A/N: I know, I know…another spiritshipping fic. Really, I have been coming up with a lot of ideas for this pairing lately. Sorry to spam fanfic with more of a pairing that is not needed. DX And whereas the idea has been touched upon before, I can assure you that it HASN'T been touched on in the manner I choose to approach it…unless I'm missing something. In that case, TELL ME WHERE I CAN FIND IT! :D Um…ahem…anyway…I was hoping to develop some more ideas for Valentineshipping or Selfshipping or some of the other various shippings I entertain in my mind, but…it'll be awhile before those ideas are fully developed. I've dwelt on this one for awhile, and I think I've found an IC way of doing it. If I phail, then I request your forgiveness and a chance to redeem myself in a rewrite. Anyway, don't get any expectations about this one. There will be NO mpreg. I HATE mpreg. It's the most senseless, biologically impossible…Ok, never mind. And there will be no lust. And it will be T rated (at first. The rating shall possibly rise later. I'm not sure). And it will not be perfect. Toss those stereotypes away. JoJuu HAS imperfections. And I intend to draw upon those. Now, without further adieu…
Disclaimer: I do not own GX. A very big thanks to Chaotic Blades and 2True for looking this over! You guys rock. :D
Chapter 1: Ambiguity
Juudai sat on the edge of the counter, swinging his leg impatiently. His dark eyes darted towards the clock on the wall, then out the window of the small house he owned. The morning was a dreary one; a bit of mist was falling from the gray sky in a drizzle. Sighing heavily, he leapt off the counter and wandered around the kitchen, pacing. Every second seemed to tick by agonizingly slow. He really didn't want to wait anymore. He really didn't want to have his desire weighing on his mind like that. What he wouldn't give to unload it on someone! Yet, at the same time, the thought made him nervous. He didn't entirely understand it, thus, he wished to keep it to himself. After all, how foolish would it make him seem to not understand his own mind! At least he had an excuse. His mind had become quite a complex place since Yubel had fused with his soul. Not to mention since he'd learned to control Haou's power. It could get quite noisy in his head, at times. It was hard to concentrate. This was what he used as an excuse, although he knew very well it was because he just didn't know and wouldn't have known even if Yubel had never come into his life.
Nibbling on his lower lip, he told himself again he had nothing to be anxious about. After all, he had everything he could ever want. Yet his life was so empty, so lacking. Could there possibly be something he'd missed? That was impossible! He'd been on countless journeys all over the world, dueling and helping people who needed his assistance. It was just his destiny to protect the world. He was doing what he loved, he had a constant traveling companion, he had a lovely residence, and he had Johan…What more could he want?
Sometimes, though, he wasn't really sure if he did have Johan or not. They more or less shared an emotional attachment and an unspoken agreement to be exclusive. They'd never actually said it, but they had an unspoken understanding. It was one thing he was sure of. Although, he still was not quite sure how to describe their relationship. They might have talked about it a few times, indirectly, and they had said those three words countless times. But it hadn't been easy getting there. It had taken him two years to actually realize it and confess: one year for the realization and another year to actually say it comfortably. Those two years had been hell for him. He'd been trying to sort out so many new emotions, trying to figure out exactly what they were and what to do. It had taken so long for it to escalate.
By this point, he almost felt like he couldn't stand it anymore. He hadn't seen Johan for far too long. At least, that's what it felt like to him. In reality, it'd only been several months. He felt lucky to get to see him at all, especially since they'd gone two different paths in life. Since Johan was in town, for a tournament, Juudai had gone ahead and made the trip back home for a few days. He planned on meeting the teal-haired duelist at a nearby café for lunch. He only had to wait a few more minutes before leaving…a few more agonizing minutes.
Staring out the window, he let his mind drift to the first time he'd told Johan he'd loved him. It had been agonizing, yet natural. It had been difficult, yet easy. In fact, it was the most contradictory mix of emotions in the world. And even more contradictory were the thoughts that had flown through his head when he'd said it. Sighing heavily, he closed his eyes and let his mind drift back…
Johan and Juudai stood on the balcony of Johan's condominium, chatting lightly about the past events in their lives. They hadn't seen each other in several weeks, which wasn't nearly so bad compared to the months that separated their visits. It was a rather pleasant day in early autumn. The breeze blew coolly on their faces, the sun warming them just enough so that they didn't need any extra clothing. The leaves were beginning to change color from a rich emerald hue to reds, yellows, and browns. The air smelled fresh and crisp, the sky a deep azure with wisps of cirrus clouds floating gently by. It was the perfect day to be outdoors. It was nothing special, just the typical day where one could enjoy nature.
There soon came a lull in their conversation, though the silence was not in the least bit awkward. The two young adults merely leaned against the railing, staring down at the leaves wafting gently to the ground. Sighing heavily, Juudai closed his eyes and tried to calm his rapidly beating heart. It was an infirmity that he contracted whenever he was around Johan; it was inevitable and without fail. By then, he knew what it was, but was not willing to admit it to the other boy. He just couldn't do it. It made him sick, absolutely sick. It wasn't that he was afraid to, necessarily; he just didn't know how to say it. Neither did he know if he wanted to burden Johan with the information. It might make him feel uncomfortable.
Johan's gaze slid over to Juudai; he'd heard the brunet sighing over and over again during the past several minutes, as though he were feeling ill. And, out of his peripheral vision, he'd noticed Juudai running his fingers through his hair and clenching and unclenching his fists, obviously nervous. These were idiosyncrasies that had developed over the course of about a year, growing worse and worse. At this point, he had no clue what was ailing the poor boy so terribly. What could possibly be wrong? However, he was growing increasingly worried. Something was not right with Juudai. Something might even be hurting him. Laying a hand on his shoulder comfortingly, he leaned a little closer to see Juudai's face, his expression serious and concerned.
"Juudai…What's wrong?" The words were casual enough, since he was concealing his true emotion. His stomach was twisted in knots over the matter. It was a question that had rung perpetually through his mind since he'd first noticed the pattern of these habitual actions. And yet…it had finally reached the point where he'd asked it.
Juudai's chocolate eyes shot open, wide with surprise. "Oh…well, nothing. Why do you ask?"
"Because you've seemed really…off. At least, even more so than usual. What's gotten into you?" Johan asked, frowning a bit, "If something's bothering you, you know you can tell me, right?"
Juudai felt his mouth go dry. He gave a faint nod, then stared back off into the distance, propping his chin in his palm.
"Juudai, I'm serious," Johan continued, not willing to let him get away that easily, "Tell me what's going on." Grasping Juudai by the shoulders, he forced the other to look at him. "Come on…please...I've never seen you like this before."
"If I told you, you might not believe me," Juudai grumbled, even though he knew very well that Johan would take him seriously.
"You know that I would listen to you!" Johan insisted, looking a little offended, "You know I'd believe you! Come on, I've held my tongue long enough. What's been wrong with you for the past few months?"
Juudai took a few deep breaths, then shakily strode across the balcony, brushing past Johan to go back into the living room. Dropping to the couch, he clasped his hands and hung his head a little, preparing himself. He had suffered in silence long enough. He knew what he had to do. Why, then, was it so hard? Perhaps it was because he'd harbored the secret for two years; two long, lonely years. It was the kind of lonely that could not be remedied, no matter how many people he surrounded himself with, no matter how much he occupied his mind. The gaping hole in his heart remained. It had grown worse with time, though he'd been able to mask it whenever he was with other people. However, when he was with Johan, it was everything he could do to keep it inside. At first it hadn't been that difficult but then…
He shook his head a little in disbelief, wondering how he could've gotten himself into such a difficult mess. He heard Johan call his name in exasperation from the balcony. The teal-haired duelist came into the living room and sat by the brunet, looking determined. Then, seeing he was distressed, he put an arm around his shoulder.
"Juudai…" This time, his voice was gentle.
"I just can't hide from it," Juudai sighed, looking up and smiling weakly at his friend, "I just…thought wrong about this all. I'm sorry if I've put you in an uncomfortable position, or if I will with what I have to say…But it must be said, I suppose. I'm sorry for keeping this from you before. It was stupid of me. For two years…I've kept a secret, and it's been deeper than any secret I've ever kept. At first, I didn't even know of it myself. It took me a year to even realize the depth of it…Can you imagine? A year of being so confused as to what's going on? A year to second-guessing things you'd thought were clear before? And now…I'm just not sure about anything concerning this…I can't even put my thoughts in order long enough to say it."
"Ok, Ok…" Johan told him, grabbing his shaking arms and looking him in the eyes, "It's all right to tell me about it. Whatever it is, I'll accept you, Ok? You know that. Just relax. You don't have to worry around me, all right?" He offered Juudai a gentle smile.
Juudai returned the smile, feeling a little better. "You're right…I shouldn't be getting so worked up over something like this. This you'd truly understand…at least, I'm pretty sure you would."
"So will you tell me?" Johan's sea green eyes searched Juudai's chocolate ones.
Looking into those eyes, Juudai felt comfort wash over him. He felt silly for having dreaded telling him. It really wasn't something to make a big fuss over. Perhaps it was because he hadn't known what was going on. Perhaps from the moment he'd met Johan, he'd been attracted to him, but he really hadn't felt so nervous about it until then…Why had it bothered him so much? Had he really been afraid all along? Afraid of his own emotions? Perhaps that was it…
"Well, I'm not sure if you'll like it or not," Juudai found himself saying, not daring to look away from those eyes for a second. They were his stability, encouraging him and giving him the strength to say what he'd hidden so long. "The truth is…although we've been best friends for a really long time, I'm not sure…if…maybe…there's more to it."
Johan smiled faintly and nodded for him to continue, giving his arm a reassuring rub.
Swallowing hard, Juudai took a moment to think. Who was he kidding? They were more and they both knew it. They'd been more for a long time…He'd never cared about someone so much as to do everything for that person…And yet, at the same time, he'd never had anyone hurt him so much. It really wasn't something that should hurt. It didn't make any sense to him, how a positive emotion could evoke such a powerful negative response.
His eyes darted around the room before returning into those deep pools of green. How long had it been…since they'd last kissed? It had been lighthearted, perhaps even called just friendly and innocent, but that had only been on the surface. He could not help but think of the first time they'd kissed. It had been when Yubel had left Johan's body, and he'd been so happy to see that he was all right. True, it had been nothing more than a quick peck on the lips, a mutual peck at that, but it had left him feeling so exhilarated, like he'd never felt before. There had been kisses after that, mostly just little pecks on the lips in greeting or in parting. They'd never sat down and made out. That just wasn't something they were interested in doing. The tiny touches of lips were enough…enough to show how they cared for each other by being considerate and tender. Each kiss was fragile, precious. Each kiss was shared at an important moment. He wondered if he should kiss him then, since he was about to deliver this piece of information. Perhaps it would make it easier on the both of them, to remember what it felt like. It certainly would make it more meaningful.
Although he was a little loath to do so since they hadn't in so long, he decided to go through with it anyway. Blinking innocently, he slowly leaned closer in Johan's face, stopping to hesitate as he felt the other's warm breath. Johan did not make any move back. He merely sat there patiently. Juudai knew he trusted him. It made it all the more worth it. Finally, he closed the distance, only to merely graze their lips. Johan returned the slight pressure for a brief second, before they sat back, and looked at each other. Juudai's fingers lingered on his mouth, curling as he pressed his lips to his knuckles and closed his eyes to ponder the situation. All the while, Johan was silent. He was patient with the other.
Finally, Juudai opened his warm brown eyes to meet the European's gaze. And that was when he said it. "Johan, I love you." It was so simple; the words flowed with great ease from his tongue. He was a little surprised with himself.
Johan didn't even blink at this. He didn't seem shocked, however, he didn't answer for a moment. Instead, he seemed to be thinking in depth on the words, turning them over and over in his mind. Eventually, he brought his gaze back up to Juudai's. "I know…" It was spoken in a whisper, "I've known for a long time…"
Juudai's lips twitched in a smile. "I suppose I wasn't that good at concealing it then."
Johan shook his head, looking amused. "You wear your heart on your sleeve…And you're a terrible liar. Really, if that was what was bothering you, though…Why torture yourself with that?"
"I don't know," He admitted, his face burning, "It was really stupid in retrospect."
Chuckling softly, Johan put an arm around him and gave him a quick squeeze. "Ah, you'll never change, no matter how old you get. And that suits me just fine."
"Do you…?" Juudai began, then stopped, biting down on the disobedient tongue and wishing he hadn't tried to rush Johan to say something that he wasn't ready for.
A small, mischievous smile played on Johan's lips, his emerald eyes dancing. "You tell me, Juudai…You tell me."
Juudai smiled fondly at the memory. He'd gotten so worked up over absolutely nothing. When he thought about it those days, it really made him shake his head in disbelief. It had been so obvious all along that they felt the same about each other! Usually, they had a silent way of understanding each other. However, he'd been so blind to it, thanks to his own worries. Perhaps he had merely been second-guessing the reality due to previous misunderstandings. He didn't know. He'd never known about love before, and he most certainly didn't know much then. Well, it was all behind him, and he was ready to move on with his relationship. Since that moment he'd told Johan, he'd realized the reality behind their bond: they'd always been together and always would be. They didn't need any "official" words to describe it; they just were.
Yet, at the same time, he felt the familiar hollow feeling residing in his chest. He didn't understand why he felt as though what he had wasn't enough. At first, he'd written it off as a passing fancy, though it was becoming more apparent that that was not the felt the increasingly strong need to be closer to Johan, though he wasn't really sure how that could be. Several possibilities had flown through his mind in disjointed thoughts, yet none of them seemed feasible. What he was considering was absolutely absurd. There was no way it would ever happen…or was there?
Glancing at the clock, he quickly shook himself of his thoughts. It was finally time for him to go meet Johan. Swallowing the excitement rising in his throat, he hurried out the door, fumbling to lock it before getting into his car and pulling out of the driveway. It was not a long drive, perhaps two miles at most, but it felt like forever to him. He might've even sped had the car in front of him not been going so slow. In fact, that was probably the only thing that spared him from getting a ticket that day. His impatience made the trip feel unnecessarily long, though it was over in about ten minutes.
Feeling as though he was barely able to think at all, Juudai locked his car and walked briskly into the café. He stopped to breathe in the heavy aroma of coffee before scanning the seating area. His heart leapt in his throat when he spotted what he was looking for; spiky teal hair over the edge of a booth. Swallowing his excitement, he approached the booth to make sure it really was Johan, lest he shout out the name and cause a scene.
The European was lazily stirring an untouched mocha. He was staring absentmindedly out the window at the fog outside, his mind obviously a thousand miles away. His sea green eyes were slightly dulled, perhaps even misted over. This concerned the brunet. Was something wrong? Johan usually had a pleasant, cheerful demeanor, so this was quite unexpected. He didn't even seem to notice Juudai's presence.
"Johan?" Juudai called the name softly.
The emerald eyes flickered up momentarily, wide with surprise. "Oh, Juudai…" His mournful expression melted away into a relieved smile. "I'm so glad to see you."
Reaching up, he captured the other in a tight, warm embrace. Then, not seeming to care where they were, leaned up and pecked the brunet on the lips. Juudai returned the slight pressure and the hug before releasing him and seating himself comfortably across from him.
"Is something wrong?" Juudai asked, sensing the other boy's lingering distress.
"Ah, well," Trying to conceal his troubled expression, Johan smiled again and ran his hand through his wild hair, "Not really…"
Juudai frowned slightly at this response. "There's no need to try and spare me. Tell me what's wrong."
Johan sighed heavily. "I really don't want to burden you, especially since we haven't seen each other in so long. It's not really that bad, it just concerns me. Besides, you've probably noticed it too."
"Well, what is it?" Juudai asked, leaning his elbows on the table, "If I already know, then can't we discuss it?"
Considering this for a moment, Johan stirred his coffee again, then nodded. "I guess it should be discussed. I'm not sure if it's affecting Japan as badly as it's affecting Denmark but…" He paused to think, then: "The thing is…there has been talk of uniting the countries of Europe under one leader. They're also discussing making agreements with any other country that will be a part of it… This wouldn't be so bad except…I don't trust that sort of thing. This could lead to serious trouble. Especially since they're already debating who is eligible for it. I think it's far too soon to be discussing who the leader should be but…you know how people are. Not to mention they disagree on the laws. Plus, the main leader in consideration seems to be a shady individual. It's just a hunch of mine. There's not quite any hard evidence to back it up, except that some of his administrators have died while under him. Of course, that could be coincidence but…these administrators were also in disagreement with him about some very deep political issues. Ah, I don't know…"
Juudai was silent for several moments. He only watched as Johan stirred the coffee, though it was at a quicker pace then before. The only sounds were those of people around them chatting quietly, the hum of the espresso machine, and the gentle tapping of keyboards. Although he hated to admit it, he knew exactly what the other boy was talking about. After all, he did travel the world frequently and, while residing in those countries, had come to learn of the current issues.
Finally, Johan spoke again. "Juudai, I don't know if you've noticed but…the world is going to hell…"
Juudai nodded, his mouth going dry. He had to admit, he hadn't been as perceptive about it at first since it was subtle, but he had noticed more recently, especially when major changes started to take place. Not to say that he endorsed them. Instead, he felt rather uneasy about it. But at that time, there was nothing he could do. Perhaps if things got too out of hand he'd be able to step in. He'd already been able to settle a few regional disputes. However, since it was nothing but talks…Yet communication held more merit these days. It could result in the end of the world as they knew it. Yes, things were changing, and not for the better of the people.
"I've noticed," He finally murmured, his eyes dropping to the tabletop.
"So what are we going to do about it?"
The question caused Juudai to glance up in surprise. Johan's eyes were fixated on him in a serious gaze. "Well," Juudai leaned back in his seat and sighed, then admitted, "at this point, I'm not entirely sure. The time will present itself."
"Let's hope it does," Johan sighed as well, resting his cheek in the palm of his hand, "But I don't think that we will be able to do anything soon…because…they're banning Duel Monsters."
"What?!" This caught Juudai's attention, "I haven't heard of this! Where?"
"Oh, it's so popular that it can be of good use to politics but…in a few small countries such as Georgia and Lithuania, they've passed laws regulating the terms in which you can use them. But, I don't think that will fly in many other parts of the world. I'm mildly concerned about it…But it's such a huge statement, you know?"
"That's insane…" Juudai shook his head, "And why haven't I heard of this?"
"Probably because the media is trying to cover it up," Johan replied, "The only way I heard about it is because one of my relatives lives over there…And it was just this past week, too. There's no way you could've known."
"In a week…" Juudai murmured, stunned, "Do you think it's temporary?"
"Maybe," Johan responded, looking glum, "Let's hope. They might re-instate it simply because it's such a popular sport…Well, just think about it…Scotland banned golf for awhile because it was too popular and people were neglecting combat skills. Perhaps it's the same case here."
"Well, whatever the case, we have to do something to keep it from spreading…" Juudai told him, "I can't let this happen."
"I can't stand back and do nothing either," Johan agreed, "We'll think of something."
Silence reigned once more. Suddenly, Juudai felt as though he shouldn't have worried about his relationship with Johan so much with all that was going on. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, staring at his hands in his lap. Another sigh from Johan prompted him to look up. The teal-haired duelist was smiling, then, much to Juudai's surprise, laughed.
"I'm sorry," He said, shaking his head, "I dumped my worries on you. It's not as bad as I made it seem like…Those are just my own personal fears. I hope you won't let it get you down or anything."
"No, of course not," Juudai blinked, "I'm not depressed about it…I'm just concerned as well. But if you say that it's not as bad…then I'll take your word for it. We'll just keep an eye out, Ok?" Although he said that he'd trust Johan, deep inside, he felt all the more uneasy about the matter.
Nodding, Johan agreed. "All right. But let's not spoil our day with this. I was just depressed about it since I got some of the news last night. But now that I've talked it over with you, I realize I was blowing it out of proportion. After all, you've been traveling the world and seem to know more about it than I do, and you're not overly concerned. So why should I be?"
"Well, it's just nothing to get too worked up about," Juudai reassured him, "I have travelled but…that doesn't mean I know more or less. I've noticed. It's not much of a threat right now. Perhaps it will all blow over once they discuss it more in depth. I think it has far too many disadvantages."
"True," Johan picked his mocha up and took a sip, then made a bit of a face. "A little too cool…"
Juudai watched him sip his beverage for a few moments. He let his mind drift a bit, glossing over the information that Johan had told him and connecting it with his own recent experiences. If he recalled correctly, the world's governments had not been in too good of a shape for the past several years. In fact, it had begun shortly after he'd graduated Duel Academia. It startled him to think that in five years so much had already happened to ruin peace and prosperity. A few stray, gradual problems had snowballed, and soon it would probably avalanche out of control.
"Are you ready to get something to eat?"
The question shook Juudai of his thoughts suddenly. Jumping a bit, he looked up at Johan, surprised. "Oh, yeah…" He smiled faintly at the man in front of him.
"Hmm, well, I'll go get some sandwiches for us, Ok? This one's on me so don't worry about the tab." Johan started to get up, ignoring Juudai's protests.
Sighing, the brunet leaned on the table and propped his chin in both hands. His melancholy chocolate eyes followed Johan; he could not stop watching him. The familiar ache entered his chest. He wondered how he could still feel that way even when things were going so well between them. Or at least it seemed so. He knew that things were going ANYTHING but well between them. Of course, they might have had a calm, peaceable relationship. That wasn't the problem at all. The problem was…they didn't talk nearly enough. Naturally, they spent many a sleepless night on the phone, but it wasn't the same. He hated having to live so far away. He just wished Johan could be nearby so he could go visit him more easily. That was all he asked for. However, he was always on the move. There was no way that could be unless Johan traveled with him. But Johan would not give up the Pro Circuit for anything. Not even for him. Juudai didn't blame him though. He wasn't willing to give up his life either. Thus, they were met with this impasse. He supposed in the end it didn't matter as long as they had each other all the same. They could satisfy themselves with this life if that was all.
Drumming his fingers impatiently on the table, he let his eyes drift back out the window. The fog was thickening, and the rain began to fall steadily until it was pouring. He realized he'd have to drive in it, which irked him. It made him uncomfortable to drive in the rain. Especially when he was alone. It made him feel so cold, so empty. He wished he could have some company. He didn't get company nearly enough. The sudden idea came to his mind that perhaps Johan would have the time to come over and spend the afternoon with him. It would make him feel a lot better. He had been so down lately. Not the type of sadness that wouldn't go away necessarily. It was more like the type of depressed that one felt on occasion, when he realized how full his life was, yet, something was just missing.
A club sandwich was placed in front of him, causing him to forget all his thoughts. Food had that effect on him, even then. Sometimes, it seemed like the only cure for his troubles.
Taking a bite of his sandwich, he looked up at Johan. "Do you have time to come over after we eat?"
"Hm, I'd like to," Johan murmured, "It is a really nasty day. Not to mention I don't like going out in this weather that much. I do need to go pick up some things to stock up my hotel room, though."
"I could go with you," Juudai offered, "Or, you don't even have to stay in a hotel! I'll save you some money. You can stay at my place."
Johan laughed softly. "I'm not sure I can do that. I couldn't burden you. Besides, the other duelists are staying in that hotel, too. And it's really for a reason. We have a lot of special banquets and functions to attend there."
"Oh," Juudai looked disappointed for a moment, then perked up again. "But I can perhaps take you to the store or wherever you need to go? Unless you drove here…"
Johan laughed a little. "No, I didn't drive here…My chauffeur took me. But…I don't have to call him back. If you want to take me, I'd be more than glad to go with you. I don't like having a chauffeur that much, anyway. The greeting party at the airport just insisted on it 'for my safety.'"
"All right, then," Juudai said, finishing his sandwich in a large bite. He chewed for a moment, then swallowed before speaking again. "I'll take you wherever you need to go."
"As long as it's no trouble…" Johan pointed out.
"Of course not!" Juudai insisted, standing and stretching, "We might want to leave now, though, before the weather gets too bad."
Scarfing down the last of his sandwich, Johan stood as well and followed Juudai out the door. The rain pelted them like tiny bullets, stinging what bare skin there was exposed. Juudai ran to the car and unlocked it, opening the door for Johan first. The teal-haired duelist practically leapt inside the vehicle, followed by Juudai. Crawling over Johan's lap, Juudai managed to get into the driver's seat and start the car.
Shivering, Johan hugged himself for warmth, his teeth beginning to chatter slightly. Juudai pulled the same Osiris jacket that he always wore off, and slid it around the other man's shoulders, smiling. "Here, I know it's wet too, but it should help."
"Thanks," Johan pulled the jacket closer around himself, "But won't you-"
"I'm fine," Juudai insisted, "But…are you? You don't usually get cold so easily"
"Oh, well," Johan explained, "I'm getting over a bit of a virus. I'll be all right. I just get the chills now and then."
"You haven't been taking good care of yourself, have you?" Juudai teased gently. He knew Johan hated for him to get on his case about that sort of thing.
In response, Johan swatted playfully at his arm, invoking a small chuckle from Juudai. "Everyone gets sick."
"All right, all right. I guess I have to trust you with yourself. Now, where are we going?"
"Well, I think we should just go to your place first," Johan answered, having changed his mind, "It's best I pick up groceries when I'm ready to go to the hotel. Besides, I don't really want to go right now."
"I don't blame you," Juudai muttered as he pulled out into the street.
"Ah! Juudai, please be careful!" Johan cried, as Juudai narrowly escaped being hit in the bumper by an oncoming car.
"Whoops! Sorry…" Juudai laughed nervously, gripping the wheel a little tighter, "I'm still not too good at this." Especially when you're distracting me…
Looking a little wide-eyed, Johan told him shakily, and somewhat jokingly, "I'm not so sure I trust you to drive, then."
Juudai sent him a faux injured look. "You don't like my driving?"
"Not on a day like this," Johan laughed, "but I don't care what we have to go through, even if we do crash, because being with you is worth it."
"Glad to hear that," Juudai beamed.
The rest of the ride was strangely quiet. Perhaps it was Juudai's erratic driving that kept them from talking. Out of the corner of his eye, Juudai saw Johan visibly flinch every time he jerked the car too much. He didn't want to make the other man uncomfortable but it really could not be helped. He was too distracted by Johan's presence to drive properly.
Johan breathed a large sigh of relief when they pulled into Juudai's driveway intact. Glancing over at Juudai's hands shaking on the wheel, he laughed softly, though he was shaking himself. "Too much?"
"Huh?" Juudai blinked, looking puzzled.
Johan laughed again at his clueless expression, one that reminded him of how his friend had been long ago… "I mean, even you weren't able to stand your own driving."
Shaking his head, Juudai told him, "It's not the driving…"
"Then what is it?" Johan unbuckled his seat belt reluctantly, as though he thought the car might start moving again.
"I'd rather not say." Mumbling this, Juudai stepped out of the car and ran through the rain, fumbling with the keys to unlock the door.
Johan ran up to the doorstep as well, using Juudai's jacket to cover his head. The two hurried indoors, though by then, they were thoroughly soaked. Their clothes dripped with excess water, creating a rather obvious puddle on the floor. Collapsing to a chair and ignoring the water, Juudai thought about how he wished that Johan could stay. The regret rose inside him again; he wished he had tried harder to keep Johan close to him. Perhaps they should talk about it…
"Um, Johan?" He felt a little awkward, but it had to be done. He couldn't harbor this feeling any longer.
"Hm?" Johan looked up, his eyes locking with Juudai's.
"I was just wondering if we could talk." Juudai shifted his seat. Revealing those feelings was not something he was particularly good at.
"Well, all right," Johan agreed, laughing a bit, "You didn't have to say that, though. You could've just started talking. Really, don't be so uncomfortable."
"Yeah…" Juudai laughed as well, "I just…was buying myself some time, I guess. It's just that…I'm not sure about some, um, things."
"What sort of things?" Johan prodded, encouraging him to go on.
Wringing his hands, Juudai bit his lip, hesitant. He wasn't sure he knew how to put his feelings into words. "I kind of wish we…could be closer."
"What do you mean?" At this point, Johan looked genuinely confused.
"I wish we could live near each other at least," Juudai explained, staring down at his hands, "And I wish we could talk more often. I just want to be closer to you in general. Do you know what I mean?"
Running a hand through his hair, Johan thought before replying. "I think so…Yes, I do…"
"I don't want you to leave," Juudai continued, refusing to meet Johan's steady gaze. "I just want you to stay with me. But I know that you can't because…you have your life and I have mine. And it just sucks, you know? Because I want to be by your side all the way…I want to be able to be there for you and all." Taking a deep breath, he shut his mouth. Actually, it hadn't been too difficult once he'd started. He didn't regret having shared this information with Johan. Of course, he didn't mean any of it in a bad way. All he wanted was to be able to support Johan emotionally. He grinned cockily up at the teal-haired duelist, his eyes finally locking with the other's, somewhat hopeful.
Nodding, Johan paused to take the information in. Juudai felt a great deal calmer, even though Johan hadn't said anything in response. He knew the other well enough to know that he would understand.
"I know exactly what you mean," Johan finally replied, "I feel the same way. But what can we do?"
Juudai bit his lip and tried to push back the idea that came to his mind. He couldn't do that, could he? Then again…Shaking his head to clear his mind of the thought, he tried to think of something to say in response. However, Johan had already seen the adventurous gleam in Juudai's chocolate eyes, as well as the smirk that was still playing on his lips.
"Eh? Juudai? Did you get an idea?" Johan blinked, though he was smiling as well.
"Umm…" Juudai looked uncertain, he laughed a bit nervously, "I don't think I should talk about it…"
"Oh, come on! You get that look on your face whenever you come up with your best ideas! It can't be that bad…"
"Um, it's nothing," Juudai told him, dismissing the idea, "Just forget about it. Maybe we can talk about it some other time, Ok? Just not now. It's not the time…" Even he knew that it wasn't the time to mention such an absurd, out-of-the-question idea.
"Well, all right," Johan reluctantly agreed.
Juudai stood suddenly, and wandered off into the back room. Johan watched the brunet curiously, but didn't move from his seat. After a moment, Juudai emerged with a towel, which he threw over Johan's head. Squirming, Johan protested, however, Juudai ignored this and began to dry his hair and face with it.
"You can't sit around here wet," Juudai told him, "You're getting over your cold, remember? And you told me you were taking good care of yourself." He pulled Johan's head back so the European could look at his face, a skeptical expression marking his delicate features.
Smiling weakly up, Johan replied, "I guess you're right. Thanks." His cheeks turned the slightest shade of pink.
Juudai finished rubbing Johan's hair with the towel, then threw it aside. He took one good look at Johan's messy hair, and laughed. Reaching over with a soft smile on his face, he gently stroked the strands of teal hair back into place. Johan's hair was silky to the touch; it felt as nice as it looked. Not being able to help himself, he took a moment to stroke it away from Johan's face and out of his clear green eyes. His hand dropped to Johan's cheek, which he fondled momentarily before withdrawing his hand. However, Johan reached up and stopped him. Feeling Johan's warm fingers curling around his own, Juudai smiled and allowed the other to hold his hand.
The two sat there silently, fingers laced together, for several moments. Juudai could not remember the last time he'd felt so complete. It felt right to be sitting in his cozy home, holding Johan's hand and watching the rain. Nothing could've made the moment more perfect. Well, perhaps that was a bit of a stretch. There was something that would've made it better; however, this was not anything that could ever happen. It saddened Juudai to think that they might never have the type of relationship they could have. Never before had he considered it so deeply; it had never bothered him until recently that they might never have the opportunity to have the same type of relationship that everyone else did. What had mattered was that they were closer than anyone else. At least, it seemed that way. If only there was some way that he could have Johan but also be able to travel the world. The sad fact was, either one sacrificed his dream or they had to compromise their relationship and settle for what they had.
Clutching Johan's hand tighter, he wondered why he felt so desperate to be closer to him. Why, all of the sudden, did he feel the undeniable need to further what they had? Why did he feel as though he might burst from sorrow if he didn't get his way? It really shouldn't have mattered. But at this point, he wasn't sure he could stand it. At the same time, he wasn't sure he was ready to talk to Johan about it, much less go through with it. How were they to grow closer anyway? The same thought continued to plague his tortured mind, almost as though it were taunting him.
"Juudai," Johan said softly, "Are you sure you don't have anything to tell me?"
Juudai shook his head. "I'm all right. I promise."
Giving him a strange look, Johan pointed out quietly, squeezing Juudai's hand tighter, "You got that same look on your face when you were afraid to tell me that you loved me. How many times do I have to tell you that it's all right to talk to me?"
"I'm not ready," Juudai said simply, shrugging, "I don't want to talk about it right yet. I'm not sure about some things and…I don't know how to put it. Just be patient with me."
Reluctantly, Johan agreed, though he didn't look too happy about it. Juudai was not particularly pleased with the situation either, but what could he do? He couldn't just suggest right away that they drop everything they'd worked so hard for. He couldn't say that anyway. He wouldn't have mentioned it at all. After all, that was not going to happen. He was happy with what he did, and that was more important than anything, even Johan. It was something he was not exactly proud to admit, but it was the truth, and that was what mattered the most. Eventually, Johan would have to know since it was a subject that frequently perturbed him; however, this was not the time.
Juudai clenched his fists under the table, watching the rain fall harder and beat upon the windowpanes mercilessly as the wind whipped it about. Thinking about this made his conflicting emotions clash all the more. He knew he couldn't do what he wanted because he couldn't have his life of roaming and a deep relationship with Johan too. But, oh, how he wanted Johan! It was almost impossible to believe that he could want someone so much, especially after having been uninterested for so long. Yet, he supposed it could happen. And he could not get the other out of his head. It was growing increasingly difficult to keep this desire of his to himself. It was hard for him to accept that he could not be satisfied with what they had. It was not enough.
Finally, he decided that he would tell Johan. Not that day, necessarily, but he would tell him if the feeling continued to plague him. He might even arrange a time to tell him, he wasn't sure.
"How long are you going to be in town?" He asked, trying to sound casual, though he held his breath after he'd posed the question.
"Probably a few days at most," Johan replied, "but I'll be really busy. I probably won't have time to even sleep." The last part was said in a joking tone, but Juudai knew that it should be taken seriously.
"Oh, I see…" Juudai took a deep breath and let it out slowly, "That's unfortunate. I was hoping you might have some time to talk or go out."
Johan shrugged. "We'll see. I'll try to make some time for you since we don't get to see each other very much. And this might even be my last chance since I have no clue how much longer I'll be able to leave Europe freely."
Juudai felt solemn all of the sudden. That was right. Europe might not open its borders for anyone to visit or leave soon enough. And if that happened…He could not bear the thought. "Johan…please promise me you'll get out of there."
The teal-haired duelist looked up in surprise. "You want me to leave my home?"
"I don't want to pressure you," Juudai told him, "but you have to get out of there. If you don't…who knows what might happen. I don't want you over there. I want to make sure that you'll be all right."
"I understand what you're saying," Johan sighed, drumming his fingers on the table, "I'm just not sure if I'm ready to leave…" He smiled softly, his sea green eyes filled with concern, "I don't know if I can do it. Even if this may be my only chance…It'll be Ok."
"Well, if you say so…" The brunet stared down at his hands.
"Juudai, it's not like you to be so worried," Johan pointed out, "Did I really give you that much of a scare?"
The former Osiris student seized Johan by the shoulders, his fingers digging into the fabric of his dress shirt, his expression determined. "I will not let anything happen to you. Not like what happened before," He told Johan through his teeth, his voice wavering in a desperate, hushed tone, "I can't bear to lose you again. I can never be too cautious with you and you know that."
"I understand," Johan said again, after a brief moment's hesitation, "and I suppose if I were in your shoes, I'd do the same thing. Tell you what; I'll think about it, Ok?"
It was not nearly enough to calm Juudai's worry; however, he had to trust the other man to take care of himself. He had to trust his judgment, even though his own intuition told him otherwise. Feebly, he nodded, his mouth going dry. Truly, it was not like him to get so worked up. But Johan was the exception to his normal lax, lenient way of living. Indeed, they were overly concerned for each other, and it showed. It'd always been that way. They'd always put each other first. Perhaps Johan thought he was sparing Juudai the trouble by telling him not to worry, but the truth was that it only made things worse. The more that Johan turned a blind eye to the problems, the more desperate Juudai became to get him out of that situation. This gave him more of a reason to do what he was considering. It might save Johan from his imminent fate. Not to mention that Juudai could not stand to see anyone on the brink of destruction, especially not Johan. And after Dark World…He never wanted that to happen again.
He'd made up his mind. He was going to get Johan out of Europe if that was the last thing he did. And he would sacrifice whatever was necessary to keep him safe. He would do whatever it took to save him. Even if it meant that he had to mention his idea before he was ready to. Perhaps things would not be as he'd first considered. He might have to do more than he'd accounted for. Especially since Johan seemed so stubborn. But it had to be worth it.
Johan might've said that things weren't that bad. But Juudai knew better. Things were at terrible unrest, and they both knew it. Johan's concern was evident. And if he was not willing to leave Europe voluntarily, then Juudai would force him to. He even went so far as to think that he might even kidnap him! Well, perhaps he wouldn't go that far. But if he had to, he'd duel him for it. Nothing was going to stop him. Not even his love for Johan. He had to do what was best for the other man, even if it was undesirable. And who knew when the day would come that the borders were closed and he was separated from the other. Little did Juudai know how close that day was.
A/N: Sorry that ending was so sudden but…I really tried. I know some of the transitioning is probably off, it's still a bit repetitive for my taste, and I still feel that too much was packed into one chapter but…that is kinda ingrained in my mind because of what my AP English teacher taught me…But then too, less is more. Argh. I hope I did all right with characterization and managed to convey that Juudai is uncertain when it comes to Johan, really. Meh, I'm so dumb. DX Anyway, I tried, and I'm not completely satisfied, but I like it all right. Opinions anyone?