Disclaimer: I still don't own Yu-Gi-Oh and in all likelihood, never will… Oh and please don't live off Starbucks. It's not terribly healthy so you might not live very long.
Options, Choices and Obsessions – CHAPTER 11:
Anzu ran her fingers through her hair, wincing when they caught in the knots in the tangled strands. The air around her was cold and crisp and almost unpleasant against her sweaty skin. The smell of cigarettes clung to her clothes, and she couldn't wait to get back to the hotel room to shower. Around her it was quiet, and though normally she wouldn't mind walking like this, the silence was beginning to get to her a little…
It wasn't as though there was anything really different about today, but Anzu couldn't help but feel just a little awkward… It felt as though she was waiting for the other shoe to drop somehow; waiting for something that ought to be happening.
Or perhaps that was just the atmosphere.
She wasn't sure. Her fingers caught on more knots and she fumbled, trying to loosen the kinks in her hair, unable to see what she was doing.
Otogi was walking beside her, but for the amount of noise he was making, he might as well not have been there at all. Anzu was sure he must have been thinking about Honda, and she desperately wanted to break the silence, but she didn't know how to do it without also fracturing the small piece of hope that she knew Otogi must have been harbouring. So she raked her fingers through her hair as they walked, and cast a glance his way every so often to check he was still there. She licked her lips and looked around them; buildings, greyness, the early morning rays and the white crisp snow not yet swept from the footpaths.
Otogi for his part was lost to the world around him. It was lucky that the footpath was even and that there was more snow than ice on it, otherwise he'd have found himself flat on his back already. He couldn't help it. He knew he shouldn't have been attracted… not to him at least. And it was all Honda's fault.
He huffed, trying to convince himself that the brunet had been the cause of all his troubles, but really, in the end… it all came back to him, didn't it?
"What do you think the other guys are doing right now?" he asked, looking up towards the pale light in the sky.
Anzu gave him an odd look. "Sleeping, don't you think?"
Otogi shrugged. "I guess…"
Anzu crossed her arms to keep them warm and pursed her lips.
As the hotel came into sight, she sighed and quickened her steps, then turned and stood in front of Otogi.
Otogi came to an abrupt halt and looked at her, confused. "Anzu?"
She reached out her hand and placed it on his shoulder, forcing a smile though she didn't feel it at all. Taking a breath, she decided that she was going to talk to him now when she had the chance. She knew she was taking a risk, and she knew she was just trying to read Otogi's emotions – something she hadn't had much practice at anyway – but knowing that Otogi liked Honda was eating her up inside. She felt horrible – the quick, nervous beating of her heart now reflecting the tension she felt in her body.
"Otogi, you like Honda, don't you?" she questioned softly, looking him in the eyes.
Otogi gave her a startled look. "What makes you say that?" he chuckled nervously, wavering.
Anzu too, hesitated for a moment before she squeezed his shoulder and smiled a little ruefully. "Am I wrong?"
Otogi chuckled nervously. "Don't be silly. How could anyone like an idiot like him?" he said, pushing Anzu's hand off his shoulder and then grasping her arm, pulling her forwards back to the hotel. "Man, I need a shower…"
Anzu bit her lip and stared straight ahead as they walked, but she could feel the way Otogi's hand was trembling and she was sure it wasn't because of the cold.
Otogi unlocked the door slowly, careful not to make any noise in the quiet hallway. Alerting any of the other students to his comings and goings would just be trouble, so he slipped inside the room quickly and then closed the door, placing the key back on the small table where he'd taken it from before.
He looked around quickly, adjusting to the dimness of the room. Walking towards the single bed where his suitcase should be, he realised slowly that he was looking at an empty bed…
'Where was Honda?' he wondered, a feeling of worry rising in his chest. He couldn't have gone out, could he? And where was Kaiba? It wasn't as though either of them had any where else to go to at this time of day… Although when he thought about it, certainly they were pretty chummy with each other lately.
The thought made him feel awkward; reminding him of what he had been trying to forget. So he pulled off his jacket and then his top underneath and sat down on the edge of the single bed.
He looked towards the other bed, and then down towards the mattress he remembered was on the floor.
And there were two lumps under the covers. They were… There they were – Honda and Kaiba – and they were…
Otogi's breath caught in his throat suddenly. His chest felt tight and constricted, the air being squeezed out of his lungs by an invisible force. Quickly, hurriedly, he yanked off both of his shoes and then his socks and grabbed a change of clothes from his bag, walking into the bathroom and shutting the door with a bang.
He breathed out shakily and put his hand to his forehead, feeling the cool clamminess of his skin. His heart was beating in his chest; it felt like it was trying to escape almost, and he could feel the heat now rushing to his face. He felt… He felt jealous and he felt ashamed and angry and betrayed and oh God! It wasn't supposed to be like this!
And why was luck being so unkind to him?
When Otogi stepped out of the bathroom half an hour later, he once again felt that sick feeling welling in his chest as he saw the scene in front of him. He knew he should have looked away, and as Honda opened his eyes blearily and sat up, staring at him, he knew he had to look away. But it was like a train wreck.
He just couldn't take his eyes off him… Them… Both of them.
"Otogi?" Honda asked quietly, rubbing at his eyes. "When did you get back?"
Otogi snapped out of his trance then; hearing Honda's soft voice. He couldn't stand it; the blank look on Honda's face and the way he was looking at Otogi in confusion, as though Otogi was the weird one here; as though Honda didn't know why he was staring.
Otogi picked up his discarded shoes and grabbed a clean pair of socks, turning around quickly and heading for the door.
"Otogi? Are you okay?" Honda asked hurriedly, his voice still groggy as he stumbled up from the mattress and moved towards the other boy.
Otogi just shot him a glare and opened the door, walking through it and then pulling it shut again behind him.
Honda just stared. A moment later he sat back down on his side of the mattress and blinked, confused and feeling disorientated.
He felt, rather than heard, the covers moving as Kaiba sat up beside him, rubbing his head and yawning. "Was that Otogi?" he asked, sneaking a glance at Honda. He felt awkward now; not knowing what he was supposed to do the morning after…
The morning after? That sounded a little too dramatic, though they had slept in the same bed… And –
Last night's conversation was coming back to him now, so he hurriedly pushed the covers right off him and got up, ignoring the slight bout of dizziness he felt as he stumbled towards the bathroom.
Honda startled as Kaiba spoke, remembering what he'd said to the other boy the night before. He looked around the room, feeling awkward, as though there was someone else here to witness his stupid realisation.
Then he hadn't even thought about Otogi at all.
What sort of a friend was he?
Anzu waved to Honda as he and Kaiba entered the dining room downstairs. The breakfast buffet was laid out, and she was waiting for him next to the cereals.
"Morning," she greeted a little breathlessly as she grabbed his arm and steered him away from Kaiba. "Do you know what happened to Otogi?"
Honda shifted and tried to ply Anzu's arms from his. He shook his head quickly, deciding to keep it quiet for the moment. He wasn't even sure, but he figured the only thing Otogi could be upset about was that he and Kaiba were in the same bed… And it wasn't as though they'd even done anything… besides that.
He willed his cheeks not to turn pink as he tried to replace the thought with thoughts of breakfast instead.
"So…" Anzu prompted, still clinging to his arm, unwilling to let him go until she'd satisfied her curiosity. "Are you sure?"
Honda rolled his eyes. "Yeah."
She let go and looked at him, slightly disappointed. "Okay, whatever. You know what we're doing today?"
Honda grinned. "If I knew the answer I wouldn't be here at seven AM, waiting around for Sensei to show up and tell me."
"Honda!" Anzu scolded lightly, shooting him a look. Then she turned around to serve some Corn Flakes into a bowl.
Luckily some things were universal; though she'd much rather have something Japanese… She was starting to miss the food back at home.
Kaiba had made a beeline for the coffee machine. He couldn't quite hear what Anzu was saying, so he finished filling his cup and turned around. Yuugi and Bakura were sitting at a large table and they both gave him smiles as he looked towards them. He walked over, hoping he didn't actually look like he wanted to be there, since he didn't.
There was just no helping it; the rest of them just came attached to Honda.
Otogi joined them a few minutes later, placing a large cup of coffee on the table.
"Morning," Honda said quietly, while Bakura and Yuugi chirped their greetings.
Otogi grunted, not looking up properly to meet their eyes. He gestured towards the sugar sachets which sat on an empty table behind Kaiba, so Kaiba reached backwards and managed to grasp the container, holding it out to Otogi.
Otogi took the container from Kaiba, jerking a little when their hands touched, his eyes meeting Kaiba's for a moment before he plonked the container onto the table loudly.
Kaiba raised an eyebrow, while Anzu bit her lip and Honda robotically poked his spoon at his cereal.
Otogi ignored the silence at the table, emptying three sachets of sugar into his coffee and then clanging his spoon noisily against the edge of the cup.
"Aren't they cute?" Anzu asked, looking in one of the shop windows at a display of miniature cuckoo clocks.
Honda gave a non-committal shrug. "I guess."
Next to him, Kaiba raised an eyebrow. Girls.
His elbow bumped Honda's and he glanced at the boy quickly, in time to see the mischievous look on Honda's face as he elbowed Kaiba back, sniggering at his surprised response.
As Anzu turned to walk away, and Honda turned to follow her, Kaiba fell into step beside him.
"I thought you were supposed to be the mature one," he teased, pushing Honda's side again.
Honda snickered. "I'm on holidays," he reminded Kaiba, pulling his hand out of his pocket to punch the other's shoulder. "You know, you could look it up in the dictionary some time," he teased back, although it was true he'd noted the absence of a laptop today.
"I'll look up 'mature' for you too, while I'm at it," Kaiba said dryly, hiding his amusement.
Honda snorted. "Don't need to, since the perfect example is standing right next to me…"
"I mean, really… You're so mature you've got probably wrinkles on your arse."
Kaiba's eyes widened and he shoved at Honda again.
Honda just burst out laughing at the indignant look on Kaiba's face. "Jeez, no need to look so serious," he grinned. "It's not like I actually looked, you know."
Kaiba snorted. "Idiot."
Otogi walked along the footpath mechanically.
His feet were sore, his shoulder blades were starting to feel a dull ache and he was plain tired. Today had been a free day, so they were all out shopping, and it wasn't as though he hated shopping, but it was just so damn cold.
He heard laughter in front of him and looked up quickly. It was Honda, laughing at Kaiba, and Otogi glanced down quickly again to glare at the footpath.
He'd been feeling like this all day, but no matter how many times he told himself to get over it, it just didn't work.
Hearing Anzu Honda call his name, he looked up again, ready to shoot a glare at the boy, when he felt his toe hit something hard. The sensation of pain was quickly overtaken by the realisation that he was about to fall flat on his face, and he stumbled, trying to steady himself again.
"Watch where you're going," someone snapped at him, and he blinked in surprise, realising slightly dizzily that he was still on his feet and that Kaiba was looking down at him.
For a moment, Otogi could have sworn that Kaiba looked almost concerned.
"Otogi? You okay?" Bakura called out, jogging back to see what the fuss was.
Then Kaiba let go of Otogi, who, cursing his feet – and the pavement – stood up straight and flicked his hair. "Well it'd be easier if people didn't just stop walking right in front of me."
Honda squeezed Otogi's shoulder suddenly, surprising him since he hadn't even realised Honda was there. "You okay? Maybe we should stop or something…"
Anzu gave a nod. "Yeah, it's been a while since we sat down anywhere, and it's pretty cold out here now…"
Kaiba snorted. There was a Starbucks up ahead, so he grabbed Honda's arm. "Come on then."
There was nothing more annoying than a whole bunch of idiots standing around in the cold, telling him what he already knew. People who stated the obvious were about the most annoying breed of people on the earth, apart from incompetent decision makers, time wasters, friendship cliques and megalomaniacs.
With so many idiots on the face of the earth, it was no wonder people went nuts.
Honda sipped his hot chocolate, taking in their surroundings. Why was it that they were always ending up at Starbucks outlets here? He supposed it was because there were so many, though that didn't really explain why they gravitated towards them like this.
Kaiba seemed a little out of it, and they were all pretty tired and there wasn't that much to talk about.
Honda didn't mind the silence though. It gave him space to think about… things. About Otogi, and about Kaiba, and about Jounouchi back in Japan.
Otogi was sitting opposite him on a plush couch, so Honda watched him for a moment, feeling depressed that their trip was turning out to be so full of things he hadn't expected. Although, he had to admit that it wasn't all bad.
Anzu next to Otogi, and Yuugi and Bakura together, he was pretty glad they were all in this together anyway.
And then he looked back to Otogi. It seemed like he was looking to Honda's left, and had been doing so ever since they sat down.
Honda looked over his shoulder, but didn't see anything of interest, so he looked back to Otogi again, who looked pretty spaced out, like the rest of them. And Honda realised that it wasn't that Otogi was looking at something, but at someone.
Honda took a big gulp of his drink, forgetting how hot it was and ending up coughing.
"The chocolate isn't exactly going to run away, Honda," Anzu joked, smiling across at him.
Honda grinned, masking his sudden confusion. "Well, not when Jounouchi's not here anyway."
"How is the mutt anyway?" Kaiba asked as he picked up his coffee. Straight black as usual.
"I don't know who you're talking about," Honda replied, this time taking a smaller sip of his drink.
After a moment of silence, Kaiba scowled. "Jou-nou-chi," he said, emphasizing the syllables rather sarcastically.
"Oh, Jounouchi?" he smiled. "I don't really know. Why don't you ask him yourself? I'm sure he'd be delighted to hear from you."
Honda smirked, relaxing into the sofa and taking another sip of his hot chocolate.
Rather like the cat that got the cream.
The snow was falling pretty heavily by the time they emerged from the underground station onto the ground level.
Anzu held out her hand, seeing the flakes falling on her glove and condensing into small drops of water. The sun was setting in the distance still, and as it sunk below the horizon, it cast a hazy light through the clouds.
These were the kinds of days that Anzu liked.
As they walked back to the hotel, she let Yuugi and Bakura charge on ahead, as she walked next to Otogi.
Actually, while they'd been out today, she'd finally realised something…
This whole time, she'd been thinking that Otogi was hung up about Honda, but perhaps… She could easily be wrong, but she was beginning to realise that perhaps it wasn't actually about Honda, was it?
Walking a little closer and wrapping her arm around Otogi's shoulders, she grinned. "You know we're leaving here tomorrow… What do you think of going out tonight?"
Anzu looked at him in surprise, and Otogi rolled his eyes. "What? You think I'm a mutt? That I'll roll over and die just because something doesn't go quite the way I want it to?"
Anzu looked at him closely, and then smiled, shaking her head. "Of course not."
But she was still glad to hear Otogi say it.
"Otogi…" she began again.
"Oh… nothing," Anzu smiled. "Just thinking to myself. I'm glad we're all here together, that's all."
She looked around suddenly, realising that they'd lost sight of Yuugi and Bakura, but then as they turned the last corner, they found their answer as a barrage of snowballs suddenly hit them, causing Anzu to shriek and duck behind Otogi.
But her human shield had other ideas – revenge apparently, since it took off after the culprits, along with Honda and –
Then she grinned and scooped up a handful of snow, shaping it into a ball as she chased too.
Yuugi and Bakura wouldn't know what had hit them.
Well, apart from snow, that was.
- MM -
Author Notes: Thank you for continuing to read this story and send me questions about it! Sincere apologies for the long, long, long wait between the last chapter and this one. Thank you especially to Nobody Girl and Llonella, since you both took the time to email and kick me. Since, well, I need kicks. XD
And – on another note, it sounds silly but I'm rather proud of having reached eleven chapters. My concentration span is seriously short, so I should mark this out as an achievement and a half. XD
I've written out the way this chapter's supposed to go several times. None of them was perfect, so here's to hoping this chapter was sort of more like wine than vinegar.
Thank you again and lots of love! But no reviewer replies because it's outlawed. (Sorry sorry!) They'd probably chase me down with a lasso if I tried.