Author Note: I do not own Yugioh or any of the characters from the show. I hope you enjoy this story and I look forward to seeing what people think of it. If you like it please R&R. I don't expect this to be a long story like my other two Yugioh fics, but I think it will be a fun ride as it moves along. Just a warning this story will contain spoilers for Battle City and possibly the Noah's Virtual World saga.
Chapter Two: True Friends (or Sleepover at Mai's or The Notebook)
Joey followed Mai up to her apartment and waited while she unlocked the door, nervously shifting his weight from one foot to the other. She opened it and then looked over her shoulder at him and smiled.
"Home sweet home. Come on in Joseph. Can I get you a soda or something?"
He nodded and closed the door behind him, then looked around the modest apartment. Mai disappeared around a corner of the living room and he heard her in the kitchen, so he continued looking around. There was a lot of furniture, more then he thought she would have had for only having the place for about a month at the most. There was a deep purple velvet couch, the expensive kind that had a reclining seat at each end. A glossy black lacquered wooden coffee table with a frosted glass top sat between the couch and the entertainment stand that was loaded with pricey electronics.
'Looks like she's done pretty well for herself. I'm glad to see she has a nice place to live, nothing like the hellhole I'm stuck in.'
"Here we go, crackers, chips, dip and soda. What movie do you want to watch Joey?"
Mai had a silver tray laden with their drinks and snacks, which she put down onto the coffee table. Then she gestured to the couch before sitting down and taking the remote off the coffee table, clicking on the television.
"I don't care, whatever you wanna watch is cool with me Mai."
Joey laid his backpack near the comfortable looking couch as he sat down and then he reached over to pick up a can of soda, smiling at Mai as he did so.
"Then let's just surf around the channels and see if we come across anything interesting. Get comfortable Joey, make yourself at home hun," Mai smiled and then reached to her boots which she yanked off one by one. "Oh god that feels better. Don't be shy Joseph, if you want to toss your shoes off go for it hun."
"You're pretty brave Mai. I mean after all we're eating here," He laughed and she giggled, "Maybe after we're done scarfing snacks I can take my sneakers off for awhile."
Mai giggled and nodded. She picked up the remote and began flipping through all the channels and then gave up leaving it on a music video channel. She popped open the other can of soda and took a sip before putting it down on the coffee table on a coaster. Joey took a sip from his and leaned down to grab a chip which he used to scoop up some french onion dip from the bowl on the tray. Mai reached down to the bowl of chips and took one putting it straight into her mouth. Then she took another chip, which she dipped into the creamy white dip.
"So how's your sweet sister doing Joey?"
Joey's face darkened and he was quiet for a long moment before he shrugged. "I don't know Mai, I wish I did. I haven't seen her since she went back to stay with our mom."
Mai felt really bad and turned to face her friend, "Oh Joey, I had no idea hun. I'm really sorry I asked. I bet you miss her pretty bad eh?"
He nodded and sighed. It wasn't like a day went by where he didn't think about Serenity or miss her and wish they could be together like when they were kids. Mai reached over and put her hand on Joey's knee and he reached down to cover it with his own. He squeezed it and then pulled his hand away, Mai removed her hand moments later and sighed.
"Hey don't worry about it Mai. The way I figure it to worry about something you can't control, or do anything about is a waste of time. I really gotta hand it to you this place is great. I'm glad you're doing good for yourself," Joey forced a smile onto his lips and hoped she would let him change the subject.
"Thanks Joey. It's nothing fancy, but it's comfortable," Mai smiled and searched his face as if trying to divine whether or not she should try to get him to talk about what was bothering him, "Joey? You know you can talk to me about anything right?"
The young blond teen nodded and Mai went on, "What's going on with you? Why were you at the park tonight? Is something wrong?"
Joey considered whether or not to talk to her about his problems and decided that after all they'd been through together he could trust her. He laid back into the couch and put his hands behind his head and sighed.
"I don't want to burden you with my problems Mai, but really I don't have anyone else I can talk to about all this."
"It's ok Joey, I wouldn't have asked if I didn't care you know," She reached over to his knee and squeezed it trying to get him to make eye contact with her.
Still staring at the ceiling Joey took a deep breath before beginning to share his personal hell with the one person in all of Domino that he felt he could talk to about it.
"Ok then, I was at the park because my old man told me to get out since he was having friends over. He does that a lot and I'm used to having to fend for myself anyway. So I was going to wait until it got dark and then I was going to find some place at the park to crash."
Mai gasped and lifted her hand up to her mouth, "Oh Joey your father kicked out you just like that?"
He nodded and then after a moment went on, "Yeah, that is just how he is. He's never been the same some Mom left him and I end up getting the bulk of his anger vented on me. I'm used to it though, so I try not to let it bother me."
"He doesn't hit you or anything does he?"
Joey shook his head; the last thing he wanted to do was burden her with that harsh truth. It did feel make him feel better to talk about it to the degree he'd allowed himself to. But he knew where to draw the line and vowed to stand by that so he wouldn't upset his friend.
"You can sleep over here tonight ok Joey? Right here on the couch. I won't hear of you going out sleeping somewhere on the streets or hiding in the park when my couch is here and available."
He chuckled recognizing that tone of voice that said she meant it when she said he couldn't refuse.
"Ok Mai. If you're sure you don't mind. I don't want to cramp your style though."
"Oh Joseph please, I want you to stay or I wouldn't have offered."
She smiled at him and he returned it with one of his own.
"Thanks Mai, you're a true friend."
"Think nothing of it hun," She was still smiling as she reached down to pick up another chip.
"Hey Mai? I haven't talked to Yugi or anyone else about what goes on at home, so would you mind just keeping this between us?"
She nodded, "I wouldn't dream of doing such a thing as talking about you behind your back Joey. You and the gang showed me what true friendship is all about. Sometimes it's better to keep some things just between friends because it hurts knowing you can't do anything to help someone you care about."
"You nailed it on the head Mai. I know it would just upset Yugi if he knew. I just wanted to let you know I hadn't told him or anyone else actually, about my situation at home. I'm glad we can talk like this. So how are things with you? Are you planning on staying here long?"
"In a hurry to get rid of me are you?" She winked as Joey's face revealed his shock that she'd think that, and then he relaxed and laughed as he realized she was just joking.
"You know better then that don't you?"
"Uh huh, I do, but I couldn't resist. Actually I think I will be sticking around for awhile. I found a nice office job and have picked up a couple modeling jobs that helped me get settled in this place."
"That's awesome Mai. You certainly are prettier then any of those overly made up cover girls I've ever seen," He smiled at her and was pleased she was doing well for herself.
"That's awfully sweet of you to say Joey, but I doubt you'll be seeing me on the cover of any magazines anytime soon. But a girl can dream," She smiled and sighed.
Joey could see there was something on her mind and he remembered how upset she seemed earlier at the park so he decided to try comforting her as she had comforted him.
"Aw don't sell yourself short Mai. You're beautiful. I don't want to get all mushy on you or nothing, but I get the feeling something's bothering you. Anything you want to talk about? I'm here for you no matter what you know."
Her face darkened and she was quiet for a little while before reaching down to her soda and taking a sip. After she put it back on the table she laid back into the couch and crossed her arms over her chest. Joey wanted to reach out to her, maybe squeeze her shoulder or something, but he didn't want her to think he was coming onto her or something. Because she was a few years older then he was Joey figured a guy like him had no chance with a girl like her. So it never even crossed his mind to tell her how he felt about her, choosing just to let his actions say what he could not with words.
"Beauty fades Joey. But I've been doing a lot of thinking about myself. How I used to be and how I was superficial only caring about myself. I know I told you a little about how I was before; how I worked at a casino, playing games was my life. I used them to forget about the pain I felt over my parents never having time for me when I was growing up. I guess though, after what you've been through that sounds silly huh?"
Joey didn't care if she mistook his hand on her shoulder for something other then he intended it. He scooted over just enough so he could reach over to her shoulder and to his surprise she leaned against him closing the distance between them as she rested her head on his shoulder. His face flushed and he felt lightheaded from being this close to her.
"No I don't think it's silly at all. You know all the things we go through in life can serve to make us stronger people Mai. The things you went through helped shape who you are today, you shouldn't judge yourself so harshly. You're a good person, remember that."
"You're right, I know. I just feel that I could have done more if I had the support of my family when I needed it the most; during those days when I only had my deck as company. Now that I know how good it feels to have friends I don't want to lose that."
"You won't. It's not just me who cares about you. Serenity, Yugi, Tea, Tristan and even Duke Devlin all care about you and we'll all be there for you if you need us. Just like you've been there for me Mai. You know without you I wouldn't have been able to get that prize money to save Serenity's sight. I'll never forget what you did for me back in Duelist Kingdom," Joey moved his arm around her shoulder and squeezed, hoping to reassure her of his sincerity.
When she moved her hand to his leg, patting his thigh he knew it had helped. Then Mai sat back up straight, he could see the familiar sparkle was back in her violet eyes. She smiled at him gratefully and then looked over at the television, picking up the remote and switching over to the TV Guide channel to see if something worth watching might be on.
"Boy there isn't much on tonight. What would you say to a friendly game of poker?"
Joey had played poker a few times with Yugi and Tristan, but he wasn't much good at it. Still it sounded like fun and he smiled as he nodded.
"Why not? I warn you though, I'm not much good at poker."
She laughed as she got up from the couch, "So we'll play with poker chips. Its not like I don't have plenty of those lying around. I'll order a pizza too, want anything special on it?" And with a wink she headed off to her room.
'Man I am so glad I didn't upset her when I put my arm around her like that. I bet she didn't get much affection from her family. I know how that feels; hopefully it made her feel better. And hopefully I won't humiliate myself too badly at cards,'
"As long as it doesn't have those smelly fishy things on it I don't care. Whatever you want is fine with me Mai," he called answering her.
Mai came back with a round chip holder that had rows of red, white and black poker chips. She sat down and put the chip caddy down onto the coffee table along with the deck of cards she'd brought out with her. She went to grab her portable phone and Joey over heard her ordering them a large pizza with everyone on it but anchovies. She came back and sat down and soon they were playing poker. She switched off the television and turned on the stereo, putting one a local radio station making sure the volume wasn't set too high that they couldn't talk easily.
The doorbell rang about forty minutes later, with her chip pile stacked twice as high as Joey's. She got up to answer the door and Joey looked over to make sure it was the pizza delivery guy and not someone trying to break in or something. She looked over her shoulder at him as she paid the young brunette teen for the pizza and after giving him a nice tip he left and she closed the door, locking it before coming back to the living room.
"Let me go get us some fresh drinks, napkins and plates. I'll be right back Joey. Don't you dare look at my hand or you'll regret it," she laughed as she disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Joey smiling sitting on the couch.
"You are too good at poker Mai. I can see working at a casino really sharpened your card playing skills," Joey smirked at the blonde as she grinned from ear to ear triumphantly over winning his last few chips.
"Well you know what they say, try to find a job doing something you enjoy and I always enjoyed taking people for all they had when playing cards."
She stretched and yawned as Joey picked up the cards and straightened them out before putting them back into their box. Then Mai reached down to start putting the chips back into the caddy. Joey helped her and soon the table looked orderly again, except for the dirty plates, empty pizza box and used napkins.
"Let me get rid of the box and take the plates to the kitchen Mai. It's the least I can seeing as it was your treat," he stood up and stacked their plates together, put the crushed napkins on the pizza box and went to take everything into the kitchen.
"Thanks Joey. I think I am going to go take a shower and get ready to hit the sack. It's getting late and if I'm not mistaken you have school in the morning right?"
Joey nodded and looked over his shoulder at Mai as he left her sight. After putting the two plates in the immaculate sink, he folded the cardboard pizza box in half so it would fit into the trashcan. Then he tossed the napkins into the trashcan before going back to the sink. He smiled as he turned on the hot water and picked up the yellow sponge. Picking up the green apple scented dish soap he squirted some onto the sponge and held it underneath the running water.
Mai came in and giggled, "You didn't have to do that you know."
"I know. I wanted to though. I really appreciate you letting me crash here on your couch tonight Mai. That is really cool of you," Joey looked over at Mai, who was leaning against the refrigerator, holding her soda can.
She lifted it up and after quickly finishing it off, she tossed it into the trashcan, "It's nothing Joey, really. I'm glad we ran into each other tonight. I had a great time with you and I really enjoyed beating you at cards."
Joey laughed as he shook his head. He rinsed the first plate he'd washed and after letting the water drip off of it for a few moments he put it into the dish rack before starting on the second one.
"I had fun too Mai. You're a real card shark, you know that?"
Mai laughed and nodded, "Well I didn't make the big bucks by losing hun. I'm going to get a pillow and some blankets for you, I'll leave them on the couch for you ok?"
"Sure thing. I hope I don't snore too loud tonight. If I do just shake me or something."
He finished washing the second plate and after he had placed it neatly in the dish rack by the other one, he ripped off a couple paper towels and dried his hands. He tossed the damp paper towels into the trashcan and then he left the kitchen. Mai had already brought out a purple comforter and a fluffy purple pillow that she'd laid on top of the folded comforter. Joey stifled a yawn and sat down. He bent over and took his shoes off, then put them near his backpack on the floor.
He could hear when Mai turned on the shower and had the urge to pull out his notebook to work on his story for a little while. Taking out his pen, he opened the notebook to where he'd written down his ideas for Jack Havoc's fictional adventures. There were also various names he'd thought about using as his penname the story was listed under, all scratched out except for the one he'd decided on. That was circled with a star drawn next to it. He turned to a fresh page two pages past the area he had used for notes about the plot.
He was lost in the story he was creating, thinking about how to best describe the first stake out Jack does to observe Mrs. Tonya Hanson's husband, Paul Hanson. Joey wrote quickly; it was exciting for him to see his ideas coming together as he scripted out Jack's impressions of what he saw during that first stake out. He didn't notice when Mai turned off the shower and he was startled when he heard the door to the bathroom being opened. For a moment he forgot where he was and half expected his father to jump out brandishing a belt or just his fists, ready to smack him.
'Oh my God that freaked me out! I damn near screamed. I can't believe how deeply I can get involved in this story. I better act like I am doing homework. I trust Mai not to talk to anyone about what I told her regarding Dad, but if she caught me writing a story who knows what her reaction would be.'
Joey flipped back close to the beginning of the notebook and acted like he was going over homework. Mai was wearing a white bathrobe and had her hair wrapped in a lavender towel. She looked over a Joey and smiled.
"I'm going to blow my hair dry in my room and then go to bed. I usually get up around six-thirty. When do you need to get up to be ready for school?"
"Uh, six-thirty's fine with me Mai. Thanks again for letting me stay over tonight. This couch is really comfortable."
"Ok, I'll get you up after I start a pot of coffee. I'm glad you're here Joey instead of sleeping in the park or somewhere. If you need anything let me know. If you get thirsty or hungry there is all kinds of stuff in the refrigerator, so help yourself hun. Goodnight," Mai batted her eyes at the blonde teen, making his stomach do summersaults.
"Thanks Mai. Goodnight."
Joey watched her go to her bedroom and close her door. A few minutes later he heard the distinct sound of a hair dryer and he went right back to writing. He kept at it for what seemed like an hour, but when he glanced at the clock he realized he'd been at it for an hour and half. He had almost finished the entire second chapter and seeing how it was getting late, Joey turned back to the beginning of chapter two and laid down on the couch, snuggling underneath the velvety comforter.
Twenty minutes later he drifted off to sleep, the notebook falling to the floor beside him as his hands went limp. He didn't hear Mai coming out and he didn't wake up when she picked up his notebook and began reading what he'd drafted out, starting at the notes he'd made. She took it with her into the kitchen to get a glass of water and then she sat down on a padded stool to continue reading what Joey had written. She smiled when she saw his chosen penname and Mai recognized the website address that was above /RedEyesDuelist/. She decided to pay a visit to that site tomorrow on her lunch break to look up his story to check out the first chapter he'd written. The way he depicted the characters and the action impressed her.
'Who knew you were capable of creating such an interesting story? I can't wait to read the first chapter. If it's half as good as this one is I'm sure people will like it as much as I do. You surely are full of surprises Joseph Wheeler. Yes you are.'