Alia: I am so happy to be back to the main story line. This chapter actually took a bit longer because I recently got into a rather uh... odd fandom. Doubt you'll ever see a story from me, but I did get a fill in the last kink meme.

Let me apologize now, however, and explain that my readers can't expect very frequent updates. Shadow Illusions, my puzzleshipping story, is currently 70,000 words and counting. Yami is dealing with twice as much drama in that story, but I will try my best to bounce between my two loves. (I really didn't want to write SI. It just sort of happened and took over my life!)

My Reviewers:Thank you all for your support. It's amazing to see how many people enjoy this story as much as I do. I apologize for the chapter not being longer, but it fought me.


Title: Hope Hates Reality

Author: Alia D

Part 22/?

Rating: R

Pairing: Atemu/Yami eventually, former Atemu/Anzu

Side Pairings: Bakura/Ryou, Kaiba/Serenity (It's such a waste)

Spoilers: YGO series

Warnings: Het, Yaoi, Language, OOC, Violence, Mature Themes, Original Characters

Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh anime series, or the game.

Summary: An ignored love and a destructive friendship have left Yami weary and heartbroken. Could Yami rise to the occasion when a special, little someone needs him most? And can Yami possibly find a happy ending at the same time? Monarchshipping.

Author's notes: This chapter turned out a bit darker than I intended, but that can be said for all of my stories lately.

Hope Hates Reality 22

"I-I just can't. Hallie, I can't do this."

Halima gave Yami a small encouraging smile. The expression was rather tight on her features. She was doing her best to be patient, but the dramatics were going a bit overboard. She struggled to stay polite with her new boyfriend. Being snarky, rude, or even violent, since she felt like kicking him, with Yami wasn't a good option in such a new relationship. "Yami, you agreed to this. Grandpa agreed to this. You remember the long talk we had about this."

The older man honestly looked teary eyed. He gave the brunette a broken unhappy frown. "Halima," Yami choked out. The Japanese duelist was practically shaking.

Halima felt a bit sympathetic for her boyfriend and rubbed the shoulder that subsequently cradled the curious ten-month-old Yugi. The little boy was looking from Yami to Hallie with a big grin. A couple of white teeth peeked out of the smile.

Halima melted a little. That certainly explained why Yami felt so damn awful. But still… "Yami, didn't you agree that this would be the best for Yugi?"

"I can take it back." He tightened his hold around the little boy. "We don't really have to do this. We can take him home."

Halima felt a headache coming on. She tried to mentally stifle any rude thoughts. She still felt the need to kick Yami. "No you can't take it back. You already made an appointment."

As if Yami cared about appointments. The look he gave her said just that.

Hallie's leg twitched. Sighing, and wondering where the cool guy from the mechanic's shop disappeared to, the American gave Yugi a big smile. "Come here, Yugi."

"Eee!" The little boy called, fairly falling out of a scowling Yami's arms. Yami was fairly sure Yugi didn't realize what he'd done. Especially as Halima had been the one to talk him into it. Yami still felt the stinging betrayal from his grandfather's agreement. Yugi wasn't blood, but the baby was the old man's great-grandchild! The young father's shoulders slumped.

Hallie stood Yugi on the floor and allowed the baby to lean on her knees and bounce. The child looked adorable in his purple Duel Monster t-shirt and blue jeans. Her little cutie would be running around soon. Shifting in her chair to get comfortable, Halima looked at her miserable boyfriend. "Yami, dude, seriously. Stop the drama."

"I'm not being dramatic. I just don't want to do this." Yami looked at Yugi, who had released Hallie and was slowly moving down the short isle of chairs by grabbing hold. Yugi still needed to hold furniture to walk, but the little boy was making progress. Those huge milestones were the reason that Yami and Grandpa had cheap pocket video cameras all over the Kame Game Shop.

"So you're saying you don't want the best for Yugi?" God, Hallie hated herself for it, but she had to get Yami back in the game. It didn't make her feel any less guilty.

Yami dropped his head. "You're right. But I just…" He sighed. "Halima, I don't know if I can just hand over my son to those... Those…" Yami looked at her helplessly.

She had to wonder how he'd handled this before. Damn, if she didn't care about Yami so much already. "Okay. How about this? I'll take him in."

"What?" Yami's exclamation was loud enough to draw attention from across the waiting room. A young couple with a newborn glanced their way before returning to their conversation. Yami blinked at his girlfriend in surprise. "No, Hallie. You don't have to do that. I'm the one responsible for him. And I don't know if they'll let you."

"Yami, I've done this before. A long time ago, but I did it." And it had been a rough awful messy day, but she was willing to go again for Yugi and Yami. She would hand the baby over because it was for his own good. "Just let them know and it'll be fine."

Yami wanted to argue but couldn't. He didn't have the heart to go through this all over again. "Y-You really don't mind? I know I'm being a coward about this,"

Halima interrupted, "Can't argue with you there, but you're a daddy, Yami. Just a super overprotective one." She hoped Yugi didn't intend on joining sports in the future.

"Thanks, Hallie." He appreciated her understanding. The last time Yami had tried to do this, it hadn't ended well. Everyone had felt guilty and been in tears.

Yami leaned in closer to Halima and, when she didn't seem uncomfortable, kissed her on the cheek. The new couple tried to be careful with each other. It was the first romantic relationship for both of them, so they were overly cautious and at times awkward. It didn't help that Yami didn't know how to behave half the time, and Halima often disliked people touching her.

The short relationship was working, however. After an agreement to take things very slow, the two got along rather well. Yugi absolutely loved Halima and was spoiled by the woman's cousins (Justine slipped him cookies so she was a favorite). And Hallie didn't blink when Yami's friends did something odd (read: certifiably insane). It helped that when Halima's cousins went insane, he wasn't shocked either.

However, Yami was rather disturbed that Bakura was so happy he was dating.

Halima gave a little smile as Yami turned his vision towards his adventurous son. Yugi held on to the last chair against the wall. The next chair was across the aisle by a few feet. The infant, not quite toddler, eyed the opposite chair contemplatively.

Nudging Halima, both she and Yami prepared to pull out their phones and video when Yugi instead decided to turn, let go of the chair, and crawl back to them.

Yami sighed. "Someday."

Halima bit her lip and held back a short cackle. She wanted to hear him say that after Yugi realized he had a better reach.

"Dada!" Yugi stopped his crawl next to their feet and sat up on his behind. Smiling up at Yami, the little boy reached by Yami's legs and stuck his hand into the messenger bag with his things. Halima saw him aiming for a disposable diaper.

"No, Yugi." Yami lifted his foot and gently nudged the bag from Yugi, getting a cry of protest from the child. He was ignored as his father knew the child just wanted to make a mess. Yami raised an eyebrow when the little boy tried to reach around his leg for the bag again. He spoke again in a sterner tone. "No, Yugi. Daddy said no."

The little boy frowned at the familiar, though rarely used, tone. Unhappy purple eyes turned to Halima, who was quick to act distracted. When Yugi realized he had no help, the little boy huffed with a pout and turned to crawl off elsewhere.

"So much personality for such a little guy." Halima gave a small giggle as Yami sighed.

"That is his father all over. I guarantee it." Yami rubbed his forehead as Halima gave a grin out of his view.

"Be afraid?" She asked with amusement. Yami groaned silently.

"Muto!" A young woman in a white uniform appeared from the double doors past the currently empty front desk.

Yami went pale as Halima grit her teeth and stood. She grabbed Yugi's diaper/messenger bag and, while walking toward the young blond woman, scooped the speedy rugrat up from the floor. She waved at Yami over her shoulder. "Tell daddy bye-bye, Yugi!"

"Ba-Ba!" The big smile and unsteady wave from the infant went a long way to making his guilty father feel like crap.

Yami gave a weak wave before slumping into his chair when they disappeared behind the doors. Feeling ashamed and worried, he sent a text to Ryou. It couldn't hurt for Yami to consult someone else that had been through this.

I hate this.

Its ok! We did it 2. Not 2 bad.

Akefia didn't cry?

He regressed.

Yami winced. The little boy was only beginning to get better.

Real bad?

Was unresponsive.

Bakura kill some1?

Yami could already see the Egyptian prepared to tear an innocent doctor or nurse apart. Bakura may call Akefia a skinny little foundling, but he was fiercely protective of his adopted son.

Ake needed his da 1st. Kura cuddled. So cute!

Yami rolled his eyes, but kept a warm smile. He couldn't help but be relieved that Akefia was settling in so well. Yami's new godson was still quiet and extremely wary of people, but he was gaining weight, looking healthier, and becoming more attached to Ryou and Bakura. Ryou was still a bit nervous as a parent, but Bakura seemed to take to it like a fish to water.

Yami couldn't help but wonder what Atemu would think of that.

I let Hal go 4 me. Feel bad.

I stayed out 2. (:


No prob! Payback 4 Ake help.

Don't thank me 4 helping my godson.

Yami would have read Ryou's reply was it not for the loud shriek of pain that echoed from the two doors. It was a rather well-known scream to the duelist who sank deeper into his seat.

The screaming went on for the next ten minutes, making Yami restless and sick. The young father had taken to pacing back and forth. His eyes continued to repeatedly glance at the double doors. Every time the screams would ease to normal crying, Yami would relax temporarily. But they always returned to that same loud piercing cry.

Yami shivered a little as he walked the length of the now empty waiting room after the young family had been called. The father knew that he shouldn't have let Halima talk him into this, but Yami's girlfriend had been right. This was for Yugi's own good.

The knowledge did little to help Yami's conscience.

After another few minutes, the screaming had stopped, and even the crying was no longer heard. It took every ounce of mental willpower not to think the worst.

Hearing two female voices, one being Halima, Yami ran a hand through his hair and prayed that the worst of it was over. He never wanted to do this again. It was a good thing Hallie had gone in his stead. A nervous wreck of a parent was the last thing his son needed.

The nurse from earlier opened the door with a smile directed behind her. The blond held it open as Halima and Yugi walked into the waiting room. "He'll be a little sore and unhappy for the rest of today, but he should be fine tomorrow."

"So he's all caught up now?" Halima shifted so that the nurse could slide the small, blue brochure into the messenger bag over her shoulder.

The nurse nodded. "Yes. We won't have to see Yugi-chan for a couple of months. You can make an appointment over the phone."

Yami bit his lower lip as he walked over to Hallie and Yugi. His heart melted when he saw his little boy cradled in Halima's arms.

Taking deep comfort in Halima's warm hand rubbing his back, Yugi sniffled unhappily. His full cheeks were red and covered with drying tears. His sweet purple eyes were wide and wet while his usual smile had fallen by the wayside. With every breath, the little boy's breath shuttered as he recovered from his crying fit.

The hand clenched tightly into Halima's jean jacket led to an arm that held a big blue bandage with chibi dragons. On the other arm was a similar bandage with big yellow stars and a small band aid was wrapped around the infant's finger. However, the twice bandaged hand didn't prevent Yugi from stuffing the large lollipop farther into his mouth. The baby suckled hard as his head rested on Hallie's shoulder.

Yami felt awful. Apparently, it had been worse than Yugi had expected.

Coming to a halt next to Hallie's shoulder as she continued her conversation with the nurse, Yami careful ran his fingers through Yugi's soft locks. The baby looked up at his father sadly. "Hey, Yugi. You okay?"

Yugi sniffled, breaking his father's heart a bit. Yami gave his son a weak, apologetic smile. He held out his hands. "You want to come to daddy, Yugi-chan."

Much to Yami's surprise, Yugi's grip on Halima and his well-earned reward tightened. The baby then frowned at his father and pulled away a little with a small glare. Halima and the nurse threw sympathetic, but amused, looks at a stunned Yami. Apparently Yugi realized that his daddy hadn't been around to rescue him from the evil needles.

The young father sighed. Yami swore that after this, Halima would deal with all of Yugi's immunization shots.

Duke rubbed his aching forehead. The pony-tailed man glared at the papers all over his desk. "After what happened last week? I don't know, Yami. I don't think I can."

Over the speaker of Duke's cell phone, Yami sighed. A baby's wail could be heard in the background. "I know. I didn't forget what he did last week, but I really need your help with this. I can't get there to help even if I close the shop. Ryou won't answer his phone, Grandpa won't be home until tomorrow, Hallie and the girls are with Serenity, and I refuse to take Yugi and Akefia into the war zone. Yugi might handle the yelling but not the fighting, and can you imagine taking Akefia?"

Slumping in his chair, Duke glared at his phone. Yami was right. The last thing Akefia needed was to see the screaming and fighting between his fathers' friends. The baby still flinched at loud noises and quick movements. "Do I have to help Tristan though? Can't I deal with Kaiba?"

There was a moment of long silence. "Who do you think you'd have an easier time with right now in a fight? Seto or Joey?"

Duke groaned. Considering how enraged both men were, the question didn't bear thinking. "I cannot believe this. This is insane." Yami made a soft grunt in agreement before comforting a drowsy, cranky Yugi over the line.

The entire mess actually started in the middle of the night. Serenity, who'd been at Kaiba's mansion at the time, had called Halima and her cousins in an absolute panic. The brunette didn't have many female friends and had become close to the Americans over the last couple months. So of course she'd gone to her new friends in her desperation. It had taken the combined efforts of Halima, Justine, and Midori to calm Serenity's hysteria. Meda had refused to be involved in the situation, especially after she'd learned why Serenity was in such a panic, much to the ire of her sister and cousins.

None of the guys, from Yami to Kaiba, had any idea of what happened until late afternoon the next day. When they did learn the truth, it was just as the whole matter went nuclear.

Tristan may be a chef-in-progress, but between work and school, he was usually too exhausted to cook at home. As for Joey, he couldn't make anything more than soba noodles. So being a good little sister, Serenity decided to make a few bento boxes to last Joey and Tristan for the rest of the week. Gathering the groceries she'd bought the day before, Serenity made her way over to her brother's shared apartment.

Joey, who'd come back from an early shift, was more than happy to have his little sister cook at his place. Unfortunately, the next few events would throw the entire group into one mad ruckus.

While Serenity worked in the kitchen rolling sushi, Joey finished his shower, dressed and came out to help his little sister. Serenity didn't mind a helping hand. The brunette asked her brother to grab a new packet of dried seaweed from her grocery bag.

However, it was while Joey dug through the cloth grocery bag that he accidentally knocked over Serenity's purse. A small packet with four capsules, two of which had already been taken, had fallen out to the floor. Joey instinctively picked up the packet to slide back into his sister's purse, only to pause and read the prescription.

It said morning after pill.

The next thing Tristan knew, he was stumbling out of his bedroom in his boxers trying to figure out why Joey and Serenity were screaming and who he needed to punch. He quickly discovered that the two siblings were yelling at each other.

The idea that Kaiba was actually screwing his baby sister and could have gotten her pregnant threw Joey Wheeler into a blind rage. Regrettably, in his fury, Joey lashed out at the closest person: Serenity.

Tristan would later tell his friends that Joey and Serenity completely tore into each other. Serenity saying that it was her life and that Seto was her boyfriend. Last night has been her decision. Joey didn't care and told her she was being stupid. He then followed up by saying what would she do if Kaiba knocked her up and left her.

Tristan tried his best to break up his friends, but the siblings continued fighting until Joey finally said with vicious sarcasm, "Do you really think he'll want you after he has his fun with the pretty little poor girl?"

Needless to say, Serenity didn't stay after having her insecurities thrown in her face, but Joey was so incensed that he wanted to 'talk' to Kaiba. Tristan had to physically restrain Joey to keep the livid blond in the apartment. The brunette even barricaded his friend in the blond's bedroom long enough to call Yami for backup.

Unfortunately, a few events had occurred while Tristan struggled to restrain his best friend.

Distraught, Serenity had rushed over to the photo studio Justine and Halima owned for more desperately needed support. On her way, the distressed young woman received a call from Seto Kaiba. The CEO was stunned to hear Serenity sobbing over the phone, but she hung up before Seto could get an answer for her troubles.

Justine was equally surprised when Serenity stumbled into the studio crying hysterically after her argument. The dark-skinned American soothed Serenity and even managed to learn what happened. After getting details from Justine, Halima called Yami immediately afterward with details and the demand that he punch his best friend for being a dick. However, Midori wanted to help her new friend also. Much to the girls' horror, she decided to call Kaiba and provide him with current events.

It was sheer dumb luck that Bakura and Mokuba were nearby when Kaiba lost it.

While Serenity and Halima yelled at Midori for being an idiot, Justine contacted Yami and Tristan to inform them of their growing catastrophe. "So, what do we do about this shitstorm? Cause it looks like your friends are going to kill each other."

Duke shook his head. He couldn't believe things had escalated so quickly, but it really shouldn't be a surprise. Joey never fully approved of Serenity's relationship with Kaiba. This had apparently been the straw over the camel's back. "Fine. I'll go over to Joey's. Bakura does have Kaiba right?"

"Thanks. Yes, Bakura and Mokuba have it under control. Mokuba somehow convinced mansion security not to let Seto out if he makes it past Bakura."

"How many times has he made it through?" Duke asked amused.

Yami sighed. "Once. He locked Bakura in a closet and nearly made the front door, but Mokuba found him. Apparently, he's gotten really good at defensive holds. I'm sorry, Duke. I'd take care of this myself, but I can't leave the kids here, and I can't take them with me."

"It's alright. Akefia isn't comfortable with anyone but you and his dads anyway. I'm done here. I'll head over now and try to knock some sense into Joey's head."

"Thanks. I'll call you as soon as Ryou gets here." Yami paused. "Let me know if Tristan tries anything."

Hanging up, Duke dropped his head into his hands. "Fuck! Just fuck my life!"

He did not want to deal with Tristan in an already volatile situation, but there was no choice. Joey and Kaiba would try to kill each other if they were in the same vicinity, and no one wanted their friends in jail for murder. Groaning, Duke stood and trudged toward the door.

It felt like walking into the lions' den.

Tristan winced as a huge thump sounded from Joey's bedroom. The blond had truly lost all sense of controlling himself. For the last few hours, Joey has been storming from one side of the apartment to the other ranting, swearing, and throwing things. Thankfully, during one of these rages, he stormed to the bathroom, giving Tristan just enough time to dress and not worry about Joey running off for Kaiba's.

"Can you believe moneybags thinks he has the right to touch my little sister? What was she thinking letting that sleaze anywhere near her? What if those pills didn't work? She doesn't have much money. What's she going to do with a kid? Especially when that emotionless prick drops her!"

The brunette wondered if Joey even realized what he was saying. A many things could be said about Kaiba, but the CEO honestly loved Serenity. Any children resulting from their relationship would be cared for and loved. Tristan was sure of that. Joey, however, was too focused on the bad things that could happen and his enmity with Kaiba.

Tristan was certain that the two men didn't really mind each other. Joey considered Kaiba an annoyance until he started dating Serenity and Kaiba treated Joey with more indifference than anything. Tristan was a little stunned by the amount of hatred coming from Joey at the moment. The culinary student did sort of dismiss most of it though. After all, Joey was textbook overprotective big brother. He would hate any guy that touched his baby sister.

Having called in to work, Tristan finished the food Serenity had left on the counter and placed the bento boxes and groceries in the fridge and cupboards as Joey raged on. After more curses and thumps echoing from Joey's bedroom, Tristan received an update call from Yami.

Tristan could hear the frustration in his friend's voice that he wasn't around. If anyone could talk sense into Joey, it was Yami. Unfortunately, the one time Yami called on Joey's cell phone, it ended up thrown into a wall. "Tristan, how is he?"

The brunette glanced toward Joey's open bedroom door. "He's ranting right now. Hasn't tried to go for the door in the last ten minutes. How's you-know-who?"

Yami sighed. It was ridiculous that they couldn't even say Serenity's name in front of her brother. "She's fine. Hallie and the girls are trying to keep her calm and distracted. Serenity isn't answering Kaiba's calls though. It's only making him more upset. Mokuba and Bakura have their hands full."

Groaning, Tristan asked, "So who's coming my way?" Tristan was no weakling, but Joey was working with a lot of anger and adrenaline. He felt lucky that he wasn't at Kaiba's place though.

At the Game Shop, Yami glanced down at the sleeping babies napping on the living room couch. Yugi was, as usual, sprawled across the couch with his arms and legs stretched about. He was sleepily sucking his thumb. On the other end of the couch, Akefia slept curled up tightly on his tummy with a pacifier. The white-haired child clutched Yugi's stuffed Kuriboh. Yami didn't want to disturb the babies.

He walked out of the living room. Smoothly locking the door gate behind him, Yami walked to the front of the shop before speaking. "Tristan," Yami's voice was icy. "Listen to me very carefully."

The brunette flinched. He suddenly realized who was coming to his apartment.

"Duke should be there in ten to twenty minutes. I practically begged him to help and even then he's reluctant after the stunt you pulled last week."

Tristan was quick to protest. "It wasn't a stunt, Yami! I didn't-,"

"You didn't what?" Yami's words were cold and sharp. "Imply in a store full of people that he was some lecher fucking his 14-year-old baby cousin? Or was it when you called an innocent girl a fat slut to her face a second later?"

The college student realized how deep in it he was with Yami. The man only swore when he was really pissed off. After a long moment, Tristan unsteadily replied, "I didn't say it quite that way."

"Right," Yami said dismissively. "Duke is on the way. All he wants to do is help Joey. I'd ask you to apologize, but I know better. Do not start another argument, Tristan. Tell Duke to call me when he arrives." The young father ended the call without another word.

Sighing, Tristan wondered if the group realized how commanding Yami was. The cook also wondered if it was natural or if it came from Atemu. Tristan dearly missed the revived Pharaoh. With Atemu as backup, he and Yami would have handled Kaiba and Joey immediately.

And he wouldn't have his guilt thrown back in his face. Tossing his phone on the dining table, Tristan tossed himself onto the couch.

"Fucking Mr. I'm-better-than-you-because-I'm-rich! He can drop dead! Pervert touching my innocent little sister! Serenity had no idea what she was doing! I'll tear his fucking heart out!" Joey howled within his bedroom.

Tristan bit his lip. He hated to admit it, but Yami was right. He'd never been so insulting to anyone the way he'd been to Duke and his young cousin. Tristan had seen them at the local 7-11 and hadn't been to contain himself.

He'd seen that pretty, plump girl hugging Duke close and giggling into his shoulder and lost his mind in anger. His thoughts had flown every different way to a million horrible scenarios. But when Duke had thrown an arm around her shoulder and whispered into her ear...

"What would she even do if that idiot knocked her up? Raise her kid all on her own? She won't graduate until this summer! She couldn't even get a real job! UGH!"

Tristan rubbed his hand across his face. He'd definitely been a complete asshole. Shamefully, he could remember the horrified look on the teary-eyed girl's face. He also remember the punch to the jaw from a furious Duke.

Between Joey's brotherly instincts spiraling out of control and Duke's no doubt unhappy visit, Tristan wasn't going to have a good day.

"Fucking moneybags doesn't think she's worth protection! Like he doesn't care what happens! And how did she get a morning after pill?"

Silently cursing Serenity for not zipping up her purse and Joey for being a nosy, overprotective idiot, Duke knocked harshly on the apartment door. He wanted to be anywhere else, but he promised assistance no matter how grudging he was about it.

Duke didn't bother with a pleasant demeanor when a rather embarrassed Tristan opened the door. When the taller man stepped aside, Duke walked in without a greeting. "Where's Joey?"


"Joey, no!" Tristan shouted as his blond friend, eyes blazing, ran for the open front door.

Duke lunged forward as Tristan slammed the door closed. Duke tackled his friend to the ground and was thankful that Tristan quickly added his weight to the pile. "Joey, will you calm down?"

"NO! Let me go so I can kill him!" Joey struggled to move under the weight of his friends, but the two men managed to keep him to the floor.

Tristan cursed. "Duke, help me drag this idiot to his room!"

Duke nodded once, before grabbing a leg to start tugging. Joey's screams of rage didn't waver as Tristan grabbed a leg himself and the two brunettes dragged the mechanic to his bedroom. Their friend tried to scramble away, kicking his legs and digging his fingers into the wooden floors.


Duke huffed as he jerked Joey back a few more inches. "Joey, will you snap out of it?"


"Forget it, Duke! The idiot's lost his mind!" Tristan could have cried with relief as he and Duke finally dragged Joey into his wrecked bedroom.


"Damn it, Joey!" Duke raised a fist and punched down hard across the back of Joey's head. The ensuing yelp made Duke and Tristan release their incensed friend. Joey groaned and grabbed the back of his head.

"That's hurt." Closing his eyes tightly, Joey curled up on the floor.

Tristan was too exhausted to care about the painful knock to Joey's head. The cook stumbled toward the doorway and waved Duke on behind him. "Let's hope that keeps him down for a minute."

Both men paused as Joey yelled, "That bastard! I bet he wasn't even careful with her."

Duke turned and closed Joey's bedroom door. He wasn't in the mood for more insane ranting. Joey needed to tone it down. "Idiot."

Tristan ran a hand through his hair and tried not to say the first rude thing on his tongue. "Yami said to call him when you arrived."

Duke pulled his phone from his pocket and took a few steps away from Tristan. The other man walked over to the couch and collapsed with his hand over his face. "Hey, Yami."

"Hey Duke. Any change in the insanity?" Yami didn't even sound hopeful.

Duke snorted with a stifled laugh. "Ha! No way, Yami. We just dragged him back into his room a minute ago. Good thing this is a highrise or he would have crawled out the window."

Yami made a long suffering sigh from the phone. "Right. Just keep an eye on him. I finally spoke to Ryou. He's stuck in a meeting but should be here in an hour at most. I'll come right over to speak to Joey. Then, I'll go talk to Kaiba."

Duke had to wonder in what form Yami meant by talk. It was either language, violence, or crushing someone in a duel. Either way, Duke knew Joey would lose but Kaiba would put up a struggle. "Alright. Let us know when you're headed our way."

"I will. And Duke?"


"I spoke to Tristan, so there shouldn't be an issue. If there is, you have my full permission to punch him again." Yami figured, if anything, Joey would try to keep Duke from injuring Tristan. It might even snap the blond out of his insane, overprotective rants.

No, Yami didn't like violence, but sometimes violence worked.

Duke smiled. It was nice to know his friend has his back. "Thanks, Yami, but I think Joey will have us a bit busy."

"No doubt." Duke heard a loud, happy shriek over the phone and a repetitively babbled 'Dada'. "I'm coming, Yugi. I'll call back in a bit, Duke."

"Later, Yami." The two men ended the connection and Duke turned to see Tristan cover his ears. Joey was starting to get loud again.

"What if he hurt her? I didn't even ASK HER! What kind of brother am I?"

"Psychotic," Tristan muttered. Duke snickered.

There was a loud thump as Joey threw something into the wall. "When I get my hands on that rich prick, I'll make him regret ever looking at my sister!"

Duke took a seat at the dining table. He dropped his head into his hands. "This is so stupid."

Tristan nodded wearily. "Joey really needs to let Serenity grow up. He keeps seeing little girl Serenity instead of grown woman Serenity."

Humming softly, Duke nodded. He held up his phone and started looking at text messages.

Tristan listened to Joey's ongoing and, at times incoherent, rant for a long moment. His eyes continually drifted to the pony-tailed man sitting next to his kitchen. As Joey's yelling faded to background noise, Tristan thought about his earlier conversation with Yami. "So, uh, what did Yami say?"

Duke didn't look away from his phone. "He said he'll be over in about an hour. Ryou will watch the kids after he leaves work."

Tristan spoke before he even realized it. The sneer in his voice was clear. "Good. At least someone cares for the kids."

Unconsciously slamming his phone on the table, Duke glared at the couch while Tristan realized what he'd said. "He also said to punch you again if you're still be an utter shit! After what you said to my cousin, you think I'm up for your crap today?"

Duke stood and stormed into the kitchen away from Tristan. Unfortunately, the apartment was of moderate size. It took a few cautious steps for Tristan to stand at the kitchen's doorway.

Tristan coughed nervously and watched Duke lean heavily against the counter seething in anger. "I uh..." Tristan fidgeted. He felt odd about apologizing to Duke. "Look, I didn't mean it quite that way-,"

"Liar! That's exactly what-,"

"I'm sorry, okay?" Tristan shouted. He raised his hands to scrub his face. "I just-,"

"What?" Duke snapped, his voice cracking with anger. "You can't forget what I said? Well, you know what Tristan? Fine! Fucking fine! I confess! Okay? I confess!" Duke threw his arms out. "Forget that I was drunk when I said it. I confess! I said that Anzu should have aborted Yugi and never told us at all! I fucking said it okay?"

It was an old faded regret that sometimes lingered thanks to Tristan. Duke, Joey, and Tristan had spent the day watching Anzu tear into Yami for every little thing. Their usually strong friend - who'd become sad, desperate, and needy - hadn't argued back once as Anzu swelled into her fourth month of pregnancy. It had sickened them and later drove the three men to drinking themselves into a pleasant stupor.

Duke was half way through his fifth bottle of sake when he remembered the sad, hurt look on Yami's face while Anzu sneered at him. He'd made the comment without any real thought. Joey had been unconscious by then, but Tristan had been awake. And he'd never let Duke forget his drunken words.

Tristan winced. He knew he shouldn't keep bringing it up. Duke loved Yugi as much as the rest of their group. He was one of Yugi's saner uncles. In all honesty, Tristan brought it up simply as good ammunition. "Duke... I'm sorry. I know you regret it."

"Fuck you, Tristan." Because Duke was done. He was sick of his supposed friend constantly picking at him. "Because this has nothing to do with that. It has shit to do with what I said when I was drunk. The whole problem here is you!"

The taller man looked completely indignant. "What do you mean me?"

"What do I mean? Are you serious?" Tristan swallowed at the look of deep hurt in Duke's green eyes. "Almost three fucking years! You have been picking and prodding me constantly for nearly three years! I haven't done anything to deserve it! I can't talk on the phone to my girlfriends. I can't speak without a cruel comment. I can't even walk my little cousin to the store for her mother! All because of you!"

Duke shoved Tristan in the chest, forcing the cook back a few steps. "Y-you aren't even a real friend anymore! You aren't my friend, Tristan! You've turned into my Anzu!"

Tristan was stunned at the words and found himself totally speechless. He didn't know what to say, and it hurt to know that in a way, Duke was right. Anzu had tormented Yami constantly. Tristan hadn't done it as badly, but he was similarly guilty in a way his former friend had once been. He was constantly attacking Duke verbally. It was as if he couldn't help it.

It was just that every time he saw Duke with some girl or even thought about the man surrounded by 'fans'...

"D-Duke. Duke, I'm sorry."

"Not nearly as much as I am." Disgusted, Duke walked out of the kitchen for the bathroom. "Call if Joey makes another break. Otherwise, stay away from me!"

Tristan winced as the bathroom door slammed. His shoulders slumped as the realization of his foolish behavior finally settled over him. Tristan had just done what he'd never thought would happen.

He had lost one of his friends.

When Yami arrived an hour and a half later, he'd taken one look at a devastated Tristan before shaking his head. After realizing Duke left the moment he called ahead, the duelist dropped a strong hand on his friend's shoulder. "You know you are my friend, Tristan, but I consider you more. I've never mentioned it, but I think of you guys as my brothers. You're my family."

Tristan gave Yami a sad, shaky smile.

"I also think that of all of us, you're probably the most stable and self-assured. Unfortunately, in this case, you're an idiot." Yami glanced around the apartment. "And I have an awful feeling it will cost you in the end."

"It already has." Tristan's whispered voice was soft.

Yami looked sad, as if Tristan's pain was his own. "Perhaps, but are you willing to give up so soon?"

" With Duke? I think it's too late, Yami." Tristan slowly pulled away from his friend's hand.

"I think, Tristan, that you should do some soul searching before giving up all hope."

Tristan looked at his friend's smile confused. Yami turned and walked toward Joey's room hoping that his friend would realize what the problem was before it really was too late.

Shrugging, Halima poured out the bowl of Cheerios over the tray of Yugi's high chair. The ten-month-old grinned before working to grasp the little edible circles. She sat his sippy cup in the corner. "Good to go, Yugi?"

"Goon." Yugi managed to grab a small fistful of Cheerios before shoving them toward his mouth. More fist than food got in.

Hallie nodded. "I'll take that as a yes."

Yami continued going through the Kame Game Shop's books while Halima flopped down into another chair next to his at the table. "At least he's learning new words."

"You're just angry that Yugi's first words were 'No' and 'Mama'." Halima knew Yami was thankful that constant repetition had Yugi calling him 'Dada'. Joey and Tristan were outright giddy. Yami didn't look ready to strangle them anymore.

"No!" Yugi giggled around his fist. Cheerios fell down his shirt to his lap.

The couple was having a short breakfast together since their date for that evening was canceled. Justine and Halima were swamped with at the studio. With it being close to Halloween, lots of groups wanted photo shots of their costumes. Thanks to his online classes, Yami had a college exam to prepare for. Both were too busy for a movie date.

Humming quietly, Solomon walked into the kitchen. The old Muto gave his family and Hallie a small smile as he entered. "Good morning!"

Yami glanced over at his grandfather as Halima smiled and nodded. "Good morning, Grandpa Solomon."

"Morning, Grandpa."

Yugi laughed and waved a wet hand stuck with Cheerios. "Gaya!"

Solomon beamed at his great-grandson's pronunciation. "Aw! You're getting good, Yugi-chan! Your daddy only ever shouted 'Poo' at me."

In support of her boyfriend, Halima looked away to cough softly and grin. Yami sighed. "I did no such thing. You said my first word was 'Game.'"

The old man chuckled. "Yes, it was. The look on Ken's face. He'd been working so hard for a 'daddy'. He did get a lot of 'No' like you are."

Hallie pat Yami's shoulder. "Karma, my friend."

"Karma is a dirty liar." Solomon snorted at his grandson before shaking his head. "Where are you headed, Grandpa?"

The couple watched the old Japanese man straighten out his dark suit and tie. The smile he sent them was rather poor. "I have to take an unfortunate trip to Domino Bank, Yami. I should be back in a few hours though. We can't have you miss much study time. Your exam is tomorrow, right?"

"That's right." Yami nodded while Halima poured herself a small bowl of cereal. The American wondered if Yami knew his grandfather was lying. Solomon's words sounded rather weak to her ears. "Do you want breakfast first?"

Solomon laughed weakly and shook his head. "Oh no! Going to the bank on a full stomach is good for no one, my boy." Turning, Grandpa walked out the kitchen with a wave. "I'll be back soon!"

Yugi waved his free hand as he popped another Cheerio into his mouth. "Bah-bah!"

Grandpa's eyes warmed as he left. Yami and Halima watched the empty doorway for a moment as Solomon walked out the back door to the car. Halima went back to her cold cereal as Yami sighed heavily and shook his head.

The room was quiet except for the odd piece of round cereal falling on the ground. Yami was rather surprised after a few minutes and watched Hallie. She hadn't said a word about Solomon's odd behavior. The woman hadn't even asked Yami about it.

She raised an eyebrow at his questioning look and swallowed her mouthful. "What?"

"I'm surprised. You aren't going to ask?" Yami waved at the doorway. "I know my friends would have been asking Grandpa if he was okay."

"It's rather obviously personal for him."

"It is." Yami confirmed. "He doesn't even know I know about it."

Halima leaned back in her chair and sat her spoon along the bowl's edge. "I tend not to dig in someone's garden, Yami." When he looked confused, she continued, "It's a family saying. Adam and Eve? If you want to offer knowledge, that's one thing. I don't dig in someone else's business unless invited."

Halima had seen too much drama from being too nosy. There was a reason Midori was so bipolar nowadays. Hallie's cousin was still recovering.

Yami looked amused. That was a new idea he didn't get often with his friends. It wasn't bad, but all of Yami's friends cared too much at times. There was no leaving something alone. It took ages before Joey and Atemu would leave Yami be about his past. He'd never told them. It hadn't been for lack of trying. Joey was always full of questions, and Atemu…

When the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle saw his twilight's state of mind, he often wondered why it happened. Atemu had only knew that Yami's past hurt but never knew the details as to why. Yami had never been able to tell him.

The Pharaoh had constantly asked, begged, even once demanded to know why Yami had closed himself off so deeply from everything around him. Yami never said a word in response. At most, he would simply shrug. There was no way for the spirit to find the information he wanted on his hikari's history. If the Pharaoh had gone into Yami's soul room uninvited, the action would have been an unforgivable violation of trust.

Of course, Yami thought with a look at his son, that lack of trust had cost them in the end.

As Yugi tossed a few pieces of cereal to the floor and watched them bounce, Yami turned to Halima. "He's not going to the bank. That's what he's using as an excuse. Today's my mother's second parole hearing."

Hallie immediately dropped the spoonful aimed for her mouth back into the bowl. She stared at Yami. Her voice was full of disbelief. "A parole hearing? Your mom is in jail?"

Yami nodded to her surprise. She'd honestly thought both his parents were dead. Yami never really mentioned either of them. Solomon had mentioned that Ken died in a plane crash. Halima paused, but eventually asked, "Why is your mom locked up?"

"…Two counts of assault with a weapon, assault against a minor, child endangerment, child abuse, sexual battery, and two counts of attempted murder."

Halima struggled to keep her reaction under control, but she was honestly dumbfounded. Those weren't charges she'd been expecting from Yami. Endangerment? Child abuse? Sexual battery and murder? She hadn't seen that coming. More questions were on the tip of her tongue, but Halima wasn't stupid, no matter what her cousin Meda said. Sometimes, you didn't need to know.

Hallie saw the darkening look in Yami's eyes and remembered the flat tone of voice as he rattled off his mother's charges. Her curiosity was no reason to torment her boyfriend. Yami spoke about it, but he obviously didn't want to talk about it.

The American proposed one thing as Yugi knocked his sippy cup to the floor with a smile. The cup remained closed. "He's making sure she never gets out, huh?"

Yami gave a grim smile.


Alia: The next chapter is happier, but here you have more information on the ongoing lives of everyone. After the next couple of chapters, life will speed up and a lot of things will be changing.

Questions or comments?


July 13, 2013