It was the first time I'd ever entered the bookshop without immediately purchasing my periodicals and coffee, and then go directly on to a café table. I was standing by the magazine racks in full view of the front door when she arrived, a bit breathless from the August heat and wearing a green sundress that emphasized the red in her hair. I can't believe they're related.
She saw me right away, and though she walked with a steady step I saw nervousness in her eyes. I really couldn't blame her.
"How could you sit at my table?" I asked, without preamble, not giving her a chance to even say hello. "How could you even bring yourself to ask? Your brother and everyone else in that group hates me, don't you?"
She blinked and hesitated, giving herself time to consider the question. Several agonizing heartbeats passed before she answered.
"I did," she finally admitted. "Or rather, as much as I've ever hated anyone. After everything I'd heard about you from my brother, and seen of you in person, I didn't like you at all. I thought you were arrogant, bossy, self-serving, and obsessed with winning."
And, ouch. With some effort, I kept my chin high.
"That's why I was so surprised to see you here. In a bookshop café, just reading, same as me. Out of all the people in the world, you were the last one I would have thought I'd have anything in common with. I was so surprised; I couldn't understand what you were even doing here."
She paused and smiled, in a self-abashed sort of away. "Honestly, I expected you to tell me to get lost when I asked you for a seat. I could hardly believe it when you said yes. That's when I started wondering if maybe everyone wasn't a little bit wrong about you, or at least didn't know everything there was to know. And as the weeks went by I realized, you came here because you just wanted some escape from the world. You're as human as anyone. You were just like me."
She flushed and looked down, as if afraid she'd gone too far. I moved a strand of hair to one side.
"You put aside all that dislike for the sake of our reading time," I murmured, "and thought that I would dump you because of your brother? You insult me."
Her face turned up sharply and she stared with surprised eyes. "I -"
"You're the only one in my life who's never asked me for anything, beyond a chair at my table. You might never understand how much that means to me but it's a lot, and I would not give you up for anything. I love you," I added fiercely.
Her breath quickened as my hands cupped her shoulders, drawing her closer. Were those tears, shining in her eyes?
"Meeting you changed everything," she whispered. "I love you too."
And we kissed, of course, never mind our highly visible position in the front of the store. Maybe the time had come for us to stop hiding in here anyway.
"You know you'll have to tell him before we go to Hong Kong," I murmured, in the brief moments between lip contact.
"Mm. But that's okay. Someone taught me how to stand up for myself."
The kisses were getting more involved, deeper. We ignored a passing comment to get a room.
"Just one more thing."
She tastes so perfect.
Don't ever want it to stop.
"What's your name?"
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Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Peacewish: You all hate me, don't you?
Kaiba: Now you know how it feels.
Peacewish: But you're rich. At least you can retreat into your mansion and ignore people. Not me. I'm still looking for a job. My own character got a job faster than me!
Kaiba: Can you go two minutes without fretting about your pathetic unemployment and talk about the story? So we can get this over with?
Li: Word to the newbie, Kaiba, she finishes when she wants to. Trust me.
Peacewish: Butt out, Li-kun, this isn't even your fandom! Ahem. Congratulations, readers, you have just completed my most boring, unromantic, unemotional fic ever. Not even a single punch thrown, let alone a swordfight. What the hell are you all even doing here? Don't you know when I started posting that I expected maybe 50 reviews at the most?
Kaiba: Standard marketing analysis could have quantified potential consumer interest before-
Peacewish: Shut up, Kaiba.
Kaiba: I will destroy you.
Peacewish: But yes, okay, the SxS pairing is a lot more popular than I originally thought. Originally, in fact, I didn't know it had any other support besides me. That's right – I conceived of the pairing all on my own and was genuinely surprised, upon browsing the web, to find out that several other writers had beaten me to the punch.
Kaiba: Snooze, you lose.
Peacewish: I read a number of them and enjoyed them, but I kept noticing a few cliches that I decided I'd pop if I ever got around to writing a fic of my own.
Kaiba: Cliché #1: I remember exactly who Serenity is, even though there was absolutely no reason at all during the hectic episodes of the Battle City Blimp that I'd spend more than a second looking in her direction.
Peacewish: No offense, Serenity, but you are kinda quiet.
Serenity: None taken.
Peacewish: At one time I thought I could write a fic where they get together, neither knowing who the other is, but when the series got to the blimp I realized that there was just no way Serenity wouldn't know Kaiba by sight. So I went with this instead.
Kaiba: Cliché #2: I target Serenity for no other reason than she is Wheeler's little sister.
Peacewish: Has its potential, but wears thin on plausibility and has been overused in fics.
Kaiba: Like I don't have anything better to do with my time than pursue that annoying loudmouth's kid sister? It's not like he's even my enemy. He'll take care of himself one of these days just by walking into a wall.
Peacewish: Cliché #3: Serenity ends up working for Kaiba in some capacity, generally regarding Mokuba.
Kaiba: If my brother can referee an entire tournament, he really doesn't need a baby-sitter. And Kaiba Corporation hires experienced professionals with college degrees, thank you very much.
Serenity: And have I ever shown a modicum of interest in the world of dueling? No thanks.
Kabia: You called it a silly duel. Aargh!
Serenity: Get over it, sweetheart.
Peacewish: Cliché #4: Kaiba gets in a bad mood and stomps around firing the next employee who crosses his path.
Kaiba: Yeah right. Do you ignorant serfs have any idea how expensive it is to fire people in this day and age? There's severance pay, possible lawsuits if they think they've got a case of unjustified termination, and then there's the cost of finding and training a replacement. Particularly in the case of people who would be working on my top floor.
Peacewish: So really, I just wanted to try a fic very different in style and tone than the other SxS ones already out there. No sneaking around and hiding from the brother, no coincidental rescue scenes, just a simple and straightforward romance. This gave me more time to flesh out the personalities of our pair, which I only know so-so but readers assure me I did a good job with anyway. Go me.
Serenity: And maybe, just a little, trumpet your personal politics?
Peacewish: Well, now that you mention it…
Li: Here it comes, brace yourself.
Peacewish: My general theme of the story is independence. Witness Serenity gathering the courage to move out and get a job to support herself, Kaiba's freedom to do business how he pleases without judgement, and to a lesser extent the story on interest rates and why Kaiba (and I!) think they should be independent of central government control. Independence, however, cannot happen without first achieving separation, and separation comes with escape.
Serenity: Hence the bookshop.
Peacewish: Right! Our two beleaguered characters first seek isolation from the world, and when that is no longer enough they struggle for independence. The idea came to me when I was in Thailand, sorely missing my old habit of retreating into Barnes & Noble and just reading for hours on end. Such a thing did not exist in Thailand. Even so, the fic did not come easily to my fingertips. Ask me how long the first three chapters took.
Serenity: Um, a month?
Peacewish: Try a year.
Kaiba: Holy Duel Monsters, woman, government bureaucracies move faster than that.
Peacewish: Hate to admit it, but you're right. Stories without fast-paced action and intrigue just aren't my thing! I started it, stopped it, started it, stopped it, told myself it was the most boring thing in the world and came very close to sending all of it to the Recycle Bin. But something inside of me just kept hanging on, and when I finally finished that third chapter, a mere dozen months after I'd begun, I decided to hell with it and started posting. The enthusiastic response took me by surprise.
Kaiba: It's because it featured me.
Peacewish: No, I'm sure it was the libertarian and capitalist principles.
Kaiba: What's sad is, you really believe that.
Peacewish: Maybe it was that very simplicity that appealed to the readers. Not every romance, whatever the novelists of the world would have us believe, is an emotional roller coaster full of drama and angst. Most of my friends have been in five-plus year relationships without any fuss whatsoever. I wondered if I could pick the thread of a quiet and stable relationship out of the characters' otherwise troubled and chaotic lives, and center the fic on just that. Turns out, yes. So unexciting as it may have been, it touched something in the reader after all.
Serenity: And yet, there's just something missing.
Peacewish: Ah yes, cliché #5. Inevitably, Joey must find out. Why else would we write a relationship between his sister and the man he loathes above all else? It's fun!
Kaiba: For you, maybe.
Peacewish: Naturally, I had a specific reason not to do that one thing that all the readers expect and are now consequently left disappointed. My fic had Rules. I wrote it to be about our two characters, and only our two characters, and so there was very little else in their worlds that showed up here. My theme of escape and independence, remember. So, in addition to centering most of the action in our little bookshop, there were no names at all except the few times I had to drop Kaiba's. Also, there was no dialogue "spoken" except by Kaiba and Serenity. (Read chapter 6 when Serenity is molested again, you'll see.) Introducing Joey would break those rules.
Kaiba: Thank the Blue Eyes White Dragon! One SxS fic where I actually won't have to endure the mutt's company.
Peacewish: But… since you've all been so swell, we'll do that scene now. Think of it as that final tidbit scene that movies sometimes show after the credits have started to roll.
Peacewish: Oh, sorry Kaiba. Too late.
(cut to little café on an idyllic summer afternoon)
Serenity: Now remember, Nii-chan, I want you to be polite.
Joey: Can't believe you started dating a guy without telling me…
Serenity: Er, well, I knew you'd fuss. And I really hope you'll get along, for my sake.
Kaiba: Serenity. (coldly) Wheeler.
Joey: Oh look, it's Kaiba. What a surprise to see you in a restaurant, I didn't even think you ate. Always figured you just plugged yourself in at night, or something.
Kaiba: (grinds teeth)Won't you sit down?
Joey: As sincerely as I'm sure you mean that, no thanks. We're here to meet some jackass that thinks he can date my sister.
Kaiba: … Are you absolutely sure you're related?
Serenity: Um, Nii-chan, let me explain this…
(cut to across town)
Yugi: Blah blah blah heart of the cards!
Tea: Did you guys hear something?
Tristan: Yeah, it sounded sort of like Joey screaming in anguish and then hitting the earth in a dead faint. Wonder what that's about.
Tea: Oh well, we'll find out sooner or later.
Tristan: Don't we always?
Peacewish: And there, dear readers, ends the story. Am I finished with the Yugi-Oh fandom for good? Well… I must confess I have another little plot bunny scrabbling away at my mind, but this would be one of those 'normal' fics with actual character names and plot, and I don't know if I feel comfortable enough in the series to tackle it (yet). It does include SxS though, just in case you were wondering.
Kaiba: Does it star me, though?
Peacewish: However, I will tell you like I told the readers of Wolf Prince, I am absolutely not unveiling any new fic until I get myself a job. That's right, feeding and clothing myself are going to come in ahead of fanfic, priority-wise.
Kaiba: What the $#&!?
Peacewish: Thanks for being understanding, Kaiba, you're a man with a heart of gold.
Joey: Water… give me water…
Serenity: Here, Nii-chan, breathe into this paper bag.
Peacewish: Sayanora, friends, until my return.