Yu-Gi-Oh!

Pictures of You, Pictures of Me

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters aren't mine and the story is! I participated in the Gulf Aid Now community on Livejournal, where people auction off their talents and the money goes to charities trying to help things with the oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico. Arizonaicerose was my winning bidder and asked for a Duke/Serenity fic. I hope this will be enjoyable for her; it ended up being a "day in the life" character study instead of anything really plot-driven. There is also some mild Seto/Téa. The "David" character Duke mentions is his store manager briefly seen in episode #46.

"Is it really necessary to go to this thing?"

Duke stood in front of the front room mirror, brushing his raven hair out of his eyes for what seemed the umpteenth time. He was wearing it down tonight, instead of in the ever-present ponytail, but it was being stubborn and not falling the way it was supposed to.

Then again, it could just be the stress and a way to stall going.

His longtime girlfriend gave him a reproachful look, which she knew he could clearly see in the mirror. "Now Duke, you know I already promised we'd be there," she told him, her hands akimbo. "Everyone will be waiting for us! They'll be so disappointed if we don't come."

Duke sighed. "Yeah, I guess." He turned to face her, giving up on his hair. She really did look beautiful in the lavender dress. Her auburn hair flowing freely down her back only accentuated it.

A playful smirk came over his features. "I know they'll be disappointed if you don't show up, anyway," he said. "Especially like that."

A blush crept over her cheeks. "They wouldn't even know," she said. "I've never worn this dress before."

"Then I'd be disappointed," Duke said smoothly. "After all, I want everyone to see what a lucky guy I am." He flipped his hair over the shoulder of the dark blue suit jacket he was wearing with a black sleeveless shirt and pants. "I can stand a couple of hours at Kaiba's dinner for that." He traced a pattern on her cheek. "Just as long as I get you to myself afterwards."

She gave him a look. "We'll talk about it later," she said. Linking her arm through his she said, "We're going to be late."

"Yeah, I know." Duke gave his reflection one last look. He hated that he could not wrestle his hair into submission, yet he was determined to keep it down. Maybe he was hoping it, rather than the ponytail, would give off an air of maturity or make him look more like the businessman he was.

Or maybe he just wanted to look the way he felt—distant. Wearing it loose seemed to accomplish that.

"Duke. . . ." Serenity looked up at her beau, recognizing the serious look that went through his eyes. "It's not just me they want to see."

He started and glanced down at her. The look in her eyes was both sad and firm.

"Tristan's never forgiven me for you choosing me, you know," Duke remarked as they went to the front door. "It was your decision, but he's convinced you're just being taken in by my charms."

"He's been getting used to the idea," Serenity said. She pulled her wrap around her shoulders as Duke opened the door. "And haven't you been getting along better with Joey lately?"

"We've improved to the point where he doesn't look like he wants to strangle me every time he sees us together," Duke said. They stepped into the apartment building's corridor and he pulled the door shut behind them.

"See? That's something," Serenity said. "And you haven't had any problems with Yugi or Téa."

"That's true," Duke conceded.

"So there's nothing to worry about," Serenity said. "We'll just go visit and have a nice dinner with our friends."

Duke nodded, glancing over as his neighbor Pete Coppermine came up the stairs with that day's mail. The card professor shuffled through the envelopes before looking their way and giving them a congenial wave. Serenity gave a cheery wave in return as they crossed to the elevator. Pete was nice to her, and Duke said he was nice enough in general, but his obsession with mutants and horror movies was a little weird.

But oh well, Serenity told him, everyone had their own strangeness, after all. Some people likely thought Duke's dice obsession was weird. Not her of course, she assured when Duke asked, but some people.

xxxx

Dinners were most certainly not something that Seto Kaiba was prone to hosting, unless it was necessary for a business venture. This one was the product of both Mokuba's and Téa's envisioning. Everyone had been so busy lately, and there had not been any crazies attempting to take over the world, so Téa had decided she wanted to organize an event to get everyone together for a little fun.

When Duke and Serenity arrived at the Kaiba Corporation-owned hotel and found the banquet room, most of the others were already there. Duke took a quick glance around the spacious area.

Joey and Tristan were hanging out by the punch bowl, not seeming to have noticed them yet. Hopefully, Duke thought, they had not goofed off by spiking the punch. When Serenity was coming, however, he doubted that they would.

Yugi was talking and laughing with Téa at the long table in the center. Téa was arranging the silverware by each place while Yugi helped with the dishes. They seemed to be having a good time.

Bakura was trying to inconspicuously help himself to a few chips. Duke smirked to himself. Everyone thought Joey was the heavy eater, but if it came down to a contest between them, Bakura could easily out-eat even him.

Serenity smiled up at Duke. "Ready to join them?" she said.

Duke nodded. "Sure." He smiled too. It was time to put on his smooth, cool persona, the main side of him that Yugi and the others had seen. And it was certainly the image he wanted to project tonight.

With that they strolled into the room, whereupon Serenity immediately ran over to the table. "Joey! Tristan!" she greeted with a bright smile.

"Serenity!" Joey grinned. "You made it!"

Tristan perked up, gazing at her in adoration. "Serenity, you . . . you look amazing," he declared, stammering over his words. "Is that a new dress?"

She spun around, letting the skirt flare out. "You like it?"

"Do I!" Tristan exclaimed, ignoring the way Joey was glaring warningly at him.

By now the others were hurrying over as well. "I'm so glad you two got here!" Téa exclaimed. "I think we're almost ready to start." She looked at the clock, biting her lip.

"Is anyone else coming?" Duke asked, noticing her gaze.

"I invited some of the others," Téa told him. "They might not be able to make it." From the way she said it, he gathered that one of them was Mai. But he did not push it.

Particularly since Joey and Tristan were now fully noticing him.

"How's it going?" Tristan asked. It was clear that he was trying to be civil, but his tone still came out somewhat cool. Duke decided to ignore it.

"Fine," he smirked. "Business is going well, as always. I was just telling David that maybe it's time to consider opening a second store, like we've talked about sometimes."

David was also a touchy subject, Duke remembered after the words left his mouth. Tristan had felt jealous of Duke's store manager in the past, believing that Duke lived two separate lives and was closer to David than to Yugi and the others. And it actually was true; Duke was much more inclined to open up to David than most of those in Yugi's gang.

"You didn't bring him with you, did you?" Joey asked with a blink. He peered around Duke, as if looking for the snarky college student.

"No," Duke said. "He's got a lot to take care of at the store. And he has a big test coming up to study for." Not to mention he really doesn't know you guys very well, he added silently, certain it was on Tristan's mind too.

Tristan nodded. "Right."

Sensing the need for a new subject, Serenity spoke up. "Is Mr. Kaiba coming?" she asked, looking to Téa.

The brunette sighed, her hands going to her hips. "He's supposed to come for at least some of it," she said. "Mokuba will definitely be here."

Joey shook his head. "Man, I still can't believe you and Kaiba are going out," he said. "How does something like that happen?"

"Now, Joey, we're here to have a good time. Remember?" Bakura said lightly.

"What?" Joey said with a shrug. "It's just a question!"

"He agreed to let us have this get-together here, you know," Téa said.

She looked more than a little frustrated by Joey's inquiry. Duke could understand; he had ended up closer to Téa than most of the others, and she had ended up confessing her conflicted feelings over the situation to him some time back. How on earth could she be falling in love with Seto Kaiba, someone she had completely and thoroughly despised? She had tried to deny it for months, wanting to believe it was just a by-product of having become involved with him during so many adventures and discovering that he actually did have a heart. But it had been far more than just a simple infatuation.

What surprised Duke far more was that it was not just one-sided. And, he supposed, that was probably a large part of Joey's consternation as well. Neither of them had really thought Seto was capable of falling in love.

Vaguely he was aware of Joey saying he was sorry, but by now his thoughts had turned to his own situation.

Sometimes it surprised him that he had fallen in love. He had flirted with girls left and right, though that had mainly been a façade and a ploy for attention. In reality he had built so many walls around his heart that he had not really thought he would let anyone enter. But Serenity had captured his interest and freed his heart with her pure innocence and intelligence. She was different from everyone he had dated before.

"Well, this looks cozy. Is there room for one more to squeeze in? Or maybe two?"

Duke started back to the present as everyone whirled to the doorway. Mai was there, smiling at the scene. At her side, Mokuba ran ahead into the room.

"Hey, guys!" he called. "Seto's coming. He said he just needed to finish one thing first."

Joey barely heard; he was exclaiming of Mai was she nuts? Of course there was room! Tristan looked to them, then back to Téa as she sighed in exasperation.

"He always has 'one thing' to finish first," she said with a facepalm.

Mokuba smirked. "This time he'll really be coming," he said. "I told Roland to make sure to get him out of the office in fifteen minutes so we can all eat together. And it has to be then or the food will start getting cold."

"That'll be interesting," Duke said.

He glanced over as Yugi and Bakura went to greet Mai. Serenity was not far behind, excitement in her eyes. She highly admired the stylish woman and was thrilled that she had made it here. Duke sauntered over as well, a hand in his pocket.

"Hello," he said.

She turned to him in a bit of surprise. "Duke," she said. She tossed her hair, giving him a searching look. "Is it true what I've heard, that you and Serenity are going steady?"

"That's right," he said.

Mai looked to Serenity. "I hope he's treating you well, Serenity," she said in a stage whisper. "But then again, I'm sure he is. Duke Devlin always has been a charmer."

Serenity giggled. "He is that," she said. "And fun to be with, too. He can even cook!"

"Really!" Mai said. "Now, that is a surprise, considering some guys I know." She shot a look at Joey.

"Heeey, I can cook!" he protested.

"Melting Snickers bars in a frying pan doesn't count," Mai said.

"I can do more than that!" Joey said with a mock shake of his fist.

"Not by much," Duke said. "I remember some of the weird things you wanted to make in the Hawkins' trailer. I was the one who ended up doing most of the cooking."

"A good thing too," Mai said. "I'm sure no one wanted to get food poisoning, especially out in the middle of nowhere. By the way," she blinked, "what were you doing in the Hawkins' trailer anyway?"

Joey shifted, suddenly realizing how potentially uncomfortable this subject could be. He shot Duke a dark look for bringing it up.

"Oh nothin'," he said with an airy wave. "We were just cruisin' around, seein' the sights. . . ."

Mai frowned in suspicion, clearly disbelieving. But she decided not to push it. Perhaps deep down she suspected the answer—that it had been during their fight against Dartz's cult.

"Hey, Bakura, aren't you going to spoil your dinner?"

Everyone turned to look as Yugi spoke. Bakura had finally been caught with his hand in a bag of chips. The British boy turned red, rubbing his neck with his other hand.

"Oh, not really," he said. "My family has quite an appetite."

"Yeah, dating all the way back to the ancient days," Joey said. "Have you seen how much the thief packs away?"

"I confess, I even out-ate him once," Bakura said with an embarrassed chuckle.

"You have gotta be kidding," Tristan said, looking him up and down. "How the heck do you stay so thin?"

Amused, Mai placed a hand on her hip. "Obviously Bakura has the best metabolism of anyone I've seen," she said. "You should let us in on your secret, hon."

Bakura looked sheepish and awkward. "Well, I believe it's simply a family trait," he said.

"I could do with genetics like that," Mai smirked.

Mokuba chose that moment to run past with a happy exclamation of "Big brother!" As everyone turned to look, Seto entered the room, briefcase in hand. He gave Mokuba a slight smile in greeting before surveying the room with a deadpan expression.

"You're early," Téa said in surprise. "Did you finish what you were working on?"

"I did," Seto said. "I wanted to get done before Roland came to get me." He gave Mokuba a Look as he said this. The younger boy looked back in all innocence.

"That's great, Seto; now we can all eat!" he said.

"Yes!" Joey exclaimed, punching the air with a fist. "Food! Come to Joey!"

Duke just shook his head as he watched. They may have not had much chance to all gather together lately, but things seemed the same as ever when they did. Which was nice in this case, he supposed.

And yet, other things had certainly changed—Seto and Téa being a prime example. And Duke and Serenity. Luckily, Serenity was right about things mostly cooling down between Duke and Joey. And hopefully things would not always be so awkward between Duke and Tristan, either.

Duke drew an arm around Serenity's shoulders. "Shall we?" he said.

Serenity smiled. "I could definitely do with a good dinner now," she said.

Duke's thoughts fell to other topics as they crossed to the buffet table. They were both so young. At their age, relationships came and went. If everyone got together like this a year from now, would he and Serenity still be dating? Maybe Serenity would have decided to date Tristan instead. Or maybe a new guy would have come on the scene.

It really did not matter, he supposed. Just as long as he did not allow himself to get too comfortable. In his experience, nothing lasted forever.

But who knew, maybe he and Serenity would prove it could be done, just like some other couples before them. Duke had never witnessed it personally, yet he knew that there were people who stayed happily together for the rest of their lives. Part of him envied that and wondered how it was accomplished. For all of his flirting and smooth lines, he knew that he did not know much about real love. And Serenity, sheltered as she had been for most of her life, was not that familiar with it, either.

Yet they seemed to work well together despite their differences. Serenity had needed to learn more about spreading her wings and not being afraid to try new things. Duke had encouraged instead of discouraged her. And though he brought a more realistic and cynical viewpoint into her world, she countered it with cheerful optimism. Sometimes it was nothing more than a vain dream. But other times, Duke had learned, it could pay off and come true.

"So, the gang's all here," Joey said as he filled a plate and plopped down at the table. "Well . . . I guess actually not, but . . ."

"If everyone had been able to make it, we would've needed a lot more tables and food," Tristan said.

"There's the Ishtars, the bikers, the von Schroiders . . . okay, maybe not both of them," Joey quickly added. "But the little guy."

Seto grunted in displeasure at the thought of Siegfried being invited.

"I did ask Leon if he could come," Mokuba said. "But he's pretty busy helping his brother with the deal they made with Pegasus."

"You didn't invite him, did you, Téa?" Joey asked in an aside.

"Of course not," Téa said, rolling her eyes. "As if Pegasus would come anyway."

"Oh, he'd come," mused Mai. "And probably put on airs of being friendly while subtly mocking us, as always."

"Not to mention talk about those weird cartoon shows," Joey said with a half-mock shudder.

"He's a good businessman, anyway," Duke said as he and Serenity came to the table. He did not want to turn things into an argument, but he felt the need to defend the man. After all, the contract he had with Industrial Illusions had certainly helped his own business to become as successful as it now was.

"Oh yeah," Tristan said. "Organizing tournaments to trap people's souls is really good business sense."

"Come on, guys," Téa said, looking almost pleading. "Let's have a fun time tonight, okay? We can just put away all the supernatural stuff for a few hours."

"That's fine with me," Tristan said, giving Duke a Look as he spoke.

"It's fine with me too," Duke said, returning the glare with a steely gaze of his own.

Serenity laid a hand on his arm, the gesture silently pleading for him to let it drop. He was certainly willing to do so; contending with Tristan was not how he wanted to spend the evening.

Anyway, the topic was irrelevant. He had not known of Pegasus's true motives behind Duelist Kingdom when he had idolized the man. He had only been told sometime later, after Yugi had accepted him into the group. After the crazy things he had seen by that point, and knowing that Yugi and the rest would not lie, he had believed it.

But that being said, Pegasus did have a good mind for business. Industrial Illusions would not have gone so far if he didn't.

For a moment an uneasy silence hung over the table. But then Mokuba broke it with the exclamation, "You should see the new virtual reality program my brother's designing! It's bigger and better than any of the previous versions!"

Yugi blinked in surprise, then gratitude. "That sounds great," he said. Looking to Seto he added, "I saw an article about it just the other day, Kaiba. I was really impressed."

Seto's expression remained deadpan, but his eyes briefly flickered with some semblance of approval. "KaibaCorp is using the latest, state-of-the-art technology to create it," he said.

"Yeah? I just hope this one doesn't get people stuck in it," Joey said.

"There won't be any glitches like that, Wheeler," Seto responded, his voice tinged with annoyance.

Téa looked at Joey in exasperation. He merely looked back innocently. "What? That's what happened before!"

Téa gave up. "Nevermind," she said, returning her attention to her plate.

Duke shook his head. When he thought of it, was any topic safe to discuss? Everything they could talk about had the potential to lead back to their misadventures and unpleasant arguments. Duel Monsters, Dungeon Dice Monsters, the big gaming companies, their other friends. . . . Even dancing or traveling could lead to conversations about Johnny Stepps or Paradius or Egypt. Maybe, Duke mused, they should just forget about trying to get away from talking of the past.

He listened as the topic turned to what was happening at Domino High. The latest chemistry experiment had gone wrong, burning a hole through the floor. The professor had been enthused with the "progress." The school board was not nearly as enthused.

"Do you think that's the last class he'll teach?" Tristan mused.

"I dunno, but I'm glad I didn't spill that stuff," Joey said.

"If my memory serves me correctly, that time the windows blew out was your fault," Tristan said.

Joey glared. "Was not!"

"Was too," Tristan answered.

"I need some female friends," Téa muttered.

The fangirls, as usual, were swooning over the latest new student.

"Just like I said, they find someone new to follow every week," Duke remarked.

"It's just as well, I suppose," Bakura said, turning a bit red. He was always nervous when any of the girls turned their affections to him. It was a relief when they found someone else.

"What about you, Devlin?" Joey said. "Do you feel like that too?"

Duke casually twirled a piece of hair around his finger. "They're a dime a dozen," he said. "Who cares?"

But the most startling news was that Ushio, of all people, was planning to enter the police academy after graduation.

"No way! We're going to have him for a cop?" Tristan exclaimed.

"Chill, Tristan. He'll never pass," Joey said.

"I wouldn't be too sure, guys," Yugi said. "He's been efficient as a hall monitor. Too efficient," he added more quietly. "Everyone's afraid to cross him."

"Yeah, well, bullying's no way to enforce justice," Joey said.

"I'm with Yugi," Duke said. "It's possible he could pass."

Tristan glared at him. "Of course you'd say that," he said. "You always have been gloomy."

"It's realism," Duke retorted. "But I don't see you getting mad at Yugi for saying the same thing."

"That's different," Tristan said.

"It's only different because Yugi's not me," Duke said before he could stop himself.

"What? That's insane." Tristan's fork clattered to his plate.

"It's the truth," Duke said. "Sometimes the truth is insane."

"Guys, please!" Yugi exclaimed, but in vain. They were on too much of a roll to stop now.

"If you really believe that, what did you even come here for?" Tristan demanded.

"I came because Serenity wanted to," Duke retorted. "You don't think I wanted to come, knowing this would happen!"

Téa gripped her fork tighter. Her patience was swiftly wearing thin. She and Mokuba had arranged this event knowing of the problems but hoping that any animosity could be patched. Clearly, they had been wrong.

"Well, maybe you shouldn't have," Tristan said.

"You're right," Duke said. "I shouldn't have."

Suddenly Serenity got to her feet. "Stop it, both of you!" she said. Rare anger showed on her face.

Both Tristan and Duke froze. Stunned, they turned to look at the mild-mannered girl they both loved.

"Even if you're still having problems, why can't you put them away for one night?" Serenity demanded, locking her gaze from one to the other.

Her intent hazel eyes were too much. Tristan looked down, guiltily staring at his half-empty plate. Duke frowned, glaring at nothing in particular as he crossed his arms.

"We've been through so much together," Serenity said. "Why do you have to throw all of that away just because . . ." Her voice quavered. Tristan and Duke both started and looked up again. To their shock, tears were gathering in her eyes now. "Because of me?"

Tristan flinched. "Serenity, I . . ." He got to his feet. "This isn't just about you; it's been building up for a long time. It's about a lot of things." He swallowed hard. "But you and Duke . . . that's what pushed it over the edge. I didn't mean to hurt you." He gazed at her with regret. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too." Duke stood now as well, looking to his steady girlfriend. "Tristan's right—I knew something like this would probably happen if we came."

Serenity turned to him, brushing away the gathering tears. "I know," she said. "And I'm the one who made you come anyway. I just wanted so bad for all of us to be together and be happy again, like we used to be! I guess . . . I guess in the end it's really my fault. I'm so sorry, Duke . . . Tristan . . . everyone." She looked out over the table.

For a moment Duke was stunned. But then it should not really be a surprise; of course Serenity would blame herself. "That's not true!" he cried, reaching for her arm.

"Of course it isn't!" Téa declared, getting up now. "Serenity, you just wanted the same thing I thought we all wanted. We've all been so busy lately with school and plans for the future. Mokuba and I miss the times when we just hung out together and had fun. And we had the thought that maybe we could recapture that. It looks like we were wrong."

"No!"

Everyone started. It was Tristan who had spoke. He clenched a fist.

"We were having fun," he said. "It's my fault for letting things get out of hand with Duke. I've had a bone to pick, but this wasn't the time or place. I tried to leave it alone, but I . . ." He glowered down at the table. "I didn't have the willpower."

"I didn't either," Duke admitted. "Tristan's also right that this has been building for a long time. We can't be in the same place for long without snapping at each other." He sighed, looking to Téa. "I'm sorry it had to happen here."

"I'm sorry, too," Téa said.

Duke glanced back to Serenity. "Maybe we should just leave," he said. "There's been enough trouble."

Serenity looked down. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe we should. Duke, I'm sorry I brought you here when you didn't want to come."

"I knew it meant a lot to you." Duke looked uncomfortable, shoving his hands in his pockets. "And maybe part of me hoped it really would work out."

"If there's one thing I've learned, it's that running away is never the answer."

All pairs of eyes looked to Mai in surprise. She shifted her glass, letting the ice cubes clink against the sides.

"You've admitted there was a problem and that you're sorry," she said. "Why not try again? Anyway, I'm pretty sure that if you leave now, at least one of you will regret it." She glanced to Serenity. "In the future, maybe even both of you will."

Serenity blinked. Hope came into her eyes again as she turned to look at Duke. She did not speak aloud, but she did not need to.

Duke looked back, then shifted position to face Mai and the others. He debated with himself for only a moment. "Well," he said, "no one's ever had to call me a quitter."

"That's the spirit!" Mai said.

Serenity looked hopeful, but still hesitant. "Do you really want to, Duke?" she said. "We should only stay if we both want to."

He looked at her. "Yeah," he said with sincerity. "I want to."

Serenity's face melted into a smile. "Then we'll stay," she said, touching Duke's arm.

Duke smiled as well. "Okay, how about we start over?" he said, looking around the table and to Téa in specific. "It's early; there's time to try to get this right."

The brunette studied him for a moment before nodding. Determination came into her blue eyes. "Alright, everyone, let's do it!" she said.

"Our get-together, take two!" Mokuba added.

"Does that mean we get to pass the buffet table again?" Joey said hopefully.

"Weren't you going to do that anyway?" Tristan said, giving him a sideways look.

"Well . . . yeah!" Joey admitted. "But we can't let all this good food go to waste, can we?"

"There's plenty for everyone to have seconds," Mai said. "Even you, Joey. Though I'm guessing you'll want thirds and fourths, too."

"Why not?" Joey said. But then he frowned. "Heeey, are you callin' me a pig?"

Mai shrugged, bringing her glass to her lips. "You said it. I didn't," she said.

Duke just shook his head as a mock argument escalated over the benefits of food and what constituted being a pig. "Some things really don't change much," he noted.

"Especially with those two," Serenity giggled.

She sobered as she sat back down. "I really am sorry I dragged you here tonight, Duke," she said as the noise continued around them. "You didn't want to come and I kept pushing it."

Duke sat beside her. "Don't be sorry," he said. "In the end maybe it was a good thing after all. Maybe nothing will change between me and Tristan. But on the other hand, maybe we'll be able to start working through our problems."

"I hope so," Serenity said. "But he wasn't the only reason you didn't want to come."

"I know." Duke took the pitcher and poured more water into his glass.

"Do you still feel like an outsider?" she asked as she watched him.

"It's not something that can change overnight—or in a few hours," Duke said. "I know that I'm not as close to them as some of them are with each other. But that's okay." He gave her a secretive look. "Anyway, I have you. And that's the best thing. I'm still planning what we should do when we leave here."

"Oh?" She smiled at him. "Any ideas?"

"A few," Duke smirked.

"Nothing that Joey will get mad about, is it?" she asked, a teasing smile playing on her lips.

"I'm sure he could find something to complain about," Duke said. "Especially a moonlit walk."

"You're getting daring!" Serenity said.

"It's one of my best traits," Duke said smoothly.

"And you're so modest, too," Serenity said.

Suddenly they became aware that the yelling had ceased. Joey was regarding them both in suspicion. "Hey, what's this about a moonlit walk?" he demanded.

Duke smirked. "I am dating your sister, Joey," he said.

"Yeah, yeah." Joey frowned. "But a moonlit walk?"

"It'll be fun," Serenity said brightly.

"Yeah, fun," Joey muttered. Louder he said, "You'd better not keep Serenity up too late, Dice-Boy!"

"Why not?" Duke returned. "Tomorrow isn't a school day."

Joey sputtered, desperate for a comeback. Unable to find one he blurted at last, "But Ma was going to make it a cleaning day! She'll probably want Serenity to help."

"Oh really?" Mai said. "What about you, Joey? Couldn't you help?"

Joey glowered. "She'll want both of us," he said.

Serenity laughed. "Don't worry, Joey," she said. "We won't stay out too long."

"You'd better not!" Joey said. Of course, he knew his real motives had been revealed. But he would not admit to them. Instead he shoved a forkful of food into his mouth and then kept shoving.

"Now you can't deny that you're a pig," Mai said, shaking her head.

"Tell me I don't know him," Téa groaned.

"Don't we wish," Seto grunted.

"Heeey!" Joey cried. Crumbs sprayed across the table.

"Charming," Mai said flatly.

Duke opted not to comment. He rolled his eyes instead, reaching for his glass.

Something that would likely never change was that this was a crazy bunch.