Darkness of Winter

"Come on, Yami, if you don't hurry up we'll be late!"

"And that would be bad because...?"

"Oh, just hurry up!" cried Yuugi. "We have to meet the others in fifteen minutes and you're not even finished packing!"

"I hate winter, Yuugi," I said wearily, "It's too cold. Why can't I stay here while you guys go up to that ski lodge? The solitude will be good for me, and besides, you don't want me to 'accidentally' cast Shadow Magic on the skiers who rush past me, do you?"

"Yami, we've been planning this trip for a long time," Yuugi sighed, "It just wouldn't feel right if you didn't come along! Even Kaiba's coming along!"

"Good for him," I said sarcastically.

"Yami, please! If you come, I'll..." Yuugi hesitated for a moment, then brightened up. "I'll talk Grandpa into giving you a free card of your choice!"

"Really?" My ears perked up. Yuugi's Grandpa had long-since decided that Yuugi and I would have to work for our cards or pay for them, since it really wasn't fair that they would get first pick.

"Yup! But only if you come along!" Yuugi grinned.

"Fine." I gave up and raised my hands in surrender. Yuugi smiles at me and starts helping me pack the rest of my bag. By the time we finished, we were running a little late to meet Ryou and the others.

Ryou's uncle runs a ski resort in the mountains, and he had invited everyone (that's everyone, including the Kaibas, Otogi, Mai, Malik, Isis... basically all our friends) up for Christmas. I'm all for this Christmas idea, but the snow down here is bad enough, and I don't even want to imagine what it would be like up there. I'm used to Egypt, where it's hot and humid, not cold and icy Japanese winters!

Yuugi and I drove up to Ryou's apartment building to find the gang standing by the street out front in their winter coats. Several cars were parked along the sidewalk.

"Hey guys!" waved Anzu, "We're just waiting for Ryou—he went back in to get Bakura, and he'll be back in a few minutes."

"All right, just a second," I nodded, driving down the street to park. The moment I stop the car, Yuugi leaps out and dashes over the gang.

"This is gonna be so cool!" he said enthusiastically.

"I can't wait!" grinned Jou, slapping him a high five.

I looked to Malik and Isis. They were dressed more heavily than the others, and they didn't seem to like the cold, but they weren't as uncomfortable with the cold as I was. It was probably because they had lived in Egypt for their lives only, while I had lived there for over 3000 years.

"Perfect day for a ski trip, huh?" Jou called over to me.

"Yeah, a perfect day," I said, watching the dreaded snow fall all around me. It makes me wish that I had brought a thicker jacket.

Ryou came walking out of the apartment entrance, looking very downcast. Immediately the gang quieted down and waited for him to tell whatever bad news he had.

"Bakura's sick," he told them sadly, "I'll have to stay and take care of him. I'll draw you guys a map so you can get to the lodge."

"No way!" cried Yuugi. The others all agreed and protested against Ryou.

"One of us will stay behind and take care of Bakura," said Anzu firmly. "You can't miss your own ski trip!"

Ryou shook his head. "I can't ask any of you to—"

"I'll do it," I interrupted.

The gang all immediately stopped protesting to stare at me. I don't blame them; I would stare at me. I'm as surprised as they are. But after Anzu said the words 'stay behind', it all became 'blah'.

"You will stay here, with Bakura?" Ryou stared at me like I was crazy. "Are you running a fever, too?"

"I'm not," I said impatiently. "I'll stay here with Bakura, and that way none of you will miss the trip. Don't worry, we'll be fine."

"Yami," pleaded Yuugi, "Please—"

I shook my head. "I'll stay here with Bakura. I don't want any of you, especially Ryou, to miss this trip. It's okay, really. Besides, I'm not really a mountain or a winter person, and I doubt that anyone else wants to miss this trip?"

Even Isis and Malik shook their heads. It was unanimous.

"You guys go on your trip. I'll take Bakura back to the game shop. Can I have your keycard, Ryou?"

Ryou handed me the card he used to get into his apartment. "Bakura shouldn't be any trouble, since he's pretty feverish. But we'll be gone two weeks. Do you think you two can last that long without killing each other?"

"We'll manage," I sighed. Truthfully, I didn't have any idea on how we would survive two whole weeks together, but how could I pass up a guilt-free opportunity to stay here?

"All right, if you're sure," he said hesitantly. I nodded and walked to the lobby doors. I could see Ryou organizing everybody and their bags into cars in the reflection in the glass doors. I reassured myself that this was for the best, and opened the doors.

Without looking back to see what the rest of the gang was up to, I walked across the lobby and into the elevator, pressing the button for Ryou's floor. I've only been in his apartment once before, and that was when we all played Monster World. The elevator stopped at his floor, and I walked down the hall to the room he shared with Bakura. I took a deep breath, mentally preparing myself for the next two weeks, and swiped the keycard through the lock.