|Natsu no Naka de
Author: kaliawai512 PM
They've battled crazy billionaires, won tournaments, and saved the world now and then. Now Yuugi decides to take his spirit friend out for something a little less dangerous... or maybe not. Non-romance.Rated: Fiction K - English - Friendship/Humor - Yūgi M. & Yami Yūgi - Words: 11,240 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 32 - Follows: 2 - Published: 08-25-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7322332
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Today, I started back at university, and went back to school for the fall. Summer is over, but I'm not letting it go out without a little story to celebrate the spirit of the season. And though I have a policy not to tell strangers exactly where I live, I will tell you that where I live, it's very, very hot. And it's not Hawaii. Yeah, I wish.
So since I don't get to swim very often and there are few ways to escape the heat except sitting around inside, let's make the YuGiOh characters suffer along with me!
Here is a little humor-ish fic I threw together to get myself into the "summer mood" (however late), and because my head keeps bombarding me with fanfic ideas and I can't get them down fast enough. It seems that nothing I write (save perhaps "Birds"—make it nothing I write based on the Japanese version) can be pure fluff and humor. It always ends up being at least a little contemplative, and by extension, containing vague hints of angst. So be warned. But again, this is mostly just pure fun. I guess it also wouldn't be so much fun for me if I just did everything light-hearted. What can I say, drama is fun!
As always, the basic no-real-warnings. Non-romance, just friendship. The piece takes place sometime between the KC Grand Prix and the Egypt arc; based on my timeline, it would be in July (for those who have read my other stories, this is several weeks before Asobou and more than a month after Boku no Kioku). This is way longer than I expected it to be, and I didn't even notice that until this story had been finished for over a week. Dang. I hope you all enjoy, and please leave a review when you're done!
The title (or my translation of it) means "In the Midst of Summer." Technically, it should probably be "Natsu no Naka ni," but for the time being, I'll just leave it as-is.
Natsu no Naka de
Yami had gained far too keen a sense by now not to notice that Aibou had something planned.
That sense had always been there, to an extent, but after that day when Aibou pulled him out of the Puzzle and made him go out with Anzu in his place, Yami felt he had good reason to be suspicious. In hindsight, he was grateful for the time he had spent with her and all he had learned, but if he could manage to avoid situations which sent him into embarrassing yelling outbursts in public, he would be grateful a good deal more.
For some reason, Yami had a feeling Aibou had not quite gotten the message when he had quietly told him after returning home "no more surprises."
The fact that Aibou had burst out laughing after he said it was probably part of that reason.
But this time, he knew Aibou was putting together another one of his plots. Aibou was a very bad liar, for one. He always blushed and stuttered and avoided eye contact and even avoided conversation when he had something to hide. Yami was quite sure the most ignorant squirrel on the planet could have known Aibou wasn't telling the truth, and he considered himself a great deal more perceptive than most squirrels.
For about a week's time, Aibou had kept him from what he was trying to hide. Yami knew something was there to hide, but Aibou was doing an especially good job of keeping secret exactly what that was. And Aibou had figured out long ago how to seal off certain thoughts even when Yami tried his very best to read them. Besides, Yami didn't like looking into things Aibou wanted to keep to himself, out of that deep-rooted sense that this wasn't his life to live and Aibou should have whatever he wanted kept personal. But he was starting to wonder if this was the sort of thing to which that specific rule shouldn't apply.
Especially when Aibou refused to tell him why they were getting in a car and heading off to some destination unnamed. And Aibou wouldn't even tell him whose car it was.
Yami believed in privacy, but this was getting ridiculous.
Aibou, why don't you just tell me where we're going? I think you gave me enough surprises for half a year when you sent me out on that "date" with Anzu.
He could have sworn he heard Aibou give a nervous laugh at that particular memory, and he imagined whoever was with Aibou gave him funny looks.
It's a … secret.
Yami twitched from within his soul room, coated increasingly in that nearly unbearable sense of having no idea what was going on. Aibou, that just sounds silly.
It's true, though!
Even Aibou was starting to sound desperate. Aibou didn't like keeping secrets, which Yami always found odd considering how many of them he ended up keeping on a regular basis, and Yami knew he wouldn't hold out against pressure for much longer.
He crossed his arms across his chest and leaned against the door to his soul room. He had been stuck in here for far too long.
I really don't see what could be so secret that you couldn't even tell me.
He knew it was a long shot, and he really hated himself for being so low and frankly rather pitiful, but he still put a little bit of hurt into his voice. He hadn't fully learned how well faked emotions carried across the link, but then again, Aibou didn't have much of a reason to think he was lying.
Oh, come on, mou hitori no boku, that's cheap.
Or maybe he did.
Yami had very little sense of the outside world when he wasn't projecting his image or getting direct input from Aibou. But he could pick out little pieces here and there. And right now, he could pick out, just like he had when they had gotten into the car, that the car was coming to a halt.
Even though he had absolutely no idea where they had come to, they were here.
Aibou let his guard down just enough, allowing Yami to reach out with his mind and get a better sense of their surroundings. It was hot, but it had been hot since June began. It was hot, and yet he could feel more of the wind than he had felt in a while. The sun was brighter, as if there were no buildings to block it, and he almost thought he heard the rushing of water somewhere in the distance.
He felt Aibou climbing out of his seat in the car and stepping onto something that seemed rough, like asphalt, but was difficult to tell through the shoes he was wearing. Yami leaned out of the entrance to his soul room, waiting, just waiting for Aibou to let him see. To give him one more clue.
He was just about sure he sensed Aibou smiling.
Well, mou hitori no boku, came the start of it, and Yami leaned forward almost enough to trip. Surprise!
And in a way that so horribly reminded him of the day he had been pulled out to go on a date in Aibou's place, Yami was pulled forth by the Puzzle and found himself standing in Aibou's body in front of the very last place he would have imagined himself to be.
Aibou's grin, this time from Aibou sitting in the back of his mind, seemed to stretch all the way to his ears.
Welcome to the beach!
Yami stood for a very long time and just stared.
He had seen this place in pictures and on television, and he had probably walked by it or seen it in the distance over his many adventures in the past. He had seen a similar place after Dartz had been defeated, when he and Aibou had been washed up on the shore of that island. But standing here in the middle of the day with all three of their friends rushing around him was a new experience indeed.
The water shone out in the distance as it reflected the light of the sun, high in the sky. Just vaguely, he could see and hear the waves breaking on the shoreline, and glance down to see the asphalt beneath the shoes—sandals?—he was wearing. Since when did Aibou wear sandals?
He blinked and glanced down at himself again.
Since when did Aibou walk around shirtless in oversized purple shorts?
Oh, yes, this was feeling frighteningly similar to when he had been thrown out to go on that "date" with Anzu.
Yami looked back up.
Indeed, just a little ways onto the sands of the beach, in her favorite pink swimsuit and with an unbuttoned T-shirt draped over her shoulders, Anzu stood smiling and waving. Yami just looked back at her like she had sprouted wings and antenna.
He nearly fell flat on his face when he heard a laugh and an almost-immediate smack on the back of his shoulder.
"Quit looking so shocked, Yuugi, you planned this trip, remember?"
Yami stared back at Jounouchi-kun, who laughed at him again before climbing back into the front seat of the tan convertible and digging around for what looked to be a large bag full of towels and small bottles full of who-knows-what.
There was a chuckle in the back of his mind. Nervous, if only a little. Well? Here's the surprise.
Aibou, you said it was a secret, not a surprise.
Another chuckle. If Aibou had had a physical form at this point, Yami very much suspected he would be rubbing his head and backing away. Same thing, sort of.
Yami didn't bother to tell him that it most definitely was not.
He rubbed his arms. So, you pulled me out here to … go to the beach?
Yeah! The voice cheered. Just the four, uh, five of us.
Aibou, it's Tuesday. Shouldn't we be in school?
The school's having construction done, and a lot of the teachers were taking off.
It almost sounded like a lie, but Aibou still wasn't very good at lying, and Yami could tell if only by a little that however strange the excuse, it was true. He shifted.
Aibou, I don't know about this …
He imagined Aibou placing a transparent hand on his shoulder, even though Aibou still hadn't projected his image out of the Puzzle and was just speaking to him in the back of his head. Come on, mou hitori no boku. Just … give it a try? Please?
He was suddenly glad that Aibou hadn't been projecting his image, because he knew that if he had, Yami would be seeing "the eyes" right about now.
Yami brought a hand to his forehead and sighed. He glanced one more time at Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun digging out supplies from the car, and Anzu heading back up to them from the sand to help out. He looked at the boiling hot sun and the rushing water and the quiet spot they had managed to find outside the city, and he gave a nod small enough for no one to notice.
Aibou, in his own invisible way, beamed.
But promise me something, Aibou.
No problem, mou hitori no boku! That mental tone was all too pleased and cheerful for Yami to really think he wasn't somehow being tricked.
He sighed again. After this and that "date" with Anzu, no more taking me out for surprises.
Aibou gave a tiny, nervous laugh in the back of his head, and before Yami could ask him again for an answer, Honda-kun grabbed his shoulder and pulled him toward the car to help unpack.
Before all of this, he hadn't thought it was possible for someone to regress ten years in five minutes.
Five years, maybe, that he had seen. But to see two of his friends he had known for what at least felt like a long time, suddenly act like they were six years old? Not the first thing on his list of realistic possibilities.
But regardless of his former view of its likelihood, it had happened. And he just stared and blinked in the sun and cocked his eyebrow in an eternal expression of bafflement as he watched Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun splash, kick, and tackle one another in the shallows of the sea.
He could almost hear Aibou snickering in the back of his head.
The two of them hadn't waited long after getting settled on the beach. They had helped carry a few of the bags from the car, and helped open Anzu's beach chair that seemed quite determined to stay folded, but after that they headed straight for the water. Well, right after putting on pale-colored paste dumped out from a bottle that they proceeded to smooth over most of their bodies. Yami had wondered for only a moment if he should do the same, but Jounouchi-kun had started yelling for him to come down to the shore, so Yami just let it go.
Then had come the difficulty of actually getting down to the shore.
Being on a beach was a fairly new experience for him, so he had expected a number of new things to get used to. Seeing everyone act so differently and having no idea what to do had been enough to start with. But his first real challenge had come with the sand.
He had spent most of the unpacking stage by the car, helping get things out and occasionally walking a little onto the beach itself. But he had still been wearing sandals then. Everyone else had left their shoes by the car with the reasoning that they apparently would not need them, so he had done the same, sticking them in the backseat and padding over the unpleasantly sharp pieces of concrete until he reached the beach.
It had hit him in a split instant why it was that everyone else ran over the sand instead of just walking.
He jumped back. The concrete poked his feet, and he jumped back to the sand. To the concrete. To the sand. And back and forth and back and forth, until he finally settled on copying the rather humiliating behavior of Jounouchi-kun: leaping right onto the sand and running for the water's edge as fast as his feet could carry him.
He was sure that Aibou had been laughing at him then. And he would have given a mental glare for the boy's behavior, or maybe spontaneously switching places just for a taste of revenge, but he was far more focused on getting his feet away from the solidified flames.
Yami knew Aibou didn't mean it. Aibou never did. But still.
He stood there now, having figured it was a much safer bet not to move and try out other areas of the beach, and instead stayed in the spot he knew was comfortable. The sand right by the edge of the water, the sand that was touched by the waves only when the tide rose or there was an extra-large wave that crashed along the shore, the sand that was wet and cooled off and yet not too cold for his tastes.
Yami didn't particularly like taking the safest road, the road that meant no risks and also meant not getting out there and doing anything. But he had had one too many surprises today, thank you very much, and he was not keen to deal with any more unfamiliar unpleasantries.
Of course, he really should have known that just because he stayed in a place that felt safe, that did not mean he would actually be safe.
And that was made quite clear when something light, plastic, and very full of air hit him square in the face.
A burst of shock followed immediately by the familiar laughter of Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun.
Yami's head shot up.
Indeed, there the two of them were, still in the water, laughing their heads off. The large ball they had thrown at his head rolled and bounced along the sand and back toward them with the momentum it had gathered from hitting him square in the face. He didn't even know where they had gotten the ball, since he certainly hadn't seen it when they had first gotten into the water, and he didn't think they had had time when he was distracted to step out and get it.
He quirked an eyebrow at them and pressed his lips tight together in a clear expression of displeasure. But they just kept on laughing, up to their waists in rushing ocean water, and he even thought he heard a giggle or two from Anzu back on the beach.
His lips twitched up into a smirk anyone who knew him at all had learned to fear.
Oh, it was on.
Granted, his smirk usually meant—or at least it had a very long time ago—pulling someone into a shadow game. There was no life-or-death situation here, or even something that truly warranted his vengeance. But it had been a long time since Yami had gotten to start a game he was not only much more confident in winning, but without any true stakes of which he had to worry, that he knew he had to milk this for all it was worth.
He took his first step toward the other two boys and into the ocean water.
Over his many "adventures" during his time spent living a part of Aibou's life, Yami had seen many different places and faced many hardships. There was the chilled air at night during Duelist Kingdom, or the mental strains of shadow games, or the physical effects of stress and panic that he still wasn't entirely used to. But nothing could quite prepare him for the horrific suddenness of the cold water that stung his feet.
He stumbled back with eyes wide, and Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun broke into laughter once again.
This time, he knew he heard Anzu laughing from further back on the beach, and though it was hard to make out, he also knew Aibou was getting quite the kick out of this from within the Puzzle. Yami would have rolled his eyes, but he was still catching his balance, and a moment later he was staring at that blasted freezing sea water like it had committed some horrendous crime.
Well, it had, in its own way.
Though Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun's beach ball had also played a fair part in it.
He cursed himself silently, and laughed in his own mind at the idea that he had gotten through dozens of unimaginable trials, and here he was, thrown back by cold water. He had played with knives, with fire, with monsters in another dimension. This was simple water. And he was not going to let it beat him.
Yami took a deep breath, and one moment later, he raced out into the ocean with every bit of sense thrown behind him, and his feet carrying him forward into the frozen abyss.
Actual cuts and punches to the face were nothing compared to the near-ice on bare skin. He wondered why it was that no one bothered to wear more suitable clothing if the water was this low a temperature on a regular basis. But Aibou had brought him out here in swim trunks, just like the ones worn by the other two boys.
Every bit of survival instinct in Aibou's body Yami had usually learned to ignore told him to get out. But he shoved it back, more forcefully than normal, and insisted to himself and the unfortunate downsides of a physical form that a little cold water wasn't going to hurt him in the long run. Besides, if Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun could handle this, so could he.
But even Yami could not keep himself from cringing with every step—and each step was made exceeding difficult, not only by the cold, but by the fact that the water kept his feet from moving at anything above a turtle speed, a trouble that only increased the deeper he got. His two friends were laughing their heads off at him even still, even as he drew closer and closer with what he had thought was a vengeful glint in his eyes. Apparently not quite as much as he had intended.
By the time he got within a few meters of them, though, his—Aibou's—body had gotten far more used to feeling like his legs had turned to ice, and he moved swifter and easier. And the laughter of Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun had cut off to be replaced by wide eyes and fearful expressions.
Yami let himself smirk as he took another step toward the boys.
And with a glance at one another like two schoolchildren who knew they had just been caught, they dove forward into the water and started swimming as fast as their arms and legs would take them.
But of all the things Yami had not learned from past experience with Aibou, he had learned how to swim.
He dove after them, pretending with ever millimeter of his being that this was another of his shadow games, and he was chasing after two bullies instead of two of his best friends. He wouldn't hurt them, of course, he would never hurt either of those two. But scaring them out of their wits? That was another story.
It had been such a long time since he had scared someone just for the sake of scaring them, with no true anger involved and no risks of which to worry.
Though he could vaguely sense Aibou shaking his head back and forth in one of the furthest corners of his mind.
He kicked the water harder and eyed his targets with care.
"Yuugi! Honda! Jounouchi!"
Yami only paused and glanced over his shoulder, though Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun unwisely stopped entirely to look at the voice calling from the shore. Anzu still sat there on her beach chair with her sunglasses lifted and her towel stretched out under her, now staring at them with disapproving eyes. For the first time, he noticed that she was positively covered in the pale substance the others had been wearing earlier, in a thicker coating and all over her face to the point of looking like an apparition. Or perhaps a part of the sand.
Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun noticed Yami racing even faster toward them, and they started swimming yet again, and did not even pause when another cry sounded from the shore. Yami, splashing about as he swam faster and faster, only caught a few words of her shouts.
"You guys are all such children!"
Oh, what a laugh Yami would have gotten out of that one, if he wasn't so preoccupied on his own task.
But Aibou, a spirit in his head, fell over in giggles.
It didn't take nearly as long as he would have expected to get almost completely used to the freezing ocean water. It was warm outside, which made him curious as to why the temperature refused to rise even a degree, but he supposed it was probably a quirk in the weather or the location of Japan.
Or maybe this was just another curse some bored god had decided to throw upon him.
The latter was probably a bit more likely.
He tried to stay in the deeper water as much as possible now that he had managed to adjust to it. He became numb to the temperature after a while, but the instant he stepped out and back in, it was freezing yet again. Yami cursed himself for being so sensitive to temperature, but he blamed that part on sensitivities already present in Aibou's body that he inherited while he was in control. Then again, Aibou had still laughed at him every time got in and out of the water and had to deal with the icy touch of the ocean again, so maybe that theory didn't work as well as he had expected.
"Finally getting in, are you, Anzu?"
Yami flicked his eyes back to the shore.
Anzu seemed to have left her beach towel and chair behind and started treading over the burning sand—he was both concerned and sadistically pleased that he wasn't the only one who found that uncomfortable, though he knew that part had to be Aibou's own feet, since despite his limited knowledge, he was quite sure the sand in Egypt was just as hot—toward the three of them in the water. It was almost laughable to see her with hair not touched by a single drop of water and the rest of her hardly bearing a grain of sand, next to Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun and even himself, always either soaked from hair to toes or covered from hair to toes in sand.
He would need to make sure Aibou washed his hair extra-thoroughly when they got home.
He found Anzu glaring at Honda-kun as she dipped one bare foot into the water, stepped back, and then dipped both feet in with more certainty. "I planned to come here to look for seashells, and that's what I intend to do now."
Yami pushed against the wet sand underwater, still disliking the odd, slimy texture on the bottoms of his feet, and he watched with badly hidden amusement as Anzu made her way further in. Apparently he also wasn't the only one bothered by the temperature: she took nearly two minutes to get up to her shoulders, and by that time Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun were hiding their snickers at her ridiculous facial expressions.
She gave them another glare. They went silent.
A few seconds later, she took a deep breath, squeezed her eyes shut—Yami had already learned that opening your eyes underwater here was a very bad idea, a lesson learned the hard way, and he did not want to repeat—and dove underneath a wave that rushed toward her.
Yami watched from a safe distance. The water wasn't clear enough to see her underneath, so he couldn't keep an eye on her like he wished, but he kept as close a watch on the surface as he could. At the very least, he would see the bubbles from air escaping her mouth, or splashing from her kicks if she decided to try and scare him by popping up in his face.
He crossed his arms. No one scared him. Not even Anzu.
In the back of his head, Aibou snorted.
But soon Yami let his tense posture go lax, particularly when he noticed a few bubbles appearing on the surface of the water … about a meter away from Jounouchi-kun. He tried to keep his eyes off of it, and tried not to smirk, though that part was a little more difficult.
He hardly had to keep up the act, though, for just a second later, Anzu broke through the water with a leap and sent Jounouchi-kun almost flying backwards into the waves.
Yami had never had to try so hard not to laugh.
Honda-kun snorted at least twice while Anzu just laughed openly for about half a minute while Jounouchi-kun did all he could to steady himself and regain a bit of his lost pride. Yami didn't quite see fit to mention to him that after that little incident, regaining his pride was going to be quite the challenge. Besides, Jounouchi-kun seemed to understand that much all on his own.
Anzu gave Jounouchi-kun a playful splash as she adjusted herself to stand up in the water, and Jounouchi-kun just scowled. Though he was still trying to control his own snickers, Yami allowed himself a smile at the three of them. Immature, they might be, but it was a nice break from saving the world time and time again. They needed a break, and so did he, and it was nice to do something out of the ordinary and out of the typically age-appropriate.
Granted, given what he knew about his own apparent age, he was starting to wonder what "age-appropriate" was for him.
"You're … you're like that shark from 'Jaws,' Anzu!"
Honda-kun was still muffling his remaining laughter, but the words slipped through. Anzu giggled again, and Jounouchi-kun gave Honda-kun what looked to be a very hard punch in the shoulder. Honda-kun winced. Jounouchi-kun smirked, nodded in satisfaction, and walked off looking very much like someone who had lost all dignity but didn't yet seem to realize it.
Yami crossed his arms over his chest, smiled again, and just shook his head. He decided that later on would probably be a better time to ask what in the world "Jaws" was.
"Is he just going to keep walking out there until he ends up underwater?" Anzu asked no one in particular, eyes stuck in amused wonder at Jounouchi-kun marching out deeper into the ocean. He made slight turns now and then, apparently to prevent himself from being completely submerged, but even when Honda-kun snickered again, he did not turn, did not stop. He just kept walking.
Anzu rolled her eyes and stretched out her arms.
"Well! Like I said. I didn't come here to watch him look like an idiot. Anyone want to help me look for seashells?"
Honda-kun stopped his snickers and winced. "In salt water? Anzu, you're nuts."
"Or maybe I'm just tougher than you."
"Tougher my foot!"
"How deep are you looking, Anzu?" Yami broke in at last. He figured letting any of his friends get into a conversation by themselves at this point was just asking for trouble.
Both of them stopped with their mouths wide open as if to give a good strong retort and met his eyes. They looked like those strange, funny pictures Aibou had shown him a few times on television. He held back his smirk as they blinked at him and shut their mouths.
Anzu kicked up from the bottom and treaded water as the waves rushed around her, shifting her up and down and up and down. Yami learned very quickly that watching her go up and down and up down was a very easy way to make himself dizzy. "Here's usually good. The best shells don't tend to wash up all the way to the shore."
Her voice was gentler, and he breathed a very silent sigh of relief that he had managed to keep the two from murdering one another, even if their only weapons were splashing. She offered a little smile when he nodded, and he blinked twice and swallowed when she took a deep breath and went diving underwater once again.
Didn't you say you were going with her?
Yami flinched and glanced around him, and heard another snicker—since when did Aibou snicker as much as Jounouchi-kun on his worst weird days?—from the back of his mind. He shook his head. I have to go down there again? Aibou, that water stings.
Well, when you open your eyes, yeah, it does. Yami tried to sense some form of sarcasm in that tone, but even when he was watching for it he found none, so he let his shoulders go lax. Just close them. You tried it before.
After my eyes stopped burning. And only for about five seconds.
I think Anzu's already pushing fifteen. You don't think you could beat her?
Yami flinched again, and something inside him leapt up and down and all about. If he hadn't known what kind of odd attention it would draw, he would have smacked himself square on the forehead.
Aibou knew him far too well for his own good.
He shifted back and forth in the muddy ground he felt between his toes, pretending even to himself that he was just getting ready. He took several deep breaths, in and out, in and out, even though he was perfectly skilled at holding his breath, though only in fresh water or lightly-chlorinated pools—and he still didn't particularly enjoy the chlorine. He stepped back, once, twice, and finally took one last good breath.
He squeezed his eyes shut and dove beneath the waves.
It was … wet. And cold. He noticed that part again easily now that his head touched the water for the first time in a while. And it was dark, which he didn't mind, but it only added to the strangeness of this new activity. He resisted the almost instinctual urge to blink and look around, and the growing need to breathe, and pulled himself to sink deeper toward the bottom.
The water pressure felt odd on top of his head. Leftover survival notes from his early days of doing all he could to protect Aibou's body told him to get out of there unless there was some life-or-death game he had to win.
Well, it wasn't life or death, but Yami was not going to let himself be beaten. Even at something Anzu didn't seem to consider a game.
His legs bent beneath him, he felt his toes touch ground, and instantly, deciding that his air supply wasn't something he could waste and there was only so long he could spend down here, he started feeling around in the underwater muck for something resembling a sea shell. He found two fish that swam under his fingers and almost made him jump back. Something scratched him, and he just couldn't decide if it had been an oddly-shaped rock or some species of crab.
Then his hand brushed something smooth and hard and rather small, but big enough. He slipped his fingers around it, gripped it tight, and pushed up against the bottom toward the surface.
His face broke through the water, and he drew in a deeper breath he hadn't been so grateful to breathe in a long time.
He heard a particularly feminine-sounded giggle.
Yami furrowed his brow, his eyes still shut. He shook his head and tried to get the water out of his spikes—Honda-kun had mentioned earlier that they drooped the wetter they got, and they were now dripping all over his face—and wiped off the skin around his eyelids as precaution. He blinked twice and finally opened them in full.
Anzu had surfaced not a meter away, one hand clutching something that seemed to take up a lot of space, and the other trying in vain to muffle her snickers.
He was beginning to wonder if Aibou had stuck a "Kick Me" sticker on his forehead before giving him control from how everyone seemed to be laughing at him today.
He shook his head again, and she smoothed the hair away from her own face with her free hand and held out her other. Several white seashells glistened from the water still dripping from their edges, and she had to constantly adjust her fingers around them to keep them from falling out of her palm. Yami flicked his eyes over at the apparently cracked and off-colored shell he had clasped in his own hand and contemplated throwing it back into the ocean, before frowning and settling on top of the rest of her collection.
Anzu grinned. "Thanks, Yuugi!"
Yami blinked and gave her a long and confused stare. This time, she just laughed out loud.
He prepared himself for another dive down as Anzu started to move back toward the shore to drop off her shells. He had already taken that deep breath in—and in fact was sure he looked ridiculous with his cheeks puffed full of air—when he heard a faint gasp, followed by another, but of a different voice.
He let out the air and spun around to look.
It wasn't obvious, at least to him, what the problem was. Everything looked peaceful. The sun was still out, and as annoying hot as ever, and the water seemed generally peaceful except for a few waves that gleamed in the daylight. But Anzu and Honda-kun, who had swum over to join them at some point, stared at a certain spot in the water just a short distance away like it had sprouted wings and stuck out its tongue.
And as Yami's eyes adjusted, he thought that it might as well have.
For there was a vague, shifting, swimming fin poking out of the water, making its way in their direction.
Yami was not at all familiar with modern tendencies and "pop culture." He didn't know what was apparently a famous movie line, and he didn't know what was some sort of apparently famous movie situation. But even he felt, perhaps by the sense he got from Aibou in the back of his head or perhaps just the modern instincts he had come to develop, that what he was hearing from Honda-kun was just a little too cliché.
But it fit.
He said it with the intonation and volume that suggested there were about a hundred other people on the beach to warn to get out of the water. But it was still only them, a decent distance from the shore, far away from where anyone could hear them or come to help. So yelling really did Honda-kun no good at all.
Anzu squirmed and splashed, and Yami pushed against the ground to grab her arms in a tight grip. He could sense her staring at him like he had lost his mind, but he kept his eyes firmly on that fin.
A vague instinct—yes, that was probably Aibou at this point—told him to get away. Anzu was almost screaming that he was insane and they needed to swim away right now. But Yami stayed perfectly still. Don't make any sudden movements. Don't splash. Just stay still. Pretend you aren't there.
The shark didn't seem to care, though. Yami stayed very still, and he made sure Anzu did as well. There were no splashes from Honda-kun's little area of water, or even loud breathing. They were silent and still. And yet that shark fin just kept swimming closer and closer, cutting through the water like a blade and looking more and more dark and rough.
Wait … dark and rough?
Yami took a step back he couldn't control when the fin came within two meters' distance and kept on coming. He almost thought to swim away. His grip on Anzu almost loosened. But he knew that swimming would only provoke it, and there was no way any of them could fight off a shark. He could use the Puzzle's power—he had grown so used to its weight around his neck and the way the edges poked his bare torso that he had almost forgotten it was there—but in what way? It had been a long time since he had used a mind crush on anyone, and he didn't know how well the powers worked on other species.
Two meters away. One meter away. Yami drew in a deep breath and prepared to stoke the powers of the Millennium Puzzle in any way he possibly could.
And then he found himself thrown back in the water by a wave and the force of his own feet when the intruder burst forth from the depths and threw itself quite near his face.
He let go of Anzu's arms on reflex and had to flail his legs to get himself straightened and keep from going under. At first, all he was aware of was the splashing and a bit of water that managed to get up his nose. The Puzzle's powers faded, and he didn't even bother to start working them up again.
For the next thing he noticed was the overbearing sound of laughter.
As he finally managed to get the water out of his nose and rubbed away from his eyes, he was able to make out a familiar taller form in front of him, with a large wet mop of blonde hair, just about laughing that mop of hair off his head. And in his hand, he carried something that looked dark and rough.
Dark green and rough. And now that Yami got a closer look at it, not nearly as sharp around the top as a fin.
Yami didn't need to look at Anzu to see the anger and utter disapproval on her face, but he did, and he would have found it funny had he not feared the mere concept of laughing when she was in such a state. Her brow had furrowed to completely scrunch her forehead, and the glare in her eyes rivaled the glare he gave his worst opponents before a duel, or even one of his older games before Aibou had been aware of his existence.
He would have advised Jounouchi-kun to get out of there before he was murdered in cold blood, but he was still miffed about the practical joke.
"Oh, come on, guys, you were asking for it!"
Jounouchi-kun still hadn't managed to stop himself from laughing; another bad move on his part. Yami managed to lean over and get a clear look at what he was holding. Yes, he supposed from a distance it might look like a fin. Yami had never even seen a shark fin, only in pictures and via descriptions he had run into in Aibou's memory. So he supposed it also wasn't too difficult for him to mistake what looked to be an old sandal coated with layers of seaweed to be the sign of a shark.
Yami backed up a step while Anzu took a step forward. Jounouchi-kun paused in his laughter. He glanced around, his eyes glinting with new anxiety. "You gave me the idea in the first place, Honda! 'Jaws'! I was just playing a little … joke …"
His voice faded off into silence, dead silence, as Anzu took another step forward. Her expression had yet to change from that murderous glare Yami was all too familiar with. He could handle crazy billionaires and insane duelists, but Anzu when she was angry was another thing indeed. He swallowed and stepped back again.
Honda-kun moved to stand beside him in the water as Anzu moved closer and closer to Jounouchi-kun. The two of them stood at what Yami deemed a safe enough distance as Jounouchi-kun tried to back away, but apparently seemed to realize that he had begun doing so just a little too late.
"You, uh, think we should stop her?" Honda-kun asked, very quietly, as Anzu moved in for the kill.
Yami sighed, long and hard, and after another glance at the predator and the prey, shook his head.
"I don't think it would be possible to stop her without being labeled targets ourselves."
Honda-kun just nodded, and the two of them gave matching expressions of sympathy and horror as Anzu leapt with the strong legs of a dancer, and Jounouchi-kun just about shrieked and tried in vain to swim away.
"That's not how you start a fire, Jounouchi."
"Yeah it is! See, matches, firewood, spark. Easy as pie."
"Yeah, pie that's hotter than the oven and can explode in your face."
"Whose side are you on, Honda?"
"The side that won't send me home in an ashtray."
Yami adjusted himself again on one of the logs and Jounouchi-kun had dragged over as seats back when it was still light outside. His log was rough and it scraped him every time his skin met the wood, but it was better than sitting on the ground, even though the sand wasn't so hot now that the sun had set. And his swim trunks were thick enough so that it wasn't too uncomfortable.
And yet for some reason, despite sitting on the log not being uncomfortable, he still did not feel quite at ease.
Aibou, why does my back sting?
The others continued chatting while Yami turned his attention to the image protection of Aibou sitting on the log next to him. Aibou seemed to be getting a lot better at projecting his own image, though even he still occasionally fell through things and seemed both fascinated and vaguely horrified with being able to see through his own hand.
Aibou cocked an eyebrow. Huh?
Since about an hour ago. Yami reached a hand to touch the back of his shoulder, and flinched when his fingers brushed sensitive skin. I don't remember falling …
A moment later Aibou's projected image had leaned back on the log and was peering at the spot Yami had just touched. Yami watched Aibou blink, look closer, then sigh, smile, and shake his head back and forth.
What is it? What happened?
Aibou looked at him with an expression that mixed amusement with sympathy. That's a sunburn, mou hitori no boku.
When you stay out in the sun for too long, your skin gets … burned. Yami only had a moment to contemplate whatever he had managed to do to Aibou's body before he winced again at the stinging. Aibou bit his transparent lip. Didn't you see that stuff the others were wearing earlier?
Yami looked at him in full. You mean the pale goop Anzu put all over herself?
Yes, it was … rather hard to ignore.
Aibou sighed again. That smile hadn't left his face, but Yami felt the beginnings of guilt that even though he didn't fully understand this phenomenon, he had somehow damaged Aibou's body. You were supposed to put that on, too. I guess I … forgot to tell you. Sorry.
Yami nearly opened his mouth to tell Aibou aloud that it was he who should be apologizing, but shut it when Honda-kun gave him a second glance of confusion. He shook his head just enough for no one else to notice.
Is it … permanent?
Aibou snorted. No. Just painful for a day or two. Then again, you look really red. Maybe three days, tops.
Yami kept himself from smacking his forehead.
"Hey, you didn't tell me you brought marshmallows!"
He flicked his eyes up, and though he looked back to Aibou as if to make sure he didn't have anything else to say, Aibou simply smiled and motioned back toward the group to tell him to pay attention. When Yami glanced back at that spot, Aibou had disappeared, and Yami felt his presence within the Puzzle once again. He turned to the others.
Honda-kun was now holding something else unfamiliar and pale. Except this was a solid, and he held a bag of it in his left hand and one small piece of it in his right. It looked … soft and squishy, but stable, and he cocked an eyebrow and leaned forward to try to examine it.
"Well, it's not like we would have eaten them before now, anyway, Jounouchi," Honda-kun retorted, and in a very odd practice that confused Yami to no end, he picked up a thin, relatively long stick and stuck the squishy white thing on one end. "Now hurry up, finish the fire!"
"I'm doing it, calm down already! And give me one of those!"
"Oh, stop fighting, boys. Here, I'll get us some more sticks."
Yami flicked his eyes to Anzu before looking back to the things Honda-kun was holding. Jounouchi-kun had taken one and stuffed it in his mouth, then picked up another and stuck it on the end of one of the sticks Anzu tossed back to them from outside the makeshift circle. The fire, now a spark, fanned when Honda-kun dumped extra twigs on it and gave it a gentle blow.
Yami nearly fell out of his seat when he was suddenly presented with a thin stick in front of his face.
He looked to his side, and Anzu met his eyes and gave him a smile much gentler than she gave the other boys.
She wiggled the twig between her fingers, and after he blinked at it once or twice like an alien lifeform, he let her place it in his palm. He blinked again. She giggled and shook her head. "It's for roasting marshmallows, silly."
Yami just stared.
"Roasting … marshmallows?"
"Yeah!" She pointed first to the fire Honda-kun had brought to a small blaze, and then to the bag of squishy white things Jounouchi-kun kept trying to sneak extra helpings of—apparently they were not only edible, but delicious. "Marshmallows. Basically just pure sugar, but they're great! Put one on the end of the stick and hold it over the fire."
Yami didn't feel qualified to even give a proper response, so he just kept his eyes very closely on her while she sat back in her seat to demonstrate. She picked up one of the twigs she hadn't already handed over, stuck one of the "marshmallows" on one end, and proceeded to reach forward and let the marshmallow hang just above the tip of the flames.
He stared again.
Granted, due to the smoke now rising quite rapidly from the small bonfire and the light, he found himself blinking over and over again. But he managed to see the white of the marshmallow slowly turn darker and darker until it began to brown. Anzu twisted the stick back and forth, toasting each side evenly, as if she had done this a million times before and no longer needed to pay attention to what she was doing. After several more moments, and when he noticed her give a slight nod to herself, she pulled it out.
If he had to give a description of it, he would have said it looked like a glob of mud on the end of a stick. It didn't look particularly appetizing, and yet Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun had already begun to copy Anzu's actions—though they came out with marshmallows either too white or almost black.
Anzu gave the "roasted marshmallow" two puffs of air and then stuck the thing in her mouth as if it was the simplest, most obvious thing in the world.
She chewed. Yami did not even blink.
At last, she turned to him again and smiled, and something in him relaxed at the assurance that she hadn't just ingested poison, which was what he would have labeled the apparent food had she not seemed so confident of its safety. He blinked and watched the others eat their own marshmallows—without blowing on them, and Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun were both soon fanning their mouths and tongues—before they stuck more marshmallows on the same twigs and started the whole process all over again.
It's not dangerous.
Again, Yami nearly fell off the log.
He heard a half-embarrassed and half-amused laugh in the back of his head. Sorry. But really, people do it all the time. It's classic! Try it. Trust me, they're great.
… it's a white glob cooked over an open fire, Aibou. Yami gave another cautious glance at his three companions, a part of him still questioning their sanity. I've never seen anyone eat something so … so …
There were about a thousand descriptive words he had floating around his head for the strange food, but none of them seemed to quite do the job.
Aibou laughed again, though Yami knew he meant nothing malicious from it. After a moment—and after he sensed that Aibou was still watching him, and wasn't content to give up doing so until Yami gave it a try—Yami sighed and reached out to gather up the "supplies": one of the spare twigs and the bag of marshmallows Jounouchi-kun had luckily forgotten about. Anzu gave him another glance and obvious grin when she spotted him, but by the time he looked up to meet her eyes, she had turned back to making sure the other boys didn't make too much of a mess.
Aibou didn't project his image this time, but Yami could still sense him in the front of his mind, waiting for him to go forth with his latest task. He ended up poking the marshmallow right down to the center of the twig first time around, and finally getting it right on the end the second. It felt squishy and messy and honestly didn't seem to have anything appealing about it.
But it didn't look like Aibou was going to let him give up. So Yami sighed once more time, took a firm hold of the stick, and stuck the marshmallow right into the flames.
And it caught fire.
Of course, if he had had a moment to think, Yami was quite sure he would have done something sensible, like smother the marshmallow in the sand or blow it out. But he didn't have a moment to think. And he put all the blame on the already-uncertain state he had yet to escape from when he jumped back with the twig still in hand …
… only to go tumbling off the log and send the flaming twig flying to the side.
Aibou didn't laugh at him this time. He knew, quite well in fact, that he was a sight worth laughing at, given that his eyes were still as wide as they had ever been and his legs were half in the air as he had yet to even push himself up. He was still in that stunned freeze when he heard someone jump out of the circle and put out the small fire with their shoe, and when Anzu's face once again popped into his line of vision, blinking at him with big, concerned blue eyes.
"Uh … are you okay, Yuugi?"
Yami wanted to give her a look that told her exactly how not okay he was, but his internal surprise still refused to allow it. All he could do was take the hand she offered and let her pull him to his feet. He still wobbled a little back and forth, but he held up a declining hand when she moved to help him. There was only so much pride he was willing to lose in fifteen seconds.
Jounouchi-kun had finished stomping out the flaming marshmallow, and one glance told him that Honda-kun was just trying to stifle his laughter. Aibou was still silent, but by now Yami was starting to wonder whether he was only silent because he was muffling his own giggles in the back of Yami's head.
Yami tried to tell himself that Aibou wouldn't do that, but he just couldn't quite make himself believe it.
He took a seat on the log again. The moment he did was the moment he noticed that landing on the rough sand hadn't been very good for his sunburned back. The shock had kept him from feeling it at first, but now that that had mostly worn off, the pain caught up with him, and it took all he could do to keep from openly wincing.
This time he heard Aibou sigh, and he knew that there was a snicker hidden there somewhere.
Yeah, uh, they catch on fire sometimes. Aibou was trying not to sound condescending or babying, Yami knew it, but he wasn't doing a very good job. You just blow them out and keep going.
Yami quirked an eyebrow. You didn't tell me this before I began?
… I, uh, kind of … thought it was … obvious.
Aibou went silent. Yami dropped his shoulders and held back a sigh.
"Hey, who wants to tell some scary stories?"
Yami looked up, and Aibou seemed perfectly content to settle himself back into the inside of the Puzzle while Yami's attention was otherwise occupied. Jounouchi-kun—why did it seem that all the strange and often unpleasant events today were somehow related to Jounouchi-kun?—had started rubbing his hands together in a manner that reminded Yami of those old mad scientist movies Aibou had shown him late one night when Aibou couldn't sleep and had snuck downstairs to make popcorn. It seemed like an odd mix of the sort of things Pegasus and Malik might do.
Not a look that particularly suited Jounouchi-kun, in his opinion.
Anzu sighed and put a hand to her forehead. "Why is it that this entire day I've been the only voice of reason around here?"
Yami almost opened his mouth to protest, but Honda-kun beat him to it, stuffing another roasted marshmallow in his mouth and not even bothering to swallow.
"Today? I thought that was your full-time job."
Jounouchi-kun snorted with two marshmallows in his mouth and ended spitting them both straight into the fire before cracking up.
"Will you two grow up?" Anzu rubbed her temples. "Fine, tell scary stories, freak yourselves out. But that's your family's car, Honda, which means you have to drive home all by yourself after you drop us off."
"I'm not scared!"
"Really. What about when you're all alone in the dark?"
"Yeah, Honda, what about all the ghosts and ghouls that'll come to get you!"
"No such thing!"
"… uh, Honda, we've seen ghosts. And way freakier things, at that."
Jounouchi-kun broke out into laughter, Honda-kun tried to keep from blushing, and Anzu ended up scaring both of them anyway with stories and simple facts of their lives that had once frightened her more than anyone else. Yami shook his head and just smiled at the three of them, letting himself sink back into his seat and try to enjoy the simple atmosphere.
Will you miss them?
Yami nearly fell off the log once again, but managed to compose himself before anyone noticed. The odd sensation of emotions flooding across the link surprised him, especially when he found those emotions already settled within himself as if they had been there for quite a long time. Aibou still hadn't projected his image beside him, so Yami just stared at the fire and quirked his brow.
What do you …?
He stopped, and let out a long and slow breath as realization dawned.
He could just about sense Aibou fidgeting within his mind. When we … go to Egypt, after Jii-chan gets the tickets. Will you miss them?
Yami turned up his head and looked around again at the three who surrounded him in their makeshift circle. He looked at Anzu's almost motherly expressions and behavior, as she tried to keep the group together even if she couldn't lead it. He looked at Jounouchi-kun's crazy antics, annoying but somehow still funny, and how he somehow still made himself appear serious and determined when it came down to it. And Honda-kun, standing strong, always trying to make himself useful whenever he could, even if Yami got the vague sense that he didn't think he was of much use at all.
All three of them. His friends. The best friends he could have ever wished for, even if they weren't really his in the first place.
He sighed, quietly enough that no one else heard.
Yes. I will.
And … will you miss me?
That question was almost a whisper in the very back corner of his mind, as if from a hiding place, muttered with hesitance and uncertainty. Yami perked up his head and closed his eyes for just a moment. His lips quirked into a very tiny smile on his face, and in the darkness behind his eyelids, all he could hear was the laughter and all he could feel was the joy.
How could I not?
There was a breath from that spot within his mind. I'll … miss you, too.
Yami adjusted himself on the log and looked again at the fire, how it flickered in front of his eyes and almost burned them, but not quite. It lit up the faces of all the people around him, and made him remember every little thing he had learned and gained from the year—even more than a year now—he had gotten to spend with them.
And with Aibou as well.
He smiled again.
You have to promise me something, Aibou.
A pause. What's that?
Yami leaned back on the log as much as the log would allow him without falling off, and he basked in the warmth of the fire and the warmth of the atmosphere around him.
You'll remember this day long after I'm gone.
There was a longer silence this time. Emotions swirled and churned, and Yami felt every one of them, watching the colors and the shapes and feeling each as it settled across the link.
But at last, he could almost sense a smile from the boy who waited in the Millennium Puzzle. Always near. And always together.
How could I ever forget?
The emotions within him settled into content, and Yami's twitching smile settled on his lips.
"Oh, Jounouchi, don't do it."
The comments were only vague messages in the back of Yami's mind, easily ignored and not seemingly important until he took a moment in the new silence to think about what they meant. He perked up, blinking as the realization of where he was and what was going on dawned on him.
He only had about half a second to notice the horrified expressions on both Anzu and Honda-kun's faces before he felt cold ocean water dump over his head.
He gasped a little to get a breath in, and shivered when he felt the cold rush down his sunburned back and over his hair and face and the rest of his bare torso. He sat there, stunned, absolutely still, for about a moment. He blinked, half to get the water out of his eyes and half out of disbelief of what had just happened.
Then he heard the barely-muffled but now incredibly familiar laughter from just behind where he sat.
His lips twitched into a smirk.
He didn't need to look at Anzu to imagine her eyes going wide and comprehending.
"Why? It was just a little—"
Of course, Jounouchi-kun had less time than Yami had when Yami reached down to the wet ground near his feet and threw a full, patted ball of molded sand straight at his face. The pause, at least for Jounouchi-kun, was infinite.
Yami wasn't entirely aware of how things went on after that. It was a lot like a "proper" splash fight might have been, as Aibou had described them sometime before he had gotten out of the water. You didn't really know who you were hitting or who was hitting you, or even what you were doing at any given moment. You just aimed and fired, and sometimes you didn't even aim.
But the entire time, he could not keep himself from laughing. As he picked up more balls of sand, and Honda-kun joined in their battle and Jounouchi-kun finally decided to fight back. Balls of sand smacked him in the face and stung his back, but he ignored them all. He laughed like he had never laughed in all the time he could remember, and he felt the adrenaline rush through his veins—and for a moment he actually believed those veins were his—and for the first time, was really able to feel like he was alive.
"Oh, stop it, you guys, you'll put out the fire!"
That was the only protest Anzu was able to get out. Yami didn't see it, but he very much suspected that Honda-kun had hit her smack in the head with a sandball. And three seconds later, there was a fourth member of the battle, and she had sided with Yami. Or at least that was how it seemed.
Sand flew back and forth, rough and stinging and almost glowing in the light of the still-flickering fire. The rest of the world faded away in the darkness of the late evening, as if they were the only people there in the whole world. Just them and the rushing and breaking of the waves on the shore, and the moon shining out in the distant sky.
He breathed, fast and shallow with energy, and tried very hard to keep back his grin.
You can take over if you like, Aibou. He dodged sand aimed at his shoulder and hit Honda-kun in the side with his own supply of ammo. You've been in there all day. You deserve to enjoy this, too.
There was a pause. Just a small one, and after that, Yami could have sworn he felt Aibou smiling somewhere in the corner of his mind. One of his gentler smiles, even in the midst of the insanity going on outside. Yami felt Aibou shake his head.
No, thanks, mou hitori no boku. This is your day. Go have some fun.
Yami started to protest, but Aibou gave him a rather hard mental nudge, and Yami shut his lips and gave a nod no one else could see.
Sandballs flew back and forth, and Yami fell once again into the chaos and the rhythm and the joy. He laughed like he didn't care about all the pride he usually so viciously tried to protect, and he played with his friends like he was a child again, even if he couldn't yet remember being a child at all.
He could almost hear a faint chuckle inside his head.
Besides. Aibou's voice was more mischievous than it had been in a long time. You can just stay out and deal with that sunburn until we get home.
Yami laughed even harder, and the sound rang out and mingled with the laughter of all his friends in the cool and peaceful night.
And in the back of his mind, Aibou laughed, too.