At the beginning there were two groups: Yuugi and Anzu, and Jounouchi and Honda. Anzu couldn't say that she and Yuugi were that close, but they'd gone to the same primary school and had been in similar classes before. She knew of Yuugi, just didn't know much about him. The other two boys, Jounouchi and Honda, were gang members – pervy, rude guys who beat up boys like Yuugi in their free time. When Anzu had caught them teasing Yuugi and throwing his puzzle box in the air, she had beaten them up and told them to cut it out.
Somehow, her involvement had worked, but she doubted it was solely due to her actions. The next day, Yuugi and Jounouchi were both sporting bandages on their faces and cuts on their hands, but they were standing in the hallway together. Jounouchi's blond hair was in disarray, while Yuugi's hair shot up as though he'd stuck his finger in a socket. Anzu heard Jounouchi say a funny phrase to Yuugi – "What's something you can see but can't see?" – before his face turned as red as a tomato and he stormed off with his hands in his pockets.
And so, Anzu found, Yuugi became friends with Jounouchi. She thought of it as a wacky fairy tale, where the bully befriends the bullied. Yuugi seemed to overlook all of Jounouchi's flaws, even down to his rough attitude and penchant for fist-fights. (These fist fights, unsurprisingly, continued, only he beat up other bullies and told them not to pick on kids.) Anzu soon began to migrate towards Yuugi's group instead of sitting with the girls in her homeroom. This meant that she was also sitting with Honda and Jounouchi.
Anzu had never talked to either of the boys. She knew of them, naturally, because their gang had been large when she was in junior high. She didn't know much else about them, though, and so she took it upon herself to get to know them, to become "friends of friends".
Jounouchi was a loud-mouthed, high-spirited boy. He had a big heart and cared deeply for those close to him, but he could hold a grudge until the day he died. He believed that any sort of dilemma could be solved with a fist fight. The first day that they'd hung out, he'd showed up with his school uniform dirtied and sticks in his blond hair. When she'd asked him what happened, he told her, "People shouldn't steal from grocery stores. I made sure they won't do it again."
Honda was a bit smarter and had a bit less macho in him. He was quieter and preferred to let Jounouchi talk, but once you angered him his temper would soar. He had short, brown hair that was gelled into a point and strong, dark eyes. He didn't talk to Yuugi as much, and preferred to talk to Jounouchi when possible.
And this was how, despite the awkward ties in their friendship, Yuugi, Anzu, Jounouchi, and Honda became friends.
"Oi, Yuugi, where you headin' off to?"
Yuugi turned around, grinning. "Grandpa got new games and I want to be there for the shipment."
Anzu frowned. "And miss school?"
"It's important," he assured her. Anzu rolled her eyes, but turned around and began to put her books in her locker. She could hear Jounouchi behind her. He was asking Yuugi if he could come see the games, too. Lately that was all Yuugi and Jounouchi talked about: games. They brought them to school and splayed them over the desks. She knew that Jounouchi's father had a drinking and gambling addiction, so the blond boy usually went to Yuugi's house after school to play games.
She looked over her shoulder at Honda. He was huddled around Yuugi and Jounouchi, peering into Yuugi's backpack where there were certainly a plethora of games and a paucity of completed homework. She didn't talk to him much because he always hung out with Jounouchi, but lately he'd become more reserved. She wondered if he was jealous that Yuugi was hogging Jounouchi for himself.
"Honda?" she said, and she wanted to bite her tongue after the words came out.
He looked up. "Yeah?"
"Are you going to Yuugi's house, too?"
He shook his head. "My sister will kill me if I skip class. She says I already don't do enough work as it is." He laughed lightly before straightening up and looking at her. His eyes narrowed. "Why?"
Anzu bristled at his strong tone. "Don't be so cautious!" she snapped. "I was just asking a question." She fluffed out her skirt and pulled it down, watching how his eyes travelled to her hands. Pervert, she thought. "I was wondering if you wanted to get sodas after school. Just the two of us, of course."
"Oh." It was the lamest response Anzu had ever heard. She balled her hands in fists. "Yeah, sure." She didn't know whether to cheer that she might've befriended Honda Hiroto, or slap herself because this might've been one of her less intelligent ideas.
She quickly gathered her books, said goodbye to the boys who were now flipping through ecchi manga in the hallways, and hurried to her class. In her mind, she could only think of one idea: Did I just ask Honda Hiroto out on a date?
After school, Anzu had waited by Honda's locker for him. He gave her a curious look, but made no comment as he put him books away and packed up his bag. When he was ready, they left together. Anzu could not think of a more awkward time in her life. She bit her lip and she walked down the hallway, trying not to look at him. Did he think it was a date?
"So, where are we going?"
"I don't know," she growled. "Don't you have a favorite restaurant? I know you, Jounouchi, and Yuugi get burgers on the weekends, so why don't we go there?"
"You mean Burger World?"
Anzu swallowed thickly. Yuugi and Jounouchi both knew that she worked at Burger World after they stalked her there, but it seemed that they hadn't shared that secret with Honda. She smothered her worry by clearing her throat, and glared pointedly at Honda, who was giving her a strange look. "I guess we can go there," she sniffed. When his expression turned dispirited, she gave him a faint smile. "Come on. Let's go."
The two of them set off down the hallway, chatting offhandedly about homework and classes. Anzu held the straps of her backpack tight in her sweaty hands. She'd never been alone with anyone but Yuugi, and she'd never imaged herself going out with Jounouchi or Honda. Gosh, some days she could hardly stand being around the two of them. She enjoyed their presence, as they gave Yuugi courage to be himself, but when all three boys were perving on the upperclassmen with big eyes, she wanted to be anywhere else.
Once they got outside, Honda led her to the sidewalk. They hadn't made it a few steps out of the parking lot, filled with the upperclassmen's cars and motorcycles, when a boy with fuzzy red hair shouted, "Oi, Honda! Aren't you driving?"
Anzu gave Honda a curious look, but he shoved her forward roughly and flipped the red-haired boy off.
"What was that about?" Anzu asked once they were out of earshot.
"Nothing," Honda muttered back. The conversation spiraled into an awkward pause. "So… How long have you known Yuugi?"
"Since we were kids," she replied, happy to jump back into a conversation. "We went to the same primary school together." She paused, smiling at the memory of Yuugi in his t-shirt and shorts and trying to pull a hat over his pointy hair. "Did he ever tell you how we met?"
Honda shook his head. "Boys don't talk about that sort of thing."
"Well, girls do," Anzu huffed. "Anyways, he was really into games when he was a kid. He used to bring all sorts of games in his backpack – most of them single-player, mind you, but he always had a game with him. One day he brought me a game console to play. I don't remember the one, though… It was big and bulky and… Oh, never-mind. It's not important. Besides, it's broken anyways. I got so frustrated that I couldn't beat a level that I smashed it. The next day I had to apologize to him. He wasn't even upset when I told him about it. Instead, he laughed and told me he'd bring me an easier game to play the next day. And he did." She chuckled. "That's Yuugi for you."
Honda laughed. "Sounds like him. I wish Jounouchi and I met like that. We met when we were both in junior high. Jounouchi was in a gang back then."
Anzu was quiet. "At least he's out now," she said.
They stopped talking until they got to Burger World, where they were greeted by a cheery waitress. The girl was wearing the same uniform Anzu wore at work. Naturally, the girl noticed Anzu right away. "Anzu-chan!" she cried happily.
Anzu paled. "Kyouko-chan," she returned, though not with the same enthusiasm. When the girl opened her mouth to talk again, Anzu cleared her throat loudly and said, "Well, aren't you going to lead us to our seats?"
"Oh… Yes, of course!" The girl quickly brought them to a booth seat. Anzu and Honda settled opposite of each other. Kyouko took their drink orders right away, smiling coyly at Anzu all the while. Anzu glared at her. She didn't want Honda to think she was a bad girl and had a job outside of school. It was prohibited. She'd already made Yuugi and Jounouchi swear that they wouldn't tell anyone about her job as a waitress.
Once Kyouko had left, the two of them stared at each other.
"Do you know her?" Honda asked.
"Oh… Yeah." Anzu looked away. "We both have dance class together."
"Just at a small, private club. I'm saving up to go to a dance school in New York. This is the first step in my journey." She picked up her menu and peered at it. She already knew it by heart, but she flipped through it anyways while she waited for Honda to decide.
"Do you want to get a burger?" he asked.
Anzu looked over at his menu. He was pointing at a thick, meaty burger with cheese on top. "I wouldn't get that," she said after a moment. He frowned, and she quickly continued: "The cheese never melts as well as you'd think, and that much meat isn't necessary. I think we should get these little burgers. They're called teriyaki sliders. We can split them and the fries."
"That sounds good, actually. Yeah, let's go with that." He closed up his menu. "How do you know about the cheeseburger?" he asked after a moment.
"Kyouko-chan told me about it," she lied.
They ordered their food when Kyouko came back with their drinks. Anzu wanted to slap the girl for the want she was staring at her and Honda. She wanted to tell the girl that she wasn't on a date, but that would entail shouting that in front of Honda, and that would only make her more embarrassed.
When they got their food, Anzu and Honda ate in silence. When their hands brushed each others as they reached for fries and sliders, they would blush and pull their hands back. Even Honda, who was normally cool and collected, seemed antsy.
Anzu wondered if this was normal for most first trips.
After the first time – which was most certainly not a date – Anzu found her weekends being filled up with trips with Honda. They visited the mall and the arcade. He took her to the shooting range once and showed her how he could shoot small targets. Anzu didn't mind being at the shooting range, but she cringed when he told her that he shot a sparrow flying out a window when he was a kid. Anzu then took him to once of her dance practices.
"It's all fancy footwork," he told her airily, and when she'd glared at him, he'd said, "but I think you're really good at it."
He'd never said anything like that to her before. She remembered feeling her face grow hot before she snapped at him for standing there with a cocky grin on his face.
The second trip – not a date, of course – had been to the GiGo game center. Yuugi and Jounouchi had accompanied them, which assured Anzu further that this was not a date. All four of them were huddled around a first-player shooter game, patiently waiting their turn with their yen coins ready. Anzu could feel Honda's excitement: he'd already lost to Yuugi and Jounouchi in a fighting game, and was anticipating their loss when he beat them in his favorite game.
"Are you going to try anything, Anzu-chan?" Yuugi asked.
She looked around. There were a couple of younger girls squealing around a photo booth. Anzu grimaced. She was glad she never fell into that stage. There were a few other games that looked interesting… "I want to try that one," she said suddenly, pointing at a dancing game. Yuugi was on his toes in an instant, trying to peer over the heads of the taller boys and girls.
When finally got a good look, he went back down and grinned. "That looks like fun. Do you want me to watch you?"
"Hey!" Honda shouted, tugging Yuugi back by his jacket collar. "You owe me a game first!"
Jounouchi sensed Yuugi's fear and butted in. "Why don't we play a game first, Honda, and then you can challenge Yuugi for the grand prize?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively, leaning close to Honda. The brunet pushed him away roughly with the palm of his hand.
"Get your face out of mine, you idiot. Your breath stinks."
"I guess I'll have to breathe all over ya when you lose," Jounouchi roared triumphantly. Yuugi and Anzu watched, amused, but the sobered down and headed over to the DDR game. There, Anzu won two games in a row before Honda came back and dragged Yuugi over the shooting game. Jounouchi was in tow with a sour expression on his face. He had lost.
Honda paused when their eyes met, and Anzu swore she saw something akin to amazement in his brown eyes. Then her eyes turned to Jounouchi, who was ogling her rear, and she called him a pervert.
"Boys do that sort of thing," he said as if that was a valid reason. He headed back over to Yuugi and Honda, who were shooting at the screen with such intensity that they almost seemed to be living the game. Anzu always joked that Yuugi got into games too much. He took games seriously, especially when they were the dangerous kind. Lately Yuugi had been playing more of these dangerous games. He never talked about them, though. He just continued on playing and saving lives and making everyone's day brighter.
Yuugi had once told her that his Puzzle had given him friends. Anzu had questioned the validity of the statement, but Yuugi had assured her it was true. The Puzzle had given him friends. Anzu didn't have the courage after that to tell him otherwise.
Sometimes, she wondered what had given her friends? Yuugi?
They stayed at the arcade for another hour, until both Honda and Jounouchi were pouting because Yuugi had kicked their butts. They'd gotten ice cream at a nearby store and happily licked it as they sat on a park bench and chatted. The conversations flowed easily and the ice cream didn't melt. Finally, Yuugi stood up and bowed his head slightly.
"Sorry, everyone, but I've got to be home soon. My mother will be mad if I'm late for dinner." He paused, turning to Jounouchi. "Jounouchi-kun, can you come home with me? I need to show you something." He waggled his eyebrows. Anzu knew this meant that he was inviting Jounouchi over to his place for dinner since Jounouchi's father never made dinner. Yuugi was just too polite to say it in front of her and Honda.
"Sure, Yuugi!" Jounouchi said, jumping up at the opportunity. The two departed with a wave and a smile. Now it was just her and Honda on the park bench, ice cream cones gone. Anzu sat up straighter and looked at her shoes.
"So," Honda began, "are you planning on doing anything tomorrow?"
Anzu looked up at him, one eyebrow raised. "What's it to you?"
"Don't have to be so defensive," he growled. He took a deep breath and raised his arms over his head. "I was just asking… If you're not doing anything, do you want to see a movie, maybe?"
The question startled her. "A movie?"
"Yes," he repeated. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "A movie and maybe dinner…?" He left the question hanging awkwardly, just like how Anzu's mouth was hanging out awkwardly. Everything about this situation was truthfully awkward. Honda Hiroto was asking her out. Honda Hiroto, who was a slight pervert, an amazing shooter, and an all-around serious guy. Honda Hiroto, who barely knew her.
"I can't," she said quickly. "I have plans tomorrow, not to mention the pile of homework on my desk that needs to be done."
She could visibly see his heart pop. "You don't like dates?"
"It's… I can't go on a date with you."
Wrongs words. His temper rose and he crossed his arms. "And why can't you?"
"I… I need to go. Don't ask stupid questions." She stood up, grabbed her purse, and stormed off. She didn't look behind her, since she didn't want to see the heartbroken boy she'd left on the bench.
For the next week Anzu felt extremely self-conscious. She avoided Honda at all costs, even going so far as to do her homework during lunch break in the library and eat lunch between classes at her locker. It became quite tiresome to avoid him, as they had classes together and they shared friends. This meant that she was avoiding Honda, Yuugi, and Jounouchi. It was hard to appear normal and avoid her closest friends. Yuugi caught on quickly – on the first day, in fact. She'd been at her locker, shoving broccoli and rice into her mouth.
"Don't you usually eat lunch with us?" Yuugi said. "Or were you busy at lunch?"
Anzu swallowed before speaking. "I had lots of homework." She took another bite with her chopsticks.
"Oh. I thought it was because you and Honda-kun got in a fight."
Anzu choked on a mouthful or rice and quickly put her bento away, coughing behind her hand. She took a drink of water quickly to wash it down. "Who told you that?" she gasped.
Yuugi's grin was infectious. "You did."
Anzu sighed. "Thanks for playing mind games with me, Yuugi."
"Sorry," he said with a small laugh. "You should try and talk with Honda-kun. He seemed pretty upset at lunch. Jounouchi-kun and I couldn't even get him to smile… I think he wants to apologize to you today."
"That doesn't mean I'm going to accept it," Anzu returned defensively.
"No, you don't have to," Yuugi said. "But you should at least listen to him. He deserves that."
Anzu didn't answer. She gathered her books up and then she and Yuugi headed to class together. The mood lightened considerably when Yuugi began talking about a new game that his grandfather had gotten: Capsule Monsters. He began to explain the basics to her, and how he was going to go after school and buy some from the little machines outside of game stores. Anzu was so busy listening and talking with Yuugi that she didn't have time to run away before Yuugi suddenly exclaimed, "Oh! Hello, Jounouchi-kun, Honda-kun. Anzu and I were just talking about Capsule Monsters. Are you going to get any?"
"I am!" Jounouchi said eagerly. "I saw them in the newspaper today. They're really popular with primary school kids, but I still think you can play them if you're in high school! There's even a Capsule Monsters champion and he's only ten years old!"
"I thought you just said it's popular with primary school kids. Why wouldn't he be ten?" Honda pointed out.
Jounouchi growled and turned on the brunet. "I know I said that, but I didn't think the squirts would actually be good at it!"
Honda rolled his eyes. "Genius," he muttered.
"Honda-kun, are you going to buy any?" Yuugi asked.
"Probably not," the taller boy responded. "I think I'm gonna head home after school."
Anzu jumped at his words. Something inside of her, possibly her heart, beat against her ribcage. "Honda, do you want to do something after school? Are you busy?"
He raised an eyebrow. "What's it to you?"
"Nothing," she returned evenly, but she felt a smile grace her lips when he repeated the same words she'd used against him. "I was wondering if you wanted to get sodas and go out for a bit. I'll even pay, if you want."
Honda shrugged, but she could see his eyes light up at the prospect of free sodas. "Fine. I'll meet you outside of the school. Don't be late." He walked off without saying goodbye. Jounouchi paused to look between them, then hurried over and tackled Honda into a locker. Anzu and Yuugi watched the two of them with amused expressions. Anzu felt slightly better than she had yesterday. Honda had still seemed hurt, but he'd accepted her request. (She tried not to think this was because she'd asked him out in front of his friends.)
"You did it," Yuugi said after a moment. "Doesn't Honda-kun look happier?"
She and Yuugi continued on to class and he continued to talk about Capsule Monsters. Their teacher gave them stern looks when they showed up late, but Anzu's mind was still on Honda. He'd accepted. Now they'd be heading out after school to a soda shop and a park to hang out. It wasn't quite the date that Honda had planned for them, but Anzu found this trip slightly less nerve-wracking. It seemed like less a date and more like an outing between friends – and that's what she and Honda were: friends. In facts, they were friends of friends. Honda had Jounouchi, and she had Yuugi.
Once the bell rang, she hurried to her locker, threw her books inside her bag, and dashed out the front door. She'd thought that she would be first, but Honda was already there. He was leaning against the wall with his hands tucked in his pants pockets, blazer undone and baggy shirt untucked. "You ready?" he said, pushing himself off the wall and falling into step with her. They walked for a few feet together, until Honda suddenly veered into the parking lot and cut her off.
Anzu frowned. "The train's this way."
"I know," he huffed. He didn't turn around. "We're not going on the train."
This only made Anzu more confused. "You don't expect us to walk?" she exclaimed.
"Stop being foolish," he told her. He turned around and pointed at a red motorbike that was parked in a parking spot. It was fairly old but looked well-loved UJM, with the logo "Honda" printed on the side. Honda twirled a set of keys around his pointer finger, looking at her with a mischievous look that made Anzu's heart pound harder. "We're driving there."
"Y-you can't drive!"
"Can too." He reached into the case at the back and pulled out a helmet, then reached into his backpack and pulled out another. He handed one to her.
"I'm not going on that!"
"Well then how do you propose we get there?"
"Honda, that's illegal!"
"I haven't been caught yet."
She huffed childishly. "That doesn't mean we should do it." She looked nervously around. "Honda, we're going to get caught."
"No, we aren't," he told her. He put on his helmet and stepped onto the bike. Slowly, Anzu followed, settling down behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist. Her legs hugged the leather seat tightly and she braced herself for the roar of the engine. It came, but not as the gentle roar that accompanied new, fancy motorcycles like those in romance movies. Honda's motorbike made an ugly sputtering noise before it revved up. Anzu couldn't hold back a laugh, though it died in her throat as they sped through the parking lot and onto the road. She quickly tightened her grip and buried her head into his back. The wind blew her skirt back, but she was too scared to use her hand to keep it in place.
Honda took wild turns when he drove and cut in between traffic. He sped past suburban cars on the freeway before coming to quick stops when they hit traffic. They never said anything as they drove through the city. Anzu eventually gathered the courage to look to the side, still keeping her arms around Honda's stomach. The city was a blur of color: blues, greens, and grey, with splashes of neon from the signs above. Anzu had never been on a motorcycle in her life. She felt a bubble of adrenaline inside of her for doing something so reckless. She, Mazaki Anzu, a tenth grader at Domino High, was riding on a motorcycle that was being driven illegally by her classmate, Honda Hiroto.
The ride never got less exhilarating; however, by the time it was over, Anzu could confidently say that was able to sit up and open her eyes while on the back of the motorcycle. Her legs felt like Jell-O when she climbed off, and she grabbed Honda's blazer to steady herself.
"Your legs'll feel a bit weak for a few minutes," he told her, looking slightly uncomfortable at the hand on his jacket. He didn't say anything, though. He slowly walked her to the soda shop, not meeting her gaze. Anzu tried not to think of the blush coloring her cheeks.
Yet she could do nothing but follow him faithfully. The soda shop had an open-plan feel: there were little blue-and-white tables and chairs scattered across the floor. The counter was along the far wall and sported the same cutesy, decorative theme. The women in the front were dressed like sailors.
"What are you getting?" Honda asked immediately.
"I'm not sure." Her legs were beginning to feel a bit better, so she let go of Honda's blazer and stumbled to the counter. Most of the drinks were fruity, bubbly, and all-around girly beverages. The photos around the shop depicted brightly colored concoctions that were designed to look like pop culture characters. Anzu groaned. She was already regretting taking Honda out to this place.
She glanced through her choices a few more times before settling on a root beer float – the least girly of all the drinks. Honda ended up ordering the same. Anzu paid for both and told them they were 'to go'. After paying, they settled down into two chairs with blue-and-white striped throw pillows.
"No girly stuff for you?" Honda teased. Anzu hit him with a pillow.
"It's all sugary fluff," she quipped. "I'd rather drink something that tastes good." She held the pillow in her lap, kneading it slightly with her hands. She was nervous again and she didn't understand why. She'd been out with Honda before, with or without the others. This time should have been no different. She was simply out with Honda after school, getting sodas and hanging out and – oh why was this so weird? At least this was making Honda happy.
When the drinks arrived Anzu stood up first. Her legs didn't feel as bad and she walked confidently to the counter to pick up their root beer floats. They were served in simple travel cups. Foam was overflowing over the rim because the waitresses hadn't been able to put caps on. Quickly Anzu took a sip to get rid of some of the foam. She handed Honda his drink and told him to do the same. Once their drinks were capped, they headed outside of the shop and looked down the street.
"Want to go to the park?" she said suddenly. The words seemed to tumble from her words before she had the chance to reel them back in.
Honda's smile brightened. "Sure," he said. She saw out of the corner of her eye his hand coming to take hers. She quickly lifted her hands up to her drink and took a big sip. His expression deflated slightly, but then he settled for walking very close to her as they crossed the street and headed into the park. It was a warm, sunny day, so there were lots of people walking along the paths or sitting on picnic blankets. Anzu looked around for a place for her and Honda to sit. She didn't want anyone to see them together because, while she believed this was simply an outing between friends-of-friends, her classmates might have entirely different opinions on her and Honda's situation. And she really didn't want a rumor to start around the school that Mazaki Anzu and Honda Hiroto were dating.
"Let's go over there," she told Honda, pointing at a tall, dark tree far away from the rest of the people. It didn't look as inviting as the warm Japanese maple trees that glowed in the sunlight, or the patches of grass where the sun peeked through the branches of the trees and created halos on the ground. No, this particular tree was woodsy and rustic and appeared shady. Anzu thought it was the best place to sit.
She hurried over and settled herself underneath the tree. The ground was thankfully dry, and she tucked her legs underneath her and leaned back against the trunk. Honda followed slowly and sat down next to her. His hands were wringing his root beer float cup. Was he nervous?
"When did you learn to drive a motorcycle?" she asked.
Honda raised an eyebrow. "I taught myself. I got this bike from a friend who didn't want it. He said I was good at mechanics and that I could have it if I could drive it. I drove it out of his garage, did a lap around him, and then left. I've kept the bike ever since."
"Do your parents know about it?"
"My sister does," he said offhandedly. "I park it at her house so they don't find out. In the mornings I take a train to her place to pick it up and then continue on to school." He folded his hands in his lap. "She says I can keep riding it so long as I don't get caught and I pay the gas money."
"She sounds pretty nice," Anzu commented. "I'm an only child." The conversation spiraled into silence. Honda looked embarrassed by telling her something secretive, so Anzu gathered up the courage and sat up straighter. She'd already told Yuugi and Jounouchi this secret – she could either tell Honda herself or wait for one of the boys to let it slip out. She preferred the former.
"I work at Burger World."
Honda gave her a shocked expression.
Anzu swallowed but continued. "I have to pay for dance classes and save up for New York. This was the only way. Yuugi-kun and Jounouchi-kun already know because they accidentally walked in when I was on shift… Well, actually they stalked me there, but they still found out. I thought you ought to know, too. You're not the only one doing illegal things. But, you cannot tell anyone about my work. If the school found out, I'd be fired, and then I'd have no way of earning money to fly to New York. I need this money –"
"I'm not gonna tell," Honda cut in.
Anzu stopped talking and frowned. "How am I supposed to believe that?"
"I won't tell the school about your part-time job if you don't tell my parents about my motorcycle. Deal?"
They continued to stare at each other for a few minutes. Carefully, Honda laid his hand on top of Anzu's. Anzu held her breath. They were alone, hidden behind the shade of the tree. No one would see them. Anzu almost expected Honda to kiss her and she readied her hand for the feeling of lips on her own – but it never came. Honda only leaned in close and said, "Can friends of friends become good friends?"
"I think so," she replied. She brought her other hand down and placed it on her lap. "If you kiss me, I'll yell."
Honda laughed. "You think all boys want to kiss you, don't you?"
"I don't think all boys want to kiss me; I think all boys are perverts."
"You need to relax," he told her after a moment. "I'm not gonna jump you."
"You and Jounouchi lifted my skirt up once with a T-bar," she told him. "I won't trust you until you give me a reason not to."
"OK… Well I guess I'll have to keep trying."
Honda sighed. He wrapped his free arm around her waist. He didn't pull her close, didn't squeeze her, didn't tease his hand up her hips. It was comforting, reassuring. Anzu sighed slightly. All the boys in her school that had touched her did perverted things like look up her skirt and touch her rear. Honda wasn't, though. He wasn't making any moves on her.
They didn't say anything for the rest of the day. Honda never moved his hand off of hers and his arm around her waist, but he never did anything else. Anzu eventually settled down against him and watched the clouds, the sky. She closed her eyes at times and drifted into naps, but she never truly fell asleep. She kept waiting for Honda's hands to slide up her skirt, or for him to say something perverted. It never happened. For once, there was just a tinge of love in the air, like warm cup of tea or an easy-to-play game.
At the end of the day Anzu slowly got up. She took Honda's hand much easier than before and held it until they got onto the motorcycle. The ride back was serene. The sky was beginning to light up with stars and the lights from the neon signs made the city look like a dance floor. Anzu hummed a beat in her head and thought about dancing with Honda the entire ride back.
When he let her off, he grabbed her hand. Anzu gasped and turned around, but Honda was just standing there, holding her hand and doing nothing else. She blushed and opened her mouth to snap at him, but Honda glared at her and it shut her up. "Good night," he said with a smile.
"Good night," Anzu admitted. She squeezed his hand lightly. "Thanks for the great day. I had fun."
The following morning, Anzu stood in front of Yuugi's door and pretended that nothing had happened yesterday, that she had not gone out on a date with Honda, and that they hadn't held hands. Her poker face must not have worked, for when Yuugi walked downstairs, disheveled because he was running late, he gave her a sly look and said, "I knew you could make Honda-kun happy."
Anzu tried to hide her blush by looking at a stack of action figurines on the store's wall. "I don't make Honda happy. He makes himself happy by perving on underclassmen girls with Jounouchi. Besides, friends of friends can't be good friends. It doesn't work."
Yuugi didn't seem convinced, but he didn't play any mind games with her as they walked to school. He talked about how he and Jounouchi were going to buy Capsule Monsters after school today. He talked airily about it with wide gestures, and Anzu was reminded of her own relationship with Honda. If a bully could befriend a bullied, couldn't friends of friends fall in love?