Chazz groaned and tried to get up but the forest around him spun and he fell back. This was not where he remembered falling asleep. He took a breath, closed his eyes and stood up. Opening them he saw the Obelisk dorm glowing orange just through the trees. His eyes went wide. Flames shot out the top floors and there were screams coming from inside. Instinct took him. He needed to help his classmates, he had to do something. He approached the building and found it to be the back lined with windows leading to the entrance hall. One was already open and he climbed in. Inside was a furnace. The hall had no fire in it but the ceiling was lined with a thin layer smoked and students rushing by with buckets of water and bandanas over there mouths. Some panicked others worked and Chazz grabbed handkerchief out of his pocket and covered his mouth. Then he grabbed someone's bucket of water and dumped it on his head before he continued. The up stairs was in bad shape, all the dorms on the left side were on fire. The right was completely doused in water to prevent it from catching. People were screaming from the floors above and a bucket line had been formed. Chazz made his way past the bucketeers and up the stairs.
On the way up he was pasted by Obelisks, Ras and Slifers heading down with buckets in hand. It was amazing how crisis united the student body, but Chazz of course wasn't thinking that at the moment. He was directing his confused and frightened classmates to the stairs on the floor below. The fire on the third floor was the worst so far. The ceiling had collapsed in places and he pulled several girls out of one of the rooms on the back end, just in time. Just as the last girl was out of the room the ceiling fell in. He ordered them toward the stairs and continued on up the stairs. The fourth floor looked deserted but he knew better. His instinct drew him down the hall and there under a fallen beam was Hassleberry and Marie. He rushed to help the pair, the floor creaking under him as if on it's last legs. The beam was light enough and he pulled it off them without much trouble. He shook Hassleberry who groaned and opened his eyes, then snapped to reality. "Get up! We gotta get out of here now!" He yelled over the roar and crackle of the flames. Hassleberry coughed and tore a piece of his tank top holding it to his mouth. Chazz grabbed Marie, wrapped her in his damp jacket and scooped her up princess style. "Come on!" Hassleberry coughed in response and stood. They made their way down the hall as carefully as they could in their haste, then pasted the bucket brigades on the lower floors. The second floor was completely doused now that the custodians-turned-firemen showed up. And the third was next on the agenda. The first floor was hardly touch though the floor was soaked from spilled water and water dripping from the top floors. Only the first floor and half of the second still seemed like a livable space. Chazz hurried out the doors and found a horde of students on the lawn outside. His arms felt like lead as he carried Marie to the nurse who'd probably been rushed down from the infirmary. He laid Marie out on the lawn next to the charge the nurse was working on, an Obelisk with a large gash down his arm. Chazz checked her pulse to be safe. There but faint, he cursed, and the nurse jumped, then saw Marie, and her eyes widened. The lady grabbed an oxygen tank and mask and pushed it to Chazz.
"Put that on her, get her some clean air." He nodded numbly. And he heard a crash behind him. The fourth floor caved in. And his eyes widened. A little later and Marie would be dead. He cursed to himself and watched as Hassleberry plopped on the grass next to him.
"Is she alright?" the Ra's eyes were concerned and somber. Chazz growled.
"I should have been there sooner."
"No. I should have kept her safe."
Chazz sighed, "How about we're both total screw ups?"
"Agreed. But you saved us both. Thank you. I know you don't like us very much but-"
"That's not true." Hassleberry snapped his attention to Chazz just as Marie coughed. Both leaned down in concern. She opened her eyes slowly and tried to sit up, but winced and laid back down.
"Hey, boys. What's up?"
"Chazz just pulled you from a burning building! What do you think's up?" Hassleberry yelled but not because he was angry, it sounded he was more relieved that they were alive.
"Chazz?" She looked at him and smiled, "I guess I owe you now."
He smiled back, "You don't owe me a thing. Just don't go getting in peril again anytime soon, 'kay? I don't know if I'll be there next time." He felt his insides lighten and his eyes filled with that deep affection again.
Hassleberry looked from Chazz to Marie and back again, then he stood, "I'm gonna check on the others." And he left.
Chazz watched him go, confused. "Where's he going?"
"How should I know?" Marie sat up just as the nurse turned to them to check her.
Later, Chazz walked the bandaged Marie to the Slifer dorm. No one had died in the fire but the cause was still unknown. The most serious wounds was one kid had a concussion from being hit by falling debris. He'd gotten a thorough scolding from the Chancellor Shepard for running into a burning building, and a job well done for saving his classmates and keeping cool under fire. As they approached the dorms they saw an assembly of Slifers outside. There backs to the pair Chazz called over their whispers, "Hey guys, what are you all- WAH!" The group cheered and hoisted him up on their shoulders, and chanted his name. Marie giggled. "Why are you-? Put me down!"
Jaden stood on the second floor above the crowd and whistled loudly. Everyone came to a halt and looked up. "You're a hero, Chazz! In the face of overwhelming danger, you showed great courage! Your actions are a tribute to all Slifers everywhere! And in honor of that we got you this!" He gestured widely to Syrus who came down the stairs and was given a boost to put a medal around Chazz's neck. "You risked it all to save two of are dearest friends. Three cheers for the Chazz!"
"Chazz it up! Chazz it up! Chazz it up!" Chazz reddened at his own catchphrase. He looked to Marie and all she did was smile shyly and shrug.
After Chazz had been carefully placed back on the ground, and the crowd finally dispersed, he and the gang sat in his room on the couch as Hassleberry pushed the last of the Slifers out the door. He closed the door and leaned on it, "Thought they'd never leave."
Chazz shook his head, "Not sure why they made such a fuss over it. I mean they helped in the fire, too."
Marie rolled her eyes, "Yeah, but they didn't hull two people out of a burning building. Which by the way was completely idiotic."
"Hey if it wasn't for me you wouldn't be here now would you?" Chazz snapped back. Everybody smiled. Normality at last.
"At least I wouldn't have to put up with your lame come backs."
"I've never met anyone so ungrateful."
"I've never met anyone so unintelligent."
"Well, my noble stupidity is the reason your butt's on MY couch." Marie froze and stared at him. He gave her a confused look, then remembered. After a beat he was able to continue, "Now look, it's over and done with. No one has died, the Blue dorms still standing despite the collapsed fourth floor and charred inside, and you two are safe. Can we not make a big deal of my lack of thinking things through just this once?"
She thought about it with an irritated look, but nodded, "This once."
He tried not to grin, "Good."
Hassleberry laughed, "You two are something else. Half the time you ignore each other, the other half you fight like an old married couple."
The pair looked at each other wide eyed then quickly looked away, with irritated looks and red cheeks. In unison they glared at him, "Hassleberry, you are an idiot."
Bastian interrupted the little lovefest to make a good point, as always, "Where are you guys staying now that your dorms a pile of ash?"
Marie shrugged but Alexis knew, "The guys got the gym, and the girls are in the infirmary as well as the injured. It was a first come first serve basis and the girls saved each others spots. I got the bed with the massage in it for kids who get muscle cramps in gym." she said smiling, "My backs never felt better." She looked to Marie, "Hey weren't you still at the dorms when we were assigned spots to sleep?"
Marie sighed, "Yeah, the nurse said it was best not to move me until I could stand on my own. Now I'm gonna have to sleep in the bleachers." She groaned.
"My spare bedroom is free." Chazz piped up. His voice sounded casual, but inside he couldn't believe himself. One minute he was snapping back and forth with her the next offering her a place to stay. Talk about confusing signals. But his heart melted at the look of gratitude on her face.
"Thanks! That sounds great. It keeps me close to you guys."
Suddenly Alexis frowned, "Wait I change my mind, I remembered he has a hot tub!" The group laughed. And Marie smiled.
"It's also great because the stuff in my room was burnt to a crisp. Meaning no luggage!"
Chazz blinked at her, "What about your deck?"
She smiled, "Luckily, I left in Jaden's room, where it was oddly safer than mine." She pulled it out. "Don't know what I'd do without these babies."
Syrus looked deep in thought, "Come to think of it, we've never seen your deck, Marie."
Jaden snapped his fingers , "That's right! Mind if we take a look?"
Marie blinked, "Okay. But I warn you the cards are kind of random."
Jaden began unceremoniously digging through her deck, "Nah, there's some kind of medieval and renaissance theme going on mixed with magic of course."
She blink, "You think so?"
"Yeah. You got any favs?"
"Well..." She said unsure. Then shuffled through the now scatter cards. "These two. Dancing Fairy and Soul of Purity and Light." Suddenly she flared with light and three little fairies popped up around her head and Chazz jumped, causing everyone to look at him, including the fairies. "What is it, Chazz."
He shook his head and adjusted to the brightened room, "Nothing, nothing... I just thought I heard something." More like SAW something. And it was defiantly something. They were flying around her head now and she swatted them away playfully with her hand. One saw him looking at them and flew over, getting right up in his face. He tried to pretend not to see her but she sat right on his head. And he glared forward. Marie looked over at him and giggled. Ha. Ha. Ha, very funny, he though in her general direction. This time it was her turn to jump.
Her recovery was smoother though, turning her jump into getting up and looking through her cards with Jaden, "There is this one card, it totally creeps me out but I literally can't get rid of it. I've traded it, destroyed it, and it just won't-" She paused, and shuffled through them again. "Jaden did you see Souls of the Forgotten in here at all?"
Jaden gave her a blank stare, "No, should I?"
"Yeah, it was in here yesterday..." She looked to have zoned out, then shook her head. "Never mind, I've been trying to ditch that card for years. But someone out there is in for a hard time. Could you guys just keep an eye out for it? For me?"
Alexis nodded, "Sure we could. But why?"
"It's just... Oh never mind. You'll laugh."
"No, we won't." Chazz leaned forward, interested. "What is it?"
"It's just hasn't brought me much luck. One day I just found it in my deck and nothing but trouble has come from it. Now it's just disappeared. It's weird..."
"Well, we'll defiantly keep a look out for it. Right guys?" He looked at his friends and they nodded. Marie's gazed at him with a world of gratitude in her eyes. He knew how it felt to just need someone to believe you. Hassleberry suddenly stood and stretched.
"Well I'm gonna turn in. See you tomorrow?"
"See ya, Hassleberry." she said over her shoulder as he got up to go to the door.
Jaden yawned, "He's right, tomorrow's the trip to Mall Island. I need to get some new sneakers." He held up an old sneaker with a large hole in the bottom. "I've had these puppies three years. It's time for some new one's." The others had to leave too, and over the course of the hour it was down to just Chazz and Marie, who sat silently on either side of the room not looking at each other. Once Chazz decided it had gone on long enough he tried to strike up conversation.
"So, how long have you been dueling?" Marie jumped a little, not expecting the question. Once she had recovered she smiled.
"Forever, or at least it seems that way. My dad bought me my first packs of cards for my birthday one year and I've been dueling ever since. How about you?"
"My brothers' idea. They thought that I could make tons of money in the pro league. But somewhere along the way I lost myself in who they wanted me to be." His eyes met hers for the first time in a while, "Then I got washed out to sea when I tried to leave this place and ended up at North Academy. For the first time in my life things didn't come easy. I had to work for it and I ended up succeeding beyond what I could have possibly dreamed." He pulled out his deck and shuffled through to find the Ojama's and presented them to Marie. "I got these guys. They are annoying loud-mouths but they get the job done." Suddenly Ojama Yellow popped up and he saw Marie's eyes go wide.
Boss, come on! You know you love us! Ain't that right, boys?The other Ojama brothers popped out of nowhere, cheering an agreement and he tried to keep from yelling. It was a hard task to say the least. Marie is so pretty! Ask her out! I bet she'd love that- Chazz quickly stuffed them back into his deck and they disappeared.
Marie came out of her shock, to laugh nervously, "They are a little goofy looking." she smiled, "But I like them." Chazz grinned and stuffed his deck away. She stood and stretched, "Well I'm gonna hit the hay. Thanks for putting me up for the night, Chazz. It was good of you."
"Don't mention it." he said trying to play it cool, and failing miserably. She walked out of the room and the tension just spilled out of him. He sighed and headed to his own room. Maybe tonight he wouldn't be plagued with dreams of her and that dark place. Neither did him much good.