Happy ever after

*

Warnings/notes : suggested three-some (read to find out who), the mildest hints of shounen ai, weirdness, slight bastardization of a side-character, slight AU, implied character-death, if you insist on seeing it, oocness.

Disclaimer : I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh.

written at 24th february 2004, by Misura, who blames jennyrogue for sending her mind in this direction (though I *was* in a weird mood when I wrote this anyway).

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It surprised him how familiar it all was.

After all this time ... or maybe it only felt like a long time since he had been here. A lot of things had happened since then, some of them bad, some of them good.

He'd like to think most of them had been good though. Even if he had ended up back here again in the end. It wasn't really his fault, or that of his friends. It had just happened.

Perhaps Fate hated him.

Or maybe not. Who knew what he would find in the heart of this mansion, built like something out of a faerie-tale, with long corridors leading him on to the heart of the house and portraits of fantastic monsters hanging on the walls?

He rounded a corner, recognition once again overwhelming him.

Sinking to the floor, fighting a hopeless battle to his tears, his frustration at having come so close, only to lose it all through some stupid, stupid slip of his mind.

With a shiver he hurried onwards. *That* particular memory wasn't one he cared to relive. Not because it hurt him, to know that he was weak and vulnerable, but rather because he preferred not to see *her* face again, smiling and sneering at the same time.

He almost missed the painting. Almost.

When he saw it, he was angry at first. He had known that they had been watched, of course, known there were security-cameras all over the place but ... to be confronted with such a blatant admission that even his small lapse into despair had been watched and transformed into a piece of art annoyed him. Some things simply ought to be kept private.

It was beautiful though. *She* would probably have liked it, had she been here to see it, laughing and joking about how irresistable she was, how out of everyone's league.

Butterflies, dancing around a single red rose in a wild flurry of colors, disregarding its thorns that had already ripped into the wings of one of them.

He wondered what the meaning behind that image was, wondered what its creator had been thinking of as it took shape under his hands.

Not that it mattered. To *him* the painting spoke loudly enough, too loud even. Perhaps it was true that he was nothing but a coward, a lowlife dog. Though he preferred to think he simply needed a bit of time, a bit of peace and quiet in a safe place where he could think about it all.

If such a place existed. He wasn't sure yet. It might be here, but he had experienced the bitter taste of disappointment too often to believe too readily, too easily.

Innocence had never been something he had possessed much of anyway. He had seen it in others, cherishing them for it and trying to protect it and them, but he himself had never had much illusions about the way the world worked.

"That's right, Jounouchi. Kneel down in the dirt like the sniveling dog you are!"

"Jounouchi."

"Kneel down and bark, Jounouchi."

"Jounouchi?"

"How could a worthless brat like you be my son?"

"Are you all right?" The speaker's hand touched his shoulder hesitantly, as if afraid to scare him away, like some not quite tame animal.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Of course he was. As far as anyone could be 'all right' in this world.

"You're crying. I'm sorry. I hadn't realized I had left this painting hanging here. If I'd known it would upset you this much I'd have - "

"I'm fine I said! There's just something in my eye."

"Of course, he realizes I'm way out of his league."

A soft chuckle, hastily suppressed. There had been no real mirth in it anyway.

"And it won't come out, will it? Some things never do, forever haunting our visions and dreams. I know the feeling. All too well."

He turned around then, walking away slowly, only speeding up to a normal stride as the other followed, seemingly uninclined to linger. Whereto he didn't know. Elsewhere, he guessed. This castle was big enough to get lost in.

"I am glad you decided to accept my invitation though," the other continued after a while. "I wasn't sure if you would. *He* said you would, but until the moment I saw you standing there, I had my doubts."

He snorted, knowing whom the other was referring to and not quite pleased at hearing that he had just fulfilled that person's predictions. Though really, what difference did it make? He had come here because of his own decision. He would leave at the time he saw fit too, unless he was kicked out before then.

"Lost any bets about it?" It was easier to talk about something insignificant, something safe.

"Nothing I wasn't willing to lose to him anyway." Another chuckle, more carefree this time. It sounded almost happy. Perhaps it was true that time could heal all wounds. "Unlike you, I know what risks I can take when it comes to bets." Or perhaps it was true that *love* could.

He wasn't sure really, not having experienced either of them as much as he'd have liked.

"I learn from my mistakes." Whether or not that was true he didn't know. Looking back, he felt that his faults had often been resemblinghis previous ones. "I'm not stupid."

"I am aware of that. So is *he*. Even if he still hopes you'll give him a second chance. A vain hope? What do you think?" One golden eye stared at him, reminding him of what had happened to its companion. Maybe coming here had not been such a smart idea after all. Maybe there were too many memories better left to rest, tied to this place.

"You never know." He shrugged noncomittally.

"Quite true. The most unexpected things may happen, if you give them an opportunity. Like you, Jounouchi Katsuya, returning to Duelist Kingdom."

"Or like Ryuuji Otogi hooking up with the designer of Duel Monsters, whom he adored first and despised later?" he shot back. He wasn't really annoyed or angry, but it felt nice to snap a little.

The other smiled faintly. "Yes. Just like that."

"Thanks for the welcome." He meant it.

"No. Thank *you* for coming." So did the other.

And perhaps they lived happily ever after that first second start. Or perhaps not. Who is to say what happiness is in the end?

~OWARI~

A/N : Yes, uhm, I don't know what to say about this.