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Chapter 2 - Meeting

"I can't feel this way much longer
Expecting to survive..."
--The Cars, Bye Bye Love

A brilliant sun peered through the haze that had settled in over Domino City, and lent a garment of gold to the Transcontinental Pacific Railway Station, where a boy named Yugi Moto sat, his sleeveless white t-shirt clinging slightly to him in what promised to be another hot, muggy June day. He just happened to be looking at the 50-foot glass windows that filtered the sunlight in, transforming every dust mote up to the cathedral ceiling into thousands of tiny fireflies. He watched this display for a moment as he absently fingered his Millenium Puzzle - a large, pyramid-shaped object that always hung around his neck from a chain.

Yugi turned his attention back to the large black and green pixelboard in front of the bench on which he sat, and it boldly stated "Arrivals", along with the time, which was now the ungodly hour of 8:30AM - on a Saturday morning.

Why, exactly, Yugi was sitting in the train station when he could still be curled up in bed was not exactly clear, even to Yugi. He didn't, after all, have to be here, really. I mean, it wasn't like he had told Téa that he would be here. It was just sort of... a surprise. That, and, well, he...he needed to talk to her, and since she had been away, he sort of didn't have the chance. I mean, it had only been a week and all, but...

Yugi's hands again dropped to his Millennium Puzzle. This magical puzzle was the paradox of Yugi - containing a second soul that manifested in Yugi when he needed it. And it was this soul that had disturbed him enough recently to need to talk to someone about it. And Téa was about the only one he could really talk to. His friends Tristan and Joey were of no real help to him now. Tristan would just tell him to get rid of the thing if it was bothering him. Joey, on the other hand, would try to help-and probably just make things worse. No, he had to talk to Téa...

The black and green display flickered, and "Arnington Falls" flashed up - and so did the bright, orange "LATE" beside it. Yugi sighed impatiently. That would be a half an hour now, and he had been here for forty-five minutes already. Why were trains always late?

He fell to wondering if Téa would appreciate him being here to pick her up in front of the entire competition team. Téa might rather just be with her teammates... He ran a nervous hand through his impressive shock of red-gold hair, which was even more unkempt than usual, since he had rushed to get here to make the train that was now thirty-five minutes late...

He fidgeted nervously, watching the increasing crowds of people bustling and hurrying through the large main hall, as the distant sounds of other trains squealing and hissing in and out of the station provided a tooth-grinding symphony-to-rush-by. He wished he could be rushing about now, instead of waiting...

"Arnington Falls" flashed up on the pixelboard again - followed by a bright green "GATE 13".

Yugi jumped to his feet. Finally! He first ran, then was forced to slow to a halting snake through the station, muttering a constant barrage of "Pardon me"'s and "Excuse me"'s to the torrents of people streaming to Gate 13 to meet, among the other passengers who may be on the train, the Marla Weaver Academy of Dance's Senior Competition Team.

Yugi navigated the sea of people, turned quickly under a black and white sign boldly sporting an arrow under the phrase "Gates 11, 12, 13, 14", and found himself pointed down a long hallway flanked with doors labelled with large green numbers in white circles. He passed 11 and 12, then pushed through the door emblazoned with the number 13. He climbed a seemingly endless flight of stairs and emerged through another set of glass doors onto the sunny-bright platform of Gate 13.

The train was already at the platform when Yugi emerged, and the hive of people was buzzing around it like so many hornets. Yugi bounced up and down, trying to get his head and shoulders above the crowd, cursing inwardly at his lack of vertical stature, roughly pushing forward and even forgetting, for the moment, to say the required "Excuse me"'s - and receiving a number of scathing glares from people as a result.

Yugi finally zeroed in on a chorus of feminine giggles directly in front of him, and his eyes found the tall, slender form of Téa Gardiner standing among ten or fifteen girls of similar stature. Dancers, he thought as his face broke into a smile. Téa looked tired, but happy, dressed in black leggings, pink legwarmers, and an oversized pink sweatshirt embroidered with the words "Domino Dreamers" in black, flared lettering.

"Téa!" Yugi called, giving a full-arm wave in her direction. "Téa! Over here!"

Téa's head swung around, and her brilliant blue eyes brightened as they found Yugi's face. She pulled a strand of her short brown hair away from her face, and took two airy leaps towards Yugi, swinging her light blue duffle bag over her back.

"Yugi! What are you...? Oh, it's so great to see you!" Téa flung her arms around Yugi's neck to another chorus of giggles from the rest of the dance team behind her. Yugi felt a red blush creeping up his neck, but still shyly returned her hug.

"It's great to see you too, Téa," Yugi replied, his smile still plastered to his face, along with the blush, which had by now crept up to his forehead. The dance team was still giggling as they glanced sidelong at Téa and Yugi, some of them pointing rather shamelessly.

"Ignore them," Téa said, flinging a very admonishing Téa-look back at the crowd before turning her smiling face back to Yugi. "Gosh, it's so great you're here! I really missed you. You and the rest of the gang, I mean," Téa finished, looking away, and Yugi thought he saw a slight flush raise on her cheeks.

"I thought we could walk to your place," Yugi said quickly.

"Sure," Téa answered gratefully, "just let me get my bag."

They edged through the dispersing crowd towards the baggage car. A man talking importantly on a cell phone blustered by them, waving his free arm and shouting something about solutions. Yugi watched Téa's back, which looked to be a little over-straight.

"So, how did you do in the competition?" he asked solicitously.

"Great," Téa answered excitedly. "We took three golds and a silver."

"Wow, that's terrific," Yugi said admiringly. "Say, how about that solo dance of yours? Did they let you do it after all?"

"Yeah, they did," Téa said, a slight smile playing on her lips as she deliberately looked away.

"They did? Cool!" Yugi exclaimed. "Well? How did you do?"

Téa's half smile increased to full proportions, and she looked straight at Yugi, no longer trying to mask her pride.

"I took the gold," she said.

Yugi's mouth fell open.

"You took the...? Téa, that's... that's amazing! I'm so happy for you!" Yugi almost shouted, gripping Téa's arm, pulling her to him and folding her in a bear hug - which was a bit of a reach for him: he was significantly shorter than Téa.

"Yeah, I was totally blown away," Téa replied, her flush darkening from pink to noticeable red as she withdrew from the embrace. "When they called my name, I just couldn't believe it. I thought I was hearing things, or something, so I just sat there like an idiot 'til someone poked me!"

Yugi laughed. "I knew you would do it, Téa. You're an amazing dancer."

"Thanks," Téa flushed darker still, then her expression became thoughtful. "You know, when I was on stage, it felt so... so magical. It was like I was part of the music. Part of the audience. Like I was some sort of living wind. All at the same time - and it felt so easy..."

Yugi's hands fell to the heavy pyramid-shaped puzzle that swung from the chain around his neck. "I know exactly how you feel," he said softly.

Téa eyed the puzzle with a mixture of apprehension and admiration. "Well," she answered warily, "not exactly."

By now, they had come to a halt in front of a mound of luggage of assorted styles, colours and sizes. Téa dropped her blue duffle bag, which Yugi took, swinging it over his back. "Boy, you sure travel light," he commented.

"You think so?"

Yugi's jaw dropped as Téa took hold of a light blue suitcase roughly the size of a small elephant.

"Don't worry," Téa winked at Yugi's horrified stare. "It rolls."


* * *


Thuk-tuk. Thuk-tuk. Thuk-tuk.

The blue suitcase bounced along the sidewalk behind Téa and Yugi like some contented, cubic dog, and the two of them walked through Domino City to Téa's house. Téa had filled Yugi in on all of the details of the dance competition, and Yugi had smiled and nodded at all the right places, but had remained relatively detached. It wasn't that he didn't care or wasn't interested, but he really hadn't met Téa to talk about the dance competition. Something had been bothering him for some time now. Since about a month ago, when he, Téa, Tristan and Joey had gone camping in the park...

At a sudden lull in the conversation, Yugi took the advantage, and blurted out:

"I really wanted to talk to you."

"Oh yeah?" Téa suddenly looked both interested and nervous at the same time. "About what?"

"I wanted to talk about Cora."

Téa seemed to deflate, somehow.

"What about her?"

There was a marked tension in her voice, but Yugi ignored it and barrelled on.

"I haven't seen her since, well, that time in the park..."

"She's a spirit, Yugi, she's not supposed to be seen."

"I know, but..."

"And, from what you told me about her, she's linked to the Duel Monsters Game - I mean, she is the Queen of Hearts - and you haven't been duelling lately because of exams. So," Téa finished with an edge of irritation creeping into her voice, "I don't know what you're so concerned about."

Yugi released an exasperated sigh. "It's not just Cora. It's Cora and... the spirit in my Millennium Puzzle."

Téa's expression darkened, the apprehension returning as she cast a quick glance at the golden puzzle around Yugi's neck. "Okay - what about them?"

"I think he's worried about her. He seems to think that... well, you know how Cora turns solid every New Moon...?"

"No."

"Well, every New Moon, she's not a spirit anymore. She has a body, like us. She had one in the park that time. Remember?"

"Remember?" Téa echoed. "How could I forget?" - she shuddered - "you really creeped us all out there, Yugi."

Yugi fell silent for a moment. Yes, he had creeped them all out. He had even creeped himself out. One short month ago, the spirit in Yugi's Millennium Puzzle had taken hold of him with such violence that Yugi had almost completely lost touch with himself, a thing that had never happened before. For one short period of time, Yugi had become the spirit of the puzzle, and had demonstrated such potent magical power to defend Cora, who at the time had manifested in her physical form, that it had taken his body hours to recover from the strain of it when it was over.

But since then, Yugi had made peace with the spirit of the puzzle. He understood now that the spirit loved Cora, the Queen of Hearts, and that he was sworn to protect her - that they were sworn to protect each other - and that they were bound together by magic. He had accepted this as part of the spirit inside him. And as a part of the spirit, it had become a part of himself, resulting in a stronger bond with the spirit within him.

And now, recently, it seemed that his trust and his friendship had strengthened the spirit, and he was able to see him. Sometimes, a dreamlike apparition - himself but not himself - would appear. And he would be able to speak to him like a real friend.

But... how much of this did he really want to share with Téa?

"Yugi."

"Huh?" He had forgotten about her.

"I'm waiting."

"Oh. Sorry. Well, remember that horrible, black monster-thing that was trying to kill Cora? The one I..."

"Shot your lightening at? Yeah, I remember, Yugi."

"Well, the spirit showed me stuff about them. They're from the Shadow Realm, and they were never supposed to be in our world. They live off of the life force of people - that is, humans. But there were these other magicians - dark magicians, evil ones - and they were conjuring those monsters - Soul Suckers, they called them..."

"I can see why."

"Yeah, I know. Anyways, they were conjuring these Soul-Suckers and turning them loose to try to gain more power over the Game, and I guess ultimately the world. But they were destroying everything. And Yami..."

"Who?"

"Yami. The spirit in my puzzle - his name is Yami."

"Oh."

"Anyways, Yami put a stop to this by binding all of the dark mages in some of the Millennium Items, and binding himself in the puzzle."

Téa held up a hand. "Wait a minute - he bound himself? Why? I don't get it..."

"He bound himself just in case something like what's happening right now might happen. So he could fight them if someone started this whole mess up again..."

Téa shook her head, expelling a long breath. "That's pretty drastic," she murmured softly. "That must be a really terrible thing to do to yourself..."

"It's awful," Yugi interjected with a shudder, quite without thinking. But Téa's piercing blue eyes suddenly shot back to Yugi.

"How do you know all this, Yugi?"

For the first time during the discourse, Yugi averted Téa's bright, blue eyes. "He... he showed me," he mumbled. A shadow of concern fell across Téa's face, and her voice suddenly became deliberate and gentle.

"How do you mean, he showed you?"

Yugi didn't answer at first. He had never spoken to anyone of what Yami had done to show him why he had taken such violent control of him that last New Moon. He had awakened a memory in himself, and so doing, had made it Yugi's. Yugi had lived through a time in ancient Egypt when Yami had conjured the Queen of Hearts in the hope of saving the magical Shadow Games all of the magic-users had worked so hard to master, and had in the end been forced to bind by magic both the Queen and the Game spells which were locked in the memories of the dark mages who had refused to relinquish their lust for dark power. Then, to remain with the Game and the Queen he loved, he had bound himself. Yugi shuddered again at the terrifying memory of himself being forced into the dark, cold puzzle...

"You felt it, didn't you?" Téa whispered.

"Huh?" Yugi snapped out of his reverie.

"You felt it all, didn't you?" Téa repeated.

Yugi closed his eyes. Téa narrowed hers, and again eyed the Millennium Puzzle with something like mistrust. Yugi's eyes opened just in time to catch the look.

"It wasn't... it..." then he sighed in resignation, "Yes."

Téa shook her head in disbelief.

"What right did he have," she asked slowly, "to put you through all of that... garbage?"

"Because," Yugi answered, just as slowly, "I asked him to."

Téa was taken aback. Then she sighed and shrugged, but the concern and worry in her blue eyes remained.

"All right. But, I don't see..."

"The point is," Yugi pressed on, "that those monsters - those Soul-Suckers - had to be conjured, Téa. They don't just appear. And neither did the one in the park."

The nasty feeling Téa had suddenly turned into something worse.

"What are you saying, Yugi?"

"I'm saying someone conjured that monster, Téa," Yugi said quietly. "Someone conjured that monster. And I think they'll do it again."

Yugi brought his now intense violet eyes sharply into Téa's.

"Unless we find out who it is. And stop them."


* * *

 

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