Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or situations involved in this fanfic, and am not making any profit whatsoever off of it.
Story Title: Question of Fluff
Characters: Juudai, Johan
Story Word Count: 3,148
Timeline: This takes place a couple of days after Juudai returns to Duel Academia in episode 156 and about a week before the transfer students will go home.
Notes: Comments and criticism gratefully accepted.
Summary: Shortly after Juudai returns to the Academy, while he's dueling Johan, a question he'd never thought about is raised.

Juudai had been back only about two days, but in some ways, everything felt as if he had never left. He knew that it wasn't true, of course. The warm, caring presence of Yubel in his heart, mind, and soul proved otherwise, as did his own reflection at times.

But in other ways, so much was the same. Classes were held. Meals were eaten. Duels were fought. To see those was perhaps one of the best indications that time had passed, since they were played for fun and education, not life and death.

Something else was going to change soon, he knew. Johan, Jim, and O'Brien were going to be leaving in another week or so. So much time had been eaten up in the other worlds. There were barely three months left in the whole school year. They would be graduating soon…

He tried not to think about it too much. Once Johan left, he would have plenty of time to dwell on a few thoughts he'd been considering recently. Until then, he wasn't going to waste what time they still had to hang out with each other.

Because of that desire to not waste time, he and Johan were preparing for a duel. It was hard for him to think of dueling for fun, even if he watched other people doing it. But if anyone could get him to do so, it was Johan Andersen, and that smile of his. It would call up an answering one on him, no matter how he was feeling. He was going to miss the young European.

"Hey! I'm not gone yet!" Johan yelled from a few feet away. "You don't get to look depressed until I'm not here!" He considered, then shook his head swiftly. "No, you can't look depressed then either."

Juudai had to laugh, then he drew his first hand of cards. It was a good hand, as was his first true draw, and he looked forward to seeing how this duel played out.

Everything he had he could play right now, and he grinned. He liked it when that happened. He could hardly wait to see what Johan did when he saw this: Flame Wingman being summoned on his first turn. I never thought about it, but he kind of looks like Yubel a little.

Of course. Yubel's voice whispered in the vaults of his mind. Your heart remembered me even if your mind didn't.

He smiled; regardless of the reason, Flame Wingman was still one of his favorites, and Johan would be hard pressed to beat him. None of the Gem Beasts, short of Rainbow Dragon, were a match for him, and the special effect just made him that much more impressive.

But that wasn't the only monster he could play right now. Since summoning Flame Wingman had been a Special Summons, he still had his Normal Summons to play with. "I summon N-Black Panther!" he declared, watching as the sleek cat leaped up between them. Whatever Johan had planned, it had better be good, because Juudai was going to be fighting with all of his strength on his next turn.

"Turn end," he declared once he'd set a couple of face-downs. His hand was utterly empty, and now it was time to see what Johan had in store for him. He could hardly wait.

Emerald Turtle in defense mode and two face-downs of his own was Johan's opening move. Juudai might have thought that the Gem Beast duelist just hadn't received a good opening hand, if he didn't know how Johan dueled, and if he hadn't felt Yubel's amusement. She knew how Johan dueled even better than he did, for obvious reasons.

He asked for no advice, of course. This was a fun duel between the two of them. Yubel always supported him, but when the fate of the world wasn't at stake, she kept mostly to the sidelines. Or the back of his mind, to be more accurate.

It wasn't that hard to read Johan's play, though. He was going to try to summon Rainbow Dragon. Juudai looked forward to it; he'd never truly faced the Ultimate Gem God before, only the Dark version that Yubel had made of it once. How would he react when the true Gem God was staring him down instead of being on his side?

He drew his card on his turn and nodded a bit. "I play Spacia Gift! For every Neo-Spacian on my field, I can draw one card." That was just the one for now, but one card had made the difference before. He drew and got Edgeman; nothing he could use at the moment, since Flame Wingman's effect was more useful, but maybe he would be able to play it later. Now it was time to strike. If Johan was setting a trap, he was going to destroy it somehow. "Flame Wingman, attack Emerald Turtle!"

"Not so fast, Juudai!" Johan declared quickly, gesturing towards his face-downs. "Traps, activate! First, I activate Gem Split! I can send one Gem Beast from my deck to the cemetery, and once I've done that, your monster's attack strength is cut in half!" His grin was wicked as the second trap flipped itself face up. "And then I play G-Force! Flame Wingman will attack a Gem Beast in my hand, and I choose Amethyst Cat!"

Juudai stepped back briefly as the Gem Beast appeared on the field and with one mighty swipe, cut Flame Wingman down the middle. His life points dipped down by a hundred and fifty and he grinned. That had been a good move. This was why he loved to duel Johan. Johan made him think. It wasn't everyone who could do that.

"I don't normally say this on my turn," he laughed a bit, "but, activate Hero Signal! Since you destroyed Flame Wingman, I can summon a level four or lower monster from my deck." If he'd had something low enough in his hand, he could've summoned that, but Edgeman was too high level. He rummaged through his deck and picked out Wildman. That would do for now.

There was no need to try to attack with Black Panther; his attack couldn't get through Emerald Turtle's defense. So, he ended his turn and waited to see what Johan's next move would be. This was already bidding fair to be one of his favorite duels.

"Come out, Topaz Tiger!" Johan declared once he'd drawn his card. In response, the topaz gem appeared on the field and the mighty tiger burst into existence. "Attack Wildman!"

A mighty roar echoed, partially from the hologram, and partially Topaz Tiger's own mighty spirit as he leaped towards Juudai's monster. But Juudai was as ready for this attack as Johan had been for him.

"I activate Hero Barrier! Since I've got Wildman on the field, I can negate an attack from your monster!" And that was the end of Johan's turn. Emerald Turtle was too much of a wall monster for Johan to want to turn him to attack, and Juudai knew it quite well.

On his turn, he drew Necro Guardna; that wasn't so bad, though it could definitely be of more use in the graveyard. And Johan knew it. And Juudai knew that he knew it. So if he played it, Johan would probably avoid attacking it, just to keep it on the field. It's attack strength was too low to make it an effective fighter either. So for the moment, he kept it in his hand.

I can't get past Emerald Turtle's defense, either. Damn. He was smiling, though. He wanted to win, but if Johan beat him, then that was the way it had to be for now. "Turn end." There was really nothing else he could do. He didn't even want to bother turning his monsters to defense; Johan would probably keep Emerald in defense himself and at most he could only play one more monster on his turn. It would be worth the loss of some life points.

He could also feel Yubel's amusement once more. Something was going on in her mind, and he wondered what it was. He'd have to ask after the duel was over.

You'll see. That was all she would say right at the moment anyway.

"Amethyst Cat, come out!" Johan summoned the Gem Beast from his hand, then grinned over at Juudai. For some reason, Juudai felt a surge of enjoyment at the sight of that grin. Whatever was coming, it was going to be great. "I turn Emerald Turtle to attack position," Johan said, suiting action to words, "And then I equip Emerald with Gem Release, raising his attack strength by eight hundred points!"

Juudai put the scheme together in a heart beat. This was going to hurt. A lot.

"Amethyst Cat, attack Black Panther!" With a swift strike of her claws, it was done, and the Neo-Spacian vanished to the graveyard. Juudai flinched as his life points dropped by two hundred. That was the start of it. "Topaz Tiger, take out Wildman!"

This time, Juudai had nothing that could stop it. If he'd been able to get Necro Guardna into the graveyard, then he could have. But now, he had to eat five hundred points of damage, and he faced the last monster with nothing to guard his life points. "Emerald Turtle! Attack Juudai directly!"

Spinning and whirling, the turtle flung himself towards Juudai, and he found himself flat on his rear, bouncing a couple of feet back before he managed to stop himself. He shook his head and grinned as he leaped to his feet. "That was awesome, Johan!" How had he lived without someone to do this to him on a regular basis?

"Thanks," the European said with a grin. "Now, since Emerald Turtle attacked, I can use his special effect to turn him back to defense position. Turn end."

Juudai grinned, rolled his shoulders some, feeling a bruise forming, and then drew. He wasn't sure if this was what he needed, but he was willing to try. "I play Graceful Charity!" He drew three cards and looked them over, and was hard-pressed to not jump in glee. It wasn't perfect, not by a long shot, but it was going to be fun to play this out. He quickly discarded two of his cards, and set to work with the rest. "I summon Dandelion in defense mode, and set one card face down." This would require split second timing, but he was good at that. "Turn end."

Now, the question remained, had he read Johan correctly? Would Johan try what he thought he would? Every bit of him tingled in anticipation.

Johan drew, then looked over at Juudai, scheming in his aquamarine-shaded eyes. Juudai just waited, patient as he could be, to see what the Gem Beast duelist did next. He didn't want to give anything away. He could almost see the thoughts ticking away in his opponent's mind, though.

"Amethyst Cat, attack Dandelion!" Johan finally said, and the slender feline obeyed without hesitation, her claws tearing into the small creature. As the dust of battle faded, his two Fluff Tokens hovered there defensively. Johan would have to attack one of them if he chose to continue. "Topaz Tiger, attack that Fluff Token!"

And that was what Juudai was waiting for. "Trap, activate! Negate Attack! Sorry, Johan, but I need these guys too much right now!"

"Heh. All right. Turn end." Johan's grin was raw, unfiltered cockiness. Juudai could hardly wait to see how this went. If he got something like what he was hoping for…

He was about to draw, when Johan tilted his head to the side a bit, staring at the Fluff Tokens. "Juudai…I hadn't ever really noticed it before, but…did you ever notice that the Fluff Tokens kind of look as if they're thinking 'if we had arms and legs, we would so kick your ass'?"

Juudai blinked a few times, then tilted his head around so he could get a better look at the two puffy Tokens. Now that someone mentioned it… "I think you're right. They kind of do look like that." He looked again. Yes, they did have that kind of expression, if you tilted your head just the right way.

"That's because we would!" Juudai didn't jump. It would take a lot more than his monsters talking before Haou, the Herald of Gentle Darkness, jumped. But he had to admit that he hadn't quite been expecting that, of all things. After all, despite knowing that his monsters all had spirits which were capable of communicating, the thought that the Tokens did had never crossed his mind. He felt perhaps that it should have, now that he'd heard them.

"Hey," he said, after a silent moment or two. "Nice to meet you guys?" What else could he really say? He was also quite certain that Yubel was laughing at him.

Both of them turned slightly to look at him. Juudai was not entirely certain of how he felt about that look, either. "That's what we want to know."

Juudai blinked a few more times. That didn't exactly make sense after all. "Huh? What do you mean?"

"Why don't we have arms and legs?" The one on the right asked. "We could use them."

The one on the left nodded, though Juudai had to admit to himself that he wasn't certain if that was caused by the wind or not. Where did Solid Vision leave off and Duel Spirits begin? Misawa himself probably didn't even know that.

"I…uh…well…" Answering that question was more than a little difficult. He'd only been a kid when he's designed the Neo-Spacian, including Dandelion and the Fluff Tokens. He thought he remembered how it had went. He had been playing all that morning in the family garden, which ad been filled with dandelions, some of which had gone to seed. So he'd blown the fluff away from a few, and decided to make a Dandelion and tokens to add to his submissions for the contest.

"Well?" both of them intoned that had him, and Juudai jerked, pulled out of the minor reverie.

"Oh. I guess I just didn't think about it at the time. I mean, no offense, but you're Fluff Tokens. What would you do with arms or legs?"

Both of them puffed up a little at him. "Fight! We can fight for you, Juudai!"

Juudai would not have been surprised if he had looked over and seen Johan laughing at him. He was so sure, in fact, that he shot a look across the field just to check. The other duelist stood waiting, a very amused grin on his lips, but nothing more. Juudai was quite glad that he'd ditched Kabayama's class for this duel. No one else was likely to show up who would be able to see spirits. At least he would be able to persuade Johan to keep his mouth shut. Maybe some pocky would do it. Johan did have a sweet tooth.

"Well…thanks, but…" He tried hard to come up with a polite way to say that it wasn't necessary. It wasn't going to be easy, not with those looks of theirs just looking at him. Then it hit him. Exactly what to tell them. The perfect ploy, and the perfect truth at the same time. He could feel Yubel's approval, and amusement, as well. "Guys. Fluffs. You do fight for me, just not like you think you want."

Juudai smiled at them with all of his heart and all of his sincerity. They were listening. That was good. How they were doing that without ears was another question, and one he decided was better left unanswered. "You fight for me, because with you two, I can summon someone very powerful, like Edgeman or Neos. I couldn't do it without you a lot of the time. You're like a secret weapon. Not everyone remembers what you're good for."

His grin widened a bit. "I could even use your help to summon Yubel. You're one of the most useful parts of my deck. I count on you. I'm counting on you right now, as a matter of fact!"

The Tokens glanced at each other, then held themselves just a bit higher and with a bit more pride. "Then we'll do what we can for you, Juudai!"

"If that's what you've got, bring it on!" Johan declared with a challenging grin. Juudai answered with one of his own as he drew his card for the turn at last.

"I meant what I said! I tribute my two Fluff Tokens to summon E-Hero Neos!" As he spoke, the two tokens dissolved, and the mighty warrior of justice appeared in their stead. Juudai thought that they both looked more than a little satisfied. He wondered if they were ever going to speak to him again. Having it happen once had been startling enough.

But he wouldn't think about that now. He had to get busy and finish this duel. Johan still looked a bit smug. But that was going to end. "Now, I play Miracle Fusion!" He displayed the last card that he'd drawn. "I remove Edgeman and Wildman in my graveyard and Special Summon Wild Jaggyman!" The dark-skinned warrior appeared, ready to fight, and Juudai was ready to send him. "Wild Jaggyman can attack every monster on your side of the field once! So let's go!"

As Juudai declared the attack, Johan simply stood there, his eyes full of shock, and a certain amount of amusement, before the first strike hit, sending his life points from the full four thousand to three thousand four hundred, and sending Topaz Tiger to the spell and trap zone. Amethyst Cat joined him there a second later, and Johan's life points were now an even two thousand. A third strike took out Emerald Turtle, though as he was in defense mode, nothing happened to Johan's life.

With all of his monsters gone, Johan stood defenseless. He only looked at Neos, and Juudai nodded briefly. "Neos! Finish it!"

The strike knocked Johan back hard, and as his life points wound down to zero, Juudai thought that he might have heard a pair of soft voices cheering from somewhere. He wasn't sure where from, since Tokens didn't go to the graveyard, but somewhere all the same.

He started to deactivate his Duel Disk, when Neos spoke up. It appeared that the surprises weren't over with for the day. "Johan." The warrior extended one hand towards the other duelist, with a small piece of paper in it. Juudai got enough of a look to see that it had been signed E-Hero Neos, in flowing script. Not only that, but right underneath it, were two little dots that looked a great deal like dandelion fluff, blowing in the wind.

The End