Summary: The Shadows are moving. Lives are at stake, if only they knew it. She's their last hope, if only she believed it herself. She's chaos, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a clumsy, dangerous, yet endearing package; she's Alice, or Aeris, or whichever mask she's supposed to wear that day. Slowburn SetoXOC; slight YugiXTéa, JoeyXMai, TristanXHisHand, BakuraXFangirls, and DukeXAnythingWithaPulse. ***Rated T for mild swearing, violence, sexual themes, and death. Beware the fluff! Still being revised, 5+ years and counting!

[A/N: This was my very first fanfiction. It's dedicated to Luna and Jenna, without whom I would have never even bothered starting. I love you guys!

[In this story the duel between Yugi and Atem at the end of series never took place. Atem never left, but remained with Yugi for his own reasons. It has been a full year since the Grand Championship (season 5)]

***Disclaimer*** (I do not own "Yu-Gi-Oh!" or any of the character, though that would be awesome.)

Chapter 1 – Dueling Monkeys

Outside Domino High there is an everlasting crowd of duelists whose only goal is to gawk at the place where several famous students attend. Some of the time these gawking fanatics have the courage to challenge the students to duels, though it never ends well for them. The crowd around the school was rather thin that day, and many began to hope that the hype was finally dying down.

It was early morning and the first bell had just rung announcing the start of class. All the students were seated and prepared for whatever the curriculum for the day was…well almost all.

"Yug, wait up!" Joey exclaimed as he and Yugi rounded the next corner. They were still several blocks away from school.

"Joey! We're…late…your curiosity…don't want to…be even more…late," Yugi managed to get out after much gasping.

"Not my…fault…card selection…too good," Joey grunted as he managed to close the gap between himself and Yugi. That morning Joey had convinced his best friend to go with him to a shop that was said to be stocked full of rare cards. In all the excitement Joey, and to be fair Yugi as well, completely lost track of time. Now they were sprinting for school. Though they may be first class duelist, they were second class students in their teacher's eyes.

"Almost there!" Yugi groaned as at last the school was visible.

"Not many…fans today…ey' Yug?" the blond commented as they approached the gates at a run.

"Just keep running…Joey."

They made it through the small gathering of gawkers and were at least within the threshold of the school. They could hear the people behind them comment as they run.

"Must be late," a man with light blue dreads stated.

"Wow, they were Cu-tee~!" said a high pitched female voice.

"I think that was Yugi Muto and Joey Wheeler," another commented, sounding bored as he ran a hand through his long red hair.

"No, couldn't be. Duelists like them wouldn't be late to school," muttered a bald man with a black goatee.

"Well maybe we sho..."

Joey and Yugi were at the school steps by then and out of hearing range. They burst through the front doors and began to run down the halls. They didn't stop until they were at the door to their classroom, then as if on cue both bent over to catch their breath. Joey straightened up with a side-ways grin on his face.

"How's my hair?" he asked.

Yugi shook his head and smiled. "Joey, we're about to get torn apart by Mr. Hayashi and all you're worried about is your hair?"

"Gotta look good for my fans! 'Sides, long as my hair looks better than yours, I'm happy," the blonde mocked as he rubbed Yugi's multicolored head with his fist.

"Cut it out Joey, get serious," Yugi demanded as he smacked Joey's hand away.

Instead of continuing with his fun Joey asked, "Got an excuse?"

"Nope. You?"

Joey looked down at his shoes, "Working on it. You go in first, I need as much time as I can get. The secon' Mister Hayashi sees me, he'll jump on me like a fangirl on Moneybags." Yugi stifled a laugh and opened the door to their class with his best friend following after him.

"…you to remember that when we are speaking of…ahhh Mister Muto and Mister Wheeler, so glad you could join us. What elaborate story have you concocted this time, Wheeler? I do so hope it's better than your last. What was it again; gang of cloaked men trying to steal some children's cards?" Mr. Hayashi rudely inquired.

Yugi had already taken his seat in the far left of the classroom by the windows, all the while trying to avoid Téa's questioning gaze. Joey however was still in the front of the class, with his hands behind his head, walking leisurely to his desk.

"You know Mista H. that actually did happen. But ya see this mornin', this crazy fangirl got a hold of Yugi's–"

But the class never found out what harebrained story Joey came up with because at the moment Mr. Hayashi slammed a yard stick on the laminate table in front of him.

"Enough of your poor excuses, Wheeler! Take your seat, unless you'd like to spend the remainder of your day in a very quiet room by yourself." Mr. Hayashi replaced the ruler on the chalkboard rail, seeming to regret his loss of composure.

"Sure thing, Mista," Joey sighed as he took his seat next to Yugi.

The class found the whole situation humorous, but typical. That sort of thing happened often at Domino High. The only person who didn't seem remotely amused was Seto Kaiba, naturally.

The billionaire sneered, "You should have tried your dueling monkey excuse, Wheeler. That was the one were you dueled a monkey and lost, right?"

"Can it, Kaiba," Joey said as he turned around to glare at the brunette sitting a few seats back, "one more word and I'll–"

"Gentlemen, please!" Mr. Hayashi yelled, demanding their attention. "Mister Wheeler if you do not retake your seat there will be consequences."

"Yes sir," Joey mumbled before he shot Kaiba one last hateful glance.

When Mr. Hayashi was sure there were no more interruptions he turned back to the board and said, "Now, where was I? Ah yes, when you are dealing with vectors…"

Whenever Mr. Hayashi taught his lessons he wouldn't stop unless a fight literally broke out. He did not tolerate interruptions; he also frowned upon questions which he felt were meant to be asked at the very end of the lecture. You could get away with anything in class; sleeping, talking, even a duel if you were quiet enough.

"Ten minutes late. You'da thought we missed more than an hour by the way he reacted," Joey said, smiling as he turned towards Yugi. Yugi opened his mouth to respond, but Téa beat him to it.

"You're 'ten minutes late' everyday, Joey. You have to know how much it irritates him, how much it irritates all of us," the dancer hissed under her breath.

"Oh come off it Téa, ya know it's pretty funny," Joey said as he gave her an apologetic smile.

Téa shook her head, but there was the slightest upward pull on her lips as she rolled her eyes.

"My favorite is the one with the parachuting ninjas from Canada," Tristan declared as he gave Joey a light punch on the shoulder. They all began to laugh quietly, remembering Joey's first excuse to his and Yugi's tardiness.

They were a circle of friends that were constantly together. Sometimes Bakura and Duke joined them, as Bakura sat behind Téa and Duke next to him, but they never had anyone new. They had been that way for what seemed like forever, and it was hard to imagine a time when it had been different.

The hour continued monotonously and when it was up the bell rang for their first free study period of the day. The teachers called it that because "free time" sounded too fun, but that's what it was. They were given thirty minutes after every hour and a half of lessons. The headmaster felt it improved testing scores and stimulated their minds, and the students weren't about to disagree.

"That time already?" Mr. Hayashi asked while looking at his watch. "Well we'll pick up where we left off after your study break. As always save your questions for the end of the period."

Finally. Now I can get something productive done, Kaiba thought as he took out all his notes on duel disk technology and design. Recently he'd been working on a new system that diluted the impact of a Duel Monster's attack. He'd never quite been able to figure out why the attacks of holograms physically affected the duelists even with the safeties in place. Though he had first written it accident off as a meaningful part of the system, now that he had free time he was determined to discover why. Sometimes, Yugi would look at him and feel sorry that he had to sit through lessons when he obviously had the knowledge already; Kaiba was the CEO of a multibillion dollar corporation after all.

Kaiba scrutinized his work as he always did during their free periods, while the rest of the class goofed around.

"Come on Yugi, duel me. I wanna try out some of 'dose cards we got," Joey said as he took the seat in front of Yugi a girl had just vacated.

"Alright Joey, I could use a good match," Yugi said as he reached into the spot on his belt where he kept his deck. He hadn't used his God cards in a duel in a very long time; it had become almost unnecessary. Atem was suddenly more present in his head than he had been during the lecture.

"Do you want me to take this duel, Yugi?" his yami asked as he appeared beside him.

No I think I can handle this one, besides Joey gets mad when you help, Yugi told Atem as the pharaoh leaned against Joey's desk.

As if he were reading Yugi's mind the blonde declared, "And no helpin' him Atem, ya know it's like cheatin'."

The argument began there, each person choosing whether Atem's help was considered cheating or not.

Suddenly Joey asked without cause, "Ey' Yugi, you see that girl we passed on 'da way here?" Tristan's head snapped up and Yugi looked puzzled.

"What girl?" Tristan asked.

"No, I didn't," Yugi answered honestly as he shuffled his deck.

"Yug, you're tellin' me ya didn't see that fine lookin' girl in front of the school? Do ya even notice girls?" Joey asked seriously as Tristan attempted not to laugh. Téa was ignoring them for the moment, trying to figure out what she had done wrong in her notes.

"I notice girls," Yugi mumbled as he shyly peeked at Téa and then quickly resumed shuffling his deck when she looked up.

"Riiight. The only person who notices girls less than ya is Richboy," Joey said as one of his cards fell from his hand to the floor and he bent over to pick it up.

I notice girls, Kaiba thought critically as he examined the pencil he'd just accidentally broken, but none of the girls here particularly appeal to me. Sighing, the billionaire got up to sharpen it at the same moment the girl in front of him stood. He collided with her back.

She had short, sandy blonde hair and before turning around she bit out, "Watch where you're going when…" She looked up to find Kaiba glaring down at her. Her face paled and she began to stammer before bowing low, " apologizes, Mister Kaiba."

"Hngh," Kaiba grunted in response. He walked past the girl whose face flushed a dull pink as she retook her seat, forgetting why she had stood up in the first place.

That's how every girl reacts, Kaiba thought. They're rude until they see it's me and then suddenly they're like Mary Freaking Poppins. He registered the look on the girl's face as a mixture of embarrassment and was used to that kind of reaction, so he wasn't surprised that she was no exception. Girls notice me more than I notice them.

The rest of the day passed smoothly and then Yugi and his friends were back in front of their favorite game shop. They were discussing plans for Friday night, which was only two days away, when a glossy white limo sped by at top speed.

"Of all the nerve," Joey said, only beginning on his rant. "That Kaiba's going to get what's coming when I getta hold of 'em."

Tristan laughed as Téa said, "Joey, we all know how much you want to take on Kaiba, you don't have to continuously–" But Yugi had stopped listening because Atem was demanding his full attention.

"We know all of Kaiba's limousines, and that was not one of them."

I know. What do you think it means? No one else in Domino has enough money to rent a limo, let alone own one, Yugi replied with a worried frown.

"I can only speculate. But do you feel that? The wind has changed directions." Yugi and Atem stared after the limo as it disappeared from sight.

[A/N: Well that was chapter one, I hope you liked it. I like to establish a basis for a normal day before I bring in too much new stuff. That way you know how much the story is impacted.]