IMPORTANT: I ask you all to not hate me after you're done with this chapter. I've decided to test out a few experimental pairings in this story. And remember: I do love Joey!
Chapter 7: Make Amends
...We must be fools, we must be crazy
When there's no
It's a no win situation...
...Ain't it time we started tryin'
Gotta stop this love from dying...
...How can we be lovers if we can't be friends?
How can we start over when the fighting never ends?
Baby, how can we make love if we can't make amends?
Tell me how we can be lovers if we can't be,
Can't be friends?
From: How Can We Be Lovers – Michael Bolton
The shrill ring of Yugi's telephone cut through the dull hum of the prevailing silence in the apartment. Four heads jerked upward at the sound. Yugi grabbed the cordless.
"Hello?" They waited patiently for a signal of who it was. Instead Yugi said, "Sure. Hold on."
Then he rose to his full height (minus hair it equalled an inch below Joey's 5'10"), covered the mouth piece and excused himself. Yugi and Yami passed easily for twins now, alike in stature and looks since Yugi's features had sharpened. The only difference was that Yugi had a more indulgent disposition. Before he could fully disappear into his bedroom, they heard him ask in a tender tone, "What's wrong Love?"
The remaining three exchanged bewildered glances. Joey, one eye brow hiked up, quoted, "'Love'?"
"Since when did Yugi get a girlfriend?" Mokuba queried.
"'When did Yugi start dating?' is the more appropriate question," Seto corrected.
Mokuba shrugged, "Who knew? Anyway, I got class bright and early tomorrow morning so I better start heading back."
He turned to his brother and signalled toward the door. Seto followed him out. Once they were out of Joey's range of hearing, Mokuba said, "They had to find out some time, Seto."
Seto nodded, accepting the fact. Mokuba swept an assessing look over his big brother's face. "You're ok though? You just...spilled."
"I'm fine, Kiddo. It was good to say it out loud."
Soon, it was just Seto and Joey left in front of a monotonous, ignored TV. Joey took a bathroom break. When he returned, he poked around in the fridge for bit then offered Seto a beer.
"No thanks. I don't drink beer."
"Moneybags, I've seen you drink," Joey protested, not fully hearing Kaiba's declaration.
"Yeah Mutt. But I don't drink beer. Not since..." He left the sentence to hang.
"Oh. Yeah... Coke?"
Joey plopped down on the other end of the couch, propped his ankles up on the coffee table and tossed Seto his Coke. The CEO caught it with ease, noting that Joey had also vetoed the beer. After a few moments, Joey spoke, his voice full of humour.
"Ya know Kaiba, you and me ain't that different," he declared. "I mean, apart from the obvious – we're both duellists etc. And don't jibe at me being a third-rate duellist 'cause I nearly beat your ass already and you know it."
Seto smirked. "I wasn't going to."
"But we've got other things in common."
Seto raised an eyebrow. "Such as...?"
"Well, we've both got younger siblings to look out for and we'd both kill for 'em."
"We both had total fuck-ups for paternal figures. My dad was a drunk-ass do-nothing and your adoptive father was a psychotic over-achiever. Plus, we both hated 'em."
"And – now this is da big one – we both managed to screw up Perfect. You and Anzu and me and–"
"What happened to her, Wheeler?" Seto ventured, curious about this particular comparison.
"She moved away, moved on and got married."
"To whom?" No one had heard about Mai's wedding until it was over. Seto hadn't taken the time to find out who she married. He expected it to be the movie-star guy or someone equally inconsequential.
Joey glowered, "The fucking Egyptian lunatic."
Seto's eyes widened. Now that was unexpected. "Didn't he put her in a coma six years ago?"
"Technically no. It's like Yugi with the light/dark crap. She claims he isn't what he used to be." It was evident that this pissed the blonde off to no end.
"Isn't he younger than you are?"
"No. he and Mai are the same age."
"And he's how much younger than Ishizu?"
"About three years."
Seto snorted. "Jesus. No wonder she turned me down. I was practically a child compared to her."
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Wait – you didn't know how old she was?"
"Did anyone know anything about her?"
"Does anyone? Seriously though Kaiba, listen to me. Don't let Anzu go. You've got a second freakin' chance. Don't blow it."
"I take it that's your stamp of approval then, Mutt."
"Hell Wallet, I always knew she liked you. And vice versa."
"And how did you come to that conclusion?"
"You two have only been making eyes at each other since we were fourteen."
"Not since fourteen, Mutt."
"Well, not you maybe. I always wondered what she was looking at. It took you long enough to notice her, anyway."
"Really?" Seto had long given up trying to appear nonchalant.
"Were you even at Battle City? You're lucky you skipped town early after Grad. I was about to corner you and bloody well make you kiss her."
"Like you could have."
"You didn't see her face when Mokuba showed up at the Game Shop and told us you'd taken off early. Trust me, I woulda found a way."
Knowing Joey's fierce loyalty, Seto was compelled to believe him. "Don't worry Wheeler. I don't intend to let her go."
"Then start planning, Kaiba. She'll be back home Monday after next." Yugi's unexpected input made both men jump. Joey wheeled on his friend as Seto pulled out his phone and sent himself a reminder of the date. When he turned back, Yugi was trying to explain something.
"Come on, Joey. I was at a thing and she happened to be there. Miho didn't –"
"Miho? Yellow Ribbon Miho? You're dating Honda's Miho?"
"Hey! She's not Honda's!" Then Yugi blushed at his outburst. He confessed, "Yeah. I am."
"And you didn't tell us?"
"Shut up, Kaiba," Yugi retorted.
Anzu Mazaki was one of four first class passengers on the flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo. It was early afternoon and she was wide awake. She stared unblinkingly out of the small window, contemplating what awaited her upon arrival. How was she going to get past the press? When the aeroplane touched down, she got her answer. Shigeru was waiting for her at the door of the aeroplane. He credited it to security privileges for the rich and famous. At Immigration he offered her a huge brown trench coat. She took one look at it and gave him a 'you've-got-to-be-kidding-me' look.
"What?" he asked, puzzled by Anzu's attitude toward the proffered clothing.
"Nothing. Let's go."
"Ok." And he nodded at some bodyguards standing a few feet away. She found herself surrounded by men in dark suits and glasses. Shigeru took her arm in his hand and began steering their formation out of the airport. Once they were past the required security check points, they were swarmed. As the reporters asked questions – all of which Shigeru fended off with "No comment" – Anzu paid careful attention to what they were saying.
Ms Mazaki: is it true that you and Seto Kaiba are together? She had expected that one. No.
How do you two know each other? It was obvious that someone would ask this. We went to school together. We were enemies. We were friends. We were lovers. We more than 'know' each other.
Can you clarify what it was you were doing in France? Honestly, that's none of your business but if you must know, I was on holiday, you idiots. I'm entitled to some rest.
Do you admit that you two shared a kiss? Hell yes. And it was, like all his kisses, breathtaking. But you didn't hear that from me.
Do you and Kaiba intend to continue your relationship? Dude, even if I had an answer to that I wouldn't tell you.
What do you intend to do about Shizuka Jounouchi? What? Ok, that she hadn't expected. Maybe she should have. Her only possible reply: The bitch knew. LOL
They had reached the limo by the time she was assaulted with the final enquiry. Shigeru followed her inside and slammed the door shut. She began to laugh as they drove away. He scowled at her.
"Well I'm glad you enjoyed that. You'll have to get used to it."
"It's not that."
"So what is it?"
"That's getting on my nerves. But I should bring you up-to-date. Between yesterday and today, your infamy has skyrocketed yet again – along with Kaiba's."
Anzu mulled over this for a moment then asked, "So what have you told the press?"
"We've been sticking to company policy. Until you explain yourself and what you'd like to have said, we don't comment. So far all our replies have been based on your mother's instructions. We say that you know each other through your mutual friend Yugi Motou, that you are friends and that any further comments will come directly from you."
Anzu's eyes widened. "Mom told you to say that I would comment."
"You'll have to."
"Fine." She gazed at the familiar scenery whipping by outside the tinted windows until she realized that Shigeru was looking at her – intently. She turned back to him aggravated. She hated when people did that. "What?"
"How come you never told us you knew him?"
"I never thought it would affect my dance career whether or not I was his friend. This isn't exactly his circle."
"But you're a part of his circle," he pointed out.
"I was. That was a long time ago."
"Anzu answer me truthfully, what's the connection between you two? I've seen the photos. There's something there."
Anzu looked at him, studying him, sizing him up. She had known him for just over a year. They were close but... she hadn't even told Yugi and the boys about her and Seto. Was she going to tell Shigeru? She closed her eyes and decided that this was different. This was business. This was for the good of her public image and her career in general. Besides, she was only going to tell him the basics. They other's had probably already wrung the details out of Seto and Mokuba by now.
"Seto and–" she noticed the raised eyebrow at her use of the CEO's first name so she repeated it to make things clear. "Seto and I went to high school together. I was best friends with Yugi Motou and Joey Wheeler. I was at Duellist Kingdom with them and at Battle City. I saved Mokuba's – his little bother's – life and, in return, Seto saved mine. He doesn't like debts. When Yugi made an effort to be his friend, I did too. We dated, we broke up. The end. It's not something I like to talk about. We didn't part on very friendly terms."
"Lots, ok?" she snarled, "Look, I don't want to talk about this, Shigeru. Kaiba and I have a lot of history... a lot of personal history that I haven't even told the guys at home about. Let me put it this way: the pictures are real. Now I want you to tell the press that there is nothing going on and that Seto and I are just friends. Yes, we did see – meet – each other in France briefly but it was not what they think. Make up something about the kiss – anything. I want you to also tell them that Shizuka is one of my oldest friends and that we are still friends."
Shigeru was busily taking notes.
"Oh yes! Before you say anything though, contact his PR department and corroborate the story on both sides, divergent ones will arouse suspicion. If they give you a hard time, which I doubt they will, speak directly to Ashiro. Get every detail in sync. He's going to avoid making any statements personally and so will I. If it's absolutely necessary for me to say something, try to make it anytime within the week because I plan to head home soon – what?"
Anzu stopped her professional delivery of instructions when she realized that her manager had stopped taking notes and was looking at her, his expression a mixture of thinly veiled shock, awe and amusement. He blinked then replied, "You're just full of surprises, aren't you Anzu? Not only are you a great dancer but you're an expert at press management. To top it all off, you just pulled Seto Kaiba out of an invisible hat. Where exactly did you learn to juggle the media?"
"Lit major. One of my favourite professors used to say that Literature is a reflection of Life. A student of Literature is more adept at judging and handling people than anyone else. And I have a minor in Communications." She grinned, "Plus I had a skilled tutor."
Almost unbelievably, Shigeru was about to ask who until he realized that that was a stupid question. The answer: Seto Kaiba. Who else? He settled for murmuring, "OK."
His cell-phone rang, halting conversation. Anzu took the time to glance around the company limo. Impressive but – and she could discriminate – not as lavish as some she had previously utilized. Shigeru was about to hang up, "Right. Lo–later Kasumi."
Secretly, Anzu smiled. It was about time the two of them got together. A blind man could have seen Kasumi's obvious affection for the way-too-cool brunette manger that was her boss from a mile away. Shigeru on the other hand, though known to be surrounded by beautiful women had never shown interest in any. But the overt soft-spot for his fiery, hot-tempered, carrot-top secretary did not go unnoticed.
"What are you so engrossed in?" Shigeru asked.
"Just wondering when I was upgraded to limo status."
"Since yesterday of course. You are Seto Kaiba's girlfriend, you know."
"Mom, I'm going to head round to the Game Shop, ok?" Anzu called out as she approached the door of her parents' penthouse Domino apartment. She'd never been a poor girl. Her mother's head popped out from behind the door of a kitchen cabinet.
"Are you sure? With all the press coverage–"
"I'll be fine Mom. My windows are tinted, remember?"
"If you're sure."
"I am. See you later. Love you."
Anzu shut the door and made it all the way to the parking lot without thinking she heard a camera snap. No wonder Seto had resorted to intimidation. She located her royal blue Lotus Elise (with tinted windows) and was shortly speeding to her old hang out. Both Joey and Yugi had promised to be there today. She smiled when she pulled up to the familiar curb.
The entrance to the Kame [Turtle] Game Shop stood looking much the way it had throughout her childhood and adolescence. However, the establishment itself now included most of the block. She navigated her way through aisles of board-games, video-games etc, until she spotted it: the huge Duel Monsters section. Shelves upon shelves were laden with cards – in packs, in Starter decks, in Structure decks. She observed that there was an entire sub-section devoted to Kaiba Corp gaming technology. It was impossible to miss with the huge KC logo hovering above it. Then there were monster posters and (amusingly enough) duellist posters.
She stopped for a moment to leaf through the display, looking for people she knew. Sure enough, there was Duke. He was followed by Joey. She couldn't help the childishness in her coming out as she wrinkled her nose at the picture but she to admit that it was flattering. Anzu could imagine how many teenage girls swooned just looking at these.
Flipping quickly past Weevil, who had always freaked her out, she had to turn back to Rex Raptor to make sure it was him. Weird, a change of style was all he needed and he might have been able to get a girlfriend. She passed a few newbies, younger than her friends and promising but still not on top.
Then she came across Yugi's poster and smiled fondly at it. She turned the page and saw Yami, who had established himself as Yugi's older brother. They shared the title of "King of Games" now while the Motou family was dubbed gaming royalty. He was as handsome as she remembered. Idly, she wondered how Ishizu was doing.
The next poster was probably pasted above many boys' beds. It featured the busty blonde, Mai Valentine-Ishtar. Now that had freaked out but not entirely surprised Anzu. Following Mai was her new husband, Marik Ishtar, who duelled often now, according to the rules and minus the Millennium Rod.
After him came the integrated Ryou Bakura. Unlike Yami and Yugi, Ryou had fused with his yami making one balanced person. And what a person he is, Anzu thought. Ryou had always been attractive but with the daredevil air added by his yami's influence, he was downright hot. Nevertheless, she'd never been interested in him that way. She continued browsing, coming across others she had met in her lifetime, like Mako and even Bandit Keith. She neared the end.
When the penultimate poster turned out to be Mokuba Kaiba she gasped then giggled. My, he had grown up. Of course he would have a poster. He was probably the main youngster on the duelling scene. He was a Kaiba after all. And someone had finally convinced him to do something with his hair. She chuckled.
Her fingers reached for the edge of the frame when all of a sudden she realised that she already knew who was featured on the last poster. He was the only person she hadn't seen yet. And once Mokuba had a poster he would have one too. Her dry palms were suddenly slippery as she inched Mokuba forward. She took a deep breath and prepared herself to look up at the face...
"Hey Yugi!" Swiftly, she whirled around on her toes to meet the familiar voice. It was coming from her right. She stepped quietly up behind the person. She tip-toed slightly to reach the blonde's ear and shouted, "BOO!"
More than one mother moved their child away from their general area after Joey's shout. Anzu was doubling over with mirth while Yugi and Joey both stared at her in amazement. They waited for her to calm down before attacking her. After a few minutes of ecstatic greetings, they settled down in Yugi's office on the second floor which had a full view of the store.
"So what is our infamous dancer doing back here in Domino?" Yugi asked as he fished for drinks at the small bar located in one corner of his office. Anzu looked up at his light tone, wondering why they weren't angrier. She looked at Joey, who she had expected to be furious with her, and found him grinning.
"I guess you read the newspapers then, huh?" she asked. She was hugging herself inconspicuously, pretending to scratch a spot above her elbow. The last thing she needed was for her friends to be upset with her.
"Not really," Joey replied. "It was everywhere. Our little girl has grown up, off to France and kissing boys."
"If Kaiba heard you call him a boy, he'd pummel you," Yugi commented laughingly as he handed Anzu her drink. She smiled weakly. Yugi handed Joey his glass then he turned a serious face on Anzu and said, "We're not angry with you, Anzu. You have a right to your privacy and we respect that. I think... we just might have preferred finding out some other way. I spilled my morning orange juice all over myself and I have the stains to prove it."
She sighed into her glass. "Guys, I'm sorry. Really I am. No one was supposed to find out. It's not that I didn't want to tell you because I really wanted you to know... While it lasted it was the best time of my life and I wanted to share some of it with you... I just didn't know how you'd react. Your friendship with Seto–"
For the second time, she found people taken aback by her use of his first name. This time she was going to explain. "We were more than friends, guys... much more. I've been calling him 'Seto' since I was nineteen."
"We noticed Anzu. But you were saying...?" Yugi urged.
"Your friendship with Seto was still rocky and I know you," she looked pointedly at Joey, "still didn't trust him much. I didn't – I didn't want to lose what I had with him or what I have with you guys. I thought it was best..."
"We understand, Anzu," Joey said, rubbing her back.
"We talked to Kaiba right after it hit the papers. He told us the whole story," Yugi told her.
"Shizuka told me what happened that night too..." Joey whispered in her ear. She looked up at him, eyes wide. How could she have forgotten? She was being blamed left, right and centre for his sister's loss of a fiancé. "Joey, I didn't–"
He shook his head. "I want to tell you something now, Anzu. I don't mind Yugi hearing this 'cause he's like family to me. Now, I know Kaiba and I don't have the nicest history but... we're friends now. He's a good guy deep down (I think he owes that to you) and I know he hurt you but he didn't mean to. It wasn't his fault."
"Joey, I'm sure that–" Anzu began. She didn't need to hear this from her best friend. However, she was cut off.
"It was Shizuka's fault." Both listeners went quiet. "I'm not proud of having to say this. I'm really disappointed in her for doing this especially since she says she thinks you told her about you two but Anzu, it was Shizuka's fault. The night Kaiba walked into that bar, he woulda walked out sober and faithful if my sister wasn't there. She was with some of her 'friends' from college on a trip. Her punk-ass boyfriend had just broken up with her and she was drunk into next week. They dared her to make a move on Kaiba. They didn't realise that she knew him already. When she said no... I think they drugged her and got her to do it. They gave her some Ecstasy and she put it to good use. He was down in one drink she said."
"He was talking about Shizuka?" Yugi asked wide-eyed. "The girl was Shizuka?" Joey nodded.
"No..." Anzu's voice was choked. "You're lying, right? Joey, please tell me you're lying!"
Both men turned sad eyes on her. "I'm not, Anzu."
She hadn't cried in front of the guys in years. Tears began to roll down her cheeks as she realized what had happened. He had tried. He really had tried to explain it to her. He had claimed his memory was sketchy and he could not for the life of him remember how he got from point A to point B but she had not believed him. She hadn't even listened. She had been so consumed by the pain of his betrayal that she hadn't heard anything past the 'I slept with her'.
The past three years were painted a completely new colour. It had been her fault. She'd evaded everything he had done to explain it up to her, evaded all his attempts to make up with her, and evaded him. All in all, she had been the one to throw it all away. Seto had been the victim not only of Shizuka's friends' cruelty but of her own unyielding rigidity. Anzu was going to throw up.
She groped blindly for a hand to hold, someone to hug. Yugi provided himself. He stroked her head in a fatherly fashion and rocked her back and forth as she chanted over and over again, "I'm such an idiot. Such a fucking idiot."
The fact that she was chanting didn't stun the men as much as the fact that their friend with the squeaky-cleanest mouth was using one of the filthiest words in the dictionary. As they watched her beat herself up they remembered how lost Kaiba had looked when he had told them his side of everything. When Anzu's chanting deteriorated into painful sobs ripped from deep down inside her they glanced at each other at the same time, having arrived at identical conclusions:
Seto Kaiba and Anzu Mazaki more than loved each other. They lived for each other.
"You're sure you can drive?" Joey asked Anzu as she got into her car. She nodded. He glanced over the top at Yugi who nodded at him. "Then take care, ok."
"I will, Joey."
"Yugi?" she called. He stuck his head through the passenger window. She cupped his cheek and whispered, "Thank you." He smiled at her.
The two old friends stood back and watched the third member of their trio speed off down the road. Joey raised and eyebrow at the dust she left in her wake. He turned to his friend. "You think we shoulda let her drive?"
"She's always driven like that Joey. You know that." Yugi began making his way back inside. Joey caught up with him and asked, "Did you do it?"
"Yeah. But do you think it was a good idea? You saw how she reacted to what you told her."
"Yugi, she's not gonna find it anytime soon. And when she does, if she really hates it, she can use it as a dartboard."
"She won't. She loves him."
"Funny huh? How come we never noticed?" Joey questioned suddenly. Yugi considered this for a moment. "I don't know, Joey." The blonde shrugged.
Yugi paused mid-step in front of the posters. He looked up at the poster of his rich friend/ex-rival, the last one in the display. He smirked and asked it:
"Funny how life works isn't it?"
"Thank you again for your time, Mr Kaiba." Seto nodded courteously at the businessman, acknowledging that he had heard him. It wasn't that bad of a proposal actually, and it would be lucrative. However, what Seto had noted most about the meeting were the supposed-to-be-covert looks of interest displayed by all who had been present. It was becoming more than annoying. He was used to people being curious about him. He was accustomed to other businessmen being bowled over by his age but they were often able to brush that aside with ease once Seto had had his say. But recently, that had changed.
For God's sake, there was a limit. So what if he had kissed someone? So what if she just happened to be one of the most beautiful women in Japan? Would they have preferred him to kiss a man? Knowing the human appetite for scandal, they probably would have jumped at a chance to declare that he was gay. People said it was impossible to please everyone. In his opinion, it was impossible to please anyone.
He sighed as he began to pack his briefcase. It was early yet, just before lunch, but Seto didn't feel like being confined to his office for some reason. He no longer felt the need to be at the office 24/7. He could work just as well at home. Plus, he had made a startling discovery just before he'd gone off to college: His employees were rather well-educated and efficient workers. He did not have to breathe fire down their necks to get them to do a good job. He could take some time off.
As he clicked it shut, he door opened. He looked up, assuming that it was Ashiro, and came across someone else entirely.
"Hi Seto!" she said cheerfully. She was fairly glowing and he took that to mean that she was happy with the way things had turned out for them. "I hope you don't mind that Ms. Ashiro let me in. I'll only take a minute."
He shook his head and blinked, a bit befuddled by her presence. Despite all the problems that they were supposed to have, they seemed to be devoid of any hostile feelings towards each other. After a long phone conversation in which all the dirty laundry was aired and cleaned thoroughly, Seto found himself treating her like an acquaintance – almost like a friend – instead of like the scum of the earth.
A Seto of six years ago may have been set to slaughter her and all her remaining family but he was older now. With age he had gained tolerance and wisdom. He couldn't go around hating everyone. To forgive was best. Besides, she had not been bad company; she had seen him at his very weakest and had not ridiculed him; she had tried to love him; and in his own way, Seto cared for her as a person. He knew that they could never be the best of friends but, as he had said before, there was no hostility.
"No," he replied after a second. "Come in, Shizuka. What do you want?"
She smiled as she approached him when she decided that she was close enough to him to speak without having to pitch her voice, she said, "I was just wondering if you remembered which of your cars I left my Jessica Simpson CD in? If you find it could you return it? I know you don't listen to that kind of music so it should stick out like a sore thumb." She giggled.
He smirked, nodded then asked, "You came all this way to ask if I could look for your CD?"
"Well, I was going to call when I got home but since I was in the area, I decided to stop by. I was wondering how you were doing anyway after, you know... the papers and all." she fidgeted somewhat. She didn't like this topic at all and her sincere discomfort and regret made it easier to give her the benefit of the doubt.
"I'm fine. A bit sick of being gawked at, as I'm sure you are but otherwise, fine."
She beamed at him. "I'm glad." And she really was.
"You look happy, by the way. Devlin is doing right by you I presume."
She had the dignity to blush. "Yeah, he's sweet."
There was an awkward pause and Seto made a mental note not to bring that up again. He asked, "Was there something else?"
She blinked into awareness once again and laughed at herself, "Sorry. Space-case I am. But that was it."
"Then I'll be sure to have Mokuba find your CD."
"Thanks. But won't he mind?"
"It was never anything personal. It was the... idea of you. It could have been anyone and they would have gotten the same reaction."
"You two look great together, you know – you and Anzu," she commented. Seto wasn't sure how to answer that so he shrugged. "Anyway, I'll see you around, Seto."
He stood and picked up his briefcase. "I was on my way out."
The innate etiquette that so many admired had him holding the door open when he set eyes on the person standing in front of Ashiro.
Life really was ironic.
Shizuka sounded sceptical but Seto knew instantly that that was the famed dancer. She looked beautiful against the backdrop of the clear sky through the window. However, he could see that she was trying to be incognito.
Her now nearly waist-length luxuriant brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail that was threaded through a khaki cap yet it sparkled in the light. Her beautiful blue eyes were shadowed by the lowered forest green visor and further hidden behind almost opaque sunshades. Her perfect body was the only thing not trying to conceal itself. She wore extraordinarily baggy cargo pants (also khaki) but a fitted yellow baby-doll tee-shirt that hugged her upper body and hinted at the curve of her hips. When she turned to face them, he saw the green logo of the Rain Forest Café (1) splayed across her chest. Her sandals were forest green to match the bag and jewellery and were peeking out from under the hem of her trousers. He smirked when she wiggled her toes.
"What- ?" The redhead paused mid-question. "How are you doing?"
"I'm good," she said and Seto could have sworn that she had glanced at him. "You?"
"I'm great. Duke and I are really happy."
Her confusion was too blatant. Someone tell me that they told her, Seto thought to himself. He did not want to have to explain his break up to her. The reasons behind it were exactly what she had demanded he avoid during their last meeting. But then again, maybe she was just thrown by the Devlin/Shizuka affair and not the actual break-up.
"Duke?" Now he knew her eyes were on him. He wanted to rip those glasses off her face so that he could see them. "You're with... Duke?"
"Yeah. Didn't you know?"
"No, actually. I didn't."
"Well, now you do. Anyway, gotta run guys. I'll see you guys around." And with that she was gone. Ashiro cleared her throat and excused herself, claiming that it was her lunch hour. Both of them realized that she was giving them their privacy but her argument was legitimate. When she was nowhere in sight, Seto turned to Anzu.
"Into the office?" he suggested. She nodded. Once they had stepped into the significantly darker room, she reached up and removed the glasses. When they were seated in opposite armchairs in one corner of the office, he said, "Yugi told me you'd arrived."
"He didn't tell me that she was with Duke," she retorted.
"That wasn't the real reason we broke up, it just made it much easier for me. She was very good about it."
"She's a good girl, you know."
"I know." Then he sat back with his left ankle resting on his right knee, waiting patiently for her to say what she had come to say. Anzu had been the one to show up in his office and therefore, technically, the ball was in her court. He was just waiting for her to serve. Sports analogies? But the fact was: everything was in her hands.
As he waited for her to end her battle with herself, he fiddled aimlessly with the edge of his dark green trench coat (the same he had worn to break up with Shizuka). It wasn't a conspicuous action – barely more than running his nail over the cloth for a few millimetres – but it was there and it meant that he was nervous. Her right foot shook in a steady rhythm in the air and he knew he was not alone in his state of being.
Then they looked at each other and laughed.
"Listen Seto, like I said before, we can't go back. I know what really happened that night and I'm sorry I didn't listen to you when you tried to tell me but I was justified. If I had cheated on you, you would have done the same thing or worse," she looked at him and he conceded with a nod. "I had every right to be angry with you. I had told you that I wouldn't stay with a man who cheated on me so you had warning."
She sighed and looked at her hands that were tightly laced in her lap. "We both screwed up. We can't go back and we can't just pick up and move on from anywhere."
He knew the path this conversation led down. He was preparing himself to hear her say that they were over forever once again and some enraged and bitter part of him asked why she felt she needed to come all this way to repeat it. Did she think he was stupid? That he didn't get it the first time? Did she like rubbing it in his face? And yet that same part cried out for her just as much as all the rest of him. With his hopes in the gutter, he listened.
"I think that... I might have been... a bit too... hasty... in France. I said we can't start over but you're my friend, Seto. You were one of my best friends... One of things I mourned most about our break-up was the loss of that friendship because I know how precious it is. It's one of the hardest things I ever worked at gaining and I lost it... We were both wrong and we both hurt each other. And even though I know this probably sounds utterly ridiculous, I want to be your friend again, Seto. We can't undo the pain we put each other through but we can try to rebuild the trust we lost and we can try to make up for some of the hurt. We can – I'm babbling, aren't I?"
She flushed prettily and for the first time in months Seto smiled, practically on the verge of grinning till his face spilt. This was more than he had dared hope for. This was a second chance, an opportunity to regain her trust and perhaps, eventually, her heart. And it was all being handed to him a silver platter. There were some things he expected to receive in this manner taking into account the fact that he was who he was, but this... this was not one of them.
He caught her gaze and replied, "Friends are supposed to listen aren't they?"
Author's Note: Ok, there you go. We've gotten them back in the same room. Hopefully, we can get them back together! Now, I'm sorry if I've offended anyone with the language in this chapter. I know that Seto was a bit out of character in the fact that he did not murder Shizuka for what she did but I don't like the demented image of Seto portrayed in the manga. I prefer the anime. And this Seto is my version of the anime-Seto grown up.
About the pairings, I am a Joey/Mai shipper but I've had a fascination with the Marik/Mai pairing since day one. And as I was reading the manga, Miho stuck me as the type of girl that Yugi would do well with. I like her.
Kasumi and Shigeru are based on, as you may have guessed, Kasumi/Misty and Shigeru/Gary from Pokémon. I'm a die-hard Egoshipper -!
In case you haven't noticed, I've also tried to redeem Shizuka's character somewhat since I don't totally hate her.
SHAMELESS PLUG for Feel Beautiful: It's a small one-shot I did for Meena, the Meaner on her birthday (August 12th). I'm a review junkie, support my habit.
A small note of explanation:
Rain Forest Café – I have no idea if they actually have a yellow t-shirt that looks like this but they do have a beautiful green logo. And good food.
And now, to reply to a few interesting comments and questions:
(1) Winterwing3000 – In proper English, pyjamas is spelt with a 'y' but in America, the accepted spelling uses an 'a'. Thanks for the review though!
(2) Nightengale13 – Yeah, basically, he was date-raped. Sad isn't it? I'm not sure whether or not to take to soap-opera thing as a compliment or a criticism but rest assured; no demonic possession here -! Thank you for the lovely – verbose – reviews on both this and 'Feel Beautiful'. Question: Since I live in a totally deprived country, HOW WAS THE MOVIE?
(3) Svelte Rose – If you read, you'll see that Shizuka and Seto slept together the weekend before Anzu found out. And he also explained why he asked about Shizuka later. But thanks for the great review!
Disclaimer (for series): I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh and make no profit off this piece of fiction.
Disclaimer (for song): I do not own the song How Can We be Lovers? by Michael Bolton. The lyrics are reprinted without permission and, once again, I make no profit off their use. I think it captures the implied feeling of the chapter.
LEAVE A REVIEW PLEASE! ANYTHING IS GREATLY APPRECIATED. HOWEVER, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM WILL BE TAKEN IN BETTER STRIDE THAN FLAMES.