Thrice Gone
Part 3/?
A Yu-Gi-Oh! Azureshipping Fanfic
Azurite - azurite AT seventh-star DOT net

Completed: According to my last updated date, 12/18/2017. Why I didn't post it for nearly three years, I have no idea. But here we are.
Posted: 5/28/2020 a.k.a. Pandemic Posting. Stay entertained, folks!

Disclaimer: You can tell how old I am (~ish, please don't guess) by the fact that I include a disclaimer. But you know what? It's not Kazuki Takahashi, Shonen Jump, Konami, etc. that I'm worried about, it's the nerfherders at 4Kids or whatever they're calling themselves these days. I DO NOT OWN YU-GI-OH! I DO NOT CLAIM TO OWN YU-GI-OH! IN ANY NATION OR TERRITORY. This story is produced for entertainment only and is a transformative work under U.S. Fair Use laws and is not-for-profit. So get your copyright-grubbing mitts away, "SLIFER."

Notes: Like Part 2, this part picks up immediately where the last one left off. I actually had this written a while ago, but I kept wanting to make it longer and longer, and that defeats the purpose of it just being this ongoing teaser/WIP that I'm playing with. My apologies for the extended break on this one. I kind of want to come up with a cover, but I wonder what the art should look like...?

With Anzu in the car, the hour-plus ride didn't seem quite as long to Mokuba, even with the rain and wind continuing to pound on the limousine's roof and windows.

"So what did you ride? Did you mod it with one of those super-high seats? Did you paint it pink?"

The questions wouldn't stop coming. Mokuba had never known a real Yanki before, and to learn that Anzu, Anzu of all people had actually been one...! Well, it just made her even cooler in his book.

"Slow down, Mokuba," Anzu laughed, and he pouted.

"One," she flicked up a finger, which Mokuba noticed didn't have the claw-like painted nails she'd gripped around her sister's wheelchair in the old photo. Her nails were trim, with no apparent lacquer on them at all. "I was a junior in my group, so I rarely got to ride anything-"

Mokuba's eyes widened at the word "rarely." So she had driven a motorcycle!

"Two," she gestured with another finger, "Yes, it was modified- all of our bikes were. Most of them had these high seats in the back-" Anzu gestured and whacked her hand on the limousine roof.

"Ow! Ow ow ow..."

Mokuba did his best to stifle his giggle, but it came out anyway.

"Sorry, sorry," he said between laughs, "I just thought you'd start swearing or something-"

Anzu's smile fell and Mokuba gulped, especially once he caught the stern look on his brother's face.

"Uh, I'm really sorry Anzu, I didn't mean to laugh at you hitting your hand; are you okay?"

"I'm okay, Mokuba," Anzu said, quieter this time. "I haven't been involved with Lady's groups since..." she swallowed and then closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. "Since my sisters died."

The rest of the ride was uncomfortably silent, but if there was any "bright" side to it all, it was that neither of the Kaiba brothers pressed the issue of Anzu's sisters' deaths. Kaiba, perhaps most surprisingly, said nothing about it; had he somehow known that she'd been coming from her sisters' graves?

'It wouldn't be a big stretch, I guess. There's not exactly a whole lot of houses in that direction, and Kaiba's a smart guy...

He also didn't rescind his offer to let Anzu stay over-for an indeterminate amount of time, which also surprised her.

So he didn't care that she was a former junior biker gang member, that she'd never before mentioned her dead sisters (actually, when would they have ever come up? And why would it have ever been Kaiba's business, anyway?), or that she avoided her empty home like it was some sort of plague-infested mansion?

Anzu glanced over at the CEO, who was leaning back in his seat, his laptop closed. He almost appeared to be sleeping, with his eyes closed and his chin tilted toward the ceiling, but his legs were crossed and one foot kept twitching up and down, almost as if he were impatient and doing a damn good job at almost hiding it.

'And he's not even the one who's soaking wet,' Anzu sniffed. Despite the limousine heat turned up-and that included the seats themselves, which had Anzu fidgeting from the sticky warmth spreading through her thighs as a result of her rain-soaked pants- she was still cold, and the tiny towel Kaiba had tossed at her hadn't really done much for her wet clothes. Well. It had helped a little.

Sumomo's sweater, on the other hand...

'It's a goner,' Anzu thought mournfully. She'd had the fuzzy gray sweater ever since her sister had passed, refusing to allow her sister's favorite wool cardigan get cremated with the rest of her. It had steadily gotten smaller as Anzu had aged, but she didn't think it would survive this storm in the condition it was in.

She pulled at the too-short sleeves chafing at her forearms and gave up when the wool merely gushed water out of it. She let out a sigh and noticed Kaiba's eyes were now open and looking straight at her.

Mokuba, on the other hand, had passed out something like fifteen minutes ago, his face smashed against his seatbelt. His mouth was hanging open ever-so-slightly, and Anzu smiled as she spied what was most likely a spot of drool just beginning to dangle from his lips.

"You're so lucky," Anzu said, right as Seto spoke, "I'm sorry."

"What?" Anzu asked, genuinely surprised. She resisted the urge to repeat herself. She hesitated, letting the barely-audible radio crackling from the driver's side of the limo partition fill the silence.

"Why? I mean- you have nothing to be sorry for."

At that, Kaiba snorted. "You have the memory of a goldfish."

'Count on him to resort to insults when paid a compliment.'

"You know that goldfish actually have memories longer than three seconds, right? That it's more like four or five months?"

He quirked an eyebrow, and Anzu thought he might have smirked at her a little as he leaned back in his seat.

"I meant, I'm-" he seemed to actually be hesitating, astonishingly enough, glancing away from her and acting like he could see out the fogged-up window next to him. "I'm sorry for your loss."

There, he'd said it. It was out there. Seto sighed, feeling a cold breath escape him in one big whoosh, like he was relieved or something.

'By what? It's not as if talking to Mazaki gets my heart racing or something foolish like that.'

Except he had to admit, it had been beating just a bit faster when she'd first gotten into the limousine, all soaking wet with her mourning clothes clinging to her. But he didn't like thinking that way. Not about anyone, least of all Mazaki.

But then she'd said "You're so lucky" and the confusion from where the warm feeling below his stomach was originating and why it kept causing his legs to tingle morphed into something else.

He glanced at Mokuba.

A thought occurred to him.

"Was that why you saved him? Back during Battle City?"

Mazaki's eyes widened a fraction; the brilliant blue stood out even more against the reddened rims of her eyes. It almost looked unnatural for her to be sad: it didn't suit her face.

"Because of what happened to my sisters?" This time she was the one who leaned back, but instead of exhaling deeply, she inhaled and closed her eyes, sucking in a breath and letting it out slowly while she seemed to think about her answer.

This surprised Seto, because he expected her to always have an answer, always have a speech at the ready, an inspirational pick-me-up to prick tears from people's eyes. Then he remembered that it wasn't really Mazaki who gave the friendship speeches. It was almost always Yuugi. She had done it maybe once in his presence, while Yuugi had near-lectured him on the topic at least three times, if not more.

But had it really been Yuugi talking back then? Seto wondered, but he shut down that train of thought quickly. He didn't want to think about missing someone else, about losing someone else. Besides, Mazaki was right here in front of him.

After a moment, Mazaki opened her eyes. "No. I mean, I'm sure it played a part, somewhere in the back of my mind; it's not like I can lie and say that what happened to my sisters didn't affect everything about who I am today, but... overall? No, not really. Mokuba's a good kid. He was a bit of a brat when I first met him-" Seto narrowed his eyes at her, "...but he was like that because he was fighting to save the person he loves most in the world. I respect that. I get that. And I thought, if it was me, if I knew that the person I loved and trusted most in the world couldn't come, for whatever reason, then I wouldn't sit there and wallow, I'd fight. I'd get out, and prove that I deserved that love and trust, but also that I could help him, too."

Seto blinked rapidly. He was not tearing up after that. She hadn't been making a "speech," and it hadn't even been particularly heart-wrenching. Besides, his heart didn't wrench at all.

And even if it did...

'She wasn't talking about me, she was talking about him,' Seto reminded himself. The Pharaoh. Other Yuugi. Gone Yuugi. Of course that was who she'd loved most, trusted most, believed in most. It was he who she had sought to impress. Not him.

"What, did you think I was projecting my psychological damage onto him, and I thought that saving him was some sort of substitute for saving my sisters?"

"If the shoe fits..." Seto trailed off, crossing his arms over his chest as he did so. Goading Mazaki into shouting at him was the only thing he felt good at in her continued presence. He didn't know what else to do.

Seto Kaiba was lucky, despite his hardscrabble upbringing, despite his firm, very vocal belief that luck had nothing to do with how he got to where he was; he didn't care to possess luck, as he had skill. Hard-won, hard-earned skill.

It was on days like today that Anzu questioned whether she had any of the same.

Maybe not the exact "same"-not dueling prowess like Kaiba's or Yuugi's, or instinct like Jounouchi's. But skill at all. She'd spent the last several years not living her own life, but that of her sisters': Momo's dream to be a dancer, and Sumomo's to be an ace student. So who was she? When she went to their graves and looked at all the little trinkets she'd left behind over the years -her parents never wanted to go near them, it seemed- she saw things that should have excited her, if she'd been genuinely interested in dance, or in excelling in her exams.

'If I were Momo or Sumomo. But I'm not. So who is Anzu Mazaki, anyway?'

She had no interest in becoming a ballerina, but she'd done her best to keep Momo's dream alive by pursuing modern dance and stage performance. She did her best in classes and studied as hard as she could, even served as class representative, but it wasn't as if she got the perfect scores Sumomo had been known for throughout junior high.

So yes, Seto Kaiba was lucky, because the gods saw it fit to bestow upon him a vision of what he should do with his life, early on, and he'd grasped onto that vision, that dream of uniting the world through games, and he had yet to let it go. It didn't seem like he would any time soon.

Anzu snorted quietly as she glanced at Kaiba, who'd pulled out his laptop and started typing away on it, despite the fact that he kept his legs crossed and one foot still twitched.

At the sound, he looked up at her.

"What?" they said at the same time, and Anzu smothered a laugh.

Seto hadn't known what to say to Mazaki after her little "revelation." He still wasn't quite sure what to think of it, and was trying to distract himself from thinking about it by going back to work-back to what he'd been doing before Mokuba had insisted on pulling the limo over after their parents' memorial, during a torrential downpour, before his routine of mourning and then compartmentalizing had been so thoroughly interrupted.

He certainly didn't know how to respond when her laugh at something as innocuous as them both saying "What" at the same time abruptly turned into hiccuping sobs.

Conveniently, they'd arrived at their destination, and the combination of the stopping of the limousine in the Kaiba mansion garage and Mazaki's unexpected crying woke Mokuba up.