Kiss from a Rose
Response to Mamono's Eineit fic challenge. Highly inspired by Seal's 'Kiss from a Rose'. I didn't include the lyrics to the song because they fit so well, it'd be overdoing things, but feel free to look them up.
Disclaimer: I don't own YuGiOh, and neither do I own any of the references I used in this story. But they are all real.
"You're not serious," Joey said flatly.
Mokuba, deciding that protesting 'of course I am', was extremely predictable and overrated, went on his standard fallback. He opened his eyes very wide and sniffled a little. Predictable, maybe, but not overrated. There was still no fighting The Puppy Eyes.
"You're serious," Joey said, choking on the words.
"I wouldn't joke about something this important!" Mokuba said, trying his very best to sound injured and pathetic. "Why won't you help me? I thought we were friends!"
"We- we're friends, I guess," Joey said, blinking. "And Téa's my friend, too, which is why I refuse to make her life miserable. Look, Mokuba, no offense to you- but I wouldn't try and set my worst enemy up with your brother. Except that your brother is my worst enemy… But the point is, there's no way in the world I'm going to try and convince Téa that she should date your brother!"
Mokuba hung his head forelonely, leaving an awkward silence. Sure enough, Joey couldn't stand it, and continued talking, trying to justify himself.
"I mean, why would you even ask me, anyway? You know how I feel about Moneyba- ah, your brother. I mean, if you actually wanted to try that crazy idea, you could at least go to Yugi or something. Yugi's too nice for his own good, he might pretend that Kaiba is, in a very small way, slightly worthy of talking to Téa."
Mokuba didn't bother to sort that out, or even to stick up for his brother, since that argument would inevitably go in circles. "I did ask Yugi!" he said triumphantly.
Joey's jaw opened slightly, and he blinked. "And?"
"And he said he'd help!"
Joey sat down heavily on the bench outside the high school, where Mokuba had accosted him. "Man," he moaned, "Yugi really is too nice for his own good." He ran a hand through his messy hair, absently remarking: "And I always thought he had a thing for Téa, too."
A few seconds passed, during which Joey screwed up his eyes and tried to think. Then the quiet was broken by a small, guilty, "Oops."
"Oops what?" Joey asked, raising his head.
"That explains it."
"Why Yugi looked like I picked up the Millennium Puzzle and bashed it over his head when I asked him if he'd help set Téa up with Seto."
Joey looked at him sharply. "What?"
"I could be exaggerating slightly," Mokuba ventured, wringing his hands. It was only the fact that he looked so genuinely sorry that Joey didn't stalk away, find Téa, and make her promise to stay fifty feet away from Seto Kaiba at all times.
"Look…" he finally said. "I'm gonna swing by the Game Shop and talk to Yugi about this. Okay? I'll catch you later, Mokuba."
"Wait!" Mokuba protested, doubting that Joey would come find him again. "I'll go with you."
Joey looked uncertain. "Ah, Mokuba… maybe Yug and I should talk alone for a while."
Mokuba pouted, but didn't want to press the matter. He was exceptionally lucky that Joey actually seemed to be entertaining the idea. "Well… maybe I can come to the Game Shop later on?"
Joey heaved a sigh. "Yeah," he grumbled. "Give me maybe half an hour, okay?"
"Sure," Mokuba promised happily, feeling optimistic.
"Do you like roses?"
A light laugh. "You think everything's too sentimental. I'm not talking about all the commercial exploitation of the rose. I just wondered if you thought it was a nice flower."
A noncommittal silence.
"Because you have a whole garden full of them, you know…" A teasing wave of the hand. "I just figured…"
A laugh. "Okay, okay. Yeah, I like roses. So what?"
When the second hand swept past the twelve, Mokuba promptly swept into the Game Shop. He'd been standing outside its doors for the last five minutes, waiting for exactly half an hour to elapse before confronting Yugi and Joey.
The two of them were sprawled on the floor when he entered, causing the bell on the door to jingle. "Hey, Mokuba's here," Joey said, twisting to see him. He quickly scrambled up, sweeping all the Duel Monster cards lying in front of him into a messy pile. "We'll play some other time, Yug, we should talk to him now-"
"Joey," Yugi protested, frowning at the cards in his hand. "I was just about to bring out my Dark Magician, and you only had two hundred lifepoints left."
"Yeah, well," Joey muttered, scooping up his deck. "Too bad we never got to finish the game."
"Joey!" Yugi protested again, while a smile twitched onto Mokuba's face.
"So, uh… will you help me?" he asked, plunging right into the main point. "You're not in love with Téa, are you?"
"Mokuba," Joey said in a slightly warning tone of voice, his usually good-natured expression slipping into a scowl of disapproval. "That wasn't very tactful-"
"No offense, Joey, but I don't think you're one to talk," Yugi interrupted, giggling a little. "It's okay." He started gathering his Duel Monster cards, slowly, with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Mokuba, I talked to Téa about a week ago," Yugi confessed. "I didn't actually tell her that I liked her, but I sort of hinted at it. She let me down really easily- she told me that we were best friends forever, but that we couldn't be more."
Mokuba's excited face slowly dimmed, and he started feeling guilty once again.
"But anyway," Yugi continued quickly, his face glowing red- he was probably regretting getting onto this topic. "So I don't feel bad about trying to get her together with Seto. See, there's something about Téa. She has a… a sort of natural instinct to help people. She goes to where she's needed. I guess she realized that I didn't need her in the same way anymore- I've come so far with her help. Now she should find someone who needs whatever light she brings with her- like your brother."
"I know Seto needs her," Mokuba ventured. "He's so lonely. He's always moping around, doing computer stuff… the last week, he hasn't seemed so grumpy, but I haven't seen him at all. He goes outside and sits in the garden for hours on end. He won't let anyone talk to him."
"Maybe Téa can help draw him out of his shell," Joey reasoned aloud, somewhat hopefully. "And get him to stop insulting me!"
"What do you mean, so what?"
"Why does it matter?"
"What, that you like roses?"
"Yeah. Why does it matter?"
"You know, I haven't seen much of Téa lately," Joey said thoughtfully as he and Yugi walked down the street.
"Now that you mention it, me neither," Yugi replied. "She's just been so busy."
"Yeah, I know she has dance lessons and schoolwork and that new job," Joey said, scrunching up his face. "But it's not just that. She's always been able to make time before. Except now, I barely see her at the end of the day before she's scurrying off."
"Well, maybe Kaiba will be able to help her back," Yugi suggested. "If she's about to withdraw into a shell,"
"And he's already set up camp in one," Joey interjected.
"Then maybe together, they can pull each other out of the shell!" Yugi beamed.
They continued in silence, while Joey mulled that over. "I think there's something seriously wrong with your logic," he finally grumbled, but left it at that. Yugi looked faintly insulted, though he knew better than to start up again. When he broke the quiet, it was with a new topic.
"I hope Téa doesn't get mad at us when she finds out what we're doing."
Joey looked at him in surprise. "Geez, Yug- you look really guilty. It's not like we're doing anything wrong. I think Téa'd appreciate that we care enough about her to try and find her a boyfriend. Even if he is just a rich sleazeball…"
"But our plan…"
"It's not very nice, is it?"
Joey locked his hands behind his head and gave Yugi a long look. The plan that they concocted with Mokuba involved luring Téa and Seto to the park, then inventing reasons to leave them stranded together.
"We agreed we weren't going to try to lock them in the Porta-Potty," Joey reminded.
"But it's still not nice!" Yugi exclaimed.
"You mean the part where we forcibly drag her to the park, then abandon her, and hope Kaiba doesn't rip her head off?" When Yugi nodded, Joey continued: "Well, sure, but no one ever said love was easy."
"Joey…" Yugi reprimanded.
"Hey, look, we're here," Joey said, ignoring him and charging ahead to Téa's doorstep. He rung the bell, then turned and waited impatiently for Yugi to catch up. "Look at it this way, buddy," he said in a low voice, hearing footsteps from inside. "We might have to tick Téa off a little bit before we get her to understand that she should be with Kaiba. But once she realizes she's in love, she'll thank us!"
The door swung open, but Joey didn't seem to realize it. A sour thought had just occurred to him, judging by the look on his face. "I forgot. Why do we think she'll want to fall in love with him again?"
"Hello, Téa," Yugi said hastily, catching sight of her bemused expression.
"Hey, guys," she said uncertainly, stepping out onto the doorstep with them. "What's up?"
"Well, we haven't been spending much time with you lately," Yugi said brightly. "Wanna go hang out at the park?" Now that he was actually committed, he ignored the nagging voice at the back of his head that told him it was true, they hadn't spent much time together, and that him dumping her at the park wasn't about to improve their relationship.
She hesitated. "I'd love to, guys, I really would. But… some other time, maybe?"
"We've lost our minds, Yugi!" Joey said in a hushed whisper. Yugi very carefully nudged him in the ribs.
"Come on, Téa!" Yugi stepped back in order to provide her with a sweeping view of the clear blue sky- and also in a feeble effort to shield Joey, who had apparently realized what it was he was doing. "It's a beautiful day! We won't get many more opportunities like this!"
"The forecast for this week is pretty good," Téa reminded him, glancing at her watch. From inside her house, a phone rang. "Can I meet you there tomorrow?"
"I'm busy tomorrow," Yugi lied.
"Tomorrow sounds great! Only, let's meet other side of town, 'kay?"
"Shut up, Joey," Yugi hissed. He then turned his smile back onto Téa: "We haven't seen you in so long! Do us this favor, please? Hang out with us today?"
Téa looked guilty, but still resolute. "I'm sorry, Yugi, I can't. I promised-"
"Téa!" Her mother called. "Come in here a second, please! I have a message!"
"Hold on, guys, I'll be right out," she said apologetically, disappearing into the house and letting the screen door close behind her. Yugi turned to face Joey, crossing his arms, a look of disapproval on his face.
"We're trying to set up our best friend with Seto Kaiba!" Joey said wildly. "What were we thinking? I can't do this to Téa! I can't do this to Kaiba!"
"Stop it, Joey," Yugi said sternly. "You agreed to do this, remember? We gave Mokuba our word!"
"Kid's cracked up in the head," Joey muttered.
"Come on. I know you don't like Kaiba, Joey, but I do!"
"You… do?" he asked weakly.
"Yeah. I know that somewhere under there, Kaiba's a normal, sensitive human being! I've tried to help him draw it out, and I think he's gotten better! He'd be great with Téa, I just know it. And like I said- Téa needs to help people. She needs to know that someone depends on her. The two of them just fit, Joey, whether you like it or not."
Yugi crossed his arms, speech finished, and tried to stare Joey down. Joey's jaw was hanging loose, and he brushed a hand through his hair. "Geez…" he mumbled to himself.
Téa reemerged, grinning sheepishly. "Sorry about that. So, what were we saying?"
Joey took a deep breath and straightened his back, giving a visible effort to spit out the next words. "We were saying… that it'd be awesome if you came to the park with us today."
"You know what, guys? I'd love to!"
Both Yugi and Joey blinked, but Téa was already halfway down the steps. "Well, what are we waiting for?" she called back, laughter bubbling up her throat.
"I thought you said…" Yugi began, hurrying after her.
"Change of plans. I'm free to go! Race you- last one to the big willow tree by the river is a rotten egg!"
Yugi immediately took off after her, leaving Joey confused on the front step until he too began to chase Téa to the park.
"Well, it doesn't matter, I guess. And that's the point. It's just something simple and pure that you appreciate. That's nice."
"So why do you like them?"
"Seeeetoooo…" Mokuba whined. He rarely whined nowadays; he'd grown out of that a long time ago. Mature boys didn't whine.
Not unless they really really wanted something, that is.
Seto looked up immediately, knowing that the Whine meant business. If possible, it was even more important and attention-demanding than The Puppy Eyes.
"I wanna go to the paaaaark…" Mokuba said, clasping his hands together.
Seto looked from Mokuba to the computer, which had his work pulled up, to the clock. "I've got an appointment at one o'clock, but we can go maybe after dinner-"
"It has to be now!" Mokuba nearly shrieked, causing Seto to look at him in some alarm.
"Why, all of a sudden, do you have to go?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
"B-because we haven't spend time together in forever," Mokuba pouted. The realization that it was true didn't help the situation any, especially since he intended to disappear as soon as they arrived at the park.
Seto looked immensely guilty, which really didn't help the situation any. "Mokuba, I'm so sorry. I know I say this a lot, but I'll try to do better. Why don't we spend this weekend together? All of it."
Mokuba's jaw nearly hit the floor, and he forgot about the present task. "Are you serious? What about work?"
"Not like I've been getting much of that done anyway," Seto muttered as he exited out of his computer program. He then looked up at his little brother: "I've started easing up on the workload a bit. I discovered that the people who work for me aren't really as stupid as I thought." He laughed, but Mokuba didn't join in.
"Where have you been, then?" he asked, his voice just tingeing on suspicion.
Seto blinked a couple of times, apparently taken off guard. "I- I've been having a couple of appointments. And I've been in the garden a lot. I've been doing a lot of… thinking."
"So what do you say, kiddo? You want to spend the weekend together, just you and me?"
"Yeah!" Mokuba cheered.
"We can do whatever you want," Seto promised.
Mokuba's eyes lit up. "Whatever I want…" he mused, already thinking.
Seto watched him fondly. Mokuba was planning what would be a great time together when his mind snapped back to the present, and the task at hand.
"Seto, I know it means a lot that we'll get this weekend together," he pleaded. "But I really really really really want to go to the park now!"
"Mokuba," Seto started, his voice beginning to sound frustrated. "This is an appointment I've had for weeks. I can't cancel it on such short notice. Just give me a couple hours, I swear, and-"
"And then what?" he cried dramatically. "You'll suddenly remember another meeting and run off?"
"Aren't I more important than some stupid meeting?"
Quiet reigned. Then Seto heaved a sigh and picked up the phone. "Wait for me outside," he said in a low tone, already dialing.
Worried that he'd overstepped his bounds, Mokuba complied, closing the door behind him. He sat across from the doorway, fiddling with pieces of the rug, while Seto carried on a muffled conversation indoors. Finally, the office door creaked open and Seto stood there, gazing solemnly down on him.
Mokuba scrambled to his feet, then Seto's face broke out into a slight smile. "It's okay, Mokuba. I rescheduled my d- appointment. We'll go to the park now if you really want to… as long as you promise to let me keep the appointment tomorrow."
"Okay!" Mokuba cried in ecstasy, jumping up and throwing his arms around Seto's neck in a hug. "You're the best you're the best you're the best!"
"I know," he muttered immodestly as he carried Mokuba down the stairs and to the limo.
"Why do you like them?"
"What is this, the Inquisition? I thought the point was that roses are simple and pure. I don't need a reason."
"Well, you don't need a reason. But most people have one anyway."
"How far up do you think I can climb?" Joey asked eagerly, craning his neck to look at the willow tree.
Téa eyed it up and down. "It looks pretty easy, once you get up that first branch."
"Tcch, it might look easy, but that's just the way trees are," Joey said wisely, patting it. "I'm gonna go for it." He wrapped his arms around the lowest branch, a good six feet off the ground, and tried lifting his legs. "Errrgh," he groaned, kicking in the empty space. Téa watched with an arched brow, a smile tugging at her lips.
"Good luck, Joey," Yugi said cheerfully, shooting a covert gaze over his left shoulder. Mokuba and Seto had just entered the park, playfully punching each other in the side. "I'm going to just run to the bathroom. I'll be right back."
Téa wrinkled her nose. "You're brave enough to set foot in the Porta-Potties they have here? Good luck to you."
"Eh-heh," he laughed nervously, remembering the earlier version of their plan. "Yeah… see you in a second."
He dashed away. Across the park, Seto saw him running by and automatically began scowling.
"Hey, Seto," Mokuba said, eagerly tugging his hand. "I wanna try and climb that tree."
Seto's eyes followed Mokuba's finger and automatically began judging the safety of the plan. He set his jaw reluctantly. "I don't know…"
"Come on, I'll be fine!" Mokuba said, yanking him forward. "Let's go! You can give me a boost!"
Sighing, Seto followed him. He had to let Mokuba start trying new things one of these days. He just wished Mokuba had picked something safer, like playing Frisbee, or picking flowers… or at least decided to try to climb a shorter tree. This willow was so big that one of its branches extended all the way across the small river, touching a second willow on the other side.
"Oh, look, it's Téa," Mokuba said in a voice of surprise that sounded slightly off. Seto glanced forward and found her lounging under the tree.
"So it is," he said, unimpressed.
Mokuba ran up to her, smiling in greeting. "Hey Téa! Want to watch me climb this tree!"
"Hi, Mokuba!" she beamed, standing up. She'd been sitting on a protruding root, and now she absently dusted off her rear. "How are you? It's been a while!"
"Yeah," he said, nodding. Seto came up behind him and nodded coolly to Téa, then proceeded to ignore her.
"Want that boost, Mokuba?" he asked, cupping his hands together.
"Uh-huh," Mokuba nodded enthusiastically, stepping into the makeshift stirrup. Seto lifted him easily and Mokuba began his ascent, deliberately choosing to disappear into the leafy area closer towards the river.
He paused once he was out of sight, listening closely. He heard nothing but the stirring of leaves.
"Are they talking?" Joey whispered, crouching on a branch a few feet above him.
"I don't think so…" Mokuba whispered back, shifting slightly.
"Mokuba?" Seto's voice called.
"I'm fine," he responded loudly. "It's really cool up here."
"Why don't you come on down?" Seto suggested nervously. Mokuba rolled his eyes at Joey.
"Actually, I found a bird's nest!" he called down. "I want to look at it for a while, is that okay? Just wait for me there!"
"All right," the response came after a short pause. Mokuba sighed.
"Okay, I checked things out. Look how easy this will be," Joey said, pointing. Mokuba followed his gaze to see the extended tree branch. "We shimmy down there," Joey explained. "Then, holding onto that, drop a few feet onto the branch of the tree across the river, and shift our weight onto there. We crawl down the trunk, piece of cake, and end up on the opposite side."
"Great," Mokuba said, eyeing the pathway. It maybe looked a little intimidating… but he could do it.
"I'll lead the way," Joey said, starting down. He was already on the right branch. "Just follow me."
Mokuba complied. The plan seemed to be working so far. Once they were on the opposite side of the river, where Seto and Téa couldn't come after them, they would wave and tell the soon-to-be-lovers that they wanted to check something out. Then he and Joey would dash away, meet up with Yugi, and the three of them would keep their distance. Seto and Téa would be stuck together- Seto wouldn't move in case Mokuba came looking for him, and Joey and Yugi were sure that Téa would wait for them.
Of course, when they plotted all this, they usually imagined Seto and Téa at least talking.
Joey was carefully making his way down the branch, but Mokuba didn't follow right away. "Be there in a second," he whispered, and Joey looked up and nodded.
Mokuba swiftly clambered over until he was right above Téa. She and Seto weren't talking, but they were at least sitting next to each other. In fact, this was a pretty good sign- they were much closer together than he would have hoped. It was probably because the only comfortable seating was atop the protruding, natural roots, and space there was limited.
Now, to get them talking. Maybe he could get Seto interested in Téa's well-being: scrounging around, he pried up a bit of tree bark and dropped it on Téa's head, quickly scurrying back into the leafy foliage.
"Hey!" she said, startled, lifting a hand and pulling it out of her hair. "What was that?" She arched her head backwards. "Was that you, Joey?"
"Wheeler's here, too?" Seto asked blandly.
Great. Now they'd probably end up arguing. Mokuba prepared to follow Joey; leaving them alone was probably the best thing he could do right now.
But as he started to put his weight on the tree branch, it wobbled dangerously. Puzzled, Mokuba looked up, to see Joey dangling precariously, his eyes wide. He was holding onto the branch with one hand, and was trying to swing his legs up onto the other tree's branch; apparently he'd slipped.
Helplessly, Mokuba watched. There wasn't anything he could do to help: If he tried to make his way over to Joey, he'd just rattle the branch and cause him to fall. So he watched the blonde boy flail around. Joey finally got one leg hooked onto the lower branch. Gritting his teeth, he let go of the top one, falling a bit before straddling the lower branch hard.
"Ow," Joey squeaked, in a very undignified manner. Then he was slipping again, grabbing wildly. His legs swung loose, he grabbed at the branch with a hand, but to no avail. "Aaah!" he cried as his grip broke and he plunged downward. A second later, he hit the water.
Upon hearing the noise, Seto leapt up and ran around the tree in record time.
"What was that?" he cried frantically, his eyes darting up to the still-vibrating branch and a few leaves falling down. His gaze zeroed in on the body bobbing around in the water: "Mokuba!" Without a second's hesitation, he dove into the frigid water, fighting against the gently-moving current. He grabbed the body around the waist and began towing it back to shore before it registered that the person he'd grabbed was much broader, and taller, and blonder than his little brother.
Sheepish amber eyes stared into his. "Hey, Kaiba."
"Wheeler!" Seto snarled, letting go of him immediately and shoving him away. Joey's eyes widened as he started to get caught up in the current again, before thrashing a bit and starting to swim to the shore. Feeling utterly disgruntled, Seto swam in Wheeler's wake, wondering how it was possible for him to splash around so much damn water just by swimming.
Joey sloshed his way out of the lake, wringing out his clothes. Téa and Mokuba were waiting for him on the bank, eyes wide.
"You are completely foolish," Seto ground out as he emerged from the water, his trenchcoat dragging in the mud behind him. He looked down at it and gritted his teeth; he took it off and tried in vain to squeeze all the water out.
"Joey, what were you thinking?" Téa asked disapprovingly.
"Wheeler doesn't think," Seto muttered, and she shot him a disparaging look.
Mokuba tugged hopelessly at his hair. This day was a lost cause. "Seto, maybe we should go home and you can change," he suggested quietly.
"Mm-hmm," Seto mumbled, shooting daggers at Joey.
"We should head off too. You're sopping," Téa told Joey, shaking her head. "And where did Yugi run off to?"
Seto's eyes narrowed to slits, but Mokuba wondered about that. When Mokuba and Joey failed to meet him, shouldn't he have headed back?
"Maybe he really did stop at the Porta-Potty," Joey murmured in Mokuba's ear. "Someone should go see if he's still there."
"You're all wet," Mokuba whispered back. "I'll go."
"What are you whispering about?" Seto asked grouchily, and the both of them jumped.
"I'm going to go check up on Yugi," Mokuba said quickly, trotting off before Seto could stop him. "I'll be right back, I swear!"
"Mokuba," Seto started to holler, but he broke out into a run, leaving Seto behind. Silence reigned as Seto stared blankly into space and Téa stared blankly at Joey and Joey glanced pointedly between Seto and Téa, hoping that they'd just get the hint and start staring at each other. A light wind went by, sending a chill up his soaked body. He shook his head violently, and more droplets of water sprayed everywhere.
"Just like a dog," Seto commented acidly. Joey opened his mouth to make a sharp retort, but saw Téa's pained expression.
"Guys, don't fight," she pleaded, and then Mokuba was back.
"Is something wrong?" Seto asked, seeing his little brother's white face.
"Is Yugi okay?" Téa added.
"Y-yeah," Mokuba said, struggling to get his face under control. The color was slowly returning, and he started to smile, like he found something funny. "Um, there's just one little problem…"
"What is that?" Seto asked wearily, running a hand through his hair and causing it to stick up messily.
"Y-Yugi stopped by the Porta-Potty… and you know, they don't do a good job with taking care of them here, they always smell really bad and the water doesn't work half the time and-"
"Get to the point," Seto asked, sounding grouchy.
"And the locks sometimes stick," Mokuba rushed on, "And, well… the lock got stuck again and Yugi's been trying to open it for the last five minutes and he can't."
Somewhere in the distance, a bird chirped.
A half-smile. "It's awfully sappy."
A teasing grin. "Sentimental, you mean?"
"You know, Kaiba looked awfully pleased when the door opened and you finally got out," Joey remarked, basking in the warmth of the sun.
"That's a good sign, I guess," Yugi said uncertainly. It was the next day and the three of them were back in the park, staying far away from trees and rivers and Porta-Potties, planning what to do since their first scheme had so completely, utterly, totally bombed.
"Nah," Joey said, squinting up his eyes. "I think it was that, after you saved his butt so many times, he finally got to repay you by fishing you out of a Porta-Potty."
"I think he's right," Mokuba said glumly. "I hate to admit it, but my brother's sadistic in that sort of way."
"You should have seen him grinning when you said the toilet was starting to bubble," Joey remarked.
"Oh, great, then," Yugi muttered sarcastically.
"So what do we try next?" Mokuba wondered aloud. He was lying on his back, hand thrown over his eyes to protect them from the sun, his mass of dark hair pillowed behind him.
"Something that doesn't involve me taking an impro swim."
"At least we didn't decide to go with our original plan and lock them in the Porta-Potty," Yugi sighed. "That wasn't too much fun."
"Well…" Joey said slowly. "Now that you mention it, that's not such a bad idea…"
"What?" Yugi asked in alarm. "Joey, you weren't in there. I think something was alive in the cesspool."
"Not necessarily lock them in a Porta-Potty," Joey amended. "But locking them up together- that might work."
"It might," Mokuba agreed, his voice rising in excitement. "And I know the perfect place! You know the boathouse down by the river?"
"It has a padlock," Joey said suddenly. "Yeah, you can pay to rent a canoe for a couple of hours. The guy who works there opens the door, you go in and get one…"
"Or rather, we make Seto and Téa go in and get one…" Yugi added, sounding slightly reluctant.
"We knock out the worker guy, lock the door, and hey presto! They'll be best buddies in a few minutes," Joey said excitedly, punching the air.
"Seto promised to do whatever I wanted this weekend," Mokuba chimed in, grinning. "Is Téa free?"
"She said she was," Joey replied.
"So it's a go? How does eleven-o'clock on the dot sound?"
"Let's synchronize watches," Joey said seriously, sitting up and comparing their wrists. Only Yugi still looked troubled.
"Uh… guys? How, exactly, are we planning on knocking out whoever's working that shift?"
Joey grinned at him, and Yugi instinctively leaned backwards. Whatever he had in mind, it couldn't be good…
"We're not knocking anyone out, Yugi buddy," Joey said, reaching over and rapping the solid gold of the Millennium Puzzle with his knuckles. "He is."
"Oh, shut up." A smile, a wink, to show that the words aren't meant to be taken seriously.
"So? What's this sentimental reason?"
"Hurry, Seto!" Mokuba urged, already fifty feet down the pathway.
Seto sighed, taking his time in catching up to his excitable little brother. "You know, it's okay to slow down, Mokuba. It's a gorgeous day. Let's enjoy it."
"I can enjoy it more on the river," Mokuba claimed, bouncing impatiently on the balls of his heel. He nervously checked his watch: It was already eleven-oh-three. He just hoped Yugi and Joey would be able to find an excuse to dawdle while he and Seto hurried down the pathway.
He dashed up ahead, ignoring Seto's protests, causing his older brother to chase after him. When Mokuba burst into the clearing where the canoe rentals were, he saw to his relief that Yugi and Joey were casually leaning against the shack where the worker stayed, talking easily, and not paying attention to the fact that Téa had drawn back, gazing longingly at the water.
"We're here!" he called back to Seto, who trudged into the clearing, but also as a means of announcing his presence. Yugi looked up, considerably relieved, but when Seto caught sight of Yugi and Joey his face immediately broke out into a scowl.
"Not again," he muttered.
Mokuba looked back at Seto and tried to see him from an outsider's point of view. Despite the annoyed scowl now lining his face, his brother could probably pass for normal now. He was wearing swim trunks and a loose black shirt, along with a pretty sad-looking pair of flip-flops. Over his shoulder he'd slung his and Mokuba's towels, and he was carrying a small cooler in his right hand.
"You here to rent a canoe?" the man asked cheerfully, pushing a clipboard towards Seto for him to fill out. His brother's brow wrinkled briefly as he nodded; Mokuba knew Seto wasn't used to renting anything. But though they had a great power-boat back home, they didn't own a canoe. Probably because it simply hadn't occurred to Seto, but that was okay. It was working to his advantage.
"All right," the man said, glancing at the completed form, along with Seto's check. "Lifejackets are in the shed behind me. Help yourself while I go unlock the canoes."
Seto moved automatically to go get a canoe. Yugi and Joey edged, however, towards the shed. "We'll grab the lifejackets, Téa," Yugi said absently. "If you wouldn't mind getting the canoe…?"
Her brow creased, but she said, "Okay, sure." She glanced at Joey to see if he would help, but his back was to her as he followed Yugi into the shed. With a slight shrug, Téa headed off after the worker and Seto.
Mokuba reached out and tugged at Yugi's shirt, steering him around so Téa and Seto couldn't see him approaching from inside. Yugi followed complacently enough, but still looked guilty.
"Are you sure this is a good-"
"Ssssh!" Joey and Mokuba hissed at once. The worker, lounging in the open doorway, glanced over.
They didn't answer, just shoved Yugi forward. The small boy stumbled, they saw a faint golden light emerge from the Puzzle, and a second later the worker slumped with a look of surprise on his face.
Joey darted forward and slammed the door, fumbling madly with the padlock before locking it with a satisfying 'click'.
"What the hell?" Seto's voice drifted from the inside.
Mokuba crouched down beside the unconscious form of the worker. His eyes were only half-closed, but he had a pleased and slightly dopey smile on his face. "He looks happy enough," Mokuba offered, taking a hold of one of his arms. Yugi pouted, but grabbed the other arm and helped Mokuba drag the worker back to the shed. They left him, half-in and half-out of the doorway, lying in the dirt.
"Where should we go?" Yugi wondered aloud. "We'll have to let them out eventually, and they're going to want to know what happened to us."
"By the time they're ready to come out, they won't care what happened to us," Joey predicted confidently. Yugi rolled his eyes.
"We could tell them we ran back up the road for help," Mokuba suggested.
"Yes, but why did the guy get knocked out in the first place?" Yugi asked, twisting his lips.
He never got an answer. An ominous thud was heard. When they looked up in surprise, bits of leaves were drifting down from the roof of the canoe boathouse.
"What happened?" Yugi asked.
"It looks like someone hit the wall…" Mokuba began, and then the thud sounded again. Then there was a bang and a crash and a boom, and the front wall of the boathouse fell over, shortly followed by the roof.
Seto's figure was the first thing visible through the cloud of dust, waving his arms wildly. A stray timber fell from the roof and smacked him on the head, causing him to reel back into Téa, who promptly fell over the back of a row of canoes.
"SHIT!" Seto bellowed.
"You knocked down the boathouse!" Yugi gaped.
"He knocked down the boathouse…" Mokuba repeated numbly.
"He knocked over Téa," Joey pointed out, rushing over to help the dazed girl up.
"Shit," Seto repeated, brushing off all the dirt and dust and splinters from his arms and head. He looked around at the disaster scene he'd caused, along with the unconscious worker, and his eyes narrowed. "Screw this," he spat, then seemed to realize how his language had degenerated. "Come on, Mokuba." With great dignity, he marched over and picked up his towels and the cooler from where he had deposited them. "We're going home."
"But…" Mokuba started to protest weakly, then realized that he really had nothing to say. It was obvious that, in the absence of a holding place with all four walls, their plan had once again gone down the tubes. He heaved a sigh, and gave a dejected wave to Yugi and Joey, who were flanking Téa.
"Really, I'm fine," she insisted, shooting Seto's back a dirty look. Mokuba's heart sank.
"Don't give up," Joey mouthed when he saw Mokuba looking at them. "We'll try again later. Meet you tomorrow."
Mokuba gave a tiny nod, then hurried after Seto.
"You know…" he said once he caught up. Seto turned to face him, his face looking half-irritated, half-exhausted. Mokuba allowed a small giggle to escape his throat.
"You knocked down a boathouse. That's pretty impressive."
"Roses can make even the most barren place look beautiful."
"Is that why you have a whole garden of them?"
"I can immerse myself in this rose garden, lose myself in the beauty."
"You know our problem?" Joey asked, pounding his fist into his open palm. They were back in the park again, and after a brief discussion of why they were wasting a perfectly good Sunday afternoon they'd resumed planning how to get Seto and Téa together.
"We can't do anything right?" Yugi suggested.
"We're clumsy?" Mokuba asked.
"No." He scowled. "We're being too subtle."
Yugi and Mokuba exchanged glances, then shrugged.
"What did you have in mind, Joey?" Yugi asked patiently.
Joey grinned. "Well, I'm glad you asked." He brought out a book from behind his back with a flourish. "Ta-da!"
Mokuba leaned over to read the title, his lips moving soundlessly. Yugi glanced at it, then at Joey, looking doubtful. " 'The Love Poems of John Donne' ?"
"In school tomorrow, I'll rip out one of the better poems and put it on Téa's desk," Joey beamed. "With a little note at the bottom that says 'From Seto…' And maybe I'll do the same to him. Except I'll write 'From Téa'. Genius, huh?" He tapped the cover of the book.
"It's…" Mokuba began.
"You…" Yugi trailed off.
"I think…" Mokuba never finished his sentence.
"The thing is…" Yugi let out a great sigh.
"Hey, you have any better ideas?" Joey demanded.
Yugi and Mokuba exchanged another helpless glance. "We can always claim we had no idea what he was planning," Mokuba whispered.
"I guess you could do it, then," Yugi said slowly, still shaking his head. "I just have this funny feeling this is going to go down the tubes, too… Something's going to go wrong."
"Hey, don't you trust me?" Joey asked, sounding injured. "I can make them think it was each other. There is absolutely no way this plan is gonna bomb."
"You want to know something else sentimental?"
"It must be my lucky day."
"You're like a rose too…"
Joey shot a furtive glance at Kaiba, blatantly paying no attention, sitting two rows behind him. Then he shot a glance at Téa, studiously taking notes, to his right. Then he happened to lock gazes with Yugi, sitting on the other side of Téa, and failing to pay attention as he usually did because he was so nervous. Joey grinned cheerfully and shot Yugi a thumbs-up, then carefully edged the book of poetry out of his backpack.
He'd forgotten to select the poems last night, so he idly looked through the pages. The Dream… Love's Progress… Saint Valentine's Day… He started to yawn, then his eyes widened. The Ecstasy? His Mistress Going to Bed? Yikes. He was not giving his best friend a poem titled 'The Ecstasy', even if it was supposed to be from his worst enemy.
Wait a second. Why was he doing this again?
Shaking his head, Joey flipped through again until he found a poem entitled 'The Triple Fool'. He muffled a snort of laughter- this one was perfect for Kaiba. Carefully, he tore the pages out, and took out a pen. Keeping the pages on top of the book, which was lying under the desk on his legs, he chewed at the tip. Should he go with the original plan and just write 'From Seto'? Or was something a little more dramatic in store?
A quick peek at Kaiba gave him his answer. He had to go all out.
Imitating Kaiba's perfect penmanship as best he could, Joey carefully stenciled: 'To the Love of my Life. You are the most beautiful and perfect creature I have ever laid eyes on. Please accept this poem as a token of my undying love. I worship you.' He stopped to admire his work: Was he laying it on a little thick, perhaps? Would Seto Kaiba actually say something like that?
The answer to both questions was 'no', but it didn't matter. Joey shrugged, then started to sign it. 'Your Soul-Companion, S-'
"Mister Wheeler, I highly doubt you whatever you are working so studiously on is related to what I am teaching, since most of my students keep the notebook on top of their desks," His teacher said, peering down at him sternly through her square glasses. "Hand that over, please."
Joey opened his mouth to protest, then clamped it shut again. Slowly, he handed her the paper, shooting a dirty look at a sniggering Tristan.
"The magazine, too, Mister Wheeler," she said impatiently, tapping her foot.
Joey's jaw came unhinged slightly. He was the king of passing notes in class! How had he been so easily foiled? Reluctantly, he brought out the book of poetry and handed it to her.
"Oh?" she asked, her narrowly plucked eyebrows shooting up. "Not a magazine? You shouldn't be reading it in class, Mister Wheeler, but has your literary taste improved?" She glanced at the cover- then stared.
" 'The Love Poems of John Donne'?"
Joey cringed as the class broke out into laughter (there were, terrifyingly, a few dreamy sighs as well). Loudest of all, predictably, was Tristan. Joey didn't entirely blame him- he knew that if there positions were reversed he'd be leading the class in hoots. But second loudest was Yugi, the traitor! Yugi had guessed this would happen; he had no business laughing.
But what was surprising was that Joey could have sworn he heard low snickers emitting from Kaiba. That Kaiba would have a good chuckle at Joey's expense wasn't surprising, but Kaiba had made it a point not to produce any sound waves, from beginning to end of the day, unless called on by some foolish teacher who didn't seem to notice the death glares he was sending their way.
The teacher flipped through the book, her nose wrinkling slightly, then glanced at the poem Joey had torn out. " 'I am two fools, I know/For loving, and for saying so/In whining poetry'…" She handed him the book back, smiling. "Please refrain from reading it again in my class, though I daresay you might enjoy studying these in Literature…"
Joey accepted the book wordlessly, his face bright red. At least she hadn't read his postscript. He should just be grateful for that…
No matter how much he wanted to kick Tristan's butt.
Mokuba's reaction three hours later, upon catching sight of Joey's despondent face: "The plan bombed, didn't it?"
"That was so sweet."
"Don't be embarrassed. You know I love you."
"I can't believe I said that…"
Joey tugged the black mask on over his face and stared at himself in the mirror. Black gloves. Black shoes and socks. Black sweatpants and a black hooded sweatshirt. Blue boxer shorts, but he wasn't planning on letting anyone see those. Especially since he couldn't quite recall the last time he'd washed them.
"Not only will my big brother think you're a mugger, so will the whole town of Domino," Mokuba muttered, crossing his arms. The two of them were crowded into the small bathroom in a local gas station.
"I'll hide behind a hedge," Joey defended. "I happen to know the route Téa takes to get to her dance lessons. There's a place where I'll be completely out of sight."
"Yeah, but how are you planning to get there?"
"I'll take my bike." Joey motioned out the window. Mokuba, craning his neck, could see a ten-speed propped against the chainlink fence.
"So, in other words, you'll have to ride in the open," Mokuba said skeptically.
Joey paused halfway out the door. "Oh yeah…"
Mokuba sighed. "If you take the mask off, I think you'll be all right. People who don't know you might think you're strange, but that's okay. The people who do know you already realize that you're strange."
"Hey!" Joey said indignantly, yanking the mask off and causing his hair to stick out every direction.
"Are you sure we shouldn't have told Yugi?"
"I told you," Joey said, trying with zero success to mat his hair down again. "He might not entirely approve of pretending to mug Téa so that Seto has to come to her rescue."
"But if you think Yugi wouldn't approve, you don't think there's something wrong with the plan?" Mokuba asked skeptically.
"Do you think there's something wrong with the plan?" Joey crossed his arms triumphantly.
Mokuba thought about it, then shrugged. "I guess it's a go. I rode my bike, too, it's out front."
The street they were headed for was Charter Road. It was only a few miles away, and Mokuba found it an easy trip. Doubtless Joey would have, too, under different conditions.
"I'm… soaked…" he panted, dropping his bike under a leafy oak tree.
"Mmm," Mokuba murmured noncommittally, trying to stay upwind as discreetly as possible. Joey's heavy black clothes were not suited to the hot, humid weather; he was drenched in sweat. He steered his bike around to the other side of the huge tree, then did Joey a favor and moved the other boy's bike as well. Joey was lying flat on his back in the shade of the tree, taking in great gasps of air.
Pacing back and forth, getting slightly nervous about Joey's self-proclaimed 'brilliant plan', Mokuba whipped out the cell-phone Seto made him carry at all times and dialed his brother's direct line.
Seto answered immediately, as Mokuba was used to him doing. "Hey, kiddo."
"Seto," Mokuba said, trying to make his voice sound just that right mixture of dire need, but no mortal danger. "You need to come pick me up right now."
"Is something wrong?" the immediate reply came. "Are you hurt?"
"I'm at the corner of Charter Road and Marbury Lane," Mokuba explained. "Can you please come get me? Please?"
"Of course, Mokuba, but first let me make sure you're okay-"
"I'll be better once you're here," Mokuba said, changing tones to a sugary-sweet voice. "I love you, big brother."
"I love you too, Mokuba," came the bewildered response. "But are you sure you're-"
He hung up, knowing that it would only be a matter of minutes before Seto came screeching up. He'd probably take his own car, and drive himself, which Mokuba enjoyed much more than when they were sequestered to the backseat of the chauffeured limo.
"Téa is on her way, right?" he asked, strolling over to where Joey lay.
"Uh-huh," Joey gasped, struggling to his feet and pushing back the sleeve of his sweatshirt to see his watch. "In, say, five minutes- she likes to get to the studio early."
"Good," Mokuba said in satisfaction. "That's about the time Seto should be getting here. I'm moving down the street to take my position. I'll send him down here, okay?"
"Sure thing," Joey grunted, sidling deep into the high hedge right behind the tree. "Here's to hoping this works."
Mokuba saluted Joey, beaming, then took off at a trot. The corner of Charter and Marbury was just around the bend- out of sight of the tree. Once Seto rescued Téa from being 'mugged' by a masked Joey, Mokuba wanted them to be alone for a little while. Maybe Seto could help Téa back to the car, and he could drive them to the studio- and Mokuba could insist on going in to watch her for a little while.
He hummed to himself, lost in these happy thoughts. Sooner than he expected, Seto came zooming up and slammed on his breaks the second he caught sight of his little brother. Mokuba shuddered to think of the number of laws Seto must have broken on his frantic journey over here.
"Seto!" he cried, opening his eyes very wide.
Seto didn't bother to open the door of the red convertible, but vaulted over and out in one swift motion. "Mokuba! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, but the kitty isn't!"
"What?" Seto halted in his tracks.
Mokuba pointed back down the way he'd come, sniffling a little. "There's a kitty stuck in a tree back there!"
"Oh…" Seto said uncertainly, looking down the road.
"Behind the bend," Mokuba clarified, rubbing his eyes and doing his best to appear cute.
"All right… let's get in the car, Mokuba, I'll take you home-"
"But you have to save the kitty!" he cried dramatically.
Seto paused. Looked down the road. Heaved a sigh.
"Mokuba, where exactly did you see this cat?"
"In a big oak tree down there," Mokuba repeated. "It was crying and it looked very sad and I called you because I knew you'd help it!"
"Did you talk to its owner?" Seto asked.
"Um… I rang the doorbell, but no one was home!"
"Mokuba, this is really a job for the fire-department or something-"
"But by the time they get here, the kitty could be… could be… could be DEAD!"
"Mokuba, I think you're exagger-"
"You don't love me! You don't love the kitty!" Mokuba burst into tears. It was amazing how easily they came- all those years of practice were paying off.
Seto's head slumped forward, his chin touching his chest. "All right, go wait in the car," he mumbled resignedly.
"Will you save the kitty?" Mokuba asked eagerly.
"Yes, I'll save the damn cat."
"Yes, I'll save the kitty. But you wait here. I'll be back in a minute."
"I love you, big brother!" Mokuba cried ecstatically as Seto trudged down the street, mumbling various things under his breath.
This stream of curses- growing steadily more colorful as he got farther out of Mokuba's earshot- carried him just around the curve of the road until he heard a pathetic 'mew'.
He looked around, left and right, until he realized this was pointless and craned his head straight upward.
There, perched in a tree, was a small white-and-black kitten. It crouched fearfully on a precarious branch, staring down at him with large eyes oddly reminiscent of Mokuba himself.
"Okay," Seto sighed, eyeing the lowest branch. He had quite a climb ahead of him. "Here I go. Hold on, cat."
He only vaguely noticed that this was an apple tree. Funny… I could have sworn Mokuba said it was an oak.
"Don't say 'duh' to me!" A laugh.
"Sorry." A grin.
Joey hovered in the hedge, listening to Téa's cheerful humming as she walked steadily by. Damnit, Kaiba! Where are you?
She passed by the tree and Joey's panic rose. If Kaiba didn't get there soon, she'd be too far away for him to start chasing after her!
Finally, he heard the sound of footsteps in the distance, but unmistakably coming closer. Sighing in relief, he jumped out from the bush, undramatically getting his baggy sweatpants caught in the brambles.
Hearing the trampling of branches and leaves, mingled with various swears, Téa stopped in midstride and turned around. "Are you okay?" she asked automatically, before her brain caught up with her voice. Who was this person? Why was he dressed all in black, and with a mask, and why was he hiding like that?
The man stumbled forward finally and approached her. She nervously took a few steps backwards.
"G-Gimme all your money!" he said in a voice that sounded odd, like he was forcing it a few decibels lower.
Her jaw dropped open. Unbelievable. A mugger? She couldn't quite believe this was happening to her. Coming on the heels of everything she'd been through with Yugi and Joey, it seemed almost laughable.
Besides, she wasn't carrying any money.
"All I have is my leotard and ballet slippers," she said, narrowing her eyes and clutching the shoulder strap of her duffel bag. "And they're not particularly expensive. So unless you desperately want some faded leg warmers, I suggest you buzz off."
The man hesitated, like he hadn't seen this coming. "Uh… I don't believe you!"
He lunged forward, his fists held in the standard boxing position- in front of his chest, where it didn't look like he was actually about to hit her. Deciding that this mugger was a complete idiot, Téa swung her duffel bag.
The mugger reeled back, clutching the side of his head. "Owowowowowow!" he yelped. Téa retreated a few steps, holding her bag like a weapon in grim satisfaction.
She turned around to see Yugi hurrying toward her, his eyes wide. "What's going on?" he asked breathlessly.
Téa pointed accusingly at her attacker. "That guy just tried to take all my money!"
Yugi sucked in a breath and turned to face the man in black. The man, still with a hand pressed to the side of his face, turned to look at them.
For a split-second, Téa thought the voice sounded familiar. Then Yugi, his small face narrowed in anger, extended a hand. He held it palm-out, but it still managed to look menacing. Her attention snapped back to the Millennium Puzzle, which lit up briefly, leaving a ticked-off but triumphant ex-Pharaoh and an unconscious mugger in its wake.
"He won't bother you again," Yami said, sounding pleased with himself.
She felt herself blushing. "Er- thanks, Yami."
"No problem." Yami grinned easily at her, not seeming perturbed by their last conversation, where they had decided a relationship between them would never work out. "You were on your way to dance lessons, yes?"
"Yeah," she smiled. "You want to walk down there together?"
He checked his watch. "Sure. Yugi promised his grandfather we'd be home by three-thirty, but I have plenty of time to escort you to your lesson. I'll make sure no one else troubles you. Shall we?"
He offered her his elbow. Laughing, she took it. "Thanks, although I'm pretty good at fending for myself."
"I can see," he chuckled. "Looked like you had that guy beat before I got there."
Chatting happily, they set off down the road, leaving a stunned Joey Wheeler lying carelessly on the grass.
"Anyway. I can't believe I resorted to saying something so sappy."
"It's good to be sappy once in a while. Lets down your barriers."
"I appreciated it, you know. Especially-"
Mokuba bounced up and down in the car, waiting impatiently for Seto and Téa to return. What was wrong? Why was it taking this long? Joey hadn't given them any serious trouble, had he? Surely not even Joey wouldn't be that dumb…?
He was just about to leap out of the car and run back when he saw the unmistakable form of his brother stalk into view. Sure enough, Seto had a lady clutching onto his arm, but he was also wearing a deep scowl. The reason for that, Mokuba found out with a quick glance at the lady, was that it was not Téa. It was a short, skinny, frail, graying lady wearing a flowered bathrobe and clutching a paper bag.
He fell back into the seat, utterly stunned. However dumb Joey might be, he certainly wouldn't have attacked this woman.
He was running through all the odd possibilities for this occurrence when Seto marched up, gritting his teeth, and swung open the car door. Feeling exposed, Mokuba did his best to look small and harmless as the lady smiled at him, showing decaying teeth.
"Have some apples," she said, thrusting the paper bag into his hands.
"What?" he asked blankly.
"Some apples for you." She smiled again. "I happened to look out my window and see your brother perched in my apple tree, rescuing my sweet Snookums. The poor kitty was trapped up there. I'd been looking for her for hours. When I tried to thank your brother, he told me that it was you who first found Snookums. So I simply had to bring you some apples, as a thank-you."
Mokuba peered in the bag and found, to his chagrin, a dozen lovely green apples. "Thanks very much," he ground out.
"I informed her that I could just buy an orchard if I really wanted apples," Seto said through clenched teeth. "But she insisted."
The woman beamed at Mokuba so cheerfully he forced himself to smile back. "Uh… so thanks again. Uh, take care of your cat."
"Oh, I will!" she trilled, giving him a pat on the head and wobbling away.
"Do you need any help getting home?" Seto asked heavily.
"Oh, thank you, darling." (Seto's face went purple.) "But I'll be fine! Take care!"
As she trotted off down the bend, two more figures came into view. Téa and Yugi, arm in arm, giggling and poking one another. Mokuba nearly spilled all the apples. Seto looked up, and his face grew even more tense.
"Oh, look, it's the Kaibas!" Yugi called, sounding genuinely surprised. "Hey, Mokuba! Hello, Seto!" He beamed at them, then looked from Seto to Téa. "Hey, Téa, why don't we stop and talk with them a while?"
Téa checked her wristwatch, then flashed Seto and Mokuba a smile. "You stay, Yugi. I have to run on ahead or I'll be late for my dance lessons." She broke into a jog, passing by the two boys with no more than a second glance. Mokuba resisted the urge to start throwing the apples at the closest target in frustration.
"Let's go, Mokuba," Seto growled, climbing into the driver's seat. Mokuba gave Yugi a helpless shrug as Seto revved the engine and executed a sharp turn, heading in the opposite direction Téa had.
As they left Yugi coughing, bewildered, in a cloud of smoke, Mokuba caught a glimpse of a prone black figure just starting to stir by the oak tree.
"-Especially since it was so hard for you to say."
"Don't you want to know why I said it?"
Slightly surprised, slightly pleased.
"You know, it's actually kind of funny," Yugi said with a grin.
"Shut. Up." Mokuba and Joey ground out in unison.
"Have an apple," Mokuba added, throwing it at Yugi's head and getting even more annoyed when he managed to catch it.
"How could a duffel bag stuffed with clothes hurt so much?" Joey moaned, holding an ice pack to the side of his head. "Not to mention, someone tried to Mind-Crush me a few seconds later…"
"Sorry about that," Yugi said, taking a bite of the apple. "But you really should have told me what you were planning. Say, these are really good apples."
"You're just cheerful because you didn't get stuck in a Porta-Potty this time," Mokuba accused.
Yugi pouted. "That's not funny! I still have nightmares from that!"
"This planning-ahead stuff isn't working," Joey stated from under the ice pack.
"You're right," Mokuba sighed. "Everything we plan just goes down the drains."
"Which is why I brought these."
"Uh-oh," Yugi said anxiously.
Joey scowled. "Have a little faith, buddy! It's just a walkie-talkie. Or rather, three walkie-talkies." He groped around for his backpack and fished them out.
Mokuba reached out and picked one up, fiddling around with it, then nearly dropping it in surprise when it let out a loud squawk.
"I'll teach you how to use them," Joey assured Mokuba and Yugi. "What I figured is, Mokuba could follow Kaiba and Yug and I could follow Téa. We could talk with each other over the walkie-talkies, see where they're going, plan out how to get them to meet- you know, all that good stuff."
Yugi hesitated. "That sounds… an awful lot like stalking…"
Joey brandished the ice pack at him. "You see this head injury, Yugi?" (Yugi stayed silent, since he couldn't actually see the headache Joey claimed to (and probably did) have.) "That's all your fault! You and the stupid Mind-Crushing Spirit…"
Yugi's eyes flashed a dangerous crimson without his approval. "You didn't seem to mind when you needed me to knock out that boathouse employee…" he growled. "Besides, it wasn't a Mind-Crush. If I had used Mind-Crush, you'd be dead. Or worse." He grinned, a decidedly evil expression on Yugi's innocent little-boy face. "Would you like me to show you?"
"Uh, no, no," Joey said hastily. "Just, my point is, I sort of feel like you owe me…"
Yugi squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head several times. "Sorry," he said, his eyes wobbling a little like he was slightly dizzy. "I just had a major blank-out for a second there. Did Yami take over?"
"Yeah," Joey said quickly. "He expressed his approval of my plan."
Yugi went still, cocking his head slightly as if listening to something. Then he giggled a bit.
"Sorry about that," he apologized. "Anyway, Joey, I still think Téa might be mad at us if we follow her around…"
"Not if she doesn't find out," Joey suggested, at the same time Mokuba chimed in, "But it's for her own good!"
Yugi looked uncertain. "Okay, then, I guess…"
"Woo-hoo!" Joey whooped, sitting up a little too fast and falling over again when his head gave a jolt and the world started to spin. "Urrgh… Okay, here's how it works. I'm going to program in a specific frequency, and as long as you don't change it, we'll be able to talk." He flipped through channels: "You've gotta find a channel with good reception and that's not already occupied," he explained, stopping at one and letting the voices filter through. "See, other people are using this station…"
"Are they talking about Serenity, your sister?" Mokuba asked curiously, leaning forward.
"Huh?" Joey froze. The voices drifted up.
'This is the school Serenity goes to?' An annoyingly familiar voice sounded.
'I'm positive. I asked Joey. Of course, once he realized what I was up to…' An even more annoyingly familiar voice.
A sardonic laugh. 'Bet he wasn't happy.'
'Nope, he sure wasn't… I see her!'
'You probably can't see her. You're at the south entrance, right?'
'Yeah. Damn. Wait, I'm coming around…'
Joey finally regained his senses. "DUKE DEVLIN AND TRISTAN TAYLOR, STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM MY SISTER!" he bellowed into the walkie-talkie. The walkie-talkie gave a squeak of surprise, fell silent for a few seconds, then picked up again.
'What was that?'
'Oh my god. The walkie-talkie is channeling Joey's spirit!'
'I don't know. I'm going to talk to Serenity! Better luck later, Devlin!'
'Taylor, don't you harass that girl! You're the last guy she wants to see! I'm heading over right now!'
"DON'T YOU DARE!" Joey hollered, but the walkie-talkie went dead. He continued ranting into it for a few seconds, while Yugi and Mokuba carefully avoided strange glances from other park-goers.
"Damn them," Joey said furiously, throwing the walkie-talkie down at last. "I'll be back in an hour or two, guys, I've got some ass to pound…" He scrambled up, forgetting the ice pack, swayed a bit, then set off at a gallop. "Serenity, I will protect you!..."
"You're like a rose in bloom. You bring beauty to desolate areas… light to gray hazes… perfume to plainness."
No more words. A kiss, as sweet and delicate as a rose petal.
"He's out of range," Joey said, shaking the walkie-talkie up and down.
"What will shaking that do?" Yugi wondered aloud.
"Make me feel better."
Téa had been inside her house for the last half-hour after school ended, but now her silhouette appeared in the back door. "I'm heading out, Mom!" she called.
"Do you need a ride, dear?" the response floated up.
"No, I'm taking the shortcut through the woods. Thanks, though, and see you tonight! I love you!"
"Take care, honey," her mother responded.
Téa pushed open the screen door and headed into the sparse forest in her backyard. Behind one of these bushes, Yugi and Joey were crouching, and now they froze as still as rabbits.
"Hope she doesn't come this way…" Yugi said in a voice just below a whisper.
"Me too…" Joey murmured.
Téa, thankfully, didn't come too close. She didn't even glance in their direction, just threaded through the trees with an aura of purposefulness. Yugi and Joey exchanged quick looks, then Joey rose and started to follow Téa quietly. Heaving a silent sigh of resignation, Yugi hurried to catch up.
Téa seemed to be in an exceptionally good mood, humming slightly and dancing in and out of the trees. Joey wasn't nearly as graceful, though he went through a period where he tried to track her steps exactly. After twisting his ankle, and hobbling pathetically over to a disgruntled Yugi, he gave that up and just worked on being silent. He wasn't successful, exactly, but the woods were full of noise and Téa was apparently used to the odd branch snapping. Several times she happened to glance behind her, as if checking for a deer, but it never occurred to her that her two best friends were stalking her through the forest.
Yugi tried calling Mokuba every few minutes, but they were still out of range. Desperate for conversation, because he was feeling uneasy, Yugi timidly asked Joey, "Whatever happened with Serenity yesterday?" It was a topic he had, up until present, avoided; because, well… he didn't really want to know.
Joey cracked his knuckles menacingly, and Yugi immediately regretted asking.
"I caught up with her about five minutes after I left you," he growled under his breath. "Those two creeps were hanging off each arm, and she looked like she wished she were in Siberia or somethin'. Or maybe she was wishing they were in Siberia." He paused to consider it. "Anyway, I sure showed Devlin and my ex-buddy-Tristan. They won't be bothering her anymore."
"Tristan's still your buddy, and he's probably flirting with her right now," Yugi sighed quietly.
"Yeah, I know," Joey said without missing a beat. "I'll beat him up later or something. I think Téa's arrived at wherever she wanted to go."
Yugi looked up to see that Téa had come to a large wooden gate. She casually reached over and flipped a latch, passing through as if it were familiar territory.
Yugi and Joey exchanged anxious glances. "It looks like someone's property line," Yugi whispered.
"Do you think Téa's breaking and entering?" Joey wondered.
"I doubt it," Yugi sighed. "Should we follow her?"
"Of course," Joey said in a 'duh' tone. She was almost out of sight, so he broke into a quick sprint to the gate. Yugi dashed after him. Joey didn't bother to unlatch the gate, but swung a leg right over it. Yugi hesitated… the gate was a bit too high for him to do that. Gritting his teeth, he dropped to the ground and rolled under the lowest bar.
Joey and Téa were already quite a ways ahead. Yugi started after them, remembering that he hadn't tried Mokuba in a while. Not expecting anything, he tried calling him, and was relieved when Mokuba's voice came floating through the speakers.
"Mokuba! Thank goodness-"
'Hey, uh, do me a favor and keep your voice way down,' Mokuba whispered. 'I'm only a couple feet away from my big brother and I don't want him to hear anything.'
"Okay, sure. Where are you?"
'I'm bored out of my skull,' Mokuba said, sounding exasperated. 'He's just been sitting in the rose garden for the last hour, staring into space and doing nothing. My legs are falling asleep. I can't handle this much longer or my brain will die.'
"Oh. We just followed Téa through the woods. She's acting really strangely. She's cutting through someone's property, I think." Yugi caught sight of Joey up ahead, waving his arms frantically. He was standing in front of some odd structure. It looked like lattice. Yugi's brow furrowed. "Hey, Mokuba."
"We're somewhere private, I think. I shouldn't talk. I'll call you again when it's safe, okay?"
'Okay. Talk to you then.'
Yugi stuck the walkie-talkie in his pocket and approached Joey. His best friend's face was white, and he kept trying to point at something but his hand was shaking.
"What is it, Joey?" Yugi asked, concerned.
"T-Téa- she just went in there. There was a locked door, but she had a key and went in and closed it behind her. I couldn't follow her, but I looked in. Just… just go see for yourself."
Biting his lip, Yugi walked over to where Joey was pointing. He was standing in front of lattice; it rose up high and in a semi-circle. Studying the structure, Yugi realized it was someone's immense garden. He eyed the plants growing along the walls and involuntarily sucked a breath in. Roses. Hundreds and hundreds of roses, in dozens of shapes and sizes and colors. Someone rich had spent a lot of time and money in importing and planting and caring for this garden. It was unbelievably beautiful and breathtaking.
Joey nudged him in the back, urging him to go peek through the lattice and rose bushes. Yugi complied, and his already-wide eyes widened.
Téa approached the single bench in the garden, a twinkle in her eye. A solitary boy was sitting on the bench, looking deep in thought. "Hey there," Téa greeted.
Seto Kaiba looked up, a warm smile blossoming on his face. "Hey yourself," he replied, then reached up and wrapped his arms around her waist. She sunk down into his lap, teasingly bringing her face closer and closer to his, until Seto eagerly leaned forward and kissed her, forcing her to tilt her head backwards with his sheer enthusiasm.
Yugi heard a sliding noise, then a 'thump' as Joey hit the floor. He wouldn't be surprised if he joined him in a few seconds.
"What a greeting," Téa giggled, slightly out of breath when they finally broke apart. Seto simply smiled and shifted a little, pulling her more securely on his lap. His usually immaculate hair was slightly tousled, but he didn't seem to care. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it as Téa absently ran her fingers through his dark brown locks.
"You know what today is," she said dreamily.
"National Bank Holiday," Seto replied blandly.
"Funny." She shot him an indulgent look. Seto grinned at her, then leaned forward and gave her neck a quick nip. Yugi's legs started to shake.
"I know, though," Seto said, suddenly becoming serious. "Today is our two-month anniversary."
Slitherslitherslitherthunk. Yugi sank to the ground next to Joey, whose jaw was hanging open wide enough to catch a watermelon.
"Exactly," Téa said, sounding pleased. "And do you remember what we promised each other when we first started dating?"
Seto heaved a sigh, his arms tightening around her. "We promised that, if this relationship worked out for two full months, we'd start telling people."
"And would you say this relationship has worked out, Mister Kaiba?" she asked teasingly, rubbing the tips of their noses together.
"I would say it has, Mrs Kaiba," he replied, grinning mischievously.
"What?" three voices sounded at once. Yugi glanced over at Joey: the third voice hadn't been him. He was still in shock. His eyes quickly darted over to the large rosebush behind Seto, filled with vibrant orange blossoms; it was quivering ominously. He tried to find a hint of dark hair, but Mokuba was well-hidden.
"I was just kidding. For now," Seto amended, still grinning wildly. It was such an unfamiliar expression on his face that Yugi found himself studying it closely. "But… did you hear something?"
"I thought I did," Téa answered, frowning slightly. "It must have been an echo or something."
"So…" Téa said after a slight pause. "Should we start telling people?"
"I guess so," Seto said, slightly reluctantly. "I mean, I want to tell Mokuba, and I can't really do that without letting you tell your geeky friends, too."
"Se-to," Téa said in a half-warning, half-sing-song voice.
"Hn," he grinned, burying his head in her hair. "Kidding again. Besides, if we tell people, then I don't have to worry about doing this in public…"
Yugi found that he couldn't tear his eyes off the two of them, despite the amazing shade of red his face was steadily achieving. Seto's arms wound around Téa, pulling her closer than Yugi would have believed humanly possible, and his tongue had to be halfway down her throat. Worst of all were the little hums of pleasure she kept making. When one of Seto's hands started to creep up her back to her shoulder, then across her neck and lower, Yugi finally squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed around for Joey.
Joey's hand landed on his arm, and they practically dragged each other away. Joey's skin was actually a pasty gray, and he looked about five seconds away from throwing up.
Once they judged they were a safe distance from the garden, having crossed the gate again, Yugi threw himself to the ground. "That was…" he panted. "I was… We… The plan… Téa and Kaiba…"
He wasn't sure if he wanted to express his disgust over what they'd just seen, his gladness that they were dating (and more, it appeared), or the incredulous realization that they'd spent the last few days trying to set up an already established and perfectly happy couple. With everything they'd gone through-!
Joey seemed wired-up. Though he had been kneeling on the ground just a few minutes ago, now he couldn't keep still, and was pacing in quick circles around Yugi. "First of all, who is he kidding? Of course he would have to worry about doing that in public!" Joey exclaimed, making a face. "And secondly… I don't BELIEVE it!" A startled bird took off nearby. Joey threw up his hands, then yanked out the walkie-talkie.
"Wait, Joey," Yugi gasped out, remembering. "Mokuba knows, he's already-"
"Mokuba!" Joey barked into the walkie-talkie, and his voice seemed incredibly loud. "We followed Téa and found her MAKING OUT WITH YOUR BROTHER!"
In the silence that followed Joey's proclamation, Yugi could have sworn that time slowed down. The only movement was his throat working up and down in a distinctive gulp.
Then, from the other end of the walkie-talkie: 'What in the hell was that?'
'Calling for reinforcements!' an agitated yip came. 'Calling for reinforcements! Aaah! I'm sorry, Seto! Calling for reinforcements!'
"We can't leave him," Yugi said, struggling to sit up.
"If it's my own neck on the line, Yugi, I don't know. I just might be able to," Joey replied, staring in horror at the walkie-talkie.
'Calling for reinforcements! HELP!'
"Téa won't let Kaiba kill us," Yugi reasoned hopefully.
"At this point, it's Téa I'm worried about," Joey said grimly, but started running back to the rose garden nonetheless. Gritting his teeth in resignation, Yugi dashed off as well.
"Hey!" Joey called, careening into the garden lattice wall and pounding on it. Mokuba was in the process of trying to crawl back under the rosebush, while Seto towered menacingly over him. Téa lounged on the bench, looking, Joey was relieved to see, faintly amused.
'Calling for reinforcements!' Mokuba was still squawking into the walkie-talkie.
"Reinforcements are here!" Joey said impatiently, sticking his face right up to the lattice. "But the reinforcements don't have a key!"
Slowly, Seto swiveled to face Joey and Yugi. Téa, too, turned to look at them, and now her face darkened. Yugi cowered.
"Wheeler," Seto spat out, striding over to the doorway, throwing it open, and hauling Joey in by his shirt collar. "You have half-a-second to explain yourself. Now."
Yugi shied in as well, pressing his back to the wall and avoiding Téa's gaze.
"Ah, you see," Joey said vaguely, scratching the back of his neck. "That's a funny story, actually…"
"Wheeler," Seto growled, the hand that wasn't holding Joey flexing into a fist.
"You know, I don't think I've ever spent so much time shocked as I have in the last few days," Joey continued, seeming to feel that the best way to avoid Kaiba's wrath was to pretend that nothing was wrong. Yugi wished he could run, but his feet seemed to have frozen to the ground. "I mean, usually you say you feel happy, or sad, or mad, or something. But lately all I've felt is surprised."
"Here's another surprise," Seto threatened, his hand still flexing menacingly. "You will explain yourself this instant, or I'll pummel you into-"
"Were you guys watching us?" Téa interrupted quietly. Yugi made the mistake of looking at her disappointed face, and his stomach took a nose-dive. It ended up around his knees, where his heart had already sunk.
"Oh. Right." Joey blinked. "Well, yes, but the thing is-"
"No offense," she broke in, wrinkling her nose. "But that's kind of gross, Joey. And Yugi."
And Mokuba, Yugi added mentally, but his voice didn't seem to be working. It was probably just as well.
"You thought it was gross…" Joey muttered under his breath.
"It was for your own good, big brother," Mokuba piped up, now securely tucked away under the rosebush. Seto was too big to come after him, so he felt sort-of safe.
Seto gave a start, like he'd forgotten that Mokuba was there. He turned slowly around, letting go of Joey in the process, and fixed Mokuba with a menacing stare. He couldn't actually see Mokuba, so deep was the boy hidden under the plant, but he sure did a job on the roses.
Mokuba seemed to feel it, too, because he let out a frightened 'eep'. "Really!" he insisted pathetically, wondering if it was worth it to poke his head out and use The Puppy Eyes. He decided to play it safe. "We were trying to help!"
Seto closed his eyes and clenched his fists, and took three slow breaths of air. Then he sat back down on the bench, next to Téa, and put his arm defiantly around her waist. "Mokuba, get up here," he barked. His little brother, terrified though he was, scrambled out immediately. It was wiser to obey Seto instantaneously when he was in this kind of mood.
"You three," Seto said, pointing to Joey, Yugi, and Mokuba in turn. "Line up."
Timidly, they moved to stand in front of Seto and Téa, jostling each other to try and get as far back as possible. Eventually, they stood in a row, Mokuba in the middle, all eyes glued to the ground under Seto and Téa's feet.
"Now," Seto said, exhaling through his nostrils. "You will explain. Whoever started this thing, you go first."
Yugi and Joey's heads both turned to stare down Mokuba, and he swallowed over his dry throat. His voice cracking tremulously, Mokuba explained how he'd watched Seto mope around for so long (although now he knew that his big brother had just been sneaking off to the garden to meet Téa), and had decided that he really needed a girlfriend… and how he'd chosen Téa by a long and dull process which involved a computer scan gone wrong, results that proclaimed the female heavy-weight champion was Seto's soul-mate, and how he'd thrown the program out and decided that he'd noticed Téa and Seto making eyes at each other all through Battle City. Joey, encouraged by Seto's silence, took up the thread from when Mokuba had first approached him, and Yugi finally gained the courage to say his piece. They described their plans and how they'd failed, one by one, until they got to Joey's idea of following Téa and Seto. Mokuba specified how it was Joey's idea, and how he, Mokuba, had objected, knowing his big brother would be terribly angry, but Joey insisted… Then Joey, annoyed, started claiming that the whole thing had been Mokuba's idea to begin with, and they shot back and forth until Seto cleared his throat quite deliberately.
"Actually, it was Yugi who didn't want to use the walkie-talkies…" Mokuba admitted sheepishly, and the three of them fell silent.
And there was quiet.
And more quiet.
And even more quiet.
Until, mercifully, Téa gave a snort of laughter. Joey, Yugi, and Mokuba all looked at her anxiously.
"So that," she asked, smiling, "was what the deal was with the poetry?"
"And the apples?" Seto added, his lip curling into a pale imitation of his usual sneer.
"And my 'mugger'?"
"And Wheeler's little swim in the river?"
"And the incident at the canoe boathouse?"
"Yeah," Yugi said, his head hanging.
"Uh-huh," Joey affirmed.
"That's right," Mokuba admitted quietly.
Téa and Seto exchanged glances. Then Joey blurted, "You know, if you guys had just told us the truth in the first place, we wouldn't have had to go through all that!"
Mokuba cringed, wondering if those would be the last words Joey ever uttered. But Seto, instead of tearing his head off, simply looked thoughtful, while Téa looked slightly guilty.
"So let me get this straight," Seto said finally. "You were trying to set me up with Téa?"
"All of you?"
"You wanted us together?"
Seto heaved a sigh and ran his hand through his hair, looking preoccupied. Téa leaned slightly against him. "I guess we can forgive them, just this once," she whispered.
"Yeah," Seto grumbled, regaining his composure and glaring at Joey. "But I'm warning you, Wheeler, you're on my list now…" his gaze shifted to the other two. "And Mokuba, you are coming very close to losing sugar privileges. And Yugi… well. Next time I challenge you to a duel, you damn better well accept."
All three of them nodded eagerly, looking relieved that they hadn't gotten off worse, although Mokuba looked faintly outraged, and somewhere in the back of Yugi's mind, Yami was groaning 'Not again!'
"Now," Seto said, leaning forward, his eyes steely. "GO!"
They jumped in unison. Mokuba took off first, running for the unlocked door at the other end of the garden that led to the house. Joey and Yugi looked around wildly for an escape route, and eventually sprinted after Mokuba. "Wait for us!"
Téa laughed out loud, wrapping her arms around Seto's neck.
"They must really like you," she joked, grinning.
"I can't believe them," Seto sighed, shaking his head.
"Well, this solves a few of our problems, I suppose," Téa murmured. "Now all we have left is that press release…"
Seto laughed, pulling her close. "Now, where did we leave off?" He brushed his lips against her cheeks, savoring the feel of her skin.
"Here, let me remind you…"
A kiss, as sweet and delicate as a rose petal.
A kiss, as sweet and delicate as a rose petal.
"I love you," Seto murmured into her ear.
Téa's eyes widened slightly, then her face softened as a smile curved onto her pink lips.
"I love you too, Seto Kaiba."
"They've been in there for two hours," Mokuba complained crossly. "What could they be doing in there?"
Yugi and Joey exchanged wide-eyed and frightened looks. "We will not speculate any further on that," Joey intoned solemnly.
"I'm still in shock," Yugi admitted, flopping back on the couch in the Kaiba's living room. "Does this mean all our plans were still flops?"
"Hey," Joey perked up. "They weren't! Our plans technically succeeded!"
When Mokuba and Yugi both shot him disbelieving looks, he grinned sheepishly. "Technically," he amended. Heaving a sigh, he popped the lid on his fourth can of soda. He was steadily working his way through the Kaibas' refrigerator. "Anyway, it's a good thing we found out they were together. I was about to pull something really big."
"What?" Yugi asked suspiciously.
Joey tried to form a hurt expression while gulping down the soda. "It's okay, Yugi! No harm done!"
"What were you planning?" Yugi asked again, crossing his arms.
Joey's eyes shifted back and forth. "Aah… see, I figured if I started a couple rumors about Seto liking Téa, it would make him realize he did like her. And with everyone pressuring him to go out with her… and if Téa thought he had a crush on her…"
"Brilliant," Mokuba sighed, somewhat sarcastically. "How were you planning to spread these rumors?"
"Oh, simple," Joey said modestly, spreading his hands. "I just called up the Domino Inquirer, told them I was Seto's classmate and that I'd dueled him a couple of times, nearly creamed him too, made up a couple of incidents of dreamy sighs and doodled notes, gave them proof of the time Seto saved Téa's life with his precious Blue Eyes White Dragon and helicopter, and hey presto! They promised to run the story in that little celebrity page or something."
"Wait a sec…" Yugi leaned forward. " 'Called'? As in, past tense?"
"It's no problem, Yugi," Joey assured. "I can have them retract it. It wouldn't run until tomorrow."
"When were you planning on doing this, exactly?" Yugi asked sternly.
"Uh, now?" Joey grinned sheepishly. "Hey, Mokuba- can I borrow your phone?"
Wordlessly, Mokuba handed it to him. He and Yugi exchanged rolled eyes and expressions that grew increasingly more worried as they listened to Joey's one-sided call.
"What do you mean, the layout's already set? It's the celebrity page! Make up some story about Elvis or something!
"What- what do you mean, the front page?
"Well, what's the headline?
" 'CEO IN LOVE: Seto Kaiba, hottest single man in Domino, not to mention the richest, finally finds the perfect match in pretty blue-eyed dancer and classmate Téa Gardner'? Are you kidding me? I'm way hotter than Kaiba is!"
"Still here, Wheeler?" Seto growled from the doorway. He would be crossing his arms menacingly but for the fact that he was holding hands with Téa. "You're pressing your luck, aren't you? Do you really have a death wish?"
Joey's face grew pale. "Uh, I gotta go," he said quickly, hanging up the phone and bolting for the front door.
Mokuba tried to shrink under the couch cushions. Yugi made himself as small as possible while slinking out of the room.
"What?" Seto asked suspiciously. "Mokuba, Yugi- is there something else you should tell me?"
"No," they squeaked in unison. "Absolutely nothing."