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Best Friends

ADULTS ONLY

Contains semi-explicit male/male sex.

Pairing: Yugi/Jounouchi

Summary: Yugi and Jounouchi go on a camping trip, and maybe fall in love.

6/11/03

Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! belongs to Kazuki Takahashi. Just borrowing!

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Yami Czarina for beta.

* * *

Yugi really wished he hadn’t eaten that last slice of pizza. When was he going to learn that trying to keep up with Jounouchi was not only pointless, but often painful? At least, when it came to eating. No thanks, Jounouchi-kun, I’m full. There. Would that have been so hard to say? But no. I saved the last piece just for you, Jounouchi had said, pushing it towards him, smiling his big wide Jounouchi-smile, and all Yugi could do was smile back and eat it. So now his stomach felt like it was about to burst, and he was hot, and his head hurt, and Jounouchi was getting ahead of him again. He pushed his tired legs into a shuffling run to catch up.

Trying to keep up with Jounouchi when it came to walking was pointless and painful, too. Jounouchi’s long legs pumped along like pistons, each stride nearly twice one of Yugi’s. Jounouchi was strong and athletic and never seemed to get tired, but Yugi had sworn a long time ago he wasn’t ever going to be caught calling after Jounouchi to wait up for him, like a little kid chasing after the big boys. He’d keep up if he had to run the whole way.

Of course, that didn’t mean Jounouchi didn’t notice when Yugi was huffing and puffing along at his side. He stopped, smiling down at Yugi, put a hand on Yugi’s shoulder. “You okay, Yugi? Want to rest for a little while?”

“I’m okay,” Yugi said, knuckling the sweat out of his eye. “How much farther?”

“We’ve been making pretty good time. Anyway, I could use a soda.” Jounouchi let his backpack—twice the size of Yugi’s, and twice as heavy as well—slide down over his right arm. “Let’s sit down over here.”

Jounouchi dropped down cross-legged onto a mostly-clear patch of ground at the side of the path, and dug in his pack for sodas. Yugi propped his pack against a tree and sat leaning against it. The sodas were still fairly cold, and Yugi pressed the can against his burning face for a moment before popping it open. He grinned at Jounouchi before taking a long, cool drink.

It was pretty here, Yugi thought. The evening sunlight slanted through the trees, dappling the leaves, and birds twittered cheerfully in the branches. A light breeze stroked his face. Tired legs and tummy-ache notwithstanding, he was very glad to be here with his very best friend. He’d been thrilled when Jounouchi asked him to come along on an overnight camping trip, just the two of them. Trees and stars and fresh air and Jounouchi—what could be better?

Jounouchi leaned back with his head on his pack, stretched out his legs, and tipped up his soda. Yugi watched Jounouchi’s throat as he swallowed, long fingers wrapped around the can, thick sandy-blond hair spilling around his face. They’d been walking for hours, it seemed, and Jounouchi wasn’t even sweating. Yugi tried not to be envious, but sometimes he couldn’t help wishing….

“So, Yugi….” Jounouchi rolled onto his side to face Yugi, knees drawn up, cheek resting in his hand. He moved with lazy grace, falling effortlessly into position. Jounouchi could be clumsy sometimes, Yugi knew. When he was unsure of himself, he’d start to show off, and end up tripping over his own feet. But when they were alone like this, just relaxing, no pressure to be cool, Jounouchi was as natural and sleek as a greyhound. Well, maybe not a greyhound, with all that floppy hair. Bigger than a greyhound, too. What were those big hounds with the long hair? Afghans, that was it. Maybe Jounouchi was an Afghan hound, tall and regal, with long, sweeping fur.

“What are you thinking about?”

Jounouchi’s question startled Yugi out of his reverie, and he felt his cheeks go red. “Nothing,” he said. “Just wondering….” He couldn’t tell Jounouchi he was thinking of him as a dog—not with Jounouchi’s unfortunate history of puppy insults. “If you were an animal, what kind would it be?” There, that ought to be safe enough.

Jounouchi leaned back again, dropping his empty drink can at his side, curling both arms around his head. “That’s easy. A dragon.”

Yugi grinned. “The Red Eyes? I should have known.”

“You bet! Big and powerful, and he can fly! And breathe fire! Wouldn’t that be great?”

“Yeah.” Yugi could see Jounouchi as the Red Eyes Black Dragon. “But I meant a real animal. You know, like a cat or a dog or something.”

“I’m no dog!” Jounouchi jumped up onto his hands and knees—looking just like an angry puppy.

Yugi giggled. “There’s nothing wrong with dogs. Some of them are big and powerful, too. Like… Great Danes. Or Doberman Pinschers.”

“Yeah. Well….” Jounouchi abruptly flopped onto his side, brief flare-up gone. He grinned. “I wish I were a Doberman! I’d bite Kaiba’s leg.”

“I’d like to be… a Collie, I think.” A Collie! That was Jounouchi! Perfect! Yugi smiled to himself to have the puzzle solved.

“Like Lassie?” Jounouchi said. “Yeah, that’s you. Always saving the day. A hero.”

Yugi felt himself blushing. “No, you’re the one….”

But Jounouchi was already getting up, stowing the empty soda cans in his pack, and hefting it back onto his back. “Come on, we’d better get going. It’s going to be getting dark soon.”

Yugi scrambled to his feet. He felt a lot better now—rested and his stomach settled a bit by the soda. He took a deep breath, shouldered his pack, and ran after Jounouchi, already striding ahead.

* * *

Jounouchi’s camping spot, when they finally reached it, was beautiful—a small meadow full of wildflowers, set about by tall trees. A sparkling stream ran along one side, banked by smooth round boulders, just right for sitting and thinking. Beyond the stream, green hills stood, below skies now streaked with yellow and orange as the sun sank. Yugi dropped his pack and sighed. “Wow, Jounouchi-kun. This is wonderful! Thank you for bringing me here.”

“Yeah. Too bad we got such a late start out of Domino, it’s already too dark to really see it. But don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time tomorrow. We don’t have to head back until tomorrow afternoon.”

Yugi nodded. They hadn’t really started late out of Domino—they’d caught the 2 pm train as planned, and arrived in the small town at the foot of the mountains right on time. It was Yugi’s fault they’d taken so long to reach the campsite—he just couldn’t hike as long or as fast as Jounouchi could. But Jounouchi was too kind to say so.

And what did it really matter, anyway? They were here, and they were together, and that was the important thing. “What can I do to help set up?”

“There’s not really much to do,” Jounouchi said, as he pulled things out of his pack. “We can sleep over there.” He pointed toward a level spot by a large tree. “And go behind those trees over there for our toilet.”

And speaking of the toilet…. “Um, Jounouchi-kun… do you have the toilet paper?”

“Always on the top of the pack,” Jounouchi said, grinning and handing Yugi the roll, along with a small camp shovel.

“Thanks.” Yugi’s stomach was acting up again. He hurried off into the trees.

* * *

They’d bought bento boxes in town before hiking up, and sandwiches and snacks, containers of milk and soft drinks. They didn’t want to build a fire, so they didn’t bring anything they’d have to cook or even heat up. That was what the pizza had been for—one last hot meal before heading into the woods. Yugi nibbled on some rice and drank another soda. He didn’t really feel like eating, but he knew Jounouchi would worry if he didn’t, so he finished his meal without complaining, even though his stomach was still pretty wobbly. Darn it, why did he have to be sick, today of all days? He’d been looking forward to this trip all week. A chance to be alone with Jounouchi! Not that he didn’t like spending time with all of his friends, but this was special. He was hoping… well, they were going to have a great time, that was all. And here he was, nursing an upset stomach.

Then another wave of cramps hit. Yugi dropped his plate and jumped up, grabbing the toilet paper and shovel as he ran for the trees.

Jounouchi was watching him thoughtfully as he returned. “You okay, Yugi? That’s the third time since we got here you’ve….” He gestured towards the trees. “Not that I’m counting or anything.”

It was probably just the spooky light from the camp lantern making Jounouchi look so worried. “I’m okay. Just a little….” He rubbed his stomach ruefully. “Shouldn’t have had that last slice of pizza. But I feel better now.”

“Yugi, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. You didn’t make me eat it.” Yugi grinned. “Well, you sort of did, so I guess it is your fault.”

“Hey!” Jounouchi launched himself at Yugi, and before Yugi knew it, he was on his back with Jounouchi straddling his hips and holding his wrists pinned to the ground. “I made you eat it? Did I hold you down… ?” Jounouchi brought Yugi’s wrists together over his head, and held them both in one hand, so he could use the other to take hold of Yugi’s jaw, “And open your mouth and shove the pizza in?”

Yugi squirmed and laughed and somehow Jounouchi’s thumb got in Yugi’s mouth, and he was going to bite it but he ended up licking it instead. It tasted like mayonnaise from the sandwich he’d been eating. Yugi got his mouth around it and sucked hard. Jounouchi laughed a funny little laugh that was more like a gasp, and his face looked red in the lamp light. Yugi’s pants felt tight, and he bucked under Jounouchi and his stomach did another flip.

Yugi grimaced and yelped. “Jounouchi-kun….”

Jounouchi rolled off him, releasing his wrists, pulling his thumb out of Yugi’s mouth. “Yugi,” he said, in a chastened voice. “I’m sorry.” He giggled once, swallowed it, and settled at Yugi’s side. “Your poor tummy! Here, how’s this?” Jounouchi pulled up Yugi’s shirt-tail, slid his hand under Yugi’s undershirt, and began to rub Yugi’s belly.

“Um,” Yugi relaxed under the gentle strokes of Jounouchi’s hand. “Feels good.” Yugi stretched and pressed closer to Jounouchi. His tired muscles turned to jelly, and he yawned.

“I think I wore you out,” Jounouchi said softly. “All that hiking with a sore tummy—you should have told me you were feeling bad. We could have taken it easier.”

“I’m okay,” Yugi said, yawning again. “It’s been a great day.”

Jounouchi gave Yugi’s stomach a little pat, and pulled his hand away. Yugi wanted to protest, but Jounouchi said, “Why don’t you go on to bed? I’ll clean up and be with you in a little while.”

“I’ll help,” Yugi said, struggling to get up.

“Nah, you’re sick. Take advantage of it.”

His stomach really was feeling better. But Yugi was so exhausted now, he could barely keep his eyes open. “I’ll clean up tomorrow.”

Yugi just managed to wash his face and brush his teeth in the stream, before stumbling to his blankets. He curled up on his side, rubbing his own stomach, but it wasn’t the same as when Jounouchi did it.

He heard Jounouchi moving around the camp, picking up the trash from their dinner, stowing everything in their packs, then splashing in the stream as he got ready for bed. Then Jounouchi was lifting the blankets and settling in behind him, hand sliding around Yugi’s waist and onto his belly. “Still sore?” Jounouchi asked.

“A little.”

“Go to sleep,” Jounouchi said, making comforting circles with his hand on Yugi’s stomach. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“Mm.”

“Remember, you’re cleaning up tomorrow.”

Yugi fell asleep halfway through a giggle.

* * *

When Yugi woke up in the morning, with the sky brightening to the most spectacular sunrise he’d ever seen, Jounouchi was still curled around him, chin on Yugi’s shoulder, one hand up Yugi’s shirt. Yugi sighed happily and leaned into Jounouchi. Sometimes he was glad to be the size he was, and this was one of those times—he fit perfectly in the curve of Jounouchi’s body, safe and warm with Jounouchi’s arms around him. He’d slept well—if Jounouchi’d been his usual restless self, Yugi hadn’t noticed—and his stomach was fine. And it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. He put his hand over Jounouchi’s, over his shirt, and held it to him.

Jounouchi stirred, mumbling against Yugi’s shoulder. His arm tightened around Yugi’s waist. “Yugi…,” he said sleepily. Then he came awake, stretching, seeming a little startled to find himself with an armful of Yugi. “Morning.”

Yugi shifted onto his side facing Jounouchi, still holding Jounouchi’s hand trapped against his skin. He smiled up at his friend. “Good morning. How did you sleep?”

“Great.” Jounouchi smiled back, brown eyes warm and friendly, still blinking away sleep. “How about you? How’s your tummy?”

“Fine. All better.—Look at that sunrise, isn’t it wonderful?” Yugi felt so happy he could burst. “Jounouchi-kun, I’m so glad you brought me here!”

“Even after I stuffed you full of pizza, dragged you up a mountain, and made you sick?” Jounouchi teased.

“Mm. Even so. Being here with you….” Yugi sighed.

Jounouchi’s face softened, and his eyes grew shiny. For a moment, he looked like he was about to cry. His hand slid around Yugi’s back, and he pulled Yugi closer. His expression grew thoughtful, serious. He started to bring his face down to Yugi’s.

Jounouchi-kun is going to kiss me! Yugi’s heart pounded, and his body was suddenly on fire, sweat prickling under his arms and between his legs. Jounouchi! It didn’t occur to him to question it—it was simply going to happen, it must happen, how could it not happen? Was this what he’d been wishing for all along, that he hadn’t quite understood? It must be. His body—helpless, hot, waiting—sure seemed to think so.

Then Jounouchi’s face turned red, and he faltered, unsure. He laughed a small, uncertain laugh, gave Yugi’s back a brisk pat, and pulled away. “What do you want for breakfast?” He tossed the blankets off and started to get up. “We’ve got rice, omelet, pickled plums….”

Yugi could only lie still for a moment, sick with disappointment and confusion. What had just happened? Why did Jounouchi stop?

Had he really been about to kiss Yugi after all?

* * *

“I should have just kissed him!” Yugi said to his other self, as he dropped his pack on his bed and started to undress. “He just got scared at the last minute, but he was going to kiss me. And I just lay there! I didn’t do anything! Why didn’t I just kiss him?”

The rest of the day with Jounouchi had been nice after all. They’d eaten breakfast (and Yugi’d cleaned up, as promised), explored in the woods, played games in the hot sun. The awkward almost-kiss had been forgotten, or at least shoved to the back of their minds. If not for that moment, that sudden flare of desire for something Yugi hadn’t even known he wanted, something taken away as quickly as it was offered, he’d have said the day was perfect. Jounouchi had been his usual kind, funny, exuberant self, and it had been great being with him. Even the trip down the mountain was fun—for one thing, it was downhill this time, much easier than hiking up, and Yugi’s stomach-ache was gone, and Jounouchi had slowed the pace, stopping often for rests. In fact, he’d asked Yugi if he was all right so often that Yugi started teasing him about it, and eventually they’d turned it into a silly song, with increasingly rude and outrageous verses and a rousing chorus of “Are you all right?” Yugi’d even begun to worry that he was going to laugh himself sick again.

But that moment had remained, with all its heat and sudden desire, at the back of everything, and when he was finally alone in his room with the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle, Yugi let go of his frustration.

The spirit appeared to him sitting on his bed, arms crossed, with a slight smile on his face—Yugi’s own face, only forceful and self-confident, an older and wiser version of himself. “Yes, why didn’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Yugi hung up his jacket and began unbuttoning his shirt. “It just happened so fast! But he was going to kiss me, wasn’t he? I was so sure he was….”

“I certainly thought so.” The spirit had a rather dreamy look on his face.

Yugi stood with his shirt in his hand, and said in a small voice, “I really wanted him to.”

“So did I.”

“Really?” Yugi grinned, dropping his dirty shirt on the floor, and sitting down beside his other self to pull off his socks. “Do you like Jounouchi-kun?”

“Of course I do. He’s our best friend. I feel what you feel about him. How could I not like him?”

“I’m glad.” Yugi tossed his socks after his shirt, and stood up to unbutton his trousers. “I guess I never really thought about what it would be like for you if I had a girlfriend… or a boyfriend.” Yugi felt his face grow hot. A boyfriend! Was that what he wanted Jounouchi to be? “I mean, I suppose you could just go into your room and not be there whenever I….” His face got even hotter. “But I want you to be with me.”

“I want to be with you, too.” The spirit put an arm across Yugi’s shoulders. Yugi didn’t really know how it worked—he knew his other self didn’t have any physical form. But it sure felt like his Yami was touching him. He supposed it was magic. “Thank you for wanting to share this with me.”

“If there’s ever anything to share!” Yugi exploded, frustrated again. He finished stripping off quickly, leaving only his collar and the Puzzle around his neck, and put on his yukata and bath slippers. The spirit faded back into Yugi’s mind, as Yugi headed downstairs to the bathroom, then appeared again—this time in yukata and slippers matching Yugi’s own—and sat on the edge of the tub while Yugi turned on the water to fill it. “I should have kissed him,” he repeated. “It would have been all right. Don’t you think it would have been all right?” Yugi slipped out of his yukata, took off his collar and the Millennium Puzzle, and hung them all on the back of the bathroom door.

“Perhaps. It depends on why he stopped.”

Yugi turned on the shower and began soaping his body vigorously. Now that he was naked, so was Yami, still sitting primly on the edge of the filling tub, legs crossed. He didn’t always appear while Yugi was bathing, but if they were talking about something, he tended to follow Yugi around, mirroring him. Yugi didn’t entirely understand how this worked, either. Did Yami appear when he wanted to, or when Yugi wanted him to? Did he choose to wear what Yugi wore, or was that just the way Yugi saw him? He should ask him sometime.

But not now. Now there were more pressing things to talk about. “I thought he got scared. He wasn’t sure how I’d take it. But if he knew I wanted him to, then it would be okay.”

“Possibly. But kissing someone can be a big step. Maybe he was afraid of how he’d take it, as well.”

“Oh.” He hadn’t really thought of Jounouchi that way. Jounouchi always seemed so much more worldly than Yugi when it came to sex. He had all those dirty videos, and he knew about things that Yugi couldn’t even imagine. He’d even kissed a couple of girls already. “But he’s so cool about all that stuff. He kisses girls. Why would he worry about kissing me?”

“Well, for one thing, you’re his best friend, not just some conquest. He loves you. Sex would change things, maybe not for the better. Aren’t you a little bit worried about that?”

“We love each other,” Yugi said firmly. “That wouldn’t change. We wouldn’t let it change.”

Yami smiled at him. “Partner, I believe you. But there’s something else you should think about.”

“What?” Yugi ran his hands through his hair, letting the shower rinse the shampoo away. Even under water, his stubborn hair went every which way.

“Jounouchi-kun is a good man, strong and brave and caring. But he doesn’t always think so.”

“I know. He gets down on himself. Thinks he’s dumb, but he really isn’t.” Squeaky clean, Yugi switched off the shower and stepped into the tub, to soak in the deep, hot water.

“Yes.” Yami turned to look at him. His skin was damp and pink from the steam, and his own spiky hair was a bit wilted. “One thing he knows he’s good at is being a tough guy. It’s important to him to have that one thing to hold onto, especially when he doubts himself about so many other things. Loving us as a friend, protecting us, because he’s bigger and stronger—he can do that and still be a tough guy. But loving us as a boyfriend? That’s not a very manly thing to do.”

“But that’s silly!” Yugi exclaimed. “It wouldn’t make him any less of a man!”

“I know. But does he? Think about it, Partner. All of your friends at school—how would they react?”

“Oh, I don’t care!” They’d tease, of course, but Yugi was used to that—

But Jounouchi wasn’t. He hated being teased. Honda would drive him crazy. And Kaiba—oh, dear, Kaiba would be merciless.

Yugi leaned back in the tub and sighed. “You’re right. Damn.”

The bath water didn’t even ripple. But somehow, Yugi felt Yami slide in beside him, and Yami’s voice spoke close to his ear. “I think it could be all right. But if you mean to pursue this, Partner, I think you should be careful.”

“I will.” The last thing Yugi wanted was for Jounouchi to get hurt. It seemed odd to be the one protecting Jounouchi, but it felt right, too. Jounouchi was the strong one physically. Emotionally, perhaps Yugi would be the strong one—with Yami’s help, of course, to make him realize what he should have seen in the first place. “I just want him to be happy.”

The hot water was wonderfully soothing, after a day and a half of hiking and playing and only a cold stream to wash up in. Yugi closed his eyes and ran his hand down his belly, imitating the comforting strokes of Jounouchi’s hand on his sore stomach. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Jounouchi had let his hand stray a little lower, under the waistband of Yugi’s trousers, running his fingers across the crease of Yugi’s thigh…? Yugi felt his cock rise in the water, growing stiff, tingling with little sparks of pleasure. He curled his fingers around it, slowly, trying to imagine that it was Jounouchi’s hand on him.

Another hand, real but not real, settled around his own. Yugi gasped, arched in the water, and laughed breathlessly. “Do you want to… ?” he asked.

“Mm. If you don’t mind….”

“I don’t mind,” Yugi said, and turned his mind inward, feeling the little inside-out twist that meant Yami was taking over his body. It wasn’t a complete takeover, but a delicate balance they’d learned to achieve, mostly while they were dueling, but occasionally for other things—Yugi was still in his body, feeling every sensation, but Yami was in control, moving his hand, fingertips running up the underside of Yugi’s cock, sliding over the tip, and when Yugi tried to brace his feet on the side of the tub to thrust into Yami’s hand, he found that his body didn’t follow his commands, but lay still in the water, helpless.

Yugi cried out—but only in his mind. Yami was quiet, intent, working Yugi’s cock, not letting him struggle. “My other self…,” he whispered, and this time the sounds formed in his throat, and Yami gripped him tighter, squeezing him.

“Please,” Yugi begged. Yami released a little of his control, and Yugi thrust his hips, splashing water over the side of the tub. Oh, this was good, it was always so good when his other self touched him. Yugi squirmed as fingers cupped his balls, then stroked the length of his cock. He knew it was his own hand, but it felt like someone else’s with Yami controlling it. Yami liked it like this too, Yugi knew. Better than when Yugi slipped away to his room and let Yami have the body all to himself. Yami could feel like he was touching someone else, and feel what it felt like to be touched, too. They worked on each other, Yami taking and relaxing his control until it was hard to know who was doing what, and when Yugi finally stiffened, one leg flung over the side of the tub, cock pumping into the water, they both felt the orgasm as their own.

Yugi slumped down until the bath water lapped at his mouth, gasps slowly returning to normal breathing. “That was great,” he said softly. He felt lips briefly press against his cheek as Yami faded back into his mind.

* * *

School went by that week as it usually did. Yugi hung out with his friends, but he and Jounouchi were never alone long enough for any further attempts at kissing. Sometimes that was just fine with Yugi. Sometimes, the idea of kissing Jounouchi seemed so scary and weird, he’d go into a panic just thinking about it. Yami was right after all—it would change their friendship, he wouldn’t be able to handle it, it would ruin everything. He’d try to imagine telling his friends—even Anzu, who was always supportive of him—and he’d nearly die of embarrassment. He’d thought he wouldn’t care what anyone said, but he was wrong. He’d gotten kind of used to not being teased and made fun of all the time, since he had Jounouchi around to scare off the bullies, and his own reputation as a Duel Monsters champion to impress his classmates. He didn’t really want to go back to being called a sissy and and a perv and being laughed at behind his back. And he really didn’t want to be subjected to Kaiba’s particular brand of sneering contempt.

But then, sometimes… he’d be in study hall, and Jounouchi and Honda would be across the room, boisterously tormenting each other the way they did, and it would make him smile to watch them laughing and poking at each other, and then suddenly Jounouchi would catch his glance and he’d flash Yugi a “V” for victory and a big grin, and Yugi’s heart would start to pound and his face would get hot and he’d just melt right there in his seat. Or they’d be walking together to class, and when they reached the door, Jounouchi would put his hand on Yugi’s shoulder and smile down at him, his big brown eyes all shiny and warm, and he’d give Yugi a little pat on the back as he ushered him into the classroom, as if to say, I’m right here with you, pal, and it would be all Yugi could do not to throw his arms around Jounouchi’s waist right then and there and hold onto him for all he was worth.

And at times like that, he knew that if a moment like the one on the mountain ever happened again, he wouldn’t hesitate for a second, he’d kiss Jounouchi and take the consequences. He’d go home at night and lie in bed in a feverish haze, talking to Yami, asking What should I do? What should I do? He’d feel Yami’s insubstantial arms around him and be so grateful for his other self’s presence, but Yami couldn’t tell him what to do, only reassure him that he’d be there no matter what. Which meant a lot to him, but it didn’t help him figure out what to do about Jounouchi.

* * *

On Saturday, Yugi’s class had a trip to Nigatsudo, a small Buddhist temple perched on a steep hill in Nara, home to some valuable treasures they were being given special permission to view. Yugi ended up sitting next to Anzu on the school bus on the way to the temple, while Jounouchi and Honda sat behind them.

Anzu read from the temple’s brochure. “They have a statue of Kannon that was said to have been carved by Unkei himself,” she told him happily. “Oh, I hope we get to see it!”

“So do I,” Yugi replied absently. Honestly, he didn’t find temples all that exciting, and unless you had an entire hall full of a thousand and one Kannon statues—like Sanjusangendo, that had been pretty impressive—one more Kannon didn’t mean that much to him. But he enjoyed the trips, especially when the weather was nice, and Nigatsudo was supposed to have a really pretty view overlooking the park, once you climbed up to it.

Yugi was more interested in what was going to happen after the trip. Saturday afternoons the four friends usually spent together, sometimes just hanging out at Yugi’s house or a coffeeshop in town, sometimes shopping or going on trips of their own. Last Saturday, Anzu had had to work in the afternoon, and Honda had some sort of family thing all weekend, which was how Yugi and Jounouchi had ended up having the weekend all to themselves. That sort of thing wasn’t likely to happen very often, and Yugi wondered how he was ever going to get the chance to spend enough time alone with Jounouchi to find out if he really wanted to kiss him or not.

Jounouchi leaned over the back of the seat and tapped Yugi on the top of the head. Yugi turned around to look up at Jounouchi, who was grinning mischievously. Uh oh, he thought. But grinned back.

“Hey, Yugi.” Jounouchi was trying to be discreet, but for Jounouchi, that was kind of like trying to be purple. He could try, but he’d just end up exploding at some point. “We’re going to try to sneak off and crawl through the hole in the pillar in Todaiji. Want to come?” They would have to pass by the larger temple on their way to Nigatsudo, but weren’t supposed to stop there, which was a shame as far as Yugi was concerned, because he’d much rather see the Great Buddha than a lot of dusty old treasures. And the hole in the pillar—tradition had it that anyone who crawled through would go to paradise. It would be a lot of fun to do that.

“Do you think we can?” he asked. Anzu was frowning disapprovingly. She’d been looking forward to Nigatsudo all week.

“It should only take a few minutes. If we hurry, we can catch up to the rest of the class before they get to the top of the hill. We just have to make sure the teacher doesn’t see us.”

“He’d be pretty mad….” Yugi didn’t like getting into trouble.

“Well, it’s his fault anyway,” Jounouchi said, with his own special brand of logic. “How can he expect us to come all the way to Nara and not get ourselves a place in paradise?”

“It’s the only way Jounouchi will ever get there,” Honda said earnestly. Which started a wrestling match between the two of them that would probably go on for several miles, so Yugi turned back around in his seat, smiling to himself. He was nervous about disobeying the teacher, but he knew he’d go with Jounouchi and Honda.

Yugi leaned over to murmur quietly to Anzu, “You should come with us. We’ll still be able to see the treasures.”

Anzu shook her head. “Not me. But I’ll distract Kobayashi-sensei so he doesn’t see you guys sneaking off.”

“Thanks, Anzu.”

* * *

True to her word, as they passed by the entrance to the Daibutsuden, Anzu ran up to their teacher with her brochure and began asking questions, keeping him occupied while Yugi, Jounouchi, and Honda stepped away from their group and dashed up the steps. Several precious minutes were lost when they discovered they’d have to pay to get in—it was only three hundred yen, but they hadn’t been expecting it, and Jounouchi, as usual, had no money with him. But Yugi and Honda made up the difference, and soon they were heeling off their shoes and striding as quickly as they could past the Great Buddha—a magnificent fifty-three-foot tall bronze statue—staring in awe all the way, and nearly running into several tourists, towards the back where the pillar stood.

Where they found a line of a dozen or so visitors waiting for their turn to crawl through the hole and assure their place in paradise.

“Damn!” Honda whispered as they took their place in line. “Look at that fat guy! He’ll never get through!”

“Jounouchi-kun… Honda-kun… maybe we shouldn’t wait,” Yugi said, nervously shifting from foot to foot.

“No way!” Jounouchi answered. “I paid good money for this, I’m not leaving until I get through that hole!”

You paid?” Honda pinched Jounouchi’s ear.

“I’ll pay you guys back! You know I will!” Jounouchi grabbed Honda’s collar, and was about to start a shoving match, when Yugi tugged on his jacket.

“Guys, don’t fight in here. It’s a temple.

Jounouchi and Honda subsided sheepishly. “Sorry, Yugi,” Jounouchi said. “But we’ll still have time to catch up with the class, don’t worry. It’ll be easy. They’ll be taking it slow up the hill for the girls.”

Yugi was glad Anzu wasn’t there to hear Jounouchi say that. She was just as athletic as Jounouchi, and could climb the hill as quickly as any of them. Quicker than Yugi, in fact, with her long dancer’s legs. Yugi sighed. He didn’t know whether to be flattered or exasperated that Jounouchi was once again just assuming that Yugi’d be able to keep up with him and Honda. But he’d do his best and try not to hold them up.

The line, fortunately, moved fairly quickly, even with several of the visitors stopping partway through the hole to have their pictures taken. But then came the man Honda had been worried about—a tall fellow with a substantial belly. “He’ll get stuck, just you watch,” Honda whispered. And sure enough, though he sucked in his stomach and held his breath, he stalled halfway through the hole and could go no further, though he pushed and strained until his face grew red as a beet.

Jounouchi and Honda looked at each other. “Let’s go!” they cried in unison, and ran around to the other side of the hole, each grabbing one of the man’s arms, and pulling with all their might.

The man grimaced and let out a ferocious growl, emptying his lungs of every last bit of air, and pulling in his stomach a last few millimeters, and finally popped through the hole. He stood up laughing and gasping for air, bowing his thanks to Jounouchi and Honda. The crowd that had gathered to watch the man’s efforts applauded briefly, and the few people who’d been in the line ahead of the boys stood back to let them go next.

Without hesitation, Honda dove through the hole. Jounouchi grabbed Yugi by the arm and practically tossed him through, then scrambled after. As soon as all three were through, they headed as quickly as they dared for the entrance, giggling and slapping each other on the back. Outside, they hurriedly pulled on their shoes and ran towards the path leading up to Nigatsudo.

There was no sign of their classmates as they reached the stone stairway. The three boys pulled up at the foot of the steps.

“Damn. They must be at the temple already,” Jounouchi said. He looked at Yugi, who was already breathing hard from the dash to the steps. “Honda, go on ahead and tell them we’re coming. I’ll stay with Yugi.”

Honda nodded, turned and began to run up the steps. Jounouchi gave Yugi an encouraging smile and slap on the shoulder. “You ready?”

Yugi took a deep breath and nodded. “Let’s go.”

Yugi did his best. But the stone steps came nearly up to his knees, and he had a hard time even struggling from one to the next. There was no way he could run up them. Jounouchi stopped a few steps ahead of Yugi, and turned to wait for him.

Yugi’s face burned with embarrassment and frustration as well as exertion. “Jounouchi-kun, why don’t you just go on? I’ll never get there in time. No point in both of us getting into trouble.”

“I’m not going without you!” Jounouchi insisted. “Anyway, it’s my fault you’re late. You shouldn’t be the one getting into trouble.” He hesitated for a moment, then nodded decisively and swooped down the steps to grab Yugi up, turned and began to climb the stone stairway.

Carrying Yugi slowed him down a little, but he still made much better time up the steps than Yugi could ever have done on his own. Yugi closed his eyes and flung his arms around Jounouchi’s neck, heart pounding. Yes, it was embarrassing to be carried up the steps like a little kid, and he could only hope no one would see him like this, but it also felt good, in that weird scary way it did whenever Jounouchi touched him, and now he was holding on tight, feeling the hard muscle and bone of Jounouchi’s arms around his back, and he didn’t ever want to let go.

But then they were at the top of the stairway, and Jounouchi was setting him down onto the ground, and Yugi didn’t have time to think about it any more, or even to catch his breath—because there was Honda, talking to a monk at the entrance to the temple, who looked very much like he was about to close the door. “Let’s go!” Jounouchi exclaimed, and he and Yugi ran up to the entrance, where they bowed to the monk, gasping out apologies.

The monk frowned disapprovingly at Jounouchi, but waved him in. But just as Yugi was about to follow, the monk stepped in front of him, bending down to smile indulgently. “Botchan, this is for students from Domino High School only. Please go back.”

It was the last straw. Furiously, Yugi clenched his fists and shouted, “I am from Domino High!”

Jounouchi stepped back to Yugi’s side, and put a hand on Yugi’s shoulder. “He’s with us,” he told the monk. He plucked at the collar of his school uniform. “See? Same uniform.”

The monk looked from Jounouchi to Yugi and back again, then shrugged. “Sorry, Botchan. Please go in. And hurry, please. You are late.”

The monk’s apology would have been more satisfying if he hadn’t called Yugi “Botchan” the second time. Fuming, Yugi heeled out of his shoes and went into the temple. “I’m not a little kid!”

Jounouchi jammed his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders. He seemed about to say something when their teacher, Kobayashi-sensei, came hurrying around the corner.

“What is this commotion?” he said, glaring at Jounouchi. “Jounouchi! I should have known….”

“It’s not his fault,” Yugi jumped in quickly. “He was waiting for me.”

The teacher looked at Yugi, still rumpled and red-faced from being carried up the steps. Yugi could see the understanding dawning on Kobayashi-sensei’s face: the smallest member of his class had had trouble getting up the steep stairway by himself. Yugi didn’t like using his size as an excuse, but he couldn’t let Jounouchi take the blame for their lateness. “I see,” the teacher said, too embarrassed on Yugi’s behalf to investigate any further. “All right, hurry along.”

Sighing with relief, the boys hurried to join the rest of the class.

* * *

In the bus on the way home, Yugi leaned against the window and closed his eyes, going inward to talk to his other self. “I wish we were home.” It was a two-hour bus ride back to Domino. Two hours with nothing to do but think, and wonder what Jounouchi was thinking, and think some more, until his head was spinning, while Jounouchi sat on the other side of the bus, several rows back, leaning against his own window thinking whatever he was thinking.

“Will you invite Jounouchi-kun over this afternoon?” Yami asked.

“I don’t know. I want to, but… everyone else would come, too, and everything’s so mixed up. I wish we could be alone, like last weekend.”

“You could just tell him you want to talk to him alone. Anzu and Honda would understand.”

Yugi felt his cheeks grow warm. “Yeah, but, then I’d have to… talk to him. I don’t know what I’d say.”

“You could just tell him the truth.”

“But I don’t even know what that is! Sometimes I want to kiss him really bad. Sometimes I think we should just stay friends. I get so confused! And then, things happen like at the temple today….”

“Mm.” Yugi felt his other self smiling, and invisible arms folding around him, as Jounouchi’s had on the stone stairway. “You mean when he carried us up the steps? I thought that was nice.”

“Well, yeah.” Yugi suppressed a giggle. “It felt good. But it was weird, too. Embarrassing. It felt like… I don’t know! That’s just what I mean! I don’t know how I feel about it. How can I explain to Jounouchi-kun when I can’t explain it to myself?”

“Maybe talking to him will help you figure it out.”

“But… what if he doesn’t feel that way? What if it was all a mistake, and he wasn’t going to kiss me after all, and he hates me for even thinking about it? He’s my best friend. I couldn’t bear it if anything changed that.”

“Partner,” the other Yugi said gently, “Jounouchi-kun loves us. Even if he doesn’t want to kiss us, he wouldn’t be cruel. You know that. He might be terribly embarrassed, but….”

“Mm….” Yugi agreed, but there was a tentative note in his mental voice.

“Partner? What is it?”

“Oh, I just wonder sometimes… I know Jounouchi-kun loves us, but I wonder, which of us he really loves the most?”

Yami sighed. “I thought we’d settled that already. You know it’s you. I wasn’t even with you yet when you two became friends.”

“Oh, I know. It was when I stood up for him and Honda-kun against that bully Ushio that he decided to be my friend, and that was the day before I finished the Puzzle. But you’re so much a part of who I am now. I have confidence and courage because you’re with me. And you’re the one who taught him to play Duel Monsters.”

“I think Grandpa deserves most of the credit for that,” Yami smiled. “Besides, most of the time when we’re with him, I’m just along for the ride. It’s you he’s with. And you he loves. I wish you’d believe that.”

Yugi smiled back. “I do. I think.” In any case, there was no convincing his other self otherwise, and Yugi didn’t know why he’d want to. And really, he knew that Jounouchi loved him for himself, and not just for the ancient spirit who lived within him. It was just that sometimes he had a hard time himself telling where he left off and the spirit began. If his other self ever left him… but no, he didn’t even want to think about that.

But—it was too bad, in a way, that they had to share a body. What if his other self fell in love with someone, and it wasn’t Jounouchi? “Other Me,” he said slowly, “I know you said you liked Jounouchi-kun, and you want us all to be together, and I’m really glad about that, but what if… what if I wasn’t there? What if you had your own body? Who would you like?”

Yugi felt his other self settle into the seat beside him, shoulder to shoulder—half over Anzu, which was a little strange, but he just tried to ignore it. Yami spoke lazily, with a hint of a tease in his voice. “Oh, I think I’d probably go for Kaiba.”

“Kaiba-kun!” Yugi nearly said it out loud. “Why Kaiba-kun? He’s….”

“Sexy,” Yami supplied. “Very smart. Very strong. And very sexy.”

“Well… yeah, he’s sexy, all right, but….” It was very strange, even unsettling, to think of Kaiba that way. But there was no doubt his other self was right—Kaiba was sexy, in those snappy dusters and tight trousers. And then there was the self-assured, superior way he carried himself, and his piercing blue eyes, but—”I don’t know if he’s really that strong. He’s… like tempered glass, I think. Hard, but if you hit it just right, it will shatter into tiny little pieces.”

“I think you’re right,” his other self agreed. “One day he may shatter, and he’s going to need some good friends to help him put himself back together. I’d like to be there for him when that happens.”

“We will. I’ve always wanted us to be friends. But… I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be his boyfriend.”

Yami chuckled softly. “It certainly wouldn’t be easy. But I’ve always felt drawn to him. I don’t know why, but I feel that there’s something between us, more than the duelist’s rivalry.”

Yugi considered it. There was so much they didn’t know about Yami’s past. Maybe there was something between him and Kaiba. It was strange to think about it. But he owed it to his other self to support him, the same way Yami supported him. “Well, if you like him, then I’ll like him, too. I mean, I always did like him, even though he’s never been very nice to me. I guess I felt sorry for him because he’s an orphan. But he’s special to you, so he’ll be special to me. I’ll try even harder to get along with him.”

“Thank you, Partner. But you needn’t try too hard. Unless something happens to break through his shell, he won’t let us in no matter how hard we try. Anyway, if we end up becoming intimate with Jounouchi-kun….”

“Kaiba-kun isn’t going to like that very much, is he? I don’t know why he’s so horrible to Jounouchi-kun.”

“Perhaps it makes him feel better to be superior to someone. And Jounouchi-kun…,” Yami sighed, smiling, “He does make himself an easy target.”

Yugi looked over his shoulder to where Jounouchi was sitting on the other side of the bus. He was still leaning against the window staring out, being awfully still for Jounouchi.

“He hasn’t said much since Nigatsudo. I wonder if something’s wrong?”

Yugi felt his other self’s attention focus on Jounouchi. “He has been unusually quiet.” Yami frowned in concentration. “Do you remember exactly when he became subdued? He was fine in the Daibutsuden.”

“Right. And on the steps….” Yugi grew warm just thinking about it. “It was after we got to Nigatsudo. When the monk didn’t want to let me in, and Kobayashi-sensei started to yell at us.” Yugi started to get a sinking feeling.

“Perhaps he was upset about the close call. We barely avoided getting into trouble.”

“No, that wouldn’t bother him. Jounouchi-kun gets into trouble all the time.” Yugi had a bad feeling that he knew what was bothering Jounouchi. “But he hates it when I get in trouble. Especially if he thinks it’s his fault. He….”

“He’s very protective of us. But we didn’t get into trouble today, so… ?”

“But I couldn’t get up the steps fast enough. And then the monk thought I wasn’t in high school and didn’t want to let me in. Don’t you think he must get tired of having to wait for me and explain for me? None of that would have happened if it had been just Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun. Sometimes he must wish he could just do whatever he wanted to, without having to worry about whether or not I can keep up with him. The way he used to, before….”

“Partner, I don’t think that’s it. Our size has never bothered him before. In fact, he’s always seemed to enjoy being our protector. Why should he suddenly be upset about it now?”

“I don’t know,” Yugi said, but in the back of his mind he was thinking, Because he never almost-kissed me before. Yugi wasn’t sure why it should matter, but somehow he was sure it did. Maybe because Jounouchi-kun had been thinking about it all week, too? And maybe he’d decided that if he were going to kiss boys, he wanted them to be big, strong boys like himself? Not weak, wimpy little boys he’d have to wait for and carry up steps, who might as well be girls and save him the trouble of being teased and called a pervert.

The more he thought about it, the more Yugi was sure he was right. Jounouchi didn’t want him as a boyfriend. The almost-kiss had been a mistake, and now he was sorry for it. But Yugi didn’t want to talk to his other self about it. Yami wouldn’t agree, and there was no point in going round and round about it. There was really only one thing he could do, and that was to forget about kissing Jounouchi, and just be glad Jounouchi was willing to be his friend. Once they both stopped thinking about it, and their friendship was back to normal, everything would be all right.

So it was decided. Everything would be the way it was before, and he would be happy with that. Yugi looked longingly back across the aisle at Jounouchi, sitting there with a sad look in his soft brown eyes as he stared out the window. Yugi wished he could go to him, put his arm around him and tell him it was okay. Brush the hair out of Jounouchi’s eyes, and stroke his cheek….

No. He had to stop thinking like that. Miserably, Yugi turned around in his seat and stared out his own window. It was going to be a long ride home.

* * *

It was an even longer afternoon, once they’d returned to Domino. The four friends went to one of their usual hangouts for burgers and sodas, but everyone seemed out of sorts and the conversation kept dying away. Yugi and Jounouchi were both subdued, but while Yugi could mope quietly and pretend everything was all right without drawing too much attention to himself, everybody noticed when Jounouchi was quiet. Honda kept asking him what was wrong, and Jounouchi kept insisting there was nothing. But he would glance at Yugi each time he did, with what Yugi imagined were accusing eyes.

Then Jounouchi and Honda started to argue, and there was an edge to it that wasn’t usually in their constant bickering, until finally Jounouchi jumped up and announced that he wasn’t going sit around and be insulted any longer, and stomped off. Honda fumed quietly for about ten seconds, then got up and ran after Jounouchi, leaving Yugi and Anzu to sit and wonder what had just happened.

“Um, Yugi? Do you know what’s got Jounouchi so upset?”

“Me? No, Anzu, I don’t know.” Yugi squirmed a little, telling himself he wasn’t really lying to Anzu. He didn’t know for sure what was wrong. Something completely unrelated to Yugi might have happened to upset Jounouchi… just at the moment when they reached the entrance to Nigatsudo and the monk didn’t want to let Yugi in…. And the more he tried to convince himself, the more he knew he was lying—what else could it have been? Unless Jounouchi had been upset before, and Yugi just hadn’t noticed it—which was also impossible. When Jounouchi was upset, everyone within twenty meters noticed it.

Anzu was looking at him curiously. “Are you okay, Yugi? You’ve been awfully quiet, too. You hardly said a word all the way home.”

For a moment, he considered telling her everything. After all, she was his oldest friend. He’d known her since grade school, and she’d always supported him, long before he solved the Millennium Puzzle and became a Duel Monsters champion. She’d understand, he was sure of it. She wouldn’t make fun of him, or hate him for it. But he couldn’t make himself say the words. He was afraid of what she would think, and as much as he despised himself for it, he just couldn’t tell her that he wanted to kiss Jounouchi. And that he was pretty sure Jounouchi wanted to kiss him, and they were both so confused everything had gone crazy.

“I’m okay,” he finally said. “I’m just a little tired.”

“You were late getting to the temple. You never did tell me what happened—did you get to go through the hole in the pillar?”

“Oh! Yes, we did! It was great!” Yugi started to chuckle at the memory. “There was a big guy in line ahead of us who got stuck in the hole, and Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun had to pull him through. Then everyone applauded, and let us go through next.”

Anzu smiled along with him. “So everything worked out okay?”

“Well… mostly. It took us longer to get through the pillar than we thought it would, and we had to hurry to get up the steps… I couldn’t keep up, and Jounouchi-kun had to help me… then the monk thought I wasn’t in high school and didn’t want to let me in. That’s when Jounouchi-kun got upset, but….”

“I know he hates it when people don’t treat you the way he thinks they should. But that can’t be it—he wouldn’t still be upset about it, and even if he was, he wouldn’t mind telling everyone about it. Did anything else happen?”

“Then Kobayashi-sensei came and started yelling at Jounouchi-kun. I told him it wasn’t Jounouchi-kun’s fault we were late, that he’d been waiting for me, and he let us go.”

“Hm… Jounouchi also hates letting anyone else make excuses for him. Especially you. But I can’t really see him being that upset about that, either.”

“Mm,” Yugi agreed. “I thought….” All right, he wouldn’t tell Anzu about wanting to kiss Jounouchi, but maybe he could tell her the rest. “I thought maybe he was upset with me.” Even saying the words hurt. He couldn’t look Anzu in the eye.

“Upset with you? That’s crazy, Yugi. Why would he be upset with you?”

“For slowing him down. For being small and weak and looking like a little kid….”

“Yugi!” Anzu grabbed Yugi’s hand and held it tightly. “You know that’s not true! Jounouchi doesn’t think that!” She let him go with a sigh, then continued more calmly. “You know Jounouchi and I don’t always get along. He can really be a big jerk sometimes. And if I ever thought he was being mean to you, I’d really let him have it! But one thing I can say for him—he adores you! He treats you like gold. He doesn’t care that you’re small.”

“I know, Anzu, but….” And here was where he got stuck again. If he didn’t tell her about the sex stuff, he couldn’t explain why things were different now. And he still wasn’t ready to tell Anzu about that. “I just don’t know what else could be bothering him,” he finished weakly.

Anzu stared at him for a long moment. He knew that she knew he wasn’t telling her everything. If she pressed him on it—well, he didn’t know what he’d do. But finally, all she said was, “If you really think that’s it, you should talk to him about it. Nobody else is going to be able to convince you that you’re wrong.”

Yugi shrugged. “But if that’s the way he feels, what good would it do? He won’t admit it, and it will just be a stupid fight, like him and Honda-kun.”

Anzu sighed, and started to get up. “Well, I hope Honda can knock some sense into Jounouchi. I’m sure not having any luck with you.” Then she smiled gently, and put her hand on Yugi’s shoulder. “You do know you can talk to me about anything, don’t you? I mean it.”

Yugi managed a small smile. “I know, Anzu. Thanks.”

* * *

When Yugi walked into his bedroom, his other self was already sitting on the bed, one knee across the other, arms folded, and a slight frown on his face. “Don’t yell at me,” Yugi said, dropping his book bag on the floor by his desk. “I already know you think I’m wrong.”

“I’m not going to yell at you, Partner. I’m just going to remind you of something you said to me last week.” Yugi sat beside his other self, leaning his head into the spirit’s shoulder. He wished he could really lean against his other self—if he put all his weight on the spirit, he’d just fall through onto the bed. But as long as he only pressed gently into the airy stuff his other self was made of, he could feel Yami’s shoulder under his cheek, and Yami’s arm around him.

“What did I say?”

“You told me that you and Jounouchi-kun love each other, and nothing would change that.”

Yugi felt tears prick at his eyes. “I guess I was wrong.”

“Maybe a little. But not as much as you think. You two haven’t even done anything yet, and you’re already convinced it’s all gone wrong.”

Yugi closed his eyes, and put one hand where Yami’s chest ought to be. He concentrated on feeling the other body next to him, insubstantial though it might be. “I’m so confused.”

“I imagine Jounouchi-kun is, too.”

“You’re going to tell me I have to talk to him.”

“I’m going to tell you that I love you.”

“Me, too,” Yugi said, and hugged his other self as best he could. This should be all he needed, he thought, but he remembered what Jounouchi’s arms had felt like around him, and he couldn’t stop the tears that dripped down his cheeks, onto shoulders made of air.

* * *

Yugi settled down and tried to do his homework, but his concentration was broken and scattered. He put his books away and got out a comic, but he couldn’t concentrate on that, either. He wanted to play a game, but Grandpa was working in the shop and there was no one to play with, and he didn’t feel like playing alone. Maybe he should call Jounouchi and just see what happened. If they talked, they talked. Maybe it had all been a misunderstanding, and Jounouchi was upset about something entirely different after all.

It was about an hour later that he heard a light tap on his door. “Come in,” he called, thinking it was his Grandpa.

But it was Jounouchi. Looking a bit rumpled, hands stuffed in his pockets, staring at the floor. And with a nasty bruise forming on the left side of his mouth. “Yo, Yugi.”

“Jounouchi-kun!” Yugi jumped up from his chair, took two running steps towards his friend, then stopped short. “Are you okay?”

Jounouchi ran his thumb lightly across the bruise, smiling wryly. “It’s nothing. Honda thought I should come and talk to you.”

Yugi let out a little choked laugh. “Anzu thought I should talk to you, too. She didn’t hit me, though.”

“She’d better not!” Jounouchi grabbed Yugi’s desk chair, turning it around to sit backwards in it, arms folded over the back. “I’d have to hit her, and I don’t hit girls.”

Yugi sat on his bed, smiling. “I’m glad you came. I’m sorry Honda-kun had to hit you to make you come, though.”

“Yugi….” Jounouchi’s smile faded, and he stared at the floor again, chin resting in his arms. “I… I just wanted to say… I’m sorry.”

Yugi felt his heart sink. So was this it? Jounouchi had come to tell him they couldn’t be friends any more? “You don’t have to be sorry, Jounouchi-kun. I understand.” Yugi found himself holding the Millennium Puzzle tightly in his hands. He’d made a wish on the Puzzle for a good friend, and he’d thought the Puzzle had given him one in Jounouchi. He still loved him so much. “I know it must be hard for you, being friends with someone like me.” If only he hadn’t—if they hadn’t—

“Yugi, I’m such an idiot—I try not to treat you like a little kid, but sometimes I see you struggling so hard, and I can’t help it! I know you don’t need me to take care of you, but….”

“And I know you don’t need some little wimp following you around who has to be helped all the time….”

“Yugi!” Jounouchi looked up, finally, eyes wide. “You’re not a wimp! I didn’t say that!”

“But it’s the truth! I can’t even get up the steps by myself!”

Jounouchi’s face reddened. “I know I shouldn’t have picked you up like that, Yugi, and I don’t blame you for being mad….”

“Jounouchi-kun! I’m not mad at you!” Yugi was more confused than ever, but he was beginning to have an inkling that maybe he was a bigger idiot than Jounouchi….

“You’re not?” Jounouchi’s face lit up hopefully. “But I thought… when we got to the temple, you were pretty steamed….”

“I was mad at the monk for calling me ‘Botchan,’ and thinking I wasn’t in high school. I wasn’t mad at you! It was kind of embarrassing, but I’m sure we’d have missed the viewing if you’d waited for me to get up the stairs by myself.” Yugi paused, then continued diffidently, “I’m glad you carried me. You’re always looking out for me. I like it.”

“Yeah?” Jounouchi was grinning broadly. “Well, I like looking out for you. But, Yugi—when I told you I was sorry, what did you think I was talking about?”

Yugi felt himself blush furiously. “I… I thought you were tired of always having to wait for me to keep up with you. I thought you didn’t want to do it any more.”

“Yugi! I’ve never been tired of you! How could you think that?”

“How could you think I’d be mad at you for helping me?” Yugi countered.

Jounouchi stared at the floor. “I don’t know. Everything’s been kind of messed up lately.”

“You mean since our camping trip?”

Jounouchi’s thick sandy hair covered his eyes, and his voice was barely audible as he replied with a simple, “Um.”

“Me, too,” Yugi said. Then, determinedly, “Jounouchi-kun, when we were on the mountain… in the morning, when we woke up, I thought… for a minute, I thought you were going to kiss me.”

Jounouchi stood up suddenly, and took a half-step towards the door, his eyes still hidden behind his hair. Then he stopped, red-faced, hands shoved into his pockets. “Yugi, I didn’t mean—I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t.”

“Yugi!” Jounouchi stared. Slowly, a huge grin split his face. “Yugi!”

Yugi launched himself at Jounouchi, and flung his arms around Jounouchi’s waist. “I’ve been thinking about it all week long! Wishing… wondering if we were ever going to get the chance to do it again.”

Jounouchi sank down to his knees, pulling Yugi along with him, settling Yugi on his thighs, arms wrapped tightly around him. “Yugi,” he said softly, wondering. He ran a hand through Yugi’s hair, long fingers cupping the back of Yugi’s head, and caressed Yugi’s cheek with his own. Yugi could feel the heat of the bruise on Jounouchi’s face, and he brushed his lips across it. Jounouchi chuckled softly, and Yugi could feel the vibrations against his chest. “I love you,” they both said, amazingly, at the same time.

For a moment, they were still, staring into each other’s eyes. Jounouchi’s eyes were wet with tears, and Yugi knew that his were, too. Then Jounouchi pulled Yugi’s face to his, and kissed him.

Jounouchi’s mouth was hot and wet, and his tongue was firm and insistent, and it felt so good, and it was such a relief to finally be kissing him that wonderful hot happy feelings rushed through Yugi’s entire body, right down to his toes. Yugi lifted up onto his knees to get a better angle, and opened his mouth wide, pushing his tongue against Jounouchi’s. He remembered admiring how athletic Jounouchi was, and how graceful he could be when he wasn’t unsure of himself, and clearly, Jounouchi wasn’t unsure now—he was holding Yugi like he’d been born to hold him, steady and close and just hard enough. And Yugi also remembered curling up in the curve of Jounouchi’s body, thinking that here he was exactly the size he should be, and that was right, too, because he loved the way Jounouchi’s arms fit around him.

Yugi had already gone sweaty, his jacket sticky on his back, and his cock was stiff, and he couldn’t seem to get Jounouchi’s tongue deep enough in his mouth. He twisted his fingers in Jounouchi’s shirt and rubbed his erection against Jounouchi’s belly. Jounouchi’s hands slid under Yugi’s tee-shirt, kneading bare flesh, then scrabbled at the waistband of Yugi’s trousers.

Gasping, reluctant, Yugi pulled away. “Jounouchi-kun… stop. Grandpa’s downstairs.”

Jounouchi’s eyes were dark, wet pools, and his face blazed with heat. “He’s working in the shop. He won’t come upstairs.”

“I can’t, Jounouchi-kun. Not here.”

Jounouchi pressed his face into Yugi’s shoulder, groaning in frustration. “Where?”

“I don’t know…”

Jounouchi pulled back, hands on Yugi’s shoulders, looking at him intently. “You do want to, don’t you? I mean….”

Yugi laughed a little breathlessly. “Yeah, I want to. But….”

Jounouchi kissed Yugi resoundingly, then smiled. “I think we need to go camping again.”

Yugi grinned back. “Yeah, I think we do.”

* * *

As it turned out, they didn’t really have to tell anyone—somehow, all their classmates figured it out. Maybe it had something to do with the way they were always together, smiling at each other like idiots, walking along pressed against each other like a couple of mismatched Siamese twins. There was some bullying, some names called, and for the first week or so, Jounouchi always seemed to have a bruise or two somewhere; but after he’d beat up the worst of their tormenters, things settled down, and people mostly left them alone. Yugi didn’t always like it, but being Jounouchi’s boyfriend more than made up for the teasing, and all in all, Yugi thought they could deal with it.

Their real friends didn’t change. Yugi wasn’t sure what, if anything, Jounouchi had told Honda about them, but he and Honda were the same rowdy, bickering pair they’d always been. Yugi had told Anzu everything the very next day—well, not quite everything, but everything that mattered—and had apologized for not confiding in her earlier. She’d been a little bit mad and sad, but she’d forgiven him and all was well. He hadn’t quite gotten around to telling his Grandpa yet, but from some of the things Grandpa had said after Jounouchi’d been over, Yugi didn’t think he’d be very surprised.

Yugi and Jounouchi were sitting together in homeroom one day, eating their lunch, when Kaiba strolled by, a faint, condescending smile on his face. “Yugi,” he said in greeting, pointedly ignoring Jounouchi.

“Hi, Kaiba-kun,” Yugi replied, glancing nervously at Jounouchi, who was already working his way toward a blowup. “I haven’t seen you at school much lately.”

“Business,” Kaiba said casually. “Class has been buzzing, hasn’t it? You and the small fry are the talk of the school. Some people have nothing better to do.”

“Kaiba…,” Jounouchi’s voice was a low growl of warning.

“Kaiba-kun,” Yugi hurried to interrupt, “I know it’s a shock, but….”

“Heh,” Kaiba said, “I thought you two were doing it all along.” Then he walked away, still smiling his superior smile.

Yugi blinked. Then, abruptly, he started to laugh. Jounouchi frowned fiercely for a moment, muttering, “That Kaiba…,” then he started to laugh, too.

Yugi took Jounouchi’s hand. “I guess we worried for nothing. If it’s not dueling, or Mokuba, Kaiba-kun just isn’t interested.”

“Who’s ‘we’? I wasn’t worried.” Jounouchi leaned close, nudging Yugi with his elbow.

Yugi and the other Yugi just smiled.

end.

Story notes:

The only thing we really know about Domino’s location, canonically, is that it’s a port city. For the purposes of this story, I’m assuming it’s on the Pacific side of the main Japanese island of Honshu, somewhere west of Tokyo, perhaps near Nagoya.

For Jounouchi and Yugi’s camping trip, I imagine they took the shinkansen (bullet train) inland to the mountainous region known as the Japan Alps, perhaps to the town of Matsumoto, and then hiked on from there. The Japanese tend to go on vacation en masse; they crowd the beaches and hot springs resorts together like bees in a hive. The likelihood of the boys finding a pristine public camp site all to themselves is probably pretty small. I suspect Jounouchi might have taken them to the private grounds of a temple or somewhere they weren’t actually supposed to be. But they were careful to clean up after themselves and pack out all their trash, so their trespassing didn’t do any harm.

The Japanese school year begins in April. Summer vacation is about five weeks in late July and August. High school students generally attend school for half-days on Saturday several times a month. Class trips to historical and religious sites like the temples and shrines of Nara are common—when I was in Japan (in 1990), I saw groups of school kids of all ages everywhere we went, neatly lined up and looking adorable in their matching uniforms, visiting the same sites as our tour group.

The Todaiji temple complex in Nara, with the Daibutsuden (Hall of the Great Buddha) and the hole in the pillar, is real, and yes, I did crawl through the hole, and have assured my place in paradise! I took some liberties with Nigatsudo, though. I didn’t go there myself, but here’s what my guidebook has to say about it: “As you leave the exit of the Daibutsuden, turn left and walk up a winding path. Turn right, go up a stone staircase, and then veer left on the slope lined with stone lanterns. On your left, on the top of the slope, you will come to Nigatsudo (Second Month Temple), named because of a religious rite that used to be performed here every February. The temple was founded in 752 and houses some important images that are not on display to the public.” I have no idea how steep the stone staircase really is, or how difficult it would have been for short little Yugi to climb up it. I also have no idea whether the temple’s images would ever be displayed to a class of high school students; I suspect it’s highly unlikely. I don’t know what any of those images might be, either—the Kannon statue Anzu describes is actually a treasure of nearby Sangatsudo (Third Month Temple).

Kannon, or Quan Yin as she is known in Chinese, is the Goddess of Mercy. She’s a popular figure in Buddhist temples, and Sanjusangendo Hall in Kyoto does indeed house 1001 Kannon statues of various sizes, all lined up in a 35-foot-long hall.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. bostafu | March 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    This was great! I really loved how realistic this is. And how Yami and Yugi support and talk to each other.

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