Disclaimer: Not mine, never were.
A/N: Just another delve into what day-to-day life and routine is like for the group after the doors shut behind Yami. I am far too intrigued by the humdrum activities of fictional characters. I'm also far too attached to Little Wonders by Rob Thomas. This is the third YGO fic it's influenced.
P.S. Don't Forget the Instant Coffee
© Scribbler, January 2008.
Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate.
-- From Little Wonders by Rob Thomas.
It was amazing what you could learn by looking into other people's shopping carts.
Anzu had been on more grocery expeditions than anyone she knew. Maybe it was because she was the only girl in her group of friends. Maybe the guys assumed that a double-X chromosome equalled a love of shopping – all kinds of shopping. Maybe it was just because they were so totally hopeless when it came to making sure they had enough food to last the week that wasn't just marshmallows and wasabi sauce, and she felt sorry for their digestive systems.
("But … they were on special offer. It seemed like a good idea at the time." Jounouchi scratched the back of his head and gestured flaccidly at the kitchen table. Anzu, only three steps into the room and still wearing her coat, grabbed him by the collar and marched right back out again.)
Yuugi and Grandpa Mutou were terrible at groceries. They pottered aimlessly, sandwiched and dwarfed between the aisles, glancing between their list and the shelves like the things might leap down and savage their ankles. The canned music and subdued atmosphere of their local Shop Rite terrified them in ways they could neither understand nor explain. Something about the rows of bright colours and aggressive advertising made them feel intimidated far more than Dartz, Kaiba or Pegasus, as though they would somehow fail at life if they chose the wrong things.
Usually Yuugi was dispatched on his own. He wasn't brilliant, but he was good at following instructions. Sometimes, though, he would add something else to his cart that was so inspired it was forever a staple of future lists.
("I just thought … Ryou's been so down lately, I thought some cream puffs might help. They're his favourite food, you know," Yuugi said self-consciously, as though Anzu didn't know after all the other times he'd 'spontaneously' bought Ryou cream puffs since they got home from Egypt.)
Once, when out with her mother, Anzu spotted his Grandpa staring at the baked bean can tower as though trying to fathom how someone with short legs was supposed to get one without toppling the entire construction. Yuugi was home with tonsillitis and they were down to their last can of tuna. Sugoroku hated tuna. The smell reminded him of rest homes. She excused herself, told her mom she'd ride home with Mr. Mutou and subtly led him around the supermarket while making light conversation about his health, his store, and his television-watching schedule that masked how she scooped essentials into his cart.
Anzu almost had to shovel each of them forward with both hands when it came to the checkout, pushing like a mother trying to make her toddlers go into kindergarten where the scary teacher was. Yuugi's eyes were huge as he handed over the exact money, carefully counted as a delaying tactic. Grandpa Mutou thrust a handful of bills at the cashier and tried not to make it obvious he was looking at her chest.
Yuugi bought cotton buds, decaff coffee and Lucky Charms. Grandpa Mutou bought Extra-Java, salami and so many socks Anzu wondered what he did with them all.
And, when they'd loaded the conveyer belt, he made a noise like a clogged vacuum and dashed back to get a box of Lucky Charms.
("Yuugi reminds me of a leprechaun," Mai commented, leaning back in her chair and crossing her long legs. Her old skirt would've ridden up, but her jeans moved with her, making her, weirdly, even sexier than before she went on her round-the-world trip to find herself. Anzu tried not to notice and sipped determinedly at the lukewarm muddy water the café passed off as cocoa, kicking her bags and thinking about the cut of her new pleated kilt.)
Honda was okay at shopping. Which was actually pretty pathetic when you realised he lived in a house run by women. He and his father escaped to the store to demonstrate their manliness by buying Super Hot Nitro Chilli Sauce, jalapeno peppers and the kind of smelly cheese that could stop the Iraq war if dropped in the right quantities. The only time Anzu spotted them shopping together in her neighbourhood they were buying magazines the women in their household would hit them over the head with, were they not monopolising the TV with Celebrity Love Island.
("Anzu, help," Honda whined down the phone. "Dad's got the flu, Mom and Grandma took my sister and her demon kid to his Baby Swimkids class and the fridge is empty.")
Jounouchi, on the other hand, was abysmal at groceries and the one solely responsible for making sure he and his father didn't starve.
Anzu went with him at first, leading him up and down the aisles and introducing him to green vegetables. She spent an entire Saturday afternoon constructing a grocery list, saved multiple copies to her computer, USB, CD and a floppy disc and printed a sheet that soon became dog-eared from being folded and unfolded when he finally ventured out alone.
He never thanked her for it. She didn't expect him to. He called her bossy and meddlesome, she smacked him upside the head and they carried on into frozen produce. At the end of the trip she walked home with him, letting him carry the heaviest bags, and said goodbye at the top of the stairs that led to his apartment. He surprised her by shoving a rolled up paper bag into her hands and not waiting to see her open it, instead grunting up to and through the partly open door to his home.
("Aw man. Not again! For once I'd like to find you facedown in a pile of money, not vomit. No wait, then you'd have robbed the drugstore or something…")
Anzu unwrapped the bag when she got to the sidewalk. It was a little Pez dispenser shaped like Dark Magician Girl. Jounouchi must've slipped it into the cart when she wasn't looking. Neither of them mentioned it again, but she stuck it to the top of her computer screen and whenever she looked at it she'd smile and make sure the file marked JOUNOUCHI'S DON'T LET ME STARVE LIST - VERY IMPORTANT.doc was safe and updated.
Of course, Otogi got all his groceries online from designer stores. He came to school with lunches made from organic wheatgrass and tofu and smirked self-righteously at them until Anzu discovered him chomping a candy bar when he should've been fetching a broom for clean-up duty.
Ryou was a sweetheart. He bought junk food, especially sweet things, and practically no fruit or vegetables, despite being thin as water pouring from glass to glass. Still, he did it alone and was pretty self-sufficient. Anzu ran across him lugging home a bag of ice-cream and melonpan while jogging and helped him out. He didn't get brand name stuff, kept an eye out for bargains and made his monthly living allowance go far enough to buy food and game pieces for his RPGs. Anzu felt strangely proud of him, even though she hadn't had a hand in his skills.
("I love Japanese food, but sometimes I miss the things I used to eat in Europe," Ryou confessed over tea. He served it in a proper pot with a matching lid, cups and saucers and stirred both cups fifteen times before handing one over. "Everybody expects me to like Earl Grey and crumpets after living in England for so long, but what I actually crave are German Springerle. Me and my dad, we spent a couple of months living in Baden-Württemberg when I was twelve and I got addicted to them. They're a type of cookie you dunk in sweet hot drinks, since they're pretty hard, so when they soften up they don't just break apart and fall in like normal biscuits…" And he wandered off into a diatribe so passionate Anzu just sat and listened and wished she wasn't on a diet.)
Kaiba, of course, stayed out of convenience stores, supermarkets, or anywhere else he might be expected to interact with the general public. However, Anzu did see Mokuba a couple of times, dressed in the uniform of an expensive prep school, escorting his bodyguards around the candy section with a look of longing that obviously wasn't just for chocolate. They looked so ridiculous with their little wire basket it was all she could do to stifle a giggle. She wondered what Kaiba would've looked like in their place. The image wasn't entirely unreasonable when she pictured Mokuba beside him and removed the downturn of his mouth at mixing with the unwashed masses.
("I'm sorry, Miss … whatever your name is. Nobody gets to speak to Master Mokuba without clearance from Master Seto. Please step away from the vehicle.")
"Anzu," her mother called up the stairs, "could you run to the store for me? We're out of eggs and I want you to pick up a few other things so I don't have to go shopping tomorrow."
"But Mo-om," Anzu leaned back in her seat, "I'm trying to finish my homework. Can't Omishi go?"
"He's at a board meeting and won't be home until late. I'd go myself, but I'm making dinner. You don't have to be gone long. In fact, I'd prefer it if you were quick so I can use the eggs."
"Oh, all right." Anzu rocked back onto four chair legs. She typed in one last thing and hit save. She passed her homework on the way out, lying on the bed where she'd tossed it when she got home from school.
She didn't like lying to her mother, but Mrs. Mazaki wouldn't understand. She thought teen friendships revolved around lamenting sadistic teachers, hanging out, watching movies and discussing which single belonged at number one. No way would she understand the weird dynamic of Anzu's group. Things were a little different when you regularly rescued each others' souls, necks and gonads from the jaws of danger. Anzu was willing to be nobody else could say they'd travelled halfway around the globe to fight an evil magical megalomaniac and then come home, gone to bed, woken up and immediately called a friend to make sure he had enough coffee to placate his father's hangover. No point in surviving the apocalypse only to lose some teeth twelve hours later.
On the way to the store a thought occurred to her and she whipped out her cell phone. It was glitzy and pink, a result of the new cover Yuugi bought for her the last time he forgot to get rolled egg omelette and she left ballet in her workout gear to pick some up from the local deli. Grandpa Mutou loved watching The Price is Right on Friday evenings, but it was easier to live with a polar bear who'd sat on a cactus if he didn't have his rolled egg omelette for dinner first.
"Pick up," she muttered. "Pick up, pick up, pick up, pick-"
"Hey, Anzu. What's up?"
"Don't forget the instant coffee."
She rolled her eyes. "You forgot it."
"I went this morning. I was trying to be efficient like you said! Could you-"
"I'll bring it over later."
There were days she felt more like their mother than their friend. Those were days she wondered why she even bothered. She should just leave them to wallow in their own ineptitude, concentrate on her dancing and make some female friends who hadn't tried to kill her. She was sixteen years old. Those days she felt more like sixty.
Well, maybe not with Yuugi. Yuugi remembered to say thank you.
"Thanks, Anzu. You're a lifesaver." Jounouchi disconnected with a click.
Anzu stared at her cell for a moment, pocketed it and carried on walking towards the store.
Then again, there were also days when it was cool to feel needed. It was all very well saving the world, but she made sure her guys could live and function in it afterwards.
It was amazing what you could learn by looking into other people's shopping carts. Anyone looking into Anzu's could learn what it was to be a real friend.