Warnings: Slapshipping.

Disclaimer: I don't own Yugioh GX

Year Three Part One: Journeys

" Hey."

Lia looked up from where she was bent over a book. From where he was leaning on the side of the table, Aster waved.

" Oh, hey." She nodded, and returned to the book. Aster pouted at her inattention.

" So." He pulled up a chair. " What's with all the books?"


" No." He fake gasped. " And here I thought you were just entertaining a sudden interest in," he picked up one of the books, " 'Ancient Alphabets and Undiscovered Languages'."

He raised a brow at her.

" Lia, what did you guys do?"

" Why do you always assume we did something?" She turned away from her book. Aster smirked.

" Because I know you so well." She flushed a little.

" It's just got to do with the Bio Bands." Glancing at his wrist, it was her turn to raise a brow. " Which I can see you've managed to avoid."

" Long, hard talk with Viper." Aster shuddered at the memory. " Lovely man, I think Sarina should have him over for brunch some time."

" How did you convince him?"

" A lot of explaining about how I was in the pros, and the grading system really wouldn't work, and also that it was gaudy, and the newspapers would jump on it."

" They are kinda ugly, aren't they?" Li mused.

" So what's this thing?" Aster pointed to the symbol she was pouring over.

" We found it on the Bio Bands, just under the blue jewel part." She started flipping pages again. " We're trying to figure out what it means, but so far, no one's found anything."

" Hmmm." He leaned over her shoulder to get a better look. She told herself the brush of his breath against the exposed skin of her neck didn't send goosebumps downs her arms.

" You ever seen it?"

" Why ask me?"

" Oh yes, why ask the guy with a university education?. Whatever was I thinking?"

He smirked at her.

" Sorry babe." He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. " Never seen it before."

" Quit being weird." She batted the hand away. Aster frowned slightly, staring at her ear.

" So what's this I hear about Adrian Gecko sending you flowers?"

" Omigod, what is wrong with that boy?" Lia said without preamble, throwing the book down. She's clearly been looking for an excuse to rant about what had happened.

" So what did he do?" Aster pulled his chair around to face her.

" Okay, so I come into the classroom, right? I just go to my desk to sit down, and there are these...things...on it."

" Things?"

" Jessica and Miriam were all like, 'Oh, that' so awesome and sweet, you got flowers!'"

" And you didn't share their sentiments."

" There were things on my desk when things were not meant to be there!" She threw her hands up. " No, I didn't share their sentiments!"

" So what did you do?"

" Well, I tried to ignore them, but the two idiots kept going on, and on and on about it!" Lia ran a hand through her hair. " I was ready to chuck the things in the first waste basket I could find!"

" So why didn't you?"

Lia went bright red, her heart hammering.

" I uh...it seemed rude."

" Since when has that bothered you?"

" Someone...spent some money on them. I was just gonna foist 'em on Mindy or something once I got out of class. She's always complaining that the room needs for flowers."

" So why doesn't she buy any?"

" She says it's not the same as someone giving them to you."

" No." He laughed. He had a nice laugh, Lia supposed, when it was honest and gentle. " I guess not."

" So anyway, I pick the things up at the of the lesson, and I'm planning on running right?"

" Right."

" Well, I get out the door, and there he is! Standing there like some kinda creeper! Just waiting for me."

" Adrian?"

" Gave me the chills! He's so...so...smarmy!"

" ..."

" Don't laugh dumbass! It's a word!"

" I'm not laughing at the word. I'm laughing at you using the word."

" Don't mock my vocabulary, Phoenix."

" Wouldn't dream of it." He grinned roguishly at her, similar to Atticus but not. The joking nature of Atticus' grins was missing from his face, his eyes teasing in some respects but deadly serious in others. When Atticus grinned at her like that, she felt like he was teasing her, like he would give that grin to anyone who gave him amble opportunity.

When Aster gave her that grin, she felt like she was the only person in the world. It was simultaneously the scariest and most wonderful thing she'd ever felt.

" So what did you do?"

She blinked.

" What?"

" About Adrian." He elaborated.

" I just...god, it was so stupid!"

" What?"

" I just, like, stood there. Like I didn't have a clue. He was all smirky and smiley and trying so hard to be suave and cool and...and...Gah! It pisses me off just thinking about it!"

" So not a good memory then?" He looked incredibly pleased, and for the life of her she couldn't figure out why.

" Oh god, no. I ran to my room and took a shower." She shuddered. " Just him touching me made my skin feel all crawly, yuck!"

" He touched you?" Aster suddenly knelt close, face dark with thunder. " Where?"

" Huh? Calm down, he didn't do anything."

" Lia." His voice was hard. " Where did he touch you?"

" He just fiddled with my hair and put a flower behind my ear, that's all." She said, perturbed. Aster's scowl didn't dissipate.

" That's all." She repeated.

A hand came up and started pushing the hair out of her eyes, curling it back over her ear. Lia went red again, but didn't try to slap it away. The look in Aster's eyes told her not to, begged her to let him have that much. She instead sat, very still, not daring to breath as those blue, blue eyes peered down into her.

" Just like this?" He asked, stroking a curl carefully off of her face.

" Yeah." When had they started whispering? Why were they whispering? Granted, yes, they were in a library, but they were up several floors in a section that no one was going to check. They could afford to speak in normal pitches.

Aster frowned, his hand resting on her ear, his fingers locked behind it. Suddenly, the idea to try and do some reading in some dusty, dark corner of the library where no one would bother her didn't seem like such a good idea anymore. Aster was far too close, the walls behind him pushing him into her. The soft sunlight from the setting star was filtering through the windows, but it speared the space above their heads, making particles of dust glitter. The air felt hot and stifling, and she couldn't catch her breath. Her heart was hammering in her chest.

" Hmm." He paused, observing her. Lia fought to keep from gulping, though her throat and mouth suddenly felt very dry.

" What?" Her voice cracked, and she coughed to try and cover the slip-up. " What is it?"

There was a silence, heavier than any she'd ever experienced before.

Then Aster swooped down, and something warm and soft was pressed to her face. She felt his breath lingering on her cheek, his nose brushing her ear, but it was all acknowledged at a distance. Time stopped moving and hung suspended as Aster's lips were gently pressed to her cheekbone. The world faded away, peeled back to reveal a small bubble where only the two of them existed. Her brain fizzled out, sparks flying everywhere as some part of her desperately tried to reactivate it.

She failed.

Aster pulled back, looking exceedingly pleased with himself.

" There." He smiled, a genuine, sweet smile that was a hundred times harder on her than his roguish one.

" Huh?" She squeaked, not even having the effort to reach up and touch her face. She could feel it burning all the same.

" Now you won't be thinking about Adrian." Was his satisfied answer.

" You must really miss him, huh?"

Lia jumped. Alexis leaned against one of the rocks they'd dragged to the front entrance. Lia, who sitting and staring out at the horizon, blinked at the sudden appearance of her friend.

" What?"

Alexis nodded her chin downwards. Lia followed the line, and had to suppress a squeak. Her fingers had twisted themselves into the chain of her necklace again. They were carefully stroking the crescent moon.

" I-I...!" She stuttered. " W-What are you talking about? Who am I missing?"

Alexis' grin grew.

" C'mon." She pushed off the rock and walked over to take a seat next to the girl. "It's obvious."

" What is?"

That smirk was starting to get on Lia's nerves.

" Aster gave you that, didn't he?"

Lia didn't say anything, but the rush of blood to her face told her that she didn't need to.

" Thought so." The blonde made herself comfortable. Above them, the three suns hung in the sky, alien and strange. Somewhere, from the recesses of the school, they could hear the grumbles of students. Those were growing more and more restless each day, and neither of them knew what to do. Lia herself had none of the raw power and fortitude that Alexis could command. At best, she could clock one of the malcontents over the head with a heavy book from the library.

" How...How so?" She couldn't stop herself from stuttering. Traitorously, her fingers refused to leave the chain alone.

" You mean besides the way you keep fawning over it?" Alexis teased. She laughed at the disgruntled expression on the younger girl's face.

" I don't fawn over anything."

Alexis kept laughing.

" Sure you don't."

Lia sniffed and turned back to the empty sky and the emptier landscape. It brought her no comfort; if anything, it only served to make her more depressed. But it meant that she wasn't looking into Alexis' knowing eyes, which seemed to understand her better than she understood herself.

" Oh, don't get so huffy." She was patted on the arm. " You do fawn over that necklace, and I think you know it. You haven't taken it off once."

" It was a present and it would be rude not to wear it." Lia said, trying to maintain her dignity.

" Lia, honey, you haven't taken it off."

" I like it, okay?!" She exploded before she could stop herself. " It's pretty and nice and I've never gotten a gift from a boy who wasn't family!"

" Jaden and Sy and Atty send you gifts for your birthday." Alexis pointed out. Lia rolled her eyes.

" That's them. This is different." She fiddled with the charm.

" How come?"

" No reason."

" Oh c'mon! That's not right. There has to be a reason."

" Well, there isn't."

" So they why haven't you taken that thing off? You're always wearing it, you touch it all the time, you get this big smile on your face whenever you do..."

" Look, it's...it's just...it's nice."

"And the presents the guys get you aren't nice?"

" No, they are, but..."

" But what? What's so special about this gift?"

" Because Aster got it for me, okay?!"

The second she said it, Lia wished she could take the words back. Saying that sort of thing out loud had been something she'd been avoiding since the end of the previous year. She hadn't even said those sorts of things mentally. A line had been drawn in the sand and she was struggling not to cross it, feeling scared. The abyss was open before her, a long way down with no guarantee of a soft landing. In her heart of hearts, she knew why she loved the necklace so much, but to acknowledge it would only lead down a path she wasn't sure she was ready to walk.

But the words were out in the open, and Alexis was looking far too satisfied with herself.

" Uh-huh. That's what I thought."

" Shut up." Lia said sullenly, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on them. The blonde next to her threw an arm over her shoulder.

" Quit sulking."

" I'm not."

" Yeah, you are. Quit it, okay? I'm not making fun of you."

" Yes you are." Lia said, completely sulkily. There was a moment of silence, for which Lia was thankful. Alexis had learned not to push her early in their friendship, but the previous year seemed to have wrecked that knowledge, leaving Alexis desperate for something cling to and Lia unwilling to give her even that. It had hurt more than she could ever put into words to have Alexis betray her, and while it was in the past, there were still dents in their relationship. Alexis had to learn patience all over again, to remember that sometimes, she had to let Lia come to her with the problem, not insist that the younger girl tell her. She had to put aside her desire to fix everything the moment it appeared in favour of rebuilding the trust between them.

They'd had their heart to heart; in the sleeping quiet of Lia's house, half hidden under sheets and not putting any lights on for fear of ruining the mood, the two had buckled down and talked. For hours upon hours, until the first streaks of dawn had started to turn the sky a misty gray, they'd talked. Until everything as out in open, until the wounds they both carried had finally had the festering infection had been washed away and finally, finally, they could start to heal.

Alexis relearned that patience was the key to being Lia's friend.

" Can I ask a stupid question?"

Lia refused to look at her friend, keeping her eyes instead firmly trained on the sand.

" Shoot."

Lia took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to phrase what she wanted to ask without making a fool of herself.

" Lex..."

The blonde looked at her out of corner of her eye.

" ...Am I dating Aster Phoenix?"

Alexis started. Of all the things she'd expected Lia to ask, that clearly wasn't it. Lia was determined not to look at anything but the horizon, her cheeks flaming, her eyes narrowed.

" Lia, if you have to ask..." Alexis said slowly, but Lia was shaking her head.

" I know, I know that. I know he's never asked, and I've never agreed to anything..."

" But?" The older girl prompted, curious. Lia's fingers played frantically with the chain. She bit her lip.

" But...I mean, I know we're not...not really, but there are times...I feel like...like there's something going on between us."

" What kind of something?"

" Something...something..." Lia ran a hand through her hair, trying to find the words. " Something that's...just us, you know? Something that feels...exclusive."

" Exclusive?" Alexis' brow furrowed. " ...Does Aster feel the same way?"

" I don't know!" Lia twisted her fingers more in the chain. " I just...Sometimes, I see people looking at him or read about something someone said about him in a magazine, and I just keep thinking, 'Who are these people? What do they know about him? They can't possibly know him the way I do!'...I...I've never felt that way about anyone before."

" Not even Bastian?" Her companion said carefully. Lia shook her head

" With him...With Bastien...I just wanted him to look at me. I wanted him to look at me and see me. Aster..." She swallowed. " ...Aster already does that. He...He sees me. He's never not seen me."

" Lia?"

" I just...with him, it feels like there's...something. Something that's totally us, that doesn't exist between anyone else."

She turned despairing eyes on her friend.

" Lexi, am I his girlfriend?"

" Do you want to be?" Alexis asked seriously. Lia bit her lip.

" I...I don't...know."

" Lia, how you feel about him?"

" I-I don't..." She started shaking her head again, trying to clear it. " I can't really tell. I just...He was so arrogant and I tried so hard to hate him but..." She stared off in the distance.

" He understands. He gets it...all the things I hate about myself, he sees. And he hasn't gone running. He just...This thing that's between us, it scares me, Lex."

" Is that all? It just scares you?"

" No." A tear escaped. " No, it scares me because of how much I like it."

Then she leapt to her feet, her heart hammering wildly.

" I've got to go, it's my turn to watch Blair. Bye Lexi!"

She practically ran for the door, not once looking back. Falling against the rocks, Alexis heaved a sigh. Sharing time was over and it was time to be patient again, she noted. Either way, she wasn't allowed to leave. There had to be at least one Duelist present when an Academic was on guard duty, and she didn't know if Lia's relief was coming any time soon. The girl might've gone completely off schedule in her haste to get away from the subject.

" Make sure to eat something!" Alexis called after the figure that was disappearing down the hall, aware that, for the moment, it was the best she could do.

As Alexis watched Lia run and Lia herself ran from the epiphany that had almost come over her, two Obelisk Blue students lay writhing on the ground by one of the empty stairwell. Their unconsciousness was a blessing, because had they been awake and aware, their screams would have echoed out into the desert.

At the top of the stairs, stood the diminutive figure of Marcel Bonaparte, a cape scrounged up from somewhere hanging over his shoulders and an uncharacteristically wicked look in his eyes. He was holding out his left hand, which had been replaced with a clawed, scaly thing that was beginning to glow darkly in the light of the halls. A dark mass seeped out of it and surrounded the teenagers on the floor. They began to toss their heads, nightmares flashing before their closed eyes.

" Just sit back and relax, boys." Yubel crooned in a mock comforting voice. She pressed deeper into the minds of her victims, pulling at memories as she went, rearranging things to suit her own ends. When she finally found the love of dueling that had driven them to Duel Academy in the first place, she grinned.

And thrust her clawed hand into the very center, bleeding black out into it and beginning her reprogramming.

" And leave the rest to me."

So yeah. Yubel. And greetings from farther north than I was yesterday. I don't have a lot of time to post right now, but please enjoy this chapter for what it is. See you tomorrow!