Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters presented here and am not making any profit off of this whatsoever.
Title: Same Sky
Word Count: 2,292
Rated: T
Romance: Jim x Juudai
Notes: This takes place after episode 136 and before episode 138: specifically, after the sacrifices of Asuka, Fubuki, Kenzan, and Manjoume, after their duel disks were buried, and after Juudai leaves O'Brian and Jim, and before Jim and O'Brian start their serious quest to find Juudai and to find out who Haou is. Comments and criticism gratefully accepted.
Summary: With all the distance between them, of more than one kind, Juudai and Jim are still underneath the same sky.

O'Brian was fast asleep, while Jim sat by the fire and kept an eye out for trouble. The comet had darkened, bringing this world's version of night. There wasn't much of a difference in the light, at least not to Jim's eye, but after the last few weeks, he had grown used to it. He poked at the fire and glanced up briefly at the stars that were now more visible overhead. The constellations weren't the ones that he was used to, and he'd been giving some of them names, just for something to call them.

One of them reminded him a great deal of Juudai. It wasn't a model of his face in the stars or anything, but a sort of outline that put Jim in mind of the sweep of Juudai's hair and possibly the tilt of his eyes. He hadn't really wanted to call it "Juudai", though. Looking at him made him wonder more and more just where the other duelist was, though.

Three weeks. He's been gone three weeks. That worried him. He knew it worried O'Brian as well. Juudai had been, for lack of a better word, completely and utterly depressed ever since that duel with Brron, where the others had died. In the four days that had passed between that duel and when he'd vanished, he'd spent his time either staring at the graves that they had erected or staring at one of his cards. Jim had never been able to see which one it was, since Juudai put it away whenever either of them got too near to him.

No one that they had spoken to had seen or heard of Juudai anywhere. He has to be around somewhere. He can't have just vanished. There was no way that Juudai would leave this world until he knew what had happened to Johan, either. Juudai had told them something of what Brron had told him, but Jim still wasn't willing to believe that Johan was dead himself. For one thing, the source of the information wasn't exactly the most reliable person he'd ever met in his life.

He didn't know if Juudai believed it or not, but he suspected that Johan's life or death was one of the many topics on Juudai's mind, wherever he was.

Karen murred a little from where she slept near the fire and he smiled a touch. With any luck, she might be able to help them find Juudai, and then they could all figure out what to do from there. Find Shou, of course, who had run away and vanished quite nearly as thoroughly as Juudai had, but then…then, who knew?

Jim shifted around a little, and rummaged into the nearby bag that their provisions were being kept in. Villages in the area were getting few and far between, and finding some way to get food was getting a bit difficult. O'Brian foraged quite well, but they still had to stretch what they could for now. Perhaps if they tried another direction later, they would come across a better-sized village. It could even give them a chance to find news about Juudai.

Juudai in his thoughts again. Jim nibbled a bit on the fried shrimp they'd bartered for a couple of days ago and wished that Juudai were there to share it with him. Finding out that Juudai enjoyed it as much as he did had been quite pleasant. There had not been enough time to find out as much about each other as Jim would have liked. There had been classes when they were at the Academy that had eaten up their time, and with all the mystery about the dis-belts and their effect on the students…there had always been something else to occupy their minds instead of learning such small details.

There was an odd warmth within him whenever he thought of Juudai for more than a few moments. He had experienced that with a few people in his life, but it was different with each one. Jim honestly wasn't certain of what to call it. Geology and paleontology were what he knew the most about, as well as animals. This sort of thing…well, he had an idea of what it could be. But if it was what he was thinking…he didn't know.

When we find him. There was no doubt in his mind that they would find him. The only questions that he would entertain on the matter were when it would happen and what they would all do afterwards.

But when they did, when there was time for it, and a place to discuss that wasn't this realm of danger and death every time someone lifted a card or shuffled their deck…perhaps then he would take a chance and talk to Juudai. Frankly, the thought of being in love with another boy didn't bother Jim in the slightest. Why should it have? Love was love. He couldn't be too certain of how Juudai himself would feel about it, which was yet another point in favor of not expressing anything right away.

He stared up at the little arrangement of stars again, filling in the blanks in his mind. Astronomy had never been his strong point, but he could recognize patterns, at least. Yes, this very much reminded him of Juudai. Where are you, Juudai? Under this sky? Or did you find a way to another world? It could happen. Taniya had shown them the way here. Who knew how many worlds there were out there, or ways to get to them.

What made it worse was Juudai's obsession with finding Johan. If someone lied to him…as if that hadn't happened already…he could be led nearly anywhere. Jim shifted around more, and restrained the urge to rouse O'Brian so they could get started on their search again. Juudai had sense. Juudai could take care of himself.

Mostly. The look in those eyes had been so sad and lost the last time that Jim had seen him. He'd wanted to hold him somehow…to try his best to let him know that they were all still there for him, even if the worst had happened. Even if it hadn't helped, at least they …at least he would have tried.

He was not going to give up. Juudai was out there somewhere, under this same sky, and they would find him. No matter how long it took, no matter what he had to do. For a moment, he pressed the tips of his fingers against the bandaged side of his face…and he promised. He would do whatever he had to…

The stars twinkled at him, and then he knew what to call them. He smiled to himself. The names were only in his mind, but now a new constellation had been named, and he looked forward to the day when he could share it with Juudai. Normally he named the constellations in his own language, but this once…he decided to name it in Japanese.

Ebi fry.

He would have still been asleep, if this world were anything like Earth. No…even if it had been, he would have been asleep. He was the one who had changed, and he was glad for it. The lazy child could be no more.

Instead, he was seated at a table in his personal quarters, going over some plans to a village a short distance away from the castle that he'd claimed for his own. It wasn't anywhere near Brron's castle…he wouldn't have wanted that place. Even if it could be said to be his, since he'd defeated Brron.

Juudai stifled a minor yawn and looked back at the papers before him. The spies that he'd sent out had reported all of the defenses and protections that the place had. It would be the work of an hour or two in order to get through them all. The duelists would be killed, their souls added to Super Fusion, and the rest of them taken away.

He wanted to feel good about it. Or at least not to feel as dead as he did. But sometimes…most of the time now…he thought it was better that he did feel dead about it. If he didn't, he might start to think that he was wrong.

No. I'm not. The glass he'd been drinking from shattered suddenly, and he hadn't laid a finger on it. He drew in a breath; he was still getting used to things like that happening around him. It had begun after he'd left Jim and O'Brian, after he had chosen the armor of the Haou and had begun to recruit his army. Power…the power that boiled and brewed within him.

What was he? He couldn't possibly be human, at least not anymore. He didn't think he was a Duel Monster somehow. Perhaps it was something to do with being in this world? Like how when people died…

Juudai ground his teeth and turned his attention back to the notes. It wasn't too hard to decide who would go where. He almost smiled, a very thin and humorless smile, when it occurred to him that Professor Chronos would likely enough not even recognize him as he was now, so intently bent over his work as he never had been over his assignments.

The thought of school led to thoughts of Johan…and Juudai wrenched his mind away from that quickly. He pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the mess of the shattered glass, and stalked to the nearest window. Thinking about Johan hurt in so many painful ways. There had to be something else…someone that he could think about.

He stared out at the sprinkle of stars overhead, then blinked once or twice. He hadn't thought about it before, but now that he looked at them, he thought they kind of resembled a hat of some kind. A cowboy hat.

Jim Cook. It had been a long time, weeks, since he'd thought about the other. He'd been too busy ever since he'd left the Australian and O'Brian. They couldn't have helped him. Nothing that they could say or do would help him in any kind of a way, but he knew that they would try…and by trying, they'd hold him back from what he needed to do.

His hands tightened into fists and he tried to draw in a breath or two. He wanted to think of someone else again, but it wasn't that easy. Jim appeared to have moved into his mind for the moment. It was fun learning how to feed Karen, he admitted to himself. He hadn't thought about that for a while, either. He wondered if they were finding food all right…

That wasn't something that he had to worry about himself. Whenever his troops conquered a place, he made certain to gather up all of their supplies and have them hauled back with him. There were groups of his servants who were herders and farmers as well, and that kept him well-supplied with food.

Again, his thoughts came back to Jim. He had little hope for anything left, not even himself, but he did hope that Jim and O'Brian had found a way to get out of this world and go back to Earth. There was no more need for them there. They had been there only to help him find Johan, and now he already knew what had happened. If they left, they wouldn't have to worry about being killed, either.

"I'll do it," he murmured to himself, his attention on that oddly shaped set of stars. It was, for a moment, as if he were talking to Jim when he spoke. "If you find me, if you want to fight me, I'll kill you."

Saying it like that made his stomach twinge just a bit, though. The thought of that green eye looking back at him before it faded away into nothingness, the look of betrayal that he was certain would be on Jim's face…could he really do that?

Without looking, he pulled his deck out of the holster and pulled Super Fusion out. He stared down at it thoughtfully. It still wasn't fully created, but the power was growing stronger with every single day and every single soul. Would he use Jim's soul…O'Brian's…Shou's…would they be part of it?

"Yes." He scarcely realized that he had spoken the word out loud, but he knew it had to be true. How could it not be? He needed revenge, the bloodiest and most horrible and most terrible that he could manage, and it would not be enough. Only then would everything that had happened have actually meant something. If that meant Jim and the others had to die, then so be it.

He wanted them to have shown sense and found a way to go home. To go back to Earth…because Earth was not his home, not so long as he had to continue this quest of his. He did not want them to be around here. He did not want Jim to be around. O'Brian was a soldier. He'd made that clear. Death was just a part of the job to him. But Jim…Jim wasn't. Jim was something, someone, special. Johan was like a missing piece of his soul…

Jim was like a missing piece of his heart. And that, he could not have.

He returned Super Fusion to his deck and looked through the plans once more before stalking out to where his warriors awaited him. He had intended this to be a strike in the early hours and they were ready. Quickly he gave his orders, and watched as the various Duel Monsters began to scatter to obey. He stopped them with a lifted hand, and Haou gave his final command of the morning.

"If you see a man with a crocodile…kill him."

The End