives tumbled out of her sandwich and landed on the blanket.

Blankey came over and nosed at one of them.

“Back!” Honda warned to Blankey and the dog retreated, lying down again.

Shizuka chuckled at the dog’s antics.

“She’s been fed,” he explained, “greedy dog,” and ruffled the top of her head fondly.

Honda picked up the undisturbed olive and offered it to Shizuka. “Just washed this blanket this morning,” he said.

Shizuka smiled and leaned forward, parting her lips to allow Honda to deposit the round, dark fruit into her waiting mouth.

Honda, eyes wide, hesitated only a moment, pleased but surprised at the intimacy.

Taking the olive between his thumb and index finger, he brought the fruit up to her mouth and placed it on her soft, pink lips.

He watched as she took it into her mouth, eyes half lidded and began to savor the taste.

Honda smiled at the sight. She looked to truly be enjoying herself as she chewed and made small noises of appreciation.

“Mm-mm” Shizuka said, “thank you for remembering!”

Chapter Text

Of all the people Kaiba expected to run into, on the street, Isis was not one of them. Especially not all dressed in black at the height of a summer day.

He couldn’t help but ask. “Isis, what are you doing here?”

“A funeral. Of a longtime colleague of mine,” she replied, with a sad smile.

And at that, he didn’t know what to say. So, he took a page from Mokuba’s book.

“Would you like to talk?” he asked, the words not coming out as naturally as they may have for his younger brother.

Isis smiled again, soft and sad. “That’d be nice,” she replied.

And with that they made their way inside the little restaurant nearest them that appeared to Kaiba’s standards. He vaguely recalled Mokuba mentioning having eaten at one of their locations.

As they looked over their menus, Kaiba took another page out of Mokuba’s book.

“My treat.”

And Isis, flashed him a grateful smile wider this time. Which made Kaiba feel a relief he didn’t quite realize he was waiting for.

“Do you recommend anything?” she asked.

“If you were to ask my brother, he’d probably say a milkshake, I personally haven’t eaten here,” he replied.

“A milkshake it is then. I’ve never actually had one,” Isis said with a rueful smile.

And that seemed a shame, even to Kaiba, who himself didn’t sport much of a sweet tooth.

“Make that two,” he responded, and handed off their menus to the waiter.

Chapter Text

Anzu had known Honda Hiroto for years now. Knew the way he belched and fought with Jounouchi. Knew how brave, and earnest his heart could be; whether it was about the latest girl he was crushing on or protecting against life-threatening mayhem.

He was loyal, loud and dependable. And she loved him, as a friend. He was their Honda.

But the boy standing in front of her now, seemed a stranger.

No, he seemed a man, with a deep voice like honey and soul-filled eyes reciting one of the most beloved poems of their time.

“So kiss me sweet with your warm wet mouth,
Still fragrant with ruby wine,”

Tearing her focus away, she looked down at her hands clenched in her lap. It was just a silly love poem, Anzu thought.

But her eyes kept wandering back to his, so intent and earnest. Always earnest. And her hands fisted again, wondering who it was he thought of now.

She hoped, against hope, when his gaze wandered over to her for a moment, that it was her. Her he loved and longed for.

Memories filled her head of the many times they’d danced together. So comfortably he’d fit beside her. And he of their group was the happiest to help.

Hearing the round of applause, Anzu rose to her feet not caring if she was the only one. Cheering and applauding as loud as her heart cared. Needing him to know what she’d come to understand.

Chapter Text

The wagon trundled along the familiar path that led to the entrance of their village.

Isis tried to keep herself from nodding off. She was having terrible dreams again, in some of them she saw Mana doubled over crying out for Mahad while in others she herself called for him.

It was disconcerting enough that she placed a protective arm around the young apprentice who snoozed at her side.

Mana was young and bright. But she had a tendency to get herself into trouble. Isis hoped that these dreams were not the culmination of such. Something told her it was larger than Mana though. Her necklace could unfortunately only see so far.

Wanting to hear the other’s voice, she let her self interest get the better of her and shook the young woman awake.

“Mana, we’re almost here,” Isis whispered gently.

The woman beside her only nuzzled deeper into her side, caressing Isis’s breast in the process. Isis gave a slight gasp.

They’d be home soon. Her hands tightened imperceptibly around Mana’s shoulders.

Mahad had known of the two and their tryst but waved it off, chalking it up to a young woman’s curiosity. But Isis knew when her heart sped up at the sight of the apprentice and heard the peals of laughter across the courtyard, that for her, this was no mere tryst.

Mana woke gently nuzzling once again the priestess’s side and roused as always with a bright smile. Isis couldn’t help but smile back, fondness never far.

Mana placed a gentle kiss to her cheek and her young eyes shown with desire meant only for the priestess.

“We’ll be home soon,” she said with a sly smile. And Mana returned it with a gentle squeeze to Isis’ thigh. Isis felt arousal course through her entire body. So much so she needed to sit back and stare out the window. They were passing through the market.

“Soon,” she began to say again, but suddenly a vision overtook her unbeckoned and she found herself filled with sadness at the words. Why?

In her mind’s eye, she was saying the words again, ‘soon… home soon.’ Yet there was no Mana beside her and in addition to sorrow she felt fear. A fear like no other.

Isis could sense herself doubling over. “Soon, home soon,” she heard someone whisper, as she realized it was herself.

Mana was shaking her shoulders and calling out her name, but it was no use. The vision consumed her.

When she finally came to, Mana’s usual cheerful face was distraught and raked over her with concern.

Isis couldn’t seem to release the feeling of sorrow and fear that followed her into the natural world, but as it finally slipped away, she felt a relief at arriving at the palace. A relief mixed with dread.

What could these visions mean?

She held Mana tighter as they disembarked the wagon. “Maybe we should stay home for a while,” she found herself saying. And Mana, concerned for her welfare, agreed; taking the priestess’ hand as they made their way to her bed chambers.

Chapter Text

Pandora had a soft spot for budding magicians.

He had been invited to yet another children’s birthday party to entertain the guests. Few showed genuine interest in becoming a magician though, only learning basic tricks of the trade and tossing them aside like discarded toys.

But there, one young girl showed true interest in wanting to learn from him and at one point, instead of asking to see another magic trick, boldly said she’d show him one. And she did, with a silver dollar.

Delighted, it was one of the sweetest things he’d ever seen and, from the crowd, the first his dear Catherine ever saw of him.

Pandora still carried that silver coin on a chain around his neck. It was all he had left of Catherine. She used to love to pull out the coin and relive the story of seeing him enthralled by the little girl. Catherine, a caterer at the time, had risked her position, stopping to observe them and ask Pandora after his trade.

As he discussed his love of magic and saw the light in her eyes at his words, he knew he needed to see her again.

“I’m afraid for all of my skill, I can’t seem to get away from the idea of seeing you again, Catherine,” Pandora recalled saying as he proceeded to invite her out to a picnic at his favorite park. One that for a time no longer haunted him with the memories of his mother now gone, but his new beloved.

Sadly, he no longer went to that park at all. Declining any parties there. Though those too were few and far between now that news was spreading of his magic act gone terribly wrong.

Hardly anyone could bare to look at him let alone speak to him. He’d nearly lost all hope again.

So, when he heard from the Ghouls, he saw himself in their leader, simply a magician finding his way back. But more importantly, a man willing to listen.

There leader hid much like he did, Pandora thought, as he applied the only ointment that eased his pain beneath the mask that had become a second skin. They both hid because others did not understand the sting of rejection, the need for sleight of hand quite as much as those who sought to protect what was rightfully theirs.

The memory of Catherine’s love felt like a fevered dream some days but the only thing he could truly grasp. So, if this Marik could make her love his again, then what was the life of one mere school boy who cared so little for magic he walked right into a trap like a fool? The world would soon forget this boy, but they’d always remember the magician he was, with his beloved Catherine by his side.

Chapter Text

Pandora recalls the first time he performed his signature escape trick on a Vegas stage. It was such a thrill he kissed Catherine right in front of everyone like an overenthusiastic schoolboy.

He does not however, recall the last time he performed said trick. Waking up to beeping and blinding light in a hospital room.

Though it was the first time he remembers yelling at Catherine.

He doesn’t recall how many times it took of him doing it, but he remembers looking over one day to recount his woes yet again, but realizing she wasn’t coming back.

That was the second time since his mother’s passing, he’d wanted to put an end to his miserable existence.

Everything tasted all the more bitter with her gone. Much like when he was robbed of the first precious woman in his life.

So, when a second chance came knocking in the form of a man that understood his despair, he’d give anything for the love of his dear Catherine to light up his life once again.

This schoolboy Marik went on about must have done something terrible to earns such hatred anyway. No price was too high for love, the ultimate treasure.

Chapter Text

“Stop hogging the blankets!” Kaiba called out in the dark.

He couldn’t believe he had ended having to share sleeping arrangements with the mutt.

“It’s not my fault you’re so tall!” Jounouchi responded.

“Kaiba huffed and resigned himself to having to sleep half covered tonight before he felt a rustle of the blankets as Jounouchi released more on his end.

He almost considered not accepting, but knowing he needed a good night’s sleep, he reluctantly draped the freed fabric tighter around himself.

But he could hardly sleep, worry from the events of the day still gripping him.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get home,” he heard Jounouchi’s voice call out, more softly this time.

Kaiba didn’t respond for a few seconds, not wanting to admit the blonde had accurately read his restless fidgeting.

“I hope so,” is all he could manage. Before they both feel silent and the only sound left was Jounouchi’s breathing.

He slowly realized it was the sound calming his nerves each time a swell of panic threatened to arise.

He supposed sleeping with the mutt for one night wasn’t such a bad deal.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until the blood stopped pounding in his ears at the loss that he began to realize just how far he’d gone.

In the heat of battle, he’d declared, Jounouchi, who was now challenging him to a duel, better off dead.

In the heat of battle, he’d thought himself better off dead than suffering the loss that now followed him.

Yet here he had to stand. For Mokuba, his company and whatever remained of his pride.

He supposed that was one thing Jounouchi had in spades, pride, whether justified or not.

For he stood where Kaiba could only tremble.

Chapter Text

“Do you remember when we were young, and I told you only death would cure your idiocy?” Kaiba began.

“Well, I think that better applies to me thinking this was a good idea,” he finished.

“So, you don’t think I’m an idiot?” Jounouchi countered.

“No, there’s no hope for you,” Kaiba quipped back.

“Well, at least you’re in good company,” Jounouchi responded, clapping the brunette on the shoulder. “Besides being right all the time is boring anyways.”

“Is that why you play trivia in subjects you have no knowledge?” Kaiba questioned.

“No, that’s to keep up with you,” Jounouchi answered.

Chapter Text

Everything he read and confronted seemed to be indicating that happiness was relative.

It was not the amount of money he made or the number of times he placed first. And certainly not the approval of a dead man.

It was sitting with Mokuba on a day he could have been getting more work done at the office but instead choosing to indulge, no, enjoy, a scoop of ice cream with his younger brother.

It was watching the children who milled past talking of his technology and theme park in excitement.

And perhaps, it was allowing himself to come first before anything.