This was originally written throughout October 2018.
This is essentially a series of prompts I wrote for the YGOtober event on tumblr back in 2018. I was very busy in college at the time, so not everything I wrote was so long as this. I did stick to GX for the entire event, however. Future chapters will be grouped together into chapters since they're so short, but this first one is by itself. This is the first prompt: A Lonely Place! Featuring Jesse Anderson and Yubel, taking place in season three.
"Well, Yubel, looks like it's just you and me," Jesse declared as he turned back to face the duel spirit. He wiped away some of the sweat dripping down his face; the desert world sure was hot, and this duel wasn't going to be easy.
Yubel gritted their teeth. "You all just keep taking Jaden away from me…" As they trailed off, they looked around. "It really is just us, isn't it? You sent that school back to your dimension and let yourself stay behind. And you're really fine with that?"
"Of course! I gotta help my friends," Jesse replied. "They've helped me so much, it's the least I can do. If I stay here, I can keep them safe from you!"
"Jaden? Needing to be kept safe from me?" Yubel laughed. "You couldn't be further from the truth. But fine, you want to stay behind? Let's finish this."
In the end, the duel was a draw. Yubel slumped forward at that. Jesse rubbed at one of his arms. What did that mean for him, for the others? Losing duels here before turned people into duel ghouls, but he was still himself. Was everything going to be okay?
"A draw…" Yubel sighed. "Maybe you accomplished something. From a draw, I don't have enough energy to go after Jaden. I'm stuck here for now. But, then, so are you."
"It's worth it, to keep them safe," Jesse insisted.
"If I were you, I'd be more worried about yourself," Yubel told him. "You need food and water to live. Most of that was sent away with Duel Academy. I wonder how long you'll last? Meanwhile, all I'll need to get my strength up is to win a duel or two. You can't outlast me."
"Bur as long as I…" Jesse reached for his cards, ready for another round, but Yubel shook their head.
"There's no point. I'm in no hurry. I've waited this long, what's another few days? You'll wither away in this desert, and once you do, I'll be ready to take exactly what I want."
And with that, Yubel left him alone.
They'd been right, of course, about the supplies. Jesse would've had a hard enough time finding anything if he was able to navigate the desert. As it was, he was lost, and finding anything was just about impossible.
It was hot. He was tired and hungry. Yubel had to still be in the desert somewhere, but he couldn't find them. Even the Crystal Beasts had been silent since that duel had ended. Jesse was in the desert all alone.
Everyone else was home and safe. That'd been his main goal, biggest priority. But now…now what? What came next? Trying to get back himself? It was pretty clear that couldn't happen. Not nearly enough duel energy, and as time dragged on, he really didn't have it in him to duel again unless he absolutely had to, unless Yubel showed up again. Not that anyone was around for him to duel anyway, this dimension seemed much emptier than it'd been before. There was no one else he could help now, no one who could help him either. So, survival it was, but there wasn't he could do towards that.
His stomach growled. A memory flooded in his mind, of Jaden chowing down on fried shrimp at dinner in the Slifer dorms. It was nothing unique, he'd made plenty of memories like that in quite a short time. Maybe Jaden was doing just that right now.
Jesse couldn't help but think of his friends.
Were they worried about him? Did they miss him? He'd just wanted them to get back home safe, to live their lives again. Jesse wasn't dense, he didn't expect them to come after him. Not for a long time, anyway. The duel energy they'd require for that was intense. And he wanted them to keep going and to be happy, but… He'd be lying if he said he wasn't afraid of them just moving on completely, forgetting about him. It's not like he'd known any of them for long, he can't have made that much of an impact. There was no way they didn't all have better friends than him. It was a dumb fear, he knew. He knew they all liked him, cared about him. But the hotter the sun got and the more fatigue settled in his bones, the louder the voices in the back of his mind became.
And, well, maybe they were relieved he was gone. No, that was probably a bit harsh… Maybe they weren't that concerned about the whole thing. More than one of them had observed he had a lot in common with Jaden. It'd all been mostly in jest, sure, but there was truth rooted in it. He and Jaden were very passionate about dueling, they could talk about cards and duel all night easily. They could both see spirits. They both had a lot of skill and talent, and had strong connections with their cards. Neither of them were pulling the best academic grades, outside from actual dueling. Surely he wasn't so necessary in their lives. He wasn't disliked, sure, but everyone else already had Jaden, and knew Jaden better. And Jesse was sure that he couldn't beat Jaden in duel, not even with Rainbow Dragon, making Jaden better than him. What did he bring to the table that Jaden didn't? If his friends didn't need him, why would they want him?
He knew that was stupid, too. That couldn't be right. They didn't think like that. But it was hard to drown out the thoughts.
Yubel did come back, did appear to him again. But not for the reasons he'd have guessed. Before he could say a word about stopping them from chasing after Jaden, they looked over him with a smile.
"I'll admit, I'm surprised," they said. He blinked. "I intended to use you as bait. Jaden clearly favors you over me, so if he wouldn't come back for me, I was sure he'd come back for you. Then we could be reunited again, without me having to chase him down. But no one's come for you. He's tossed you aside, just like he did to me."
"No one's under any obligation to save me," Jesse replied. "But even if they wanted to… Well, I don't know much about duel science. But I'd reckon it'd take awhile for anyone to make it back here with a sure way home."
Yubel seemed unimpressed at that. "Rainbow Dragon could send you and anyone else to your world if you have the duel energy for it. Of course you didn't after sending the whole school away before, and I kept everyone else here away from you so you couldn't gather it up again. But if someone came for you, you could gain it back easily. And they sent you your dragon through dimensions using duel energy. They have Jaden at their disposal; how long could it take him to gather enough duel energy to save you?"
"Maybe the equipment broke," Jesse suggested as he dusted some sand off his pants. "Or maybe they can't send people over. Not yet, anyway."
"Or maybe Jaden's abandoned you," Yubel added.
Jesse shrugged. "He doesn't have to save me… I knew what I was doing when I sent everyone home. Jay and the others are safe, and that's what matters."
"Sure, you know that. But it doesn't make it easy, does it?" they asked. "Don't try to deny it, I know it hurts. Even if I couldn't read it from you, I've felt it, too. It seems all Jaden knows how to do is throw his friends away."
It was clear they were just trying to get to him. He shouldn't give in to that, let them have the upper hand on him. Letting Yubel have any sort of power in this conversation couldn't lead to anything good. But…he was tired, too tired to disagree and fight them on it. Especially when they weren't completely wrong. It was too hot and he could barely think straight.
"So, what? Did you come here to gloat?" he responded. "Kick me while I'm down? Because I'm not turnin' my back on Jay, and I ain't giving up."
"I didn't expect you to," Yubel assured. "I never turned my back against Jaden, either." That made no sense, but before Jesse could say anything, they kept talking. "I just thought it would help, having someone else who knows how it feels. You've been left alone for so long, and no one deserves that."
Had he been alone here for…long? Jesse had no idea how much time had passed, he wasn't even sure how time worked here. Trying to figure it out now would be futile. "Maybe," he admitted, "but if you were hoping to get the same from me, I probably won't be much help. Haven't been able to find much supplies."
"This can't be what you wanted, wandering alone in the desert." Yubel smiled. "But even if Jaden's decided he doesn't need you, that doesn't mean you have to be alone. We can survive together."
Jesse bit the inside of his cheek. His gut reaction was to argue that Jaden hadn't abandoned him, but that wouldn't get him anywhere, and he didn't have it in him regardless. He couldn't make any decision here banking on the idea that someone would come look for him and take him home, because he didn't know if that would happen. If he really was destined to be alone in this desert… Well, it couldn't be any more difficult with someone who actually knew their way around the place. Someone who wouldn't get lost so easily as he did.
Yubel was definitely their enemy, he knew that. Eventually, they'd go after Jaden again. Whether they meant to keep using Jesse as bait or not was hard to say, but Yubel wouldn't offer their help to him if it didn't benefit that goal in some way. If he actually accepted this, there was no way it wouldn't backfire on him somehow. But maybe there'd be some way to turn this around to his benefit, too. Maybe he could use this to get Yubel to back down, or at least figure out why the heck they were targeting Jaden in the first place. If he had some answers, maybe he could help them. Not in a way that would hurt Jaden, of course, but in a way that would be good for everyone.
Any other time, he might not even consider this offer. But as it was, he was hungry and thirsty and tired, and those factors had a way of impairing the decision-making process. Made it hard to think. How long would he even be able to survive alone here anyway? Another point in favor of saying yes.
Besides, what was the saying? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?
The doubts creeping through his mind were urging him to accept.
Jesse shoved his hands into his pockets. "Don't think this means I'm in favor of all this stuff you've been doing. Hurting folks and attacking my friends. I'm not going along with it. But…I ain't got much left to lose, so, fine. You actually want my company? If anyone does come looking for me, I don't want them to find me like this. Sure. I'll take it."
Yubel faltered for a moment. There was no way they accepted him to accept so easily. But it was pretty clear they were pleased with this.
There was no way this would go well.