Warnings: I am about to become a complete and utter SAP. You have been warned.

Disclaimer: I don't own Yugioh GX

Year One: The Academic

Lia grumbled as she shoved her folded up T-shirts into the suitcase, hissing angrily when they didn't fit.

" What the hell, everything fit when I packed to come here!" She pressed harder against the resisting T-shirts, trying to force them into the already stuffed suitcase. From her place on Lia's bed, Alexis laughed.

" Well, maybe you bought more clothes here than you thought."

" I didn't buy anything but a few t-shirts and maybe a sweater." Lia blinked, looked skyward as she mentally went over a list of her clothing purchases. " And one pair of jeans. That's it. How in the hell are they taking up that much space?!"

" Must be the clothes Mindy and Jasmine sunk into your laundry bag." Alexis shrugged.

On the floor beside her suitcase, Lia went very still.

" What?"

" Oh yeah. Mindy and Jasmine have been sneaking clothes into your laundry bags and stuff for about..." Alexis blinked, and reached up with her hand, counting on her fingers. " ...two months and three days."

Lia felt her left eye twitch violently and she strived heroically not to scream in frustration.

" Why?"

" Well, they never really gave you anything for Christmas, and they don't know when your birthday is..." Alexis trailed off. " Come to think of it, when is your birthday?"

" August 23rd. Lia muttered, rolling a ball of cloth that was one of her T-shirts around in her hands. " Why?"

" Well, I'll need to send the package early if I want it to reach you in time."

Feeling her face burn, Lia ducked her head, hiding her blush by trying to shove the mangled ball of fabric that was her T-shirt into her open suitcase with increasingly worse results.

" You don't have to get me anything."

" I want to. So what do you want?"

" Nothing. You don't have to."

" Lia." Alexis grinned at her, watching the girl's ears go progressively redder the more she struggled with her packing. " I'm going to get you something whether you want it or not. Might as well be something you asked for."

Lia stopped fidgeting with the clothes for a moment, her face downcast. Alexis leaned forward on the bed, trying to get a peak at the face hidden under the brown bangs. From what little she could see, Lia's face was still quite red, and she was chewing on her lower lip frantically.

Sighing, and knowing she wasn't going to get anywhere with the girl when she was like this, Alexis flopped down on the bed, lying eagle spread and staring at the ceiling.

" Thanks."

Lia's voice was small, and unsure, and Alexis smiled brightly to herself.

" For what? Offering to get you a birthday present?"

" No. I mean, yeah, but..." Lia bit her lip hard. " For...I guess, for...putting up with me."

" I've put up with worse."

" I'm not easy to get along with."

" If you were, this year wouldn't have been half as fun."

Lia smiled, under her hair.

" You're a glutton for punishment, you know that?"

" I grew up with Atticus as my brother. I've gotten used to enduring things." Alexis watched as Lia managed to find a corner to shove the T-shirt in. It wasn't a perfect fit, but it would do until she got home.

" Hmm...is that so?"

" Yep."

" Glad I could be of service."

Alexis just laughed softly and leaned back on the bed, turning her head to the side to watch as Lia forcibly pushed more clothes into her suitcase. There was the same, comfortable air that permeated from every corner of the room and drifted in from the open window, the curtains swaying back and forth with each breeze that rolled in off the ocean. Outside, Alexis could hear the bustling sounds of hundreds of students making last minute preparations for their respective journeys home, but inside the room of one Lia Shanner, a sense of calm dominated the air.

" I'll miss you, you know." The rustling of clothes stopped for a second before it started up again. " I mean, I'm gonna miss everyone. I feel like I've gotten really close to people this year. More so than last year, I mean."

" Oh?"

" Yeah, I feel like...like...well, it's hard to describe, but I think it has something to do with the experience we've all had together."

" 'There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other.'"

" I know that, where's that from?"

" Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Right after they knock out the troll in the bathroom."

" Right. I thought it was that one."

" It's true, you know."

At an earlier point that year, Alexis might've sat up and looked over at Lia, puzzled, and might've tried to see what other girl's expression was, because Lia would've probably hidden it. As it was, Alexis just closed her eyes and sank deeper into the covers of the bed, smiling softly. She didn't have to look up to know that Lia was doing the same.

The helicopter rides over to the mainland were fun.

They were supposed to be grouped alphabetically, but in the mass confusion to get onto the contraptions, people just tended to grab onto their friends and pull them along with them until they were sitting together. Roll call was taken while on board, and so long as everyone got on a helicopter and got home, the process was considered a success.

As it turned out, Jaden had started running towards one copter with Lia in tow, who had had her arm linked with Alexis, who had had one hand on her brother's shoulder, who had been in the process of trying (the key word there was most definitely trying) to put Zane in a headlock, who had Syrus at his elbow, tugging at it and telling him to quit playing with Atticus, he could talk to him over msn over the break, they had to get to a helicopter now, while Bastian was trying to calm him down, while Chazz had just had the unfortunate luck to be standing next to the British boy when the chain reaction had started, and had been the closest thing for Bastian to grab onto as he was being pulled along.

When they'd all come tumbling onto the copter, Brier had lowered his book, cocked an eyebrow, and then shook his head, proceeding to read again.

" You guys are dumbasses." He said boredly.

" Shut it, munchkin." Chazz growled as he pushed himself up.

" I thought I was munchkin." Syrus said, crawling out from under Bastian and Zane. Beside him, his brother was pulled to his feet by Alexis, who proceeded to dust herself off and turn back to yelling at her brother for messing with Zane on their last day.

Chazz rubbed his temples.

" You're midget."

" Then what do you call Jaden?"

" He's slacker."

" Then what do you call Alexis."

" Her name."

" What about Atticus?"

" His name."

" Why do you call them by their names and not us?"

" Because I actually like them."

" Then what do you call Zane?"

" Whatever he wants."

" Why?"

" Syrus, you're getting on my nerves."

" I try my best."

" I know you do-What?!"

And Syrus skipped happily off to find a seat.

By the time they were up in the air, Jaden had talked Lia into taking pictures and the group was taking turns pressing close together as Lia clicked the shutter closed.

" Why did I agree to do this?"

" Because you love us."

" I think I've just lost my mind."

" That too."

" Shut up, Asshole."

" Make me bitch."

" ..."

" Ow! What the fuck did you just throw at me?!"

" Looks like...hey, are those my cards?! Lia!"

" I grabbed the closest things I could find, sorry!"

" Chazz, give 'em back!"

" You want 'em? Come and get 'em Slacker!"

" C'mon Chazz, this isn't funny!"

" Oh yes, it is."

" Chazz, give Jaden back his cards."

" Or else what?"

" Or else I'll come over there and make you."

" Fine, here, geez."

" Thanks Zane."

" Whatever."

" I knew you had a heart of gold, Zaney."

" Atticus, we've had this talk before. Call em that again, and you're going out the window."

" Aw, Zaney, don't you love me anymore?"

" ...Lex, hold him down."

" Will do."

" Wha?! Hey Sissy, c'mon! That's not fair! You're supposed to be on my side! We're family!"

" Tell it to the judge."

" Should we do something?"

" No, let them be."

" You're so cold hearted, Lia dear."

" Don't call me dear."

" Fine, fine. Are you going to take the picture or not?"

" Get in there then."

" Hah, I stand by what I said. You French women are so demanding."

" And you British guys never do as you're told. Now move it."

" Your wish is my command."

" Shut up."

" Hey, Kitten, why are you blushing?"

" God Syrus, not you too! Quit calling em that!"

Lia gave Syrus a little shove, and he went tumbling back over the seat. He fell against Chazz, who was leaning over, watching Zane and Alexis trying to subdue Atticus with interest. Atticus himself was struggling against his sister's hold, who had her arms firmly around his waist and was trying to force him back into his seat, while Zane held him down by his shoulders. The brunet was kicking his legs at the older boy, but Zane simply leaned out of the way and the kick missed. Across the row, Jaden was leaning over the arm rest, grinning a frightening Cheshire grin and cheering as Alexis managed to shove her brother back into his seat and proceed to sit on him. Bastian walked over and leaned on the seat behind Jaden, and made a beckoning motion towards Lia. Brier read on, ducking his head lower into his book as he tried to ignore the chaos around him.

Sighing, Lia turned to a Ra sitting to the right of her, and held up her camera.

" You mind?" Her grin was just a little pained. The Ra boy blinked, looked over at the scene (Atticus' arms flailing back and forth as Alexis leaned an elbow of the arm rest to carrying on a conversation with Zane, who was reaching over to ruffle Syrus' hair as the boy hung over the back of his seat next to Chazz, laughing and motioning for Jaden to come over. The Slifer was half out of his seat, bouncing happily as Chazz shouted at his to calm down, while Bastian shook his head and sighed, looking over at Brier, who had given up just trying to tune the commotion out on his own and was putting the headphones of his iPod into his ears), and then looked back at the camera.

" Are you sure you wanna get in the middle of that?" He asked, gingerly taking the camera. Lia got up gracefully, her smile hidden as her hair fell across her face.

" I'm sure." She said softly.

Jaden looked up as she walked next to him, tapping his shoulder.

" Well?" She pointed a thumb back at the Ra with the camera. " Are we doing this or not?"

" Hey guys!" Jaden jumped up, waving his hand back and forth frantically. Alexis and Zane looked up from their conversation, Atticus still cursing loudly from underneath his sister. Chazz sighed, hauling Syrus back as the boy threatened to go tumbling over the seat. Bastian casually hooked arms with Lia, who went red and tried to pull away, but was shoved closer as Brier smirked, one hand extended and the other still holding his book.

Jaden's smile stretched from ear to ear.

" Group photo!"

As it was, Lia ended up feeling ridiculously melancholic as they departed from the helicopters at the airport. All around her, students bustled about, gathering luggage and calling goodbyes. A heaviness settle in on her chest, and Lia touched at it curiously, half wondering why she felt so sad. Saying goodbye was something she was accustom to, what with her mother dropping in and leaving whenever she saw fit. It didn't seem like she would feel so bad.

' C'est seulement deux mois.' Lia thought, looking up to see the clear blue sky. High above her, the puffy white clouds drifted silently apart, blown by a passing breeze. Lia watched the clouds part to reveal the blazing sun, and brought one arm up to shield her eyes. The wind blew her hair around her shoulders, and the hand she used to hold her carry-on bag tightened just the slightest.

' Deux mois...' She thought, and the heaviness increased.

" You scared to go home?"

Lia jumped, half turning to see Atticus standing next to her, staring up at the sky as well.

" Huh?"

He turned to her smiling, but there was something sad, something very broken and lost in that smile. Lia felt something splinter inside of her in return, something hidden way down deep between the thorns Jaden had fought so hard to get past, and reach out with an agonized cry for Atticus.

" Are you scared?" The older boy repeated, smiling at her. Lia flushed, for no reason other than the fact that it hit her, there, under the bright sun and blue sky, that Atticus was a very handsome boy, and they way he looked at her made her feel warm.

" O-Of what?" She turned away and began fiddling with her bag. Beside her, Atticus smiled.

" When people change, sometimes it's hard to go back to a place that only knows the old you." He shrugged.

" Are you scared?" Lia asked without looking at him."

" I dunno. Have I changed?"

" How should I know? I mean, it's not like I knew you before you..." Lia searched for the appropriate word. " ...left, so don't go asking me stuff like that."

Atticus blinked, surprised at her outburst. He opened his mouth to say something, but Lia whipped around to face him, her eyes glittering with a strange light.

" And I mean, it's not like you need to be scared. Even if you have changed, being scared is stupid." She put her hands on her hips. " You're you, and even if you change, you're still you, right?"

Atticus looked at her for a long moment, his face blank. Lia grew steadily redder under his scrutiny, but refused to look away, biting her lower lip as their staring contest continued. Abruptly, Atticus looked away with a sigh, smiling more to himself than to the girl in front of him.

"You're such a kid."

" What does that mean?!" Lia snapped, but was taken aback as he reached out one hand and ruffled her hair affectionately.

" At least you're a good kid." He gave her head a little shake, and pulled her close, leaning over so that his mouth was by her ear. He smiled as he watched the tip go red as his breath made the little strands of hair curling around her earlobe flutter.

" Keep it close to you."

And when he pulled away, Lia's left hand had compulsively clenched around her jeans pocket, her face pale and her eyes wide. She turned to look at him, her mouth open. Quickly, she lowered her gaze (now his eyes were too intense, looking too deep inside of her, looking for an answer even she didn't know, but he knew she had. It made her shiver, and it made her want to slink away and hide herself in a dark corner where neither he nor anyone else would ever be able to find her) and nodded her head, the small, smooth stone in her pocket, tapered down to a vicious point at one end feeling hot through the rough denim. Atticus smiled, but there was something dark in it, and Lia wondered why it didn't disturb her more.

" Lia!" The girl started as Alexis wrapped her in a sideways hug, squeezing the Academic's shoulder to her chest. " I'm gonna miss you!"

" Gah! Ea-sy!" Lia flailed her arms. " Warn me before you jump me like that."

Alexis laughed, and gave her a little squeeze before letting go.

" Sorry. I just wanted to say goodbye before we all go in and split up." She smiled at her brother. "Atty and I won't see you after you head off with the Europe group."

" Oh?" Lia hefted her carry-on back up on her shoulder.

" Naw, we'll be stuck with Zane Syrus for most of the trip." She stuck her tongue out as the brothers joined them. Behind Zane, Jaden was enthusiastically trying to hug Chazz, who was making an angry fist and shouting threats that Lia was fairly sure were anatomically impossible. Next to Jaden, Bastian was conversing with Brier, who kept throwing looks over at the two Slifers, one of his eyebrows raised.

" Yeah!" Syrus bounced up. " All the way to North America across the Pacific!"

" You guys from the same state or something?" Brier asked as he walked up. Jaden was pouting and rubbing his sore cheek, while Chazz continued to make a fist at him. Bastian walked to stand beside Lia, rolling his eyes at the pair.

Alexis shook her head.

" No, we leave Zane and Syrus in Cali."

" And then get on a pond-hopper to Edmonton." Atticus finished, grabbing a hold of his large suitcase.

" A whole summer in California with Aunt Jess." Syrus breathed. " I've been looking forward to this all year."

" Yeah, and no summer homework!" Jaden folded his hands behind his head. " I gotta say, you Westerners sure know how to do vacations."

" Why would we have homework over summer break?' Alexis asked as the group started moving towards the airport, luggage in tow.

Jaden shook his head.

" Never mind, I was on a completely different system until this year."

" What system?" They walked in the entrance.

" We start school in April back home."

" Why?"

" Don't know, we just do."

" It's weird for me too." Lia huffed as she pulled at her suitcase. The wheels bumped over the doorframe. " I'm used to getting out in mid-July, but hey," she shrugged. " I'll be home for La Fête Nationale."

" The wha?" Jaden asked absentmindedly as he looked around. " Now where is the Eastern group?"

" Over by the terminal. You'd better hurry." Alexis pointed. Jaden glanced over at the group of students milling around, waiting for their boarding passes, and shook his head.

" I can spare a few minutes."

" Jay!" Syrus wailed suddenly, throwing himself at the taller boy. He caught Jaden around the waist, and both Slifers went tumbling down to the ground, Jaden taking most of the impact while Syrus encircle his middle with a pair of very clingy arms. Despite the fact that both her friends were lying on the ground like morons, Jaden moaning in pain and Syrus burying his face in the other boy's chest, Lia smiled fondly at the sight.

" Jay, I'm gonna miss you so much!" Syrus hugged him tighter. " I'm gonna think about you every day and I'll e-mail you all the time and you had better e-mail me back, you got that?!" Syrus' fierce tone was completely at odds with the tears glistening behind his glasses. Jaden gave him a smile and reached up to ruffle his hair.

" You'll be just fine, Sy."

" But who will help me feel better and tell me I can do it when I think I can't?!" Syrus squeezed Jaden\s middle tighter, and the boy sucked in a pained breath.

" W-Well," he struggled for air around Syrus' death grip, " that's what Zane's for, right?"

" Zane?" Syrus pulled back. Above him, his brother reached gently down and unwound Syrus' arms.

" Don't worry, I'll take good care of him." Zane assured as he pulled Syrus to stand beside him. Jaden got shakily back to his feet, dusting himself off. Then he winced, and touched his ribs lightly.

" Nice grip there, Sy." Then he looked right into Zane's eyes. " You had better."

There was a challenge in those eyes, Lia saw. It reminded her of the long ago night when Syrus had been crying and Lia had held his shivering, wet form to her, and Jaden had walked in. His face, when he'd seen Syrus, shaking and dripping and trembling all over, had darkened with something Lia had never seen before. And when he'd turned around and marched out of the dorm, his hands clenched into fists and his shoulders tense, Lia had wondered where her goofy, bouncing friend had gone. (And had wondered, too, where her own ice and thorns and determination to shut out the world that had given her all the hurt she had carried with her up until that point – what a whiny brat she sounded like now – had gone. She wondered how she had ended up with Syrus cowering in her arms like he expected her to know how to make it all okay again, and had wondered what had been in her mind when she'd glared at Zane from her point below him, the first stars twinkling above her and her blood hot with anger. She'd wondered, over and over again as the year passed by in rapid blurs of fear and pain and breath-taking elation, when it had all changed, only to come to the end of it and realize it didn't matter. The only thing that matter was that it had changed, and she had changed with it, and that meant something, if only to her). She'd found him again, of course, as he'd challenged Zane to a duel to prove Syrus' worth, and that same look was in his eyes now. But under it, Lia thought she could maybe make out a shade of the cruel anger that had been in his eyes when he'd first realized what Zane had done to Syrus.

Zane merely smirked in response.

" Understood." He held out his hand. Jaden looked at it for a second, almost sceptical, and then, with a delighted grin, he took it, shaking it heartily.

This seemed to set everyone off, and in the blink of an eye, they were all wrapping their arms around each person in turn, sniffing back tears and promising to write. Lia felt herself being pulled into countless embraces, her face flushing red and her hand coming up to awkwardly pat the arm that was thrown around her at the time. As they all pulled back, Bastian graciously hooked his arm through hers and gave a slight tug.

" Well, we must be off." He made a small bow. " Plane to catch and all that."

He started walking away, Lia trailing slightly behind him.

" I look forward to September." He called over his shoulder. Jaden raised his hand and waved back while Brier rolled his eyes and gave them a mock salute. Alexis swiped tears from her eyes and leaned into the half embrace Atticus had put her in. Syrus called after them, but it was lost to the sounds of the airport around them. Chazz huffed, and looked away, affecting not to care.

Lia sighed, alternating between tightening and loosening her grip on Bastian's arm. Her chest still felt heavy and there was a stinging sensation in the corners of her eyes that she just couldn't seem to ignore. The warmth of all their embraces had left her feeling oddly light and soft, and even though she was fighting off tears, there was a soft smile on her face. Her carry-on slipped down off her shoulder and hung in the crook of her elbow, but she ignored it. The hand on the handle of her rolling suitcase clenched, and Lia sucked her lower lip into her mouth, running her teeth over it in anxiety.

The goodbye felt wrong, somehow, even though everyone had held her close and wished her well. There had been something missing. Lia was used to the feeling, but this time, something inside, the something she was usually so good at repressing and pushing away, threw its head back and screamed loudly. The thorns parted a bit, and the little girl she'd kept locked behind them for longer than she could remember looked up and smiled.

Abruptly, Lia pulled away from Bastian, her carry-on sliding to the floor with a dull thunk. Without looking at Bastian's surprised face, Lia tore back to the gathered group, her hair falling over her eyes and a faint blush on her cheeks.

As she reached them, Alexis turned around to look at her, her eyes wide.

" Lia, what-?" She started, but Lia barrelled into her, almost knocking them both off their feet. She curled her fingers into Alexis' collar, hauled the girl down, and firmly kissed her on one cheek. Then she shifted her head and kissed the other cheek. Barely pausing in motion, Lia reached up, twirled around Alexis, and grabbed Atticus, who had been standing next to his sister when Lia had come running back. She jumped up, used his chest to balance herself, and pressed a kiss to each of his cheeks as well. She pushed off of him, not meeting his stunned eyes, and dropped down to her knees in front of Syrus, giving him the same treatment. She proceeded to do the same to Jaden and Brier, the latter of whom protested loudly and the former of whom she clung to tightly. Turning to Zane after giving Jaden once last squeeze, she averted her eyes, reached up slowly, and looked at him, then looked back at her feet. The older boy opened his mouth to say something, but Lia beat his to the punch, darting up as quick as a cat and kissing his cheek, and then pulling away as quickly as she could and not looking at him as she marched over to Chazz. Zane brushed a hand along the skin her lips had touched, wondering if the girl realized she'd just kissed him in the same place she'd slapped him.

Chazz backtracked quickly as Lia stalked towards him, a look of panic on his face.

" Oh fuck no!" He swore, throwing out his hands to ward her off. " No, no, nononono!" His back hit the wall. "No! No fucking way in fucking hell!" He stumbled backwards, trying to get away from her. " Don't you fucking dare you goddamn bit-"

Lia flicked him on the nose.

" Ow! What the hell?!" Chazz slapped his hands over his reddening nose and glared at Lia through watering eyes.

She smiled at him.

" Try not to let your brothers rag on you too much." She said, turning away. Chazz blinked, confused. " That's my job, after all."

She walked away from him, grinning to herself and linking her hands behind her back. Chazz blinked again, lowered his hands, and watched her go, a strange look that was half confusion and half dawning realization creeping up onto his face.

As she passed them, Lia averted her eyes, staring at her feet as she shuffled past, her face almost glowing. Alexis made as if to grab her shoulder, but both Jaden and Atticus placed a hand on each of her shoulders, shaking their heads when she shot them a puzzled look. Lia walked past the group, her head still down and her fingers clenching behind her back. Abruptly, when she was in front of them all, she turned on her heel and faced them.

On her face was the brightest, most beautiful smile anyone had ever seen her give. Somewhere in his mind, Jaden smiled back as he realized his prediction had been one hundred percent right.

"Chez nous, c'est comment nous disons 'au revoir'." She tilted her head a little to the side and giggled at their stunned faces. " This isn't goodbye, right? It's just 'jusqu'à la fois suivante'." She turned to walk away, and then stopped. " Oh, right!"

Darting back, Lia pulled several coins out of her pocket and put them into Alexis' hand.

" I have no idea what the exchange rate is, but this should cover it." She pressed Alexis' fingers closed.

" See you all in September." She ran back to Bastian, leaving a stunned group behind her.

Hey!" She turned, about to pick up her carry-on, as Chazz came running to the front of the group, his face tinged pink.

Lia turned fully to face him, her expression patient.

" You...you..." Chazz seemed to struggle with the words. " You..."

" Hurry up. I've got a plane to catch." Lia smirked at him. " So don't start spouting poetry at me now, Princeton."

Chazz's face flushed a mixture of red and purple.

" Try not to look in too many mirrors this summer!" He shouted angrily. " Your face will break them!"

Lia scowled, and picked up her bag.

" Get bent, Princeton."

" Go to hell, bitch!"

" Well, seeing as how I have to put up with you again next year, I can safely say I'm already there!"

" You think this year was bad? I am gonna make your life a living nightmare next year!"

" You do that just by existing. Just know that somewhere, you are breathing the same air as me keeps me up at night!"

" Yeah, 'cause it's not like there'll ever be a guy willing to keep you up at night!"

" Go fuck yourself!"

" No, you go fuck yourself!"

" Later, Princeton."

" Whatever, Shanner."

And with their backs turned to each other, neither one saw the smile on the other's face.

As Lia disappeared with Bastian into the crowd of the Europe group, Atticus tapped his sister on the arm, peering over her shoulder.

" What'd she give you, Lexi?"

Alexis jumped, surprised out of her stupor, and looked down at her closed fist. Slowly, she opened it.

There, in the palm of her hand, were five Euros, gleaming in the artificial lights overhead.

A warmth rushed through Alexis and she smiled down fondly at the coins, closing her fingers around them again. Crouching down, she grabbed her suitcase and headed for the North America group, Atticus stumbling after her and Syrus, Zane and Brier in her wake. Jaden turned, called one last goodbye in what she assumed was Japanese, and ran towards the Eastern group.

" Lexi, what was that?" Atticus asked as he caught up with her, pointing at her fist.

" A bet's a bet." Was all his sister said as she pulled ahead of him, and got into line to receive her boarding pass.

And high above them, through the glass ceiling of the airport, the sunlight streamed down.

Hello everybody!

Well, here you have it! The end! The grand finale! The final piece! ...Of this Year, anyway.

But still, here we have it, the nice little wrap up for everything that's happened. I wanted to write something that would leave this Year with a good feel to it. I wanted this story to end on a really good note, given the insane amount of SHIT that will be happening later on to all these characters (hint hint). I wanted there to be one of those 'feel good' moments in this story, and this was what I came up with. Syrus and Zane have a healthy, steadily growing relationship. Alexis has her brother back, and has friends she can count on. Syrus is boistrous and happy. Bastian is smug, but lovable and has no qualms with anything. Jaden can walk away with a sense of accomplishment. Atticus might be hurting, but he can still manage to walk home with his sister with his head held high, and let her help him put the pieces back together. Even Brier, who is only mentioned a little, is shown to be confident and settling into hsi own niche. Everyone is happy. Everyone is safe. There has been pain and hardship, but this is the greenlight for you to say, " ...and they all lived happily ever after." ...At least, until Year Two. Then I fuck everybody over. ...Again. ...Yeah, I'm a bitch.

But this epilogue has another purpose. It's to show the changes, and the end results of those changes, that have been taking place all year long. It's to show you how much the characters have grown since the first time you were introduced to them. Think way back to chapter two, when you were first introduced to Lia and my version of Jaden. Lia was cold, angry, and ready to lash out at anybody, but collected to the point of being almost inhuman. Jaden was goofy, sweet, and silly, but he was also upset with the idea of taking responsibilty for his actions, desperate to get out of doing work in any way he could, and more than a little oblivious to the world. They were both incredibly childish and stupid at that point, and that was on purpose. For any story to suceed, the characters must grow. They must change and mature and realize the truth about things step by step. But in order for them to grow, they must start at a place that leaves room for that growth. Each of the major characters in this story, be they sweet or cruel or timid or scared, has had to grow because the person they were when they were first introduced would not have been able to save the world in the end.

Jaden was a goofy optimist without a care in the world. Over the course of the story, I have forced him to take a step back and look at the consequences of his actions, starting with disregarding others when his own feelings come to a boil. In the second chapter, he callously interrupts Lia as she tries to make a point about something that clearly has some meaning to her. Jaden, in this moment, doesn't care that Lia, or anyone else in the room, is speaking. He doesn't even acknowledge her. All he sees are his own feelings, which are panic and desperation as he realizes he's signed up for the wrong class. By dismissing Lia the way he did, and even mocking her earlier during her speech, Jaden shows himself to be in the mind set of a child who has yet to acquire social graces, or even consider putting someone else's needs before their own. Children, while innocent, as Jaden is, are notoriously selfish. If anyone is familiar with the theory of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, it can be applied to Jaden in this instance. Of course, I'm not saying Lia didn't overreact, because she really did, but that shows her childishness in wanting all eyes to be focused on her, and craving the attention of the whole room. Which is a contradiction for her, seeing as how she prefers to keep quiet and out of the spotlight. But hey, she's a teenaged girl, she'd allowed to not make sense.

By chapter 3, Jaden is being forced to pay for his actions, and this is something that will follow him not only through the rest of this Year, but through others as well. One of the key thigns that bothered me about Jaden was the fact that he adhered to the Slifer stereotype in one way: He was, in fact, a major Slacker. He's shown sleeping in almost every class and while it's never explictly stated, I assume he had a problem with handing in homework. In this story, Jaden is forced to take responsibilty for himself and his grades, resulting in him becoming an actually decent student, when motivated. Eventually, Lia's 'revenge' becomes a commonplace occurence, and Jaden, who has only ever 'just gotten by' in school, adjusts to doing his homework and putting effort into school. Once this part of his character is established, it makes it all the more easy to place more responsibilty on his shoulders. Jaden is the hero of GX. He is the one who duels against the bad guys, he is the one who saves the world, make no mistake. But because he is that person, he is also the one who will take the blame if something goes wrong, or someone gets hurt. In this story, it was Syrus who was lost, and Jaden blamed himself. In Season 3 (I think) of the actual show, Jaden loses himself in guilt and allows the Supreme King to take over when he witnesses the deaths of four of his friends (Alexis, Atticus, Hassleberry, and Chazz) in order to use a card. The pain of losing them and the guilt of having been the cause of their demises drives him over the edge, and Haou, once in control, ascends to the throne and orders a genocide on all humans still livign in Dark World. no people, they were not 'sent to the stars'. They were killed. Stone. Dead.

In thise story, Jaden has already had a taste of losing someone precious, and instead of losing his mind and becoming a vicious, deranged monarch, he hatched a desperate, dangerous plan that banked solely on his own strength of will and soul to get back what was stolen. The Jaden in chapter 2, while feeling awful, would probably not have been able to do what the Jaden in chapter 45 and 46 did. In those two chaptes, Jaden dropped all pretense of childishness and fear of responsibility. He did what he had never, not even in show, done before. He put his soul on the line in a gambit that he had next to no chance in winning. In the show, even when it's a life/death struggle, Jaden shows that he is having fun and barely taking anything seriously. He enjoys the game, and that helps him win, and that's good, but even against Kagemaru, Jaden didn't really get serious about the duel and start to realize what was on the line until about mid-way through, by my recollection (that could be off, and it's up for interpretation). In the chapter where he faces off against the Sacred Beasts, Jaden isn't dueling. He isn't in an arena where he was the advantage. He literally gone, virtually unarmed, into the belly of the beast. What saves him is not his child-like enthusiasm or his somewhat naive optimism, but a dangerous, brutal power that Jaden in show only exhibits in Dark World, after he becomes Haou. By speeding up the arrival of Haou, I have, in some ways, sped up Jaden's journey into adulthood. Already, he's realized that he can't just go through life expecting everyone to share his happy view that the world is a great place, and everyone should get along. He's come to see that there are people in the world who want to hurt others, and if he loves his friends, he may be forced to stop those people by any means necessary in order to protect the people he holds dear.

Jaden still has a long way to go, but he's changed, quite possibly the most.

The other two that garner an explanation are, of course, Lia, and also Syrus.

Lia, of course, is the character the reader is supposed to watch change. She has her purposes in the plot, and she helps the other characters realize things, but while GX is the story of Jaden Yuki and how he saves the world (and how he finally grows up and helps others around him grow up), Lia's is the story of a young girl thrown into the harsh, strange world of high school, and forced to deal with everything it can throw at her, bit by bit discovering who she really is and finally coming into her own at the end. It's a standard cming-of-age story, only with a card game twist. It's a little cliche, but that's the beauty of it. The reader, who, like the author, may not have the experience or the patience to understand the card game can identify with Lia, because she serves as the comic outsider, looking at the duels and not comprehending how or why they happen the way they do. But she's also the alienated one, which is a role everyone has to play at some point in their lives. By being the Academic in a group of Duelists, Lia is an outcast when they start talking about cards and duels and all the like. She can't identify with it, and it hurts her. At the beginning of the story, Lia wanted no part in dueling, as evidenced by her furious retort ' I don't duel!' Jaden is taken aback by her anger, but if you read between the lines of what she is saying in the early stages of her friendship with the rest of the group, this statement basically sums it up. She doesn't duel. Her forte is the classroom. Stick her in a duel arena and she's completely lost. Lia hates being out of control. It makes her feel weak and vulnerable, and allowing people to see her in such a state makes her nervous, because she's scared of people taking advantage of her. As I've pointed out, Lia has trust issues. Lia revisits this fear in chapter 13, as she watches Jaden duel Zane for Syrus' sake, and has no idea what's going on. She feels helpless, not only because she can't do anything to make Zane pay while Jaden can, but also because the ONE thing Jaden can do to make Zane pay is going completely over her head, and she finds that she can't protect Syrus. In doing this, I have isolated Lia even more. She is a year younger than all her classmates, she doesn't understant her friends' favourite sport, and she's got up a wall that China would be jealous of. She's a closed in, bitter little girl, who needs to realize that the world doesn't revolve around her. Yes, she's been hurt. Yes, she has the right to feel angry and sad and hurt. Yes, it's understandable that she would have trouble trusting people. But the degree she takes it to is unbelievably selfish. She shuts the world out, and then expects it to come knocking. She says she wants to be left alone, yet deep inside she deperately craves attention, approval, and love. Her actions are a cry for help, but it's a cry she doesn't want to have to give. What Lia wants is for people to come to her, and offer to ease her suffering without her ever havign to say anything, because acknowledging that side of her means acknowledging her pain, and that means acknowledging that the world has hurt her and can hurt her again, and that is weakness. In chapter 17, when Lia is feeling abandoned by Bastian as he plans to move to Obelisk, instead of going to him, or even Jaden, and talking it out, she overreacts when Bastian shows concern for her and flings her feelings in his face, honestly expecting him to apologize for hurting her and offer to stay be her side. When he doesn't, and when he doesn't even understand why she's so hurt, Lia storms off in tears, which is reminiscent of a toddler throwing a tantrum. Lia, at this point, is emotionally stunted and not good with dealing with her own bubbling feelings, or the feelings of others. Like Jaden, she only sees her own wishes, and disregards others. She even says as much, though not in so many words and without really knowing what she is saying: " People don't like me, Jaden. I'm not someone people go out of their way to talk to. I'm not someone people want to get close to!" People don't like me. I'm not someone people go out of their way to talk to. She, unconsciously, admits to pushing people away, and at the same time, she's emotionally pulling Jaden closer, gving him a confession that will make him want to be her friend. Of course, Lia's not trying to manipulate him. She's once again throwing her feelings at someone, but this time, it's because she's trying to explain her actions. She feels guilty for causing Jaden and Syrus unnecessary pain by running away from them. Even though there might be selfish reasons behind it, Lia is also taking responsibility for herself and trying to ease someone else's pain (pain that she caused, that's what gets her. This might be the first time Lia's thorns really parted, and she saw that there was a bigger world). It's one of the first times Lia grows, but the roots for it start to show very early on.

Even as early on as chapter 12 and 13, Lia has changed significantly. The Lia in chapters 2 and 3 wouldn't have been caught dead trying to comfort Syrus or help Jaden, or even voice her hatred of Zane. Lia, who has trouble dealing with her empathy, is struck by Syrus, who is the thing she was afraid of becoming. He's weak, he's spineless, and he lets everybody walk all over him. When she reached out to him, instead of being repulsed by looking into a twisted mirror, Lia truly opened her heart. While the thorns didn't part to see the world, they parted to see a person in the same situation as her, and Lia was forced to deal with her empathy for the first time in the span of the story. She may have saved Jaden when he was late to his duel, and she may have laughed with Alexis as they explored the basement, but she never really let either of them in. In pulling Syrus into an embrace, Lia acknowledged that he was everything she could've been, and everything she might still become, and she was just as weak on the inside as he was. It was, in fact, Syrus and not Jaden, who first got into Lia's heart.

After that , Lia grows in leaps and bounds. By the end of the Shadow Rider's Arc, as the group plans to get Syrus back, Lia has come to a point where she is actually comfortable with her emotions. She can casually talk with Alexis and argue with Jaden on a level they both understand and admit, both to others and, more importantly, herself, that she's worried sick and wants to help get Syrus back. The emotionally stunted girl who threw her feelings in other people's faces and held the world at bay while expecting it to still want to save her even when she says she doesn't want to be saved is rapidly being consumed by the young woman who acknowledges that she's been hurt, and wants to protect others from bing hurt. In acknowledging her own pain with Syrus, and actually telling Alexis about what happened to her, Lia has finally started to let go of the chains that have held her back from so long. She's starting to look at her own selfishness, and is consciously trying to keep it at bay. In the epilogue, Lia throws herself at her friends and kisses each of their cheeks, which is a French greeting and goodbye (I spent some time with a couple that was French. After knowing them for maybe three hours, my family had to leave. Both husband and wife held my face and kissed both my cheeks, and then said goodbye). In doing that, Lia takes the last step to opening her heart to them; She lets them know she values them. She has never once, despite her actions or words, been overly affectionate with anybody. She's playfully punched and called people 'cherie' and shared deep, emotionally-scarring moments, but she's never really returned a hug without stiffen, and in the second-to-last chapter, she leans into Alexis' embrace and returns it. By kissing their cheeks and delivering her last line, (which, by the way, means "Where I am from, that is how we say 'goodbye'"), Lia has given them the power to hurt her, something she has jealously guarded up until them. They are her friends, she loves them, and if they leave her, it will hurt. That is what her final actions mean, and that is why the story ends there; because Lia's development for this Year is done. She's opened her heart. She's acknowledged her own weakness. She's been forced to see that the world is bigger than her, and while she's been hurt, it's time to let go of her anger and stop relying on other people to make her happy. She must make her own happiness first by letting herself be happy. Later Years will deal with Lia being forced to deal with feelings of love, and finding her own place, and finally, being able to protect the people she loves like they've protected her, but for now, she's content to just let go of her anger and let people care about her.

I'm not ashamed to say that I am very proud of her right now.

And finally, there's Syrus. Sweet, darling little Syrus, who I decided not only deserved a confrontation with his brother, but deserved to come out the winner.

And I'm not talking about when he told Zane he hated him.

Syrus has always been the one who will support Jaden. He has always been the one who will risk his own life to protect someone else's. Syrus is, in my mind, one of, if not THE, strongest character in GX. And I wanted to give him his due. I started out with him basically the same as he was in the show, but exaggerated his traits. His slight fear of Zane became a crippling phobia. His shy tendencies became a fear of the world. His nervous reactions became full-blown breakdowns. Syrus, in my storyline, has suffered more, overcome more, and fought back more that he ever did in GX. The show gave Syrus and Zane a decent, but not entirely satisfying ending. We saw Syrus grow into his own, but his respect and rather obvious fear of is brother remained, and he never really got a chance to get thos feelings of resentment that I'm sure he had out. Zane pulled a last minute redemption story and sacrifised the duel, and therefore, his soul in order to save Syrus, and they went on to become close, if not the best of friends. This explains why Syrus couldn't save Zane when he went over the deep end in Season 2, and started underground dueling and turning into a creepy, leather-wearing sadist who looks like he bought out and S&M clothing store...ahem! Syrus and Zane, at the end of GX, have a working, somewhat close relationshio due to the events that took place. I threw that right out the window and fucked them both over good.

Syrus has the confrontation I always wanted him to have. I decided I wanted Syrus to grow in confidence and strength in a way that was completely independent of Zane, so instead of striving for his older brother's approval, Syrus turns to Jaden for an ego boost and Lia for awkward comfort that has already been discussed in her section. In not chasing after Zane or trying to prove himself, I let Syrus grow in a way that it very different from his anime counterpart, and that path is what let me write that confrontation. The Syrus in this story has no need for Zane's approval and love. This Syrus has found that he has friends who will support him and love him in place of Zane, and the more he hangs out with them, the more confidence he gains and more he is able to believe in himself. Which is why, when Zane shoots down Syrus' offer of peace (telling his brother he loves him. Syrus was extending the proverbial olive branch to Zane, hoping that now he can finally be closer to his big brother, seeing as how he has finally started to come into hsi own in a way that doesn't involve Zane in the slightest), the last thing Zane ever expected is finally pushed too far, and does what Syrus in the show doesn't really try to do until that horrible duel in Season 2:

He pushes back.

In telling Zane that he hated him, Syrus finally asserted himself, and showed Zane that he could survive just fine in the world Zane was so sure he would fail in. In standing up and winning against the biggest bully on the playground, Syrus finally proved himself to Zane, and Zane was able to go off to face Camulla broken hearted but relieved that his brother would be alright. It's twisted, and it's wrong, but that's the Zane I created, so it works. At the same time, this is Syrus' revenge. He doesn't know it, Zane doesn't know it, but it is a prime example of the author's sense of justice. I could've written that plot point without having Syrus say 'I hate you!'. But it would've lost so much signifigance if I had. Because, while I broke Zane's heart, I managed to give Syrus his real moment. The crowning achievement for me in this fanfic was not Lia's growth or Haou's early introduction or even Atticus' melancholy reunion with Yasmin, only to have her snatched away again. No, my favourite scene in this whole story is when Syrus comes running in and shoves Zane to the side, glaring at Camulla and shouting 'You can't have him!' He goes after his brother, with whom he has just had the worst falling out of his life, and saves him by sacrificing himself in the process, his final words to Zane being: ' I love you.'

THAT is strength.

THAT is why I think Syrus is the strongest character in this story, because he was willing to put aside his petty differences with his brother, and let go of the fact that Zane hurt him, and give up EVERYTHING solely because Zane is his brother and Syrus loves him. I won't lie to you, I got a little choked up when I wrote that scene. I love, and will forever love Syrus, but that scene was simultaniously (sp?) the easiest and hardest scene to write, because it honestly wrote itself. I knew from the very start that Syrus was going to take Zane's place and be sacrficed to the Beasts, but I didn't expect it to come out like it did. I can only hope my readers were equally moved.

And now, at the end of it all, we can see the characters and how they've changed. That's what this epilogue is about, and what the main idea behind this story was. Change, and how one small change can affect everything. The next two Years are going to have severely affected by what took place this Year, and I look forward to writing them. But for now, I'd like to clear a few things up, and say my thanks.

For starters:

The Dark Magician's Girl's flowers were pink ambrosia and purple viscaria, which mean 'your love is returned', and 'will you dance with me?' respectively. This will come back.

Each of the names of Atticus' friends who went with him to the Abandoned Dorm mean something. Trish is Patricia, which means 'noble'. Katie is Katherine, which is 'pure'. Jovan is Swiss for John, and it means 'God's gracious gift', and Michail is Slavonic for Michael, which means 'who is like God'. Deon means 'god', and Talia is Latin for 'third' and Greek for 'abundance', which is meant to show that she was 'unwanted surplus', and was devoured by the shadows.

Lia bleeding when Jaden duels: It will explained later, but if you reread the first chapter, there is a bit of a hint in it.

Jaden isn't aware of Haou, he's just aware that there is some kind of terrible power inside of him, and it reacts when he needs it most.

Jaden cried for Porfessor Banner because that scene was far to easy-going in the show. I mean, the man just DIED in front of him. Not to mention the Jaden in my story is an emotional wreck by that point. Kagemaru picked a bad time to challenge Jaden.

Chazz knocking Lia out is officially named 'The Vulcan Bitchslap', because it knocks her out, and as much as he wants to, he can't slap her because Alexis would kill him.

Kitten is nw Lia's official nickname, although Jaden alternates between that and 'Koneko-chan'. Atticus got the idea from Jaden. Lia still doesn't know, and the two hope to keep it a secret.

Academics do not take promotional tests, at the end of the year. They can, if they want to, chose to sit a promotional exam at the end of the summer right before the next year starts to try and up their going-in marks in order to be placed in a higher dorm. Lia chose not to take the exam going into her second year.

Atticus was helping Chazz partly because he thought Chazz might be a good high school boyfriend for Alexis, partly because he wanted Chazz to get closure about his feelings (which are less of a crush and more of a desperate ploy to convince himself he had at least SOME say in where his life was going),a nd partly to make Zane jealous.

Atticus is deeply traumatized by what happened the night he disappeared. This is far from the last time he is going to try and protect Lia by telling her to get out while she can, and far from the last time Alexis is going to try and protect her, and FAAAAR from the last time Chazz will step in, either to help or make things worse.

" I'm staying." These words mean more than you know.

Atticus is bisexual in this story. I'm sorry if any of you take offense, but I've made no secret out of my Spiritshipping tendencies, and Atticus comes off, at least to me, as a person who wouldn't discriminate based on gender. I can just as easily picture him kissing Yasmin as I can flirting with an oblivious Jaden or sneaking a kiss off a good looking guy. He is the Captain Jack Harkness of GX, and if any of you get that reference, I will love you forever and give you a whole cake.

On that note, yes, he will be hitting on Jaden, and no, he won't be serious, and yes, this WILL lead to hilarious mishaps.

Lia's reaction to PDA's are that of a little kid's. She very unused to people being openly affectionate (she lives with her grandparents, who aren't likely to randomly start kissing in front of her), and she freaks out a little when she sees people kissing. Just you wait until she's the one getting kissed. (omg, spoiler!)

Chazz really does love the Ojamas, way deep down. He protected them as best he could when the Beasts were draining them. His bond with them will be fleshed out more as the story progresses.

Otillia- lucky heroine Margot- French for Margaret, meaning pearl. The pearl can be a Christian symbol of harmony, which is a state Lia will have to try and achieve later on, as her storyline becomes more and more complex, and her soul is thrown into chaos. It also means regeneration and rebirth, two things that will come into play later and affect not only Lia, but everyone else as well.

The East. The golden sun breaking the night. Dawn star. Pay close attention, because this will play a very heavy part in later twists. Again, Lia will have to face many terrible things, and not all of them will be external.

Kagemaru's fear wasn't from the move Jaden was about to make. It was of Jaden himself.

When Yasmin starts touching Lia and trying to look at her collar, Lia asks her what she thinks she is doing.

The strange marking is where the blood comes from. It leaks out through there, even though there is not cut or breaking of skin. Lia's reaction is to duel energy, and specifically, Jaden's duel energy. Yes, Year Three will be hell for her.

Lia is different. And she isn't ready yet.

And she will know. Eventually.

You will all eventually know the Sex Ed of Jaden Yuki story. And what happened in that classroom.

Lia is a terrible influence on Syrus. And she knows it. And he knows it. And they both love that it bugs Zane as much as it does.

Lia is probably NEVER going to get Duel Monsters.

When Lia is thinking about going home, she thinks 'It's only two months...'

When Atticus says she's 'such a kid', he means she's a little naive and optimistic, which is funny, because Lia is usually the realist in the group.

Alexis and Atticus are from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Zane and Syrus hail from Lansing, Michigan, but are spending their summer with their family in California. Brier is from Maine, Chazz will be stopping off in New York to meet one his brothers, and then they will be flying to a summer home in the Italian country side, where Chazz will spend most of the summer avoiding Slade and Jagger and using his younger cousins (three of them) as meat shields. Lia will land in De Gaulle, be picked up by her grandfather Enric and cousin Leal (Old French for 'faithful'), and be driven to Auxerre, a pretty, typical French commune with a bustling tourist and wine industry that lies between Paris and Dijon, and is known for wines such as Chablis and Irancy. Jaden will land in Narita Airport (East of the Greater Tokyo Area). Bastian will land in the Stansted (London Stansted Airport), be picked up by his parents, and driven home to Ipswich.

(most of the information was taken from Wikipedia, god bless them.)

Adn finally, I'd like the thank all of you who have stuck with this story from day one, and all of you who left reviews to boost my ego and help me finish this thing. I'd like to thank everyone who popped in to read and didn't leave a review, and everyone who put up with my impromptu hiatuses, logn absences, and just general laziness.

I would like to thank kittydemon18, who has review each chapter without fail, and Hero Slayer, who always makes me feel like I'm doing something right. I'd like to thank sellyme and Nightshade07 for always having a compliment for me, even when my writing really didn't deserve it. I'd like to thank Crime Scene Fairy for reccing this story on her profile, and I'd like to give a big shout out to jackinafrickinbox, who declared himself a Lia fanboy and has been helping me prep for Years Two and Three for several months now. I want everybody to know that I really appreciate your reviews and your comments, and that your love for my storyline and my OC is what kept me going when I thought of scrapping this story early on. Thanks to all of you, I found out how far I could push my characters and my writing ability, and that means the world to me.

I'll see you all on the Duel Academy campus for the opening rally for Year Two: Descending Light!

Mistress of Sarcasm.