Epilogue: Little Wonders
Here we are, safe at last;
We can breathe a sigh,
It seems the storm has passed.
Through it all no one knew
That all the tears in heaven
Would bring me back to you.
No one I know, imagined we would make it
But it only matters that we both believed.
Every time I felt near defeat
You were there for me,
On my side completely.
You give me strength,
You set me free,
It is because of you
I'm all that I can be.
When I'm with you, the world is ours to reach for,
Together there is nothing we can't do.
You and me, we're a miracle
Meant to be and nothing can change it;
Mountains move and oceans part
When they are standing in our way.
You and me, we're a miracle
Angels stand watching over us
And heaven shines upon us everyday.
The chance was so unlikely
That we would ever be, oh
Two stars upon the heavens
Destiny brought you to me
-- From We're a Miracle by Christina Aguilera.
Yuugi waited on the doorstep until he saw Anzu approach. He didn't try running towards her, since she'd only tell him off. She was proud and had things to prove, so he waited for her to reach the storefront and then fell into step beside her.
He held up his bag. "Check."
She nodded. "That's every time this week. You're improving."
Anzu blinked. "Really?"
"Yeah. He's really good at math. I think it comes from totalling life-points in duels."
"Do you think he'd tutor me? I suck at math." She did, too. It was one of the few subjects where hard work couldn't make up for raw talent.
Yuugi watched his feet. He had new sneakers, which were bright white with blue streaks and squeaked when he walked. Instead of answering her question, he came straight out with it. "Um, Grandpa bought the tickets."
"Oh." Anzu's voice dropped. "I see. We're, uh, still allowed to come, right?"
"Just making sure." She said nothing until they were at the end of the block. "I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. We all knew it would. It's just … hard. Is Yami …" she snagged on the word "… ready?"
"He might not have to leave. We're just going to get his memories back so he can find out who he is."
"Yeah." Neither of them invested their words with much conviction. "Where is he now?"
"Sleeping. He stayed up pretending to watch repeats of Duel Monsters Eurotrix." Yuugi patted the Millennium Puzzle. "He watches me sleep. I think he's worried in case I have any more nightmares."
"Isn't that kind of creepy?"
"It suppose it should be, but it isn't. He's just worried another soul-sucking monster is going to invade my head, so he stays up all night making sure I sleep peacefully." Which was creepy in a totally different way, but he didn't say that part.
Anzu didn't raise her hand to touch the thin spots in her scalp. The days had stretched to weeks, and the weeks to months, though only a few. Still, time had passed, and her vanity counted every second.
She still wore a hat.
The doctors hadn't completely shaved her head, and her hair was growing back. By the time they went to Egypt it would be pretty much back to normal. More than once she thanked her lucky stars for quick hair growth genes – though she still couldn't compete with him. One time, when they were twelve, he got sick of the bullying and she found him under the bleachers with a pair of scissors from the art department. It only took three weeks for new spikes to appear. By school picture day he was back to normal and she had a solemn promise he'd never do it again.
Today her hat looked like a tea cosy with bobbles on string that dangled either side of her face.
When they finally released her from hospital the doctors said she was going to be fine. She'd probably have some back problems in later life, but that was it. It was a miracle, everyone agreed – especially those who'd been there at the start. For Yuugi, each passing day was another tiny wonder that they were all still together.
Anzu feared her dreams of a dancing career were shattered, but apparently if she took it easy for a while there was no reason she couldn't eventually achieve her goals. Light exercise was good therapy, Doctor Yamamoto told her, as long as she didn't overdo it while she was healing.
"That means no noogies," Jounouchi had warned as he helped her into her mom's car the day she came home.
"So don't give me a reason to noogie you," Anzu had replied smartly, waving him away and climbing in by herself. She'd glared at the wheelchair used to transport her from Domino General to the parking lot – so hard Yuugi thought it might melt.
"Have you had anymore nightmares?" she asked now.
They'd figured out Yuugi's bad dreams and waking nightmares were Aramanth stirring up some foreboding to snack on. The creature's mind-games had gone deep. As a result, Yuugi was getting sick of being asked how he felt and how he'd slept. Yet the look on Anzu's face after his news made him forgive her – as always.
"No. I sleep like a baby."
"Babies cry a lot."
They were passing the mouth of an alley. They passed it every day, but they'd only ever stopped once. It was just like any other alley, which was … kind of anticlimactic, actually.
However, today Anzu glanced down it and her feet skittered to a halt, as though acting independent of her brain. Yuugi went only a step further before stopping, turning, watching her with concern. Her breathing had quickened and her grip on her bag was tight.
She made no move to enter. Neither did he.
Yuugi swallowed. "How's your mom?"
"Actually, she's really okay." Anzu sounded surprised to be saying it, though she didn't take her eyes off the alley. "Really. But I think she wants to adopt Jounouchi. She's invited him over for dinner practically every day since I got home, and I know he was eating at our house while I was in hospital because he always got a ride in our car for visiting hours. Omishi loves him, too. They talk shop all the time. He's even started talking about getting him an apprenticeship in his company when we graduate."
Yuugi knew a lot of this already, it was just something to say, but Jounouchi had failed to mention any apprenticeship. "That's great! You're always saying he doesn't have any career direction."
"I know, but he keeps eating my Hello Panda cookies and the bathroom smells like boy. Mom loves him, though. He's her pet project after she realised just how bad his dad is. She calls him Katsuya. Katsuya!" Anzu shook her head. "I never asked for a brother; and even if I had, I never would've asked for one like Jounouchi."
Yuugi couldn't help but smile. Mrs. Mazaki was proving a healthy addition to their secret club, even if membership was getting less exclusive by the day. It was nice having a new ally. She'd drilled them exhaustively about their adventures, and had more than a few words to say about the ridiculous risks they'd taken and the dangers they'd faced. Ultimately she'd accepted what they did, had done, perhaps a little of what they had yet to do.
Meron was impressed at their friendship with Seto Kaiba, and then less impressed when Sugoroku reluctantly revealed Kaiba as the cause of his heart attack. Yuugi found himself treated like glass until Meron got used to knowing Yami was only ever a heartbeat away, which granted him special privilege to watch when she made a formal apology to Honda for accusing him of sleeping with her daughter. Of the three of them, he wasn't sure who blushed more.
As soon as Anzu was up to it, she found herself stemming a lava flow of maternal shock, tears and cross-questioning that she'd kept such enormous secrets for so long. Like her daughter, Meron Mazaki had a temper that, as Jounouchi knowledgeably described it, caught faster than a lit match in a fart. Accusations were thrown. Severe words became soft, and soft words turned harsh under fluorescent lighting. Promises were made. So were threats. Expectations shattered and rearranged themselves in a squall of oestrogen.
Even the nurses gave the room a wide berth while that was going on. The boys and Sugoroku waited until the door opened and a tearstained duo allowed them back in, and asked no questions because they weren't that stupid. Pissing off one Mazaki woman was risky. Pissing off two was suicidal.
Meron had made noises when Yuugi first mooted a trip to Egypt and Anzu asked to go. Anzu was too fragile, it was too soon after the operation, it was too dangerous. She conveniently forgot, and had to be reminded, that Mazaki women had a way of surviving tragedy when others needed them. She'd proved that years ago when Anzu's father left and she dedicated herself to raising their little girl to be a strong young woman. Now that strong young woman was needed in the same way by someone else.
Since she'd spent time reacquainting herself with her daughter's friends – and just plain getting to know Yami – while Anzu was trapped in Domino General, she'd grown to understand the potent nature of their friendship. Knowing that, she couldn't keep Anzu away when there was a very real chance this might be Yami's final goodbye.
Yuugi and Anzu still didn't move away from the alley.
"That was really scary," Anzu said quietly. She didn't need to say what. They rarely talked about the might-have-beens. Everything she didn't say was wrapped up in that sentence. "Yuugi?"
The pause lingered on the edge of being too long, preparing the way for the presentation of each separate syllable, but none appeared.
Yuugi risked a glance and realised with alarm that Anzu's eyes glittered with unshed tears. Her colour wasn't good. Her face was the grey of recycled cardboard. Instantly he was taken back to his bedside vigil and his stomach swirled with dread.
"I'm all right. It's just … everything seems different, but not different at all. We fought so hard so we could all stay together when Aramanth tried to pull us apart, and now it looks like we're going to break apart anyway." She let out a strange, piercing laugh – a laugh that was so bitter, so proud, so full of smouldering, contradictory impulses that Yuugi scarcely knew what to make of it.
It sounded like the Last Laugh.
"This isn't the same," he said quietly. The pain of separation bit into him, too. Yami gone … he hated the idea, but more than that, he knew it would be cruel to keep Yami's true identity from him just because they liked having him around – just because he liked having Yami around.
Ultimately, the decision was Yami's. He'd abandoned the quest for his memories after Dartz, too afraid of leaving Yuugi alone to address his own need for identity. However, something had clicked with Yami after the ordeal with Aramanth that made him feel able to finally make that decision, and go looking for his past.
"I know. It's even worse."
"It's hard," Yuugi admitted, but she cut him off.
"No, it's painful. We know what we've got to do and we know why it's got to be done – otherwise we wouldn't be in so much pain." Anzu sniffed. "Who knew caring about someone meant them having so many more ways to hurt you?" She mumbled it, but Yuugi heard all the same.
How carelessly truthful.
"I know," he said, looking up at her.
It was a moment made for confessions.
In the distance they heard the school bell ring.
"Crap!" Anzu swore, shouldering her schoolbag and scrubbing at her eyes. "We're late!"
The moment broke like dropped china.
Yuugi readjusted his own bag and ran after her. "Wait! Doctor Yamamoto said you're only supposed to take light exercise!"
The bobbles on either side of Anzu's face bounced. "Tell that to Mr. Ishida if we're late. We'll be cleaning every chalkboard in the school, brain surgery or no brain surgery."
Yuugi thought about this. Then he squinted. "Isn't that Jounouchi and Honda?"
Indeed, two figures were running like Olympic sprinters towards the school gate from the opposite direction. Jounouchi had no school bag – big surprise – and Honda still had a triangle of toast sticking out of his mouth. Their arms pumped and he could imagine the words furiously leaving Jounouchi's mouth.
"They're late too. What a surprise. We can have detention together." Anzu frowned. "Me in detention and Jounouchi making career plans? Wake Yami, it's a sign of the apocalypse."
Being late for school. Handing in homework. The squeak of new sneakers. It was all so ordinary, and yet … so completely wonderful. So many times Yuugi had thought things like this would never happen again. Not for him, nor his friends. So many times he'd thought This is it and prepared himself for the final cut. He was Yuugi Mutou, the kid who'd helped save the world – multiple times – but his world hinged on little wonders like this. His simple, wonderful little life, which was everything he'd ever wanted – and more.
He felt Yami stir.
"You're going to be late, Aibou."
The laugh Yuugi loosed wasn't bitter, but impulsive, as he raced towards another gloriously mundane day with all his friends at his side.
"Hey, Anzu, wait for me!"
Our lives are made
In these small hours;
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.
-- From Little Wonders by Rob Thomas.
Side-flings, Homages and Downright Rip-offs
"No, it's painful. We know what we've got to do and we know why it's got to be done – otherwise we wouldn't be in so much pain."
-- From the first season finale of Grey's Anatomy. Still the best season, in my humble opinion.
A/N: Well that's it. I've always wanted to write a fic like this – a monster of the week one that could slot into continuity and still be believable. Maybe I was successful, maybe I wasn't, but I still had a blast writing it and I take great pride in the fact that this is one fic I saw right through to the end. I actually finished a multi-chapter fanfic! And I don't hate it!
Anzu's right, the apocalypse is near.
I hope everyone reading this had as much fun as me. To all reviewers, anonymous readers and people who wandered in off the street. I salute you for accompanying me through my fannish indulgences and ask, what the hell are you still doing here when there's so much brilliant fic by other writers waiting for you?