This was originally written February 2019.

This is a real awkward one, folks. This is part of a huge AU, Miracle Synchro Fusion, that I've been writing for years. The thing is, though, as I migrate fics onto this site, the main fic of the AU has so many chapters that it's just not reasonable to post it here. It's on ao3 tatersalad5001, and over there I post chapters as I finish them, but to put them all up here now? Not feasible. So I'm not doing it. If you want to read the whole thing it's over there, this takes place after chapter 11, but that doesn't matter if you don't go read it and you don't have to. I think this stands alone okay so I'm posting this one here anyway.

Things to go over before we start... This is post-GX. Jaden/Chazz/Jesse is canon in this AU, I think it's referenced here but it's not like you're going to see a lot of Chazz or Jesse or anything. Jaden/Yubel is super canon and Jaden and Yubel are both fused. Yubel is nonbinary and uses both she/her pronouns and they/them pronouns, but I think this fic only uses they/them.

Jaden skimmed through his deck, making sure he had all the right cards for the occasion.

For this, he would be using a different deck than he usually did. A kind of deck he hadn't used in a long time. Changing his deck like this wasn't necessary, but given where he was going to go, he couldn't help being a bit nostalgic.

Putting his current deck back to the way it was wouldn't be a problem, either. Between him and Yubel, they remembered every piece of the puzzle. It was a work in progress, sure, but they were getting close to something great with it.

But, back to the task at hand. He needed a different deck right now. The quick check confirmed he had every card he needed, and no others.

Jaden had his duel disk, the deck, his jacket... Did he need anything else for this trip?

Your shoes, Yubel reminded him.

Right, right. Quickly putting on his shoes, Jaden did his best to go through his mental checklist one last time. He didn't think he was missing anything. After a quick confirmation from Yubel, Jaden slid his deck into his duel disk, and he was no longer at his apartment.

Now, he was at Duel Academy.

Despite everything, he always found himself coming back here, didn't he? While going to school here, Jaden had tried to many times? Twice? But he always had gone back, and here he was, back again.

Not to take a test, thankfully. Not as a student. He was invited here as a guest. Now that he was here, though, the next order of business was to find his host. Thankfully, he was pretty close, if his memory of school life here was accurate enough.

Jaden stretched out his hands in front of him before using one to knock against the door to the Obelisk Blue Girl's Dorm. As he waited, he eyed the building with a frown. Dueling was only getting more and more common with girls. Why hadn't Duel Academy reflected that yet and have more than one dorm for them? Well, there wasn't much he could do about that, not when he didn't work there.

A small student opened the door and peeked up at him. Looked like a first year.

"Yo." Jaden waved at the kid. "Is Alexis here?" He was pretty sure the rule that barred guys from the girl's dorm without permission was still in effect. The last thing he wanted to do was break that, even if he didn't go to school here anymore.

"Yeah, I'll get her," the student said. She turned around and closed the door. From behind, Jaden could hear her yell "Professor Rhodes!"

Professor Rhodes. Fancy. Jaden knew she earned the title, and deserved it, but it sounded weird to him.

About a minute later, the door opened again, this time with Alexis on the other side. Fully dressed in the Obelisk Blue uniform, of course.

"Jaden, you're here!" Alexis smiled as she saw him. "Just in time, too, you're fifteen minutes early. Plenty of time to go over everything before class. I was worried you would end up being late."

"Me? Late? Never," Jaden joked with a grin.

"Of course not." Alexis' smile grew into a smirk. "You've always been on time for everything: class, homework, school tournaments... Even being late would be forgivable, though, since I trust you dueling abilities. As long as you don't fall asleep in class."

"Come on, Lex, it's been so long since we went to school here." Jaden slouched, deflating. "I'm working on my sleep issues. I'm getting better, I promise!"

"I'm sure you are. You'll get there, I believe in you." Alexis' rested a hand on his shoulder for a moment before sliding it down to his wrist as she pulled him inside. "Let's go over the lesson plan while we can. Like I said, I trust your dueling ability, but it's good to be prepared."

"Dr. Crowler's emailed you all your test results from last week by now." Alexis straightened a pile of papers on her desk before looking back up to the class. "Most of you did well on both the written and practical portions of the exam."

Jaden turned to look at her from where he stood next to her, his hands folded behind his head. Class had been going on for a couple of hours now, but true to his word, he'd stayed awake and had been paying attention. Most of this class of freshmen had, too. They were an attentive, clearly passionate bunch; Jaden liked them already.

"However," Alexis went on, "It's clear that few of you have experience with field spells, or use them yourselves. That would be fine as long as you still know how to use them and how to deal with them, but your test results show that you do not. We'll be spending more time focusing on field spells and reviewing them today. I'm sure you've all noticed my guest by now; I've asked my friend, Mr. Yuki, to come in and help me."

Mr. Yuki? Another title that didn't feel right to Jaden. Then again, he never had been one for formalities, had he?

"We'll be showcasing a duel for you all. Be sure to pay attention to how field spells are used, here." Alexis activated her duel disk and spun to face Jaden. "You ready?"

"As I'll ever be." Jaden activated his own duel disk and faced her with a grin. "Let's get our games on!"

"I play Pot of Greed!" Jaden announced, sliding the card into his duel disk. "This card lets me draw two cards from my deck and add them to my hand!" The two top cards of his deck slid out of his deck holder for him, and he pulled them out and looked over the cards he had.

They were more than a few turns into the duel now, and Jaden had found himself in somewhat of a pickle. He and Alexis were tied at 1,300 Life Points. His field was empty, but Alexis had Cyber Angel Dakini on her side of the field. With its 2,700 Attack, no monster he could bring out could beat it on its own. He hadn't had anything in his hand that would help him. But, as usual, Pot of Greed provided. This hand he could do something with.

Though...maybe it took some of the pressure and suspense off knowing that neither of them were playing to win. They were dueling to help the class, and since they hadn't accomplished that yet, neither of them would be ending the duel. This hand killed two birds with one stone; not only would it turn the tides in his favor, he now had the one card he needed to show off to the students.

"Then, I'll activate Polymerization!" His plan of action now figured out, Jaden slid the next card into his duel disk. "From my hand, I fuse together Elemental Heroes Sparkman and Clayman. Lightning and earth, meld together to enforce justice! Come on out, Elemental Hero Thunder Giant!"

Electricity rippled across Jaden's field as Thunder Giant appeared. In hologram form, of course. He and Yubel were careful not to use their powers with this duel, that was a conversation neither of them wanted to have with the students.

"If that's all you got, I can't say I'm impressed," Alexis called out from the other side of the dueling field. She had a point. Thunder Giant was 300 Attack Points lower than Dakini. The numbers weren't in his favor.

"You know me better than that, Lex!" Jaden grinned. "A duel's not over 'til the last card's played! I can't use Thunder Giant's effect, and he might have lower attack right now, but don't underestimate him! Now I play Skyscraper!"

As Skyscraper slid into the its slot, a holographic city rose around them. Alexis smiled, too, as the buildings appeared.

"Now, whenever any of my Elemental Heroes attack a monster with higher Attack, they gain 1,000 Attack Points! Thunder Giant, attack Cyber Angel Dakini! Thanks to Skyscraper, his Attack rises! That's it from me!"

It was enough to take down Dakini. Dakini was destroyed, and Alexis took the battle damage.

"Are you done showing off now?" Laughter lifted Alexis' voice as she turned to face the class. "As you all know, winning a duel isn't just about your monsters. Field spells can help out by making your monsters stronger, shielding you from damage, raising your Life Points, or all kinds of different effects."

"Yeah, Skyscraper's great!" Jaden chimed in.

"They can help you in duels," Alexis continued. "But just as important as knowing how to use field spells is knowing how to deal with them. My turn!" She drew a card and looked at her hand."First, I'll set a card face-down. Next I summon Cyber Tutu!" The hologram of Cyber Tutu appeared in front of Alexis, tiny in comparison to Thunder Giant. "From my hand I activate Allegro Toile. When I summon a monster, I can destroy a spell or trap you control. I choose Skyscraper."

"Destroy Skyscraper?" Jaden looked up and groaned as the hologram of Skyscraper crumbled around him.

Alexis smiled at the class. "There's plenty of cards out there that can destroy your opponents spells. Make sure you're prepared for all your opponents cards and strategies, not just their monsters." She spun her attention back to Jaden. "Let's battle! Cyber Tutu's effect allows her to attack you directly if all your monsters have higher Attack than yours. Attack, Cyber Tutu! I'll end my turn there."

Jaden winced as Cyber Tutu's attack came through, even though it was only a hologram. He had just enough Life Points to hang on.

"Not bad. But I still have some tricks up my sleeve," he taunted. "Looks like it's my turn. Here goes something!" The new card in his hand caught his attention for a moment before his gaze flicked to Thunder Giant's holographic form. Jaden had memorized the effects of his monsters long ago, he didn't need to look at the card text to know what he wanted to do. "I activate Thunder Giant's ability! By discarding a card from my hand, I can destroy one of your monsters with less Attack than Thunder Giant." Jaden discarded one of the cards in his hand: Feather Shot. "Thunder Giant, destroy Cyber Tutu."

"Not so fast." Alexis pushed a button on her duel disk. "I activate the counter trap: Pure Pupil! Since Cyber Tutu has no more than 1,000 Attack, Thunder Giant's effect is negated and he's destroyed."

Jaden's mouth hung open as Thunder Giant faded in front of him.

This is what you get for letting your nostalgia get the best of you, love, Yubel scolded him. Jaden couldn't argue with them there. He'd been so excited to visit Duel Academy and duel Alexis that he'd reconstructed the deck he used his first year here. But with that he lost his newer strategies. This deck, compared to the decks he could easily put together now, lost out on the knowledge and experience he'd gained since. Not to mention, this deck didn't feel as right to him as it did back then. He wasn't as synced with it anymore.

Case in point. Jaden glanced down at his hand. All he had left was another copy of Feather Shot. Yikes. Way to play, Jay. "I'm gonna throw down a face-down. You're up."

Yubel wasn't truly upset with him. The outcome of the duel didn't matter. They'd already done what they set out to do, which was showing off how to deal with field spells from both sides of the field.

Alexis was cautious of his bluff face-down. With no monsters on his field and no real defense, however, an attack from Cyber Tutu quickly ended the duel.

Jaden laughed. She was just as amazing as always.

The two of them had some laughs together after the duel, and after class. At one point, one of the students asked just who Jaden was. The two of them shared a look and instantly they were on board. Alexis joked that Jaden was her fiance. This sparked up a debate among the students.

Jaden snickered. "I almost forgot about that duel," he mumbled. "And its conditions. We are technically engaged, aren't we?"

"Engaged," Alexis replied, "as good friends."

"We have so many anniversaries to catch up on." Jaden went on. "I haven't even bought you a ring yet. Can't wait to invite Jesse and Chazz to our wedding, they're gonna lose it."

Alexis snorted. "I'll have to apologize to them for stealing you away."

It was almost like old times, like they were classmates again. Almost, but better. Jaden still wasn't the smartest, far from it, but he had improved; at least he knew what a fiance was now. Alexis was smarter, brighter, and stronger than ever. And the two of them were much more in sync than they used to be. Much better than that tag duel tournament before they graduated. It was better this way, Jaden thought.

If only they could see each other more often.

"You're kidding," Jaden heard Jasmine say over the line from Alexis' phone. "He showed up on time? And didn't sleep in class? You're sure that's Jaden Yuki, right, and not some imposter?"

"I'm the new and improved Jaden!" Jaden yelled to Alexis' phone.

Alexis laughed. "It's true, I swear! I'll call you back later, Jasmine, there's something I need to do."

"Sure thing. Just don't overwork yourself, Lex."

After she ended the call, Alexis slid her arm around Jaden's. "C'mon. we have to make sure you see the Slifer dorms before you go."

"Oh, of course," he agreed. "Are they still the same as I left them? Or have they actually considered renovating?"

"You'll have to see to find out."

He followed her lead, the two of them continuing to chat along the way. But pretty soon, Jaden knew he hadn't been to Duel Academy in awhile, and had no idea what had changed since then, but he was sure of one thing.

"Uh...Alexis?" he asked. "I don't think this is the way to the Slifer dorms."

Alexis didn't answer him.

"Okay then... Where are you taking me? Why are you keeping it a secret?"

Alexis remained silent still. Jaden frowned.

"I don't like this. It almost feels like you're taking me to..."

Alexis' hold on his arm grew tighter. Jaden tried to skid himself to a stop, causing the two of them to vie for the lead.

"Jaden," she said firmly. "You can't just isolate yourself and keep it all inside forever. We all went through a lot at school. But you came out of it more changed than anyone, and you haven't dealt with it well. You stopped enjoying duels during our last year-"

An additional yank, but Jaden still couldn't free his arm. "I got over that. I'm able to have fun in duels again. I'm better now. Don't patronize me."

"You let yourself have fun in duels again, after awhile," Alexis conceded. "But you're still hurting over what happened, and you still don't trust yourself. You make yourself scarce around everyone, even partners and family, disappearing for long periods of time because you're afraid of yourself. You're afraid of hurting the people you care about, and you're afraid you're a danger magnet and that'll put people in danger, too. And you still haven't forgiven yourself for everything, either. Don't try to argue with that, either, because it's obvious. You isolate yourself because you think it's for our own good."

"It is for your own good," Jaden muttered.

"It's not." Alexis' fingers dug into his arm. "You're refusing to give us a choice or a chance. We all want you around, despite any risks, and we want you to let us in. We understand, we want to help, but you have to let us."

"Yeah, I'll just walk in, sit down, and start going every death on my hands and all my different powers. That'll go well." Jaden rolled his eyes.

"Just as well as when I outlined the cult I was brainwashed into, the people I converted and hurt, guilt over pushing you to your breaking point, dying in chains, living in a hopeless cycle of my greatest fears on repeat... I could go on, but you get the idea."

Jaden stared at her.

Alexis lifted her chin. "I'm not asking you to do anything I haven't done myself. None of us have been able to deal with it all alone, and none of us should have to. Even you. I'm not asking yourself to stay for hours and pour your heart out on your first visit. You can leave after ten minutes and never come back if you want to. I'm just... We all just want you to try, Jaden. We want you to at least feel like it's okay to be around other people, without worrying for their safety."

Taking a deep breath in, then out, Jaden looked away. "...I guess I can try. I can't promise anything, though."

"That's okay. You don't have to do anything more than that."

He stopped resisting. Alexis loosened her grip and led him forward again. Soon they reached a door.

With a coo, Winged Kuriboh appeared in spirit form and flew threw the door. Jaden started to reach out ahead of him but stopped himself, the question dying in his throat.

"Oh... Winged Kuriboh..." he heard someone say from the other side of the door, their voice muffled.

Alexis smiled at him. With a sigh, Jaden opened the door and walked in.

It was a small room, big enough for a few comfortable chairs, but not much more than that. Winged Kuriboh flew up to another spirit in the room, flying above it all. Flamvell Grunika looked down at Winged Kuriboh and, recognizing him, snorted out a greeting. They looked at Jaden, then, and seemed to remember him, too. Did that mean?

Jaden cast his attention down to the chairs. Someone was sitting in one of them. Slifer Red jacket, a matching red cap, light blue hair peeking out under the cap's brim... Jaden almost laughed. He hadn't seen the person sitting in front of him in a long time. Some friend he was.

They looked up at him with a smile. "You dont have to sugarcoat the truth for me." Their voice was just as quiet as always. "I lived through most of it, too, you know. It's safe here."

Some original author notes included before.

The therapist. Wasn't always going to be this random, weird OC. This was originally going to be a crossover, until recently, I actually thought about the timeline of this AU in relation to this story and realized that the character planned to be here was impossible with the rules I've set. This character is a desperate, last minute attempt to fill the hole that left. They're a combination of my player characters from Tag Force 1 and 5D's World Championship, both how they look and how I imagine them as people, and the cards they use/have (which isn't shown outside Flamvell Grunika). The Tag Force 1 character transfers to Duel Academy and the Slifer dorms partway through the crew's first year, making this character one of Jaden and Alexis' friends from school. If you don't like this, don't worry. I think I've planned one future short appearance for them in rftdd (awhile off yet) so you'll rarely have to deal with them again. This was just easier than figuring out an actual yugioh character for the role, and possible restructuring parts of the AU around that, which would take awhile. I won't ever refer to them by name in fic I don't think, but if you want a name for them, qa 3 will probably be fine for now.

Thank you so much for reading, and for tolerating these long notes for this story! Sorry about that. I hope you enjoyed, though!