Hello all! I just had an undying urge to write this story for you all, my friends. I hope you enjoy it. I feel we need to get back into the season of writing one-shot stories. And what better way to start that off with a story starring the best pairing in the entire anime world: Yami X Téa! YAY! Please enjoy!

Summary: Takes place before Yami's duel with Kaiba in the Coliseum, after Joey loses to Marik and is being hospitalized. Téa is worried about Yami, but does not know how to communicate that to him. What will she do when they have a duel of their own?

Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!

Rated: T (with some fluffy moments)

The Greatest Opponent

Some people would say that the heartache one feels during sleepless nights and days of seamless confusion –is a woman.

Namely, a sixteen year-old, chestnut-haired, azure-eyed woman.

The nameless pharaoh exited the room with one final command: "Look after him. I will return from this duel as soon as I can". His voice, honeyed over by controlled anger reflected his best friend's form as he lay in the bed, deathly unconscious. The white sheets looked cool to the touch, wilted under Joey's body forming a sort of casket-like appearance before them. Serenity's tears, coupled with Tristan's dismay and Duke's disheartened features made the perfect funeral appeal. They surrendered to the notion that in the goodness of Time, Joey Wheeler's health would begin to fail. Sure, the activity of his limbs would return –they could move involuntarily forever – but what about that loveable irritableness about him? That personality he had that made you what to both embrace and choke him instantaneously? What about that Joey Wheeler?

There was, however, another issue present in the room: Yugi's troubled spirit. And Téa could sense it, as clearly as she could, with equal sagacity, differentiate Yami's spirit from the body of her childhood friend. The biggest difference, she knew, was her absolute knock-kneed behavior every time his presence filled the room like fresh incense. Yugi did not carry that dark, overflowing power his counterpart so easily possessed; it seemed like second nature to him –aside from breathing, to be intensely intimidating, regarding one with a pensive head tilt and eyes that pawed at your soul. Though their appearances were similar, the refined look the Spirit of the puzzle had had not been kindled in Yugi. Yami's eyes were cultivated to be piercing and keen, whereas Yugi's eyes were large like an amethyst sun. Yugi, he had a green beauty about him: adorably cute, but Yami's beauty was raw and influential. He was beautiful, like a prince in modern, school-uniform clothing. The regality showed up in his hand gestures, the way his long fingers glided across the air; his gait, in perfect harmony with the Earth below his feet. Even the way the wind teased their hair had meaning: Yugi's coming off more as clumsy than anything else, whereas Yami's hair being tossed around by the wind only enhanced his royal look somehow, as if he controlled it.

Téa found herself falling for her longtime friend's dark alter ego. Letting him walk out that door, off to face both Seto Kaiba and his destiny without saying so much as a word to him was something her heart would not allow her to do. When it came to him, apparently, she was addled.

"Yugi!" she called, running into the hallway after him. "Yugi, wait up!"

She watched with fear gagged in her throat the way in which he stopped: slow and guarded. His shoulders stood stiffly, his hands curled into fists, his back to her some twenty paces away. His position was sheltered by the dim light of the hallway; even still, she had a distinct view of his whole figure. He was slender, but muscularly so and scarcely past Yugi's age: his form was admirable and she secretly drank in his presence. Silence brewed in that lobby the way thick beef stew brews over a hot fire.

"Yugi…why?" She asked with disbelief. She reached out a hand to his dark form. "Why would you still continue to fight in this tournament after Joey's duel with Marik?" She raised her voice to reach him. "Did you forget what he did to him? Please Yugi…don't fight anymore. If something happened to you, I would- "

"'Don't fight anymore'", came the Spirit's voice, low and slightly hysterical. His tone chilled Téa to the bone. "…Is that what you are asking me to do… Téa?" She saw his fist clench even tighter, and fought back a fearful gulp. "What about Bakura? Mai?" A pause. Then, "Joey? If I fail to fight back that then means everyone suffered…and for nothing."

"Yeah, but–"

"No, Téa, no buts." He turned his head ever so slightly at her. "Not from you." A dull gasp elicited from her mouth, and into the thick air around them. Although, with Yami around, it felt as if Téa's oxygen supply was always lacking sufficiency. "I was wrong to let Mai and Joey duel Marik…I miscalculated his shadow power, underestimated his dueling skill because Joey and Mai were equally as confident." His eyes narrowed until they were almost slits, lethal and vicious-looking. The eye of Horus beamed from his forehead, encasing a dark atmosphere about him. "But his treacherous ways are over, for they will not work on me!"

Téa was fighting the urge to scream. She knew Joey's duel with Marik upset Yami, but not to point where he was willing to fight using his own, dangerous shadow power!

"Téa!" He called her back from her brief thoughts, and she landed back into her body with a wide expression on her face. To her relief, her crush had mustered up the strength to control his power and was now looking away from her, his dark aura gone. "You are stay here. I will deal with Kaiba."

The pharaoh picked up his pace. He was walking away from her again, and she did not even make her argument yet. Her whole body was shaking with anxiety, with fear from losing the one person who made her feel womanly, whole and strong.

"Yami!" She yelled to him, running at him with the fulsome support of her legs and feet. She couldn't withhold giving some loose indignation to his rather presumptuous way of addressing her. Before she could even talk things out with her body, she had her secret love pressed hard against the wall with all of her mass acting as little anvils that refused to stop crushing him under her weight. Her fingers instinctively weaving themselves together with the Spirit's fingers, she pressed them against the wall above his head. The surprised gasp he gave her as he met the wall was enough to shatter her. Her thighs were wrapped around his own in a game of tug. There were tears sitting in the comfort of Téa's eyes as she gazed helplessly and angrily at his chest, not daring to look at his eyes. That would have meant the death of her.

"Don't go." She spoke sharply, wrapping her fingers tighter around Yami's who was looking at both Téa and their fingers curiously, as if she possessed some shadow power of her own that he failed to notice before. "I won't let you. Marik is dangerous, Pharaoh. He has three of our friends…I don't want to lose you, too…I can't stand the thought of it." She found herself softening her voice for him, trying to make him understand the heartache both he and this tournament were causing her. "He's nothing but bad news and you know it."

"Kaiba?" There was a small rumble of laughter in his throat and Téa felt it raveling in his stomach. "Téa, I am going to deal with Kaiba right now. And though he presents a formidable challenge as my rival, I doubt his intentions are so tainted that he is willing to take another's life." At that, Téa peered up at Yami through tears and found that he was staring right back at her with eyes that held both concern and skillful wit. Her heart skipped a beat being so close to him. What was she thinking, charging at him like that without so much as a backup plan? What could she say now with him so close to her? Especially since it was her fault for their current proximity?

"Yeah…but what about after Kaiba, when you face Marik?" She looked down again, fighting back the tears. "His heart makes Kaiba's soul look like a fun day at the park. They're two totally different people that you're facing, Pharaoh."

"I know." Another look of surprise from Téa. "I know that I am fighting two different individuals whose strengths and skills and hearts are varied. That is an ability both you and I have, Téa." His voice was soft upon her ears, not his usual roughness ripping in his throat. "Being able to tell two people apart, though they be similar in hindsight."

Téa did not understand, and the look she gave him told the Spirit so.

"I often wondered how you could tell Yugi and I apart when the others could not. In battle, you knew that Yugi somehow became different without altering his appearance much. You knew it was another voice speaking for him, not his own. I tried to conceal myself, but that only made me more obvious in your eyes." He was staring down at her down, a golden bang hanging in his face. "You knew all along."

Téa was blushing now, vehemently. It was flattering to hear him talking like this, but did she really do something so spectacular that the Pharaoh, her crush, found it admirable and awe-inspiring? True, she could always tell them apart, but she never felt that made her smart or anywhere near as keen and observant as the Spirit of the puzzle was. Heck, she just thought Joey and Tristan had mud for brains sometimes. That's all.

But, apparently, the Spirit didn't seem to think so.

Did they both really share a skill? Just he and her? Somehow, Téa liked thinking about it in that perspective. It made her feel closer to him, to who he was. He was the perfect stranger. They were so close, like friends…but without knowing his real name, it made him seem an unfamiliar person, an alien to their modern and civilized society in Domino Japan.

"Téa?" He said softly, but with the same firmness in his voice as always. "Do you understand why backing out of the tournament now is not an option? Marik has grown stronger with each duel. He can only be defeated with another dark entity. That is me." Téa was listening to him, feeling the shiver in her spine return once more at the mention of Marik's name and darkness. "Remember what we learned at the museum, Téa? About my destiny?"

It all came back to her. She gasped as she recalled the night both he and her went to the Domino Museum to check out an ancient, Egyptian exhibition, and found out a lot more than just an old stone, or consecrated golden staff. "We found out that you were an ancient Pharaoh, and that now…now…" there was a lump forming in her throat that made it hard for her to find her voice, let alone speak.

"Say it, Téa." The Spirit commanded. "Why am I here?"

Téa's voice was a sad one. "You have to save the world again…from some evil…thingy…just like you did five-thousand years ago."

There was silence for long, precious moments in time. They were against each other; Yami, pushed to the wall, and Téa pressed against him, forbidding him to move without aggressively removing her from him. She did not trust him enough to let go of his hands. She kept them above his head. Surprisingly, though, he did not react much to her doing so. He seemed…to understand her pain. Was he secretly apologizing to her for it?

The Pharaoh looked at their position for a moment more; noticing now Téa's forcefulness in bringing him to the wall had blew out one light, while the other was flickering miserably. His eyes were looking at her hair, which appeared golden in the dim light. "So, there's no escaping it, then." He spoke finally. "Is there?"

Téa shook her head hopelessly, but she would not give him the satisfaction of saying that two-lettered word that started wars, killed families and brought destruction. She could not face the decision of letting the only man she would ever truly love walk down the wall and on that elevator to face Kaiba, only to face Marik. Her heart trembled with the possibility of not seeing him again.

"You stay here while I transact with Kaiba. This is something I must do, Téa. I must end this–"

Téa's lips collided with his own, sending his head to the wall as she kissed him. The deep groan he gave in response was the trigger to Téa's kissing him harder. Closer, her pharaoh smelled like vanilla and honey –the sweetest amalgamation since apples and cinnamon. His lips were astonishingly soft and velvety to the touch. She worked to maneuver her consuming love in with the shape their lips were forming.

The Spirit of the puzzle could not remember a time where he had been caught off guard –and twice within the last fifteen minutes. As soon as darkening words were nearly emptied out of his mouth, he was met with a much more daunting being: Yugi's childhood friend, locking lips with him, a five-thousand year-old spirit. His amethyst eyes exploded open in what he knew was shocked conspiracy. What would Yugi say, to feel him sharing a caress of the lips with his friend and lover? He knew Yugi loved Téa. The tingle he felt in his soul room whenever Téa was in Yugi's midst was a feeling unpreventable to him. It had even begun to manifest in him, this feeling his smaller counterpart felt. But he had never been forced to act upon it. Until now.

Téa stroked his lips with hers harder, feeling his defiant tongue behind them. She did not know if he was returning the kiss, but it did not matter to her: she loved him. She was in love with him, and he knew it now. He knew she was in love with him, not Yugi. That action could not be helped. Her fingers , still interwoven with her love's, brought them down to the sides of his head as she continued her affectionate foray on him.

"Hey, Téa," Tristan said upon entering the corridor, "we heard some ruckus in the room. Everything o…wow."

Tristan could not contain his acute blush and bulgy eyes. First from seeing his two best friends engaged in what looked to be a romantic kiss; second, because he was embarrassed when he could find no place to hide. The dim light above their heads appeared to be casting a spotlight on only them compared to rest of the darkish hall. Tristan watched with red tints in his cheeks, ears and neck at how Téa had Yugi's hands as well as his body pressed against the wall, kissing him without a care. Yugi, Tristan deduced, looked to be kissing her back with equal passion.

"What…are you two doing?" Tristan whispered like a guilty schoolboy. He saw them pull apart, looking at one another for a minute…a rather lengthy minute. He saw Yami looking at her with love-struck eyes, mouthed what looked like "Téa, I love you" to her, before she reached up, attacking his lips again with her moans and kisses.

Tristan was deeply unsettled. He already had one friend down after an unsuccessful duel with Marik. Now, his other two friends were engaging in a whole battle of their own.

Kissing. Yugi. And Tea. Kissing.

"What, you're doing it again!" Tristan whispered loudly to himself, not bearing to see another minute of it. He turned quietly (and quickly) on his heels and made his way back down the corridor.

Téa pulled apart from Yami, looking at him for a minute…a rather lengthy minute. She saw Yami looking at her with shock-struck eyes, mouthed "Téa, I know I've hurt you…but don't–" she cut him off, feverishly shaking her head and attacking his lips again with her moans and kisses superseding his low cries for them to stop. She didn't want to hear his talk of 'making matters worse', or anything like that. She pecked his lips harder and harder until before long….he was silent. Just taking her kisses, flaccidly and droopingly leaning into her as she smacked his lips with her own, loving the echoing "pop" sound it made throughout the hallway. His breathing was hot and moist on her lips and she bit his lips lovingly and fast. The groan that came from him was enough to send her swirling in her pool of passion, the one she created with him, the nameless Spirit of the puzzle.

Nameless Spirit. That's right, he was nameless. And a spirit. So why was she kissing him with all her might? He, whom she did not even know the name of? She noticed with an abundance of dismay that he was no longer trying to talk things out rationally with her. He was just permitting her entry into his mouth, his lips, his hard jawline; he wasn't fighting back, anymore.

Realizing her mistake, how rudely she trampled over his pleas, drowned out his attempts to talk to her, she shyly and guilty let go of his lips and hands, but did not back away from him. Tears, once again, made their way into her eyes. The pharaoh was no longer looking at her, his bangs overshadowing his eyes. He was so silent, it seemed as if his soul had retreated from his body and she was left with a hollow, and picturesque statue to deal with.

"Yami…I…" she started, weakly.

"That was…impertinent." He finished lowly, but with a growl that gave away the harshness of his words. Tears pricked Téa's eyes and they spilled over, running freely down her cheeks.

"Yeah…it was." She was sobbing now, knowing he was angry with her. He probably hated her now. She should have known better: Yugi loved her. The pharaoh was so respectful and so honorable, that he would give up his own happiness to make sure Yugi was content. She brought her hand up to her mouth to stifle her sobs.

Yami, not meaning to say –not meaning to hurt his Téa– with what ensued, looked at her not with reproach, but with apology in his eyes. "No, no…it wasn't. It was…" he stopped, seeing Téa bring her blue orbs up to him, sadness sitting in each tear that fell from her eyes. "It was…" what was it? Why couldn't he say it?

Suddenly, those famous eyes of his turned cold and distant. He haughtily fastened his duel disk to his left arm and fixed his jacket after their little…episode of love.

"Kaiba is waiting." He said flatly, without a hint of emotion in his voice. Téa should have known. This was his specialty. Being stoic.

As he pushed himself off the wall, and walked away from Téa, he heard her voice squeak out a little optimism through her tears and pain and smile: "Good Luck."

He stopped again, sighing to himself. He knew the truths behind those words, what they translated to. Her voice, her kiss… gave it all away. He closed his eyes, speaking slowly and carefully.

"Téa, you can't love me. I am not bound for this world long. Certainly not long enough to…" he touched his lips, remembering the feel of her lips against his own. "To…do anything…that does not have to do with me not saving the world…and finding out the mysteries of my past." He finished lamely.

Any other time Téa would have giggled, but she knew the translation: 'I am not bound for this world long. Certainly not long enough to…engage in any romantic encounters with you, since it has nothing to do with saving the world…or my past.' But Téa understood perfectly. His voice, his mannerisms…gave it all away. "You and I cannot…be this way."

Téa nodded sadly. "Yeah." She sniffed, broken now. "I know. Joey can fight by your side. So can Mai; Tristan and Duke even have a better chance of fighting beside you than I have….I don't fit in anywhere, I guess. I know that now."

Yami clenched his fist, shifting his tone to one of slight frustration. "No one has a better chance of fighting by my side than you, Téa." He whipped his head back towards her, his hair travelling brilliantly behind him. "Not even Yugi."

A sharp gasp ran down the hallway from Téa's mouth. He…actually thought of her in that way?

He turned back around, away from her. "I thought you understood that without my saying so. " He shook his head in aggravation, his eyes piercing the ceiling of the corridor. "I told you to stay down here, because I needed to keep you as far away from his madness as possible. I wanted you to remain untainted by the chaos this tournament has caused. Joey standing next to me in battle does not give me nearly the strength you give me just by standing on the sidelines. Don't you understand that, Téa?"

At the mention of her name, and his confession (at least that was sure what it sounded like), Téa felt weak and wobbly, as if her body would fail her. As if she would fall apart. Did he just say he needed to protect her? And that he wanted to keep her pure?

She couldn't feel her legs moving toward her pharaoh, but that was where she was, shyly grabbing his long fingers. His soft hand. He didn't look at her.

"I'm…sorry, Yami." Téa started, dejection saturating her normal cheerful voice. "What I did to you…it was wrong, and selfish of me. I just thought I…that I didn't fit in with you duelists anymore. Trying to make myself fit…was even worse than not trying at all."

"You already fit it in, Téa." Yami replied a little exasperated with her feeling this way about herself. He pushed the elevator door button and waited for it to open.

"Where?" Asked Téa disbelievingly. "Because I thought–"

Now her turn to be surprised, Yami had swiftly pulled her into his arms protectively wrapping them about her hair and back. He tucked his head into her hair a little. The quickness with which he held her blew their garments around in a little man-made breeze; her hair cascading down past her shoulders. "Here." He spoke, ever-so-softly, scared that if he raised his voice, it might break the girl in his arms.

Here? What did he mean 'here'? 'Here', with him? 'Here', in his arms? Her head was resting against his nice, rhythmic heart. Did he possibly mean, 'here', in his heart? What was 'here'? Téa wrapped her arms around his waist and let her hands clasp his back against the elevator door. She was crying, again, she knew that; but the tears were numb on her cheeks. It didn't matter what the pharaoh said. What he did to discourage her, even by embracing her the way a brother would a little sister. She was still in love with him. And she always would be. He had her heart, and neither one of them had the power to give it back.

"You belong here, Téa." Yami repeated, softer this time, lightly pressing Téa 's head to his heart. "You always will." Téa sobbed in his chest. There was no point in holding back the tears. Even when he was facing Marik, or any other villain that threatened the balance of the world, Téa would be in his heart; the thought he was never without. By that, Téa was touched. By that, she felt appreciated. "But you and I can only be friends." He looked down at her, the next words crushing him just as much as it crushed Téa. "For Yugi's sake. Understand?"

She did not have time to respond, for the elevator doors opened. It was time for him to leave now. For certain this time. Slowly, he let go of her, and walked into the high-tech crane, his back to Téa once more.

"Yami?" Téa spoke up, this time happiness in her voice. He could feel her flashing that beam in her eyes and hair that he secretly adored. He, himself, let go a small smirk. "Bring Kaiba down up there! I know you can do it!"

So she did understand after all. Not a hint of romantic love in her voice. Just the voice of friendship blocking out any other evidence that she was in love with the nameless pharaoh. Her voice, and facial expression (like his own) were unreadable. He heard the giggle in her voice, and when he turned, he beamed back a response in his own enthusiastic way, giving her a thumb's up while at it.

"Thank you!"

Just then, the doors slid to a close, with him leaving that confident smirk on his face. That positive gesture, meant only for her to receive.

As soon as the doors closed and she was sure he was gone, Téa's strength gave out on her, and she collapsed to the ground, biting her lip and clutching her stomach –trying with all her heart and strength to not bellow out crying, 'for Yugi's sake'. Don't cry, Téa…don't cry… she kept telling herself, as she made her way to the elevator door, and sat up against it.

"I couldn't stop him." She looked up, smiling sadly. "I guess when the time comes to really…let him go, I won't be able to stop him, either. You won, Yami." She knew his nickname as the King of Games rang true. Even love was a game to him, if you knew how to play it. And he did. Tears fell from her eyes, hitting her teal shirt like pebbles thrown at glass. "Good job."

As the elevator doors slid to a close, leaving her with that bubbly smile on her face, the pharaoh was still for a moment more before bringing his fist hard upon the pulley's doors. His mind raced with the words his said minutes earlier. He did not approve of the way he handled the situation.

Who was he kidding? Téa was a strong individual, showing a great deal of care towards him. He should feel honored –and he did, but…

How could he hurt Yugi when he gave his word that he would not ever again, in Duelist Kingdom? He lost Yugi's trust once before after he nearly risked Kaiba's life to win the duel to face Pegasus. Now that he had both it and his friendship back, he wasn't about to lose it again, because of what he wanted. And so far, he had been doing a fine job at that prospect until…

Téa kissed him.

How could he call her feelings for him, that kiss meant only for him…impertinent? Was Yugi's trust really that valuable that he would break a girl who truly loved him for him over and over again to keep it?

As the elevator traveled upwards towards the top of the duel tower, Yami brought his back to the doors and seeped to the bottom, cradling his head in one hand that was propped up on his knee.

"I am deeply sorry for the way I hurt you, Téa. I was wrong. Your kiss was not impertinent…It was…" what was it? Nice? Wonderful? Enthralling? Somehow, those words did not fit. "It was…ours." He was right. That kiss belonged to him and her alone. Not her and Yugi. Not him, her, and Yugi…but was…


And he was proud of it. Proud and a little embarrassed that was his first kiss. He knew it was his first, because of the amazing rush of adrenaline ejected into him upon contact; that invigorating sense of human contact and passion was enough for lifetimes. All five-thousand of them. And no one could take that away from them, not even…his partner. Yugi.

He felt confident that he could beat Kaiba now. Losing himself to Téa for moments in time did not have to be a complete loss, but rather a greater triumph in the future to come.

Smirking slightly, he looked up at the elevator's ceiling. "Téa, you are a formidable opponent." He closed his eyes, touching his lips, still remembering the taste of true love in his mouth for the very first time. "I honorably accept defeat."

And as they both drawled on each other; one with a trembling smile; the other, with a trademark smirk gracing their lips, both failed to notice the nature of their situation: that when two great opponents face off against each other, both equal in skill and determination...

Just like a duel,

It always ends in a stalemate.

And there you have it! I hope I did okay on this one. I tried to make it a little epic, but to add a little flavor as well as my own twist on the scene between Yami and Téa. I hope you enjoyed it! And please leave a review. It really would mean so much to me, I promise it would, too!

Thank you for reading!