Toe Shoes

Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!

My first time writing a Yu-Gi-Oh! fic; please do not be too hard on me though constructive criticism is appreciated, flames, not so much. And if you're not a fan of revolution shipping, please do not scold me for that either. Anzu bashers? Don't waste your time and don't waste mine.

A broom's bristles kissed the hardwood floor gently guiding dirt and unwanted dust bunnies to the floor's edge and shooed out the open door into the streaming sunlight and cool air. Leaning on the broom, Anzu Mazaki looked at the clean room with a sparkle in her sapphire eyes and a Cheshire grin gracing her lips. My dance studio! She thought excitedly. This is my dance studio! Anzu's whole being radiated exuberance. She fought against the urge to shriek and jump up and down like a little girl; instead settling for whirling across the dance floor, waltzing like Cinderella at the ball.

As Anzu danced to the music orchestrated by the brimming happiness in her heart; she allowed memories to wash over her as her body slipped into muscle memory. She reflected on what happened after college graduation. Yugi, following in the footsteps of his grandfather graduated with a degree in Egyptology and had embarked on a trip to Cairo within a month's time. Yami who had been blessed with a body of his own and the opportunity to remain in the modern era took over Yugi's duties in the game shop assisting Grandfather Motou with eventual plans of becoming a curator at the Domino Museum .

Jonouchi surprised many by graduating college with a degree in psychology. He had gotten a job as a counselor, helping teenagers who like him, had endured a tough upbringing advising them on finding a better outlet for their anger or pain instead of using drugs and violence. Jonouchi reconnected with Mai who had decided to settle down in Domino and take up a career as a romance novelist combining her wit, feminine wiles and the compassion that she showed for her friends to make a series of best sellers and snag a few awards in the process. She and Jonouchi were currently engaged to be married in the winter.

Honda took on a business career yet unlike Kaiba or Otogi; he became an advertiser for Pampelmuse, a German company specializing in melons, his branch located in Tokyo which was luckily not too far from Domino. Honda also was currently dating Shizuka, who was currently finishing up her teaching degree. The couple wasn't warmly received by Jonouchi at first, rather the concept of Honda as a boyfriend for Shizuka wasn't warmly received. But after much pleading on Shizuka's part and a couple of whacks on the head from Anzu and Mai respectively, the overprotective blonde relented.

As Anzu continued to whirl across the wooden floor, she thought about the path her own life made. She had not yet been able to see the dazzling lights of Broadway because her parents had recently finalized their divorce which had nearly become violent. Anzu stayed in Domino and gave emotional support to each parent. In order to make it up to her, Mr. and Ms. Mazaki came together one last time and bought her an abandoned dance studio. The studio was a two story stone house with a brick chimney. While the lower floor was meant for practicing and teaching class; the upper level served as Anzu's living quarters.

Upon first entering the studio, Anzu saw that it was far from decent. The hardwood floors were rough and unfinished, leaving both socked and bare feet prone to splinters. The mirrors were covered with dust and grime, a spider web-like crack adorning one of the sheets of reflective glass. The piano had some rust and was in desperate need of a tune up. Yet despite all of these flaws Anzu couldn't care less because the dance studio was hers.

Anzu was startled out of her musings when while dancing across the room, she stumbled over a large cardboard box. Her body swayed to the left as the broom slipped from her fingers and went sprawling across the floor. Anzu landed heavily on her side, sliding a few inches; sapphire eyes wide with surprise, heart beating quickly from shock, mentally chagrining at being so lost in her thoughts.

"Well that was certainly graceful," she muttered sarcastically. Gingerly she moved her limbs one at a time, testing her body for any injuries. Other than the soreness in her side, she was fine. Shifting into a sitting position, she glared at the box that interrupted her dance. I thought this went upstairs with the other boxes. Curiosity piqued, she lifted the cover she lifted the cover and gasped. I had forgotten all about this, she thought as she stared at the box's contents.

Inside the box were tickets, old dancing shoes, programs, and a doll. Anzu lifted the doll out of the box. Her porcelain face was covered with a thin layer of dust, once bright blue eyes now faded to a dull cornflower. The doll's plump rosy lips were curved into a serene smile. A pink dress beribboned with lace hung from the doll's form. Black patent leather shoes adorned the doll's feet while a white ribbon held back her shiny chestnut locks.

"It's my Clara doll," Anzu murmured. "It's been nearly fifteen years since I first got her."

Seven year old Anzu was not like the other children who were bouncing impatiently in their theater seats waiting for the show to begin. Instead her eyes sparkled with wonder as they roamed the theater. The stage was huge, with a thick, lush scarlet curtain hiding away the scenery and possibly the dancers. She gazed at the ceiling, which had moldings depicting the great triumphs of the Roman gods and goddesses. The balconies were curved like a waning moon. Vines of ivy made of marble and laced with gold paint caressed the balconies. From her seat beneath the balconies, Anzu could just barely make out the viewers no doubt dressed regally in gowns and suits, gazing at the stage with binoculars or those fancy theater glasses her mother owned, like glasses but balanced on a rod.

Anzu peeked at her grandmother; the one to take her to see the Christmas ballet, the Nutcracker. Anzu's grandmother wore a sleeveless, floor length navy blue gown. Her hair was piled on top of her head like a soft crown. Her eyes were a darker blue than Anzu's, her lips painted crimson. A woman in her fifties—both she and her daughter were young brides and mothers—the only sign of her age being the silver that threaded her chestnut hair and pencil thin wrinkles gracing the skin around her eyes. Mrs. Kogo, sat up straight, her hands folded in her lap, the folds of her gown flowing over her legs elegantly. She looked like a queen.

Anzu looked down at her own self. Her dress was pink and puffy, a thin layer of gossamer covering the skirt making it shine in the light. Anzu loved her dress, it reminded her of a fairy.

She clicked the heels of her Mary Jane's together, her patience beginning to wear thin. Anzu sat up straighter in her seat, trying to mirror her grandmother's position. Mrs. Kogo noticed her granddaughter's movement and smiled at the little girl. She pointed to the ceiling, her gaze resting on a Roman goddess, one who towered over many artisans and performance artists. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Anzu tilt her head back to follow her grandmother's gaze.

"Who is that lady?" Anzu asked voice filled with curiosity.

"That's the Roman goddess Minerva," her grandmother replied. "She's also named Athena by the Greeks. Why I'm showing her to you is because not only is she the goddess of War and Wisdom, but she's also the patron saint of creativity and artistry. She smiles down on tonight's dancers and perhaps one day she will smile down on you." Anzu studied the powerful looking woman. She was pure ivory, thin brows arching over sightless eyes. A warrior's helmet sitting over curls. A long chiton covered the body while a tightly grasped spear looked highly realistic. An owl sat on the goddess's shoulder. Anzu wondered how Minerva who looked so fierce could possibly be a goddess of anything but war. Yet she always trusted her grandmother and decided that she was right about Minerva as well.

The lights began to dim, darkening Minerva's majestic form. Anzu's eyes fell to the stage watching as a cone of soft white light shone on the red curtain, dust motes whirling toward the ground. The incessant chatter that Anzu easily tuned out as soon as she sat down faded into nothingness, the silence more deafening than the noise.

The music started out softly, slowly as a deep resonating note then gradually grew to fortissimo, more instruments joining in. The music swelled and curled around the dancers who flitted gracefully across the stage. Anzu was enraptured by the performance, her eyes glued to Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. When the whimsical notes of the Sugar Plum Fairy began, Anzu felt the magic rush through her veins and settled into her bones. She felt the magnetic pull towards the stage as if her soul was being called to join the performers. As Clara leaped, she leapt. When the ballerina did a pirouette, Anzu imagined her arms lifting, one leg supporting the other and spinning around. Before the show even reached intermission, Anzu knew that she would like to be Clara at least once in her life.

So far, I haven't achieved that dream, Anzu thought slightly ruefully as she came back to the present. But what did she expect? To land that role without auditioning, or practicing? As soon as she left the campus grounds, a director would come rushing over and demand that she be Clara in his upcoming performance of The Nutcracker? Survey says: Uh, no. At the time, saving the world had been higher up on her agenda.

She closed her eyes, listening to the music of the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy come back. Anzu imagined herself on that grand stage, dancing in the pink ballet costume meant for Clara. Strong hands gripped her waist as she was lifted into the air. As soon as her toe shoes touched the stage, she looked at her Nutcracker Prince losing herself in his deep, yet angular violet eyes, marveling at the unique spiky black, gold and crimson hairstyle he had.

Anzu snapped out of her musings, blushing deeply at the specific image her heart had created for her Nutcracker Prince.

Setting down her doll, Anzu smiled at her briefly before reaching into the box and pulling out a pair of small, well-worn ballet slippers. The once salmon color had become a dingy gray. The material worn out after constant practice and many recitals felt weaker than paper. These were Anzu's first pair of ballet slippers.

"Arms higher Anzu, point your feet." Anzu's grandmother was her first dance instructor. After watching the Nutcracker, Mrs. Kogo had been thrilled when she found out her granddaughter wished to take up ballet, revealing to the little girl that she herself had once been a prima ballerina. It was a Saturday afternoon, sunlight streaming into the studio. Anzu had always wondered what her grandmother did for a living and now she knew. Mrs. Kogo wore a black leotard with white ballet slippers, her hair tied in a tight bun. She was teaching Anzu the basic five positions. Right now Anzu was posed in the fifth position. She pushed the muscles in her arms, willing them to go higher. Mrs. Kogo came over and gently shifted her right heel from the side of her left foot to the toe.

"There we go," Mrs. Kogo said, satisfied with her granddaughter's efforts. "Now, second position?" Anzu immediately adjusted her form. "Good."

The adult Anzu let a tiny smile grace her face as she squeezed the tiny shoes briefly. She remembered her mother tease her, each time Anzu got a new pair of ballet slippers since her shoe size had barely changed pretending to worry that her daughter's feet had been bound. Absently, Anzu tapped the shoe of the Clara doll doubting her feet would be much bigger than the doll's had they indeed been bound.

When Anzu pulled out the next pair of slippers, the color wasn't as faded as her other pair. They were a soft rose color, like a maiden's blush. The ribbons had a small tear marring the satin here and there, but that was the most damage. These were toe shoes. Anzu's first and only pair. They had belonged to her grandmother. Anzu had been thrilled when her grandmother had said she was ready for toe shoes and gave her the very shoes she had danced in before she retired from performing on stage. It had been shortly before she had wed Anzu's grandfather truth be told. Anzu had been amazed at how well they had been preserved but then realized they must have been her grandmother's greatest treasure and therefore would have been well taken care of.

Anzu had been touched when her grandmother gave her the toe shoes and remembered the difficulties that came with first wearing the toe shoes.

"It feels like they're two sizes, too small," fifteen year old Anzu complained.

"I'm afraid that's the price a ballerina must pay when wearing toe shoes, my dear."

"Why are they specialized to cause so much pain?" Anzu grunted as she gingerly slid the second slipper onto her other foot. "Are they afraid that whoever plays Beauty will flee from the Beast too easily?"

Mrs. Kogo laughed. "No darling, they are made like so to give the ballerina the appearance of walking on air, light and graceful while on their toes."

"And they end up in pain because?"

"These shoes were made centuries ago," Mrs. Kogo explained. "There wasn't much to support the feet while up on the toe." She frowned. "Those are a rather newer pair, I suppose I didn't get to fully break them in. I'm sorry Anzu."

"It's okay, Grandma," Anzu replied while lacing the ribbons around her ankles. "Just explain to me how to break them in and I'll do so." Ever so carefully the teenager stood, precariously balancing on her toes. "Wow!" She gasped. "I feel so light! It's like I'm floating."

Gingerly, she lifted her right leg in the attempt to execute a pirouette. She toppled over after three seconds. "I guess I better perfect my balance first," Anzu said with a laugh.

"Toe shoes," Anzu said dryly. "A ballerina's best shoe and worst enemy all in one." Her smile faded as she clutched the toes shoes, hugging them to her chest. She looked down at the remaining items in the box. Various programs and tickets; a few newspaper clippings and photos rested in the cardboard box. Dried rose petals were scattered on top of the items, the merest touch sure to crumble a petal. Anzu's grandmother had been her strongest supporter, coming to every recital and always called the Mazaki residence to check up on Anzu after every practice and lesson.

Sunako Kogo could support her granddaughter no more.

Anzu remembered the day her grandmother died like it was yesterday.

The gang had returned to Japan from Duelist Kingdom, Pegasus's island off the shores of America's mainland. When Anzu stepped into her house, she wasn't too surprised to see the grief stricken look on her mother's face. She had just assumed that her parents had another argument. Yet when her eyes fell on the phone and how tightly her mother clutched it that Mrs. Mazaki's knuckles were turning white, Anzu knew something devastating had happened. She heard trudging footsteps and was shocked to see her father come into the living room, exhaustion clung to his being.

Anzu swallowed hard, trying to find her voice. As calmly as she could possibly muster, Anzu asked

"Mom, what happened?" Mrs. Mazaki avoided her daughter's gaze, tears welling in her brown depths. Anzu looked to her father who collapsed on the couch and sighed heavily. The dancer could feel her throat grow thick with her own tears that were waiting to be shed. "Tell me, what happened please!" She pleaded.

In a shaky voice Mrs. Mazaki said, "Th…the hospital c-called, Anzu. Moments before you arrived. A-Anzu…your grandmother is dead…" The last of her statement trailed off into a nearly inaudible whisper.

Anzu's eyes were wide as her jaw went slack with disbelief. There was no possible way her grandmother was dead. No possible way. Anzu's body began to shake as her heart began to pound and her breathing became slightly labored. She felt absolutely cold and then an uncomfortable flood of heat overcame her. She hardly noticed her legs give out from underneath her as she suddenly sat on the floor.

What was most peculiar to her however was the fact that her tears would not spill. Her grandmother had just died and her tears would not come. Anzu felt like she had become a doll, a pretty thing but with no personality or true light in her eyes. In the back of her mind she briefly wondered if Pegasus had suddenly regained reign over his Millennium Item and snatched away her soul, not that it would exactly spare her soul any grief.

At her grandmother's funeral, as friends and family of Sunako Kogo grieved, Anzu was like a statue. She stared blankly ahead, eyes not registering the wreathes of roses, lilies and orchids that were strewn over her grandmother's casket. The pastor's words fell on deaf ears. She moved rigidly, barely finding the strength in her arms to embrace family members. Anzu mentally thanked her mother at the funeral for pulling Anzu into a tight hug, blocking her from witnessing the burial and protecting her sanity.

Still, no tears were shed.

It was about two weeks later when Anzu came to life. Anzu had been staring at a poster of Anna

Pavlova when her friends came into her room. It had become a routine. Jonouchi and Honda would either sit at her desk or in her bean bag chair respectively while Yugi sat on the bed next to her. Yugi would wrap an arm around her and everyone silently comforted her. Anzu could've sworn that once or perhaps twice the ever mysterious presence residing within the Millennium Puzzle took over Yugi's body and duty to comfort her.


Everyone's head snapped toward Anzu. It had been a single word and spoken in a dull whisper, but it was a response out of their friend. They watched her intently. "Entrechat," she repeated. "Interweaving or braiding. A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind each other, usually jumping from the fifth position and landing back in the fifth position." Except for Anzu herself, no one quite grasped the definition of the dancing terminology, but they listened nonetheless.

"It was one of my grandmother's favorite dance moves. So was the sickle. A risky move if done repeatedly but she loved the thrill of a challenge and didn't care if her aging bones landed her in the emergency room. I always thought she couldn't be stopped." A pause. "She was stopped."

Silence hung in the room, it was Yugi who broke it by merely speaking his childhood friend's name. "Anzu."

"It was AIDS," Anzu said, speaking as if she was the one to give her grandmother's eulogy. "Grandma and Grandpa had gotten into a car accident about two and a half years ago. Grandpa had died of his injuries while Grandma lost much of her blood. She needed several transfusions. One of those transfusions carried the blood of an HIV patient. When the doctors realized the terrible mistake she was put on treatment right away." Anzu fell silent momentarily gathering her thoughts. "AIDS stands for Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Grandma was responding to the treatment extremely well, the doctors thought she could live for much longer. Pneumonia is a common thing for HIV patients to contract and die of. Apparently the hospital wasn't as sanitary as we thought it to be. Grandma contracted pneumonia days before the finals of Duelist Kingdom had begun. I guess she had no other choice other than to surrender that duel." Abruptly Anzu laughed bitterly.

"You know, for a while I was so angry. Angry at myself for not being by her side. Angry at Pegasus for even organizing the Duelist Kingdom tournament and luring Yugi there, wishing he had never bothered Mr. Motou in the first place. But I was the angriest at Grandma. She shouldn't have died so quickly. Grandma was the strongest person I knew, always brimming with confidence. She was stronger than either of my parents, had the wit that could've silenced Kaiba easily. There were times when I was pretty sure she could even take on that new 'friend' of yours, Yugi. It seemed like she was immortal, that nothing would ever defeat her. She would never die."

"I used to scream in my head, with all of my soul, yelling at her, calling her weak. She wasn't supposed to be weak, she was supposed to get better and stay with me." As she went on, Anzu's voice began to crack. "But she died. Oh, God, my grandmother died!" Anzu slumped over, her head colliding with the crook between Yugi's head and shoulder. For the first time since finding out about her grandmother's passing, Anzu cried.

My grandmother may have died, Anzu thought. But she's never truly gone. It took me a while to realize that.

She looked down at the toe shoes. There was a ceremony; a traditional ritual of sorts to put the shoes of AIDS victims together. Anzu couldn't remember where she heard this, perhaps it was at a walkathon for AIDS research, a way of commemorating their memory. It was a way of being able to let go of the hurt. Anzu had never been able to let go of her grandmother's toe shoes. They had been a gift to her from her grandmother. Perhaps she didn't need to let go of the shoes in a physical sense to alleviate the pain, perhaps she could be like her grandmother and dance it away.

Anzu slipped on the pale pink shoes and laced the ribbons around her ankles. There was no discomfort as she stood, only a feeling of weightlessness. She began with a jete and moved onto a pirouette. She moved entrechat and being Sunako Kogo's granddaughter, she performed the sickle a few times. The room around Anzu melted into a darkened theatre, a soft cone of light falling onto her dancing form. A pink costume cloaked her body that shimmered as she spun and leapt. To Anzu, a beautiful orchestra was playing and all of her internal darkness was slipping away.

Okay! Yay! First Yu-Gi-Oh! fic done! I hope this was decent. I know the ending's very rough, if you have any suggestions to make it better, please let me know. It's much appreciated. Two things: 1) Kogo is Anzu's mother's maiden name that's why the grandmother's last name isn't Mazaki. 2) The explaination for Entrechat comes from Wikipedia which I do not own.

Please read and review!