Chapter LXV: Running on Sunshine
Peach again drags herself up from the depths… Hello again, dear fans of this alternate universe. I again apologize for the delay; this was not Lobo's fault, but it was mine. Between life, stress and everything else, it's been hard to edit and even write lately. But there are bigger things in the world right now than my emotional temblors. I believe most of you have heard of and seen the disaster in Japan by now. Do what you can to help, even if it's donating pocket change or praying and sending good thoughts. It's going to take years for Japan to recover from this, so please help in whatever way you can. And if you can, text Red Cross to 90999 in order to donate ten dollars to the Red Cross Japanese relief efforts.
Last time on Yu-Gi-Oh GX: Darkness Falls… Most of the gang played a rousing game of soccer, and then had an outdoor cookout. Aster Phoenix got hit with a twenty-four hour flu bug, the Rhodes brothers and their mother had some family time, and Zane and Syrus had a heart-to-heart talk. What will the next hours bring for the gang? Stay tuned!
Legal information: Please check the previous stories and chapters as to what we do and don't own. Furthermore, we don't own Mod-Podge or the company that makes it. Peach just occasionally buys it and uses it for projects. Basically, if someone else owns it, we definitely don't. We might buy the product, but we don't own it. We just own our OCs, this
AU and anything that's not the property of any corporation or anyone else. Also, we gratefully acknowledge Grey's Anatomy's recent music event, "Song Beneath the Song" for giving us our chapter title which comes from Jesus Jackson's song of the same name. We thank Wikipedia and other Internet sources for information on Greek mythology, Disney movies and Spanish breakfast cuisine.
Warning: This chapter contains references to different sorts of intimacy, but nothing that goes beyond the bounds of . Also, there is deliberate breaking of the fourth wall. Thank you for your attention.
As Zane drifted off to sleep, a calm quiet blanketed Academy Island. In the infirmary, Hiro and Katai Misawa cuddled close on a set of twin beds pushed together. Dr. Alex Nakamura, meanwhile, quietly paced into the ICU unit and checked his two patients. Bastion breathed a lot easier now and Violet slept beside him with a soft smile on her face.
Down at Ra Yellow, Blair Flannigan snuggled down in her soft bed, stomach cramping slightly. She couldn't figure out why, but she felt... fuzzy, for lack of a better word. In the room next to hers, Marcel Bonaparte stretched out in his warm bed as his father slept on a rollaway bed. In yet another room, Belowski dozed, dreaming of running after his duel spirit friends. His future father slept down the hall.
In Slifer Red, Jaden slept curved around Alexis's lithe form. "Neos... take out Lex's Cyber Angel Benten," he muttered.
"I activate... Hallowed Life Barrier," Alexis muttered in turn.
"Can't use it... Jinzo's on the field," he groaned.
"Dang," she muttered.
Back up at Obelisk, Mindy and Jasmine dreamt of their future careers and the young men in their lives. And on the first floor of the women's dorms, in a room that smelled of cinnamon, Rosa Jimenez curled up next to her beloved. "Tyson," she murmured in Spanish, "are there any other foods you like to cook on a stick besides hot dogs and marshmallows?"
Tyson thought about some of the cookouts he'd had with his parents, remembering the smell of the campfire smoke and the food. "Oh, I like cookin' sausage, bacon, meatballs… Pretty much anything I can get on a stick, Spanish Rose."
"That sounds delicious. Perhaps we could make kebabs, too... I know a Basque recipe that is very spicy," Rosa suggested with a dreamy smile.
"Oh, yeah, ain't that the one your mama made when we were in Calientara?" he said. When she nodded, he smiled. "I'd love to taste your version, darlin'."
"Where will we live? I doubt we can afford a house right away…"
"Well, I've been lookin', and on the base pay in the Pros, we can start with an apartment. Then when we've both made a little more, we can get a house. We'll just put a little away each month," he answered. "I wish we could get a house, but it's too much money…"
"Domino is rather expensive," she sighed and then smiled. "But if you want to be in the Pro League, then we need to live there or close to it. And besides, we will be close to our friends."
"Yeah," he agreed. "We'll do okay with our friends around us, even if we ain't close to our families. We'll support each other like we always have, but we've got to get Private Bastion back on his feet and get all of us down the aisle."
"We will," she murmured, breathing in his scent. Her eyelids were, it seemed, being suddenly weighed down with lead. "Ty-Ty, I am so very tired…"
"Let's get some sleep, Spanish Rose," he said, gently kissing her. They snuggled into each other's arms and then fell into sleep's embrace.
In another part of the dorm, Jesse Anderson sat at his laptop and checked his contacts list, confirming that his webcam was working. Tarnation, Icy Will, I hope you ain't mad at me for keepin' you waitin'! And then he saw the name on his contacts list he was waiting for. SapphirePegasusGRRRL was on.
"Hey, Icy Will," he sent. Her avatar, a cleverly drawn Sapphire Pegasus with a curling broom in its teeth, smirked at him. "How are you? Sorry I haven't been on…"
Back in Nova Scotia, Willow brushed her dark hair away from her face. She yawned, eyes getting heavy. But the familiar buzz of the chat window awakened her. "Jesse," she typed back to GemBeast17, "I was wondering when you would get on. It's almost four AM! And midnight for you!" His avatar of a Ruby Carbuncle card made her smile.
"Sorry, Willow. Things have been a little crazy," he typed. "How ya doing?"
"I've missed you since your graduation, Fiery Jess... How's Bastion? Was he able to face the darkness?" she asked, adding a concerned looking emoticon.
"Yup. He faced it, and now he's getting better. I've missed you too, Icy Will, and I can't wait to see you again," he typed, adding an eager looking emote.
"Why not now?" She tapped the webcam icon with a smile on her face. She might be close to falling asleep, but she would let him see her.
Jesse gladly clicked "View SapphirePegasusGRRRL's Webcam" and grinned when her image coalesced. "You're beautiful as ever," he typed.
She gave him a soft Mona Lisa smile and then typed back, "May I see you now?"
"You may." With a flourish, he clicked on the "Invite to View My Webcam" button. Does my hair look all right? I'd hate it if she saw me with bed-head. He ran his fingers through his hair and eagerly awaited her acceptance.
Willow hit the accept button, and his image came on the screen. The bright green eyes, the familiar teal hair and of course, his joyous and mischievous smile; her cheeks warmed and her smile broadened as she typed, "I really missed seeing you smile."
"I missed your gorgeous smile too," he typed, his smile widening ever so slightly.
"Think when you get home, your mom can make us dumplings?"
"Oh yeah. Definitely. Mama'll be happier than a cat in a cage full of canaries!" Sue would fuss over him and Willow, he knew all too well.
"All right then, Jess, we have a deal," she grinned, typing furiously. "Let me know when you're closer to the wedding date."
"Will do," he typed, returning the grin. But his grin became a frown as she nodded, chin resting on her hand and her eyes drifted closed. "You getting sleepy?" But she sat motionless. "Guess so," he said softly. He tapped the icon on his instant messenger, sending her a buzzing signal. He could just leave without saying good night, but she couldn't sleep at her desk like that.
Willow heard the buzzing sound and opened her eyes. "Oh! Jesse, I'm sorry!" she typed, embarrassed.
"You're getting sleepy." His expression was contrite as he mentally resolved to contact her before midnight, her time.
She typed back, "Well, it is late here... Good thing I can sleep in..."
"Get some shuteye," he wrote with a very tender look on his face.
She smiled and typed back, "You too, Fiery Jess..."
"Will do, Icy Will." The couple signed off for the evening. Willow, exhausted, climbed into her warm bed, listening to the waves crashing onto the distant Nova Scotia shore before she fell asleep. And Jesse lay awake for an hour, hearing the splashes of the lake outside his window.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
While nearly everyone else slept on the island, three figures made their way out of the Obelisk dorm. One figure wore well-defined braided hair, while the taller figure wore a cowboy hat. The third figure was on all fours, close to the ground, large tail swishing.
"Lovely stargazing weather, eh, mate?" Jim asked his human companion.
"Yeah," Axel answered softly as Shirley opened her jaws eagerly to the buzzing of insects. Sure, she might like to hunt a bit more, but maybe these bugs would sate her hunger until she could. "I think Shirley'll want to get a snack while we're out, Jim."
"You hungry, girl?" Jim asked the crocodile. Shirley gazed up at him with what could best be described as a hungry gaze. "Go on and hunt, then. We'll be here." The tracker patted her scaly skin, smiling. Shirley seemed to nod and padded on ahead of the young men, toward a place where she knew rats and other wild critters roamed.
Axel smiled in the darkness. "Jim, I think you just made her very happy."
"Yeah, she loves hunting. And who am I to deny her that?" Jim asked, smiling as well.
"Yeah... So where should we go?"
"Right here's as good a spot as any," Jim said, lying down on the grass. "Nice to finally have some peace and quiet after everything that's happened. Can you believe it's taken me this long to break my habit of checking my eye for infection?"
Axel nodded as they lay down away from the school lights. "It takes a while to get away from some rituals..." Unbidden, his brother's room came into his mind.
"That it does, Axel," Jim said, glancing at his friend, catching a faraway expression he knew all too well. "Thinking about your brother?"
"Yeah... Took weeks for me not to go in his room just to stare at his stuff, wondering how long it'd take before he came back... Asher was too young... Dad was too..."
"Yeah. At least they died serving their country and protecting the people they loved," Jim said gently. It was lame to say, he thought, but what else could he say, really?
Lame or not, Axel nodded, his lips pursing a little. He'd long since passed the phase of needing to cry, but what Jim said touched him. "Yeah... they did..." And then they looked up at the stars.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" Jim asked.
"Yeah... Great..." Axel remembered the first camping trip his father had taken him on. His father had pointed out the Big Dipper and Little Dipper to him, and the much younger Axel had learned how thousands of people had used the former constellation to find their way to freedom. He told Jim of this and added, "Dad used it once on a mission before Asher was born to find his way back to his platoon."
"Did you hear the Greek myth about Ursa Major and Ursa Minor?" Jim asked, pointing at the respective constellations.
Axel nodded thoughtfully. "It's been a while since I've heard it... Go ahead and tell it…"
"Zeus fell for a woman named Callisto, one of the Hunters of Artemis. Hera, as you can imagine, wasn't too happy about that, so she turned Callisto into a bear. After a while, Callisto met her son Arcas. He thought she was attacking him, and tried to shoot her, but Zeus stopped it by turning them into constellations, those constellations were Ursa Major and Ursa Minor," Jim said.
"I remember reading about that in class. Sad story. And Hera wouldn't leave them alone even then."
"Nope. She had Poseidon keep them away from the sea," Jim said, looking at the constellations, "A bit cruel if you ask me, but she was a jealous wife."
"Yeah... Disney changed that in Hercules, remember?" Axel chuckled. "I heard it was because they were bored with the wicked stepmother angle."
"That did get boring after awhile."
"Yeah..." The young men then talked of nothing else of major importance and as they talked, a very contented crocodile returned to curl at Jim's feet.
"You get your fill, Shirley?" Jim asked, sitting up to pat the croc's head. Shirley growled gently in response. She had. "Glad to hear it, girl." The Australian boy stretched back out on the grass. Together, the humans and the crocodile watched as the stars wheeled in the sky. But at four AM, they finally headed inside.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Though the weather had been nice all day and into the night, as Jim, Axel and Shirley returned to the dorms, a storm blew in from the north. When everyone woke up in the morning, rain was pouring down in buckets, the wind causing the rain to move sideways. At Slifer Red, Jaden opened his eyes and saw the lack of sunlight through the window. "Oh great," he muttered. "So much for dueling out near the woods…"
"What is it, Jaden?" Alexis lifted her head slightly, her eyes still blurry and her blonde hair sticking out all over.
"Lex... the weather," he groaned softly.
It was then that she heard the drumbeats of rain on the roof. "Well, I guess the good weather couldn't last forever."
It was also cool outside and something of the chill came through to the couple. "Well, let's just snuggle down and enjoy listening to it," he suggested.
That surprised her. "Who are you and what have you done with Jaden?"
"I like rainy days," he answered as they cuddled close. "When I got home from the hospital when I was little, I'd cuddle with Mom in her room, listening to the rain hitting our roof. I couldn't hear it when I was in the kids' psych ward. It made me feel good to hear it. I don't know why, but when we listened to the rain, I just relaxed."
"That's good," she said, resting her head on his chest. "Too bad we didn't have rain when your PTSD resurfaced."
"Yeah. But when I was little before the hospital, not even the rain could calm me down."
"That's the thing... Mom and Dad couldn't do anything. All they could do was hold me until I cried myself to sleep..."
"Oh," she said, tightening her hold on him.
"But it didn't happen all at once. Remember how I said I couldn't hear duel spirits after those treatments?"
"Yeah. What happened after that?" She felt him shudder against her, the past memories almost coming through to her.
"I was so lonely and... I couldn't help Yubel and I couldn't even hear her anymore." His voice shook slightly. "For a few nights, I cried myself to sleep, and then Mom came home from a chemo treatment one afternoon and it was rainy. She was sleepy and I wanted to make her feel better. So I went into her room and cuddled with her."
"And the rain calmed you down?" She sat up slightly to look in his eyes.
"Yeah. That first time, I sat with her. The next thing I remembered was Dad shaking me awake. They were so happy."
"They'd found something that could calm you down," she smiled. It wasn't hard to picture little Jaden snuggling against his mother, the warmth of her arms around him. She'd done the same with her mother enough times to know how that felt.
"Yeah. The thing is when I got back to school, the kids kept teasing me; I was still a freak…" He shivered against her warm body, hearing the taunts and rage of the past. "I couldn't stand them teasing me. I'd thought about it before when Yubel couldn't stop screaming and how it was my fault for sending her up there. And then one day in the lunchroom…" His eyes squeezed shut. "It was rainy that day when they wouldn't let up…" He could see the pill bottle in his mind's eye and his small hand reaching out to take the pills.
She hugged him even tighter, heart aching for him. "Oh, Jaden."
He hugged back, seeking comfort in her physical form. "Good thing Dad found me when he did…"
"Yeah," she agreed, kissing him to give him solace. He joined it fully, the two of them soon losing themselves in the newfound physical part of their relationship. About an hour or so later, they cleaned up. "I think… you're getting the hang of it, Jay," Alexis stated as they headed out of the shower. He had been very eager to learn what made her feel pleased and though he hadn't been perfect, he'd at least lasted longer. "You did a lot better that time."
"Thanks, Lex. I want to learn to make you happy when we're…"
"Yeah, I know."
They finished their morning ablutions and headed up to Obelisk in the pouring rain. "Good thing you don't worry too much about your hair," he commented over the wind.
"Yeah," she shouted back, laughing. "And I worry about mud even less!" Her boots squished in the muck that had formed on the path. "I used to play soccer in worse than this!"
Jaden started to laugh at that as his own hair whipped in the wind. Breakfast would be wonderful after this hike.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
In the infirmary, Violet awoke to the patter of rain on the roof. She smiled in anticipation, and then frowned deeply as she heard the howl of the wind. "Aw, dang it..."
"What is it, darling?" Bastion asked, opening his blurry eyes.
"I wanted to go dancing in the rain with you, but it's windy too," she pouted.
Bastion pulled himself into a sitting position, hearing the wind howl and the rain beat down upon the roof. "Sounds like a rather nasty storm, love. It's probably best if we don't dance around in the rain. You'd catch a cold if you did that again. Don't you remember the one you got last summer?"
"You got one too, but it was worth it, right?" she countered, grinning.
"I suppose, but I'd rather not catch another one," he answered.
"Where's my wild Bastion-baby?" she asked mock-seriously. She was antsy even though the infirmary was where she had wanted to be.
"I'm not that wild yet, Violet love," he sighed. For a moment, it was as if the past few weeks hadn't happened. It was as if it was last summer when they had no cares for a time. Granted, they'd ended up in the hospital, but they had still been a bit wild.
"You've been pretty wild, though," she reminded him, mussing his hair which somehow went back into place.
"True," he said, flushing a bit, embarrassed that she had outwitted him.
"Well... let's just listen to the rain instead," she suggested, snuggling down.
"Yes," he agreed as he felt her warm form against him. The rain pattered down and they closed their eyes to listen.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
As two couples awoke in Slifer Red and Obelisk Blue, a brown-eyed woman combed sets of silver bangs, raven bangs and dark brown bangs with her hand. Two sets of bangs belonged to her children, while one belonged to a young man she had mentally adopted. The woman smiled; the silver-haired boy had no sweat on his face and was sleeping very peacefully. And then the brown-haired young man stirred.
"What time is it?" Atticus asked, rubbing his face as he sat up.
"Morning, Atty," Scout Rhodes murmured quietly. "It's about 8:30..."
"Then where's the sun?" The lack of sunlight, coupled with the driving rain told him. "Never mind."
"It started to rain about 3 AM," she explained softly.
"Oh. Guess we stay indoors today… I really wanted to go surfing, though…"
"Yeah... Aster's fever is down. I won't let him out of bed much today," Scout explained, seeing the question on her eldest son's face.
"So he'll be okay?"
"He just needs the rest... Honey, you can go back to sleep if you'd like…"
"I'm wide awake, Mom; I don't think I'll go back to sleep," he answered.
"Okay. We'll let Chazz and Aster sleep a little more..." Chazz was curled up on his pallet bed on the floor. In the weak light of the room, the skin underneath his eyes contrasted strongly with his pale face. "He's been up too late…" She glided over to Aster's side of the bed, tucking his blankets around him. "Aster's been through so much; and to get through it without someone to guide him…"
"Yeah. It's hard to imagine what it was like for him," Atticus said, frowning.
"Somehow, they both made it through... Are you getting hungry, sweetie?" Scout asked, moving away from the sleeping boys.
As if on cue, Atticus's stomach growled, "Sounds like it," he said, grinning sheepishly.
"Okay, Atty..." Scout walked over to the small kitchenette to find some breakfast.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Down on the first floor, Rosadina Jimenez cuddled close to the young man she loved. She was sleeping deeply and inhaled his warm, spicy scent. Tyson held her close, a smile adorning his face. His dreams were happy ones, involving the young woman he held so tenderly.
It was then that her chocolate brown eyes opened. "Mmmm..."
He however, remained asleep, muttering about the various things in his dream. "You're the world's most beautiful woman, Spanish Rose."
"Ty-Ty, you're dreaming," she murmured with a smile.
His eyes flew open. "I'm dreamin'?" he asked, blinking the sleep away.
"Yes, Ty-Ty, but now you are awake."
"Even better than the dream," he said, gently kissing her.
"Did you sleep well?" she asked him, kissing back.
"Yup," he answered. His lips found hers again and felt the smooth fabric of her nightgown as his hands glided up her back.
"Ty-Ty... let's get up and go to breakfast," she reminded him, breaking the kiss. Their make-out session last night had gotten a little intense.
"Yeah, let's get some grub," he agreed. They got out of bed and headed into their kitchenette. Together, they fixed torrijas, the Spanish version of French toast and some freshly squeezed orange juice.
"I'm not sure I got this quite as well as Mama does," Rosa sighed as she examined the sweet fried bread, perhaps a little too done, was now coated with cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with honey. "But I will get this! You squeeze the orange juice well," she smiled as he used the hand juicer.
"Thanks, Spanish Rose," he answered, pouring the juice into their glasses. The couple then sat down for breakfast, eating with good appetites.
Afterward, Rosa smiled as she got dressed. "Ty-Ty, you cannot go jogging this morning. Why don't we go up to the main hall and dance?"
"What dance do you want to do, Spanish Rose?" he asked eagerly. He'd missed the dancing and to do it again sounded a heck of a lot better than jogging.
"How about the paso doble again? We haven't practiced it in weeks."
"Sounds good, and that's one of my favorites."
Accordingly, they headed out to the main hall, now empty and began their practice. The months of practice had made the formerly rough Texas boy into a man of both strength and grace. He followed his love's movements with his own, and she moved with balance and skill. In dance as in battle, they were one. When they finished, she blushed slightly. "You have become a master, mi amor," she concluded in her native tongue.
"All because of you, Spanish Rose," he murmured back.
"And your hard work." She gently brushed his cheek with her soft hand.
His rough, swarthy hand brushed her cheek. "And we can't forget your patience."
"And... your courage," she murmured, kissing him on the lips. He kissed back, putting his free hand on her waist. Rosa placed her arms around him, melting into the kiss. The rain pounded down on the windows looking out on the lake, matching the storm in the couple's hearts. He deepened the kiss, the hand on her waist starting to wander. "Ty-ty, we must... stay in control," she murmured.
"Sorry, Spanish Rose," he said, a bit red from the dancing and something else.
"It... it is all right," she murmured. "Let's... take a rest..."
"Yeah," he agreed before they returned to their room.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Up a few floors in Obelisk, Annie Hanson awoke to the feel of cool air on her nearly bare shoulders. Her eyes flew open. Syrus was still asleep, cuddled up next her. What happened last night? she wondered, mind still fuzzy from the sedative. She managed to roll over in the bed to the edge... and rolled off.
The thud caused Syrus to shoot up from his pillow, heart pounding and wondering what horrid thing was befalling the academy now. Then he realized his fiancée had only fallen out of bed. "Annie, are you okay?"
"Sy..." Her mouth was dry and the world was spinning. He quickly hopped out of bed and raced to her side. She pushed at the ground, only to fall back to the floor. "What… happened last night?"
"You had the sleeping pills, remember? You've been asleep for a long time," he said, trying to help her up. "You're really wobbly."
She tried to get to her feet, leaning on his shoulder, only to sink back to the ground. "C-carry me..."
In one somewhat fluid motion, he scooped her up into his arms. It still amazed him on some level that he'd gotten strong enough to carry her. It was now quite a simple thing to lift her back into the bed, check her over and make her comfortable. "How do you feel?" he asked, getting the blanket over her.
"Okay, I'll be right back." He trotted to the kitchenette and filled a glass, returning to her quickly. He propped her up and handed her the chilly glass. "There you are."
"Thank you…" She sipped gratefully, feeling the cool liquid swirl on her tongue and go down her throat. "That sleep stuff really hit me," she said finally.
"Yeah. You slept really well. You didn't even cry out," he answered, sitting down next to her. "Are you feeling better?"
She was about to answer when she flushed, ashamed. "Honey... I was so mean to you..."
"Annie, it's all right," he murmured, pulling her into a tight hug. But she wasn't willing to forgive herself so easily.
"I shouldn't get a free pass for what I did... I mean... If you did that to me, people would be screaming, 'He's an abuser,' right?"
"Yeah, probably," he said. "But you weren't yourself."
"I know you wouldn't, but all we girls ever hear is, 'If he hits you once, leave.' Why is it different for girls if they hit or try to hit?" Inside, she was quaking. 'He has every right to leave me... And I'd deserve it,' her inner voice moaned.
"Annie, I don't know, but I do know I will never leave you, or even think of leaving you. I love you too much and I'd try to work things out," he answered, cupping her chin and meeting her eyes.
"I... oh, Syrus!" She hugged him as tightly as he had hugged her, crying softly. "Forgive me…"
He held on, rubbing circles on her back. "It's okay, Annie. You're okay…" Impulsively, she placed her lips on his, bringing apology and passion into the kiss. He met her fire with his own and as they had so many times, they tenderly and passionately explored. The touch of wet silkiness and silk over hardness was amazing, yet familiar. Finally, after nearly an hour, they collapsed into each other's arms. Though they had not gone as far as they had in the dreamscape nearly a year before, they had certainly come close.
"Are you okay?" he asked afterward.
"Y-yeah... That... Did you enjoy yourself too that time?"
"Yeah. Did you?" he asked, blushing.
"That was... really big," she answered, pulling apart from him. "That was as close to the real deal as we're probably going to get..."
"For now," he answered, kissing her cheek.
A soft rumble caught their attention. "Sy... I think I'm a little hungry," Annie admitted, slightly embarrassed.
His stomach rumbled as well. "I guess I am too," he answered with a sheepish grin. "Let's clean up and get our breakfast."
"We're going to have a lot of stuff to wash," Annie sighed as she pulled the sheets off the bed after they'd showered and dressed. The dampness she felt on the cloth reminded her of just how much fun they'd had.
"Yeah, but… um… maybe it's worth it," Syrus murmured, feeling the heat come to his cheeks.
"Yeah... I do admit that I miss the laundry service," she chuckled slightly. "Well... maybe not when this is involved," she amended.
"Yeah, that would probably take some explaining," he agreed.
"Then again, maybe not. Remember when we did laundry duty?"
"Yeah. I guess maybe we wouldn't have to explain." Both of them now resembled tomatoes with hair.
"I do want to try that again," she murmured. "It felt really good…"
"Yeah, it did feel great," he said, "M-Maybe next time, we could try it somewhere else i-in the suite?"
Annie couldn't help but smile. "All right... Hey, maybe the rest of the gang will want to do something. Let's get some puzzles!"
Syrus nodded eagerly. "Yeah! I don't think anyone's going to want to go outside today." And then they headed down to the common room with a couple of puzzles in a bag.
"Hey, guys!" Jaden greeted cheerfully from his chair in the common room. He could tell something was up, but decided not to draw attention.
"Hey, guys," Syrus said, just as cheerful. Even though it was raining outside, it felt to him as if he was bathed in sunshine. He and Annie got their breakfasts and sat down at a table, munching fruit and pastries. When they and the others finished, the rain hadn't abated, so Syrus and Annie brought out their puzzles.
"How many pieces are in these puzzles?" Rosa asked, eyes wide.
"This one's a 5000-piece one!" Annie answered gleefully, holding up one box.
"Aww!" Jaden groaned. He liked puzzles, but something like this would not be as fun as the puzzles with less pieces. While he had learned patience, he still didn't have it when it came to big puzzles.
"Jaden, come on. It's a group activity," Alexis coaxed.
"Okay," he groaned again, sitting down at the larger puzzle with the other men. Their 5000-piece puzzle, when completed, would show the Neo-spacians and Elemental Heroes.
"There's gotta be some motivation there, mate," Jim said, indicating the picture on the box. "Your ace monsters, Jaden."
"Yeah," Jaden agreed, smiling at the image of Neos in the center of the box. Meanwhile, the girls worked on a huge puzzle featuring many of the female duel monsters. Silence reigned as everyone concentrated, but then some chatter started up again.
"Hmmm... does anyone see a Harpy's Lady's face?" Annie asked, pawing through some pieces in front of her as the incomplete creature mocked her.
"Uh, here," Alexis said, handing said piece to Annie.
"Thanks, Alexis..." The Harpy's Lady was now triumphantly grinning at them.
"So... what happened yesterday?" Mindy asked the dark-haired girl.
"I did something really stupid and Sy would've had every right to break off our engagement," Annie admitted, eyes turned to the floor.
"What did you do?" Jasmine asked, concerned and understanding. The other girls did much the same.
"I threw a book at him and tried to hit him..."
"You were having a horrible day, though," Rosa pointed out. "You were not yourself."
"But if I was a guy, I wouldn't get a free pass, you know? But he forgave me..."
"That's good," Alexis said, putting a hand on her friend's shoulder.
"Yeah... a little too good," Annie agreed, blushing slightly.
The girls noticed the blush, "You didn't..?" Alexis queried.
"No... no!" Annie yelped suddenly. "J-just the usual making up. Alexis..." She had caught a knowing blush on the other girl. And the other young women did too.
"Alexis," Jasmine asked, "did you... and Jaden..?" Alexis's blush darkened considerably as she suddenly found her hands very interesting.
Meanwhile, over in the boys' group, Jaden groaned again. "Dang it! Why can't I find Neos' butt?"
"Why are you so interested in Neos' rump?" Jim asked, raising an eyebrow but with twinkling eyes.
Zane, not in the mood to make jokes, found the piece. "Here's his butt, Jaden."
"Thanks!" Jaden put the piece into place and kept looking for more. He was so intent on his task now, the other guys knew something must be up.
"You okay, Jaden?" Axel asked.
"You sure about that, mate?" Jim asked, putting a piece of Flare Scarab's head in place.
"Ye- I don't know..." The others persisted and he finally told them, leaving out certain details. When he finished, he looked up at his future brothers-in-law, wondering if they might possibly string him up for deflowering their sister. However, neither of them seemed to be looking for rope.
"Congratulations," the eldest Rhodes brother said finally. He was able to congratulate this morning because he'd had last night to think about it. Alexis was an adult now and he, Atticus, had to accept that fact. And so he reassured his future brother-in-law that things were all right. "…After all," he concluded, "you're both old enough to make your own decisions and you're both committed. It's not like this was a one-night stand or something."
"You really aren't mad we didn't wait until the wedding?"
"Nope," Atticus repeated, giving his brother-in-law-to-be his own signature grin. He was glad his mom had insisted that he and Chazz leave her and Aster.
Jaden released a relieved sigh, and then he saw his best friend's expression; Syrus was biting his lip slightly, but was it out of fear or frustration or something else? "Sy, you okay? You and Annie didn't fight again, did you?"
"No, we didn't," Syrus answered carefully, putting a piece of the puzzle in place.
"Syrus, what happened?" Zane asked, clicking another piece into position. "If she's still mad..."
"She's not. We made up," the smaller Truesdale answered, frowning as he searched for another piece. He found it.
Another puzzle piece snapped into place. Zane caught the slight blush on his innocent-looking brother's cheeks. "Syrus, did you two..? You didn't, did you?"
"What? N-No!" Syrus yelped, turning the approximate color of a broiled lobster.
The girls looked up from their puzzle at the sudden exclamation and Jaden gently shook his head at his fiancée, reassuring her that nothing was wrong. "Then... what happened?" Zane asked in a lower voice. "Sy... If you didn't fight and you didn't... then what happened?"
"We... uh..." Syrus knew he should tell the truth, but how much of it to tell… well, that was a tough one. His face contorted with frustration, embarrassment and some other unidentifiable emotion.
"Private... we ain't gonna tell. Remember the night out when we talked?" Tyson reminded his friend.
Syrus shivered and drew a cleansing breath. "We came really close," he admitted, "and it was… fun."
"You guys... wow. Who'd have thought," Chazz muttered.
"Yeah," Syrus agreed, blushing darkly.
"Sy, I need to talk to you privately," Zane burst out, his sternness taking the other young men by surprise, including his little brother.
"O-Okay," Syrus said, shivering slightly.
The Truesdale boys stepped out into the hall and Zane sighed. "Syrus, you two need to be more careful!"
"I know," Syrus said, knowing that Zane was thinking of his own situation when he said that.
"You two are young to begin with. And she's got school to think of," the older brother continued.
"I know," the younger repeated, not knowing what else to say but feeling slightly tense.
"Syrus," Zane sighed again, "I know you know, but you really need to know. You need to be ready for all the consequences. Jackie and I... We're ready now, but it's been really quick..."
"Yeah," Syrus said, an edge coming into his voice now, "we've resisted the urge. But it's getting harder every day."
"If you do, Sy... just be really careful, and remember what to do..."
"Yeah, use protection," the younger man grumbled, unable to hide his frustration.
"Okay. I just don't want you rushed into fatherhood," Zane reiterated, holding up his hands. He knew that he'd repeated his point too much.
"Neither do I," Syrus answered, laying a hand on his brother's shoulder. The friendly pressure relaxed Zane, and together they headed back into the common room.
"It's really coming together," Jaden commented to Jesse as the brothers returned and sat down.
"Sure is," Jesse agreed, snapping another piece into place.
"This is goin' to look great once it's finished," Jim added as he casually rubbed Shirley's snout.
The border of the men's puzzle was complete and now the picture was coming together. Neos stood proudly in the foreground. "Wow," Chazz muttered. He could also see part of Aquos and Air Hummingbird. Like the Ojamas would ever have...
And then Belowski came from the Obelisk game closet. "Hey, dudes! Chazz! I found a cool puzz for us, man!" His puzzle, about 2000 pieces, was a picture of monsters like the Ojamas, Winged Kuriboh and some of the supposedly weaker monsters in the game.
"Oh, great," the raven-haired Rhodes groaned softly, hearing the Ojama brothers cheering. Whether he was actually hearing them or just an echo in his head was a matter of debate.
"Great! We can put that one together when we finish this one," Jim stated, wisely not commenting on Chazz's slightly peeved expression.
Meanwhile, the girls chatted, eagerly awaiting what Alexis had to say. "So... what was it like?" Mindy asked her friend.
Alexis blushed a little bit as she thought back to what had happened. "It was... amazing."
"Did you… I mean, Alexis, you're the first one of us to…" Jasmine left that sentence unfinished. "Did… was he good? And did he listen to what you said you wanted?"
"Yeah. You know how I am," Alexis answered. "And we listened to each other."
"Good point..." It was then that the other girls truly understood something about the blonde duelist. Alexis was still Alexis, even in her relationship with the young man she loved. She would always be a strong duelist, passionate about whatever she did and very much her own person. If anything, she would argue that being with Jaden had improved her abilities. She had learned from him that sometimes taking a slightly more relaxed approach allowed her to see possibilities beyond what one might learn from teachers, history or a textbook. She had learned that having fun was just as important as winning. And now, she knew that loving a young man would not take away from her accomplishments. All of the girls in the group looked at her with great respect.
"Stop it, you're making the blush worse," Alexis complained. Why did it have to happen to her now?
"Alexis... we are glad for you," Rosa said softly. "You are the strongest of us, truthfully. And when our children are older, Ty-Ty and I would be honored to have such a strong, kind and wise duelist to teach them."
Alexis smiled. "Thanks, Rosa. That means a lot." She knew someday she would be a teacher and would be one of the best out there.
"Anybody have another piece of Dunames Dark Witch?" Blair asked, holding up a yellow puzzle piece.
"Here." Alexis had come up with the puzzle piece as triumphantly as she had long ago on Golden Eggwich Day.
The morning wore on and the puzzles neared completion. "How did we get these done in a couple of hours?" Jaden wondered out loud.
"That's teamwork for you," Syrus grinned.
"But the picture's not complete yet," Chazz offered thoughtfully.
"True that, mate," Jim agreed, putting a piece of the background in.
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Meanwhile, Bastion and Violet stared up at the skylight in the infirmary. The storm had moved through and now sunlight was streaming down upon them through the remaining clouds. "Hey, it's clearing up," Violet commented.
"I wonder if they'll let me leave for a while," Bastion remarked.
"Hey, guys," Alex Nakamura greeted the couple as he walked into the room. "You know the drill, Bastion. Violet, his shirt needs to come up a little." With Violet's help, Bastion soon felt the chill of the stethoscope on his bare thin back. He breathed in and let it out as Alex listened carefully. Finally, the doctor was satisfied. "Okay... now a little phlebotomy."
"Uh... phle-what now?" Violet asked, confused.
"Drawing bloodwork, darling," Bastion said, pulling his sleeve off his forearm, "It involves needles, remember? He needs to draw my blood."
"Oh, great." And so, as usual, Violet gripped her beloved's hand and closed her eyes. Bastion felt the cold of the alcohol that disinfected the spot over the vein, and a familiar pinprick. However, he took it well. Violet, though... Keep them shut, keep them shut, she chanted in her head.
You're still doing this? Geez, Mary groaned.
Once the blood draw was complete, the needle removed, and the site bandaged, Bastion said to Violet, "You can open your eyes now, love. The Band-Aid is on."
"Good," she answered, relief flooding her features.
"All right," the pulmonologist said when everything was done, "Bastion, I think you could use a little fresh air since the weather's improved. Depending on how you are after the excursion, I may let you out of the infirmary for the night... Sound good?"
"Perfect." Bastion was rather relieved to get out, even temporarily.
Violet all but squealed in excitement. "All right! Let me call somebody!"
"Hello?" Annie asked after hitting the Send button on her PDA.
"Violet!" The cheerful voice on the other end of the line made the dark-haired girl figuratively jump.
"Annie! Bastion-baby and I are getting out of the infirmary! Where are you guys?" Annie told her quickly and Violet agreed to meet the gang at Obelisk. Within minutes, Violet, Hiro and Katai were helping Bastion out of bed and getting him fresh clothes.
"It feels so good to get into something other than my pajamas," Bastion grinned. "Violet, love, could you and Mum step out for a moment? I'd like to speak with Dad…" The two women nodded and left. "Dad... I'm getting out of bed and I'm almost better; I almost can't believe it," he admitted when he and his father were alone.
"I almost can't believe it either, son," Hiro agreed, "but we've all pulled through. But… Bastion, is something on your mind?"
"Dad..." Bastion took a shaky breath, albeit only because his lungs were still recovering. "I... don't know how to say this at all..." Hiro waited, laying a hand on his son's shoulder. "Dad... I was scared that night when I almost died. And that day I thought of ending it... I don't think I really wanted to. But something in me did."
Hiro nodded with deep understanding. "Bastion, son… I do know what it's like to want to give up and yet press on because you know you must. And I'm relieved Violet found you when she did. Your mother, your fiancée, your friends and I… we all love you. Never forget that, Bastion."
The young man smiled at that. "I won't, Dad. Er… one question, though. Were you nervous before you married Mum?"
"I was a nervous wreck before the ceremony," Hiro answered, his eyes crinkling in amused recollection. "My best man managed to calm me down though."
"Wasn't it Uncle Takashi?"
"Yes, it was. He told me that loving your mother would be enough for us both. Bastion…" Hiro had caught his son about to protest at the dreadfully illogical statement… "I know that you are starting out your life together young and you're not at your physical best. But you two have each other, and you both are exceedingly brilliant. You also have us and you have your friends around you. You may not be able to participate in the Pro League quite yet, but you will be able to work for Professor Eisenstein. And you will be able to duel again and hold your own. We all believe in you…"
Bastion sighed and started to cough again, the cough sounding like dry cloth being hit against a wooden wall, rather than a wet washcloth against a brick wall. Hiro, still a bit concerned, rubbed his son's back until the fit passed. Alex Nakamura had heard the fit and poked his head in the cubicle, but shook his head at Hiro. The worried father visibly relaxed. "It's all right," he soothed his son. "You're going to be fine. It's all right."
As soon as he could speak, Bastion said, "Thanks, Dad."
"No problem, Bastion. Let's get you dressed and over to your friends."
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
"Bastion-baby, you look great!" Violet praised as her beloved leaned on his father's shoulder to make his way to a wheelchair. The young man now wore a pair of loose yoga pants and a black short-sleeved t-shirt.
"Thank you, love," Bastion smiled, easing into the wheelchair. He rather wished he could walk, but Dr. Nakamura had insisted. Besides, he was still tired walking to the bathroom.
Violet eagerly threw her arms around him, grinning. "Okay, so shall we go build some puzzles?"
"That sounds fun." Bastion should have known that his fiancée's grin held pent-up mischief. As soon as he was secure, she ran back into the ICU and walked out calmly with a bag. Where she had gotten the contents, one could only guess.
"Okay, Bastion-baby! Are you ready to go?"
"I can't wait to get out of here and into the open."
"Neither can I," she answered, pushing the chair out the door.
"Hiro... do you have any idea where she got that bag and what's in it?" Katai asked when the young couple was out of earshot.
"Not a clue, but knowing her, it's prank related," Hiro said. He was mostly correct in his assessment. As soon as the younger couple was out of the building, Violet pulled two large plastic bottles from the bag, attaching them to the wheelchair.
Bastion had only caught a glimpse of the bottles. "Darling, what did you attach to this chair?"
"Diet cola bottles." One could almost see the chibi angels surrounding her.
"Violet, darling, what are you up to?"
"Know what these are?" she asked, holding up a familiar blue tube of mint candy.
His stomach twisted. "Are you planning what I think you are?" Before he could say any more, she whipped off the caps on the bottles, threw in the candies and... nothing happened. And then he was slammed against his wheelchair as the cola whooshed out of the bottles, propelling him and Violet down the trail.
"! THIS IS GREAT!" Violet shouted, her hair fluttering behind her.
"THIS SHOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE!" Bastion's hair was remarkably still in place.
"YEAH, BUT IT'S AWESOME!" The bottles finally stopped gushing and the two came to a stop right at the Obelisk Blue gates. "...Okay, how the heck did that happen?"
"Perhaps the authors willed it," Bastion said.
"... The authors? Bastion, did you hit your head or something?" Violet poked at his head with her finger, stared into his eyes and checked his pulse like she'd seen Annie do.
"I don't think so... Authors?" Bastion, for the umpteenth time, questioned his love's sanity.
"You said the authors willed it; what in the name of sugar did you mean?" A squirrel that had been running past the couple stopped suddenly and stared right at them with its beady, black eyes. It then proceeded to make the "I'm watching you" gesture, before innocently continuing on its way.
"Let's move on, shall we?" Bastion suggested, sweat-dropping.
"Uh... Good idea..." Violet, also sweat-dropping and grinning sheepishly, pushed the chair through the gates and to the Obelisk common room. The entire group stopped what they were doing and stood up to applaud. Abruptly, Jaden stopped and strode to the former Ra. Without a word, he wrapped his arms around Bastion and held on. His throat was as tight as his grip, almost as tight as the latter had been late last August on the night he'd feared his friend would not return alive.
Finally, they let go and Jaden managed to speak. "Glad you're back, bro."
"It's good to be back," Bastion answered, his gaze tender as he glanced not only at Jaden, but at nearly his whole group of friends. He sat down with the other guys, noting how much more they had to do.
"The puzzle's almost done! We're closer to done than the girls!" Adrian smirked, giving Echo a particularly bold look.
"What is that supposed to mean, Adrian?" Echo knew that tone too well. It was the one he'd used on the rare occasions they sparred, and she was fully prepared to answer the challenge.
"I think it means they're trying to beat us, Echo," Violet grinned back. "But I think you guys are about to get your butts kicked!"
"It appears to be anyone's game if this is a race," Bastion observed, a slight smirk emerging.
"Not for long," Annie countered happily, putting down more pieces.
"Looks like we've got some catching up to do, mates," Jim encouraged the rest of the male team.
"Jesse, can we beat 'em?" Jaden asked his twin, picking up a piece of Elemental Hero Neo Alius and putting it in its proper place.
"I bet we can," Jesse said, also adding to Alius's form.
About an hour later… "FINISHED!" both sides yelled at exactly the same time.
"Looks like a tie," Jesse grinned at the two puzzles. Jaden nodded in satisfaction. Zane smiled too. His own personal puzzle was nearly complete. It would be tomorrow when his fiancée arrived. "So what now?" the Southern boy continued.
Annie grinned, holding up a plastic jar with a bright yellow label and 1960s-style writing on it. "We have backing and I have a pot of Mod-Podge! Let's immortalize this moment!" The group chorused its approval.
"Annie... uh... where did you get that?" Sy asked, blinking and sweat-dropping.
"I... don't know," Annie admitted. Somehow, it had appeared out of nowhere. That or she'd simply forgotten that she'd stashed it in the bag she'd brought with her. The squirrel that Bastion and Violet had encountered appeared at the window, giving the "I'm watching you" gesture before leaving.
Jaden blinked. "Uh... guys? Why is there an evil squirrel there?"
"SQUIRREL!" Violet yelled, pouncing to the window. She hit the window, thankfully made of some shatterproof material and bounced back to the floor. "Why do I keep doing that?" she asked dazedly. Was this an anime, she would have the characteristic spiral eyes of a stunned Pokémon.
"Jay?" Jesse asked while Alexis looked Violet over. "Why in tarnation do you think it's evil?"
"It's acting evil!" the Slifer complained, pointing at the little creature with a slightly crazed expression.
One could practically see the question mark appearing over Jesse's head. "I don't get it, Jaden. He doesn't seem to be doin' anything…"
"He's like the EVIL MONKEY!"
"On Family Guy?" Syrus asked weakly, sweat-dropping.
"That squirrel's doing something like that!" Jaden yelped, visibly traumatized.
Everyone laughed... everyone, that is, except for Violet. "Squirrels aren't evil!" she now complained from Bastion's arms.
"That one is!" Jaden countered.
"It's just a squirrel, mate," Jim said, looking at the creature now chewing a nut on a tree branch. "Look at it. The little guy wouldn't hurt a fly."
"Jaden, for the last time. It's the CHIPMUNKS we have to worry about! Not the innocent, fluffy squirrels!" Violet added.
"So... Violet? Why are chipmunks evil again?" Adrian asked. "I heard your bunny explanation..."
Violet sighed, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. "Okay, one more time. Chipmunks help the evil bunnies with their plans for world domination by stealing acorns from squirrels to make advanced acorn weaponry. Squirrels are ticked and fight the chipmunks, also trying to stop them from taking over the world with the evil bunnies."
"I don't think bunnies and chipmunks can take over the world, Violet," Jesse observed after a long awkward silence and multiple sweat-drops.
"And that, my dear Watson is why it's called a conspiracy," Violet stated with an air that screamed convincing her otherwise was impossible.
Jaden blinked again. And then, he smiled in his classic dumb way. "Jesse, you changed your name to Watson? Since when?"
The previous sweat-dropping silence was replaced by multiple thuds."It's an expression, Jaden," Alexis said, simultaneously face-palming and lifting herself up off the floor.
The former Slifer's idiot expression became wicked. "I know."
"Oh, bloody hell, he's become intellectually gifted," Bastion stated slowly.
"...I didn't know you could give someone intelligence as a gift." Violet deadpanned, a look of awe on her face.
"It's another expression, Violet," Alexis sighed.
Now it was Violet's turn to grin as she high-fived Jaden. "I know. Man, you guys are gullible when it comes to this." And as the group decoupaged the huge puzzles, they had to wonder if this had been a set-up or brilliant serendipity.
And so ends another chapter of Darkness Falls. We hope you enjoyed the continuation and hope you join us next time. As always, we thank you for your continued patronage! See you soon!