Author's Note: Like ripples on water, it's amazing how many others one single life can touch.
Quick shout-out to Frenziedpanda7 for looking up something for me that might have taken me eight times longer. THANKS! And SORRY to everyone! I thought I'd posted this by now… 9,9;;;
Disclaimer –"Yu-Gi-Oh!" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Takahashi Kazuki and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
"The Definition of Family"
Chapter 12 – Ripples
Otogi pulled open the door of the Mutous' game shop, and a little bell tinkled merrily over his head. Pulling his arm from around Shizuka, he turned to shake out the umbrella they'd been sharing as he called over his shoulder. "Oy, Mutou-Grandfather! I've got some overstock you might be interested in."
Beside him, Shizuka stepped in and gazed around the shop with a small grin and a shine in her eyes, apparently delighted by the quaint little store. Otogi grinned and shook his head, having to remind himself that Jonouchi's younger sister had not been here before. She had been eager to come with him.
Otogi looked to spot Hanasaki Tomoya peeking up over the sales counter, his hands still in one of the displays below as he arranged a set of unpainted Monster World miniatures. One of their classmates and an old friend of Yugi's, Otogi knew that Mutou-Grandfather had hired the guy part-time to help cover the shop when Yugi couldn't. "Oh, hey, Hanasaki-kun. Is Grandfather around?"
Hanasaki closed and locked the back wall of the display and stood, and even then he was barely head-and-shoulders taller than the counter. Otogi stifled a grimace for the poor guy, knowing he suffered from the same pituitary dwarfism that Yugi did. In fact, he was even shorter. Hanasaki offered him and Shizuka a small bow, then was pushing the frames of very large, thick, round glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Hi, Otogi-kun. Hello, miss. No, Mutou-Grandfather's not here. He's . . . h-he's at the hospital."
Otogi stiffened in alarm, so much so that Shizuka gave him a questioning look, brushing his arm with a hand in a silent attempt at comfort. Grandfather had a bad heart and had been in the hospital twice already in under two years. Yugi had told him all about it. Granted, the second time had been because he had no soul, no thanks to one Pegasus J. Crawford, but the first time had resulted in the implantation of a pacemaker – no thanks to Kaiba Seto, actually. Otogi remembered Yugi telling him that Jonouchi had called Hanasaki, asking him to go to the hospital to be with Grandfather since none of them could – Yugi's mother was out of town that week and Yugi, Jonouchi, Anzu and Honda had been balls-deep in Kaiba's Death-T "amusement" park.
Hanasaki must have read the thoughts on his face. "N-no, he's fine, this time, but . . . Y-yugi-kun . . . " He worried at a cleaning rag he picked up from the top of the counter next to a bottle of glass cleaner, hands twisting into the fabric. "I-it's Yugi-kun! He was . . . h-hit by a car . . . a few hours ago now. He was taken to the hospital right away."
Shizuka gasped in horror, soft brown eyes popping wide as she gripped Otogi's arm. "Y-yugi-san! N-no!"
Otogi stood rooted for a moment as his brain processed that, his voice breathless when he spoke. "Y-yugi-kun . . ." He swallowed, then stifled a choke as a second thought occurred to him. "Hanasaki-kun, w-what about – " He stopped himself, his hand going to his stomach where the Puzzle normally hung. He…realized he didn't know if Hanasaki knew about Yami or not, and otherwise asking about the state of their friend's "gold bling" might just be taken in really bad taste considering the circumstances.
Shizuka saw the gesture, realized what he couldn't ask, and choked as well, free hand clapping over her mouth as her other tightened on Otogi's arm, murmuring softly, "Yami-sama!"
Otogi swallowed, laying a reassuring hand over hers, and tried again, finding his voice. "W-what about . . . t-the others?"
Hanasaki shook his head. "I-I don't know, b-but I guess they're okay. Honda-kun's sister and her husband w-were opening that new snack shop down by the bay today, a-and the guys were going down for that. I stayed home because my dad just got back last night for a visit – you know he works in America, right? – a-and I wanted to spend the day with him. B-but then Mutou-Grandfather called to ask if I wouldn't mind manning the store b-because he really can't afford for it to be closed right now but he needed to go to the hospital a-and-!" And he cut himself off, seeming to realize that he was rambling out of worry, hands twisting harder on the rag in his grip.
Otogi exchanged glances with Shizuka, and he read his own thoughts in her eyes. He turned back to Hanasaki. "Which hospital? The one by the bay?"
Hanasaki nodded, and Shizuka looked surprisingly grim. "Unless they've changed things in the last nine years, I know the bus routes to get to that hospital. Come on!" She grabbed Otogi's wrist and spun for the door.
Otogi yelped in surprised. "Whoa, wait! S-shizuka-chan!"
"Otogi-kun!" he heard Hanasaki call after them. "Please let everyone know I'll be there as soon as the Kame is closed! I'll have my parents bring me over. That'll be quicker than the bus!"
"W-will do!" Otogi called back as he stumbled out the door, still being dragged by the wrist. The door closed behind him with another soft tinkle of bell, now a discordant, inappropriately-happy jangle in Otogi's ears.
"Shizuka-chan, leggo!" Several paces up the street, Otogi finally managed to pull his hand free of the girl's grip, their skin and clothes damp from the light rain since he'd not even had a chance to get his umbrella open once more. She was, if nothing else, her brother's sister – impulsive and forceful when she wanted or felt the need to be.
Not that now wasn't a time to feel the need to be.
"Well, then, hurry up!" Shizuka fussed, quickening her own pace to a near-run. "We might miss the bus, and the next one won't come for almost twenty minutes!"
Otogi nodded and stepped up his own pace, long legs eating up the distance.
He joined Shizuka as she dropped, panting slightly, onto the bench at the bus stop a few minutes later, heedless of the wet surface, and studied her for a moment. "You said . . . that you know the route to the hospital pretty well?" He was hesitant, not sure if he should pry or not – that was potentially very private territory and went back to business from before he had met her, though he guessed it had to do with her eyesight and the operation she'd had right before Battle City.
Shizuka grimaced and nodded. "It's been a long time, but I used to go there often enough with Mom and Katsuya-Big-Brother. That's where my eye doctor was. Because of my condition, I couldn't go to a normal optometrist. I needed a specialist, and he happened to be at that hospital."
Otogi nodded and leaned back against the bench, letting his lined leather jacket take the chill of the cold, wet metal. It was another moment before he spoke. "You'd come to town to surprise your brother with a visit. You know he's going to be doubly-glad to see you now . . . "
"Y-yes . . . " Shizuka chewed her bottom lip. "Thank you for helping me with this."
Otogi shrugged and flashed her a charming grin. "Hey, I'm always at the service of a pretty girl." There wasn't nearly as much feeling behind the flirt as he normally would have put into it, since he knew now that she had a real interest in Honda, when all was said and done, and he was not a creep who tried to lure girls from other guys . . . even if those other guys were too shy to get up the nerve to approach a girl himself.
And now was not the time for flirting anyway.
He pulled out his cell phone, updated his father on what was going on concerning the overstock and the Mutous' crisis and, just as he was hanging up, the bus pulled around a corner down the street, and the two of them stood and flagged the driver to stop for them. They climbed on, paid the fare, and found seats, neither speaking. Shizuka sat wringing her hands in her lap, her gaze turned out the window, while Otogi barely registered the trio of dice that had found their way from a pocket into one hand as he worried them around between his thumb and fingers. He flinched in mild surprise when Shizuka's voice broke the silence.
"D-do you think they'll be okay, Otogi-san?"
"Yugi-san and Yami-sama." She turned and looked at him, tears threatening in her eyes. "Yami-sama is bound to Yugi-san, right? Isn't that what you all explained on the Battle Ship that night heading out to Alcatraz Island? So if one is hurt, they'd both feel it – they'd both be hurt? And not just when it's one of those Duels?"
Pending grief – for two friends even, not just one – stuck Otogi's breath in his throat for a moment, and he mentally admonished himself even as he slipped an arm around the girl's shoulders and pulled her into a hug. You don't know how bad it is yet. Hell, it could be nothing! Don't grieve yet. Those two have survived far worse than a stupid car. Be strong – for Shizuka-chan if nothing else. He swallowed. "Y-yeah, they're bound pretty deeply, so I'd guess that what happens to one, they both know it . . . but I'm sure they'll be fine. Don't you worry, Shizuka-chan. We'll get to the hospital, you'll surprise your brother, and he'll be really glad to have his sister there to help support him. They'll all be glad to see you again. And Yugi-kun and Yami will be glad you came too. You'll see."
Shizuka curled into him, nodding against his shoulder which he could feel dampening with her tears, and he blinked back his own as he tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling of the bus. Yugi-kun . . . Yami . . .
Gods, please let them be okay . . .
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