Title: Dreaming Out Loud

Pairing(s): Interpret as you will.

Rating: K+

Warning(s): Mild sexual implications and language.

Note(s): I'mbaaaaack. Same excuses as usual, school, work, yadda, yadda, yadda.


Dreaming Out Loud

Half the world is sleeping
While the other half dreams
You close your eyes
And then you're gone.

- "Can't Let it Go" by the Goo Goo Dolls


It had always been his dream to become the King of Riding Duels. But with how many duels he had lost, he was starting believe such an immense aspiration was impossible for him to achieve.

His twin sister always tried to convince him otherwise, but it never did seem to work. And even if her persuasion did occasionally work, its positive effects were only temporary. The next day, he would lose yet another duel to one of his classmates at Duel Academy, and then he'd be back to square one.

His eyes fell to ground, ashamed as his life points hit zero. It hadn't been a particularly long battle; his opponent, Sly, had tossed him ruthlessly aside without him ever making a single dent in his life points. An eruption of cheers and claps from his fellow classmates broke out from the sidelines.

It hurt. But it hurt even more that his own sisterwas among those cheering. Rua bit his lip, feeling the edge of his eyes start to sting from the hot tears that had welled up in them. He felt his stomach twist in a tight, sickening way, and for a moment, he thought he would throw up. But the boy quickly brushed away his tears as if they were never there, and swallowed whatever had been rising in his throat.

"Great duel, Sly," Rua managed to croak out. Sly merely flicked his hair and left the arena.

The bell rang, signaling the end of class. The rest of the students began filing out of the room to go enjoy their lunch, but Rua stayed, choosing instead to throw himself onto the bench and sulk. The teacher, Maria, noticed this and ushered the rest of her students out of the arena before joining him on the bench.

"Are you okay, Rua-kun?" she asked kindly, the edges of her gray eyes softening ever-so-slightly as the younger boy turned away from her.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine..." he replied dismissively. Under normal circumstances, she would have chastised Rua for treating her with such disrespect, but instead, she sighed and patted him lightly on the back.

"It's okay, Rua-kun," she said, hoping to comfort him, "Sly is just a very strong duelist. Don't beat yourself up over it."

This only made Rua feel worse, but he tried to not let it show. He forced a crooked smile and nodded at her. Maria smiled back and stood up, asking him if he would be joining the rest of the class for lunch. He politely declined, saying he had a big breakfast. This was a lie; in reality, he had skipped breakfast to try and get some extra practice before his duel with Sly today.

Maria looked unsure of whether to believe him or not, but shrugged, and left the boy to himself.

It was when everyone was gone that he began to cry. He had never felt so stupid and utterly humiliated in his life; first, he had lost a duel to Sly in less than 5 minutes, a duel he had spent days preparing for. Second, he had almost cried afterward, which he would probably get teased for if any of the other students noticed. Third, now he actually was crying, and probably looking fairly pathetic with puffy, red eyes and snot running down his face. To top it all off, he was starving.

Rua was so wrapped up in his self-pity fest, that he had not even noticed Ruka come in and sit beside him. He looked at her in shock when she touched his shoulder gingerly, offering him half of her sandwich.

"You'll beat him next time, right?" she asked.

He stared at her blankly for a moment before he smiled and nodded, wiping his nose with his sleeve and accepting the sandwich half.

"Right."


They didn't intend to meet up at the local café, much less end up sitting together.

"Truthfully, I don't like coffee very much," Mikage said as she stirred some vanilla cream into the hot drink. "It's far too strong for me, but it keeps me awake when Ushio-kun and I have to work the late shift. Which is... just about every day, actually." She seemed to ponder this for a moment before actually taking a sip of her beverage.

It had been a very, very long time since they had carried a decent conversation (not that they had many while she still worked for him, but even then they were able to talk for longer than two minutes). After Godwin died, his title (or rather, Yusei's title) and her position were forfeited and they parted ways. It didn't bother him much, though; their relationship with one another was never exactly stellar.

From the moment she was introduced to him as his assistant, he could tell she was smart; at least, a lot more smarter than he was. Hell, if she was working for Godwin, she probably had a high school diploma and a college education, whereas he was homeschooled by rats. For some reason, that turned him off; the idea that she was better than him, that she knew she was better than him.

He didn't like it. No, he didn't like it at all. So he constantly pushed her around, trying to prove his superiority to her.

"If you hate your job, why don't you just quit?" Jack grumbled.

"Goodness, I don't hate it," Mikage said, slightly aghast by his radical assumption. "It just gets a little chaotic that's all."

Of course, two weeks after the Dark Signer incident, she managed to snag herself another job as the Chief of Special Investigations, having majored in criminal justice at the university (Who knew? He certainly didn't). Tetsu Ushio was then hired as her assistant, and soon, Jack started seeing her face more and more often... daily, even.

"It's an upgrade though, isn't it?"

"Well, sure..." Mikage seemed a little hesitant of her answer. Jack narrowed his eyes, lifting his chin a little higher.

"You no longer have to be bothered by my presence," Jack began, his voice progressively growing more agitated. "You no longer have to be embarrassed by me, why with you being a city girl and I a piece of trash." Mikage looked horrified by what he said.

"J-Jack..." she stammered. 'Jack'... she never called him that, even after she was dismissed as his assistant. It was always "Atlas-sama," as he had told her to call him.

"I didn't mean that... I..." Mikage paused and seemed to struggle for words. And then, her fists clenched together. Jack lifted his brow in surprise; she was angry. "When I said it was an upgrade, I didn't mean that it was because I was embarrassed to have to follow you around because you were from the Satellite. I meant that it was an upgrade because now I don't feel worthless."

Jack blinked, feeling his mouth go a little dry. Mikage looked genuinely surprised at what she had actually said, and fell back into her chair, averting her gaze from his. Angry outbursts were uncommon for her, so when they actually came, everyone, including herself, was taken aback.

A quick moment of silence passed before he cleared his throat to speak.

"You know, when I first met you, I thought you were just about the smartest woman I had ever met." Saying this was like swallowing a bitter pill for Jack. Being nice and complimentary most definitely wasn't his forte, but he knew he needed to say this. "I used to try and say words like 'aesthetic' and 'impeccable,' just so you wouldn't think I was a dumb animal that was scrapped up off the street of Satellite and mailed to the city."

The tension broke, and she started laughing. Jack glowered at her. "What's so funny?" he demanded, furrowing his blonde brow.

"Oh, nothing," she said, wiping her eyes and smiling. "It's just... I could've never thought of you as dumb."


Carley was never quite sure how to act in the presence of Misty.

Correction, she wasn't sure how to act in the presence of Misty when she had invited her to hang out. Before, when Carley had managed to snag an interview with the model, she felt perfectly comfortable because it was her job and she was accustomed to such. But when she was put into the type of situation where she was forced to talk about something unrelated to her career, she retreated into her shell, scared to speak.

"What's a six-letter synonym for dog?" asked Misty casually, her eyes glued to the paper's daily crossword puzzle.

Carley's eyes flicked over to the older woman and noticed that she was nibbling on the cap of her pen. Odd. She didn't think someone like Misty would harbor such a habit, one that she thought only ordinary people like herself maintained. She supposed this was just another of those random idiosyncrasies they shared.

"Canine," she replied.

"Oh, right," Misty said, a small smile stretching her thin lips. "Silly me, I should have known that."

The two woman sat comfortably together on a bench in the middle of the Neo Domino park. This had been happening a lot lately. Misty would call her up and they would run off to do some sort of mundane activity together: sit down together at a quaint little café, go shopping at an outdoor mall, laze around in a coffee shop, see a play in a small theatre, take a walk through the park... the kind of things good friends would do.

Carley didn't understand it. How could she and Misty be friends? Misty was a gorgeous, international supermodel, both charming and witty. She, on the other hand, was on the bottom rung of the career ladder (and barely hanging on, she mentally added). She wasn't beautiful, nor was she eloquent. Every time she looked into the mirror she saw someone very... plain, with little grace.

It bothered her. Did Misty just pity her? Or did she see something in her that she, herself couldn't find? Carley struggled to answer this question herself, but finally, she decided to ask.

"Misty... ?" she inquired tentatively.

"Yes, dear?" Misty called people that a lot, right along with sweetheart, love, and other words that conveyed overt affection.

"Must be a model thing," she mused. "Uh... I was just wondering..."

Misty set her newspaper and pen aside, giving Carley her full attention.

"I-I was just wondering... why do you hang around me?" she finally asked, meek. Misty blinked, silent. And then her lips curled into a smile.

"Because," she began as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "you're different from other people. You don't judge me or try to use me because of my fame, nor do you treat me or my friendship like a prize to be won. You see me as a human being. You're intimidated by me, yes, but that's understandable."

"Intimidated?"

"It's very clear when I see your face."

"Oh... right." Carley always forgot that Misty could read faces. "So... you like me? You don't care that I'm a total klutz or weirdo?"

By then, Misty had resumed working on her crossword puzzle. "Oh Carley... that's my favorite part about you," she said with a friendly wink.

Later that evening, Misty made an appearance on the red carpet for the movie premiere of a film no one had really heard of until the model had announced she would be attending. Hordes of other reporters from other stations and newspapers cooed at how beautiful she was, and oh how they wished that they could sit down and get a personal interview with her. Carley just smiled to herself and knew that she would.


He still came to her in dreams.

They would go wherever she pleased, they would do whatever she wanted to do. Once, they sat at the edge of a cliff, their feet dangling over the edge as the waves of the ocean crashed violently into the sharp rocks at the bottom. Another time, they relaxed under the shade of a grove of orange trees, enjoying the sweet fruit the trees bore. These were all things Aki had wanted to do with Divine before he died, but never came to pass because they were 'too busy' for her silly romantic fantasies.

Well, now they had all the time in world, just as long as she kept on dreaming.

He set only one rule: they were not to discuss Yusei. Aki, although hesitant at first, was happy to oblige as long as he stayed with her. She convinced herself that Divine was aware that she was in a happy relationship with the Head Signer, and that he would not say or do anything to change that. Still, there came a lingering fear whenever she looked into his eyes that he felt she was still his.

Tonight, she chose to visit a place more familiar to both of them: the Arcadia Movement, before it was reduced to a pile of rubble. A warm fire crackled in a handsome fireplace, the only source of light in the room. Aki and Divine sat opposite of each other, nestled in the cushions of a large armchair.

"I defeated Jack in a duel this morning," she began cheerfully. "He was pretty upset though, and he demanded a rematch." Aki would have never been able to carry out such trivial conversation with Divine before. When they talked, it always seemed to be about improving her dueling, or controlling her powers. Sometimes, she wished he would be willing to sit down and listen to her meaningless rambles, just as any young teen would.

Once, she did ask him if they could talk about something other than the movement. He had simply stared at her with his empty emerald eyes, which seemed to burrow their way through her head. She never asked again.

Divine did not reply at first, folding his hands neatly and setting them on his lap. "So what I'm hearing is that you're getting better?" he asked, suave. The light of the fire danced in his irises and illuminated the curve of his smirk.

"Well, I think so," she hesitated. "I've never been able to defeat Yusei, yet."

Divine's muscles visibly tensed, his fingers curling tightly under his hand. Aki's blood ran cold; she had said the forbidden name. Words of apology came tumbling out of her mouth, but it did her no good. There was no way she could take back what she had said. Divine stood, looming above the young woman.

Aki bit her lip and ducked her head low enough so that she wouldn't have to look at him. She noticed that her hands were shaking uncontrollably.

She expected him to leave. To disappear right in front of her eyes, never to return. But instead, he just laughed. Threw back his head and laughed for a good, long moment. Aki glanced up at him apprehensively, her amber eyes full of confusion. Once the older man had calmed down, he bent down to meet Aki at eye level, a charming smile plastered on his face.

"I am confident that one day you will," he said, patting her shoulder warmly. His hand lingered on her shoulder for a moment longer before it moved up to pet her cheek. As he moved in closer, all of Aki's anxieties immediately melted away. He wasn't angry. He wasn't leaving. He was... acting the way she had always dreamed he would.

Suddenly, the chill of reality washed over her. Oh, that's right. She was only dreaming.

The world around her dissolved into a million pieces, and Aki found herself back in her bedroom. She quickly sat up, drawing in a sharp breath. She couldn't believe that had actually happened; she couldn't believe how far her romanticized fantasies had actually take her. The Claw Signer gathered her legs up in her arms and buried her head in her knees, embarrassed.

She had been so caught up in the moment that she had almost let him kiss her.

Almost.


Rally had never met Aki, but if Yusei liked her, then she had to be pretty cool. What bothered him though was that after they started dating, Yusei started to... change. Blitz had always said things would be different now that Yusei had a woman in his life, but...

Well, at first, Rally didn't believe him. No girl, no matter how pretty or funny, would ever take the "real" Yusei Fudo away from his friends; he was smarter than that. "Bros before hoes," as Nerve always said. Still, every time Yusei dropped by to hang out or just chat, somehow the conversation always drifted to her. He'd talk about a fight they'd just had, or tell a story about something cute she'd done.

The guys would tease him relentlessly for this, calling him a fool in love. Yusei would blush (Rally didn't even know he was capable of blushing before) and mumble something in defense. The guys would have a good laugh about it, then start poking and prodding him about whether they'd had sex yet. Yusei's answer would be a firm "no." But then came the day when the question was asked, he fell silent. The guys reacted with great enthusiasm, slapping him on the back and congratulating him.

The notion of Yusei sleeping with this Aki girl had made Rally feel a bit queasy (He didn't even like girls, yet). But seeing how happy everyone was for him made it easier to let the whole incident roll off of Rally's shoulders. So what if Yusei was having sex with a girl he liked, maybe even loved? That was his business. It wouldn't change anything.

This, on the other hand, would change everything.

"You're getting married?" Yusei winced at Rally's volume, but managed to let out a small laugh.

"I haven't proposed yet," he said, still chuckling. "She has to say yes first."

"Oh, like that matters," said Rally, throwing his arms up dramatically. "Of course she's going to say yes, no girl would ever pass up the chance to marry Yusei Fudo."

"Aki isn't like most girls," he said plainly.

They were out by the dock, near the completed Daedalus bridge. The sun was overshadowed by gray clouds in the sky, the air was cold and clammy. Actually, the weather wasn't much different from when Yusei had dove into the water to save him from drowning just years before. Rally plopped down on the edge of the concrete, feeling the cool water spray his toes. He couldn't help but shiver.

"You can't get married. People who are old... I mean, people who are 30 or 40-years old get married," Rally began quietly as Yusei sat beside him. "But you... I mean, you're just 21! You've barely even lived!"

"Ah, the wisdom of 14-year old boys," Yusei said playfully, flicking Rally's nose.

"I'm serious."

"I know." Yusei's smirk disappeared as he placed a comforting hand on the younger boy's shoulder. "Hey... Just because I might be getting married doesn't mean I'm going to stop being me."

"But what if things change?" Rally protested. Yusei hesitated.

"Well... things will change," he said tentatively. "But, change is not necessarily a bad thing." He gestured toward the Daedalus bridge. Rally's eyes flicked over to him and then stared at the grandeur city over the horizon. He had only been there a few times since the two city's had reunited. He stood up, brushing Yusei's hand off of his shoulder.

"Fine... but, I have to meet her first, OK?" he said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. A smile tugged at the edge of Yusei's lips.

"Deal," he said.

Rally kicked a wayward rock into the water, and watched the ripples expand for a long moment before saying, "Good... I gotta make sure she's good enough for you, y'know? Don't want her messing up your cool-ness..."

'Cool' was an understatement. Even now, he considered Yusei to be the one who hole-punched the stars and hung them up in the sky.

Fin.


Comment(s): I hope you enjoyed this. I tried to write a little more simplistically than usual, so let's see how this goes over.