The sky was hazy on the morning my life changed forever. When the first rays of dawn crept over the horizon I woke, as usual; even though it was Sunday and I could have slept until sunset if I so desired, but my body instinctively knew that I would spare no time for excess rest, even on a day when I had nothing to do but make myself miserable with forced inactivity.
Mokuba had made me promise to spend at least one day a month doing nothing, and unfortunately today was that day. Even before I'd finished my first cup of morning coffee my hands itched for the familiar feeling of a keyboard under my fingers, and I considered turning on my laptop, if just to play solitaire. But my brother would be sure to catch me if I tried it- and I wouldn't be able to resist working, anyway; not if my computer was so close.
Yes, I know that I'm a workaholic. At least I'm rich.
I sighed; feeling suddenly stifled even inside my enormous home, and decided to escape for a while. After scribbling a note to Mokuba, I slipped on my favorite white trench coat over my black shirt and pants and went for a walk to clear my head. As I ambled slowly along the sidewalk I casually observed the hazy sky, brightening to a thick orange muck as the dawn progressed and the clouds deepened. It would probably rain today.
Noting that bothersome fact with a brief grunt and a shake of my head, I realized that I'd walked farther than I had intended. The city had come into view, only a few blocks away now. I frowned- there was a reason I lived outside of town. The media loved to gossip about Seto Kaiba, billionaire CEO (and workaholic), and I could only imagine what they would say if they saw me walking alone down the sidewalk at the crack of dawn.
Probably that I was on some sort of romantic tryst.
I snorted at the thought and kept walking- I could see a park entrance just ahead, and it would probably relax me to be around "nature" for a little while. The sidewalk didn't exactly offer a nice view, after all, unless I counted the cloudy sky. Once inside the park, however, greenery spread around me, sparkling with the remnants of morning dew, and chattering birds bustled importantly in the tree branches. I had to admit, it was a refreshing change from the flat blue glare of a computer monitor. Maybe this walk was a better idea than I thought.
Spotting a gazebo to my right, I turned aside from my path to take a short pause amid my (surprisingly) pleasant surroundings. I had to roll my eyes, however, when I noticed the structure had been painted a clichéd white, and it even had an ivy trellis creeping up the side. It was probably designed for wedding receptions.
I couldn't help but wonder what the media would say if they saw me here.
The murky sky darkened to a dull gray as I sat in the gazebo, and I decided to leave before the rain began. But, as soon as I stood, a sudden flash of tri-colored hair appeared, fast approaching from the distance, and I gawked in surprise as my familiar crimson-eyed rival barreled down one of the park's paved pathways. As he rushed toward me, flushed and breathless, the heavy puzzle that he always wore around his neck repeatedly beat against his lean chest. I wondered if that hurt.
Yami raced up the steps and ran into the gazebo at full speed- then suddenly stopped right in front of me, without even stumbling. I was slightly disappointed at that; it would have been entertaining to watch him trip over his clunky boots.
"S-Seto, w-what are you doing here?" he panted.
"What are you doing here?" I retorted. "And don't you usually call me Kaiba?"
He shrugged indifferently, still breathing hard. "I needed a place to hide. I accidentally broke one of Anzu's china figurines that she put up in Yugi's room. He's going to be furious when he finds out, so I need to stay out of his sight until he calms down."
Okay, a few things didn't quite add up about that statement. Firstly…
"If Yugi doesn't even know yet, then why were you running so fast?"
Yami paused in the middle of wiping sweat from his brow and blinked his ruby eyes slowly. "I don't know. Guilty conscience, I suppose."
"Whatever." I decided I didn't really care, and gave Yami my trademark icy blue glare before stalking down the gazebo steps. When I reached the paved pathway, however, I briefly glanced back at Yami. He watched me with a bemused smirk, his arms crossed across his chest and slightly pushing back his navy blue jacket.
"You know, Kaiba, you never told me why you were here. I'm surprised you'd spend the morning in the park when you could be creating some new virtual system on your computer- or planning how to finally beat me at Duel Monsters."
I stomped back up the stairs.
"I don't have to plan it at all. The only reason you beat me is because you got lucky! I'm far more skilled than you'll ever be," I snarled. Then, as an afterthought, I added, "And I'm not working today because I promised Mokuba I'd take the day off."
Yami laughed heartily.
I guess I shouldn't have said that last part.
"Shut up! No one can work all the time," I grumbled.
"You would…if your little brother would let you!" Yami retorted, still snickering.
I suppose it was rather funny if one thought of it that way, but that didn't mean I would tolerate Yami laughing at me. Stepping threateningly closer to him, I glared down at Yami from my impressive height, letting my blue eyes flash menacingly, and I could feel a strange tension snapping between us as he glanced up and met my eyes.
Yami stopped laughing.
He blanched and backed away, muttering an apology under his breath, and I nodded in satisfaction. I turned to leave- and noticed the first raindrops spilling from the suddenly dark sky. The fat droplets smacked against the gazebo roof, each individual drop plunking on the wood with a dull thud that echoed mockingly in my ears. As the rain poured more heavily, the sound rose to a low roar, and I could swear I heard mocking laughter amid the sounds of the splashing water.
Well, maybe I was getting carried away, but I had just become stuck with my annoying rival for an indefinite period of time. And I didn't even have my laptop to ease my suffering.
Yami let out a low whistle. "Wow, that rainstorm came out of nowhere. Well, at least Yugi won't be able to go out and look for me in this weather," he commented idiotically, and strode to one of the wooden benches that ran along the edge of the gazebo. He relaxed as much as possible against the hard wood, stretching out his legs and crossing one boot-clad ankle over the other.
I scowled and stalked to a bench on the other side of the gazebo.
We sat in silence for a long time after that, listening to the thudding of the rain against the roof, until finally Yami spoke again. "Seto? You wouldn't happen to have your deck with you, would you?" he asked hopefully.
I merely shook my head in response, vaguely wondering why he kept calling me by my first name. Probably because he knew it would annoy me.
"That's a shame; it's been a while since I had a decent duel…" Yami murmured. My attention perked at this, and I felt slightly flattered- though I didn't show it, of course. Yami sighed and stretched languidly, and his wild blond bangs swayed as a slight gust of wind blew in through the open walls of the gazebo. Yami frowned when the wind blew a spray of rainwater with it, nearly soaking him through.
I smirked vindictively- at least until he abruptly stood and crossed to my side of the structure. Yami plopped beside me, grinning companionably, but when I glared his grin shifted into a devious smirk. "So, Kaiba, how are you?" he asked amiably.
"Hn," I grunted, and swiftly rose, crossing to the bench where Yami sat a moment earlier, only to find it soaking wet.
"Why do you think I moved?" he drawled. I glanced to where my smirking rival lounged comfortably; then looked again at the sodden bench beside me.
I opted to stand.
Sulkily I strode to the gazebo steps and leaned against the wooden post right beside the entrance, scowling at the thick sheets of rain that held me prisoner. Over and over, raindrops plunked against the wood, against the concrete, against the grass. A slight tang of wet earth reached my nose as the drops pounded against the trees, against the grass… This heavy, monotonous drumming eventually lulled me into a slightly relaxed state as I continued to stare at the rain- so I hardly even glared when my rival rose to stand beside me and rested against the opposite post.
"Beautiful, isn't it? I love the rain," Yami murmured. I nodded, feeling too torpid to bother thinking of a sharp retort. After this remark, Yami sank back into silence and we calmly observed the rain while we stood there, side by side.
Yami eventually straightened, pushing away from the post, and I glanced at him in mild interest as he grinned up at me. "Hey, Seto? Did you ever play in the rain when you were a kid?" Yami asked slyly.
"No. I didn't play at all," I snapped.
His scarlet eyes widened slightly as he obviously recalled my unusual (a.k.a. screwed-up) childhood, before his smirk returned. "Well, do you want to now?" he asked nonchalantly.
Was he insane? His senseless fear of Yugi's wrath must have addled his already none-too-stable brain if he thought that Seto Kaiba, billionaire CEO, not to mention his number one RIVAL was going to play in the rain with him! And when did the incredibly proud King of Games become immature enough to do such a ridiculous thing himself?
Yami burst into hearty chuckles at my dumbfounded expression, and I realized he was merely teasing me. My eye twitched.
"Shut up," I snarled, but he just laughed harder, so I took a step toward him and grabbed him loosely by the collar. Still snickering, Yami clutched at my hands, weakly attempting to push them away even as he chuckled helplessly. "Yami," I growled warningly.
He froze, still clutching my hands, and slowly tilted his face up to meet my eyes.
"What?" I asked, honest confusion washing away my anger. Yami suddenly beamed, even though I continued to grip his collar threateningly- and I realized what had happened. I always called him 'Yugi' before, although I knew that wasn't his name and though I even called him 'Yami' in my thoughts. I just did it to tick him off- like he had apparently decided to do by calling me Seto. But now, in my anger, I had slipped, and judging from the look on his face he wasn't about to let me forget it.
Bit by bit, I relaxed my grip on Yami's collar and he warily released my hands. When he let go I rubbed my hands together awkwardly, missing the added warmth, while Yami continued to grin stupidly. "It's not that big a deal," I mumbled, and glared icily for good measure, but Yami just shook his head and kept smiling.
"Thanks, Kaiba," he murmured, and turned back to the rain without further comment.
As I tried to comprehend this mysterious statement, I watched Yami observe the rainstorm. That brilliant smile had yet to diminish, and it spread wide across his thin cheeks, revealing even white teeth. He stood in his typical proud stance- arms crossed across his chest and head held high –while his ruby eyes flashed with something I couldn't name. I knew he sensed me watching him.
"It looks like the rain's letting up," Yami offered, still facing forward. The thick downpour actually had lightened to a softer drizzle, but I still couldn't risk going out- I had a communicator in the collar of my trench coat, after all, and I would rather not be electrocuted. (Not that I should even bother trying to use the communicator to get someone to pick me up, though- none of my employees would bother working on a Sunday if I wasn't there to harass them.)
"Hn," I grunted vaguely in response to Yami's comment. He finally glanced at me again, rolling those flashing red eyes, and his smile widened even more.
"Not much of a conversationalist, are you Seto?" he laughed. This laugh, however, wasn't mocking and sarcastic, like before- instead, his deep voice rumbled melodically in his chest until it spilled out his brilliantly smiling lips. I kind of… liked it.
Much to my disgust.
"I could be an excellent conversationalist if you ever talked about something interesting," I retorted sourly.
"Alright, then, what do you want to talk about?" Yami asked agreeably.
I thought for a moment. "Why did Yugi have a china figurine in his room in the first place?"
Yami laughed again- that deep melodic resonance -then replied, "Anzu gave it to him, like I said. Actually, though…well…"
He trailed off, biting his lip as the smile fell from his face. "What?" I asked, curious in spite of myself.
"DON'T tell Yugi this," he cautioned, poking me in the chest with a slim finger.
I raised an eyebrow. "Like I would even talk to him in the first place," I scoffed, and Yami grinned slightly, looking relieved.
"You're right. You can keep a secret, anyway," he said, nodding to himself, and my other eyebrow joined the first at my hairline. What did he mean by that? Before I could wonder too much, however, Yami continued. "Well, she actually gave it to me first, but when I turned it down she put it up in Yugi's room as if it were a gift for him; though I think it was just to remind me what I was 'missing out on.'"
Yami made air quotes, sighing, and went on with his explanation. "The figurine was a ballerina- since Anzu wants to be a dancer –and she gave it to me when she… when she… er… told me how she felt about me." A rosy blush colored his cheeks and he rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.
I fought desperately to keep from grinning at the sight; focusing instead on the slow, steady drip of the lessening rain until the strange urge had passed. "I take it you didn't feel the same way?" I asked neutrally.
He grinned sheepishly. "No… Even if I did, though, I still wouldn't act on it. Yugi likes her too much. You should've seen his face when Anzu put up that little ballerina figurine- it was priceless." A dreamy, distant expression clouded Yami's eyes and he sighed. "Yugi loves her so much… Anzu- she just had a crush on me; but what Yugi feels… it's something special, you know? You can tell just by the way he looks at her."
I stared at him in wonder. Who would have thought that Yami was a romantic? What an unbelievable thought. But, as I watched his cloudy crimson eyes and his small soft grin, I realized that it made sense. Yami was probably lonely- since he was generally so knowledgeable and proud (although he seemed unusually friendly today), people tended to keep him at a distance. His friends respected him, even admired him, but their attention turned into a sort of hero-worship rather than that affectionate, close relationship that Yami obviously craved.
We were a lot alike, not that I'd admit it.
"Yami…" I began, unsure of what I even meant to say, but at the sound of his name Yami blinked and the hazy, distant expression vanished from his eyes. I felt oddly disappointed.
"Hmm? What is it, Kaiba?" he asked, giving me a friendly grin.
By this time, I had really forgotten what I wanted to say. Finally, after casting around frantically in my mind for a moment, I questioned, "How could Yugi love Anzu if she still likes you?"
Yami bit his lip. "He doesn't know. I think he suspects, but… Well, I'm not sure if she still likes me anyway. She might have gotten over it by now," Yami answered uncertainly, nodding his head as if trying to convince himself of what he was saying.
He certainly didn't convince me.
"Uh-huh," I affirmed dryly. "When exactly did she give you that figurine?"
"About a week ago," Yami muttered, not meeting my eyes. He stared at the floor guiltily, tensed for my reaction.
I couldn't resist- it was just too amusing seeing my rival so flustered and embarrassed over a girl, especially one he didn't even like. So, involuntarily, I burst into hearty, honest laughter, and after a moment Yami joined in. He glanced up at me with those blazing red eyes and began snickering- whether at the situation or merely because I was laughing, I don't know –and the two of us stood side-by-side, chuckling like old friends, as the drizzling rain dissolved into a mere haze above the grass.
It was remarkable. As I stood there with Yami, our laughter subsiding into slight chuckles, a weight lifted from my shoulders that I hadn't even known I was carrying. (A cliché, I know, but it was the truth.) Somehow, merely spending time with someone besides my brother who didn't seem to fear me or hold me in awe felt wonderful, and I found myself relaxing, just a little, for the first time in ages.
I could suddenly see why Yami was a romantic.
"Well, Seto, the rain has just about stopped. You can leave now if you want," Yami commented. His long blond bangs fluttered in a sudden gust of wind, and Yami tugged his jacket tighter around him in the chill; his small, lean form shivering lightly.
My mouth opened and the words spilled out before I could stop myself (another first for me- I really wasn't acting like myself today), and I asked, "Do you want to come with me? You can wait at my house for a while until you think it's safe to go home." I added the last part with a touch of my usual sarcasm, and Yami shot me another sheepish grin.
"Sure. Thanks, Seto," he replied simply.
I nodded curtly and began to step down the stairs, but before I could move the sound of thumping footsteps caught my attention. In the distance, following the same path Yami had taken, a short figure resembling Yami but with huge violet eyes pounded along the concrete at full speed. "Yugi!" Yami gasped, and leapt behind me, clutching at my trench coat and burying his face in my back. I raised an eyebrow.
Yugi paused, panting, at the foot of the stairs. "Kaiba, have you seen Yami?" he growled, in the most frightening tone I'd ever heard coming from the friendly teen. Yami's breath hitched behind me.
Not bothering to lie to Yugi, or even answer him at all, I merely glared at the diminutive teenager until he eventually took a step back, looking a little intimidated. "Alright… Well, if you see him, would you tell me?" Yugi asked. I narrowed my eyes. "O-okay, fine, never mind," he mumbled, and rushed away at full speed once more.
I waited. But, after a minute or two, Yami still clutched at my coat even though Yugi had long since disappeared; so I cleared my throat meaningfully. Yami jumped backward as if slapped, and as I turned to observe him quizzically his pale cheeks reddened slightly. "Sorry… Just making sure he was gone," Yami muttered.
In spite of myself, a grin twitched at the edges of my lips, and when I rolled my eyes sarcastically Yami grinned, too. The atmosphere lightened immediately, and I felt like we were old friends once again. Well, maybe we were, in a way.
I leaned back against the post. "So, have you been dueling much lately? I've not had much time- too busy with work," I said.
Yami shrugged and moved to stand at my side once more. "Well, not really. Yugi and I play a lot, and Jou, too, but not in a serious competition. You were always more of a challenge, and it's been months since we…" Yami trailed off, examining me thoughtfully. That distant expression appeared in his eyes for a second time, and I briefly wondered what it meant before I spoke again.
"Of course I'm more of a challenge than the mutt," I drawled disdainfully. Honestly, how could he even compare me to that mediocre mongrel?
Yami laughed. That rich, melodic rumble interrupted my rude thoughts about Jounouchi and drew my attention back to my increasingly interesting rival. His even, white teeth sparkled as he chuckled merrily and I had to admit that Yami had a very nice smile.
What? Where did that come from?
Waving away my strange thoughts, I straightened gracefully and put a hand on Yami's back, pushing him lightly toward the stairs. "Come on. It's stopped raining; let's go."
Yami bit his lip and glanced up at me hesitantly. "I don't know, Seto. It might be better for me to go on home and face Yugi. He might not be so mad if I apologize. I don't know why I hid from him a minute ago…that was really stupid," he sighed, shaking his head.
I frowned. "No, it wasn't. You were right to wait for him to cool down. Now come on, let's go," I urged again, pushing on his back.
He planted his feet stubbornly and shook his head. "Seto, I can't just hide…"
Yami started lecturing me, but I ignored him, feeling a strange, resentful anger bubbling in my chest. I didn't really care why Yami was coming with me, or whether or not he wanted to face his problems. I just…didn't want him to leave yet. In the last hour or so, I'd suddenly begun to enjoy his company; maybe because we laughed together- or maybe just because we somehow understood each other. I wondered why I hadn't seen it before; probably because Yami was always surrounded by those annoying friends of his.
But, whatever the reason, I wasn't ready to let him go.
Yami finished his speech, glaring up at me with those flashing crimson eyes. He was obviously waiting for a reply, but I didn't have one to give, so instead I muttered, "You can make up with Yugi anytime. Why don't you just spend today with me?"
His eyes widened. "You... Seto, you actually want me around?"
I suddenly realized my hand was still resting on the small of his back. Quickly I jerked it away and took a step back, turning my gaze to the cloudy but rainless sky. How could I answer that question with a shred of my dignity intact? Oh, wait, I couldn't.
"Maybe," I muttered.
Yami laughed melodiously once again and placed his hand companionably on the crook of my elbow. "Alright, come on, then," he said cheerily. "You'll have to lead the way, though, because I don't know where you live."
"Hn," I snorted, trying to ignore the extremely warm hand on my elbow, "I know you don't, stupid. You don't have to tell me."
"Kaiba!" Yami snarled, jerking his (warm) hand away from my arm. "Why do you always have to be so rude? I thought you wanted me around; so why are you insulting me?" His eyes flashed furiously and his brow furrowed in an annoyed frown.
I groaned in exasperation. Maybe this was why Yami and I had never gotten along before- he tended to overreact to everything. I mean, the guy practically went crazy when that dice kid tried to make Jounouchi wear a dog suit. It served the mutt right, anyway…
Yami tapped his foot impatiently, his arms crossed across his chest as he glared at me. "Well, Kaiba? Aren't you going to apologize?" he asked sulkily.
"Fine, then," Yami snapped, and stomped down the stairs. I watched him stalk angrily away, my heart sinking. So, I guess it couldn't last, then. No one could ever get along with me, if they didn't respect (or fear) me. I should have known.
When Yami had nearly disappeared from view, the clouds started pouring torrents of water again, without even a hint of warning. Stuck in the abrupt downpour, Yami raised his arms over his head and rushed back to the gazebo. He raced up the steps, soaking wet- and barreled straight into me. I landed flat on my back against the hard, wooden surface, with Yami's slender, wet form smashed against my chest. He lifted his head dizzily and tiny rain droplets fell from his wild hair, landing on my nose. His skin glistened lightly, covered in a sheen of water.
I gaped at him.
"Sorry; sorry, Seto," Yami murmured, still slightly breathless, and rolled off of me. I didn't move; just kept lying flat on my back against the wood, staring straight ahead and seeing Yami's wet hair and glistening skin, even though he had already moved away. "Seto? Are you alright?" he asked worriedly, leaning over me once again. His ruby eyes shone with concern.
I gaped some more.
"Oh, no, you must have hit your head," Yami murmured softly. He plopped lightly beside me, crossing his legs Indian-style, but when I finally (dazedly) tried to sit up; Yami stopped me with a soft hand against my chest. "Shh, don't move," he soothed. Yami scooted closer and gently cradled the back of my head, his slim fingers sliding through my hair and examining my scalp. "Hmm, I don't feel a lump; but you seem pretty out of it. Best lie still for a while," Yami murmured. He scooted even closer.
And laid my head in his lap.
And laid my HEAD in his LAP.
Yami threaded his fingers gently through my bangs, smoothing them back on my forehead, and I closed my eyes under his soft touch. I could feel the heat from his damp legs under my head, and smell the rainwater on his clothes. It was…nice.
Maybe I really did hit my head.
"Don't close your eyes. You might have a concussion," Yami warned softly, and I slid my eyelids open, only to see his pale, anxious face hovering over me. I shut my eyes again. "Seto," Yami protested.
Reluctantly I opened my eyes, immediately greeted once again by his thin features and deep red eyes. A strand of his blond bangs hung in his face and dripped water down his cheek. "Aren't you supposed to be mad at me?" I drawled, finally coming out of my strange daze.
Yami's hand slipped to my hair again. "I might have overreacted a bit," he admitted, stroking my hair lightly, and I relaxed under his touch. "I'm really sorry I hurt you; does your head hurt anywhere?"
I fought the urge to grin. Maybe we could get along, after all. And perhaps I could use this "injury" to my advantage…
"Well, there's a spot on the very back… Maybe if I just rubbed it a little…"
Yami's other hand immediately joined the first at the base of my scalp and he began soothingly massaging it, his slender fingers moving in soft circles against the skin. My thick hair slid through his fingers as they kneaded, and I shut my eyes again. "Open your eyes, Seto," Yami ordered gently. "Is this the spot?"
"Maybe a little higher," I murmured, fighting to keep my eyes open.
"No…a little more to the left…"
Yami eventually quit asking and just massaged my entire scalp, lightly scratching and kneading the skin and letting my hair slip through his fingers. I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed. Finally, he let his slim hands slip away from my scalp and began to rub my neck and shoulders, and I felt ages of built-up tension slip from me as Yami gently kneaded my shoulders. Maybe I should start seeing a masseuse. Or just seeing Yami.
I shoved that thought away- too many insinuations –and glanced up into Yami's face. His brow furrowed in concentration as he massaged my shoulders, and one tiny droplet of water dangled from the end of his drying bangs. Reverently I lifted a hand to catch the drop before it fell, squeezing the strand of hair and running it between my fingers. Even wet, his hair was so soft…
Yami's hands stopped moving. "Seto? Are…are you feeling better now?" he asked lowly.
"Mhm," I murmured in assent, letting my hand drop back to my chest. I grinned slightly at Yami's curious face hovering so close to mine; I really felt relaxed around him. This was wonderful. Vaguely I wondered why, all of a sudden, Yami had this effect on me; but I didn't really care, as long as I could keep it for as long as possible.
"You…you can…sit up, if you want," Yami mumbled. A faint rosy tinge appeared on his cheeks and I realized my head was still in his lap. That must be a little embarrassing for him…
I smirked wickedly and settled more comfortably against him, closing my eyes.
Yami made a little choked sound, and my smirk widened. But instead of pushing me away, Yami just went back to stroking my hair. I frowned slightly, wondering about this- if my head in his lap embarrassed him, why didn't he react? He was ruining my fun…
But, since when was I this playful anyway?
I shrugged mentally and concentrated on the warm, soft fingers threading through my hair. Finally relaxing completely against Yami, I slowly drifted into a light doze.
I woke when my head hit the floor with a thump. Briefly seeing stars, I turned my head slightly and saw Yami's clunky boots standing beside my face. I slid my gaze upward, along his thin legs and lean torso, to his pale face and sparking crimson eyes. Yami's wild hair blew back from his face in a slight breeze, and the few slanting rays of the setting sun that escaped from the thick clouds set an orange glow around him from behind as I slowly rose to my feet to stand beside him.
Now that I thought about it, Yami was rather good-looking.
Before I could pursue this train of thought, a weak voice from the gazebo stairs caught my attention. "Yami? What's going on?" I turned to look at the speaker- a girl with short brown hair and wide blue eyes currently filled with tears. "Are you and Kaiba…? Is that why you don't…?" Anzu choked thickly. The tears spilled recklessly down her pale cheeks as she stared at Yami with an expression of absolute anguish in her shocked blue eyes.
Even I felt a little sorry for her.
"Anzu… No. The reason I don't like you that way has nothing to do with Kaiba. I already explained that to you," Yami replied soothingly, taking a step closer to her.
She backed away like a frightened animal, and anger suddenly replaced her shock, her eyes flashing menacingly. "No you didn't! You didn't give me any explanation at all!" she shouted. "Is it because you were with HIM the entire time? Is that it?"
I raised an eyebrow. How did she get an idea like that?
Oh, right, the whole head in Yami's lap thing.
"No, Anzu, that's not it. I just don't feel that way about you. I'm sorry. But even if I did, I wouldn't act on it, because…" Realizing he'd said too much, Yami clamped his mouth shut and stared at the floor.
"Because what?" Anzu snapped impatiently.
Yami glanced furtively at me, as if asking for reassurance, but I merely gave a slight shrug. He was on his own- I had no idea how to deal with something like this. It was all I could do to keep the media from making up stories about my own love life. I certainly didn't need to get involved in anyone else's.
Yami's remarkable crimson eyes turned pleading, and I suddenly found myself truly wishing I could help him. I rested a consoling hand on his shoulder, and he gave me a wry, grateful smile. "Anzu, I'm sorry. I can't tell you," he sighed.
"I think I deserve to know, Yami! Why, other than my apparent repulsiveness, would you never even give us the slightest chance?" she cried, now nearing hysteria as the thick tears poured down her face. Yami winced visibly and I gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
"Because I love you, and he knows it," a quiet voice answered from behind Anzu.
She whirled, and as Yami and I stared in shock (though I hid my surprise, of course) Yugi slowly plodded up the wooden stairs. When he reached Anzu, he stuck a hand in his jacket pocket and pulled out a tiny, cracked ballerina figurine, painstakingly pasted together with superglue. "You should probably… have this back," Yugi muttered, his voice catching as he choked miserably. "I knew it was for him in the first place, but I wanted to keep it. It reminded me of you."
Anzu stretched out her hand shakily and Yugi placed the fragile ornament in her hand, gently closing her fingers so that she gripped it tightly in her quivering palm. "Yugi… " she murmured, staring at him with the same shocked, wide-eyed gaze that she'd given Yami a moment before. "Why?"
"Because I love you. I do," he replied, looking away toward the overcast, darkening sky. "I know you don't feel the same way, but…" Yugi bit his lip. "I'm sorry it was damaged. I tried to fix it."
"Yugi," Anzu whispered softly. "Do you really love me?"
He nodded, still watching the sky, and Anzu reached out and cupped his cheek in her shaking hand, turning his face toward her. "Really?" she asked again, and he nodded slowly once more, this time gazing straight into her eyes. At this, Anzu gave him a quavering smile and pressed the statuette back into Yugi's hand. "Keep it," she murmured.
Yugi's eyes widened questioningly and it was Anzu's turn to nod reassuringly. She smiled weakly at Yugi once more before turning and walking down the steps, into the night. Yugi stared after her until she had disappeared; then stared disbelievingly at the ballerina figure in his hands. A tiny, hopeful smile quirked at his lips, and he slipped the figurine back into his jacket pocket before turning to follow Anzu. When Yugi reached the bottom of the steps, however, he called out to Yami and me.
"Oh, by the way, Yami, your hair sticks out, even behind Kaiba's coat."
Yami started, and I blinked in surprise.
"What? Why didn't you come up here after him, then?" I asked in confusion.
Yugi laughed. "Not even I would cross you when you glare like that, Kaiba," he replied over his shoulder as he ambled out of sight.
As soft raindrops began pattering against the gazebo roof once more, I turned to Yami to gloat about my success in intimidating Yugi, but when I saw his face I blinked in surprise once again. That faraway, dreamy expression had crept back into his eyes, and a telltale shimmering track under one eye showed me that Yami was crying. "What's wrong?" I asked worriedly.
He glanced at me, that faraway expression still lingering in his eyes, and I suddenly noted how delicate he seemed. Whenever we dueled, or I watched him face an opponent, Yami was always so proud; so confident. But now, watching him; standing so close to him; I saw yet another side to my rival. His small, lithe figure made him look almost childlike; and his soft features framed by that exotic hair spoke of gentleness and frailty.
Plus, he was a hopeless romantic.
Yami smiled softly in return and laid his hand on my arm. "Thank you, Seto," he murmured.
"What? For what? And you still didn't tell me what's wrong," I replied, feeling thoroughly befuddled. Why would he thank me? All this 'love' and emotion was apparently screwing with my mind.
He just laughed lightly and pulled his hand away, swiping it across his face to dry the tear tracks. "It's just… To know that someone can feel that strongly for another person; even if the other person doesn't love them back- it's just remarkable. But it makes me feel…"
Yami suddenly reddened and broke off, glancing away. "It's getting late. I should go, rain or no rain," he mumbled, and hastily ran down the stairs into the darkness, even as the rain pattered softly all around us. "Goodbye, Seto!" he called over his shoulder.
I blinked in surprise once again. What was Yami about to say? I had to know. He couldn't just leave all of a sudden; not after we'd… Well, we hadn't actually done anything. But still…
"Yami, wait!" I called, but he didn't turn, or even slow down. Grumbling to myself, I yanked off my trench coat (so I wouldn't be electrocuted) and raced after Yami, out into the rain. "Wait!" I cried again.
He slowed his pace but didn't turn; his drenched figure plodding slowly along the pathway. When I caught up with Yami I grabbed one shoulder and tugged him around harshly so that I could see his face. His wild hair sagged slightly under the weight of the rainwater, and droplets trickled down his bangs and along his cheeks; some even catching in his long, dark eyelashes as he gazed up at me solemnly. "What is it, Seto?"
I stared at him a moment longer, still gripping his shoulder tightly, before replying, "What were you going to say?"
Yami grinned sarcastically. "About what?" he asked innocently, but when I narrowed my eyes meaningfully he sighed. "It's not really important," he mumbled.
"I want to know," I told him, stepping slightly closer in my eagerness.
Yami briefly glanced up into my eyes before looking away, toward the gazebo just visible in the distance. "To know that someone could love like that… It's incredible, but it breaks my heart. It makes me feel…hopeless," he murmured, so quietly that I could barely hear him over the steadily pounding rain.
"Hopeless?" I asked incredulously, stepping closer once more and leaning down to examine his face. "Why?"
Yami's crimson eyes snapped up at this question, and he looked straight into my eyes as he answered angrily. "Because! No one will ever feel that way about me! No one will ever even get close to me, or even try to! The closest I got was Anzu's teenage crush on the man she admired!" His eyes flashed, and his delicate features twisted into a strange, painful grimace, as if he were trying to hold back a sob. "You of all people should understand that, Kaiba. Don't you know how it feels when no one…"
"I understand perfectly," I cut in.
He paused mid-rant, still staring into my eyes, and I surprised us both.
I leaned in and kissed him.
As our lips met, I could taste the rainwater on his soft skin, mixed with the salty flavor of leftover tears. At first, I merely pressed my lips against his, tenderly, waiting for his reaction. Then Yami made a soft, slight sound in the back of his throat and I began to move my mouth, sucking lightly on his bottom lip, and he responded eagerly, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss.
Yami slipped his soft, slender hands along my chest and fisted his fingers in the hair at the nape of my neck. He stood on his tiptoes and leaned his whole body against me as our tongues slid wildly against each other, and I could feel the heat of his quivering, damp form all along my chest. Yami let his fingers slip from my hair, only to wrap tightly around my neck as if he couldn't bear to have an inch of space between us.
That was fine with me.
I slipped my arms around his waist, holding him close to me as I continued to kiss him. He tasted slightly bitter, but at the same time intoxicating, like a cup of strong black coffee, and I couldn't get enough of him. But, much to my disappointment, when I started to feel lightheaded I eventually had to break away to breathe; though Yami used the opportunity to begin sucking at the nerve endings at the base of my throat, making me see stars.
I moaned softly under his touch and Yami paused, his face still buried in my neck. "Seto?" he murmured, his voice against my skin sending astonishingly enjoyable vibrations down my spine. I shivered.
"Hmm?" I managed to grunt.
"What happens now?" he whispered.
I smiled softly and ran my fingers through Yami's damp hair as he rested his cheek against my shoulder. Then I repeated my statement from earlier.
"You can make up with Yugi anytime. Why don't you spend tonight with me?"