Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of the characters you may recognize from the show. I'm just borrowing them for entertainment purposes.
A/N: Hey guys, welcome to my new story. This is my Camp NaNo story (and yes, I did win, thank you) and unlike last year, I actually like my story turned out. It's not done yet - I don't know how to write short things I guess - but I'm working on it. I wanted to challenge myself in some way and so I decided to try my hand a non-magical AU, since I'm very much an urban fantasy author. I also wanted to try to write a puzzleshipping story where the focus is on puzzleshipping. Harder than it sounds, apparently. This will not interfere with my writing of GMA's sequel, relax. And… I think that's it. Okay, now, sit down, pull up a chair, and enjoy.
Dear Mutou Yuugi,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been officially selected as the next contestant on The Twelve Dates of Love! As you know, there will be a total of thirteen episodes filmed over the course of June and July 2012, with an additional reunion episode scheduled for early September to see how you and your lover are making out.
We ask that you report to Angel City no later than Thursday, May 31st. Your wardrobe for the show will be provided but we suggest that you bring casual clothing and anything else you may need during filming.
You may bring up to three (3) friends along with you. All hotel accommodations will be paid for and four train tickets have been enclosed. Please note that we ask that you try to avoid contacting friends and family during the filming and that you and your friends will be required to sign another confidentiality clause once you arrive. We also ask that you not draw a significant amount of attention to your appearance on the show until you are given express permission by the producers.
There will be a car waiting for you at the train station to bring you to the hotel. Please do not ignore the car, as it is there for your personal safety…
Mutou Yuugi tore his eyes away from the letter and looked up. He didn't really know why he was bothering to read it again, seeing as how he had already memorized every word. "I'm really not sure about this, Anzu," he said, trying and failing not to sound nervous. "I just don't think it's a good idea. Maybe I should write them back and ask them to pick someone else."
"No!" Mazaki Anzu practically lunged across the counter and grabbed the letter out of his hands. Her eyes flew over the page greedily, drinking in the information. "Yuugi, this is perfect. It's just what you need to get some experience with dating."
"I don't need more experience," he said patiently. "I've had all the experience I could want." There was a very slight hint of bitterness to his voice that Anzu didn't seem to notice. She was too busy studying the train tickets with a wistful look.
"I wish I could go with you," she said with a sigh.
"Yeah, well, you have your ballet classes and besides, you've already got a boyfriend." He reached over and tried to ease the letter out of her grip. A short tug-of-war ensued when Anzu pouted and tried to hang on, but finally Yuugi pulled the paper away, folded it up and slipped it back into the envelope. "Look, I appreciate the fact that you went out of your way to put my name in, but I wasn't really expecting to be chosen. I'm not sure if it's a good idea to leave Jii-chan for so long."
"It's only Angel City," Anzu pointed out. "You'll only be a couple of hours away if something goes wrong." She studied him for a moment. "Come on, Yuugi. I think this will be good for you."
"Are you saying that because it's true or because you feel guilty?" he asked absently. As soon as he saw the stricken look on her face, he felt guilty. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean… I shouldn't have said that."
Anzu attempted a smile. "You have every right to be angry with me. I suppose in some way you're right. I do still feel guilty. But I also think that this would be an excellent thing for you to do and I've have pushed you to do it anyway. Even if it turns out that you and your co-star don't fall in love, what is it going to hurt, really? You get twelve free dates out of it, plus a couple months in Angel City, plus you get the opportunity to get some new dating experience. You're twenty-one years old and you've only ever had one girlfriend, Yuugi. At the very least, maybe you'll get some perspective."
He didn't bother pointing out that he didn't really want any so-called perspective. Instead, he looked back down at the envelope. When Anzu had first brought up the idea of him applying to be a part of the new dating show that everyone was talking about, he'd thought she saw joking. Even when she sent in his application, he'd been sure that the producers would take one look at his picture and cast him aside. Instead, this letter had shown up less than a week later, followed by a phone call from someone who worked for the show. The man, who introduced himself only as Shadi, seemed inordinately pleased that he had been the one to get the part. It was surreal and part of him kept expecting someone to jump out of the bushes and yell "haha, just joking!"
The thing was, it really would be an interesting opportunity. Just for being on the show he would receive a sum of ten thousand dollars, and he'd been promised a substantial bonus if the reception to the show was good. That kind of money could do a lot repairs to the Kame Game Shop. Or it could help pay for a year at college. He chewed his lip indecisively, genuinely torn. On the one hand, he really didn't see how anyone could be interested in having weak, little Mutou Yuugi be the co-star of a television show, and he was a little concerned that his 'date' might be disappointed. But on the other hand, when would he ever get another chance like this?
Anzu must have seen something change in his face, because she gave a squeal of joy. "Does this mean you're going to do it?"
"Yes, alright, I'll do it," Yuugi said, unable to keep from chuckling. "Besides, I've already asked Jou, Malik and Ryou to go with me, and I think Jou would knock me out and drag me there unconscious if he had to. He's psyched about being close enough to visit Shizuka-chan for a month and a half."
"I wonder why they're letting you bring three friends." She picked up the envelope and turned it over thoughtfully, as though the bottom would yield answers to her query. "It's very nice of them but it seems unusual. This is supposed to be about the chemistry between you and your co-star. And I wonder if she'll be bringing friends alone as well?"
He successfully concealed the frisson of anxiety that shot through him and shrugged. "I don't know. Frankly, I don't care. There was something about group dates mentioned in the original package I was sent. If that's the case, it's just as well that they're not expecting me to interact with strangers and pretend like they're my friends." Just the thought of doing so made him uneasy.
"It works out well for you," she remarked wryly. "You four haven't been separated for more than a few hours since Malik moved here. I'm not sure how you would survive that long apart."
Yuugi glanced at her for the comment, but chose not to respond. He knew that it had always bothered her a little that Yuugi, Jou, Ryou and Malik had formed such a close-knit circle. Sometimes she felt left out, especially since she and Malik didn't get along. But it was never something that they talked about. There were certain things between them that were better left unsaid, and this was one of them. Instead, he busied himself with talking to a couple of customers that had found their way into the store, and by the time they left, Anzu had recovered and was smiling again.
"You'll text me, won't you?" she said.
"Of course. I probably won't be able to tell you anything about the show, though." Unlike most reality shows, none of the episodes were being broadcast until they had all been filmed. He wasn't sure why, but one of the stipulations had been his agreement to keep his presence on the show a secret from as many people as possible. The only people who knew where he was really going were Anzu, his grandfather, and the three friends he was bringing along with him.
"That's okay." Anzu shrugged and ran a hand through her hair, revealing long, dangly earrings. Yuugi looked at them for only a moment before he turned his face away, hiding the twinge that ran through him as she said, "I guess I better get going. I have a class in twenty minutes."
"Have fun," he said.
She gave him a shrug and a coy little smile - Anzu always enjoyed her ballet classes - and was out the door before anything else could be said. Yuugi wasn't disappointed to see her leave. He looked down at the envelope again and sighed, wondering if it was truly a good idea. He'd had his heart broken once and he wasn't looking forward to ever having the process repeated. Maybe it would be better to go in with the desire to make a new friend instead of expecting anything more. Yes, he could definitely do that. What man couldn't do with an extra friend who was a girl?
"You're absolutely sure you want to do this?"
"That's the fifth time you've asked me that, Seto. And for the fifth time, my answer is no, but I have to. You know what will happen if I don't."
Kaiba Seto folded his arms and sighed as he watched his younger cousin fiddle with the plane tickets that he'd been sent. When this idea had first come up - and, as most things were, it had been proposed as a joke that swiftly took on a life of its own - he'd been dubious at best. The crowned prince of Egypt going on a dating show, and in Japan of all places? It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen and he'd been put off by the idea immediately. But his cousin had always been good (too good) at talking him into things, and somehow, here they were, getting ready to leave.
"I just think it's a bad idea," he said.
"You've said as much about twenty times, Priest. Unless you have something new to contribute to the conversation, why don't you shut it?"
"Bakura, I'm warning you…"
"Both of you knock it off." Prince Atemu of Egypt glared at his friends in the mirror. "Seto, you're getting yourself all wound up for no reason. Bakura, you're not helping. Mariku, the point is to wear normal clothing, not things that will get me arrested. Stop switching my clothes around."
Mariku smirked and set the chain down, leaning back on the bed with a casual stretch. "At least it will be more interesting than hanging around here," he pointed out.
"Yes, because my goal in life is to keep you amused," Atemu muttered. Putting aside the fact that one of his goals in life was, in fact, to keep Bakura and Mariku distracted so that they didn't try to set things on fire, he was actually relieved that his three friends had been granted permission to come. Of course, it hadn't been difficult to get; the producers for the show had been so excited at hearing that an actual prince (a "real live prince", as they put it) wanted to be on the show in the first place that he could have asked for anything and he probably would have gotten it. They hadn't even minded waiting until the show was completely filmed before any episodes were broadcast.
"I just hope you've thought this through," said Seto, like he knew exactly what Atemu was thinking. Probably he did. Seto was annoying like that.
"I've been over this with you several times, Seto. My father is insisting that I marry before I become Pharaoh." Atemu's jaw tightened. It was an argument he'd had with his father several times over, but the man stubbornly refused to budge. Atemu believed that he could rule Egypt perfectly fine on his own, but his father was of the opinion that he needed a Queen to be a good ruler. Bearing in mind that Atemu had no longer had any interest in women, he was fully prepared to take a husband if he could just find the right person. That was proving to be more difficult than he'd expected and he had no idea how he was going to find someone in just a few short months.
Of course, as had been pointed out to him numerous times already, he could marry anyone in order to assume his position on the throne. This was the modern century and divorce was not unheard of. But he had made a promise… and he intended to keep it. Atemu gritted his teeth and stood up. This show was a last-ditch effort for him to find someone who would not be interested in him purely for the fact that he was going to be the Pharaoh of Egypt. Furthermore, it had been pointed out to him that his people might be more supportive of his reign if they were able to see him acting like a regular person, which meant he had to give it his all.
"Just kill me now," he said.
"Sorry, it's our job to prevent that," Mariku said with another smirk, rolling off of the bed and springing to his feet. "Look at it this way, Atemu. You go. You try. You come home and people feel sorry for you. Your father bows to public pressure and gives in. Everyone gets what they want."
The chance of his father actually giving in wasn't high, but… "When you put it like that, it doesn't sound half bad," he admitted. There were other positive points to the experience, after all. He hadn't been out of Egypt for ages, and he couldn't remember the last time he had gone somewhere incognito. People were always so desperate to know him, to be friends or more with him, and he had long ago closed himself off to anyone but his three friends. Life was just easier to live that way. The idea of being an average man for even a few weeks was strangely inviting, even if it didn't result in love.
"So we're going?" Bakura said. He wasn't overly enthusiastic about the idea of leaving Egypt. But he was completely on board with getting Atemu to loosen up a little.
"Yes." Atemu gave a decisive nod, appreciating that the others had indulged him with his temporary uncertainty and not brought attention to the fact that the contracts had already been signed. He looked down at the envelope on his dresser and the four first class plane tickets lying on top. Where would they lead him? Unconsciously, he fingered the slender ring that he wore on his right pinkie finger, twisting it around. Wherever this situation took him, he was going to be ready for it.