Title: Fly Away
Pairing/Characters: Peachshipping (Yuugi/Anzu).
Word Count: 2 725
Story Rating: PG/K+
Story Summary: Yuugi is missing. Anzu goes looking for him. They both find something.
Spoilers: During GX cringe
Notes: Written for prompt #19 in the 50 romance themes: Sometimes, you have to run away to see who will follow.
Feedback: There may be something out there that's better than a review containing concrit, but if there is, I haven't found it yet. So if you have two minutes and you wouldn't mind? Please? Arigatou. (And concrit is cool. Flames are not.)
Special Thanks/Dedications: This story is for me, because sometimes you have to write for yourself or go crazy. Happy back-to-school, me.
Standard author's note: first, a confession. I have become one of the fallen. This definitely takes place in GX-verse. Granted, it cold just be a post-DM A/U, but I wanted the background behind the whole "nobody's seen Yuugi in forever" that I have been told exists in GX. Next, an explanation. Awhile back, I was visited by a friend from online. Said friend brought with her the 50 romantic themes list. I considered trying to write all 50 for a single pairing, but various ones were speaking out to me for different pairings, so I'm doing it on my own time and my own terms. This is based on #19: Sometimes, you need to run away to see who will follow. And finally, a semi-amusing(?) note: I am typing this on Aibou, which means I cannot actually see what I'm typing as I type it. It's an interesting study in accuracy. Moving on . . . have a story that bit me in the ass so hard even a busted LED in my screen could not stop me.
Anzu used the spare key the landlady had given her to unlock the door. She wondered if he was home. There was no car in the carport for this flat, but then, Yuugi had never learned how to drive. There was also no bicycle, though, and one of the things Anzu had picked up from the locals was that the quietly crazy man in the back flat of this building rode his bicycle almost everywhere. She pushed the door open tentatively indeed, hoping she wasn't about to scare the shit out of Yuugi and whoever else might be here. The days of banging happily through the door at Kame were long over, and Anzu thought she should make sure to remember that.
The room she stepped into was large, spacious, but simple. If Yuugi had made himself at home here, it didn't show. The most personal thing she saw was a picture of the four of them, back when they had been together and bound by a common purpose instead of scattered to the four winds, sitting next to the plain laptop on the even plainer desk.
"Yuugi?" Anzu heard his name come out in a whisper; it seemed right to whisper, here in this museum piece of a living room that looked as though it had been abandoned for an age. And maybe, she thought, it had been. Certainly he'd simply walked out the door at Kame one day and never returned, and when his landlord in Cairo had gone to check on him after not seeing him for a week the flat had still been completely furnished, a plain brown envelope on the stove. The envelope had contained his last month's rent and enough to cover the removal of his things, with a note apologising for his quick departure. Once again he'd simply . . . gone. The story had been the same in the medieval village about an hour from Toledo, the tiny cathedral town in France, the flat he'd rented while working on an excavation in England. Yuugi never stayed in one place for long these days, and when he went, he went. Anzu cast a glance around for the envelope that would tell her she'd missed him yet again. It would be perfectly according to pattern for Yuugi to have simply hopped on his bike and gone. And yet . . .
There was a breeze from the direction of the kitchen. Anzu followed it.
Anzu's heart nearly stopped when she saw him, actually saw him, for the first time in almost seven years. Yuugi was on his knees on a small brick patio outside the sliding screen door. Anzu thought he might be pulling weeds from between the bricks. At first she could not find the voice to address him with, and then he sat back on his haunches and looked, for just a moment, like her sweet teenaged Yuugi might still be hiding inside this man with his too-angular face and muscled arms. Anzu took a breath.
"Yuugi." Her voice came out clearer this time, surer. The face that turned toward the door was unsurprised.
"I thought I probably stayed here too long," he said, and got to his feet. He dusted the knees of his jeans absently. "Did Mrs. Papaderos let you in?"
Anzu nodded and held up the key she'd been given. "I think it's your spare."
Yuugi nodded. He moved absently to the refrigerator and pulled out a glass bottle. Anzu was mildly shocked to realise it was a beer. The last time she'd seen Yuugi he had still looked too young to walk into a liquor store without a fisheyed clerk swooping down on him almost at once. "Do you want something to drink?"
Anzu shrugged. "I won't say no."
Yuugi passed her the bottle. "Do you want the hard stuff or the Jounouchi-approved version?"
"Whatever isn't going to send you down to the store in this heat. When did you start drinking?" Anzu set the bottle on the table. Yuugi emerged with a second to match the first.
"When somebody told me there's nothing like a cold beer after a hot day of yardwork. He was right."
"Who's 'he?'" It wasn't the question Anzu had come here to ask, but there were a thousand things she wanted to say, and perhaps it was better to have a normal conversation first. Yuugi looked thoughtful.
"Was it Nicolas? I don't think so. It might have been Jean-Claude. One of those old men you always see outside little neighborhood stores playing chess or draughts, you know. Always a game with a checkerboard for some reason. They all start looking a bit alike after awhile. I think it must have been Jean-Claude. I remember how hard it was to get beer in Chartres. Here, let me get that." Yuugi took the beer from Anzu's hands and produced a bottle-opener. "These ones aren't screw-tops," he apologised. "They just look like it."
Anzu sipped the beer and thought how strange it was to watch Yuugi toss his head back and take a long draught from his own bottle, the way he once had with cans of soda pop or even glasses of milk. Time had gotten away from them, she thought. And it had not always been kind. Yuugi set his bottle down and sighed. He wiped his forehead with one bare arm, and Anzu wondered what on earth had driven him to yardwork on a day when the thermometer was close to twenty.
"So what brings you to my part of the world?" Yuugi asked, breaking Anzu's trance. She started, and then sat back. Yuugi did not apologise this time – only looked at her. Anzu shrugged.
"I missed you."
Yuugi raised his eyebrows. "You missed me."
"Jii-chan said on the phone you've been following me almost ever since I went to Cairo. So you mean to tell me you spent seven years chasing me through ten different countries because you missed me?"
Anzu shrugged and nodded again. "Domino's not the same without you."
"Weren't you in New York?" Of course he already knew she had been; he hadn't, as far as she knew, gone to the only show she'd ever been in, but he had sent flowers right to the theatre, like she was a real dancer instead of some back-row third-string chorus girl.
"I was. I went home." Anzu wondered if she should mention the car accident and decided not to – not when she'd just met him again, seen him for the first time in more than half a decade.
"Didn't stay there long," Yuugi commented. Anzu fought the flush that was trying to rise in her cheeks – almost thirty years old and blushing like she had when he'd rescued her from the Ferris wheel when they were still fifteen – half a lifetime ago. The thought both shocked and embarrassed her.
"I still have a flat there. I just travel a lot."
"Would I be too nosy if I asked how you could afford to follow me?"
"I didn't think I could, at first," Anzu admitted. "I nearly gave up after Cairo because of exactly that. But it's all KaibaCorp's expense now. I'm being paid to find you. I think Kaiba-kun feels about you the same way I feel about spiders."
"He doesn't mind you so much when he knows where you are. It's when you're lurking that you make him nervous."
Yuugi's laughter came out in a bark. "I didn't know living in another country was lurking, but okay."
"Disappearing one day and not even calling Jii-chan for almost two years isn't lurking?"
Yuugi shrugged. The look on his face was that of a man remembering things best buried. "I had to get out. I liked dueling okay, but the whole world-class champion bit – it gets old fast when you have to start wondering who your real friends are, and who just wants a piece of the fame."
"Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun would be here too if they could, I think," Anzu said. "But Jounouchi-kun's –"
"Engaged, I know," Yuugi answered. "To a girl he met at university. Saving for the wedding, and probably wouldn't take Kaiba's money if Kaiba begged him to anyway. And Honda can't do much of anything in the way of traveling because his mother's been in the hospital. I wasn't talking about you guys. I always knew you'd stick with me when the chips were down, and I figured I'd get back in touch someday. I just . . . needed to get away for awhile. From everything."
"Not exactly. It's just – Jii-chan knowing was bad enough, but if something happened to him while I was MIA I don't think I would have ever forgiven myself. It's just that every person who knows where I am raises my risk of being found. I don't want to be found. I like being, you know, not a superstar anymore. The old men on the porch don't like to play draughts with celebrities. How did you find me, anyway?"
"I wrote your number down off the pad by Jii-chan's telephone on my last trip back to Domino and gave it to Kaiba-kun to run through the computer," Anzu admitted. "He traced the country code and the exchange back to Greece, and this island.. After that . . . " Anzu shrugged. "I just grabbed the most recent picture of you I had and started asking around. You're not exactly easy to miss with that hair, you know."
Yuugi chuckled. "Apparently not." He set his nearly-empty bottle on the table. "Why you, though? Kaiba could have sent anybody. Why'd he decide you were the best possible choice?"
"Maybe because he knew I wouldn't give up," Anzu said. "I mean, the money's great, but I get the feeling it wouldn't be enough for most people to spend months at a time tracking you to all these weird little backwater towns. And that's the other thing – I knew you," she said, wondering if he'd catch her deliberate use of the tense. "I knew what kind of places you'd be likely to go."
"I've changed," Yuugi said. Anzu shrugged.
"I think we all have."
Yuugi shrugged. "Not you. You still look like you stepped right off a magazine cover."
Anzu could feel the blush noticeably heating her skin this time. Yuugi had not been nearly so direct when he'd vanished into thin air one summer day. "You're a liar, Mutou Yuugi. I'm dusty and I had to pull my hair back without a mirror on the way here because it was getting in my face – "
"Speak for yourself. I happen to think perfect hair is highly overrated."
Anzu gave him a Look and said nothing. Yuugi chuckled.
"Don't look at me that way. It's like a rule of nature or something. The girls with the perfect hair and makeup are without fail the ones who expect some kind of Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet. The ones who don't mind looking a bit messy are the fun ones." The look Yuugi shot her way was both mischievous and – Anzu would have sworn it – tinged with just a hint of a coyness he had not had as either a teenager or a very young man.
"I take it you've got over your paralyzing fear of asking a girl on a date, then."
Yuugi shrugged. "Maybe. I don't think I'd be comfortable dating someone I had to use a fake name with, though. Because sooner or later they'd figure it out, and even if they said they were okay with it, I think I'd still be wondering – "
"- if it was really you they wanted."
"Yeah." Yuugi looked into the neck of his beer bottle. Anzu finished the last swallow in her own bottle and wished she had another. There was no excuse to stall here any longer, and Yuugi had made it clear he did not want to be disturbed. Anzu looked around for the dustbin.
"Recycling's in the pantry," Yuugi said. "I can get it."
Anzu nodded. She got to her feet. Yuugi followed suit. "I guess you know I'll have to tell Kaiba-kun where you are, but I think I can talk him into not telling anyone else."
"Do me a favour, Anzu. Make sure it's actually talking."
Anzu shrugged. "Contrary to popular belief, Kaiba-kun doesn't torture his female employees that way." She paused. "Or the male ones, now that I think about it."
Yuugi let out a snort of what she thought might be genuine laughter. "Good to know." There was a pause. "Anzu?"
"Why did you start looking for me? Before Kaiba?"
Anzu hesitated. Then she put her hands on his shoulders, and stood on her toes – part of her mind still insisting that it definitely ought to be the other way around – and did the thing she'd been dying to do for well over seven years.
Yuugi did not kiss back, but he also gave no sign that he wanted her to stop. He only touched the side of her face and let her. At last her toes started to hurt and she let herself drop back onto her feet. The look Yuugi gave her was sad.
"I'm not him, Anzu."
"I know that." She paused. "I think for awhile I didn't. But I do, now. I have for a long time."
Yuugi only looked at her.
"You should come back to Domino."
"I like it here," Yuugi said. "Greece is a good place to live."
"Yes, but . . . " Anzu looked down at her feet. "Even just for a little while. I know Jii-chan wants to see you. And Jounouchi said when I found you I'm supposed to ask if you'll be best man at his wedding. We need you, Yuugi."
Yuugi looked over her head. "Do they have a date yet?"
"Sometime next year. June, I think. They're still trying to get something exact nailed down."
Yuugi nodded in a very vague kind of way. There was a long silence.
"Maybe I will." His hand rested absently against her hair. "Just for awhile."
Anzu moved closer – it only took a step – and wrapped her arms around his waist. Yuugi's fingers found one of the windy tangles in her hair and smoothed it.
"I'd like that," she whispered, and Yuugi's arms tightened around her.
"I think I've missed you most," he told her, and Anzu laid her head against his shoulder. Then she started to laugh, a low chuckle way back in her throat. She could feel Yuugi looking expectantly down on her head and tried to explain.
"Shouldn't this be the other way around?"
Yuugi also chuckled. Then he tilted her chin. Anzu closed her eyes.
He would not come back – she knew in her heart he would not. He would visit, would return occasionally to spend time with his friends and someday, not for ten or twenty or a hundred years, please God, would come again to take care of Jii-chan in his last few years, but Yuugi's heart was not in Domino any longer.
Anzu dared to hope that perhaps, just maybe, it was standing right in front of him.