Title: Sixteen (Going on Seventeen)
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Yami + Seto, Noa + Mokuba, Jou + Mai, Yugi + Anzu, Malik + Ryou, Rafael + Valon + Amelda, Ishizu + Karim
Spoilers: none
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: Noa’s unusual car choice turns into a real labor of love.
Status: 2/?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

Setup for this particular fic:

* * *

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Sixteen (Going on Seventeen) Series

* * *

"Why? At least explain to me that much…" Seto said.

The young CEO had left it up to his brothers to do their own research on what they’d want for their first cars. He had no problem approving of Mokuba’s choice, a Tesla Roadster. That had seemed like a car he’d like to drive himself – fast, sleek, and with the bonus of being all-electric, which put it on the cutting edge of technology. Noa on the other hand… talk about a nag in a stable of Throughbreds!

Still shaking his head, Seto added, "When I told you you could have anything that you wanted, I didn’t expect you to take me so literally." He couldn’t help but smirk a little at the pun, for Noa’s car of choice was a Volkswagon "Thing," a cheaply made, blocky military type vehicle cum surf buggy that hadn’t been in production for decades.

Noa shrugged. He really didn’t have much of an explanation, actually. He had figured he'd have a whole lifetime to drive "normal" cars, so why not make the first one a really fun, off-the-wall choice? He wasn’t going to be in high school forever. And Mokuba had thought it looked cool too… "I dunno. It’s just… different. I saw someone at school with one…"

"And that kid probably hates his old man for saddling him with it. They’re junkers, like that rustbucket the Mutt drives."

"Like we couldn’t get it fixed up and customized?" the green-haired teen scoffed.

"Or you could just pick something else…"

"I’ve made up my mind," Noa said stubbornly. "You said we could pick whatever we wanted, so that’s what I want."

"Jesus Christ, brat…" But Noa was right; he had given them very few restrictions. Pretty much just a generous price cap – one that Mokuba had managed to go over – and nothing else. And Seto wasn’t the type who’d go back on his word, no matter how much he might’ve wanted to, no matter how many buttons Noa was pushing. "All right, all right. Yes, I did say that. But you’re stuck with it once we get it, got that? You’re driving it ‘til it dies or you save up enough to get a replacement, understand?"

Noa gave Seto a quick hug. "Yes! Thanks!"

The brunette merely gave a small grunt in response. He wasn’t sure if the younger Kaiba was listening all that carefully, but a deal was a deal. And he did want Noa to be happy with his choice.

Noa couldn’t resist grinning in triumph even as he mentally waved off his brother’s concern. He had already figured that even if he ended up not liking his car for some reason, he could always share Mokuba’s with him and vice versa. Maybe they’d even trade rides at some point. The two of them had already agreed on that, that’s why they had chosen very different vehicles.

Seeing the big smile on Noa’s face, Seto sighed. Sometimes he forgot Mokuba and Noa were more than just Kaibas – they were teenagers, which meant they’d occasionally make weird and arbitrary decisions. As long as they saved it for things that didn’t really matter – that is to say, things that didn’t affect Kaiba Corp. or their family – he wasn’t going to make an issue of it. But that didn’t mean he had to stay silent on the matter either… and if Noa thought he’d heard the end of the jibes, he had another thing coming.

* * *

"God, what a pile of shit," was Seto’s initial reaction to the car sitting in the back lot of a used car dealership. No wonder the vehicle was hidden in the back; honestly, who’d buy it, even as cheap as it was?

As per their agreement, Noa had done all the legwork in finding the car, which had proven a little tricky since there just weren’t many of them around anymore, at least not in serviceable condition. Oh, he had known they’d need to put some work into it to get it restored, but at the same time he had wanted to make sure he got one in as good a condition as possible, because the point was to refurbish the car, not recreate it from scratch.

The car before him was… well, two different colors, and not in a good way. Or… it had been one color back in the day, but the sun and weather had taken its toll on the yellow paint and faded parts of it to a dull cream. There were a few small dings and a rust spot or two. The convertible top was in similarly worn condition and the seats needed to be reupholstered. And that was just the obvious physical stuff. They'd have no clue how the thing would run until they got behind the wheel.

"Well, let’s see if this piece of crap runs," Seto muttered to the salesman. The man quickly assured him it would, then asked them to wait on the curb before scurrying off to bring the car around for a test drive.

After the man had left, Seto turned a little towards Noa and asked, "What’s wrong?"


"This is what you wanted, isn’t it?"

Noa nodded slowly. Of course it was. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel a bit nervous over the whole process. This would be his car… his first. He had to make the right decision because that was what Seto expected of him. That’s what he expected of himself too. But Noa had to admit, he knew very little about cars; he’d chosen this one for the sheer novelty factor. So it would probably end up being Seto making the final call.

On one hand he hated that, knowing that this was yet another thing he needed Seto’s help with… that he needed Seto’s approval on. On the other, it was reassuring having Seto there, providing his honest opinion… knowing his big brother was looking out for his best interests.

Seto seemed a bit amused by Noa’s dilemma as it played out across his face. For once, he understood what was going through the younger Kaiba’s mind. "Don’t worry, in the end, it’s still your decision. I’m just here for the test drive and paperwork as needed, since they’re not going to let you behind the wheel just yet."

"Who said I was worried?" Noa sniffed as the car finally pulled up along the curb, but he wasn’t fooling anyone, and he knew it. At least Seto was playing along, letting him have the last word on the matter. It was a bit of a game for the elder Kaiba too, after all… he knew the salesman recognized him the moment he stepped on the lot and was seeing dollar signs. So what if he pulled up in a Ferrari? That didn't mean he was going to get an easy sale or a bloated commission.

The salesman got out of the vehicle and switched to the passenger’s seat as Seto climbed into the driver’s seat with a slight sneer on his face. Noa hopped into the back. And then they were off… at a much slower pace than Seto normally drove.

It wasn’t for lack of effort. Seto was driving the way he always did – hard and almost bordering on reckless. The car just didn’t have the power to respond to his demands, the engine mewling like a kitten – a sputtering, sickly one – instead of roaring like a lion. But the young CEO still had a half sneer, half smirk on his face as he thought of all the speeding tickets Noa would never get, no matter how hard he tried. Sure, Noa still had the option of changing his mind, but Seto knew he wouldn’t. The green-haired teen was just as… stubborn as he was. A true Kaiba, after all.

Seto was right. By the time they had finished leisurely circling the block, Noa had already gone through his doubts and misgivings and had made a final decision. As soon as Seto parked and glanced in his direction, he nodded. Yes, he was going to do it… he wanted this car. Sure it was slower than a sleeping turtle and the seats weren’t comfortable and the entire thing rattled like it was one pothole away from simply falling apart. But if he had already planned on restoring the exterior, why not soup up the inner workings as well? A new engine, a plush interior… The thought of customizing it inside and out was starting to sound pretty appealing.

Seto turned back to the rather twitchy salesman, his icy CEO’s mask now firmly in place. It was time to negotiate. "Let’s just cut to the chase… You want to get rid of this underperforming pile of rusted metal; I may be willing to tow it off your lot. But the asking price is obviously wrong. $4900? Ha! More like $49.00!"

The salesman gave a forced guffaw. He had hoped that Seto would be a walking wallet, a time-is-money, I’ll-pay-full-price type of guy, but now he could feel his fat commission check fluttering away. Actually, he hadn’t been wrong in his intial assessment, except Seto really did think the price was a rip off for what, in his mind, was scrap metal… and he didn’t want Noa, who was watching him like a hawk, to think that getting ripped off was acceptable. "Well, we’re always open to reasonable offers, sir…" At least it looked like he’d make the sale, small as his check might end up being.

Seto smirked. "Reasonable? Start knocking off some zeroes…"

* * *

As much as Noa would’ve liked to drive his new car out of the lot and straight home, it wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t 16 yet; he obviously had no license, no insurance. And Seto sure as hell wasn’t going to let him get behind the wheel of his car. So after making arrangements to have the salesman deliver the vehicle to the mansion a little later that afternoon, they stopped by Kaiba Corp. to pick up some things, had lunch, and then headed back home.

The Thing had just arrived at the mansion by the time they got back. Yami was out in the front yard, holding onto Kuriboh and Kuribon, while Mokuba stood a few feet to the side, mouth agape. As soon as the black-haired teen saw Seto and Noa pull up, he ran over to them and, in a loud whisper, said, "Wow, I can’t believe you really got it! It’s really… it’s really…"

"Just say it. It’s a piece of crap," Seto snarked, even as he accepted the keys from the salesman, who squeaked out a thanks before heading off to a coworker’s car waiting by the security booth.

Mokuba tried to think of a more diplomatic way of wording it. "Well, it’s… different from how I imagined." He shrugged. "I dunno, I thought the description said it was in ‘excellent original condition’ or something."

"Considering how old it is, I think this is about as ‘excellent’ as it gets. But it’ll look a lot better once I get it fixed up!" Noa insisted, though in the back of his mind, he too was thinking "clunker." Maybe he’d been too hasty in his decision. Maybe he should’ve taken his time, looked around a little longer… but he had really wanted a car NOW instead of later because he’d already planned on getting some bodywork done and knew that it’d take time. And with Mokuba’s car already on order, time was even more of an issue. It’d suck if Mokuba was stuck driving him around come July!

"Yeah, I guess…" Mokuba started to say, but then he caught the look on his boyfriend’s face. Noa had the sort of half hesitant, slightly panicked look that he got whenever he was feeling uncertain about a decision he’d made. But Mokuba didn’t want Noa to think he disapproved of his car choice, because he didn’t… not really. He’d just thought the car would be in better condition, that was all. "Actually… you’re absolutely right. I’m just getting distracted by the minor stuff, which we were going to get fixed anyhow. I know it won’t look anything like this once you’re done. And Seto wouldn’t have agreed to get it if it were a hopeless case, right Nii-sama?"

Noa and Mokuba both looked over at Seto and got a grunt in response. At least it was an affirmative grunt. It made Noa feel a bit better about the whole thing.

Mokuba was still looking the car over. It was definitely going to be a project. Not nearly as big or as earth-shattering as their MMORPG, but still important… and personal. "So then… what do we work on first?"

* * *

"Wow, Kaiba’s kinda a cheapskate, eh?"

That was Jou’s opening remark when he first laid eyes upon the Thing a few days after Noa had gotten it. Yami had asked Honda to come over and take a look at it since he had started working at the body shop that had repainted the ex-spirit’s Porsche, and Malik and Jou had ended up tagging along.

"Cheapskate?" Malik shook his head. He could think of a lot of words that’d describe Seto Kaiba, but ‘cheapskate’ wasn’t one of them. It was probably a good thing it was only the three of them in the garage at the moment if Jou was going to be flapping his lips. Yami had disappeared, presumably to welcome Seto home, and Noa was supposed to come out to fill them in on what exactly he envisioned for his car, but he hadn’t made it down yet.

Honda looked up from his examination of the rear-mounted engine and scratched his head. Yami had mentioned something about replacing the engine, but that was going to be difficult since the trunk could only hold so much… Maybe they’d have to consider moving it to the front, but he’d have to ask his coworkers about that since it wasn’t his area of expertise. "It’s not that bad. It’s a pretty cool car. I mean, when I was 16, I would’ve loved to have this."

"Yeah, but Noa’s no regular kid. So I guess I was expectin' something… newer. Fancier." Jou shrugged. Maybe Seto thought his brothers would end up trashing their first cars or something. "Wonder what Mokuba’s getting?"

"A Tesla Roadster," Noa responded as he stepped into the garage. "Hi guys. Thanks for coming over."

Malik let out a low whistle. "DANG… nice! Lucky kid!" Motorcycles would always be his main interest, but he’d been learning a lot more about cars since he planned on applying for a job at Honda’s shop. So he knew just how fortunate Mokuba was to be getting a car like that. Maybe he’d even let them poke at the engine once it arrived.

Jou frowned at Malik, then turned to Noa. "Mokuba’s getting some fancy ride, and you got stuck with this?

"What do you mean?" Noa asked, a slight growl roughing up his voice.

The brown-eyed blonde didn’t seem notice the warning. "Kinda mean for Kaiba to get you some beat up old thing when Mokuba’s gettin' a shiny new sportscar," he blurted out, capping it with a laugh, as if that’d soften the impact of his words.

Noa just stared at Jou in disbelief for a split second. He couldn’t believe… was that what he really thought? That Seto had snubbed him deliberately? That he wasn’t smart enough to notice, or proud enough to care about being "shortchanged" either? "What’s that supposed to mean? This is the car I wanted! It’s exactly what I asked for! And even if what you’re assuming is true, which it’s NOT, what business of yours is it anyhow? This isn’t your car. And it’s not like yours is anything to brag about either!"

Jounouichi flinched a little. He had automatically assumed Seto was favoring Mokuba, and had thought it unfair… It hadn’t occurred to him that Noa would’ve wanted something other than a fancy sportscar, considering that money was no object.

A faint smile slowly spread across Jou’s face. "Nah, sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I was makin’ assumptions I shouldn’t have." He straightened up a little, focusing on something over Noa’s shoulder. "Yer right; it ain’t really my business, ‘specially since I invited myself over in the first place."

"That’s the problem when you feed stray dogs; they’ll keep on coming back," Seto commented, causing the teen to start and look over his shoulder. It appeared that the elder Kaiba had just gotten home. He still had his briefcase in his hand.

"Oh, shut up. I apologized already, you jerk," Jou muttered.

Seto smirked. Of course he’d heard Jou’s comments, but he’d also caught Noa’s reprimand, so he was satisfied in letting the matter drop. He turned to Honda instead. "So is this trash heap a beyond hope or what?"

"Not at all… at least, I don’t think so." Hearing Seto’s sigh, the shorter brunette quickly explained, "What I mean is, if the engine’s coming out anyways, then the condition of it doesn’t matter. That said, it didn’t look that bad to me, and you said it runs, right?" He waited for a nod, then continued. "As far as the frame, well… it’s pretty solid still. There’s relatively little rust and the dents would be easy to bang out. We could strip and paint it without having to fabricate much if that’s all you want."

Seto absorbed the information, then shrugged. "It wasn’t a total ripoff then, is what you’re saying." He looked back over at Noa. "Well, it’s your car, so you’ll need to decide on what you want to have done."

"You don’t want me to consult with you?"

"You can if you want. But I know you can handle this. And those guys," and the young CEO tossed his head at Honda, "did a good job on Yami’s car."

Noa nodded. Well, that was true. If he could handle being Vice President of Kaiba Corp., getting a car fixed up was no sweat.

Satisfied with Noa’s response, Seto simply added, "Yami says dinner will be ready in about ten minutes," before walking off.

Once Seto was gone, Malik looked back over at the car, considered what both Seto and Honda had said, and was suddenly struck by a great idea. "Or… you could let us do some of the work right here…"

Noa glanced over. "Huh?"

"The three of us I mean. The paint and finishing would have to be done at the shop, and the upholstery as well, but the actual mechanical stuff… we should be able to handle that ourselves, right Honda?"

"Hmm, don’t see why not…"

"It might be fun… Definitely educational." The Egyptian grinned wolfishly. He was thinking less about the volunteering aspect of it and more of how it’d help him land a job. "And I have a bit of free time on my hands since Ryou’s been studying for his LSAT."

Honda thought it over a little more, then seconded the idea before adding one of his own. "I’d be willing to pitch in for sure. And if you want, to make things go faster, I could take your car home from work with me, but that’s your call. Some of the mechanics do that if they’re trying to diagnose a particular problem, but in this case, it’d let us get extra work done. But I won’t be offended if you don’t want to lend it out, like if you’re going to need it for driving practice or whatever and wanna wait until later to take it in and get everything done at once."

"Heh, you just want the chance to drive it around yourself," Malik said with a laugh.

"And you just want to poke around in the engine," Honda retorted. Malik didn’t even try to deny it, simply shrugging it off.

Noa didn’t care what their motives were. Actually, it was almost better that they had their reasons for volunteering, because that’d keep them interested in the project and that interest could push them to do a better job on it. "Nah, I don’t really want to let it just sit here. And we have other cars I can practice with. So you might as well take it with you. Just remember to keep me in the loop on things, okay? And don’t take it out for joyrides."

"I won’t! I take my work seriously," Honda assured him.

"So how ‘bout it Jounouichi? You in?" Malik asked.

"Yeah, I’ll help out too, but I dunno how much I’ll be available between work and class. Plus Mai’s been feeling a bit off lately. Maybe it’s a virus or something, I have no clue…" He sighed. "But that said, I better get going… I wanna make sure she’s okay."

Noa nodded. Jou was right; it was about time to wrap things up. "Yeah… and thanks guys. Really."

Honda just grinned. "Don’t mention it – that’s what friends are for!"

* * *

Otogi and Honda had shown up the next day to take possession of the Thing, and as promised, Honda made sure to contact Noa on each step of the process after that. Over the next several weeks the paint got sandblasted off, the seats were removed and reupholstered, a newer, more powerful engine was located to replace the old one, and so on and so forth. With so much to be done it was taking a little longer than the usual renovation. But whenever the car was driveable – and Honda considered having no doors, no windshield and no backseat "driveable" – he’d bring it over to the mansion so they could work on it during the weekends.

Noa had originally told himself that he wouldn’t get physically involved, even though he couldn’t resist wandering out to see how everything was going. After all, it was his car – and his anal retentive big brother’s garage – so of course he was going to oversee things. But he’d never been the type of kid who wanted to get dirty, who wanted to get his hands greasy on car parts, having been brought up to think that it was someone else’s job.

It was a little funny then, that he and Mokuba were now hanging out in the garage in old jeans and t-shirts spotted with oil. They’d been messing around with the floor panels, trying to decide if they needed to be replaced or not, and fiddling with the heater and some of the wiring, and were now kicking back, having gotten about as much done as they’d planned for the day.

"Man, I still can’t believe she’s pregnant…" Jou said as he helped himself to more chips from the small spread of snacks and drinks Yami had set out for them. "I mean, it’s not that it’s a bad thing or anythin’, it’s just… it still doesn’t feel real, ya know?"

"Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later since uh… you guys weren’t doing anything to prevent it, right?" Honda asked. They’d been having the same conversation over and over the last few weeks, ever since they found out. But that was to be expected. It was a big deal; the first baby due within their circle of friends. "And you were planning to start a family eventually."

"Yeah, but…" Jounouichi sighed for the umpteenth time that day. "I know, I know… you’re right. But it’s jus’ so much to think about. Doctor’s appointments and baby furniture and we gotta think about moving to a new apartment or somethin’ too. Hell, I don’t even know how to change a diaper!" He ran his fingers through messy blonde hair. "I wanna be a good dad. But I don’t know… I just don’t wanna end up like my old man."

"Don’t worry, I’ll kick the crap out of you if you do," Honda assured him.

"Gee, thanks man."

"Hey, that’s what friends are for, right?"

Jou just smiled.

Friends… Honda had said something similar back when they first got started on this crazy endeavor. Actually, that was one of the unexpected side benefits of fixing up the Thing. Noa hadn’t really thought about it before, but there’d been so much he hadn’t known about their friends. Sure, they got together every Friday night, but they spent most of that time talking about how their week went, or what was on TV… No one really wanted to spend that time discussing more serious matters because they were there to have fun. And Noa, who’d grown up with every privilege in the world except for having friends, had never realized just how complex friendship was.

Like Malik… yes, Noa had known the Egyptian liked loud rock music and motorcycles, and that his sister Ishizu was sort of seeing an archaeology professor named Karim Hassan. But he hadn’t known that Malik and Bakura’s own relationship was on shaky ground, and that that had been one of the motivators behind his employment search. Bakura’s oft-absent father was finally deciding to cut him off and Bakura was stressed, worrying about how he’d pay for law school. He and Malik were still officially together at the moment, but more as roommates rather than boyfriends.

And then there was Honda, who was more than happy to babble about how big his nephew was getting, and how he needed just one more class to complete his associate’s, and how he hoped to open a custom bike shop someday. But unlike Malik, he remained as tightlipped as ever about the nature of his relationship with Otogi and Shizuka, even though the two of them were renting rooms in Otogi’s house. Noa couldn’t resist pestering him about it at first, but finally stopped after the brunette had asked, "Don’t you have any secrets you want to keep?" in a tone that made it sound like he knew there was more going on between Noa and Mokuba than they were willing to admit.

Considering how badly it had gone before, when they'd tried to hide the truth from Seto… perhaps they needed to rethink how they were handling their relationship. Maybe one day it’d be okay to reveal it to the others. Noa had never thought he’d be willing to risk it, because even if he himself didn’t care about their friends – and he had to admit, he did – he knew Mokuba cared. But now he was starting to think… maybe it wasn’t impossible. Maybe they’d all remain friends, even if they knew. After all, even if Honda was with Shizuka or Otogi, or both, did that really change anything? He was still the same person he’d always been.

Now that he thought about it, that was why he and Mokuba didn’t really have many close friends their own age. They were friendly with their classmates, considered popular even, but he’d always felt there was a sort of distance between them too. Noa had attributed that to the fact that mentally, he was older than the other students, and smarter to boot. But perhaps that was only part of it. After all, high school kids were extremely judgmental… and at times he almost felt trapped by the peer pressure, having to keep up appearances because his schoolmates expected him to be a certain way.

At least hanging around Yugi-tachi gave him the freedom to be himself, for the most part. They’d seen him at his worst and yet accepted him despite that. So it stood to reason that they wouldn’t reject him for something as "minor" as being in love with Mokuba, right?

An obnoxiously cheerful ditty dragged Noa out of his musings, and he raised his head to see Mokuba assessing him while Jou picked up the call on his cellphone. Noa quickly gave his boyfriend a small smile and a nod, keeping the motion too slight for anyone else to catch.

"What? More graham crackers? That’s it? That's all you want?" Jou was saying. He must’ve been talking to Mai. "Hm, let me check…" He pulled the phone away from his mouth a moment and asked the assembled group, "We’re done for the day right?"

"Yup. Go home and take care of your better half," Honda told him. He slugged down the rest of his soda, pausing a moment to stare at the empty can. "I guess I better head on out too." He picked up the keys to the Thing, giving them a light toss before pocketing them. "See ya!"

"I wonder if I should invite myself to dinner…" Malik laughed as Mokuba gave him a questioning glance. "Nah, I’m kidding. I’m out of here too. Going to take Ryou to dinner; it’s the only break he’ll take from his studying."

"We’ll see everyone on Friday then!" Noa gave a quick wave goodbye as the others departed, then accompanied Mokuba back into the house. It really had been comfortable spending time with the guys like that. Hanging out, enjoying the time they spent together and the things they had in common, then going their separate ways, knowing full well they’d be doing it all again soon enough.

"I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but working on cars isn’t too bad. Some parts of it at least," Mokuba admitted as they went upstairs to change before dinner.

"Yeah. I don’t like getting all that grease on me though."

"Me neither. But at least it’s coming along nicely. I’m almost jealous." Mokuba chuckled at that, realizing how weird it sounded, but it was the truth. Even though he was getting a brand new sportscar, one so desirable that there was a waiting list for it, Noa’s car was far more unique and special, the culmination of everyone’s efforts. "I bet even Nii-sama will like when it’s all finished."

Noa wasn’t quite as convinced of that – Seto’s standards for everything being so high – but certainly he’d have less to complain about once all was said and done. "Well, we’ll see…"

* * *

In the end, Noa chose to forgo a true restoration and opted instead to upgrade and customize the hell out of the vehicle, gutting it completely and replacing everything from floorboards to the fuel system to the wheels and electrical wiring.

Newly repainted and rebuilt, the car looked as good as it ever would, though Seto couldn’t help but think of the paint job as putting pearls on swine, not that pearls came in such garish shades. The Thing was now a retina searing neon yellow-green shade trimmed out with an equally bold aqua around the wheel guards, fenders and windshield. A bit of white and banana yellow paint highlighted the molded "stripes" on the doors and hood, echoing the new yellow convertible top and white leather upholstery with aqua piping. The car now demanded attention like a shrieking toddler.

"Are we sure Noa’s not colorblind?" Seto couldn’t resist asking Yami in a low voice as Noa gleefully accepted the keys from Honda.

The ex-spirit’s response was a light punch to the taller man’s shoulder. Even though neons weren’t really to his taste, he thought the color scheme looked good, if a bit loud… But then again, his own car threw off a whole rainbow of colors in the sunlight, so he had no right to complain. And the important thing was, it looked like Noa really loved it.

"You guys really did a great job," Yami told Malik and Honda. He’d have to call Jou later and thank him as well, but it was understandable that he couldn’t come by since he had new responsibilities now.

"Of course! I told ya, we know what we’re doing," Honda bragged. But part of him felt a little sad to see the project end. Spending so much time on the Thing, it’d become his baby too, in a way.

"I guess I’ll forgive the fact you missed my birthday by two days," Noa said, but he wasn’t upset. He was way too excited for that. Not only had he gotten his driver’s license the day before, but now his car was ready too, looking like it had just rolled off a showroom floor. He needed to take pictures later, so he could email them to Rebecca and Leon, who’d been eager to see it too. "I can hardly wait to take it for a spin! And to show it off at school! I wonder how much faster it can go now…"

Seto just gave him a wave. He wasn’t going to rein him in, not at a moment like this. "Go on, have fun. Just get back at a reasonable time, okay?"

Noa’s eyes lit up. "Really?"

"I’m going too, okay Nii-sama?" Mokuba quickly added, practically bouncing where he stood, like a kangaroo.

Seto nodded, but couldn’t resist tacking on, "And don’t drive like me."

Yami snickered. Noa snorted, but inclined his head slightly to indicate that he’d heard him. Not that he had needed the warning. The green-haired teen was sensible enough to realize that the worst possible thing he could do with his newest privilege was to bring home a speeding ticket the first time out.

The four men watched as Noa and Mokuba busied themselves taking down the top and removing the back windows before Noa finally started the car up with a grin. Then, still grinning, he and Mokuba drove off… at a rather sedate, un-Seto-like speed.

"Why do I suddenly feel a little older now?" Seto muttered when the Thing finally disappeared through the gates. He said it so quietly that only Yami heard him, so the shorter duelist’s response was equally low-key… an arm around his waist, a cheek rubbing against his shoulder, a soft sigh. Yami understood of course… he sort of felt that way too.

"I bet they’ll be out riding around all night," Malik said, his voice cutting into the sudden silence that had settled around the quartet.

"Probably," Yami agreed. He turned to look at his friends, then said, "Come on, I’ll treat you guys to dinner somewhere; how’s that sound?"

"I'm all for that!" Honda enthused.

Malik stretched a little. "Sounds great. How about the Downtown Grill then? And do you mind if Ryou comes with?"

"Not at all. Can one of you give Jou and Mai a call too, and see if they're up for joining us?" Yami asked.

"Yeah, no prob," Honda responded.


The young billionaire considered it. He supposed there was no point in sitting around, staring at an empty driveway, wondering when the teens had gone from following at his heels to flying on wings of their own. He wasn’t one to cling to nostalgia anyway. But still, there was a touch of pensiveness in his voice as he said, "Yeah, let’s go."

Yami gave him a slight smile and a gentle squeeze of the hand, then told the other two, "We’ll meet you guys at the restaurant then."

Malik looked like he wanted to ask the obvious, but he refrained. Seto clearly wasn’t in the mood to be messed with. He hoped he’d remember that later when the pair showed up to the restaurant 15 or 20 minutes later than expected. "Okay. Honda, need a lift?"

Considering he’d arrived in the Thing, the answer was obvious. "’Course." Good thing Malik’s motorcycle seated two easily, and that he rode around with a spare helmet.

Yami and Seto watched as their friends got on the bike and took off down the driveway as well, then the former Pharaoh silently headed for the garage with Seto following close behind. Yami figured he ought to drive that evening, but first, he had a little something else in mind, and with the rebuild finished, the garage was as good a place as any for him to remind Seto why it wasn’t bad to have his brothers out of the house every once in a while…

* * *

Author’s Notes:

July 26, 2008