And if you find one day,

find some freedom and relief

With this freedom maybe,

maybe you will find some peace

And with this peace, baby,

I hope it brings you back to me

Bring you home, take me home

Dido – Stoned

888

"I don't understand you."

Varon didn't question why Jou was here, or how, but only lifted a hand in faint greeting. There wasn't a challenge in the gesture and there was none in the one Jou returned before he came to share the railing Varon was leaning on. "There's not much to understand."

The air between them was silent, but both could still hear the faint sound of a motorbike engine fading into the heavy dusk air, though that could have been wishful thinking on both their parts. The younger man shifted with a sigh that spoke more than he could himself, hair burnished to a brassy gold in the fading light. "Why'd you let her go?"

Irrepressible as ever, even in this bittersweet mood of loss and love, Varon gave a lopsided smile that nearly made his eyes disappear into a forest of lashes. "Why did you?"

Jou's lips twitched and then stilled. "She didn't come here to say goodbye to me." It hurt to be blunt, but an upfront manner was something they both shared.

There was sympathy in the older man's eyes. Not sympathy that she had come to him, but that she hadn't gone to the boy who stood on the bridge between being a child and being an adult. Part of that was her own doing – she'd made the whelp grow up, take a man's responsibility in life. She'd molded the sculpture, but left it half finished, incomplete. It was something he could empathize with – Varon knew about not feeling complete when she wasn't there with her wit and her bite and the sweetness showing through the cracks. "I don't think she'd have stayed if I'd asked her."

The blonde's fond, reminiscent smile mirrored his own. Restraining her when she had the bit in her mouth was like trying to hold a burning coal in a paper bag. "So apart from not wanting to get slapped, why'd you let her take off like that?" On the road in front of them, a pigeon swirled down in a spiral of soft grey and black, wings folding neatly against its back. Its meandering path over the sun warmed tarmac provided both of them with something to watch, instead of looking at each other and seeing the pain that was reflected in themselves.

"Because there wasn't anything left here for her…"

Jou wanted to deny it, but a rare moment of insight let him see what he didn't want to. He sighed, resting his chin on his folded arms. The light was dwindling now, the orange of dusk fading into the silver-purple of twilight. Around them, lights were starting to twinkle as streetlamps marched like stars down the sides of the roads. Despite the sounds of the city, it seemed unnaturally quiet – they'd both gotten used to her being there, always being there with a sharp comment or a sultry on depending on her mood. Without her, the world seemed to be spinning of on its orbit without them.

It was Jou who voiced what both of them had been thinking. "D'you think she'll come back?"

"Mmm." Varon made an indecisive noise, a so-so gesture with his large, strong hand. "Maybe."

A beat. "Will you wait for her?"

The older man gave a laugh at that, a laugh that mocked himself, but was innately optimistic. "I think I've been waiting for her since before I even knew she was existed."

Jou gave a tight grin. He knew the feeling all too well. "Same here." The silence between them was almost friendly – for two people who wanted exactly the same thing in life when there was only one, they were being remarkably civil to each other. "I kinda get the feeling you knew she was going."

Varon's wry expression confirmed it. "Your 'kinda feeling' is right. I knew she had to leave at some point…just wish it hadn't been like this."

He could see the desolation under the front of sad calm the younger man had erected. Pity wasn't something he felt often and he wasn't going to admit it – Jou wouldn't want to be pitied anyway. The blonde turned his head, brown eyes nearly black as a streetlight blinked into existence over their heads. "I guess you knew her better than I did."

That, he couldn't let Jou believe. "Nothing as good as that. I just knew a different person to the one you did." Varon felt Jou's quizzical glance and smiled secretly, tipping his head back to watch the stars fade into view. "There's two completely different people inside of her and it's been messing with her head for a while, ever since it all happened." 'It' was a very small word, but it represented so much for both of them. "There's the woman you love and there's the woman that I love." He wrinkled his nose slightly. "If I didn't know her better, I'd say there was some of that freaky Egyptian magic in the air."

There was so much left unspoken now – past and present, life and love. They didn't voice what both now knew, that there was so much to her leaving than both of them vying for her impenetrable heart.

For Varon, his thoughts were of two spirits looking for the same thing, feeling the same resentment and rejection. It was the chaos in her that called him – he loved her because she was mixed up and messed up, because there was a darkness in her eyes. He loved her strength and the vicious way she would put him down when he deserved it. He loved the way that she'd never succumbed to his charms. What he wanted, hoped for, was someone who was proud of her flaws and let them give her power so they could be misfits together. Never. For him, she was a warrior, a kindred soul and she was something he had been willing to risk his life for, paying with his soul.

The same was true for Jou, but Varon was right – he'd been fighting for a completely different woman. His memories went back that much further and tracked the changes she'd gone through, the changes in her attitudes towards life. And towards him. Then there was the anger at someone taking her away, leaving him with an empty shell. He'd braved a God for this woman, the one he wanted to hold forever and never let go. He loved her for her golden beauty and the golden heart she tried so hard to hide from the eyes of the world. He loved the way that the woman he knew was so different from what anyone else was allowed to see.

"I hope she finds what she's looking for."

Varon nodded, half-surprised by the acceptance the brash young man was showing. "She'll find her peace somehow, even if she has to travel to the edge of the universe. She wants to get rid of whatever's troubling her. Then she'll come back to us."

Jou's lips curved into a bleak smile. "She'll be back for one of us. The other one's gonna have lost the thing he loves more than anything." It was said with malice, a blunt way of laying out the facts so that both of them had to see it, black and white.

Varon's smile was equally grim, though companionship glimmered in his grey eyes. "I know."

There wasn't much else to say, so they both looked back towards the road stretching off into the distance. The sun was gone by now, the air cooling rapidly, but their thoughts weren't of goose bumps or jackets. The were treasuring memories while they had them; memories and the parting image of blonde hair whipping out from under a motorbike helmet as she ripped herself out of their lives. They were treasuring what they had lost, but they were sharing the moment together. Despite being rivals, in this moment they were brothers and they needed the company.

"You know…" Jou's voice was thoughtful as he tapped his fingers against the iron railing. "We might be being conceited. She'll probably forget about us losers and come home and marry Kaiba."

Varon's laugh was very real, amused and heartbroken at the same time. "That's my Mai."

888

You know, I have gotten into the very strange habit of putting whatever scrap of writing it was that inspired my pieces at the beginnings of the fics. I guess it's just a way of showing how this started in my strange little mind. Heehee – anyway, Happy Birthday, Trey!