A/N: A tie-in/follow-up/side-sweep to Season 10, Round 2's – Hostshipping [Ryou Bakura x Anzu Mazaki] and Season 9, Round 2's Trustshipping [Seto Kaiba x Ishizu Ishtar]. Lifeshipping. Amelda x Anzu Mazaki. So call me crazy. And don't get my number. Maybe.
Warnings: none this time.
Disclaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yuugiou! franchise and I claim no association with any of them. No copyright infringement intended with this and no money is being made from this. Please support the creator by purchasing the official releases.
Between The Lifelines
If there was one thing Anzu had learned about Amelda, it was that he had a lot of patience. And that he was actually more intimidating than Kaiba. The muscles in her arms already hurt from having handled a gun for the past hour and she felt like screaming and tossing the damn thing into the furthest corner of the underground shooting range. But one look in the direction of the redhead had her changing her mind instantly. His grey eyes were trained on her and he had a look on his face that clearly said, 'I know what you're thinking; don't even try it'.
Paintball guns in an outing with Yuugi and the rest of their friends were one thing. But handling a real gun, which – if she remembered correctly – Amelda had called a Beretta, was another. In her mind, she'd christened the redhead Drill Sergeant because he was acting like the most annoying instructor she'd met in her life.
"Breathe," he grunted at her after a yet another missed shot. "Keep your eyes on the target."
She'd flinched and loosened her grip too much, causing the recoil to hit her hard and the bullet to strike the edge of the sheet instead of the painted-on human silhouette. She had been having mixed success so far and most of that was because she couldn't get her mind off other things. Such as where Yuugi was right now and how he was doing, and the threat of Dark Bakura coming back, now that the Ring had returned to him, even though it should have been buried beneath the Egyptian sand for the rest of eternity. A nasty reply was on the tip of her tongue, but she swallowed it. She'd asked to come along. She'd wanted to be useful. Amelda was teaching her how to be so, therefore complaints had no place here.
He stalked over and shoved her, easily unbalancing her.
"Hey!" She whirled on him, bristling with indignation, but was faced with the blankest expression she'd seen so far.
"Check your balance," he instructed, nonplussed by her outburst and correcting her stance. He nudged her foot slightly forwards and shoved her again, satisfied when she didn't yield as easily this time. "Relax and breathe. Now find your target, take aim, and… breathe. "
She'd held her breath again. She'd sucked in a lungful of air and held on to it for dear life, bracing herself for the impact that was sure to come after the bullet was released, and pulled the trigger before she'd been ready for it. The impact came. The bullet flew past the mark. Her ears were ringing despite the tight earplugs. Her arms hurt. She spitefully thought Amelda sounded like a midwife, ordering her to breathe all the time.
If Amelda wanted to sigh at her, he didn't. He made no comment on her performance whatsoever. In fact, he did nothing to show his annoyance. "How many bullets have you used up?"
"Um..." Anzu racked her mind. From the moment he'd broken the gun down to explain the few most basic things to her, then reloaded, unloaded and had her reload the gun twice, there had been… "Six?"
Amelda moved in behind her, taking her hands in his gloved ones and fixing her grip on the gun. "Seven. Always keep count or you'll end up with an empty magazine and an opponent about to kill you. Now, breathe," he repeated tirelessly, "take aim, keep your eyes on target. Keep breathing. Relax. You're too tense."
Of course she was. How could she not be when he was standing right behind her so close she could feel his breath on her hair and the heat of his body against her back? Her eyes were fixed on his hands partially hidden by fingerless gloves, and the ease with which he manoeuvred her hands around the gun. He made it look so easy when he pulled the trigger and hit the mark dead centre.
"Always keep your eyes on target. You'll want to know if you've wasted a bullet."
His presence disappeared from her back and she shivered involuntarily. For a moment Anzu felt crestfallen and utterly useless. Here she was, dressed in clothes that belonged to Amelda's probably-girl-friend because her own had been completely ruined during her captivity, learning how to handle a firearm from someone who, if Mokuba's story was right, hated war with a burning passion. It all seemed so surreal. She felt so out of place she didn't know what else to do but keep practicing. For a moment she entertained the terrible thought of staying on this side of the world forever, of never seeing any of her friends again, of being lost to them forever, or even dying here.
Then she pulled herself together and counted off the used round because she had only a couple left and no room for mistakes. "Eight." She took aim and kept her eyes on where the bullet was supposed to hit. This time, she got closer to the mark. "Nine… Ten."
Malik and Bakura had disappeared off to somewhere during the night when she'd been dead to the world in dreamless sleep, feeling safe for the first time in days – in the company of the most unlikely person to induce that feeling, no less. When she'd asked about them earlier, Amelda had given no definite response, and to her own surprise, Anzu had found that she was okay with that. They would be meeting up again in a few hours, which was why the redhead had brought her here instead of letting her sit around and do nothing but worry back at his apartment.
Anzu ejected the magazine, caught it the way she'd been taught, set the gun aside and reached for the bullet box to reload. She hesitated for a moment, shooting a quick look at Amelda, but he made no movement to either stop her or help her, and she continued on, extremely self-aware of everything she did. She pushed the magazine in, racked the slide to chamber the first of ten bullets and took a deep breath before raising the gun and taking aim again, mindful of how she set her feet and how she held her shoulders.
"Up." Amelda tapped her lightly below the wrist and Anzu raised her arms a little bit higher. There were never more than a few steps between them, which allowed the redhead to move in fast and soundlessly whenever he deemed it necessary to correct her stance, her grip on the gun, or her aim.
Anzu was getting better whenever she didn't give in to the ache in her arms or didn't let her mind stray to her friends. She already knew that Amelda was involved in this ordeal because he knew some of the people connected with Ishizu and Kaiba's disappearance and was helping Malik get back his sister, pulling Kaiba out as well if it was meant to be. She knew that Ryou was in this because of the Sennen Ring having made reappearance, and she couldn't stop thinking about Yuugi and what he could be going through at the moment, if he even knew that the Items were back.
When Amelda told her to stop shooting so that he could answer his cell phone, she used that small break to put the gun down and shake her tired arms vigorously before rubbing them to get the tingly ache out of the muscles. She listened in to the one-sided conversation, trying to guess whom he was talking with, but Amelda's almost monosyllabic responses made that task hard. Instead, she took a moment to marvel at how easily he switched languages. With her, he used Japanese with barely any accent. With Malik, he switched to perfect English. With the owner of the shooting range and, before that, the person behind the counter of a fast food joint where they'd had a late breakfast, he'd used Italian. Now he spoke a language she'd never heard before. She had to wonder just how many languages he knew. Done speaking, he put the phone away and Anzu picked the gun up again, swallowing the questions playing on the tip of her tongue. This was setting out to be a long day.
By the time Amelda announced a break, Anzu had lost count of the bullets she'd spent, but they were in the hundreds. She was tired, annoyed and hungry to the point where she'd snapped at Amelda several times.
"I'm not a soldier! Quit treating me like one!"
It was met with an undecipherable expression and a silence that stretched into uncomfortable.
"The people we're up against are." He left her with that piece of information to make of it whatever she wanted.
It had a sobering effect on her. She seemed silly to herself all of a sudden. With everything she'd gone through while following Yuugi, she tended to forget that there was still more out there. Really, she should have been smarter. She shuffled around with the gun a little and turned her attention back to the target, offering no apology because there was no place for one. Amelda had made that clear.
Now, she brushed past him and strode out of the underground building, eager to get back in the sunlight while Amelda stayed behind to settle the costs with the owner. Anzu leaned against the rough brick wall, eagerly breathing in the fresh air. She decided she'd had enough of dark basements for the rest of her life. Thus, with her luck, she'd soon end up in another one. She smirked a little ruefully to herself at the thought and took to studying the area. In front of her was a star-shaped crossing where five streets came together, creating a considerable amount of open space. The shooting rink was in a remodelled bomb shelter under a small grassy hill in the largest area between the streets. There were a few trees growing around it, a fenced-off small parking lot where Amelda had parked his bike on one side of it and a public library on the other. Directly opposite the shooting range was a recently built tall office building, towering over the considerably lower and slightly dilapidated-looking apartment buildings. To the left were rows of five-story houses, and to the right – a supermarket behind which stood a line of trees and more houses. People were passing by, rushing home after work and school, walking their dogs, or simply hanging out with friends in front of the supermarket. Cars, bicycles and motorbikes passed by every so often. All of it seemed so peaceful, so idyllic, so… normal that Anzu felt out of place. None of them knew what had happened last night; none of them were aware what was going on just a few kilometres away, none of them knew that she had just learned to handle a gun because she could end up having to use it in a matter of hours. The contrast was giving her a whiplash and she was glad when Amelda finally emerged from the building and handed her the helmet which she'd forgotten to retrieve.
Anzu fell in step with him even before the words had left his mouth. When they stopped by his bike, she blurted, "How can you stand it?"
He paused in putting on his helmet and cocked an eyebrow at her. "Be more specific. How can I stand what?"
"The noise. Gunfire," she amended. It was something that had been nagging at her mind for a while. "You were in a war, weren't you? How can you stand the sound?"
He considered her for a moment, then the corner of his lips quirked upwards. "How can you walk in high heels?"
"What?" Anzu was taken aback, that kind of question being the last thing she'd expected. She frowned. "What does that even…"
"Get on," he said, the smirk not fading as he pulled the helmet on and revved up the bike.
Settling in the seat behind him and slipping her arms around him, she still wore a frown. What kind of a reply-question was that exactly? 'How can you walk in high heels?' Who even asks that? How can you… And then it hit her and she had to laugh at her own silliness. Of course. That's how. You learn.