Disclaimer: Well, after all that's been said and done, this is it! It's the last leg of this here fanfic and I'm tired! I won't bore anyone with needless details, so let's get on with it! But first things first...as usual, I don't "Yu-Gi-Oh!" or anything associated with it...which includes any of the rights pertaining to the trading card game, the trading cards themselves, manga, television rights, video games, the movie, related characters, official copyrighted logos and/or trademarks...hmm, come to think of it, there are quite a number of things I don't own! JUST to be on the safe side, for fear of being accused of plagiarism or stealing anything from anyone, I'd better make a list! This could take a while...
Okay, let's see here...I don't own...each blade of grass on my front lawn, that scooter my neighbor across the street uses, a lava lamp, all cars and trucks that pass me by, the rocks embedded in the Grand Canyon, the stars and planets in the sky, that phone booth at the end of town, every living, creepy thing that goes "BUMP!" in the night, that cheep, metallic, smiley-faced ring I found on the ground a few years back, the Eifel Tower, the Care Bears movie, an old-fashioned $50 bill, all calenders celebrating the year of 1983, a stray basketball I saw in the middle of the road, a yellow towel, a private jet, every single Lego known to man...
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters - Birthday Battle
Chapter 13 - Star-Cross'd Friendship
Similar to the sound of a gigantic wave crashing against the shore of a beach, the audience watching the end of a Duel Monsters match inside the new-christened "Millennium Arcade" roared with exuberant applause, admiration and praise.
And rightly so.
Yugi Moto had just scored himself an impressive win against (somewhat) considerable odds, and reminded all (who had by chance forgotten) that he was indeed the "King of Games." Six individuals down below (proud to call themselves friends of the said duelist) would curse themselves if they had. The dueling arena deactivated, causing his corresponding holographic monsters to vanish from sight. As soon as it was all over, the reaction for all was pandimonium.
The defeated opponent, Brutus Malone, was filled with and near-infinite supply of rage, frustration and anger, which amplified in response to Yugi's commanding voice.
"Now...since this duel is over, I trust you'll return the item you stole from me!" Yugi ordered.
"Item? What's Yugi talking about?" Mokuba wondered out loud.
The word "item" lit up a thought in Téa's mind. Brutus had mentioned it before, but Téa had been focusing more on the action that had transpired at the time.
Wait a minute! Is that what this entire's duel's been about? Could that "item" actually be my...
Téa became lost in thought as she pondered her suspicions over and over. Had she opened up her ears a few seconds longer, those suspicions would've been confirmed.
"That trust of yours is majorly misplaced! I could care less about any stupid promise!"
"A deal is a deal, and I expect you to keep it! Hand Téa's present over now!"
"Don't you EVER order me around! This cheap trinket is as good as lost!"
As soon as Brutus stopped talking, he raised the wrapped present above his head ready to send it sailing into the hard tile floor below. Téa quickly gasped when she saw it.
Yugi's eyes flickered like a quick burst of flame as he watched was his opponent was trying to do. Granted, Yugi knew full well that there wasn't anything inside the wrapped box that could've broken easily (at least not to his knowledge), but why take the chance? It was all too clear that there was no way Brutus could've been talked out of his actions, much less his attitude. And the fact that Yugi was all the way on the other side of the arena only signified that he was in no position to stop him.
Not yet, anyway.
Regrettably, only one solution was possible.
As before, Yugi's rage rose to high levels and the Millennium Item around his neck began to glow. Even more so when Brutus spoke again.
"Say goodbye to this piece of-"
"That's enough, Brutus!"
Through the incredible and powerful magic of the Millennium Puzzle, time froze everywhere for an instant, leaving all the spectators oblivious to what would happen next. Only in the vicinity of the playing field (and its consoles) occupied by the two duelists remained unaffected. The sight of color and state of the mind became greatly distorted for one of the two competitors.
Before Brutus had the time to question what was happening, Yugi rose his left hand and shouted...
Yugi's opponent felt stange inwardly, and froze along with everything else. His face bore no expression, but his insides felt like they were tearing themselves apart. Then, all of a sudden, his entire body shook, as if a small explosion took place from within. Brutus let out a short gasp, and could swear that he heard the eerie sound of glass shattering somewhere. Immediately, the distorted atmosphere began to dissipate; the faces of people were reappearing before his eyes and the whereabouts of his location was once again within sight. The once proud althete had briefly feared that he'd gone insane, but now realized that he had one solid second of complete and absolute clarity in his head. But before he got the chance to analyze it further or even allow his eyes to bathe in the reality that was made comprehensible to him again, an unexplainable amount of fatigue took over.
Brutus Malone promptly lost consciousness and collasped.
The dueling consoles automatically lowered themselves simultaneously. As the red console decreased it revealed a teenager who had apparently blacked out. The blue console exhibited the "King of Games" who stood proudly, smiling. Yugi walked over to the otherside of the arena where his comatose adversary lay. His eyes, however, were not foucsed on his fallen foe, but more on the small wrapped box in his hand.
"Ah, there it is," Yugi said, reaching for Téa stolen present. "I'll take that."
After a minute or two of squeezing past the crowd, Yugi's six friends made it through and ran over to congradulate the young duelist personally. His treasured Millennium Puzzle gave off a quick (gold) flash, unseen by all except for the individual wearing it.
"Man, Yuge!" Joey said, unable to contain his excitement. "Dat was a totally fantasterastic fight!"
Yugi turned his head to respond. Téa was the first to notice that her friend didn't appear to have that tough, determined, grim look on his face that (usually) displayed itself whenever he dueled.
"Thanks, Joey!" Yugi happily replied, turning his head
Yugi quickly slipped Téa's gift into his pocket. The birthday girl, however, did catch a glimpse of it, and she now had one more reason to keep smiling.
"Get 'im outta here!" yelled a voice from not too far away.
A trio of employees gathered around Yugi's (unconscious) adversary, and began to drag him off. Yugi recognized the employee giving the orders. He was the same one Brutus threatened in order to sneak himself and Yugi into the building.
The young duelist smiled and lightly chuckled, somewhat glad to see that he had apparently grown a backbone in the last few minutes.
Now that the immediate crisis had ended, Yugi stole a glance and saw Téa's smile, reminding him that he had to make amends for far more important matters.
The next few hours passed without incident. The group of friends, save Mokuba (who went back to his duties inspecting the arcade's operations), had a great time playing various games and sports that the arcade offered. The act of simply spending time with each other radiated a sense of warmth and a special variety of friendship that flows smoothly through the beings of few others.
Yugi and his friends ended up staying at the arcade until the hangout neared its closing time. Mokuba left around the same time as they did, but not before getting feedback of the place's overall enjoyment from many of the customers.
"So, guys...whatcha think?" Mokuba asked.
"I gotta say...great place, Mokuba!" Yugi exclaimed, giving him a thumb's-up.
"Totally!" Téa excitedly agreed.
"Hate to admit it, but I think it's safe to say that Kaiba really outdid himself with a joint as huge as this!" Tristan noted.
Joey, Bakura, and Mai said nothing but all nodded cheerfully (and simultaneously).
"Glad you all liked it!" Mokuba said. "Well, I should be getting back. Seto's up to his ears in work! He is a busy man, y'know!"
"Yeah? With what?" Joey skeptically inquired. "Mistah Megabucks probably has zillions a' people to do all his work for him!"
Mokuba crossed his arms and shot Joey a slightly annoyed look before answering.
"That's not exactly how it works, Joey. My big bro does have workers who handle the bulk of our operations, but Seto's the one who really comes up with the big ideas. He personally oversees the vital points of all projects, and always takes full responsibility if anything goes wrong."
"Projects? What kinda projects?"
"Well...for one thing, he's making absolutely sure that his upcoming 'Battle City Tournament' will go according to plan-"
Joey couldn't help but interrupt. But then, a name like that would most likely grab anyone's attention. Mokuba didn't seem to notice Joey's outburst and continued to talk.
"And then there's his long-range plans to build the prestigous 'Duel Academy'...so even if my brother-"
That time Mokuba did hear Joey, albeit a little too well.
"Oops...I think I've already said too much..." Mokuba semi-nervously concluded.
"Hey, you brought it up!" Joey pointed out. "I wanna know more about this tourney your rich brother is hatchin'!"
"Look, I gotta run! Later, guys!"
As if on cue, a long black limousine pulled up by the curb in front of the Millennium Arcade's entrance. Mokuba got in and cheerfully waved goodbye while the car drove towards the tall building far away that almost everyone recognized as Kaiba Corp.
"Later NOTHING, punk!" yelled Joey, watching the limousine drive off into the distance. "I demand an explanation right now! And don't act ya can't hear me! I can yell so loud, anybody can pick up my voice from miles an' miles away!"
"No argument there," Mai muttered.
Bakura and Tristan were forced to hold Joey back and calm him down, as before. Yugi and Téa looked at each other and laughed nervously.
"Hey, what's with all the snickering?" Joey wondered. "Wait a minute...you two know somethin' I don't?"
"Well, the truth is...we actually do know about this "Battle City' thing," Téa confirmed.
"Don't worry, Joey. I promise we'll fill you in at school tomorrow," Yugi added.
The energetic blonde stuffed his hands in his pockets and grimaced.
"All right...but you betta tell me everything!"
Mai offered to drive everyone home (not that anyone would've declined such a kind gesture), dropping the birthday girl off first. Yugi didn't live too far away from Téa, so he was let off at her house as well. The rest of their friends waved as Mai started up her car again and drove away, but not before she shot Téa a strange grin and a wink that put her on edge. Mai's gestures brought up a subject in Téa's mind, one that she really didn't feel like wrestling with at the moment. She turned red in reaction to her thoughts, but quickly shrugged it off before Yugi noticed.
"Um...hey, uh...Yugi?" asked Téa hesitantly.
"What's up, Téa?" Yugi asked back, smiling.
"Do you, uh...wanna come in for a bit?"
"Well...er...I didn't see a lot of you today. So the way I see it, you owe me a little one-on-one time."
Yugi soon became aware that her last statement was spoken a little too hastily.
Téa tried her best not to let it show, but feelings of slight disappointment were invading her system due to her friend's calm and casual attitude. But she tried to cover it up as Yugi followed her into the house.
The two of sat on the couch in her living room, and since it didn't seem as though Yugi would bring up the subject of the nature of his gift for Téa, the birthday girl decided it'd be best to take the initiative.
"So, Yugi...don't think I'm gonna let you get comfortable without handing over my birthday present!" Téa declared, winking and flashing her friend a toothy grin.
Yugi began to sweat a bit when she started to gently nudge him with her elbow.
"Don't worry, Téa. It's right here...Happy Birthday!" Yugi cheerfully answered, pulling the nicely wrapped gift out of his blue (school) jacket pocket.
After all the hardships it took to think up an appropriate item to give to his friend (as well as the tiresome duel he had just won), most (if not all) of Yugi's insecurities, fear and worries had been flushed down the proverbial drain.
Téa took notice of the gift's shape and wrapping as soon as it was placed in her waiting hands. Without a word, she slowly untied the red ribbon and tore off the white wrapping paper. Under it all was a small flat, white square box. Time appeared to move at an unbelievably sluggish rate as she lifted the lid.
Yugi's spiky hair stood on end more than it already was (if such a thing was even possible) when he heard the loud gasp that escaped from between Téa's lips. The girl's peepers widened considerably and one hand automatically moved on its own and covered her mouth. Her reaction was not at all surprising, considering what was inside the box.
Carefully cradled in her soft hands was a pendant in the form of a gold star, attached to a necklace made out of a thin gold chain.
"Yugi...w...where...I mean, h-how did...where on Earth did you get...this?!?" Téa stammered.
"I take it that your reaction means that this gift meets with your approval?" Yugi "innocently" wondered.
"It's beautiful!! But you really shouldn't have! It looks so expensive!"
"Don't worry, only the chain itself was of value. Still, you wouldn't believe what I went through to get the money to buy it. My grandpa worked me like a slave!"
Téa couldn't help but laugh before she resumed the coversation.
"Hey...y'know, this star-shaped jewel on the necklace looks kinda familiar..." said Téa with some suspicion.
"It should," Yugi confirmed. "Because you've seen it before."
"Yeah, Téa! It's a Star Chip."
"Star Chip? Wait...you mean, all the way from Duelist Kingdom?!"
"Mm-hm. I've had it ever since. It was from back when you were fighting against Mai in that duel..."
A few drops of salty tears from Téa's eyes dropped onto her left hand clutching her playing cards.
"I won't give up. I won't..." she kept saying.
Joey, Bakura and Tristan watched in awe of the amazing spectacle before them. Despite the growing urgency of the current situation, Téa was repeatedly making valiant efforts to strike back against Mai and her Harpie Lady. It was truly a battle against what initially seemed like immeasurable odds.
Yugi's eyes were now firmly fixed on the girl who was fighting for him and his sake alone.
The brunette raised her head in defiance of everything that attempted to stop her from winning. With incredible strength, she spoke again with nothing but true courage and determination.
"Don't let these tears fool you, Mai...I may be crying, but I've never felt stronger. So you better get your Star Chips ready, because I'm about to beat you!"
The atmosphere that Téa was creating was infectious. Yugi's hands curled into fists, as if her strength was becoming his.
"And there's not a thing you can say or do that'll stop me."
With all the people who occupied the island, no one in the Duelist Kingdom Tournament was emitting such a powerful force that equaled Téa's.
"I remember..." Téa said softly.
"Mai had six Star Chips leftover...but I only needed five to continue on in the competition. So when I realized that there was one left, I kept it," Yugi explained.
"And you made it into a necklace?"
Yugi nodded as his friend attached the piece of beautifully crafted jewelry around her neck.
"So how do I look?" Téa questioned, knowing the answer would be a positive one.
"You look very...pretty," Yugi sincerely replied.
"That's all? Tell me, did the word 'beautiful' escape your vocabulary!?"
Yugi remained calm, knowing that Téa was only half-joking about that.
"Well, I thought that word might be a bit clichéd...so that means you like it, right?"
"Yugi, I love it! This is the best birthday present I've ever received! And I'm not just saying that, either. This necklace is really great...and...you're really great, too."
"Hey...you're more than welcome, Téa. I've always known that I could...wha-"
All processing thoughts and speech from Yugi that was trying to make its way into the open crumbled into dust when he noticed a little "too late" that Téa had placed her hands on his, closed her eyes, and was moving her lips towards his own at frightening speed. Yugi froze up and as soon as Téa's lips reached their desginated target.
Not one muscle in his entire body moved an inch as they kissed. Yugi didn't even dare close his eyes. Most of his mindset was focused on deducing why Téa was doing this and whether or not this was actually happening.
This was a lot to take in for one person, even though the kiss only lasted for less than two seconds in reality.
"Yugi?" Téa asked, slightly concerned.
"Er...I, uh...T-Téa, you...why...umm..." stammered Yugi.
Téa giggled when she saw that Yugi's face was red. He turned away in embarrassment, desperately trying not to face her.
"Hey, c'mon...it wasn't that bad," she noted, smiling.
"No, it was fine," Yugi confirmed. "But...why'd you do that?!"
"Heh, heh...I dunno...it was, uh...well, I guess I kinda acted on impulse."
"That's not to say I regret it or anything, mind you...! It...it was nice."
The pair locked eyes and smiled simultaneously. Suddenly a mental barrier broke down between them, unleashing a magic stronger than anything the golden Millennium Puzzle could muster. Before either knew it, the two of them were engaged in another kiss. Given the fact that prior to this day neither of them had ever kissed anybody in such a fashion, they held onto each other ever so gently. The first kiss that Téa had given Yugi was quick. It smacked of inexperience and didn't consist of much besides literally pressing her lips against his. This one wasn't really any different, except for the fact that it lasted a few seconds longer.
But that was all it took to make the experience memorable.
As it ended the two of them reluctantly tore apart from one another, and sat in silence for a few unbearable (and uncomfortable) moments. Now both of them were trying not to look the other in the face. Téa was the first to break the ice.
"Kinda hot in here, isn't it?" she inquired, beginning to fan herself with the remaining wrapping paper that wasn't badly torn.
"You could say that," Yugi quipped, loosening the collar of his shirt. "Look, Téa...I'm really sorry about not meeting up with you and others on time. There's no excuse for that."
"I told you already, Yugi...it doesn't matter anymore. What happened wasn't your fault. It was out of your control."
Téa took this time to glance at her new necklace, which sparkled beautifully.
"Besides, I think you've already made it up to me...in more ways than one," she noted slyly with a cute wink.
The two close friends laughed together, but then Yugi saw a clock on the wall, noticing how late it already gotten.
"I should be getting home, Téa. You know how Grandpa worries," Yugi explained.
"I understand. It's cool," Téa replied, walking her friend to the door.
The teenage girl thought to herself for a second while Yugi sat down near the entrance to tie his sneakers.
"Uh...listen...I know you have a lot on your mind, what with Kaiba's upcoming Battle City Tournament and all."
Yugi thoughts shifted to the unbelievably powerful spirit dwelling inside the Millennium Puzzle, capable of displaying his immense mastery of dueling in a split second.
"Well...regarding what happened back there on the couch..."
"You thinking the same thing I'm thinking, Téa?"
"Yeah. Maybe we should put how we...feel...about each other on hold until this tourney business is all over and done with."
Yugi finished with his shoelaces and stood up, flashing an honest smile.
"That's probably a good idea. No sense in getting distracted with stuff like that while the stakes are high."
The friendship that Téa Gardner shared with Yugi Moto was so warm that one could almost feel it in the air. As Yugi opened the front door Téa followed him to the sidewalk. The two looked up at the twinkling stars that had already appeared to grace the night sky with their presence. The friends took a minute or two to admire the wonderful scenery. They then briefly looked at each other, happily observing that the smiles on their faces still remained.
"So it's agreed? Just friends?" Yugi asked.
"Deal...just friends," Téa repeated.
The pair shook hands, gave each other a warm hug, and wished each other good night. Yugi then resumed his walk towards home. Téa watched him until he was out of sight.
The female crossed her arms and reiterated her promise to Yugi...albeit with one slight moderation.
"Just friends...for now."
Téa's lips flashed a very mischievous smile, and without another word she put her hands behind her back and walked back into her house with a solid spring in her step.
...a genuine Star Trek uniform, three broken pocket watches and ALL THE BUTTONS FROM AUSTRALIA!!! Pant, pant...THAT'S IT! That completes the list of stuff I don't own! MAN, it feels great to get that off my chest! Anyway, this story is at an end, too! Endless thanks and congrats to all who stuck with it until the last word! I will appreciate it 'til the end of time! I gotta scoot for now, as I still gots lotsa more stories to write, so stay tuned until my next work of fiction is posted!
GOODBYE, CRUEL WORLD!!!
(Please don't take that last declaration too seriously...)