Shadow: For round three of Season four of Compy's contest. The pairing's Ardentshipping – Shizuka Kawai x Honda Hiroto. Rather a dull pairing if you ask me, but it has its own sweet charm I suppose. Still, outside the contest? Side-pairing only.

Warnings: Contains het, and shonen-ai, which means boy x boy. The other pairing is quite obvious if you read the rest of my notes. ;3

Disclaimer: References in here to William Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII, The Beatles' song I wanna hold your hand, and Douglas Adams' wonderful A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Obviously, I own none of 'em.

Notes: This was written as a sequel to my Deathshipping from Season three – XIII -, but can be read alone. Heartshipping. ;)

Honda's POV.


-: A Simple Fact to Start With :-

Some people get all the luck.

If that wretched sun gets any hotter I'm going to turn into a puddle of goo right here in the middle of the grass, and the daisies will probably end up using me as fertiliser. I have no real ambitions to end up as plant food, but I can't peel the shirt from my back because that would look bad in front of Shizuka – especially since neither Yugi or Ryou seem the slightest bit bothered by the horrible heat, one sitting cross-legged typing away on his laptop, the other flat on his stomach reading through some course textbook. Ryou in particular is wearing this ridiculously high-collared shirt with long sleeves – how isn't he dying in this heat wearing that? I glower at them both for a few moments, rolling over onto my side from where I've been sprawled on my back in the grass, attempting to focus on the lean forms of my two friends. I can sympathise with cats now, I think – the heat really does addle you brains and leave you somewhat lethargic. I can't even summon up enough willpower to feel even mildly pissed at Yugi and Ryou, drat 'em both.

Shizuka herself looks perfectly cool where she's sitting, all summery with her yellow dress billowing about her legs, skin turning a lovely tan under the sun. (Me? I just go lobster red usually, quite embarrassingly but Shizuka…) She looks wonderful – has she ever looked anything but? Her brother's not here right now so I'm free to ogle in awe without fear of getting a fist in my face – I know Yugi at this stage has just written me off as a hopeless romantic, and Ryou, to be utterly frank, probably couldn't care less. (He has exams next week.) Shizuka has her hair pinned up with clips. It's a nice style for her, but some little curls have escaped to hang down beside her ears and I can't help but want to go play with them, be close enough to twirl them with a finger, smell her skin, touch her hair.

I've been in love with Kawai Shizuka a long time now, I think. Over five years, ever since the time I first saw her smile… She lights up the room, y'know? Like the sun overhead, like that odd English poem we got forced to learn way, way back in high school: -

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Shakespeare, I think it was. One of his sonnet things to his unnamed lady-love. Ryou'd probably be able to tell me which one it was if I asked him – that guy reads too much, I swear he does -, or Shizuka herself – she took English Literature at university -, but I'd feel a little embarrassed asking her since I am comparing her to the poem after all…

Shizuka's prettier. No matter the words, or the (most likely dead) guy that wrote 'em, Shizuka's prettier than anything they could ever, ever possibly devise. No literary genius could find words to capture what it is that makes Shizuka so lovely, because her loveliness goes deeper than skin, a bright spark that goes all the way through her and glows.

…I'd be mortified if anyone could read what I was thinking, but they can't, thank God. So I can indulge in my silent adoration in peace.

Shizuka's amazing. Beautiful. Simply, utterly ravishing and –

"I learned a new word this morning."

And paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to me.

"Oh?" Yugi looks vaguely interested, hands pausing their rapid patter across his laptop's keyboard to look up at Shizuka. "Was it anything interesting?"

"One of my professors used it – I think she was deliberately teasing the Classics professor who'd popped in to deliver some notes?" A pause for thought, Shizuka biting her bottom lip. "Now…how did it go? Um…it was flocca -" another pause, "floccinaucinihilipilification." Yugi looks mildly impressed – hell I'm impressed. How the hell did Shizuka just pronounce that monster? "It means 'the act of describing something as worthless, or making something to be worthless by deprecation'."

I feel a little left out of this intellectual discussion. "Shizuka, that's got to be the longest word in the English language!" On second thoughts, with that little gem of intelligence to offer, I might as well have kept my mouth shut…

"Actually," a soft-spoken interruption of mild disinterest butting in, "the longest word in the English language is a chemical." Ryou doesn't even look up from his book. How does he do that? "It's Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylala-something-or-other-lisoleucine, also commonly known as Titin."

"Why Titin?" Yugi asks curiously.

"The real name contains one-hundred-and-eighty-nine thousand, eight-hundred and nineteen letters." Ryou turns a page. "It's a bit long to rattle off every other sentence."

I can feel myself scowling, embarrassed. "Stop being so smart." Yugi begins typing again, the familiar tap-tapping of the keys soothing in the almost-summer air. He's probably sending an email to Anzu in New York – they keep in touch. Pretty closely too. I don't know why Yugi just didn't ask Anzu out before she left for America… "I thought you took Biology, anyway? Medicine?" I can't hide the sulkiness in my voice as I question Ryou, a little irritated at being shown up in front of Shizuka.

"I do." Is my calm reply from the white-haired young man.

"Then how did you know about that Titin chemical thingy?"

"General knowledge."

Yugi is smiling, even as he types. "Ryou-kun is to general knowledge what I am to games, Honda-kun."

Quivering in my shoes would appear to be a good reaction now then? I wince, watching Shizuka's uncertain smile, the vaguely amused light in Ryou's brown eyes –

-: An Awareness of Time :-

It had been six years since Ryou had said goodbye to the Millennium Ring for good. It had been two months since Yugi Mouto had entered Ryou Bakura's bedroom one midnight dreary, and sent the shadows of another spirit scurrying into the dark.

Coincidentally, it had also been two months since a series of baffling serial murders plaguing Domino City had finally ended…

I should just be glad Ryou's asexual then, shouldn't I? At least…the guy never seems interested in anyone, regardless of their gender. He's always this calm presence in the corner of the room at gatherings, rarely saying anything, rarely properly smiling. He's also rather sexually ambiguous with his generally pretty, androgynous face and longish hair. Not curvy enough to be female, but not…butch enough to be truly male. Kind of supernatural…elfin I think some of his fangirls have called him? Personally, I wouldn't really know. Anything by that Tolkien guy was a bit too thick for my reading tastes, though the novel my parents gifted to me one Christmas long ago in the hopes of instilling me with some culture was good for stopping a knife some gang member hoyed my way.

I'm in the local force now – a member of the police. Never thought there'd come a day when I'd be one of those guys I used to spend so much time evading in my early youth but – here I am. Well, technically not here I am right now 'here I am', as today happens to be my day off, and I'm determined not to more an inch more than I have to. It's too hot right now to properly think never mind move, and so –

Shizuka, Yugi and Ryou have all finished their classes for the day – they're all attending university, and they're the only ones in Domino. Anzu's in New York, studying dancing like she always wanted to, Jounouchi's off touring the world and dueling circuit with Mai. Last letter I had off of him he was debating popping the 'big question' to the woman and – well, wow. I always saw Jou as a commitment-phobe, but if he's really serious about Mai – and I really think he is -, I can only wish him the best of luck.

Now if only I could get to work on his younger sister… Maybe the hot weather brings out the hot feelings inside all of us…

With all the love and coupling in the air it's a wonder even Kaiba doesn't –

I cut my train of thought off right about there, deeply disturbed. The very idea of cold-blooded Seto Kaiba actually getting – and with anyone –

Urgh. I can feel myself pulling a face, internally resolving to avoid the issue of Kaiba from here on in.

…Shizuka really is extremely pretty. The sun brings out all those lovely golden highlights in her hair, making her green eyes sparkle. How did Jounouchi ever end up with such a perfect girl as his sister? Such a perfect, intelligent girl? Not that Jou's thick or anything (though he can be an idiot at times), but Shizuka's just…

"Katsuya-nii didn't want me to come up to Domino this summer…" Shizuka stretches, uncurling her legs from under her and positioning them more comfortably, her dress rippling at the movement. "Because of the recent murders?"

"But they've stopped now, haven't they?" Yugi's paused again, focusing on the screen in front of him as if to read over what he's been writing. Ryou says nothing, and ducks his head down further into his textbook.

"But they never caught the murderer." Shizuka points out quietly. "It's as if he or she vanished into thin air."

There's a long, drawn-out silence between us. I'd like to burst in because of my profession loudly proclaiming the fallacy of such an idea but – well, we all have a shared history here, don't we? Most of it involving the sort of things that, if we opened our mouths and started talking about them, would get us locked away in a nice padded cell for an indeterminate period of time. Possibly with a nice new jacket too. Admittedly, with some of the things Yugi wears the style wouldn't be all that new for him, but I think there are only so many buckles and chains you can wear and still pass yourself off as relatively sane-looking.

-: An Introduction of Sorts :-

All of Yugi-tachi had met Insanity before. He was quite an amusing guy, they thought, when he wasn't trying to kill you.

Yugi breaks the quiet. "Then let's hope the deaths are over, ne? Domino City's weird enough without more sociopaths lurking in the shadows."

"True," Ryou admits quietly, and I can readily agree with him. Domino City attracts enough nut-jobs as it – if any of them suddenly feel like upping and leaving at any time, I'm certainly not going to be the one complaining. It'll make my job – and my life as a significant majority – a hell of a lot easier.

"At least things have quieted down these last few years…" Another quiet, the audible 'because the Pharaoh's gone' floating in the air around us, sailing past like the fluffy clouds above. The silence is awkward.

I slide my eyes from Shizuka to Yugi, noting the slim hands still on the keyboard. "…You're writing to Anzu?" The awkwardness passes the moment Yugi smiles – Yugi has a talent for making things easier, I guess. He…softens with his presence. When he smiles so sweetly objects turn into a kind of soggy mush – girls, usually, in particular. I'm a friend, and I've known him awhile now, so I guess I'm immune. Ryou's apathetic to life, the universe and everything – said universe's creation in the beginning according to Ryou, as that Adams' guy so wonderfully stated, making quite 'a lot of people very angry' and being 'widely regarded as a bad move.' (On that note, I must remember to ask Jou if I can borrow the fourth book in the trilogy…) Shizuka's just kind to everyone, regardless of how they smile.

Yugi is nodding. "Yeah, I'm writing to Anzu-chan. She has classes in an hour, and she sent me an email beforehand."

…He still adds the 'chan' at the end of the sentence? Yugi, you can be utterly hopeless… Why can't he just ask Anzu out and be done with it? He likes her.

"How is Anzu, anyway?" I can't help but ask. It's been a while since I last checked my mail, so I'm a little behind with all the news.

"She's got a new boyfriend." Yugi sounds distant, head bowed low as he types some furious reply on his laptop. "Some guy called Michael."

"Yugi!" I'm hurt on his behalf. It had seemed Yugi and Anzu were destined for one another, in the way the sun is destined always to rise, the way Yugi is destined always and forever to win any game he undertakes if he should so will the outcome. For Anzu to go and change prewritten fate… "I told you to ask her out before she left for America!"

"Hm." Yugi doesn't seem as upset by the revelation as I would've expected him to be. This is Yugi Mouto sitting in front of me, right? The guy that's been madly in love with Anzu Mazaki since the day he met her? Or am I missing something? "She's happy now."

Ryou turns another page of his book, disinterest radiating off him like he were a light-bulb. I glance over to see what has him so enthralled – and then turn away, going slightly green at the wonderful picture of what, the title proclaims, is what the inside of an elderly male's bowels looks like. Yes, I always knew that guy was weird… "Is Anzu-san coming back to Japan later in the summer?" It's a token question really; I don't think any of us really believes Ryou can really care to hear the answer.

"For a fortnight at the end. She's taking a summer course for the first bit, then she's going to visit Michael's home for some time." One last defiant tap of a button, and Yugi snaps his laptop closed. "She'll be coming here afterwards."

"That should be fun." Is it just me, or is Ryou's tone edging somewhere into the 'bitchy' category?

-: The Words Lurking in Everyone's Thoughts :-


Another somewhat awkward pause, and this time I'm slightly clueless as to what's causing it. Or why Ryou started it, I should say. The guy's got no reason to be irritable with Anzu that I know of –

"We should get some ice-cream!" Bless you, Shizuka. She looks so bright with her suggestion, sitting up straight and smiling disarmingly. "Honda-kun, would you like to go fetch some with me?" She nods in the direction of the front entrance of the park we're all currently lounging in. A small stall selling ice-cream and cold drinks has been set up near there – we can't see right now, as it's around a bend in the path, but plenty of people keep tracking past us with ice-cream cones and lollies. As a particularly noisy crowd of university students amble past us on the path carrying some of the icy treats I can't help but feel a pang of envy.

"Let's!" I get to my feet in a sudden rush, extending a gentlemanly hand to the still-seated Shizuka to help her up. Her hand, placed so delicately in mine, is pale in comparison to my tanned skin, fragile bones feeling as if I could crush them if I grip too tightly. Spun glass, my Shizuka, who reflects all the pretty colours when she turns my way.

"Yugi-kun, Ryou-kun…?" Shizuka's dress swirls around her as she gets to her feet, a glorious blend of colour when compared with the green, green grass and the vibrant blue of the sky overhead. So very – alive, I guess. Proof there's always something beautiful to live for.

"I'm okay; thank you, Shizuka-san." Ryou bows his head politely, actually deigning to look our way for the first time properly this afternoon.

"Same." Yugi's laptop is still balanced on is lap, one hand resting protectively on the flat cover of the screen. "Why don't you and Honda-kun go have a walk together, Shizuka-chan? Feel the breeze on your face for a little while?" If he's playing matchmaker I swear I'll –

Yugi smiles his disarming smile my way, and I can't help but frown at him, feeling simultaneously elated at the opportunity I'm being presented with at the same time –

Shizuka doesn't really give me time to think about it. She's already grabbed my hand, and is pulling me eagerly away. Behind us, Ryou gives a languid wave goodbye.

…I suddenly really want to hit that guy.

"So what flavour do you want?" Shizuka is smiling my way – my way personally – now, eyes bright with the prospect of the ice-cold sugary treat to come.

I debate for all of three seconds. "Vanilla."

"Is it your favourite?"

"Chocolate too."

"Have you ever tried mint-chocolate-chip…?"

I let my thoughts drift away for a little while, my mind on auto-pilot as it quietly revels in the fact Shizuka hasn't thought to let go of my hand yet. It's…nice, though all the mind-reading golden baubles-on-a-stick under the sun won't drag that out of me. If Jounouchi ever caught wind of some of the things drifting through my mind these days about his sister he'd either murder me, or die from laughing so hard. Seriously. Sometimes even I don't recognise some of the half-assed things my mind spouts off at me.

Oh yeah, I'll tell you something,
I think you'll understand,
Then I'll say that something,
I wanna hold your hand,

Like that irritating song, for example. Thinking about hand-holding and it pops into my head, memories of an ancient LP being played on my old man's system from the Stone Age. My mother, getting all misty-eyed in her own memories, clutching a battered diary to her chest as she remembers some ancient band named after bugs that she once adored. Peh. Personally, I don't see what all the fuss was all about but…with parents, it's best just to keep your mouth shut.

We're at the stall now, and Shizuka's 'hmm'ing over her choice, finally settling on the mint-choc-chip she was telling me about before. Withdrawing the appropriate amount of yen from my wallet I wave off her protests with a smile, taking my own plain vanilla cone in hand. "My treat." Shizuka takes my hand again, holding her ice-cream with the other.

Internally, I'm happily gloating.

"Shizuka…" I can't hide the flutter of hope within me, the nervous twitchings of dread/anticipation… "Shizuka, we should do this again sometime."

Large green eyes blink up at me – sight is precious to Shizuka, she having so nearly lost it. "…You're right, Honda-kun - we should." A lick of the green ice-cream around the cone-tip, trails of stickiness already beginning to run under the hot sun.

I hesitate a little before adding the next piece. "…Just us?"

A heartbeat of pause, before Shizuka smiles again – brighter than ever, ever before. "Honda-kun…I'd like that." Her cheeks are turning a little pink as I look at her as steadily as I can manage – she looks adorable when she blushes. "When should we…y'know…?"

"I have work again the next two days but – Saturday?" I suggest this as carefully as I can, not wanting to pressurise the girl before me. "We could go out for lunch and a walk somewhere – maybe go see a film if you'd like?"

Repeated: "I'd like that. Very much."

"Then it's a date."

It's a date. Oh my God, it's a date. With Shizuka. I've just gotten myself a date with Shizuka on Saturday.

…Jounouchi's going to kill me.

-: Did You Know? :-

You can't actually have butterflies in your stomach. That would be pretty painful, for both the butterflies and the human body they reside in.

(There are though, however, reported cases where a woman gave birth to a frog.)

We take our time wandering around the park, meandering along the footpaths and generally taking our sweet time to return to where we left Ryou and Yugi. I sincerely doubt the two of them'll have got up and disappeared somewhere – that would require actual effort on both their behalves, and I doubt they could muster enough for one person between the two of them right now. I can sympathise – the only thing actually keeping me moving right now is the cold ice-cream I'm carrying, and the sweet girl at my side. (I could, however, be persuaded into forgoing my ice-cream – if only to drop it on the snarking Ryou's head, and for no other reason. Sadly, such an act would probably annoy all and sundry so…for the sake of peace -)

When we do round the bend approaching our friends however –

I stop dead, eyes widening at the sight before me, and then drag Shizuka who had been marching happily onward back with me. "Did you just-?"

"Hm?" Shizuka finishes the last bites of her ice-cream, looking up at me afterwards. "What is it, Honda-kun?"

"Did you just-?" I can't find the words. I've always known Yugi was affectionate towards friends but – but he – I –

I never expected to round the corner and see Ryou lean back to put his head in Yugi's lap, and I never expected to see Yugi finally putting aside his laptop so he could run fingers through gleaming strands of silvery white. I certainly never expected to see Ryou give an almost-smile, closing his eyes, clearly enjoying the attention. They just looked so –

That isn't how friends look – is it? Not male friends…?

Is this why Yugi's not so heartbroken over Anzu finding a boyfriend?

Shizuka squeezes lightly on my hand, her expression concerned as she calls attention to herself. "…Does their closeness bother you?" Damn her female intuition. Naivety's better.

"How 'close' are they?"

"…I'd say very."

"So you knew?" I can't help the hurt tone slipping into my voice. "Did Jounouchi tell you?"

"Aniki?" Shizuka laughs indulgently. "Perhaps I'd like to think so, but Katsuya-nii-san's rather oblivious to these sort of things."

"So you-?"

"I guessed for myself, Honda-kun." Another squeeze of the hand. "I think they make a good couple – don't you?"

I deign not to comment for now.

-: A Side-Note, the Card Ryou Carried Around in his Pocket :-

Temperance was for harmony, and Ryou had exchanged it for Death in his life as of late. It reminded him greatly of his Change of Heart card, except Change of Heart was Duel Monsters and Temperance was tarot. Both cards depicted a winged figure in equilibrium. With the Change of Heart one side was lost to darkness, the other caught in light. With Temperance the angel stood with one foot on the land, and the other on shore. With either card, Ryou was caught firmly in the middle. It was an awkward position to be in.

Ryou didn't mind anymore, as long as Yugi ended up in the middle with him.

When Shizuka and I approach the two on the grass eventually, Ryou makes as if to sit up again, raise his head from Yugi's lap and resume reading. As if nothing ever happened at all.

Yugi gently pulls him back down again, and holds him there as Shizuka waves her greeting, running enthusiastically across to greet them before plopping down in the green grass in her old position. I follow behind a little more sedately, meeting a violet gaze half-solemn, half-light, Yugi querying silently whether I'm…I'm what? Okay with his choice? It's not up to me, and he knows it, and is allowing me to express my opinion –

But he'll stick with Ryou anyway, won't he? Because he's Yugi, and that's what Yugi does, and I'm his friend so I still love him for it. Stubborn idiot. Ryou's looking at me rather neutrally, head still on Yugi's lap, long hair spread out like a fan. His expression is a mask. He wants to know too? I'm honoured he deems my opinion important enough.

Shizuka's looking my way as well, seemingly picking up on some of the low-lying tension in our little group. "Honda-kun…?" I have a date with her on Saturday – I still can't quite believe it. I feel so… I've always dreamed about dating her, holding her…just being able to freely admire her –

Glancing at Yugi and Ryou, I can't help but feel a little jealous now. I mean – at least they're comfortable with one another, right? I can see them spilling their hearts to one another and no-one else and being understand one another's babble like no-one else could –

I hope Shizuka and I could do that too, someday.

I give an awkward smile, and the pressure around me drops. Tension seeps away from Yugi and Ryou in great drains, and Shizuka's sunshine shines through once more. I decide to try for the light-hearted approach: -

"So…is the reason you're not taking your shirts off to hide hickeys, or do you really just not feel the heat?"

-: The Future Sight :-

"Ryou, use those cards of yours – what can you see for my future?"

"…I see sunshine, Honda-kun." A slight smile, a vague nod in the direction of an oblivious Shizuka. "And lots of it."