Shadow: For round something-or-other of Compy's contest. This time the pairing's Persevereshipping (Otogi Ryuuji x Mazaki Anzu), and do you know how many times I've spelled 'persevere' wrong these past few days? T.T I hate that word.

Notes: Sidepairings of Ardentshipping (Kawai Shizuka and Honda Hiroto) and Wishshipping (Jounouchi Katsuya x Mouto Yugi). In case you never noticed, the Japanese names are being used.


Irony

Irony was quite a bitch; kind of like that ex-lover you'd two-timed and screwed over and then accidentally (whilst apologising) ruined her best dress by spilling irremovable red wine down the front. The height of bitchiness that was quite hard for most people to meet, but certain individuals pulled off with great skill and witty, acid aplomb that left the poor, unfortunate souls they accounted reeling around in little circles in the dust.

Irony was a bitch, and Otogi hated it.

Ever since he'd beaten one Jounouchi Katsuya in a game and dressed him up in a dog suit Mazaki Anzu had Not Liked him. Oh, sure, under the jurisdiction of her bright and bubbly companion Mouto Yugi they were friends – they being Yugi-tachi, the happy-happy group that trekked the towns and sailed the seas together everywhere –, but you could still be friends with someone and not like them very much. Anzu thought Otogi was too arrogant still and Otogi thought Anzu was too opinionated, and both of them pretty much left their 'friendship' there and never really spoke to one another if they could help it. It wasn't as if either of them really cared anyway, least of all during that stupid Battle City tournament we're everyone had been 'building bonds of friendship for the future!' (And yes, Otogi had scoffed when Yugi had first come out with the phrase.)

Anzu had Yugi and Yami no Yugi to think about, worry about, dream and drivel and dance about. Her crush on the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle was plain to see and Yami had probably noticed it but pulled off a pretty good imitation of being Totally Oblivious – Otogi himself was rather familiar with that act in order to dispel clingy people he'd had no interest in.

Otogi, in turn, was preoccupied with the joys of Winding Up Jounouchi, a common past-time for many throughout all of Battle City. Otogi had used all his skill and taken it one step further however – he'd wound up Jounouchi and Honda Hiroto, flirting shamelessly from day one with the doe-eyed innocent that was Kawai Shizuka, Jounouchi's darling little sister. Shizuka had been an idle distraction, a pretty face in a row of pretty faces. He hadn't even taken note of Anzu as being a member of the opposite sex to himself at the time, the brunette was louder than the docile Shizuka, blue-eyed and independent and fierce – Otogi didn't like to tackle the fierce ones unless he was dared, oh no. That, and Anzu had just been 'one of the guys', albeit it a guy sorely lacking something in the southern states with two extra mountains up north. The fact she turned out to be female was a startling revelation in Otogi's opinion – how hadn't he noticed it before?

Of course, the revelation was rather late in arriving. Battle City was well and truly over by the time Otogi figured, and he was on another continent entirely from Anzu, and through three other casual girlfriends and two guys. He was watching a music video on the television in his flat whilst waiting for an important call when suddenly one of the dancers reminded him strongly of the brunette. It was the girl's pose, the flick of her hair and -

Still, the figuring didn't mean much. Sure, so Anzu was female. Sure, she was relatively pretty, and pretty admirable. She was still just another girl in a world full of people just like her, even if she was just-so-slightly intriguing enough to slide in Otogi Ryuuji's thoughts when he wasn't expecting it.

It was odd how he suddenly felt like calling her.

The next time Otogi was to meet Mazaki Anzu was crossing the desert in his car, and bumping into Yugi-tachi as a whole. To say he was startled was a surprise, and somehow or other he'd ended up joining their little group once more, embroiled in their great quest. There'd been plenty of time to talk to the girl then, but he'd been a little too busy with the 'helping save the world' thing to really try and put some solid effort into the Wooing-of-Anzu. He still went so-slightly out of his way to be pleasant to the young woman however, some weird part of himself trying to get the other to like him – and then he had another revelation, gifted to him with a rather horrible lurch in his stomach when Anzu laughed at some witty comment or other he'd came out with, completely missing the thoughtful red-purple eyes narrowed his way, the pensive gleam from the sharp angles of the Millennium Puzzle -

Somewhere along the line Otogi's mission had been turned from getting Anzu to like him to getting Anzu to like him.

Crap.

Though Otogi was really pretty damn good at those sorts of mission they usually implied he was in something for the long-haul – that is, a few months of fun, at least. But it usually took a few months to earn a few months, and near bending-over-backwards on his behalf to get anywhere at all. And there would be a lot of bending over for Anzu Otogi knew practically instantly. There was just –

Anzu's big crush on Yami that killed all possible chance for her to have a relationship with someone else.

He could ask her friends for help, he supposed, but that wasn't likely to work. Ryou didn't really confide in anyone and so wasn't confided in in return, and Honda as a drifter, more concerned about Jounouchi and Jounouchi's little sister than the feminine ways and woes of Mazaki Anzu. That left Yugi, the boy who had the most hopeless crush in all of human existence on the girl Otogi was trying to woo –and my, wouldn't going to ask him for help be an awkward conversation -, and Jounouchi, the guy who liked Yugi and…wait – what?

This had potential.

If Yugi (and therefore Yami as a result) was taken by Jounouchi then Anzu would surely have to realise her dreams were futile and – and do something so –

"It won't work."

Otogi found himself lost in a stare-off with Yami, the one person he'd been praying he wouldn't meet on his little jaunt to talk to Jounouchi about Yugi. If there was anyone who could put a monumental spanner in Otogi's works it would be the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle, he of the pretty face and silver-tongued subtle persuasion that had Anzu going gaga and half the world (it seemed) alongside her stumbling over themselves to prove their worth to him. Everyone listened to Yami, even Kaiba – though the brunet still strongly denied it. If Yami spoke out strongly against Yugi dating Jounouchi the plot was foiled long before it had even begun – Yami's opinion meant the world to his other half.

Otogi pouted. "Why not?" He had to convince the inconvincible king his plan was just and right and – quite frankly – pretty awesome.

"Aibou loves Anzu, not Jounouchi."

"Hearts can be swayed."

"Then sway your own."

Ouch. Otogi only just refrained from wincing. "…So you'd entrust your aibou's delicate heart to a woman who's just going to up and leave soon after she returns to Japan for America?"

"That is none of your business."

"Tell me, do you even like Anzu? Because if Yugi dates her you'll be dating her too. Is she honestly the one you'd pick? The one you'd let Yugi choose?"

Yami's eyes narrowed. "Whether I like her or not is none of your concern, Otogi. And whether Yugi wants her or not – it is not your choice to make."

"So you'd let Yugi be hurt by your own stubborn pride?" Otogi knew he was pushing it and seriously risking physical and mental harm by vexing Yami to this degree but – "You know Anzu doesn't love him! She wants you, and letting Yugi pursue her is just going to hurt him more in the end."

"…Fine," said Yami finally, after a (long) few moments of consideration. "Do as you will, but I shall neither help nor hinder you."

We-ell. That was okay but –

"And if anything goes wrong, you'll be the one to blame."

Wasn't it wonderful how Yami managed to make death threats without even mentioning any violence? It was quite a scary skill. Otogi admired him for it.

But of course, the fear and admiration passed. As did the American affair, the entire dire situation of Utter Total and Prophetic DOOM (quite literally in this case, stupid doomish DOMA) in America with Dartz, the ridiculously-accented bikers, and the Orichalchios. Otogi found himself with things to do, and left the others to fight in tournaments and cheer the ones dueling in the tournament. The saving the world thing was over and done, and Otogi had places to be, people to meet.

He left Jounouchi with advice on how to charm certain individuals (oh so carefully Not Mentioning Names to arouse the other's suspicion), and hoped for the best.

He left Anzu with the hope nature would take its course, and she'd eventually figure that Yami just was Not The Guy for her. Especially since that guy would (hopefully) by then hooked up with another guy.

He completely missed Yugi-tachi's trip to Ancient Egypt, but made it in time for the Ceremonial Duel, and Yami – Atemu's – departure.

He came back to Japan, and was confronted with everything he'd missed.

Yugi and Jounouchi were still Not Together, and Yugi was Oblivious As Always. Anzu was mooning over love lost, all bright-eyed and heartfelt at the thought her little Yugi was all grown up and was ready to take up the mantle truly as Game King. An 'other Yami', so to speak.

Damn it.

This would now require The More Direct Approach.

"Jounouchi, you're an idiot. Why haven't you asked Mouto out yet?"

Jounouchi, of course, spluttered. "Wha'? Why you -"

Otogi was Not In The Mood, and cut the other off. "You like him; I know you like him, so why haven't you asked him out yet? Don't you think he likes you?" More spluttering. "He likes you – for god's sake it's Yugi. Yugi likes everyone. Now," Otogi found the small of the blond's back, steering the American away from that private little dark spot in the corner where they'd been having their conversation in the beautifully bright and glorious sunshine of a Japanese afternoon – it was raining. And my, didn't little Yugi look sweet with his bangs plastered to his face and his eyes wide and innocently confused? "Go ask him out."

Jounouchi looked as if he'd much rather face a court martial. "Ask him out where?"

"Here, there, anywhere." Otogi was very much exasperated with this ill-trained would-be swain. Really, where were all the Romeos of the world these days? Otogi couldn't do all the artistically-staged melodrama himself, y'know. "Ask him out for coffee, a film and hamburger if you must!"

Jounouchi thankfully did as he was told, and Yugi agreed to go out with him. Otogi congratulated the two on their never-ending good fortune and went off with a proverbial cackle and the Hand-rubbing Of Glee.

His plans were going wonderfully.

Anzu, being confronted with the news of Jounouchi and Yugi's date the following day, was just not as devastated as Otogi was sure he would've wanted her to be. At least if she'd looked even in the slightest bit mournful he could have done the manly thing and been The Shoulder To Cry Upon – but no. Mazaki Anzu had blinked with her big blue eyes in surprise, and then smiled very prettily and wished her friends the best of luck.

She then informed them she was leaving to go to New York to study Dance the following month.

Otogi's plans crashed down around his moisturised ears (it wouldn't do to get flaky skin), and he sulked.

Cunningly, the sulk only lasted half an hour (and it was planned, if anyone asked by god it was planned with all his sneaky wiliness), and Duke had the time to beam brightly and flash his dazzle-dazzle teeth at Yugi-tachi and announce well, wasn't it amazing but he'd just received a call from one of his business associates and would be going back to America sooner than expected – but he could keep Anzu company now, couldn't he? (And he was going to ignore how doubtful Anzu looked, yes, that look never existed at all -)

Otogi turned his smile overflowing with enthusiasm, friendship and sparkles on the young woman. "If we're ever in New York at the same time we should meet up for coffee. Breakfast. Lunch. Your pick."

Anzu looked a little unsure. "I – well, I'll be studying, Otogi-kun and -"

"Then it'll be good to see a friendly face to ease the stress, won't it?" Sparkles taken up a notch, a dash of sunshine and frolicking lambs thrown in for that extra touch –

"Okay."

Otogi threw a party in his head.

They went their separate ways, and ended up in New York at the same time three months later. (Oh so carefully not arranged, uh-huh.) They met up for coffee.

Anzu talked to him about her life in the Dance School and Otogi talked to her briefly about his business, and then Anzu showed him a picture that had been taken of Yugi-tachi shortly after he'd left Japan that she kept in her purse.

Otogi smiled and told her the photograph was lovely, and inwardly shuddered. She carried a picture of her friends with her everywhere; that was sweet. Almost nauseatingly so. He twitched, but covered up the action by reaching for his drink.

They had a discussion on politics, on art, and on dance. Anzu disagreed with Otogi on nearly every opinion, and it turned into a debate which culminated in Anzu dumping her slush down Otogi's front. Otogi yelled at her, and she told him he was an idiot.

Otogi asked her out for lunch the following day. Anzu accepted.

It was official. They were both as weird as each other.

They dated. They toured; they went to the theatre and ice-hockey and park and coffee shops together. They argued – Otogi got five more shirts wrecked and a pain of jeans. Anzu tore her favourite skirt on a bit of rusty fence. Otogi kept his flirting with other people to a minimum; Anzu yelled at him for hogging all the time in the bathroom putting on his eyeliner.

Otogi left New York to talk to his agents in other states, and was gone for a month.

Anzu nearly killed him in her enthusiasm to welcome him back.

Otogi wasn't faithful. It wasn't in his nature to be totally faithful, to restrain himself from the shameless flirting with pretty girls and guys that flocked for his attention. Otogi knew he was Quite The Catch, and broke hearts just as easily as he made them flutter when he smiled in just that way. While he was with Anzu, even when he was away from her, some…tiny guilty part of himself kept him from taking things too far. He joked with others, talked, kissed – but no further. Never further than a light kiss – and yet that was enough to stir up the hounds of Hell within him when he returned to an Anzu who was clearly overjoyed to see him. Anzu didn't know -

They went back to visit Japan together, for a short time.

"Otogi-kun?"

Otogi turned from where he was leaning against the wall outside his flat, waiting for Anzu to come down, and found himself locking eyes with dream-spun lavender, slanted lashes rimmed in customary black. "Yugi…?"

"Otogi-kun." Yugi smiled and approached, steps swift and light. He was taller, leaner than Otogi remembered, hair cut shorter into a more jumbled mess of unruly spikes. He hadn't lost any of his belts and chains over the years and had seemed to gain a few piercings in both ears, ditching his old all-leather dress for a mix-and-match, tailored, tight-fitting ensemble of jeans and cotton and silk and apparently whatever else he first laid hands upon. "I thought you and Anzu-chan weren't coming back for another week?"

He looked gorgeous.

"Anzu's schedule changed, and she got off a little sooner than she expected." Otogi had to strongly remind himself of the no-doubt possessive-as-hell boyfriend that would be following the other around – and hark, there Jounouchi was, blond and bumbling along and looking the Same As Ever. "Hey Jounouchi, how're things?"

Jounouchi looked startled to see him. "Otogi? What're you doing here? I thought you were in America."

"He and Anzu-chan were visiting during Anzu's break, remember?" Yugi looked amused at his boyfriend's cluelessness, absentmindedly shifting his pose so the other could wrap an arm around his waist. "Otogi-kun was just saying Anzu's schedule changed, so they're here a week earlier than expected."

Brown eyes looked to Otogi. "So you've an extra week in Japan?" The game-designer shook his head, negative. "Pity."

Anzu came down from the apartment then and suddenly there were hugs and kisses and laughter all around, Jounouchi swatted on the back of the head and Yugi practically engulfed whole in Anzu's relief at seeing him well. Otogi, watching the exchange with cool green eyes, couldn't help the vague prickle of jealously inside him, the odd melancholy at being on the outside of the happily chattering trio –

Anzu looked over, and smiled at him. It wasn't the smile she'd used to say hello to Jounouchi, and it wasn't the smile she'd given to her longest friend, Yugi. It was Anzu's smile for Otogi, and Otogi alone and it lit something up inside the black-haired youth –

The following day, Anzu and Otogi broke up. Otogi was the one doing the breaking, and Anzu got upset. Otogi went back to America.


Irony was an amusing companion at times, when he didn't turn the tables on you. Kind of like that vaguely irritating uncle who always cracked such terrible jokes at parties, and insisted you listen to every punch-line even though you'd heard them all a million times before. An awful example to the children of the extended family and yet so well-loved by the children at the same time – it was impossible to not find the man and his affections endearing except for the times when he left a whoopee cushion on your chair and you felt like wringing him by the neck.

Irony was irritating, and Anzu wanted to kick it.

Watching as Kawaii-san, Katsuya and Shizuka's mother, fussed around Shizuka, adjusting a veil, pushing an auburn curl out of the young woman's face, Anzu forced herself to smile. Shizuka bore her mother's ministrations with amazing patience, occasionally laughing and undoing the elder woman's work – all while Kawaii-san kept fussing, smoothing out the glorious expanse of Shizuka's wedding dress.

Shizuka was getting married – in less than an hour, to be exact. Anzu was the bridesmaid, standing watching to one side.

Anzu's smile got more brittle as time wore on; she couldn't help but feel jealous of her younger friend. Shizuka was a sweet girl and deserved all the happiness in the world – and yet Anzu couldn't help but wish she was in the girl's place, with her own mother fluttering around her, as she prepared to marry the one person she truly felt she'd fell head over heels for –

Admittedly, Anzu didn't want the groom. Shizuka could keep Honda for herself, Anzu would want someone else. Someone – someone -

There'd been one person, once, Anzu had thought she might've been able to marry, if he'd asked. Perhaps. But they'd broken up, by his decision.

He was in the church.

Anzu forced herself not to look, not to look, not to look as she walked up the aisle with Shizuka, concentrating on the girl before her and Honda and Jounouchi up at the front near the altar – for whom else but Jounouchi would Honda ask to be his best man?

Yugi was sitting beside him but still Anzu didn't look, didn't look, didn't look, her jaw clenched when the vows were made, the rings exchanged, Kawaii Shizuka now Honda Shizuka and they turned and went back down the aisle and flowers were thrown –

Otogi just had to catch them, didn't he? He caught her eye as he held Shizuka's bouquet, quite a few girls at the wedding jumping up and down for his attention, hoping for a dose of good flirting at the reception –

Anzu looked away, stony, and wandered off to talk to Kujaki Mai amongst the crowds.

Otogi dumped the bouquet in a blushing Yugi's arms, and went in pursuit.

Three years was a long time for a pause in a relationship, and it was an even longer time to find yourself wandering, irritable when you looked or thought about another romantically except for –

"Anzu!" Otogi caught the woman's arm, trying to explain his cause, explain himself –

She brushed him off, and got into a car with Kujaki to head for the reception.

Otogi caught up with her there.

They argued, loudly. Anzu slapped Otogi. Otogi rather heatedly sent back a retort but he was pleading, pleading – where had the other's usual arrogance gone? Otogi, the man who'd broken up with Anzu because he said he hadn't felt comfortable with being 'close' – and yet here he was, begging for closeness! Three years, three years, three years – the mantra Otogi repeated, insisted had been his time to learn and grow and please, Anzu –

They argued some more – on Otogi, on Anzu, on their egos, the past, present and future. Anzu disagreed viciously with Otogi on nearly every opinion, and it turned into a slanging match in the hallway none of the other guests at the reception dared to enter. It culminated in Anzu dumping a glass of champagne down Otogi's front, and suddenly their argument fell to stunned silence, both young people pausing in recollections of the past.

…Anzu, with the glass still in her hand, and Otogi's stunned and vaguely nostalgic face before her, began to laugh. Otogi joined in, and soon they were just laughing and laughing and laughing without reason until they weakly fell against the nearest wall and each other, stomachs hurting and sides aching.

Breathing still heavy afterwards, voice hoarse from yelling and laughing, Otogi carefully, apologetically, asked Anzu out for a meal the following night. Anzu accepted, and they went on from there. It was official. They were both as weird as each other.

Their friends were happy they were happy, but thought they were mad.

Irony was quite a strange thing, be it master or mistress, lady or sir. Otogi Ryuuji, arrogant and assured of himself, would have never thought to fall for the loud and bright Mazaki Anzu when there was the delicate little flower Shizuka to woo at the side. Mazaki Anzu, confident and stubborn, would've never thought to fall for the vain and spoiled Otogi Ryuuji, especially when there was Yami to look at, Yugi. Neither could work out why it had happened and yet it happened all the same, both of them quite unwilling to go along with it but life marched away and the stream dragged them under. Anzu and Otogi…had a good life together, albeit one which involved Otogi buying many new shirts every other month due to various tumblers of liquid being tossed his way.

Yes, Irony was many things: – bitchy, irritating, weird, amusing… And yet – well, it was something interesting to tell the children.