"He's not responding. Gods, maybe he can't. I told you not to run those last tests…"
"How many times…? He will be fine. Which is more then I can say for us if we hadn't run those tests. Just remember, our – benefactor – is more then capable of… well, of getting rid of us if we don't do things the way he wants, and replacing us with people who will. You already know that, so why I need to repeat it…"
"This is different." Stubborn. "He is different. You said yourself that we'd never – we'd never – "
Sobbing. Murmurs. Silence.
"Hey, Yams, wait up!" Jou called. Yami swung around with a fierce scowl, then relaxed as he saw who it was.
"Jou, don't call me that," he growled, his crimson eyes still sharp with irritation. Jounachi skidded to a halt before him, hands already in a defensive position. His brown eyes were cautious, yet still held a mischievous gleam. Jou knew that if he pissed Yami off too badly, he'd get his butt kicked – but up to that point, it was too much fun for him not to tease Yami a little. With that in mind, he went for one of Yami's sore points – his lack of a significant other.
"Yam-i, then. You got anyone in mind for the dance yet?"
"Not yet," Yami gritted out, glaring at him narrowly. "And if you don't want me to tear your head off, then you'd better –"
"Hey, guys!" called Honda, rushing up. "What's happening?"
"Not much," Jou grinned. "I was just askin' if Yami here had found a date yet."
"Oh, just leave it alone, Jou!" Anzu sighed in annoyance. "You're just acting smug because you got Seto to admit that he likes you."
Yami smirked as Jou turned a brilliant scarlet. "Thanks, Anzu. I was wondering how to shut him up!"
"No problem!" she smiled, tossing her hair over her shoulder.
The foursome turned and walked into their school, chatting together as always. Yami was thankful that he now had friends – he could still remember the first few weeks he had spent at school, wondering where he could fit in, facing off the bullies and trying to do well in class without doing too well.
'But that's all changed now,' he thought contentedly, catching Jou's eye. 'I've got real friends now, who'll stand by me whatever happens.' He rolled his eyes as Jou and Honda started yet another of their fights. 'Though sometimes, I'm not sure that's a good thing…' he added dryly.
"Hey, guys! Did you remember to study for the pop quiz today in chem?" Anzu asked suddenly. Jou and Honda froze, and Yami stared at her in horror.
"Pop quiz?" they chorused, looking terrified – well, except for Yami. He had worked hard on his image, and he wasn't going to lose face over a simple quiz. 'Even if it does count for 20% of the final grade…' he thought, his dry sense of humour resurfacing. He sighed, and began to quietly chant facts in his head. 'H2O is water. The proper name is hydromonoxide. When a substance is dissolved in water…'
"Please, just think about this. If we're found, then you know what will happen to us –"
"I don't care." Stubborn. Again? "I have to do this. I have to prove that the tests haven't – haven't –"
"Succeeded." Brutal. Scared? "Face it, that's what you want. You never wanted us to succeed."
"Then why didn't you stop me?"
"Because, you idiot, neither did I!" Irritated.
"Okay, little one. You're free now from your cage. But you have to be the one to escape the lab. Do you hear me? Get out of here, flee, until you see blue sky above you. Don't trust anyone from here. Even us. Understand?"
"If they have allowed one of the hikaris to escape, then of course they are to be terminated. If they helped it escape, then torture them until they explain everything they know. If they die before they tell us, I will have you terminated. Do not fail me in this. Project Dawn is most important to me."
Cold! Wind? Yes.
Yami sighed as he returned to the game shop. "Jiisan, I'm home!" he called, knowing that his grandfather would be busy with his customers.
Sugoroku looked at him, raising his eyebrows curiously. "Why aren't you with your friends?"
Yami shrugged. "Thought you could use some help," he answered briefly.
"Nope," Sugoroku answered. "You should have some free time, Yami. Look at yourself! No sooner do you get home from school then you're helping me in the shop. Go out to the park or somewhere. Smell the roses! But don't – " he shook a finger at Yami threateningly – "don't you dare come back here without having some fun somewhere first!"
Yami groaned. He knew his grandfather too well to expect him to back down when he used that tone of voice. "Fine," he grumbled. "Off I go to smell the roses at the park."
Sugoroku grinned at him. "That's the spirit! Now, you can come back in thirty minutes at the earliest." He turned back to the boxes, to ignore the horrified look that Yami was sending his way. "Goodbye," he said cheerfully, and smiled to himself as he heard the door slam in answer.
Yami growled to himself. He had gone to the park, since he couldn't think of anywhere else to go. His friends were all busy after school, with clubs and family and – other things. He wasn't bothered by it – after all, he couldn't expect them to constantly be available to entertain him – but he did feel left out occasionally. He jerked his shoulders, to try and get rid of the tension between them, and growled again. No friends to be with, not allowed with his grandfather, the only family he really knew – he didn't count his mother as family any more, she was hardly ever around – and nothing to do!
He kicked a tree stump out of irritation. He'd only been gone from the shop for five minutes, and he was already bored stiff. He could go see a movie – but none of them seemed interesting. He could go play at the arcade – but that wasn't much fun on his own. He could go look in the shops – for what? New buckles?
"I need something interesting to happen," he grumbled, stalking down one of the less known paths.
He sighed as he reached the hidden pool. It was always peaceful around here – and while right now peaceful was the last thing he needed, it was the only place he could think of to come where he wouldn't have to worry about other people staring at him. No one else ever came here…
He stared at the young boy sleeping beside the pool in silence. Who in their right mind would wear leggings and a baggy shirt in this area? And who would go around without shoes?! But then the boy shifted in his sleep, and Yami froze at the sight of his face.
"My gods!" he exclaimed quietly. He crouched to study the boy's face closer. "It's me! Almost – my face, my hair, but more, more innocent!" He reached out to touch the sleeping child, but settled for pushing his hair out of his face. It was so soft; and then he forgot all about the hair, for the boy had opened his eyes…