AN: This was written to take place after the second Shaadi appearance in the manga, before Duelist's Kingdom. I always thought Anzu and Jounouchi's sudden respect for one another deserved a little exploration. Also, I needed to give Jounouchi some more love. Hope you all enjoy, and thank you for reading :)
Contrary to popular belief, befriending Yugi and all the weirdness that followed him wasn't really a tough transition for Jounouchi. High stress situations didn't get to him. Nothing much did, really. Being a former gang member and having your mom leave you behind to care for your drunkard father kind of put most things into perspective. That was something he never thought his friends would get, Anzu especially, with her perfect attendance and enviable GPA. She had been taking dance classes while he was busy mugging people for grocery money. She wasn't a bad person, but her self-righteous bullshit made him want to go back to inflicting physical pain on others for fun. She was pretty, and well-liked, and he would bet every yen he possessed that she had never been locked outside by her parents without her shoes.
Yeah. She kinda pissed him off a lot.
He either brushed her off or screamed back, and whenever she tagged along with the boys, he could only groan. Ultimately, he tolerated her, because he knew Yugi was certifiably crazy about her, but he honestly didn't know why a popular girl like her would want to hang around with a couple of misfits. That was before he realized how hard she hit. Maybe she fit in better with boys than he thought.
He cared about Anzu, but he could never really claim that he liked her.
Somehow, seeing her on that rickety plank, suspended stories above the ground had lodged internal organs he didn't even know he had in his throat. His brain must've been misplaced too, because he scrambled out on that ledge before he could even think twice about it. He had held her up until his muscles gave out. Thinking she might fall hurt more than getting beat up, worse than being stabbed.
He couldn't meet her eyes for days. She tried to pick the same old fights, but he just shrugged her off. He felt like he had to be careful around her, protective. She could break, he knew that now.
How were you supposed to treat someone who's life you'd held in your hands?
How were you supposed to feel when your best hadn't been enough?
And how the hell were you supposed to thank someone who saved you from getting strangled by a zombie-Professor by knocking out a couple of his teeth with a globe?
Jounouchi exhaled in frustration and pushed rough fingers through his mop of hair. The roof was the only quiet place in the whole damn school, but he found the silence almost made things even more mixed up and muddled. Jounouchi had exactly two roles- big brother, and troublemaker. His feelings for Anzu didn't fall into either of those categories. He certainly didn't have to protect her- she had proven she can do that just fine herself. And he didn't want to antagonize her- not anymore. So what was it then?!
The metal door closed with a sharp 'clack' and Jounouchi was startled to realize he hadn't even heard it opening. He heard the footsteps crunching on the gravel, but he didn't turn around- he figured it was Honda come to wrestle him back to class.
To his surprise, it was Anzu's voice that addressed him. "Hey. Are you okay?"
Hell. The last thing he needed was the very person in question confronting him.
He spun around to face her. "Just fine!" he grinned, doing his best to force his most cheerful expression.
Anzu's concerned look melted into one of dubiousness. "Yeah. Because that fake smile is so convincing."
His expression fell off his face faster than he had the time his father had thrown him across the living room. He shrugged, and turned back to the view afforded by the chain link fence.
"Listen, Anzu. About what happened last week with the professor. I just wanted to say-"
He stopped, somewhat startled that she had read his mind. "W-what?"
"Thanks. For saving me. If you hadn't been there, I'd be a pancake." Despite her light hearted tone, he saw the sober dread that lurked in her expression when she spoke of the 'what if'.
"Uh... no problem. I was about to say the same- y'know, for thinking fast and saving my bacon from being choked."
She grinned back at him. "Don't mention it. People have to look out for each other, right?"
'No,' Jounouchi thought with a familiar curl of contempt, 'People don't have to look out for each other.' In fact, they didn't. They used you, they stole from you and manipulated you, neglected you and then punished you for it. They took the only thing you cared about and then abandoned you. They turned 'family' into an ugly word.
Suddenly, the memory of Yugi's back and outstretched hands flashed before his mind's eye as the gamer shielded him, a David before the Goliath that was Ushio.
He thought about the amazing arc Anzu had gotten on that globe, the sheer momentum as it cracked against the professor's jaw, the intoxicating rush of being able to breath.
He realized Anzu's eyes had looked just like Yugi's as she clocked Grandpa's friend harder than she had ever dared punch any of them.
His expression softened and his angry thoughts quieted. His smile came back, but this time, it wasn't forced.
He had forgotten his other place in this world, but he remembered now.
Reaching over, he patted her shoulder lightly. "No, Anzu. Friends have to look out for each other."