Hi everyone! Yep, once again I am here to prove that I'm still alive. Unfortunately I had some computer problems over the past few months (like, since July) and have only had internet access from work. But now that I've got a sassy new laptop (MacBook Pro, I love you so) and speedy new internet I am absolutely dying to pick back up with my fics. I never bother promising updates anymore, but I can honestly say that I never stop thinking about my stories- especially this one. The only thing I can promise is that I will continue writing this story until it is complete. It is ridiculously hard to believe that I've been working on it for five years already. ::sigh:: I hope someone will still be interested by the time I'm done!
Anyway, here's a new chapter. Hope you all like it! I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh, obviously. Pretty sure I've said that enough times by now. 'Suspicious Minds' is a song by Elvis Presley, and fits perfectly with this chapter. I don't know why this weird thing happens to me with songs when I'm writing chapters for this story. They just pop up on my iTunes or in the car and I'm like "Oh really? Seriously?" ;)
The Night Before
Chapter 20: Suspicious Minds
xx Flashback: Domino City Arcade, June 9th 2003 xx
Jounouchi smiled absently as he walked through the front doors of the Domino City Arcade. It was one of the biggest entertainment complexes in the city, and had always been a bit of a favorite meeting place for his gang of friends. Yugi, Honda, Anzu, and all the rest used to spend hours here playing video games or brushing up on their skills at the attached dueling complex. Today he was here to meet Honda, and Shizuka had said she might drop by after her study session at the library. Ordinarily Yugi would join them also, but right now he was busy with other things. He had probably arrived in New York and reached Anzu's apartment by now.
It was a bit of a mystery to Jounouchi as to why it had taken Yugi so long to reveal his feelings to Anzu. His sandy eyebrows knit together as he passed a bank of machines that were beeping and flashing raucously, firing blasts of color and noise into the dimly lit arcade. It had always been so obvious, apparently to everyone other than Yugi and Anzu, that they would be perfect together. After all, being best friends was a good first step towards a harmonious relationship… right? That was what he thought, anyway. Though he would never openly admit it, Jounouchi wasn't exactly the love doctor. Things just seemed so much simpler when they involved people other than himself. Jounouchi's steps slowed as he tried not to think of a tall, slim, purple clad form with a mass of blond curls on top…
Rounding a corner, Jounouchi's dazed state caused a lapse in attention, and he smacked straight into a shorter figure that was moving swiftly in the opposite direction.
"Owww! Watch where you're going, you jerk!" The boy stood up, dusting himself off imperiously and facing Jounouchi, also sprawled on the rather hard floor. With one hand on his hip, the boy radiated arrogant command. So similar to another person he could think of… Jounouchi picked himself up off of the ground, about to give the little brat a piece of his mind until he got a slightly better look at him in the reflected illumination from the glinting arcade lights.
"Mokuba? Is that you?"
The boy did a double take, stepping closer and peering at Jounouchi's face. He appeared to recognize him and immediately relaxed, abandoning his domineering stance. "Hey Jounouchi! What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same, but I guess you're probably just playing some video games, huh?"
Mokuba smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. "I might have played a few. But the real reason I'm here is to look after things while my big brother is away on business. We own this arcade, you know!"
Jounouchi mentally rolled his eyes, not wanting to offend Mokuba with the accompanying physical expression. Of course, Kaiba would just have to own this place too. Wasn't there anywhere in Domino City he could go without being reminded about that egomaniac rich boy? At least he wasn't in town, from the sound of things. As guilty as he felt, most of the time when he saw the younger Kaiba, Jounouchi's first reaction was to dread the possibility of running into his brother. Feeling slightly pacified by the thought of Kaiba's absence, Jounouchi invited Mokuba to sit in the snack bar with him while he waited for Honda to arrive.
The two sat in companionable silence for awhile, punctuated only by the sound of Mokuba noisily sipping his root beer float through a straw. Honda was running late as usual, but Jounouchi actually didn't mind the younger boy's company. He often wondered how two brothers could turn out so differently; even though the younger Kaiba shared some of his brother's haughty qualities, he was able to act civilized and cordial. If not for the elder Kaiba's bad attitude, maybe they would all be good friends.
Mokuba stirred his drink with the straw, breaking up the chunks of ice cream. "You said you're meeting Honda, right? Is Yugi coming too?" Mokuba had always kind of liked Yugi, even though he knew he was his brother's rival. The fact that he could keep pace with Seto in a duel made him worthy of Mokuba's respect. And besides, Yugi had always been nice to him. Sometimes he didn't understand why his older brother wouldn't be a little less standoffish.
"Nah, actually Yugi went to New York to surprise Anzu for her birthday." Jounouchi waggled his eyebrows.
Mokuba made a choking noise as the large sip of root beer float he had just taken came spurting back out of his mouth. Coughing violently, he grabbed a napkin.
"Geez Mokuba, are you alright?"
The younger boy blanched, cleaning up the small mess he had created and trying not to betray himself by looking too alarmed. "Sorry, you just took me by surprise. You see, my big brother went to New York too."
"Oh, really?" Jounouchi pretended to smile innocuously while, at the same time, his facial muscles were being told by his brain to frown. The result was a clown-like cringe.
"Yep," Mokuba smirked slightly. "Wouldn't it be funny if Seto and Yugi ran into each other?"
"Haha, yeah. Hilarious… but I can't imagine how that could happen…"
They both sat and imagined.
The two looked at each other suspiciously, locked in a battle of wills. Jounouchi was looking for any sign that Mokuba knew something about his brother and his intentions toward the blue-eyed dancer, while Mokuba was searching Jounouchi's expression for any sign that he was intending to meddle in his brother's affairs. They eventually reached a stalemate, as each of them became convinced that they were being needlessly paranoid about the other. Mokuba was sure Jounouchi wouldn't have any reason to believe that his brother had gone to see Anzu, and Jounouchi decided that Mokuba would have no knowledge of any designs his big brother might have involving her.
Jounouchi frowned deeply. Mokuba's apparent innocence didn't change the fact that disturbing information had just been revealed.
Kaiba was in New York, again.
"Jounouchi, are you okay?" Mokuba was waving a hand in front of his face.
"Sorry Mokuba, I was lost in thought for a second there." And he was. His mind had wandered off in fifteen different directions. Should he find a way to warn Yugi? No, that wouldn't work. Warning him would involve revealing his suspicions about Kaiba and Anzu, which was not something he intended to do. That type of information might make Yugi lose his nerve. Should he confront Anzu again? That was out, too. She had been so evasive last time, he knew it would make little difference. Plus, what if Kaiba really was just there on business? His suspicious mind could ruin his friendship with Anzu. Maybe he could find out where Kaiba was staying and send him a nasty telegram? Hmm. It almost sounded like a good idea, but Jounouchi had a reasonably accurate vision of Kaiba opening the envelope and promptly ripping the message to shreds.
He tried to push these thoughts to the back of his mind as Mokuba chattered happily across from him and Honda walked through the door. He could put the problem aside for the moment, but he would have to do something, and soon. His suspicions of the past several years flashed through his mind, from Anzu's barely noticed disappearance at the Domino High graduation party (yes, he had eventually begun to wonder about that as well) all the way up to her idiotic explanation of why Kaiba was sending her packages of expensive jewelry. There was also that day at the summer dueling tournament where Anzu magically reappeared smelling of expensive cologne, the time he had seen Kaiba driving away from Anzu's street the night before she left for New York, and the picture of the two embracing inside the pages of The Investigator.
Jounouchi might not be the smartest guy in the world, but he knew that one plus one equals two.
Now only one problem remained. What could he possibly do to ensure that Anzu would see reason and realize that Yugi was a way better choice for her than that jerk Kaiba? She deserved somebody that would really love her, not a guy like Kaiba who would probably chew her up and spit her out. But what could Jounouchi do from here when his friends were so far away in New York? Maybe all Yugi needed was a little more encouragement...
Five minutes later, Mokuba Kaiba was running out the front door of the arcade, cellphone in hand. His driver was waiting, and he ducked into the back of the limousine. The entire time, he was texting furiously. He had to warn Seto that Yugi was coming, or he might get caught in the sack with Anzu! At the ripe old age of 13 Mokuba wasn't exactly sure what it was that people did together inside of a sack, or how they both fit in there in the first place (maybe it was a really big sack?), but he knew it would cause an awkward situation if Yugi showed up at the wrong time. And there was something about the way Jounouchi had said his friend wanted to 'surprise' Anzu that didn't sit right with Mokuba. The younger Kaiba was quite intelligent, and even if he didn't understand everything he could usually tell when someone was trying to insinuate something.
I just ran into Jounouchi at the arcade. He says Yugi is coming to see Anzu.
Mokuba wasn't really sure what else to say. Seto hadn't exactly told him that he was going to see the dancer himself, but Mokuba had learned a thing or two about what it meant when his brother started going all dreamy and distracted. This was the second year in a row that this had happened at the beginning of June, and Mokuba shuddered to remember what the year before that had been like. He tried to make the memory of what he had seen in the swimming pool as vague as possible to protect his vision from permanent scarring, but the outline was clear enough nonetheless.
Whether Seto realized it or not was unclear, but Mokuba was convinced that his brother was in love with Anzu. Did Jounouchi know something about this? He had looked way uncomfortable with the fact that Seto was in New York, and the depth of his frown had given the younger Kaiba the impression that something about the scenario greatly worried him. The boy's eyebrows creased as he continued his message.
I mentioned that you were in New York too and he didn't seem to like the idea.
Mokuba knew that Jounouchi wasn't a bad person, but he also realized that he and Seto were practically mortal enemies. It was really too bad; Mokuba liked Yugi, Jounouchi, Anzu, and the others. He wouldn't want any of them to get hurt or anything, but he had to think of his brother first. If Yugi or Jounouchi were planning something that would take Anzu away from his brother, he had no choice but to try to stop it.
I think they're trying to get Yugi and Anzu together. Be careful, big brother.
The boy paused, pondering how to finish the message. Thinking of the perfect strategy, he tapped in the last few words and slammed the phone shut with satisfaction. Smirking a very Kaiba-esque smirk, Mokuba leaned back in his seat, hoping his message would have the desired effect. It was impossible to know what Seto would think when he got the message, but the last line he put in should force his hand to some extent. One thing was sure about Seto. He didn't like to lose…
xx Flashback: Anzu's Apartment, June 9th 2003 xx
Anzu's breaths came in long gasps as she shut the bedroom door behind herself and leaned against it. That had been close. She realized that she had just evaded a clash of 'Seto in a towel' versus 'Yugi with flowers' by a matter of seconds. And speaking of Yugi… Her eyes were shut as she braced herself against the door. She hardly even realized she was saying it, but the other occupant of the room heard her voice perfectly clearly as it whispered, "What, what what is he doing here?!"
Seto had been looking toward the window when she entered the room, but now he turned to face her. The timbre of his voice made it rather obvious that he was not at all pleased with the current situation. "Don't you think I should be the one asking that question?"
She observed the stiffness of his posture, from the hard set of his jaw to his arms crossed over his chest. Of course she wouldn't expect him to be happy about this, but did he think she was? It wasn't that she didn't care about Yugi- he was her best friend- but why did he have to show up now? She and Seto were allowed so few moments to be together, and now this one was teetering on the brink of disaster. And things had been going so well! Just this morning he had looked so relaxed, almost even content. Now with one ring of the doorbell they were shot back out the other side of square one. "Why should you be the one asking? It's not like I have the answer either!"
Anzu walked over to the window so that she could see his face. There was no warmth evident in the blue of his eyes, and his mouth was turned slightly downward. He wouldn't meet her gaze directly, she noticed, continuing to stare out the window even as she approached. "Seto-" she reached out tentatively, placing a hand on his arm. It was shrugged stiffly away.
Eyes narrowing, she mimicked his arms-crossed gesture and regarded him incredulously. "Are you being serious? Do you really think I knew he was coming here?"
There was a mixture of anger and hurt in his expression when he finally looked into her eyes, with anger taking what appeared to be the upper hand. "Are you trying to tell me that Yugi flew all the way here from Japan without bothering to tell you he was coming? And I'm supposed to believe that?" He snorted, turning his back on her and diverting his attention to the last few open buttons on his shirt.
"Seto, my birthday is in three days! He came to surprise me! Do you really think I would have invited him here when I was expecting…" Anzu stepped around his form so that she was before him once again. Her hair was draped over one shoulder, collar of her light purple robe sliding perilously off of the other. She looked at him, pleading. "Seto, please. I never would have asked him to come here when I was hoping you would. And I'm so glad that you did…"
He relaxed just slightly for a moment, sighing. He didn't know what to believe anymore, but he really didn't doubt her sincerity. It all just seemed like too much of a coincidence, like fate was playing games with their lives. Couldn't they be allowed to have even one weekend of happiness together? Was this all a sign that their relationship wasn't meant to be? He frowned, eyes fixing absently onto her half-revealed shoulder. These types of thoughts weren't normal for him. He wasn't one to put much stock in 'fate' or to interpret unrelated events as 'signs', but his logic was clouded when it came to Anzu. She was the one blind spot in his carefully cultivated and well-regulated common sense. But that didn't change the fact that nothing she could say or do would make Yugi Moto disappear, and that meant he couldn't stay. "Does any of that really matter? It's not like I can stay now."
Tears welled up in her eyes at the bluntness of his response. "But you could… if you went back to the hotel I could meet you there later… or maybe there's a way to explain to Yugi why you're here…"
A slightly maniacal laugh escaped him. "Explain why I'm here? Really?"
Seto walked toward her slowly, backing her up until she was leaning against the windowsill. He braced one arm on either side of her body, looking straight into her eyes. "Do you really want to tell Yugi what I'm doing here?"
She shivered slightly under the pressure of his gaze, noting the dangerous glint in his eye. He was close enough that she could feel the warmth radiating off of his recently-showered body. She was overwhelmed by the heady combination of the scent of her soap mixed with his aftershave. "I-"
Seto leaned even closer, if that were possible. His lips were next to her ear. "Do you want to explain to Yugi what I'm doing in your bedroom, or should I?"
Anzu gulped. "That's not what I-"
He silenced her by pressing one of his thumbs to her lips. He needn't have bothered. There was a sort of manic fury in his unfocused eyes that froze the words in her throat. He almost seemed to be looking through her. "Do you want to tell him how many times we fucked last night, or is it better for me to explain?" He grabbed her by the arms and shook her so that she had no choice but to look at him. "Maybe we could give him a rundown of all the different positions we used? Share some details about how tangled the sheets got?"
"S-seto…" He was so achingly close to her. The mere proximity was making her feel things that she knew she shouldn't be under these tense circumstances. She wasn't sure if he was more likely to kiss her or strangle her at this point, there was so much going on behind his eyes she didn't know what to think. Air escaped from her mouth in short gasps as he leaned his face toward hers. Her chest was pressed against his, lips tingling as he whispered against them.
"I'll leave it up to you to tell Yugi how many times I made you come."
The next few moments were full of uncertainty. The butterfly touch of his lips contrasted sharply with the acidic bite of his words. Their eyes, blue on blue, swirled and blended dangerously. Hers were unfocused, wavering on the fence between lust and despair. Not to mention, part of her wanted to slap him hard across the face for the things he had just said. In such a state of confusion, Anzu couldn't make any kind of move. Seto's deep and turbulent gaze radiated an unholy combination of desire and loathing. There was a short, crisp moment of perfect harmony where the two of them could have dissolved into each other and found complete absolution. There was a kiss that could have been, hovering somewhere in the dimension of potential events, that might have erased the pain and hurt and misunderstanding existing between them.
The moment passed, and the kiss didn't happen.
Through the open window, the horn of a car at the front of Anzu's apartment building could be heard. It was the porter from the Intercontinental Hotel, arriving with Seto's luggage like the ghost of a happier past. Breaking away from Anzu abruptly and leaning out of the open window, Seto could see the uniformed man standing next to the black sedan with his hands clasped behind his back. Typical laziness, waiting by the car instead of bringing the bags to the door, he thought. But, in this case, the shortfall of service worked to his advantage. "I guess my ride is here."
She reached for him as he lowered one long leg out of the window, settling his foot onto the fire escape. "Please, don't go," she whispered. Tears slipped silently down her cheeks, blown cold against her skin despite the warmth of the summer breeze.
For a moment, he hesitated, glancing at her face, then out the window, and at her face one last time. There was regret in his countenance, and anger. The two tied together strongly resembled bitterness, and it pained Anzu to think they had come this far together only to fail at yet another monumental hurdle. Her outstretched hand briefly touched the fabric of his sleeve as he slipped away from her, and she felt him pause. The long fingers on one of his hands twitched as though they longed for her, but he would not- could not- give in. With dull eyes, he shrugged at her. "What else can I do?"
Anzu sobbed silently, one hand over her mouth to quell the gasping whimpers as she watched his rigid and unyielding form disappear from her line of sight. No matter how loudly she screamed for him on the inside, the soft cries she emitted were heard only by herself. She silently begged him to turn around, but he walked on. Could she really have expected otherwise?
Seto Kaiba never looked back. It was one of his defining features.
Little did Anzu know, if he had bent his head just then and seen her over his shoulder, braced against the window sill and crying out in pain for him with every fiber of her being, he wouldn't have been able to go on. He would have run back to her and kissed her tears away. He would have crushed her body against his own and whispered comforting nonsense until all her tension passed. He probably would have let her drag him into the living room and tell Yugi everything that had happened between them in these past years, if it made her happy.
Instead, he ran away. He shoved all his feelings back into their tightly corked bottle and told the porter from the Intercontinental to take him straight to the airport. All of Seto's wounds that had started to close were wrenched raw by the mere idea of Yugi and Anzu together, but he found himself unable to cope with the implications of the alternative. It was easier in that moment to tell himself that she had betrayed him, that she knew, that Anzu and Yugi had been together behind his back this whole time…
…even though he knew none of that was true.
Clamping shut the steel traps inside of his brain, Seto Kaiba willed himself not to care. The ghost of a set of blue eyes haunted his thoughts as he sped toward the airport, feeling lower than he had since he could remember. He was a coward, a fool, and he knew it. At that moment, the cellphone in his pocket beeped. Glad of the distraction, he flipped it open. Inside was a message from his little brother. Seto's eyes narrowed as he read the rather strange and practically psychic message, eyebrows knitting together in confusion. The message read:
I just ran into Jounouchi at the arcade. He says Yugi is coming to see Anzu.
I mentioned that you were in New York too and he didn't seem to like the idea.
I think they're trying to get Yugi and Anzu together. Be careful, big brother.
The last line was of particular interest, and made Seto do a double take:
Don't let them beat you, Seto. I know you love her more.
Dum dum dummmmm… That's where I've got to end this one. So what do you guys think? Will Seto go to the airport and fly back to Domino, or will Mokuba's message be enough to make him stay? As the author, even I'm not 100 percent sure what's going to happen, but I have a pretty good idea! I'll be starting chapter 21 right away, and hopefully we'll wrap up this 'anniversary' so the story can move along to the next phase. What will Anzu and Yugi get up to on his visit? What will Jounouchi do to push things along? And most importantly, what is Seto going to do now? Surely he won't just let Yugi have her… right? And will Anzu continue on in blissful obliviousness where it comes to Yugi's feelings for her? Hopefully we'll find out in the next chapter and also get back to the present time to find out what these memories mean to Seto and Anzu.
That chapter was fun to write. I liked giving Mokuba and Jounouchi a scene together.
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