It's The End Of The Gender Changes (As They Know It)…And They Feel Damn Fine

In Which All Was Weirdly Normal Once Again In Domino City


Arigatou Gozaimasu – Thank You Very Much
Hentai – Pervert/Perverted

Hard Rock Café

"Over here, guys!" Téa called as she spotted Yugi and Yami – and surprisingly, Malik – across the room. They waved back and made their way through the post-lunchtime rush.

"Hey, Téa," Yugi greeted, giving his friend a hug.

"Good to see you, Yugi, Yami, Malik," she replied. "Have a seat."

Malik flashed her a quick grin, obviously still not entirely comfortable with the other members of the group.

Or maybe it's just his body he's uncomfortable with, Téa surmised as she noted his awkwardness of movement. Spending almost seven weeks as a girl – with only one week in between as a guy – had probably thrown off Malik's whole sense of balance and personal space.

"So, what've you been up to lately?" Yugi asked as they all settled down at a table in the back of the café.

Téa shrugged. "Nothing much. I've been taking a dance class on Saturday mornings. I caught up on my reading. I went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show with Marik…" She shook her head, an amused grin on her face. "What a trip!" That was an experience I'll never forget… Marik is gold lamé and fishnet tights… Eesh. Disturbing.

Disturbing that I found him sexy like that… And where did Marik dig those clothes up, anyway?

"Marik?" Yugi squeaked, bringing Téa out of her worrying thoughts.

Nodding, the brunette said, "Uh-huh. This weekend we're having a Monty Python marathon." Her expression was caught halfway between a bemused smile and tolerant resignation.

"Marik?" Yami repeated, disbelief etched across his every feature.

Téa covered up her nervousness at their reactions by frowning in pretended puzzlement. "Did you not hear me the first time?"

"No, we did, just… Why have you been hanging out with my yami?" Malik asked.

"Marik and I are the only ones still unattached," Téa pointed out. "Yugi and Yami are always together; so are Bakura and Ryou. You and Duke got together not too long ago, and Joey and Tristan are still in the honeymoon phase. Marik and I are both at loose ends."

Malik frowned, not liking the sound of that. "If he's bothering you…"

Vigorously shaking her head, Téa said, "Ever since you moved in with Duke, he's been lonely. And he's fun to hang out with." She grinned. "He likes Dance Dance Revolution almost as much as I do. And he's really good at it, too," she enthused.

"Marik? Dancing?" Yami sputtered.

"Yes, Pharaoh, dancing," Marik agreed, popping up from around the corner and heading for the table the four friends were all sitting at. "It's that thing you do where you move your feet to music." He dropped down into a chair next to Téa and stole a sip of her mocha cappuccino.

Raising one eyebrow, Téa drawled dryly, "You're welcome."

Marik grinned unrepentantly. "Arigatou gozaimasu," he quipped.

Eyes narrowing at the byplay between Téa and his yami, Malik asked, "What are you doing here?" a little more bluntly than he'd intended.

"Well, I could say that I'm here to take part in your charming company since you're never at home anymore," Marik dug. "But I'd be lying." Slinging one arm companionably over Téa's shoulder, he said, "Bright Eyes over here was supposed to meet me at the bookstore across the street in an hour, so I thought I'd get some coffee before then since I had nothing better to do."

"You hate coffee," Malik said, frowning in confusion.

Marik shrugged and sent the brunette doubling as his armrest a sidelong glance. "Some things grow on you," he said dismissively.

"Like mold on a damp tomb," Bakura put in, coming up behind the other yami. She cuffed the blond upside the head – making it clear which fungus she was referring to – before taking a seat next to him.

"I'm surprised to see you here, Marik," Ryou said a bit more diplomatically than his lover. He pulled up a chair next to the two Egyptians.

"It seemed like the place to be," Marik said, pointedly sending a glance his hikari's way. "Almost everyone else is here."

Malik shrugged, not at all embarrassed. "It was a spur of the moment thing. I called the house this morning to invite you, but Rishid said you'd left already."

Marik made a noise of acceptance and an awkward silence settled over the seven teenagers.

Moments later, a loud growl – coming from the vicinity of Téa's stomach – broke the quiet atmosphere of the café.

Blushing as the other six teens all swiveled around to stare at her, Téa ducked her head. "Sorry."

Eyeing the girl's midsection with teasing trepidation, Marik couldn't help but ask, "Did you swallow a Kuriboh?" At the shocked looks on everyone's faces – save the girl in question – he added, "Because it sure as hell sounds like it." He poked her exposed bellybutton, causing her to giggle like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Téa chuckled at his antics, the color finally fading from her cheeks. "No. I just didn't have breakfast," she explained.

Yami frowned. "But it is the most important meal of the day, is it not?"

Yugi rolled his eyes. "You shouldn't take everything you hear on TV so seriously, Yami," he said tiredly, as if this was an old conversation.

Tilting his head to the side in confusion, Yami asked, "So it isn't important?"

Téa sighed. "Yes, it is important, but it's not life-threatening if you don't eat breakfast," she explained, seeing as how Yugi hadn't had a chance to order any coffee yet, and she knew he wasn't good for anything cerebral until he'd had at least two cups. "And I don't normally skip meals, but my mother is on her back to school cleaning spree. From sunup to sundown today, no speck of dirt in our house is safe from her – and anyone she can get to help. It was either skip breakfast or be conscripted to scrub the toilets." She grimaced. "I chose to go hungry."

"Well, since I drank half your coffee, I think it only fair that I buy you a snack," Marik told her. Digging into the pockets of his olive green cargo pants, he pulled out a handful of yen and started to sift through the coins, counting as he went. "I think I have enough to get us each a muffin."

Téa's eyes lit up. "Chocolate chip?"

Marik grinned at her. "But of course! What other kind of muffins are there?" he asked as he hopped up from his chair, thus relieving Téa of the burden – not that she saw it that way – of supporting his arm.

Once Marik had left on his journey to find chocolate chip muffins, Malik – after shooting a glance after him to make sure he was gone – leaned across the table towards Téa. "Look," he hissed. "I love Marik, and now that he's not evil and insane anymore, I kinda like him, too. But I really don't see where you'd have all that much in common – even if he does like dancing."

Téa sighed and gave him a half-apologetic, half-compassionate look. "You don't really know him all that well, Malik. You have to actually talk to someone to get to know them, and neither of you have managed to escape the male stereotype of not liking to talk about your feelings."

"Then tell me about him," Malik implored. "What am I missing about Marik that would make you like him so much?"

"He's fun," Téa said simply. "He has a great, quirky sense of humor. And whenever we go somewhere or do something, it's like he's seeing it for the first time."

"He probably is," Bakura interjected.

Téa nodded wryly. "True, but still… He makes me look at things in whole new ways. And I like that."

"Still…you're dating my yami?" Malik looked as if he'd swallowed a lemon.

"We're just friends," Téa defended their actions, but there was a suspicious red tint to her cheeks.

"Like Joey and Tristan?" Ryou asked, hiding a laugh. "Who aren't here, I might add, because when I called them, they were, and I quote Joey directly 'too fucking busy fucking to get some fucking coffee'?"

Téa somehow managed to blush at Ryou's words and glare daggers at said hikari. "Traitor," she hissed at him.

"I calls 'em as I sees 'em," Ryou said easily.

"So do I," Bakura put in. She grinned broadly. "And I see you two are getting to be very friendly."

Téa growled, uncharacteristically of her usual sunny nature. "Stuff it, 'Kura," she said.

"I see by your choice of vernacular that you've been picking up Marik's speech patterns," Malik noted, adding, under his breath, "Among other things…"

Téa shrugged noncommittally.

Malik sighed mock-heavily. "He's been rubbing off on you," he said sadly. He cast a suggestive look at her, causing her cheeks to heat once more. "And not in a good way."

Becoming weary of the circular course Téa and Malik's conversation was taking, Yami glanced around for a life raft in this oasis of gloom. What he found fit the bill, but it wasn't exactly the savior he'd been looking for… "And speaking of the psycho…" Yami muttered, catching sight of the aforementioned Egyptian yami out of the corner of his eye.

"Yami, be nice," Yugi chided his other.

Eyes flashing red with passion, Yami purred, "Oh, I can be very nice…when I want to be, aibou."

Yugi coughed and cleared his throat.

Téa rolled her eyes at this display of pseudo macho muscle flexing. She was so glad Marik wasn't like that.

He preferred witty repartee to sexual innuendo. It was why he made such a good friend.

Don't think about how he could be more, Téa chided herself. Take things as they come… She winced. Oooh, my back brain is on overdrive – giving me double entendres right and left. She sighed inaudibly. I am such a hentai…

"Here we are!" Marik announced gaily, breaking Téa out of her self-castigating thoughts. He set down a tray with two chocolate chip muffins, a tin of butter, two plastic knives and some napkins on it on the table. Giving Téa a charming smile, he brought one fist to chest over his heart and bowed his head in mock-subservience as he declared, "Lady Téa…I have braved the vast and dangerous wilds of the urban jungle known as the Great Hard Rock Café. I have done battle with hostile cashiers to harvest the fruit of the Muffin Man in the magnificent – but much-guarded – territory known only as the Chocolate Chip Valley to provide for your sustenance, milady."

Téa giggled at his theatrics. "Why thank you, kind sir," she said as she graciously accepted the muffin and butter tin Marik handed her and started peeling the wrapper off the former. He plopped down into his chair and set to eating his own muffin.

"I never thought I'd see the day when you'd be acting like an idiot over a girl…" Malik muttered under his breath, his words meant for, but not directed to his yami. "Acting like an idiot over anything else…"

Marik turned confused eyes on his hikari. "Huh?" he mumbled through a mouthful of fluffy chocolate chip-laden dough. He swallowed. "What'd you say, 'Li?"

"Nothing." Malik forced a cheerful smile. Okay, fine, so they're not dating…yet. Would it really be so bad if they were?

Ra, yes!

"When did you develop a sense of humor, Marik?" Bakura asked, interrupting Malik's silent brooding. Yami Baiting was a game the both of them liked to play – Bakura and Marik were always trying to one-up each other, normally at Yami's expense instead of each other's; but this instance was too good to pass up – and it was always fun to watch.

"When did you develop boobs, Bakura?" Marik returned smartly, eyeing her more-exposed-than-usual cleavage with a gaze that could almost be felt. He smiled a mocking smile as she shifted in discomfiture.

But the former tomb-robber was not going to let Marik get to her. "About five thousand and seven years ago, give or take a millennia." She smirked at the sour scowl her words brought to the other yami's face.

Téa chuckled as she spread low-fat margarine on her muffin, bringing Marik's attention away from glaring at Bakura and back to her.

"You guys fight just like Joey and Tristan," she said at their questioning looks, taking a bite of her now-buttery muffin and chewing. A moment passed as the rest of the table digested her oddball comment – and Téa digested her muffin – before she grinned broadly and added, "Only without the underlying sexual tension."

Marik barked a laugh. "I should hope so, Bright Eyes. Me and Bakura?" He shuddered theatrically. "As Ryou would say, 'Perish the thought!'"

"Actually, I'd say, 'They're like oil and water,'" Ryou put in, a smile tugging at his lips.

"More like nitro and glycerin," Marik countered, stealing another sip of Téa's cappuccino with which to wash down his muffin. She sent him a humor-skewed scowl, though even the semblance of displeasure left her face at the next conversational gambit.

"Stable as long as they're apart, but get together, and one little upset…" Malik chimed in, having finally thrown off the last of his malaise of gloom to join in the conversation. "A potentially terrible combination, and always volatile." He shook his head.

Grinning broadly, Marik threw a chunk of his muffin up in the air and opened his mouth wide beneath it, imitating the shrieky whistling sound a missile would make as it plummeted towards Earth. "Eeeyaarrrnngghhh…" As the doughy morsel neared its target, he let out a loud 'bombing' sound – "FWOOM!" – before snapping it up, chewing and then swallowing as the others at the table looked on in awe, Téa actually jumping slightly in startlement.

Or, in Malik, Ryou and Bakura's case, tolerant amusement. They'd seen Marik do this sort of thing many times before and it had become old hat in their inner circle of mild insanity.

"Ah, sanity, how I will miss thee," Téa murmured into her cup of cappuccino. Only Yugi, Yami and Malik heard her whispered words, the last of whom snorted. But not much, she added silently, taking in Marik's smug smile. Some things were worth giving up a sane and normal lifestyle for. Friends were at the top of the list – after all, she could've run screaming after Yami and Bakura's first Shadow Duel, ne? Now she was so far gone sanity-wise she'd actually sought out Marik for a chat and was now hanging out with him on a semi-regular basis.

Kami-sama, don't let me regret this, she prayed as she downed the last of her muffin, chasing it with the chocolaty dregs of her coffee.

Popping the last bite of his muffin into his mouth, Marik dusted his hands of crumbs and rose from the table. "See you guys later," he said to the table at large. "I've got places to go, people to drive insane." He smiled crazily.

Yami huffed. "I'll just bet you do," he muttered darkly.

Marik shot him a hard glare, but then relaxed and pointedly turned his back on the former Pharaoh. Gallantly holding out a hand to the brunette, he said, "C'mon, Téa, let's go."

"Go where?" Téa asked, though she accepted his hand up.

"To the video store to rent Monty Python movies," he answered, his tone saying he would have liked to add 'of course' to the end of his sentence, but was curbing his snarky impulse and being polite – as polite as he ever got – for her sake.

Ah, young love…

How weird it is.

"I thought we were going to watch those this weekend," Téa replied, brow furrowing as she collected her purse and jacket. "And we were going to the bookstore today."

"If we wait until this weekend, someone might rent one of the Monty Python movies before we can. On a weekday, we can get all of them," Marik pointed out. "And the bookstore is having a two-for-one sale this weekend. It's better if we switch our plans around."

Téa made a thoughtful hmm-ing noise and nodded. "Sounds reasonable," she conceded.

"Which is a real switch for Marik," Bakura cracked in an aside to her hikari.

"Indeed," Ryou intoned, shaking his head. What men won't do for a pretty girl, he sent to her, mental 'voice' tinged with mirth.

And what pretty girls won't do for their men, Bakura agreed.

Sensing that with the departure of both its sanest and wackiest members, the party was about to break up, the yami/hikari pair made their excuses before leaving the table. They took their leave just as Marik was making yet another pun-filled joke.

"Besides…the Holy Grail waits for no man," Marik declared. "Or woman." He grinned.

"The Holy Grail?" Téa asked bemusedly as she let herself be tugged along to the exit by the Egyptian. "I thought we were watching Monty Python, not Indiana Jones."

"Ah, my dear," Marik said, steering Téa towards the exit. "Allow me to fill you in on what you've missed by not taking part in the greatness of American culture that is the 'parody movie.' I'll tell you all about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Knights of Ni, the Killer Bunny of Antioch, and the differences between an African and a European swallow…"

Malik sighed as he watched the two friends-slash-unlikely-lovebirds walk out of sight. "This day is getting too weird for me. Even as our correct genders, our group is still a bunch of oddballs. I'm outta here." Rising from his chair, he sketched a quick wave at Yami and Yugi, saying, "See you when I see you," and headed for the door.

And then there were two…

Exchanging a bemused look with his lover, Yugi said, "Well…I suppose it's good that things are getting back to our normal level of weirdness."

Yami huffed. "You're kidding, right? Nothing is ever normal in Domino City. Not even our weirdness. Our normality is everyone else's abnormality."

"Well, what's wrong with that?" Yugi asked practically.

Sighing, Yami slumped down into his chair, staring moodily into his cappuccino. "I don't know… I just think that, sometimes…it might be nice to be like everybody else."

"Fitting in isn't all it's cracked up to be," Yugi told him. "And besides…some people seem to think homosexuality is abnormal," he pointed out.

Yami blinked, surfacing from his contemplation of the rapidly cooling caffeinated beverage in front of him. "They do? That's…stupid," he said bluntly.

Yugi laughed. "Yes, it is." Sending his other a coy look, he suggested, "How about we practice some of that 'abnormality' at home?"

"Huh?" Yami's forehead wrinkled in confusion.

Hiding a grin at the other's befuddlement, Yugi elaborated, "Well, Grandpa won't be back from his trip for another four days…and we still have a half-full bottle of chocolate sauce in the refrigerator."

Yami's eyes lit up at the mention of the syrupy treat. "You know, aibou…maybe normality is overrated." He shoved his chair back from the table and rose to his feet, extending one hand for Yugi to take.

Accepting the hand up with his usual aplomb, Yugi followed his lover to the exit. "I certainly think so," he agreed happily. After all, we should definitely enjoy this lull in the insanity we call our lives while we can, he thought pragmatically. Calm before the storm…more like a calm before the end of the world, where we're concerned…