Title: Otogibanashi (Fairy Tale)

Author: Pikachumaniac

Summary: A look into the friendship between Honda and Otogi as it develops over the years, dedicated to Neko-baka-chan-chan.

Couplings: Seto/Ryuuji, Honda/Shizuka

Story structure: The dialogue-based scenes take place in the present, while the scenes in-between take place in the past but keep moving forward in time with each new scene. The last scene takes place in the future. ^^;;

Notes: Happy birthday. I thought this story was fitting, since it is a friendship story and I've appreciated your friendship for so long. So for that truly wonderful experience, I wish you a happy birthday and dedicate this story to you. It's nothing compared to what you've given me, but I hope you like it anyway. =(^.^)=

        "I hate hospitals."

        A mocking smile, before his companion finally responded. "I know that already, remember? After all, I never give up useful pieces of blackmail information that can come in handy at any time."

        "Thanks a lot."

        The sarcasm dripping from each and every word was hard to miss, but still the infuriating smile remained on his lips as he replied mockingly, "Anytime."

        Silence.

        "Anou [1]… thanks for being here with me. I really appreciate it," the small, uncharacteristic gratitude was accompanied by a rather sheepish but genuine smile.

        "It's no problem." A small, lopsided grin accompanied the reassuring answer. "It's not we haven't been through this before, right?" jk

~ * ~

        Otogi Ryuuji eyed the door with more than just a little apprehension, almost as if he was afraid that the door was going to suddenly try to eat him. In the corner of his mind, he was still trying to figure out what he was doing here… well, he knew how he had come to be there but he still didn't quite know why he was at this particular place.

        Six months. Six months since his father had come back from therapy to make his life a living version of hell [2]. He had tried his best to deal with the pressures… tried his best to be sympathetic to the fact that his father wasn't about to change even after therapy… but there just came a time when one had to cut his losses and move on (or in his case, move out), which was exactly what he was doing.

        It was hard to explain how he had come to end up at the brunette's apartment… as he wasn't particularly close to Yuugi-tachi, especially after he had gone to America after Battle City in order to promote his game. By the time he had gotten back, his father was there too… and the two had not gotten on well. His father had not been very appreciative of the fact that his son had decided to move on without him, and he took every opportunity possible to drill that notion into his son's mind. Ryuuji, already tired of being under his father's thumb, had no particular interest in feigning apologies for what had happened with Yuugi, which led to the two clashing at least once every week.

        To be truthful, he had lasted a lot longer than he would have thought possible. He had, after all, gone through several very lovely months without his father… and he had gotten extremely used to the freedom that such a separation had offered. It had been difficult to start living with his father again, even though he had done his best to live with it. It was, however, a little bit too much for him to stand.

        When he had mentioned to Yuugi-tachi [3] about his interest in moving, he had been surprised when the brunette had offered to let him stay with him. Honda Hiroto had moved away from his parents a long time ago… some sort of 'be your own man' question or something along those lines. Ryuuji had never quite figured out what the point of that was, but at the moment he didn't really care. He hadn't even considered the offer because at the time, it had really only been a thought rather than a concrete decision.

        So he had smiled and nodded, and thanked Honda for his kind offer but he doubted that it would ever be necessary… really.

        And now? Now he was standing out here, being forced to eat his own words.

        Figures.

        He had tried to find an apartment on his own, but it had been difficult, what with his time being spent between school and his game. It had not helped that truthfully, he didn't have the money to pay for a new apartment while making the installments on the new game shop he was building. DDD [4] was popular, yes, but not that popular.

        Honda's offer was, in short, a last resort. He really did not have any alternatives. Yuugi was still living with his ji-chan [5], who was simply uncomfortable with the raven-haired inventor. Anzu couldn't justify to her parents that a guy moving in with them was not a declaration of love, even if that particular guy happened to be gay, and Jyounouchi wouldn't even consider it with his father's situation. Bakura Ryou might have… if it wasn't for the fact that there was a psychopathic spirit living in his Sennen Item, and the last thing the white-haired teen needed was for another one of his friends to bite the dust.

        This was, in short, how he ended up standing in front of the door with a backpack slung over one shoulder and two suitcases at his side. He'd have to get the rest later… assuming that Honda even had room for him. There was a bit of apprehension that perhaps Honda's offer had been only that… an offer, laid before him to make them both feel better but never meant to really be taken up.

        Tentatively, in a very un-Ryuuji-ish manner, he rang the buzzer next to the rather messily scribbled 'Honda Hiroto'. There was a crackle over the intercom before the familiar voice could be heard asking, "Who is it?"

        "Uh… Otogi?"

        What was that, a question? It wasn't supposed to be a question, dang it! He knew who he was, thank you very much.

        "Otogi?"

        "Did you forget me already?" he found himself asking before he could stop himself. Mentally, he slapped himself as he made a note to learn how to keep his mouth shut at the appropriate times.

        "It's six in the morning."

        "I know that."

        "Just making sure," Honda yawned before continuing. "What's up?"

        "Ah…." He found himself wondering how to politely say that he needed a place to stay and so could he possibly leech off of somebody he barely seemed to know until god knows when? "Well, remember that day at school when…."

        The sound of the door clicking open suddenly interrupted him, shocking him so badly that he nearly jumped out of his skin. He stared at it wildly for a moment, as if completely entranced by it, when Honda's voice came across the intercom again.

        "It's on the third floor… are you going to need help carrying up your stuff?"

~ * ~

        "Heh." A small smile, one that was not at all reassuring and thus defeating the purpose of its existence. "You know it's different this time."

        "I know."

        "God, I'm scared."

        Perhaps a reassuring 'Don't be' was appropriate at that time. But if he said it, then he would be lying. So he didn't say it, and no one asked for it.

~ * ~

        Ryuuji was deeply engrossed in a book when he found somebody approaching him. Instead of acknowledging that person's existence, however, Ryuuji chose to ignore him and pretend that he was so fascinated by a book about the use of pesticides in crop foods that he didn't notice.

        "The dishes are in the sink."

        "Excuse me?!" Ryuuji immediately glanced up from his book, staring at Honda as if he had just lost his mind. Which he obviously had, considering the insanity of the request. It was laughable, the idea of Otogi Ryuuji washing dishes!

        Humph. Maybe in his dreams.

        "The dishes? They're in the sink. The gloves and sponge are there too, in case you don't see them," Honda drawled, acting completely oblivious to Ryuuji's twitching eyebrow.

        "You cannot be serious."

        "If you're going to live here, you have to do some of the chores too. I'm not going to let you leech off of me."

        "I pay half of the rent!"

        "And you can wash the dishes. Half of the rent, half of the chores. Be glad I'm not making you wash the clothes… even though ninety percent of it is yours anyway," Honda rolled his eyes as he sighed in an aggravated manner. "Come on, Otogi. It's not like you've never washed the dishes in your life."

        Ryuuji chose to ignore that teasing jab, although it took a great deal of self-control to accomplish that. So he stuck out his tongue in order to calm down the childish instincts that made him want to stamp his feet and pout for a very long period of time.

        "What kind of host are you, huh? Making a guest wash dishes," Ryuuji grumbled before sticking his nose back in his book in order to create a barrier between him and the brunette. "Psh, no thanks.  Go buy some self-washing dishes or something."

        Honda stood there and glared.

        And glared.

        And then glared some more until finally… finally, Ryuuji could no longer ignore it or hope to pretend that he didn't care about the person trying to burn holes into his book.

        "Ass," Ryuuji mumbled as he slammed the book down. "All right already! Jeez! I'll go wash the stupid dishes! But don't get your hopes up… I'm not vacuuming."

        "Shame… I can just see you wearing a little French maid outfit. What do you think of…"

        Honda never finished his sentence, due to Ryuuji throwing the book into his face. It impacted his head with a rather sickening crack, although the sound could barely be heard over the loud humming as Ryuuji waltzed into the kitchen.

~ * ~

        "I'm sure it will be alright."

        "Are you saying that for your benefit or mine?"

        "Mine, most definitely."

~ * ~

        "I need help."

        "I've been telling you that for quite a while," Ryuuji smirked as he put away the groceries that the two had just bought. "How about a lobotomy?"

        "I think we need to cut down your TV watching privileges. But seriously, I do need your help."

        "Well, that's a first," a small smirk appeared on Ryuuji's face, as if by magic. "And here I thought you would never know that a superior being was living with you, right in your very home! So what services do you seek from the great sage Ryuuji? I will teach you everything I know, my young grasshopper friend, ranging from martial arts to needlepoint."

        Honda's eyebrow twitched and he was suddenly attacked with the most fascinating need to wipe that smirk off his so-called 'friend's' face. Through the use of duct tape and extreme pain, of course, but he settled for throwing a wash cloth at Ryuuji's face.

        "I have a date."

        "Honda, I don't know how to tell you this but I really don't think it's a good idea for you to reproduce. It can be quite detrimental to the human gene pool and… hey!" Ryuuji barely had time to finish his sentence after fishing the cloth off his face before he found himself ducking a head of lettuce that Honda had picked up. Not that Honda was actually aiming at him, of course… but there had been a rather large fly right in front of his eyes that had to be dealt with.

        "Just help me out, will you?" Honda grumbled. "I have a date and I need to figure out what to wear."

        "Ooh… a date. And who's the lucky girl this time?"

        "You are."

        "What?!"

        Silence. Ryuuji stared at Honda as if he had just grown several heads, and the brunette had to struggle to keep himself from bursting into laughter at that expression. Finally, he succumbed to the pressure, falling to his knees as he started to laugh hysterically.

        "Well… well I figure that… that since you look like… like a girl… it… it wouldn't be… anything… oh Kami-sama, did you see that expression on your face?!"

        Ryuuji very eloquently flipped him off, but Honda was too busy laughing to notice.

~ * ~

        "How do you think Shizuka-chan is doing?"

        "You know her. She doesn't like it when I'm at the hospital. Says it stresses her out."

        "I thought the women were supposed to like it when you're… I don't know, there to hold their hands or something. That's what Anzu-chan told me at least."

        "She nearly cut off my blood circulation the last time."

        "Pregnancy must be a bitch."

        "Tell me about it."

        Pause.

        "Look, I really do think that everything will be alright."

        "Liar."

~ * ~

        Honda couldn't help but smile as the two sat on the bench, Shizuka's head rested on her shoulder. It had taken them a long time to get their relationship approved by her loving older brother, but once he had realized how much the two cared for each other, he had finally let the topic drop. And now, the two were nearing the completion of their first year of a relationship, and he was almost ready to pop the dreaded question.

        Inside his head, he mentally began to rehearse as he fingered the velvet ring box inside his jacket pocket. Ryuuji had gone with him to pick the ring… and he had chosen a surprisingly elegant one that had caused Honda to ask him how he could have such good taste when the things he wore on a normal basis were so gaudy. This had led to much screaming and flared tempers… but he was used to it by this point.

        Shizuka… I love….

        Shizuka… I want you to….

        Shizuka… I care very….

        He winced as he sighed, enjoying the warmth of her cuddling up next to him. He wondered vaguely why he hadn't asked Ryuuji to help him figure out what he wanted to say, only to realize that he had to do this on his own. But in a way, he was really getting used to having the nosy raven-haired man's opinion that it felt odd not to have it for a change. Not that he actually let Ryuuji's blabbering change his opinion… but he was getting used to it.

        "Shizuka?" the word slipped out before he could jam it back in.

        "Hmm?"

        "I…" his hand clenched tighter around the ring box, "I… I wanted to talk to you today about how… we've been together for a long time and…."

        "Yes, Hiroto?"

        And he really should have rehearsed this beforehand.

        "And… and I…."

        "Can't you ever drop it, you egotistical ass?"

        "Have you ever listened to yourself talk, or do you block it all out?"

        Silence.

        Honda and Shizuka both sweatdropped as they turned to look at a couple that was walking down the pathway behind them. It was a path that few people ever used, which was basically why Honda had taken her here… but apparently, tonight was just not going to be his night.

        However, instead of sulking about that, Honda frowned as he thought he recognized the voice, "Otogi?"

        "Honda?"

        Honda didn't reply to the question. He was too busy staring at Kaiba Seto.

~ * ~

        A sigh. "What would I be lying about?"

        "Everything. You lie about everything. Like Kaiba. Like this. You know it's not going to be alright… you know this isn't some type of fairy tale and everything is going to turn out absolutely splendid. You're just saying that in an attempt to put us at ease, but both of us are smart enough to know that that may not work out."

~ * ~

        "Where were you?"

        Ryuuji snorted as he put his stuff down before turning to look at Honda, hands on hips, "Sine when did you start acting like my babysitter all of a sudden?"

        "Were you with Kaiba again?"

        Honda did not approve of the relationship… a point that was causing their own relationship to strain rather badly. Ryuuji didn't want to hear any of it, and Honda didn't want to drop it. Honda had a reason to be worried, of course… especially since he had nearly gotten killed because of Death-T. And it didn't matter to him that Kaiba had changed… he had still done something very dangerous and Honda believed that Ryuuji should at least know about those things rather than running around with somebody who could very well end up killing him.

        "And where were you last week? Taking baking lessons with Shizuka?" Ryuuji snapped.

        "That's none of your business!"

        "Then why is mine any of yours?!"

        "Because it's Kaiba! That's why!"

        "What the hell is up with you?! Is there some new problem which makes me incapable of choosing my own boyfriends?!"

        "There is if it's Kaiba Seto!"

        "For god's sake, you're starting to sound like Jyounouchi!"

        "Well, maybe he has a point. I don't know if this is news to you or something, but he did try to kill us."

        "Before mou hitori no Yuugi [6] mind crushed him and forced him to rethink everything he did. He hasn't tried to kill you since has he?"

        "Well, it hasn't stopped him from trying to kill other people!"

        "You didn't seem to have any problem when you accepted his hospitality on the Battle City blimp, did you?!" Ryuuji shot back as he pointed an accusing finger at Honda. "I don't see why you've suddenly gone on a total rampage ever since you found out that we were seeing each other! It's not a big deal!"

        "If it wasn't a big deal, why didn't you ever say anything?!"

        "Because I wasn't sure it was going to work out! I wasn't going to advertise it if it wasn't going to work out! And since when was my private life something you had to look after anyway?!"

        "I'm worried, damn it! I'm worried about what he might do to you! I'm worried about you, although I don't even know why I bother to try!"

        "Well, fine! Don't try!" was the snarled reply as the raven-haired man stood up and started making a beeline towards the door.

        "Fine!"

        "Fine!" Ryuuji yelled as he walked out, slamming the door in his wake.

        The apartment had never been so still.

~ * ~

        "It would be nice if everything was a fairy tale, wouldn't it?"

        "It would be but it isn't."

        "I never said it was. But just imagine…" a lazy smile graced his lips. "A world where there would always be a happy ending. Now wouldn't that be something?"

~ * ~

        Ryuuji winced as he gingerly touched one of the cuts on his face, sighing as his other hand reached for the gauze from the medicine cabinet. It could have been worse, he supposed… but this bruised, roughed-up look wasn't what he would call very attractive.

        Seto might think differently though… after all, the brunette could be really weird sometimes. Maybe he should ask him or….

        "What are you doing?"

        The sudden question caused him to yelp as he accidentally pressed against the cut, causing it to start bleeding it again. His eyes watered in the pain but he managed not to keep the tears from falling as he asked, "What do you want?"

        "Did Kaiba do that to you?"

        Ryuuji immediately turned to glare, already angry at the accusation, "How many times do I have to tell you this, Honda, Seto wouldn't do something like that! Why do you have to keep accusing him of something that he wouldn't do?!"

        Silence as Honda stared at him, never saying a word.

        And then, "Give me that."

        "What?"

        "Give me that," Honda repeated before adding. "You can't do it on your own. Besides, I've gotten pretty good at bandaging people up, especially after all those fights Jyounouchi and I used to get into when we were still in high school."

        For a moment, Ryuuji could only gape at him in shock. But then, silently, he handed him the roll of bandages, and Honda gestured for him to sit down on the toilet before he started to work. Honda's movements were oddly gentle once he got the hang of it (after all, neither he or Jyounouchi had been in fights for a while, and his skills had gotten a bit rusty), and for a time he worked in silence as Ryuuji spent his time staring blankly at the opposite wall, counting the white tiles.

        "So are you going to tell me what happened?"

        "It wasn't…."

        "I know it wasn't him," Honda sighed as he continued his handiwork. He had probably known from the very beginning that Seto would never hurt Ryuuji if he truly loved him… and considering how long the two had lasted (nearly six months), he had a feeling that the relationship was genuine. "But knowing that doesn't explain how you got so beat up."

        Ryuuji would have shrugged but he found it in his best interest to stay still to make Honda's job a little bit easier. "I got into a bit of a mess."

        "I don't think a mess would have caused this, Otogi."

        "You'd be surprised. Those things can just jump right out at you, you know," Ryuuji shot back, gritting his teeth as Honda pulled a little more sharply than he was supposed to. Supposed to, mind, not was intending to. "What was that for?!"

        "It's not funny, Otogi. Now maybe you haven't noticed – or just don't want to – but somebody beat you up pretty badly."

        There was a silence before Ryuuji replied in as light a tone as he possibly could, "Actually… it wasn't really a matter of how badly somebody could beat me up. It was more of a matter of how badly a group of somebodies could beat me up."

        "What?!"

        Ryuuji winced as the most unappreciated pain shot up his arm, "Don't do that! I told you what you wanted to know… it's not like I was actually asking for them to come find me!"

        "Well, why'd they do something like that?! Did you say something to piss them off or something? It's not like most people would just start hitting on someone for no particular reason," Honda shot back, even as the sneaking suspicions began to run through his head. Oh kami-sama….

        "Some of them do if they know who you are, all right? I hate to break it to you, but the whole world can't all be as understanding as you and Yuugi-tachi."

        Honda didn't reply to that. He didn't need to.

        Certainly, he knew that not everyone accepted Ryuuji. It had gotten better over the past few years – it could have been much worse really – but that wasn't really of any particular comfort when he was stuck in a bathroom cleaning and bandaging his best friend's wounds because some people didn't like him for who he was.

        It was almost odd that Ryuuji was more willing to accept it than he was. But what else was he supposed to do? It was something he had lived with for the majority of his life, and no matter how much people tried to clean up the hate in the world… those people were always going to be out there. So unless he was going to launch a suicidal crusade to cure that particular disease… well, there was no real point in going into that, was there?

        Besides, he thought with a somewhat quirked smile as Honda reached for the medicine that was used to clean out small cuts… there were always those people out there who made up for the insanity of the rest.

~ * ~

        "Since when did you become so cynical?"

        "Look who's talking."

        "I'm sure that there is nothing wrong. And sooner or later, the nurse is going to walk through that door and prove me right."

        "Now that would be a fairy tale ending."

        "What is it with you and fairy tale endings? And can you please stop playing with your hair? You're giving me a headache."

~ * ~

        Honda had no idea what Shizuka had to go through to convince Ryuuji to not wear the usual make-up… but from the smirk on Seto's face as he looked at the brunette sitting in the audience, he had a sneaking suspicion that Seto had something to do with it.

        Ryuuji must have seen the smirk too because he was scowling rather nastily at his boyfriend. Luckily though, the wedding had yet to really start, so nobody really took offense to his best man pissing off at random people.

        When planning the wedding, Shizuka had opted for a western-style marriage that was becoming much more popular in Japan, rather than a traditional one. Honda hadn't cared either way, too wrapped up in the fact that he was going to be married. He didn't care how they were married, just as long as they were.

        It hadn't been that hard of a choice to decide on asking who to be his best man. Ryuuji had simply been the logical choice, despite the fact that once Honda would have said for sure that Jyounouchi would have fit the role. But over the years, things had changed. Jyounouchi was still a close friend, yes… but it was hard to discount the fact that he had been living with Ryuuji for several years now.

        All that was about to change though.

        It was going to be odd, he reflected… living with Shizuka instead of Ryuuji. Not that he had any objections, of course. Ryuuji was an interesting person to live with, but he had a feeling that if he lived with the raven-haired man any longer, he was going to go nuts. Besides, Ryuuji had his own plans… and the separation would have happened even if it wasn't for the marriage. Seto had been nagging at him to come live at the Kaiba Mansion, and it seemed time for him to accept and move on.

        Next to him, Ryuuji was fidgeting in the clothes that he was wearing. Obviously uncomfortable in anything other than his normal outfit, Ryuuji didn't seem to appreciate the fact that many members of the audience thought he looked positively lovely in the tuxedo, including a very pleased Kaiba Seto. Honda knew for a fact that he wasn't going to be the only one busy that night….

        Noticing the fact that he was staring, Ryuuji turned to face him just as the audience was starting to settle down. Flashing a large grin and a thumb's up, the older man seemed oblivious to the anxieties he was currently having.

        And as always, looking at that face and its arrogant grin, Honda managed to calm his nerves and face the situation on hand.

        By the time Shizuka came down the aisle, looking like an angel in her delicate white dress, he had managed to assuage most of his earlier worries.

~ * ~

        "I'm sorry. I didn't realize that my hair-playing techniques could cause you physical harm."

        "Oh just shut up."

~ * ~

        "He has a sleep disorder, you know."

        Honda blinked, staring at Ryuuji with quite a bit of shock on his face, "Who? Kaiba?"

        "Noooooo. The butler," Ryuuji rolled his eyes before throwing his hands up in frustration. "Of course Seto! Who else would I be talking about?!"

        "I… I just… Kaiba?!"

        "Are you going to keep repeating yourself or are you just doing this to annoy me?"

        "Sorry… but… Kaiba?!"

        "I finally managed to convince him to go see a doctor today… it's happened before but he never goes in to take care of it. He just wakes up in the middle of the night all pale and sweaty, thinking that there's something out to kill him, and then he goes back to sleep."

        "Well, there usually is someone trying to kill him, isn't there?"

        "That's not funny Honda. I think it's night terrors."

        "You're the expert in psychological disorders, Otogi. Not me."

        "Did anyone ever tell you have a problem with talking when you really shouldn't be?"

        "Like you?"

        Silence.

        "Urusai…. [7]"

~ * ~

        "Otogi-san? Honda-san? Are you ready for this?"

        The two friends looked at each other before looking back at the nurse and breathing in.

        "Yes."

~ * ~

        If you keep pacing like that, I'm going to go insane!" Ryuuji practically bellowed as loudly as he could in a hospital waiting room. Which was, in short, not very loud. He wondered again why Honda didn't keep Shizuka company during the 'ordeal', but decided that it was probably best for him not to ask or risk setting off Honda again. Honestly, that guy needed to be drugged before his wife went into labor.

        "What happens if something happens to her? What happens if something happens to the baby? What happens if…?" Honda obviously wasn't listening to Ryuuji, causing him to wonder if he calmly took the brunette's head and conveniently started banging it against the wall, would he even notice?

        "Honda!"

        "I can't believe this, I just… how much longer is it going to take?! She's been in there for ten hours!"

        Must… not… kill… Ryuuji slowly recited to himself as he reached out to grab Honda's wrist. Unfortunately, in his furious pacing, Honda slipped right past him, causing him to sit there with his hands on his hips, fuming in that wonderfully annoyed fashion of his.

        Of course he could understand his best friend's frustration. He was pretty frustrated himself, and that wasn't because he was trapped with the extremely frustrated Honda. He understood that Honda was just worried, even though Ryuuji was pretty sure that nothing bad was going to happen. The doctors had been saying how everything was going well, and there didn't appear to be any complications. Hopefully, with a little bit more luck, things would stay that way.

        When Honda went by him again, Ryuuji quickly got a hold of his wrist and literally dragged him to one of the uncomfortable benches, forcing him to sit.

        "Honda, listen. It's going to be okay. And I know you're worried and you have a right to be, but don't go about killing yourself because you're worried!" Ryuuji stated in as calm and soothing a tone that he could manage as he placed his hands on Honda's shoulders so the brunette couldn't get up again and start pacing. "I know it's going to be all right. You know it's going to be all right. Shizuka-chan knows it's going to be all right. So calm down and start breathing because when that baby is born, he's going to what to meet his daddy immediately, not wait several hours because daddy dearest is passed out from lack of oxygen to the brain. All right?"

        There was a long pause as Honda just stared at him for a moment. And just as Ryuuji thought that they were going to lapse into an awkward silence, Honda put one of his hands on top of Ryuuji's before giving him a crooked half-smile.

        "Thanks."

        Ryuuji blinked, "Why?"

        "For being here."

        Silence. It was a rare opportunity to see the game inventor stumped, but it didn't last for long.

        "You're welcome."

~ * ~

        "I'm sorry, Otogi-san. You tested positive for HIV."

~ * ~

        Honda had always wondered why Ryuuji kept paying for the apartment, even though neither lived there anymore. He had always figured that unlike him and Shizuka, who were currently in a very stable relationship, Kaiba and Ryuuji had a more volatile relationship. The two had yet to ever consider breaking up, but the fights between the two had gotten bad enough so that Ryuuji would sometimes move out for a day or two.

        Not that he ever expected Kaiba to ask him to come back, but there was always the possibility.

        Mostly though, the apartment was used as Ryuuji's extra office… which he could easily afford, even though DDD wasn't anywhere near as popular as Magic & Wizards. He had left most of his things there when he had moved in with Kaiba, and it was a place for him to relax when he needed to.

        Today though… well, Honda rarely came back to his former home, but today was different. Shizuka was at the school for a parent-teacher conference, and Seto was out on a business trip. And it had been a while since he had seen Ryuuji, so he had come over after calling to confirm that Ryuuji was there.

        "So how you holding up?"

        Ryuuji shrugged as he concentrated on the stir-fry, "As well as expected, I guess."

        "Do you have any idea…?"

        "Yes," was the testy reply which ended the conversation. Honda had heard that tone before, although it was rarely used, and knew by now that to challenge it was not very intelligent on his behalf. He had tried it before, with disastrous results. No, it was better to let the topic drop… let Ryuuji stew over it some more before gaining the confidence to come out and just tell him. He could afford to wait… although Ryuuji couldn't. Not anymore.

        He eyed him warily, feeling the usual hopelessness that threatened to swallow him whole. He wondered how Ryuuji could continue through life so blithely, as if what the doctors had said didn't really impact him.

        "Maybe they'll find a cure?"

        The remark slipped out before he could stop it, causing Ryuuji to fixate him with an odd look, "And maybe pigs will fly."

        "You always did have a thing for fairy tale endings."

        "This one seems a bit too realistic, don't you think?"

        Yes. Yes it did. But he didn't say so, since both of them already knew that anyway. The two worked in silence for a moment, both concentrating on what their separate tasks were. It was almost as if they were living together again, and all those years of separation had never happened.

        It was almost like nothing that had happened before was real.

        "Do you ever miss it?"

        "Miss what?"

        "This. Living here. Together. Do you ever miss it?"

        A laugh, bright and full of life. "All the time."

        "Really?"

        "Yeah. There's a lot of good memories here."

        He grinned, "Oh yeah."

        "That reminds me."

        A yelp as a washcloth was thrown in his face.

        "It's your turn to wash the dishes."

Commentary:

[1] Err….

[2] I figure that Mr. Clown (Otogi's father) wouldn't get arrested for kidnapping and endangerment, but I did think that he might be forced into rehabilitation. This is merely speculation though. For those who don't really know who he is, Mr. Clown is the owner of the Black Crown in the manga. He kidnapped Yuugi in order to take the Sennen Puzzle and get revenge on Sugoroku for burning his face (thus the clown mask). Later, when he tried to put the Sennen Puzzle together (after breaking it), he suffered from a hallucination of a labyrinth of the puzzle bricks, causing him to knock over a candle and burn the Black Crown down.

[3] Yuugi and the others

[4] DDD. Short for Dragon Dice and Dungeons, the manga version of DDM (Dungeon Dice Monsters). Unlike DDM, DDD never involved Duel Monsters (Magic and Wizards or M&W in the manga) and wasn't really a large-scale game.

[5] What Yuugi calls his grandfather. Ji-chan is short for ojiisan with a different honorific.

[6] Referring to how YnYuugi mind-crushed Kaiba after the duel in Death-T (volume 5). Basically, YnYuugi broke Kaiba's heart apart, and the child-Kaiba had to put the pieces back together. This caused him to be in a somewhat comatose state (which is how Mokuba got kidnapped) until volume 9, when he wakes up during the duel between the Illusionist (not Kaiba's 'dark half'… which does not exist) and YnYuugi.

[7] Shut up.

Reflections:

        I think with this story, I really wanted to illustrate a friendship without the usual thirty-five pages of introspection justifying it. I wanted to show their friendship without any interference from what I thought, and I chose to do that through a series of scenes and dialogue. Don't know how well I succeeded… but that's what I was aiming for. Also, beyond the very tentative outline I had for this fic, nothing was really concrete. For this story, I just wrote whatever wanted to come next. Some scenes seem pointless while others are much deeper. It's a mix and that's how my brain worked, as well as how relationships tend to work.

        I don't know if this is supposed to be a sad or happy story. It's both, I guess, and that's what I was aiming for. Something that was modeled somewhat after reality, with all the ups and downs.

        This is the result.

        So yes. Neko-baka-chan-chan (I will never concede this), I hope you liked it. It probably wasn't what you expected, and I know I've had this fic for a long time but… well, you know, I doubt I would have ever finished this story if it wasn't for you. So thanks for helping me out. I hope you're happy and have a very lurvely birthday, and I'm sorry I couldn't be there with you.

        =(^.^)=

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November 13, 2003

~ owari ~