Love Just Is


Ano – Um…
Kami-sama – God
Koi – Lover, Boy/Girlfriend
-tachi – Suffix meaning 'and the others'

Nothing's ever what it seems
in your life or in your dreams.
It don't make sense; what can you do?
So I won't try makin' sense of you.

Love just is…whatever it may be.
Love just is…you and me.
Nothing less and nothing more.
I don't know what I love you for…
Love just is…

Some things never get defined
in your heart or in your mind.
It don't make sense; what can you do?
So I won't try makin' sense of you…

Don't ever ask me for reasons
I can't get to you.
Don't ever ask me for reasons…
Why I live for you…I just do.

Hillary Duff – Love Just Is

Dara blinked. Kami-sama, no… Tell me Yugi-tachi aren't standing right in front of me.

But they were.

"What are you doing here?" Dara asked, somewhere between scared stiff and seething. Thanking every deity – both Japanese and Egyptian – she'd ever heard of that she hadn't taken her jacket off along with her concealing trench coat, Dara quickly – and surreptitiously – zipped it up.

She still had a chance to keep them from finding out everything. The question was, should she take it?

But before Joey – or any of the others – could answer, another voice was heard.

"Oi, Dev, you all right?" Tristan asked, coming up behind Dara and placing one hand on her shoulder. She'd gone to get refills on their drinks, and had taken longer than expected, so he'd come to find her. Now she had a look halfway between pissed off and scared stiff on her face.

He blinked as he noticed Yugi, Joey, Téa and Ryou standing not five feet away. Realizing that their friends must have been the cause of her facial expression, he gulped as it hit him just exactly what their being in the Phoenix meant.

They knew about Dara. At least, part of it, anyway.

"Oh, shit…" Tristan moaned.

"You said it, Tristan," Dara agreed wryly.

Five minutes later, after a hurried consultation, the six friends were outside, in an empty lot next to the Phoenix. It had previously been a parking lot, but someone had turned it into a facsimile of a park by adding flowers and benches. There was even a tree on the far side, which must had been growing there even before it was a parking lot because it's root system had broken the surface in numerous places.

Surrounding the tree were several of the aforementioned benches, and it was there that the revelatory conversation was taking place.

"What are you guys doing here?" Dara asked, repeating her question from earlier in the evening. She combed one hand through her hair in a nervous action. Her chance to come clean about everything had just been handed to her on a silver platter, but she wasn't sure she wanted to take it. She'd been living a lie for so long…

Rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment, Yugi said sheepishly, "Joey wanted to follow you tonight; he thought you were going to a gay club, and we could catch you and get you to admit you were together."

"Ano…why would you go along with that?" Tristan asked, trying hard to hide his panic.

"Because Joey was going with or without us and we thought that with us along we could keep him from getting into too much trouble," Ryou answered. He winced as he glanced at 'Duke', and smiled half-heartedly. "That didn't turn out as well as we hoped, ne?"

"Plus, there aren't any good gay clubs in Domino, and Yami really likes to dance," Yugi admitted, shame-faced. "I figured if you were going to a gay club, then maybe Yami and I could come back sometime." He scuffed his toe across the grass.

"Yes, but it isn't a gay club," Téa pointed out. "There were a lot of girls in there." She glanced involuntarily at 'Duke'.

"Are ya sure?" Joey asked. "Maybe all da chicks in dere are really guys." He grinned cannily at the dice duelist.

Should I? I'll never get a more perfect chance. Dara sighed, her shoulders slumping as they relaxed from their tensed posture. It's now or never… I'm tired of hiding anyway. Lips pursed, Dara said, "While this club is cross-dresser friendly, at the moment, I am not cross-dressing."

Shooting his koi a disbelieving look, Tristan hissed, "Dev…" Is she sure?

"I'm tired of hiding, Tristan," Dara said softly, so the others wouldn't hear. She gave him a beseeching look. "I'm tired of all the lies." And I need to do this.

It's her decision. I just hope she doesn't regret it. Nodding slowly, Tristan said, tone the same volume, "If you're sure…"

"Very," Dara replied.

"What do ya mean, Devlin?" Joey asked, confusion etched clearly on his face.

Sighing, Dara decided to go for the shock value. A grin quirked her lips as she thought about the expressions of stunned amazement that were sure to soon grace the others' faces. Unzipping her hastily-donned jacket, she shrugged it off, revealing the dress she was wearing underneath. The dress was – like the first one Tristan had seen her in at the club – red. Unlike the other dress, however, this one was strapless – and obviously not held up by padding. The shimmery material clung to her every curve and emphasized the fact that they – and she – were decidedly not masculine. "Do these look fake to you, Wheeler?" Dara demanded bluntly.

Joey just stared at her in astonishment. He – and the other three friends – were silent for a moment, trying to make this new piece of information fit with what they already knew – or thought that they knew – about 'Duke'. Finally, Joey snapped out of his daze enough to squeak out, "You're a girl!" his voice going so high on the last word that he sounded almost feminine himself.

Dara covered her wince at the blond's histrionics with a scowl. "Bingo. Give the dog a bone," she grumbled, clipping his ear with her scarlet-manicured hand, before setting it on her hip. "And could you be any louder, Wheeler? I don't think they heard you on the mainland."

"This is a surprise," Yugi said vaguely, staring at Dara's uncovered chest. He blushed as he realized where he was staring and promptly switched the focal point of his gaze to her face.

"Indeed," Yami intoned, having finally decided to come out of the Puzzle and take part in the proceedings.

Bakura – who had appeared moments before, precipitating Yami's own appearance – snorted. "Explains why she and Taylor never admitted they were gay."

Dara inclined her head in a nod. "Exactly. So…what do you guys think?" she asked nervously. Kami-sama, tell me they're not all going to freak out like Joey…

Joey shook his head. "You're even weirder dan I thought, Devlin."

Dara looked at him, mouth open. Forget freaking out – they can't all be that stupid, she thought, a mental snarl sounding in her head.

Tristan, sensing the impending explosion, backed away slowly. The rest of the group followed; Joey had finally managed to do what they had thought was impossible.

Make a bigger ass of himself than he had that afternoon when he'd implied being gay was an insult.

"Oh, that is it!" Dara screamed. Launching herself at the blond, she tugged her headband free of her hair, and with a few quick, almost light-speed movements, had him tied to the nearby tree, his hands over his head, hanging from a branch with his feet dangling inches off the ground. She backed off a few feet, smiling at her handiwork.

Bakura burst out laughing, followed close by Tristan's snickers and Téa's stifled giggles. Yugi, Yami and Ryou just shook their heads, trying to hide their smiles.

"Hey! Lemme down!" Joey yelled, trying to wiggle free of his confinement.

"Not until you learn some tact, Wheeler," Dara snarled. "I am so tired of putting up with your crude remarks. There is no call for some of the stuff you've said to me, and I…have had…enough," she said, emphasizing the last few words as she strode towards him until they were nose to nose – or would have been, if Joey had been hanging about a foot lower.

Joey blustered for a few minutes, but finally hung his head sullenly. "Yeah, okay…maybe I was kinda a jerk ta ya. But did ya have ta tie meh up?" he whined.

"Well, you know what they say: well-behaved women rarely make history," Dara quipped, twirling one lock of raven hair around her forefinger.

Téa had to hide a smirk at that. It was nice not being the only girl in the group anymore. Mai was always off in professional dueling tournaments and Serenity lived in another city.

Tristan chuckled. "Dara…" he chided, making the group collectively blink as they realized that no, a girl wouldn't be named Duke.

"Whaaaat?" said dice duelist asked mock innocently.

Shaking his head, Tristan scolded, "That wasn't very nice, you know."

"Your point?" Dara smiled a sugar-sweet smile.

Rolling his eyes, the brunet implored the sky in a, 'Why me?' gesture. Dara laughed.

"So…Dara?" Ryou ventured.

Dara nodded slowly. "That's my real name," she admitted softly. And aside from Tristan, no one's said it in years, she thought, blinking back a melancholy mood. Why should she be sad? After all, Yugi and the others were taking this revelation even better than she'd expected.

But if something appeared too good to be true, then it usually was. Then again, nothing about her life was what one would expect…

"It's a nice name," Yugi said sincerely. "But, ano…why?" He spread his hands in a gesture of confusion.

Dara averted her eyes. "Why what?" she asked, feigning ignorance.

Bakura gave her a pointed look. "Cut out the smart-assitude and answer the question, dice girl. Why have you been cross-dressing as a guy?"

The brave front she'd put up faltered as she glared at the white-haired yami. He has a point, though, she admitted to herself. Purposely being difficult might make me feel better about having to reveal my secret, but in the long run, it's definitely not going to make things easier for me. Dara shrugged. "It was my father's idea. Part of his revenge scheme," she said, hoping that no further explanations would be required.

And, thankfully for her continued sanity – not that there was much left, she occasionally thought – while the others obviously had questions, they managed to restrain themselves from asking all but a few of them. She really didn't want to go into this with them. Tristan had been one thing – she'd been attracted to him for some time, after all – and since he'd been the first person to ever find out, she'd been caught unawares.

"How long?" Téa asked softly, noticing the tense set to the other girl's expression.

"Eight years," Dara answered flatly. Her words were greeted by gasps of appalled shock. She found herself almost surprised at the amount of astonishment the others had displayed at her answer. She'd been living a lie for so long, she'd almost forgotten how unusual her life was.


She couldn't really forget – but then, Tristan was the biggest reason she could forget, and she wouldn't give him up for anything.

Even being able to pretend her life was normal.

"You've been pretending to be a guy for half your life?" Yugi asked incredulously.

Dara shifted uncomfortably at the looks she was getting. It had never occurred to her that they'd all be so…discombobulated by finding that one fact out.

Nodding, Dara made a sound, the vocal equivalent of a shrug. She shivered slightly; having taken her jacket off, she was now rather cold, since it was windy outside. She edged closer to Tristan, cuddling close to him for warmth, relaxing slightly as his arm curled around her. Dara's movement transferred the others' attention to her koi.

"Tristan?" Ryou broached the subject cautiously.

The brunet blinked. It was the first time he'd been personally addressed all evening. "Yeah?" he asked.

"How long have you known?" the white-haired hikari asked. "About…Dara?" he clarified, almost stumbling over the name since he wasn't used to it.

The others appeared quite interested in the answer.

"Yeah, how long have ya known, Tris?" Joey seconded. "Ya don't seem all dat surprised dat Devlin's a girl."

Tristan looked away, scratching a nonexistent itch on his nose to give himself time to think. It would definitely not go over well that he and Dara had kept their relationship a secret for so long.

Or maybe I'm just making a mountain out of a molehill, he thought ruefully. After all, they're gonna be more caught up in the fact that Dara's a girl, than in the fact we've been dating for so long. "I've known for six months," Tristan said gruffly.

Joey gaped. "And ya didn't tell us!"

"It wasn't my place, Joey," Tristan said sharply.

"And considering the way you, specifically, reacted, can you blame me for wanting to keep my secret a secret?" Dara added.

"Eh-heh…" Joey chuckled nervously, glancing up at where his arms were tied to the tree branch. "Ah…no, I guess I can't."

The others nodded their agreement.

Dara slumped back against Tristan; exhaustion from being wound so tight with worry stealing over her as she realized things weren't going as bad as she'd feared.

Yami gave the two of them a knowing look. "I can understand why you would have been hesitant to tell us you were female, Dara," he said. "But why didn't you tell us you and Tristan were together?" He gave a pointed look at their close positions.

Dara flushed slightly, but forced herself not to move away from her boyfriend.

"Neither of us wanted to lie," Tristan answered for her. "I mean, you all thought the both of us were gay…"

"…when neither of us were," Dara finished for him. She rolled her eyes. "Plus, there may be nothing wrong with being gay, but the business world doesn't see it like that."

Joey paused in his effort to free himself from his bondage to the tree. "So ya were worried about yer reputation?" he asked, grunting slightly as he swung back and forth with the inertia of his former struggles.

"Not really," Dara answered, shaking her head. "I was more worried about scrutiny. The closer anybody looked at my life, the easier it would be for them to figure out my secret."

"Then why did you spend so much time hanging out with us?" Téa asked.

Dara gave a lopsided smile. "I moved around so much when I was younger that I never had time to make friends. When – even after that whole mess with my father – Yugi still wanted to be my friend…" She shrugged. "I wasn't about to give up my only chance to have even a semblance of a normal life."

Tristan snorted softly. "And here I thought you hung around with us because of me and my charms," he said, acting slightly put out.

Dara rolled her eyes at him. "Yeah, right. As if." She sniffed haughtily. "I'm only with you because Wheeler is the only other single guy I know – and I'd rather be a lesbian and date Téa than be with him." She glanced at the other girl and flashed her a not-entirely innocent smile. "No offense."

Téa waved her off. "None taken." She herself felt the same way.

Tristan shook his head sadly at his girlfriend. "Every time I try to make sense of you, Dara, you just get harder and harder to understand," he mock-complained.

Dara shrugged and laughed. "Every relationship needs a little mystery, Tris."

"You already had this whole secret of yours; I don't think you need any more," Ryou pointed out.

"But Tristan is part of the secret, therefore I needed something different," Dara countered, before turning back to her boyfriend. She arched an eyebrow. "In any event, I'm not the only one who's not making sense."

Tristan raised one brunet eyebrow, his lips twisting with suppressed mirth. "Oh?"

"Yes – I have yet to figure out how you get your hair to stay spiked up like that without putting hair spray on it or something." She flicked the spike of brown hair with her finger, meeting no resistance, as the spike was as soft as regular hair.

Tristan growled playfully and caught her hand, keeping it from messing with his hair further. He kissed the inside of her wrist gently and then let go as he said, "I don't do anything to it – it's natural. Like Yugi and Yami's hair."

Dara blinked innocently. "You mean you didn't know?" she asked, astonished.

Déjà vu, Tristan thought, remembering how this scene had played out with Joey a few months previously. Though this time he got the feeling most of them really didn't know.

"Know what?" Joey asked.

"Yugi and Yami's hair isn't natural," Dara said, in the tone of someone who was about to reveal a big secret.

Not that Yugi and Yami's hair not being in a state of naturally defying gravity was a bigger secret than Dara's real gender, but…

"We do not dye our hair," Yugi protested, though there was an anxious look on his face.

"I never said you did," Dara replied blandly. "I said it wasn't natural. I mean the way it spikes up like that. I saw you two in the drugstore a few weeks ago, buying extra hold hair gel."

Yugi blushed slightly but Yami just shrugged it off. "It looks even wilder without it – I should know, I tried everything back in Egypt, but I still looked like a porcupine that had stuck its tail in a light socket."

Bakura barked a laugh. Joey snickered at the mental image. Ryou hid his own laugh in a cough, and even Tristan and Téa had to hold back chuckles.

Yugi, having finally managed to shove off his embarrassment, said, "I didn't see you in the store; where were you?"

"Hiding," Dara said succinctly.

"Hiding?" Ryou asked.

Dara shrugged, discomforted. "I didn't want you to see me."

"What were you buying?" Téa asked, having a sneaking suspicion she knew.

"Let me put it this way – one of the only times I ever wished I was really a guy was so I never had to buy them again," Dara said sourly.

Realization lighting her eyes, Téa nodded in commiseration. "Don't I know it."

"And dis is getting into da realm of overshare," Joey broke in.

Dara sighed. "Wheeler, if I threw a stick, would you go away?"

"Not tied to that tree he wouldn't," Bakura joked.

"Though if you threw a donut he might tear the tree out of the ground in his pursuance of it," Yami added.

Joey growled, but refrained from saying anything. His bottomless pit of a stomach was legendary, and he knew it.

Giving the blond a measuring look, Dara said, "If I untie you, will you promise to keep quiet about this?"

Joey brightened at the mention of his impending freedoms. "What reason would I have ta tell anybody?" he asked practically.

Dara sighed and strode over to stand next to him, tugging the knots she'd tied in her headband apart.

Tristan's smile soured. "You're the one who's always looking for blackmail material on people, Joe."

"Eh-heh." Joey blushed. "It's only a hobby," he defended himself. "'Cept for Kaiba, anyway," he added as an afterthought.

"Then I think you need a new hobby," Dara grumbled, quickly untying the blond. Joey dropped unceremoniously to the ground, letting out an, "Ouch!" as he landed butt-first on the sparse grass poking up through the asphalt.

"Thanks," Joey said sarcastically, as he rubbed the red marks around his wrists.

"Anytime," Dara replied sweetly. Dropping down to sit by Tristan, she gave the blond a smug smile.

Yugi cleared his throat to help stifle his giggles at his friend's predicament. "Well…now that Joey isn't collared to that tree anymore…" He waved a hand towards the street.

"…we should be going," Ryou finished.

"Before Murphy decides to clobber us over the head," Téa added.

"Again, you mean," Dara corrected. "Seeing as how I wasn't planning on your following us here." Her smile and tone of voice took the sting out of her words; she was upset that they'd found out, but wasn't going to hold Joey's nosiness – or bad timing – against them.

Checking his watch, Tristan nodded reluctantly. "Yeah, it's almost midnight. We should be going, too."

"History test on Monday," Dara explained at the others' questioning looks.

"Gah!" Yugi slapped his forehead, a pained expression on his face even before his hand's impact. "I completely forgot about that!"

Yami smirked slightly. "I didn't, aibou. Why do you think I tried to talk you into staying home tonight to study?"

Glowering at his other, Yugi said, "You could have reminded me, Yami."

"I am not your personal reminding service, hikari," Yami sniffed haughtily, before disappearing back into the Puzzle.

Bakura chuckled and followed the former Pharaoh's suit, going back inside the Ring.

Ryou rolled his eyes at their behavior. "Shall we?" he asked, sweeping a grandiose bow to Téa.

She giggled at the white-haired hikari's antics. "Let's," she agreed, heading out of the grassy enclosure. "Before Murphy catches up with us."

"See you at school on Monday, Tristan, Dara," Yugi said in farewell as he too turned to leave.

"Just make sure you call me Duke, okay?" Dara warned him.

"We will!" Téa called, she and Ryou having already reached the far side of the miniature park.

"And we won't tell anyone," Yugi added.

Dara smiled and, flicked a glance Joey's way. The blond was now the only one of the four who hadn't left. Noticing that Joey was scuffing his feet and sending Tristan looks, she nudged her boyfriend. "I think he wants to talk to you," she said in a low voice.

Tristan nodded. "Yeah. Wait here for me?" he asked.

"Of course."

Joey looked up as his best friend came near. Noting that the others had walked out of earshot, he felt free to broach this sensitive subject. "Tristan…" he said.

Tristan quirked a brow. "Yeah, Joe? What did you want to talk about?"

After deliberating over his phrasing for several moments, Joey finally just decided to be blunt. "Why her?" he asked. "I mean, not dat she's not hot, or nice, but… Even an idiot like me can tell she's got more emotional baggage dan an airport. Why would ya wanna weigh yerself down with dat when ya don't haveta?"

As if Mai Valentine's life is all fun and games, Tristan thought wryly. She's got her own demons in her past – if you can't handle them, it's no wonder she keeps brushing you off. Fighting a smile at the so-typical Joey expression, Tristan forewent voicing any of the thoughts on his mind and said simply, "I love her."

Joey blinked at the honest statement. Love? In six months? Still, this was Tristan, his best friend. Tristan wouldn't lie to him. Shaking his head, he said, "Yeah, but why?"

Shrugging, Tristan slanted a glance Dara's way. She gave him a smile, one he returned without even thinking about it. Wrenching himself back to the conversation when Joey pointedly cleared his throat, he flushed, saying, "Love just is, Joey. There's no rhyme or reason why."

Joey just looked at him, an enigmatic expression on his face. He is so far gone it's not even funny. And I, player than I am, am so envious. Finally he said, "Well, I hope ya two are happy togethah." Slapping the brunet on the back, he jogged off to catch up with the others.

That was odd, Tristan thought. But I guess we needed to clear the air. Secrets cause problems no matter what they are.

He grinned widely. And while I don't need his blessing, it's nice that he gave it anyway.

Crunching his way across the gravel back towards his koi, Tristan met up with Dara underneath the tree. "What did Joey want?" she asked him.

"He wanted to know if you had a sister," Tristan joked.

Dara rolled her eyes. "Oh, really now? And what did you tell him?"

"I told him that you're one of a kind – and I don't share," Tristan replied, grinning widely. He chuckled, pulling her into his arms.

Dara melted into his arms, finally able to relax completely now that they were alone again. It had been an…interesting anniversary. I wonder what'll happen on our one-year anniversary? "Neither do I, tough guy," she replied in a husky voice.

Leaning in and giving Dara a quick kiss, Tristan looked down into her eyes. "I think they took it pretty well."

"Yeah…better than I thought they would," Dara marveled. Maybe things will all work out. No one else needs to know – right now, anyway. And considering that they've all managed to keep quiet about the Millennium Items and Shadow Magic…

"They like you, Dev. Why would they shun you because of this?" Tristan asked practically.

"You know me," Dara said, one shoulder lifting in a half-shrug. "I've never been an optimist."

"But you're not a pessimist," Tristan said. "No matter what you might think. More of a realist."

She tilted her head to the side. "Think it's realistic to hope we'll still be together six months from now?" she asked, holding her breath. If she'd read him wrong…

Tristan's smile was almost blinding in its intensity. "I think six months is too little to ask for. How about sixty years?"

Dara grinned widely. "Sounds good," she murmured, lifting her face up for a kiss. Tristan obliged her, sealing their lips together, a strangled moan escaping him before they were entwined too tightly with each to allow sound to escape.

Finally parting for breath, they stood there, foreheads resting against each other, just enjoying the closeness. Tristan's hand toyed with her hair as Dara grinned up at him shyly. Now that there were no more secrets to hide, they could get on with living their lives. And since they were together, they could live for each other.