"So, has your mom sat you down and talked to you yet?" Mai asked Serenity in the Wheeler's kitchen, where they were busily preparing food for the picnics that afternoon. She gave the young girl a teasing wink. "About the birds and be-es?"

Serenity looked flustered as she prepared sandwiches expertly. "The only birds and bees I want to hear about is outside ones in the sunshine," she said, drawing back the kitchen curtain, so the brilliant blue sky shone in. "So far, I've avoided her questions as much as possible."

"Good for you. You're finally taking a stand for yourself," Mai congratulated, stuffing cold cubes into the lemonade pitcher. She was full of questions of how the feud was resolved, but decided not to spoil the mood. "I hope the boys behave themselves, today." She didn't have to name names.

Serenity wiped her hands on her yellow shorts and put on some oven mitts. I don't really want to think about that, she thought. I have to tell Joey to behave himself; because of his temper. She bent and checked her cake in the oven, stuck a tooth pick. It came out clean.

"Sis, watch out, you're gonna fall in!" Joey's yell of warning startled her so much she almost did.

"What did I tell you about sneaking up behind people and screaming, Joseph!" Mai helped Serenity safely pull her head back out.

He gave her sideways glance then looked at the mounds of clear wrapped paper dishes. "Wow, where'd you get so much food!" He looked like an excited boy on Christmas morning.

"Mai bought it all with her own money, so you should thank her," Serenity said with a smile, pushing her sweaty bangs out of her face. "Did you get the other stuff all ready like I told you?"

"Huh? What other stuff?" Joey was distracted by freshly baked brownies with nuts.

"Never mind," Mai said airly, "I go and check." She sailed out of the kitchen. Serenity looked at her brother with a sigh.

"What?" he said. She shook her head and said, "Don't touch those foods, they're for the picnic," she slapped his hand when he didn't listen. "I said don't touch!"

"Ow, sis!" He wondered with was up with the two and snuck a brownie out anyway. "Y'know, lil by lil you're starting to be more like....."

Serenity whirled suddenly. "Don't finish that sentence. A word of advice for today, big brother: it's best you pay---no, shower your attention on Mai rather than me on this picnic."

"I know, I know, don't pick a fight with yo boyfriend." He said sulkily.

Serenity turned back and opened the drawers, and started taking out the napkins and cups. "He promised not to say anything to you," she said truthfully. "As long as you don't make fun of him, then he won't make fun of you."

"Okay," Joey said, but in his head he was saying, Riiiiiight. "Plus, you two," he said the word 'two' like it was something sour in his mouth, "haveta stay WAAAY in the other side of the lake then!" Automatically, he patted his pocket, which held some binoculars.

"All right." Serenity agreed quickly. She preferred not to have her brother hankering over her shoulder. She knew full well about the binoculars, but also knew full well she'd have to fight it away from him. Besides, it would just make him even more suspicious. "I just want everything to go well."

"Yeah, me too." He agreed. Then, "By the way, what did Ma say 'bout him? Didn't she say she was gonna talk to ya---"

"Here, big brother, have some food," Serenity interrupted brightly, giving him a sandwich, sighing when he cut the questions. She hurried upstairs to change.

later, that afternoon

Domino Lake was picturesque, clear deep sea waters wavering gently at a slow breeze. Only people interrupting with jet skis, white water foaming behind them, distilled the mirror. "Hey, maybe we c'n go on one o' those," Joey said, when the rest of them unloaded the car. "I'd like to go parasailing....."

Very softly, Kaiba commented under his breath, so that Serenity, who was barely an inch away, barely heard it. Immediately, Joey exclaimed, "What did you SAY?!"

Mai elbowed him. "I didn't hear anything; it was all in your head. Now help just this stuff out."

Riiiiight all in my head, he thought, doing as she said while casting dark scowls at Kaiba's smirking face. He insulted me! He didn't keep his word! Not surprising.....

Meanwhile, Mai rolled her eyes as she folded the blanket under her arm. Boys can be so childish, she thought. So who cares if he said something; at least he didn't say it too loud. "We'll be over here," she told Serenity, pointing to the west. "So....you better go over there, so they won't fight." She pointed to some trees beside the lake.

"Right," Serenity said, leaving. "We'll meet later. Bye," she called, waving.

"Yeah, bye," Joey muttered. It's like he can't even bear to look, Mai thought.

"I hope you're not going to be this childish ALL day," she said dryly, leading him with a basket under her arm and the blanket in the other. He muttered, "Who's childish?!"

"Look, just forget about them. This looks like a nice spot, don't you think?"

He was happy to do so. "Yeah!" Helping her spread the blanket on the nice, cool grass with the warm sun on his back cheered him up a bit.

"Maybe later we can go swimming in the lake," Mai said, kneeling on the woolly, baby-soft blanket. "And this time, I can carry you in." She started to get out the plates.

"What're ya doing?" he asked, settling down in a sitting position so he had to look up at her. "Not.....hungry?" she asked, amazed. "Maybe the sun's gotten to you already..."

He pulled her up so they were face to face. "Well, you haven't gotten all your memories yet, have ya?" She shook her head no. "Well I thought dis would remind ya.....is it?"

"Oh, really." She propped on her elbows but didn't get up. "Actually, yes this is triggering something...."

"What? Do you remember?" He ran a finger down the side of her face. She could feel his heart quicken under her palm.

"Well, not everything," she admitted, "except.....I do remember how ...ticklish you are!" Quickly, she poked him in the ribs, causing him to laugh and hold his sides.

"Aw, that's no fair.....I don't know where you're ticklish...."

"I'm not ticklish." She said solemnly. But her eyes sparkled with something that said another thing. "What's that in your pocket.....?" Before he could react she pulled it out. "Binoculars?! Joseph, were you going to spy on your little sister?" she said, getting up and poking him with each word. "Don't. You. Think. She. Wants. Some. Privacy?!"

"Doesn't matter what she wants," he muttered stubbornly, still laying down. "I know what's best."

"Well, you're not going to use these....."

"Why shouldn't I?!"

"Because.....I'm going to!" Mai put it up to her eyes in the direction across the lake. "Whoa! Look at them!"

"What! What! Lemme see!" He sat up in a rush and snatched it away from her. "I don't see anything!"

"BYou have to take off the lens cap," she said, giggling. It was obvious she hadn't seen anything, was just trying to him riled. While he was giving her that sarcastic look, she snatched it up again, taking the cap off.

"I wanna see how their date's going." She murmured, as he drummed his fingers impatiently into the wooden basket. A pause, then..."Awwww!!!!"

"Ugh. Dat means an I doan wanna know fer me." he muttered to the side, getting out the plates and cups..

"But-but lookit them, all cute under the shade.......she looks so happy......and I can tell he does too." Mai trailed off dreamily, shaking her head slightly. She felt so proud of them, like a proud mother. Well, I did help them together......I knew they'd stay! I just knew it!But she couldn't say that aloud because it was clear Serenity's over suspicious brother was still edgy about the whole thing. But there was definite progress showing in that department.


Aw, don't they look so happy....? Serenity was thinking watching them while they were watching her. She dipped her hand in the cool water. Seto was dozing by a tall tree on a quilt nearby. It was obvious he was tired. Though of course he really wasn't asleep.....

"Watching every motion....." Serenity sang. Two swans came to her hand, pecking the crumbs she held. Her rich, clear, voice rose. " to the other station tooo some secret space..... insiide....." The rest of the song was hummed, since she had forgotten the words.

She looked like a picture from a magazine to him. Even as she looked sheepishly back at him, as the birds wanted more food, and pulled at her bare foot. He moved his tongue inside his mouth regretfully. It was hard not to think of the future at a time like this...... Don't worry, he told himself. I've got the future all planned out for the both of us. And this time I won't let go. Ever.

Distracted, he didn't notice as one of the swans poked curiously towards his direction. No it was a duck, a white one. He gave the thing such a glare that it let out a 'quack?' in form of a timid question. "I've got no food, bird brain, so go quickly poop on the mutt's head," he told it in his harsh tone. "Now." Or take those stupid binoculars he's using to spy on us..... he thought scornfully. Thinks I don't notice, eh?!

The duck's eyes bulged out, and it leaned back, walking backwards. "Seto...? Where you talking t-to that duck.....???" Serenity asked, watching the animal fly off hurriedly. Were you actually talking to an animal?!......seems I learn something new about him every minute.....

"Never mind. Keep on singing..... I like it......even if you don't know the words...." he leaned back and closed his eyes again, pleased she took her attention off the duck and her song wove around him again. Because the bird was headed straight for the mutt and his girlfriend..... he opened his eyes again, he didn't want to miss this!

Mean while........

"Hey! Gimme back my 'noculars!" Joey sat up, but could only watch as the bird fly back across the lake, the strap clutched between both webbed feet. "He's gonna drop it into the ocean!" he groaned, watching the thing get tinier and tinier.

Mai's eyes were sharper. "Serves you right for spying again," she chided as she prepared the drinks then took a sip. "I'll bet he's going to give it to.....well I'll be." She brushed her long hair off her sweaty neck. "He did!"

They both saw disbelievingly as the white duck went straight to where Serenity and Kaiba were sitting, and drop it at his feet. Even though Joey couldn't see well without them, he still caught Kaiba smirking at him.

"What, does he do that mind control thing with the animals now?" he muttered, glaring. "I know he told it to do dat, I know it!"

"Don't be silly," Mai admonished, handed him a plate stacked with food. "Why would he?"

" Cause he's a hateful, no good---" he continue muttering as he stuffed his mouth sulkily and swallowed. "He'd better give dem back, it cost me a fortune!"

"I'm sure he will." She soothed, lying down and staring at the royal blue sky with clear violet eyes. A lazy wispy cloud drifted by, and she kicked off her expensive sandals and stretched. "Ahh...today's just simply gorgeous, isn't it?"

"Mm. Arentcha gonna eat too?"

"In a while," she answered lazily. "Just enjoying the sun and its warmth....." She glanced to the left to see if he was listening. "You've already finished your plate? Jeez, I thought you said you weren't hungry...." I'd hate to see when he's ravenous, then!"

"I wasn't. Just lost my appetite thanks to him..... more, please...." he handed her his plate.

"God forbid," she said dryly, taking it and sitting up straight. "You know, if you hate him so much, maybe there's only one thing to do." With that, she took up a red and white cloth napkin and rolled it swiftly into a blindfold. Then she tied it on him. "There! Out of sight, out of mind......finally."

"Hey! How am I s'posed ta see ya then?" He reached up to take it off, and she swatted his hands down.

"Don't make me tie your hands behind your back, too." She cut a slice of creamy chocolate cake on a plate, licking off the excess chocolate that got on her finger.

"Mai, are ya trying to take advantage of me??" he said, pressing a hand to his chest in an exaggerated gesture of innocence and offense..

She laughed in real amusement. "Now, why would I do that?! Now open that big mouth of yours." She aimed a forkful and automatically handed him a paper napkin. ".....Good?"

"Mm. Took muh mind right offh"

"Good." She sat back and shook up a can of whipped cream with a slight smile. a/n: i'm reminded of the bally's commercial lol- - ;;


"What? You have to go already...?" Serenity said in dismay, her dark eyes filled with disappointment. "Can't you.......skip it?"

Seto gave her an indulgent smile. "Not this one." He started to get up from his place under the tree but she tugged him downwards..

"Let me come with you." She pleaded, grabbing his hand, and he hesitated. "I've been...looking forward to this for a long time, and.......it can't end right now." The wind rustled the leaves overhead. "I wouldn't make a sound."

"My meeting'll be boring for you. You'll fall asleep."

"Good, 'cause I need some sleep." She said softly, with a stubborn look. Then she brightened, like an idea just came. "See....? I could just hide right under your coat and nobody would see me." in demonstration, she attached herself to his midsection in a firm hold. a/n: ooh! Must sketch cute scene :D (scribble scribble)

"Serenity." He said in exasperation, giving her name to more syllables than needed, rubbing his forehead. "Let. Go." In answer, she just glomped harder. "You're making a scene." He hissed, taking firm hold of her shoulder an attempting to pry her off.

"It's a good idea.......at least eat something......"

"I'm not hungry right now."

"Yes, you are."

"What, you're telling me when I'm hungry now?!" he growled.

"No, I heard your stomach growl." She could tell he was getting frustrated with her, but she really did want him to stay, especially after they'd been apart for so long. Climbing up his long body a/n: lol inside joke she stared into his eyes and was silent, patiently waiting for his anger to cool off on its own, like it usually did. It's a good idea, her expression told him,, but the truth was she was afraid to be separated from him.

"No." but his fingers slowly wove through her shiny coppery hair. "People there would start to wonder about the extra pair of legs....." he trailed off as if his mind were drifting off again.

"You could say it was an experiment gone horribly wrong," she ventured timidly, then relaxed as a hint of real amusement flashed in those cobalt eyes, a look that made her heart skip a beat..

"The real joke is that they'd probably believe me....... Okay, tell you what." He said finally. "We'll make a compromise."

"What sort of 'compromise'?" she said, brow furrowing in suspicion. Usually his 'compromises' meant that he got most of the deal done his way, and she was stuck with the pitiful results. He chuckled at her suspicious frown; it looked funny on her.

"Don't worry, this time it'll be impartial for both of us. I'll stay for one event of your choice....."


"See, now didn't that take your mind off all your problems?" Mai was saying, wiping her hands on here plaid pink shorts. She would use a napkin, but he'd used them all up.....things had gotten messy. a/n: I'll leave that to y'all imaginations "That what us girls do; chocolate cake helps. Period."

"Oh great, you're turning me into a girl now?" Joey muttered, reaching behind him for his bottle of water, then getting up. "I gotta go; i'll be right back."

"Wait. You're not going to go spy on.....you-know-whos, are you?" She looked up suspiciously, jerking her head across the lake.

"No!" he sounded insulted. "Jest need to wash my hands, you gotta problem wit dat?!"

"No, I don't." She put her hands up in surrender, as he smirked and started to go. "But shouldn't you take off your blindfold first?" she called to his retreating figure, and then watched him quickly yank it off. Chuckling, she started to stuff everything back into the basket. I guess we'll go swimming next, it's pretty hot now......Mai pulled out a compact and checked to see if she wasn't burning or freckling. "Hey, Mai." A voice startled her, she hadn't heard footsteps. But she recognized the voice.

"Hey, Tea, what're you doing here?"

"There's a fair over there," Tea pointed towards where a crowd was gathered in the distance. "Boy, you sure are way obscured over here, aren't you?" she said as Duke came up later. a/n: well he does seem to pop suddenly outta nowhere!

"And i'm passing out fliers for my new game in my shop," he was holding a stack of them. "It's called, 'roll 'em doggys!' "

The girls exchanged glances that said rather plainly, Whaaaaat? "Um, no thanks," Mai said waving her hand as he tried to hand her one. "Joey, he might like one; he went to use the bathroom, but he'll be back. So, what're they doing over there?" she asked Tea, referring to the fair.

So, Duke thought. Wheeler didn't tell her yet about the diary of hers he found. Heh, I'll have some fun! "Uh--" he began politely.

"I've already told 'er, Devlin." Joey said, returning and recognized that cool, detached and pseudo helpful look in Duke's eye. "So back off."

"Liar," Duke accused, not liking his fun being taken away. "You didn't tell her about reading the diary! Nice try."

"Yeah I did, so your evil plan's ruined," Joey smirked, while Duke looked annoyed for his chance to blackmail been snatched. "So go stick yo head in a bucket of ice water, why dontcha. Hm?!"

"Anyway," Tea said as she sat down while Joey continued to taunt him, "the fair has mostly water games, but just for titles. In fact, they're starting the water motorboat race in a few."

"Yes, and we're going to enter," Serenity, said, coming from the opposite direction with Kaiba in tow. "Hello, guys." She greeted cheerily with a wave. At their 'compromise', this was what she had chosen. Kiaba looked less enthusiastic, but it was hard to tell whether it was about the race.

Duke said quickly, "Me too!" He looked at Joey contemptously. "I'll bet you don't even know how to drive a boat, eh Wheeler?!" he scoffed while Kaiba looked up.

"Do too! I'll bet i could drive circles round yours, 'Devilled eggs!' " The truth was he'd never actually been on a motorboat before.

"It seems the last we made a bet," Duke said coolly, "Remember?" Joey looked furious. "You ended up in a dog suit. But hey, if that's what you like, you're on!"

"What is this?" Kaiba said, beginning to smirk. Serenity and Mai's eyes both widened. "Is that true?" they both said.

Tea rolled her eyes as Duke enjoyed being the center of attention. "Oh, yeah, didn't you see? It was broadcasted on national TV and cable and on the Internet live." He continued. "I've got it on DVD, cassette, CD interactive game...." Duke went on helpfully.

"All right that's enough! We'll settle this in the race, rich boys! Then that'll teach youse to sell videotapes of me!"

"Yeah, Joey should get a ten percent commission....... C'mon," Tea wiped off her hands and pulled the girls away, "let's go and sign up for the race!"

Later, at the booth

"Sorry, only two motor boats left," the man said apologetically. The girls exchanged glances.

"All right, we'll take them," Mai said, with a nod as the man smiled and wrote their names down.

"I hope they're not fighting while we're away," Serenity said, seeing Kaiba and Duke talking consprationally with Joey stalking behind.

"They won't," Mai said confidently, "See, this is my plan. We got two boats, right? It'll be girls against guys!"

Tea looked unimpressed. "Mai, if you put them all in one boat, they'll kill each other!" Serenity gasped in horror at the thought of it. "Er, I mean....."

"Don't worry," Mai comforted, pulling on sunglasses. "Rule number one of ALL guys: They hate to lose any girls. That goes for ALL of them. They'll have to work together to win."

Serenity brightened. "That's a good idea! My brother and Seto might do some bonding and finally be able to get along." Her eyes glazed over, picturing it.

Tea took Mai aside. "Are you crazy?! It's cruel to get Serenity's hopes up."

"You just might be surprised, Tea," Mai said all knowingly. "You just might be surprised...."


"....Yeah, I beat 'im with such a simple strategy: using the fairy meteor crush and with only fifty life points!" Duke was boasting to the CEO. "You should've seen the look on his face---"

"And let me guess. Yugi got him out of the mess?" Kaiba interrupted.

"You got it." Duke nodded as they shot the blond identical, scornful looks.

MUST. NOT. STRANGLE. THEM. BOTH. Joey twisted the cloth napkin around his forearm again and again. Too. Many. Witnesses.....Serenity, approaching, heard the little growling sounds her brother made when he was about to attack. "We're back!!" she said, sounding cheerful, mostly to distract him. She told them about the 'seating arrangements.' They were less than enthusiastic. "Please, for me," she gave them each a pleading, doe-eyed look while Tea and Mai came over. Duke was instantly swayed, Kaiba reluctantly remembered his promise (though he wished he hadn't made it now) and didn't say anything, which was the same for him as saying, yeah, whatever.

But Joey protested stubbornly. "No way, sis! I'd give my life fer ya, ya know dat, but......this is too much!"

Duke changed his mind. "Yeah, these guys'll rip each other up to shreds!" Serenity looked like she was about to cry. "..... in nice, neat pieces, I mean!" he amended.

"J-just t-this o-once...." she said shakily, looking at Joey, lip trembling.

"............Alright, alrihgt! Just this once, sis!" Joey threw up his hands. "But just this once! No more!"

Serenity smiled in relief, and poor Duke had no choice, really, after she begged him to accompany them. Mai gave her a secret thumbs up when no one was looking. Ah, she's controlling guys so early....I'm so proud!


There were three small islands in the middle of Domino Lake. The participants were to loop around them towards to the finish, though, the man warned, it wasn't as easy as it seemed.

Whatever, Kaiba thought, checking his watch while everybody boarded their boats. I'll dump the mutt and cross the finish myself. Devlin'll be easy to get rid of, and still have time to get to my meeting before it starts. Ah....what a bother.

"Look, just don't say anything," Duke was saying to Joey on the back of the small boat. "Wait, what am I saying? I'm getting out of here!" He made a panicked run for it.

"No, ya don't, if I gotta suffer, so do you," Joey grabbed him and stuffed him into the tiny seat and at the back of the boat. Hm, I'd like to drive, but me and Moneybags'll just get into an argument....and that'll upset Serenity. "I won't say anything." He promised.

"Ha, that's a laugh," Kaiba said, steering the medium sized boat towards the starting point single handedly as the starting gun shot off and they shot forwards. The other two were nearly thrown off!

Instantly, Joey broke his promise to keep quiet. "Why, I oughta--!" he was interrupted as the tall brunette made a sharp right turn as the boat skimmed over the deep blue waters. Spray hit both him and Duke and he sputtered angrily and Duke moaned about his expensive shoes ruined. "You did that on purpose! Admit it! Ya no good, sister-stealing theving----"

"Hey!" Duke pleaded. "Remember your promise about not fighting!" They both ignored him.

"I didn't steal her...she came running to me! I would too, if I had a brother in the likes of you." A sharp left turn made poor Duke tumble off the boat, but luckily he grappled the sternum to save himself. Joey was so incensed by the comment that it only made him stagger a bit. His usually brown eyes were red with anger.

"The likes of me? The likes of me?!?! Her heart didn't get broken over and over until you came along, you robotic android!" he shouted.

"We broke up because of you, you imbecile!" Kaiba scanned the waters hurriedly for the finish. He had already completed the laps, but couldn't see anything. Frustrated, he continued, "Why don't you get it through your thick skull, Wheeler. Everyone knows it, just like everyone knew about us before you: she doesn't need your protection. Anymore. So back off!"

"Guys? Pull me up!" Duke pleaded. "I'm slipping!" We're gonna die....


"Looks like they're talking things over," Serenity said hopefully, as their boat sailed smoothly in between the others', thanks to Mai's careful driving. She was looking over at the boys' boat.

Looks more like Kaiba and Joey are arguing, Tea thought silently, sitting comfortably back as she watched. Suddenly, they saw Joey pounced in mid air, in a tackle.

"Aw, he's giving him a brotherly hug," Serenity sighed. Tea sweatdropped the size of Maine at the sight and what she was saying.

"I wonder where's Duke?" Mai murmured. Looks like things aren't going well....maybe my idea wasn't so.......They all watched as Duke hurriedly took control of the out of control boat while the other two fought.

"Aw, a friendly game of rough-housing," Serenity smiled beautifully, clasping his hands in front of her. a/n: lol she's really disillusioned, eh? "Like Joey and Tristan do all the time......." Mai simply stared. It looked more like the part in an action movie where the villain and hero fistfight on a high-speeding boat. Duke was white-faced from fright as he dodged flying hands and feet while trying to steer, even from a distance.

"They are NOT rough housing," Tea was determined to set her straight. Thanks to them, the girls were in the lead; mostly all the others were watching the fight, gaping and not paying attention to driving. It looked like an easy win.

"Horse play...?" Serenity offered timidly, brushing a whipping strand of brown hair away. Tea prayed for patience.

Mai knew Joey could hold his own, so she started to look around for the finish. It must be hidden....she thought. Just then, a rival boat whizzed past, full of twenty something guys whooped at her. A competitive spark flew in the depths of her violet eyes as she pressed the gas.

"Whoa, Mai, what're you doing?" Tea said, squinting from the wind as they approached the offending boat. Serenity sat and held on, ducking her head, her long hair whipping wildly. "You're gonna knock us off, slow down!"

"Quick, Tea......show your....." Mai gestured to her chest, nodding over to the boat full of guys. "They're going to beat us!"

"Have you totally lost it?!" Tea looked like she were going to burst a blood vessel, her whole frame shaking with indignance. "I will NEVER!"

"You're the only one here with no boy friend," Mai pointed out. When Tea said she didn't give a flying fortress, she grabbed the front of the brunette's zippered vest. "Oh, don't be so shy! " she said with a yank. The other boat careened off course.

Meanwhile, Duke while was saying his prayers, he also saw Tea. Distracted, his boat veered off crazily into the swamp area of Domino Lake, where snakes were rumored to be lurking. The murky water started slow their boat down; low riding branches nearly took their heads off. "Hey! What's da deal?" Joey started to see what was going on as the thick leaves and vines brushed by.

"Idiot! Duck, you get your head torn off!" Kaiba kicked him to the floor just as a waist thick branch crashed over the small window pane of the boat. Glass flew, the shattered pieces sticking like arrows into the spongy cushions of the seats. Duke was laying on the floor with a strange, crazy smile. "We're all gonna die!" he giggled. a/n: lol he's gone nutz XD O.o

"W-where are we?" Joey staggered to his feet, his whole body aching from pain. Nothing looked familiar, and worse, it was starting to get dark. Crickets and owls were screeching, and the boat came to an abrupt stop. Insects buzzed and clouded the air. "Sorry, Duke, I forgot we were on a boat!" he said sheepishly, realizing poor Duke must've went through hell as he helped him up.

"I feel sorry for you!" Duke sniggered, still out of it. "Kaiba saved your life!"

"Say wha?" a wave of nausea overtook him as he looked over at the CEO, who was trying to start to motor again. The boat just spluttered; they were stuck in waist deep mud. "Duke, doan say dat, you're gonna make me throw up!" Joey shook the skinny boy hard by the shoulders, making him topple over again.

"You two both make me retch," Kaiba stated, turning. "You. Mutt, get out and push this boat to get it starting again." Despite nearly crashing into the oak trees, he still was as impassive as ever. "Now."

Joey's nerves rose, but if Duke was right, then he did owe him. Besides, it looked Duke was in no condition to do anything, he was mumbling and muttering on the floor. Still, he peered hesitantly over the edge and swore he saw a boa wriggling in the mud.

"There's no boas in Japan, idiot." But there are rattle snakes....

" 'Boa'? Hee hee, boas!" Duke was still laughing in a craze on the ground.

"I doan care, I'm not getting out! You push!" Joey stared hatefully at his enemy. "Besides, you'll probably drive off as soon as I do! Here, Duke'll do it." With that, Joey hoisted the black haired teen up and over into the water. There was a loud splash and they both peered anxiously into the dark waters. There was only a few bubbles rising to the surface, other than that it was quiet.

"Nice going, you've killed him." Kaiba said with a sigh, like he'd witnessed this everyday. I am going to be late! "Fine, childish mutt, I'll push." He started to take off his jacket, then Duke broke the surface, gasping.

"What? Huh?!" He looked left and right, his ponytail whipping water everywhere. "Last thing I remember was we're about to die.....ack! I can't swim! Help!" He started to splash around helplessly and in a panic.

"Calm down and stand up!" Joey hollered to be heard. Finally Duke did so. "Look, we have to push this thing to get it started, so while you're there....."

"All right, all right. Whatever....." I should get a medal for this.......Duke managed to get towards the back. "But you two are paying for ruining my clothes!" he continued grumbling and the boat slid forwards.

Suddenly he started to jump around, screaming, "Ahh! Something's brushed against my leg! Quick, pull me up!" Joey did so, and there was something long and black, wrapped around him.

"Morons! That's just a piece of seaweed!" Kaiba yelled, going over to start the motor again since they were free. Sssss, the 'piece of seaweed' hissed at him. Or maybe not.... he was surprised to be wrong.

"Get it off! Get it off! Oh, please get it off!" Duke was shaking like a leaf. The snake was staring at Kaiba, however, not liking to be called 'seaweed.' Joey was frozen in fear. He hated snakes (who didn't?) but then again, didn't want to be indebted to him. The snake opened his white mouth, showing two inch fangs, ready to strike, hissing like mad.

"Don't make a move......." As if heard, the snake turned to him. At that, he quickly grabbed a floating branch and miraculously, managed to pin the snake to the floor. "Quick, step on 'im!"

Kaiba drove his steel toed heel into the snake's head. A mess of blood and other fluids oozing followed a sickening crack. "Not on it's head, but.....oh well."

As the boat got started again, Duke picked up the dead snake, started to throw it out with a whimper of disgust, then thought, it'll do for a snakeskin belt.....He tucked the carcass in his pocket and noticed it was strangely quiet for once. The other two were giving him peculiar looks. "What?"


"Where are they?!" Serenity was practically hopping from foot to foot.

"Mai, you are dead," Tea threatened, holding the trophy they'd won protectively to her chest. "I can't believe you did that."

"Well, we won, didn't we? And you can keep the trophy," Mai said generously with a shrug, filing a chip on her nails casually. The sky was a dead black by now, and she also was getting worried. Serenity saw this, but then again she sometimes saw things other people didn't' see. She put her hand on Mai's arm.

"I know you're worried too," she said softly. "You're good for him."

Mai just blinked while Tea scowled, still mad. There was a pause, then Mai said, "Um....what?"

"Are you talking about Joey?" Tea murmured lazily, looking for something to pass the time. She needed a ride home.

Serenity nodded, the lamplight low on her head, but her eyes shone. "He scowls a lot less and laughs more. Though maybe you don't remember it.....do you?"

Mai was speechless and Tea said thoughtfully, "No, I think he's still got that same bad attitude like before!" They both gave her an odd glance at her cheerfulness. "What?"

The auburn haired girl smiled again. "Maybe you will." Mai just stared, unsure of what she meant. There had been something she didn't recall, but how could this girl know it? She saw some figures approaching. "Hey, they're back!"

"Big brother!" Serenity gave him a quick hug. "Where's Seto.........?" Only Duke was trailing behind, huggling something around his neck.

"Turned into a bat and flew off," Joey said solemnly, while Tea stared and Mai shook her head. It was obvious he was lying, she could see his eyes sparkling with humor." I'm jest kiddin', " he said, chuckling, as Serenity slapped him on the chest. "Some meeting or whatnot. Anyway.....we'd betta get home, it's late. Oh, y'all won, huh?" he saw the trophy.

"Ew, what is that on you?" Tea asked Duke, pointing to the dead snake. "It's totally gross!"

"My new belt from I snake I killed," Duke boasted while Joey sweatdropped.

"Yeah, by screaming it to death like a little girl," he said, and Duke shot him a look.

"So, did you all get along in there....?" Serenity asked hopefully, as they walked to the car, while the other girls sweatdropped, looking sheepish. They still hadn't had the guts to tell her the truth. "Where were you all by the way?"

Joey decided to answer the second question and not to dash his sister's hopes. "Well, uh, Duke was driving and he said he got distracted by Tea---"

"I did NOT." Tea leaned away from Duke. "Stop it!"

"And, well, we kinda got stuck in some mud afta we lost control." Serenity gasped in concern. Joey continued, "Well, Duke was acting all nutso so I .....sorta pushed him out to push, and a snake attacked him...."

"Yeah, after he nearly knocked himself out on a low branch," Duke shot back.

"ANYWAY..... we just killed the snake and went on our way. Dat's it." There was silence as they all piled up into the small van, and they all were thinking, Yeah, riiiight.

"So....you did get along! I knew it!" Serenity hugged him happily. "Mai, that WAS a great idea!"

"So, it was yer idea, eh?" he said, looking back at her, who tried to look innocent. "Sis, sorry, but I still dink he's no good, stuck up, snobby rich brat who's totally wrong for you." He hesitated, looking at her lowered eyes. "But....."

"But?" she said eagerly, face lighting up again. "Don't say any more. I'll take a 'but!' " She hugged him again quickly while he sighed heavily into her hair. "Besides, you thought the same thing about Mai when you first met her---"

"What is this?" Mai looked shocked, even in the dark. Duke, still pissed off about being called a girl, added:

"Yeah, what's is it you called her? A---" He was clamped again, this time by Tea, who didn't want any arguments. She saw the way Mai's face grew angry.

There was a long silence, then Tea said impatiently. "Fine, I'll drive then!" she snatched the keys and pushed him out of the driver's seat. He barely noticed, his attention was on the look of hurt On Mai's cast away glance. The car started and he crawled over to the backseat with her. Tea burst forward with a vroooom!

"Is it true? Did you really think that about me and told everybody?" Mai was saying.

Duke muttered, "Careful the way you answer.....it's a trick question."

Joey didn't need to hear that to know he was on a shaky bridge. He didn't want to lie, but he also didn't want to make her angry. "Hey, I was young and stupid back den," he offered an explanation, which didn't seem to help much, she stared out of the windows.

" ' Back then? ' " Duke snorted loudly, then had to good sense to duck. "What!?"

There was a long agonizing pause, then, "Don't worry, I'm not mad at you," Mai was picking at a blade of grass on her leg. "I guess I'm mad at myself......for all the mistakes I made in my life."

"What sorta mistakes....?"

"Don't know.......I can't remember any..!." She was half joking. "So....it seems all of our dates end up life threatening." She turned to him, with a little smile.

He returned it in relief. It seemed one moment she seemed angry then the next she was okay. "Yeah, guess so." They both suddenly looked behind them pointedly. a/n: whaat?(innocent eyes) They faced each other again. "How 'bout I choose where we go next time?"

"And where's that?" she inquired, leaning back with one arm supporting her head and regarded him amusedly.

"Eh......how about......no....nah...." He seemed to be arguing with himself, while watched at the expressions that flew across. "Just.....stay at my house and watch TV!"

"Hm." She pretended to think about it seriously for a long while. "But won't your mom mind? She still said you'll go to military school...though you would look cute in one of those uniforms!" She watched, giggling, as he flushed in embarassment.

"Ha ha," Duke laughed, still eavesdropping from the front seat. "You in the military!" Joey and Mai exchanged glances and nodded at each other. Quick as a wink, they grabbed the cloth napkins and tied one over Duke's face and the other around his hands. "Mmf!" as another gagged him. "Mmf!"

"Anyway....." Joey continued, settling back again, ignoring him, "We'll go over to your house, den! It's gotta betta stereo surround system and plus......the jacuzzis...like you promised....." he whispered, so Duke wouldn't hear.

"I don't remember promising that," she said coyly, tugging playfully at the strands of hair in his face and grinned as he put a mock disappoint look on. "Besides, my parents are home......what'll they think if I'm there with a plain 'janitor'..?" she teased.

"Dat's not funny." He pouted like a little boy and crossed his arms.. "You shoulda told em da truth sometime."

"It was sort of funny.....and it'll be funnier when they know the truth. You'll see......" Mai pictured her prim and proper mother clutching her heart like she did when deeply shocked or offended. "Darling, he's part of the working class!" Her father would probably think it some sort of joke. She leaned back on his shoulder, thinking. Whoever that had attacked her that day and made her lose her memory had also erased the bad with the good, but now since she remembered most of the good.....maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I used to think that I was so used to being alone, I wouldn't know what to do if I were with somebody! But he makes me feel like I'm okay.

She closed her eyes, feeling sleepy. Mother'll never know what it's like.....how funny he is....how he makes me laugh......I bet even he doesn't know! She snorted a bit at her own joke, and he pressed his hand into hers, smiling, but Tea called:

"Hey, guys you hungry? We could go to eat in a burger joint.....let's see...... anybody have money?" Serenity nodded. "Okay, cause I'm starving!" Tea parked the van and they all clambered out. Joey practically hauled Mai by the hand towards the entrance, while Tea and Serenity followed at a much slower pace, chatting about what is good to eat here. "We'd better hurry....it's looks like a thunderstorm's brewing." They all went quickly inside eagerly.........

"Guys? Uh....guys?" The wind started to howl and rock the van. Then, fat raindrops poured in from a window somebody left down. "This is SO not funny....."