I am a horrible, horrible person. I know. I said I hoped it wouldn't take another year, and it has almost been that long already. (And the saddest part is that it was actually done a while ago. Ahaha...) Despite the fact that this is probably long forgotten, I've kept my word about finishing it through, and well, here it is.
Wow, it's been two years since I've first posted this fic? Yay, me! ...Or more like, shame on me! I wasn't really following with the episodes (again) so I didn't expect it to end so soon. If I'd known better, I would've tried to finish it before or with the series' end. (I didn't really like the fourth season anyway because of "grown up" Juudai. Blah.) But I've had many fond memories for the series and its characters (and ManJuu, of course -wink-), so I'll always cherish GX. Enough waterworks. Now on with the conclusion of this.
Disclaimer: Even if Yuugiou GX is done, I still can't own it, maybe not even 50 years after its airing. XD
Chapter Seven (Final Chapter)
The patch of grass coated in dew droplets felt moist beneath his fingers. The greenery was so very inviting, he decided it wouldn't hurt to lay down for a bit. A breath of wind tussled chestnut locks. Brushing the strands off his eyes, he inhaled the sweet plant-life aroma that pervaded the crisp air.
With his arms and legs spread wide apart, he felt like embracing the boundless, blue sky. Eyelids falling shut, his lips curved into a smile.
Today, it felt like nothing could go wrong.
At the sound of the door shutting, the blonde turned to the arriver.
"Yukiko! How did your duel go?" Asuka set the textbook she had been meticulously studying down on her lap and positioned herself away from the writing desk.
The other girl laid her back against the door and lowered her head. "It was... exciting. But it got interrupted." Then with her eyes hard on her lap, Yukiko continued. "Daitokuji-sensei told me that he got a call from my parents and... I can go back with them."
Asuka's copper eyes followed the brunette as she slipped the Duel Disk off her arm and placed it beside the books on the desk. Yukiko took a seat on the bed, her head still bowed. Whatever it was, something was obviously bothering her.
But she decided against bringing it up. She felt she could trust the girl enough to take her word for it. In fact, she was beginning to feel upset herself. Moods could be quite contagious at times, couldn't they? The sullenness spread like an airborne virus.
With a sad smile, she asked, "You'll be leaving today? Right now?"
Yukiko nodded, unable to face her roommate. Juudai had never been a good liar, so it was hard to understand how guilty this made him feel now. "My parents are really worried about me, so I need to get back to them right away." She stood up, having the sudden need to walk away, isolate herself, and think things through.
The Obelisk closed her eyes, her small smile still visible. She also rose from her seat.
Yukiko found herself being drawn into a hug from her taller friend. The embrace was light and gentle, but the action was unexpected, and it took her by surprise. A faint blush crept onto her cheeks. It was comforting, nonetheless.
Asuka spoke closely to her ear in a half-whisper, her voice quivery. "Then... be careful, okay?" The blonde released her shorter companion. "Good-bye."
Yukiko smiled weakly, ready for her departure. "Thanks for everything, Asuka, and... good-bye."
Juudai lifted his back off the ground. The corner of his eye caught a flickering yellow, demanding his full attention. He found the fluttering petals to his sudden intrigue, enticed by its vibrant colors of golden orange. Four petals bloomed from the flower's core, each large and bright. Its center was held by its thick stalk adorned with a pair of smooth-edged leaves. He picked the sunkist flower off its stem and took a whiff of its sour-sweet fragrance. It smelled faintly of a sweet lemon. Rising to his feet, Juudai stuffed the blossom into his jacket pocket and set off.
"Now settle down, everyone!" The spectacled professor held up his hands in attempts to calm his now impatient crowd.
"What are we doing, Sensei? Shou whined. Beside him, Hayato wore a similar frown.
Daitokuji-sensei wagged his finger, a tricky smile present on his feline face. "That's a surprise! Nya!"
"What surprise..." Manjoume muttered, crossing his arms. Seriously, he could care less.
Asuka, with her head low and eyes dropped, had been quiet. Shou turned about, noticing the blonde's melancholy and something else that seemed to be missing from the picture.
"Eh? Asuka-san, where's Yukiko-san?" Shou looked around for Asuka's cousin who was usually by her side.
The Obelisk faced the blue-haired boy with a false smile. "Her parents were worried about her, so she had to leave."
Shou pouted. "Aw... but we didn't even get to say good-bye!"
"It was urgent." Asuka added shortly.
For a second or two Shou's pout remained, but in an instant, a smile erased it.
"But she'll come back next time, right?"
Something about the boy's oblivious statement calmed her, and just like that, Asuka's somber expression began to vanish. "Right," she said with a smile.
"Ssshhh!" Heads turned to Daitokuji-sensei. "He'll be here any minute now!"
"Who'll be here?"
There was a round of silence which did well to amplify the group's disbelief. The students' eyes widened, some with their jaws agape. They thought they were looking at a ghost. Frozen still in their spots, they were unable to tear their eyes away from that person. The one who they called "Rival" "Brother" ... "Friend," who made such a big difference in their lives. Like their sunshine, his innocent and carefree light of jubilation and optimism had shone on them once again, casting away the darkness of fear and doubt.
"A-Aniki?" Shou was the first to raise his voice. His eyes welled up with tears.
"Juudai..." Manjoume uttered the name without having consciousness that it had even left his lips.
The crowd closed in on Juudai, still rather shocked by his unexpected reappearance.
"So Sensei was the one who found Aniki?" Shou asked.
"Well, about that..." Daitokuji-sensei began nervously, "Juudai-kun was lagging behind in all his classes, so I saw to it that he made up work to get his credits. But it wouldn't be fair to everyone else if only Juudai-kun gets to make up work, so we had to keep it a secret. He was never in any danger."
A short silence followed his explanation, then an atmosphere brewing with malice. The man felt eyes boring through him. He adjusted his glasses only to find his students glaring darkly at him. Daitokuji let out a squeak and cowered.
"You could've at least said something! We were all worried sick!" Shou protested. The group still held their strong glares at the teacher. Juudai laughed sheepishly, feeling sorry that his friends were taking it out on Daitokuji-sensei.
"But at least..." Asuka glanced at the brunette. "...he's here now and he's safe." She smiled. "That's all that matters." The empty space in her heart that troubled her earlier was closing slowly, but surely. She let a hand fall to her chest and sighed with utmost relief.
Their growls faltered. They couldn't argue with the fact of Juudai's "safe return."
"You know what that means..." A mischievous twinkle was in Shou's eye. And if that wasn't noticeable, then his sly grin said plenty.
Juudai watched helplessly as his friends inched closer to him slowly and eerily. Fear crawled down his spine. His gut instinct was trying to warn him about something. Something that went along the line of Dude. RUN.
His eyes flew out of their sockets.
The gang pounced on the petrified teen. They gathered to enact in a group hug and soon after, tossed him into the air. Everyone was caught in the midst of their cheers and the boy's laughter.
A distance away, Juudai (while in mid-air) spotted a trace of lone black retreating from the others.
Juudai sauntered out of the main building hunched over, groaning unenthusiastically. He had just had a word with Principal Samejima, who had permitted the boy to redeem his credits, but now he was actually responsible for making up all the work. He continued to wail lazily as he slunk across the campus toward the Osiris Red dorm.
The blaring sun was beginning set in the late afternoon. The brunette straightened his back upright and stretched out. It wasn't worth his energy to mope on such a fine day. As he relished the warm air wrapping around his skin, he felt his misery slowly drain out of his system. The song of the evening cicada and the scent of asters... the essences of summer were sharp to his senses. Venting the air through his nostrils, he let out a large sigh of contentment.
His mind traveled back to a certain something he had taken with him not too long ago. Juudai rummaged through his pockets and gave a triumphant cry when he found what he was looking for. He whipped out the flower and held it to his nose, fascinated by its citrus scent. A thought popped in his head and he knew he would look and feel silly for it later, but he was in much too good of a spirit to care. Juudai tucked the flower in his hair so that it now sprouted between his bangs and side-locks, and resumed his trek for the dorm.
Juudai came to an abrupt stop in his tracks. He gulped as he recognized the single figure standing outside the dorm against a supporting pillar and approached it cautiously. As he got closer, he noted that the other teen looked zoned out, which wasn't like him at all. He seemed either deep in thought or almost like he was waiting for someone.
"Um... hey," Juudai had called low enough to have gone unheard.
Okay, so... now what? The most rational thing to do was to get back to his own business. That work isn't going to do itself. He sighed inwardly in resignation. Besides, Manjoume probably wanted to be alone anyway. At least that was the impression he left.
The on-coming silence was expected, but as it stretched, it became almost unbearable. The awkward tension was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Time passed and he was beginning to have a nervous attack. The new heat glowing from his cheeks and ears certainly wasn't helping, only made things worse than they already were.
A part of him wished Manjoume shooed him off already. He knew what these building symptoms were a sign of, and he was hoping he wouldn't have to deal with them... not that soon. If Manjoume had just told him to "Get lost," he wouldn't have to feel the way he did right now. Then there was the other part of him that knew he was just lying to himself.
Juudai jolted at the sound of the voice. He desperately hoped his reaction wasn't visible enough to make a complete fool of himself. Why did he feel he would dread what would come next?
"You're never this quiet."
Juudai stiffened. Was this how a criminal felt being caught red-handed? It didn't make sense to feel he was in any sort of trouble though. It wasn't like the black-haired teen was demanding him to reveal his deepest secrets. But it seemed he needed to make an objection against his remark or justify himself in some way.
...No good. He couldn't think of anything. If only it was one of those times he could easily grasp at ends for answers... Anything!
So Juudai went along with habit. He scratched his head and said "Ahahah... Yeah, well..."
Pathetic, yes. At least it was no longer dead quiet. Anything to escape the dimension of quietude.
Manjoume turned to look at his only company. From what he saw, he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. The sight was something to ridicule.
Even to his avail, it wasn't enough to drive away the muted noise. The brunette didn't have to dwell very long on picking a new discussion topic though, because when he least expected it... something happened.
Juudai became paralyzed. Fingers swept lightly along the sides of his cheeks and at the tip of his ear, also slightly rustling his hair. When the feeling was gone, he wanted to turn to face the other to clear out what exactly happened. No, that would have been too conspicuous. Instead, he peered at the corner of his eye.
One would think Manjoume hadn't moved an inch at all. But he couldn't have imagined it! He didn't understand what or why it occurred, but something was definitely going on. And now Manjoume was going to pretend nothing happened?
Juudai didn't know what to think anymore. He was so scrambled at the moment, he probably wouldn't have realized if the one who caused his inner turmoil was already long gone.
His insides were an intense maelstrom of emotions that screamed for order. Confusion, anxiousness, embarrassment, and that wrenching pain in his chest--did he really need to go through this again? Wasn't last night's confrontation enough to drop those troublesome... feelings? If he pursued those feelings further, their friendship would be at risk.
...They were friends... right? Dueling, having all kinds of fun with his friends--that's what Juudai wanted more than anything. If he were to ever lose one of his friends... He didn't dare think about the outcome.
Sure, Manjoume wasn't who someone would describe as "friendly," and he could be inconsiderate about other's feelings. He was rude, arrogant, and many things that would make becoming his friend seem like a miracle.
But Manjoume was Manjoume, and nothing in the world could change that. He would have it no other way. Juudai admired how the raven-haired boy stood up to his tyrannical brothers even under the pressure, how he rose up to the challenge time after time, loss after loss. He was glad to have known him.
A sudden image flashed through his memory, a vision of a familiar scene where two boys played cards on the floor of a dorm room, one excited to no end and the other free of care. It wasn't like the times when lives were at stake and Juudai needed to fight with everything in his power to protect them. It was merely a match they could enjoy without worry. All that mattered was that they had fun, and he knew he did. He really did.
The memory was accompanied by trivial moments, little things like the dark-haired teen yanking painfully at the brunette's ears, making him cry (and laugh) for mercy, the teen posing proudly as a detective and making clever and insightful deductions, and the same boy pulling a white sheet over Juudai's head and with one hand, shoving him back on the bed of the school's infirmary, telling him to shut up and rest. Little as they were, they seemed to hold much more meaning to them as he recalled each of them.
Then he was reminded of a scene not too long ago. In it was a group of students--they were his friends--crowding around outside his own dorm room. The din surrounded the reason behind Manjoume's presence. Then, as quickly as it started, the chatter died. An expression of shock, disbelief, regret clouded his face. Only those words pierced the silence.
That succeeded in dragging Juudai back to reality.
He was... worried about me.
His heart hammered furiously against his ribcage. He froze in horror, having just noticed the distance between them nearly eliminated. In his unguarded state, he had unintentionally leaned his back to the other, their shoulders just touching. Or was it an accident?
But neither were as deathly surprising as the hand that sat on his opposite shoulder, the arm well-pressed to the width of his back. With a gentle force, Juudai was pulled into the other body so that he came face-to-face with a broad torso. Only then did the realization unwind itself.
Manjoume had him in an embrace. Firm, and yet soft.
It could have driven him mad. It sent him down a river of emotions. He couldn't begin to fathom the meaning of it. His mind stepped again in the field of possible explanations. Why? and Was there any reason?
"...Idiot." Manjoume brought him a little closer. "You had us worried."
Juudai's eyes widened. He immediately retracted the questions and disconnected the chain of thoughts when one thought pushed itself away from the rest.
It didn't matter.
Manjoume's words--no, his actions spoke enough. Forget the logic behind it all. All Juudai should be concerned with was how he felt.
Juudai leaned into the embrace, his hands going for the back of the other Osiris. He had done so with certainty. He laid his head over his chest, opening up his ear to listen intently to the soothing rhythm of his companion's heartbeats. As a response, the taller boy, at first hesitantly but regaining his motive, guided his hands to Juudai's back as well. Then, ever so slowly, he set his chin atop the shorter boy's shoulder.
Minutes, or what seemed to be hours, ticked away uneventfully. But unlike the previous, the silence was tender. At a distance, there were the scratchy singing of crows, calm humming of cicadas, and the melodic whistling of the wind with the swaying of lush grass. Had their eyes not been softly shut, their visions would be painted with a crimson hue and onyx silhouettes on the ground beneath the dorm building. They were, at the same time, undisturbing and undisturbed.
One final thought had arisen to Juudai's conscious. It felt so right... but was this what he really wanted? Would he be happiest this way?
He answered them, his eyes unopened and with a smile to his lips.
They had to release themselves from each other's grasps; they needed to. Though it was comforting, remaining in the position any longer would result in discomfort in their muscles. Pulling apart, Juudai's first instinct was to glance at Manjoume. Their eyes locked briefly before both had turned away quickly. A warm blush tinted his cheeks a rosy red that matched the falling sun. It didn't stop him from peeking again though.
Manjoume had on that rare smile Juudai witnessed just the night before, true and sincere. He found himself wearing one too, his with a little playful tone underneath.
Without any idea, both began to walk. It would've appeared to be a stroll from the consistent pattern of shuffling feet.
A loud, irritated growl erupted from the brunette's belly. Any other time and Manjoume would've sighed in annoyance and rubbed his temples. But at the moment, he didn't bother suppressing a small smile of amusement.
Juudai laughed, not very surprised by his hour of hunger. He was going to do something about it. Right now. One could practically hear the click of a light bulb switching on.
"Race ya to the cafeteria!" He made a mad dash for a head start, really just sprinting in random directions provided by his lightheaded joy. Manjoume growled lowly "Why, you--!" and didn't delay in giving chase.
This day couldn't get any better.
Um, so... that's it! Ack! -gets bombarded with tomatoes- Okay, okay! I know it wasn't a very satisfying ending. Maybe it's because there weren't as many interactions between Juudai/Yukiko and Manjoume as I would've liked. Maybe it's because I haven't touched much on Manjoume's thoughts and feelings, but the story focuses on how Juudai resolves his own conflict, and the feelings he discover. So what has become of the two? Whether they are in a romantic relationship or have greatly strengthened the bond of their friendship is all up for you to decide. -wink- Vulpixi Misa and I wanted to write this because two years ago, we've seen a lot of Manjoume/Chazz-turn-girl fics and we wanted more Juudai/Jaden gender-benders (with our GX OTP, nonetheless X3). That and we wanted to show that one doesn't fall in love with another because their sex change, that one could still love the other's true self without the sex change. So from these few chapters, we wanted to achieve these, even if just a small extent.
So I want to thank you all again for reading through from start to finish. Thank you readers, alerters, those who have been constantly reviewing each chapter. I probably would have just been left in the dark and I would've given up long, long ago. I never, and probably never will again, have as many reviews for a fic, and I'm very surprised because there are only so many chapters. What's more surprising is that I haven't ever had a bad comment, and for that I'm grateful beyond words. Even though things were bumpy at times, I know I enjoyed writing this. But the greatest thing is knowing that people have enjoyed it, even when I was uncertain about it myself. This is all bringing tears to my eyes. Thank you all, for your love, your support. For everything.