This story is based on the Japanese anime.
It is yaoi.
The usual disclaimers apply.
"That mark. On your arm."
"It's a birthmark. I was born with it. I think." The boy, who had been sitting, head down, staring at the cards in his hands, now looked up and pierced Yusei's eyes with his aggressive, violet gaze. "Want to make something of it?"
"No, it's cool. Looks like an arrow … or wings, or something." He sat down next to the boy. "Martha said that you're Jack and to ask you to show me around. I'm Yusei."
The boy sighed. "Me? There are a lot of boys who'd be better at that." He looked toward the house speculatively.
"You don't wanna do it?"
"Nah, it's OK." He gathered his cards, wrapped them carefully in a clean rag, and put them in his pocket. Then he stood up. Yusei realized then just how tall the boy was, even for his age.
"What're those?" asked Yusei.
"They're fighting cards," he said. "You duel with them. Haven't you ever seen any before?" Jack started walking, then turned. "You like fighting, don't you?"
"I fight when I have to …" he said, uncertainly.
"Huh. Martha's already shown you around the house and where you'll be sleeping, right?"
"Good. Then I'll show you around the neighborhood."
Jack stalked off without looking back, leaving Yusei to scramble after him.
What is it with this kid?
Yusei had banged around all his life, as long as he could remember, from one orphanage to another, and now he had landed here. Martha seemed pretty nice, but what he really wanted was a friend, someone he could rely on … and who did Martha have show him around? This guy. It was hard enough for Yusei. He wasn't normally the most talkative boy around and he was really making an effort. This Jack kid wasn't helping him out any. As he hurried to catch up, he realized that the kid was probably the prettiest child he'd ever seen, male or female, with that blond hair and those amethyst eyes of his—weird birthmark notwithstanding. But he had this manner about him, a kind of aloofness. Neither of these things made it any easier to talk to the kid or feel at ease with him.
Jack marched along a street to a huge dump, and Yusei couldn't help noticing again that he strode along as though he owned the place, not like some vagrant kid. "This is the best dump in the district for cards," he said. "Come take a look!"
With that, Jack began clambering over the ruins like a mountain goat—a stately one. "You're not going to find the best stuff at the edge … that's been picked over. You have to go at least a little way in."
Yusei decided the only thing to do was to follow him. Besides, it was probably the most fun he would have today. Even if he didn't like this game—whatever it is—he could give what he found to Jack, which would make him happy. Win-win.
Jack showed him exactly what he was looking for, the shape and size, the color of the back. Apparently each kind of card had its own color coding. Actually, Yusei thought, the game looked kind of … intriguing, just like Jack himself. Not an ordinary game, just like Jack wasn't an ordinary kid.
Maybe it would be worth the effort after all.
A lot of the junk was just that, junk. There were a few bits and pieces of machinery thrown in that Yusei couldn't resist stuffing in his pockets ("What do you want with that?" Jack had demanded), but no cards. Just when he was beginning to feel like a failure, glancing furtively at Jack's haul of three or four cards, he spotted one caught beneath a broken pallet. "Got one!" he said happily, checking it out.
"Let me see," Jack said, coming over.
"Scrap-Iron Scarecrow," Yusei read off the card, then handed it to Jack.
He looked at it seriously. "That's a good one," he said. "You can nullify one attack per turn, and then reset it."
"Is that good?"
"That's very useful. You can use it over and over." He started to hand the card back.
"Uh, do you want it? I mean, I wouldn't do this all the time, but you're going to the trouble of showing me around and all—"
"No, that wouldn't be right," Jack said with finality. "Cards come to the duelist, right? If this card belonged with me, I would have found it. It came to you, so it belongs with you."
Jack grabbed Yusei's hand and put Scrap-Iron Scarecrow into it as if to make his point. Jack's hand was warm, contrasting with his seeming aloofness. But … now that they were talking about cards, he didn't seem quite so unreachable.
"Besides, it's your first card!"
Afterward, Jack led Yusei to the water's edge, away from the busy pier. "This is a place where people don't come as much," he said. "I like it because there's no one to hassle me."
Yusei was starting to get the idea that Jack was a kid who liked—no, needed—his time alone. Yusei found himself beginning to feel a little privileged to be tagging along.
Jack turned around and shot Yusei a serious look. "So don't go bringing a lot of riffraff here, I'm warning you. You ruin this place for me and I'll take it out of your hide."
"Uh, point taken," he said. But why bring someone else when he could keep Jack to himself? He was beginning to want Jack for the best friend he'd been yearning for … strange, combative, and aloof as he was, he was also, well, kind of awesome.
But Jack was already climbing the crumbling ruins of a destroyed building to look across the bay toward the main city. "You know what that is, don't you?" he said.
"Neo Domino City."
"I'm going there someday."
"Really? How're you going to do that?"
"Don't know. Don't care. But someday I'm going to get out of here."
People never talked seriously about leaving Satellite. Those who tried wound up in the Facility with tracker marks on their faces. Yusei almost laughed, but then caught the look of determination on Jack's face. Finally he said, "So, if you got out there, what would you do there?"
Jack gave Yusei a side-long confidential look and said, with a large, confident smile, "I'll become King, of course."
"King? But they don't have kings any more. Don't you know that?"
His smile just became larger and more confident as he looked back over the bay. "That's their loss. I'll find a way."
And just then, at that moment, Yusei thought that this kid that he just met looked more like a king than any adult he'd ever met. More confident, more assured, more determined … more real … than any other person he'd ever met.
Yusei smiled back at Jack and said, "I don't know how you're going to do it, Jack, but …" he shrugged. "Somehow I want to help all of a sudden."
Jack laughed at that and clambered down the pile of rubble. "Maybe it's not so bad having you along after all," he admitted. He led Yusei down through a hanging brick archway into the remains of a concrete basement. "This place isn't a bad spot to hang," he said, plopping down on the remains of an old, beat-up sofa he'd dragged in, and went on without pausing. "You know what I said? About leaving? About really becoming a king? If you tell anyone about that—"
"No, of course not—"
"You see, I'm always play-acting like I'm a king, and I get teased enough about that. If they thought I was really serious about it …"
"Jack, they tease you because they don't have any great dreams of their own."
He had said it to make Jack feel better, but as he was saying it, he realized it was true. They teased Jack because they all envied him and wished they were more like him: more handsome, more full of hope, more determined, more courageous, more … more.
More than that, he realized that Jack had already shared a secret. With him, the new kid. Was it inadvertent, or was he already trusted? In any case, he would have to earn that trust.
But Yusei needed to pay attention to their conversation because Jack was staring at him like he'd never seen anything like him before. "Are you OK?" Yusei asked.
"Yeah …" he said. "I just … you really think so?"
"That the other kids … they make fun of me because … they … they envy me?"
Yusei thought about it hard. Was he trying to flatter Jack? Was it because he was impressed with him and wanted to be friends with him? But then he thought that part of the reason he wanted Jack for his friend so badly was that quality, that he was capable of creating and holding on so tightly to such huge dreams. In a way, it was a simple dream, but weren't the biggest dreams—the truest dreams—the simplest ones? He said slowly and seriously, "I'm pretty sure that's the reason."
"Thanks. That makes it easier. To ignore them," he said.
Jack continued to show him the neighborhood, which he apparently knew in excruciatingly intimate detail, as only a child can. When the light took an orange tinge and the shadows grew long, Jack suddenly said, "Shit! We're late! Sorry, Yusei, I shouldn't have dragged it out on your first day like this."
They got nearer to the dump on the other side and Jack seemed to get a little hyper-aware and jumpy. "Is everything OK?" Yusei asked. Even though they were in a hurry, Jack had slowed as he kept looking around into each doorway and shadow. Now, as they began passing the dump, Yusei knew that he wasn't imagining things because Jack was actively scanning the piles of trash.
"So far …" he said distantly.
But at that moment, a rather seedy-looking man jumped out in front of them. "Hello, Jack," he said in tones meant to sound friendly, but that had a hard under-tone, "didn't I tell you that I'd be looking forward to seeing you again? Who's your friend?"
Jack ignored him and made as though to walk around him. Yusei tried to pretend the man didn't exist and stuck close to Jack's heels. The man had to start moving to keep up. "Now, that's not very polite," he said, his tone starting to change. "You know, I brought some friends of my own this time. A pretty thing like you shouldn't go around without protection, you know …" the man's voice was getting positively angry now "… you could get hurt."
"Run." It was Jack. He was speaking in a low, conversational tone, so at first Yusei couldn't figure out what he meant, but then he said, repeated "Run … Run. Run—now!" Suddenly, Yusei's feet seemed to know what to do and he took off running.
Half a block later, he realized that Jack had been caught … or had he let himself be caught to give Yusei a chance to escape? In any case, Yusei looked back to see that Jack was fighting off a couple of full-grown men.
"Not the face!" yelled the man who had accosted Jack. The man had stepped well out of the fray and was simply looking on, directing the action.
Jack was fighting valiantly, but it looked like a losing endeavor. "I'll hit where I want to," growled one of the men. "This kid fights dirty."
I can't just leave him.
Jack was already his friend … and, besides, didn't they have a pile of weapons sitting right here? Jack didn't have time to get to any, but he …
Yusei clambered up onto the dump. They'll never catch me here, anyway, he thought as he reached for something small and hard. He aimed for the largest guy's head.
"What the—!" He dropped Jack.
Immediately, Yusei hit the other guy and Jack took off.
"I'll get you—" the man was yelling, but Yusei had joined Jack and the cries were fading into the twilight.
"Why didn't you tell me about him?"
"Eh, he's an annoyance. They're all over Satellite." Jack was panting lightly. "'Sides, he's after me, not you."
"But we could have planned something!"
"You mean, avoid fighting? But that's half the fun!" Jack grinned.
Yusei took a good look at him. The men really had tried to avoid hitting him in the face, but he still had a scratch on his chin. No doubt he had bruises all over. He shook his head. "You're just … strange, Jack," he said.
"And what does that make you?" Jack asked.