Truth and Care
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. This fic has been beta read by Minor Arcana; a big thank you to her for all her help and advice on the story.
Dog Days Chapter Five: Truth and Care
Joey knew there was no hiding the bruises his dad had inflicted on him last night and as he walked to the corner he usually met Yugi at, he considered not waiting for his spiky-haired friend, but then he saw him heading his way. The blonde sighed, afraid of what his friend would say and how he'd have to think of yet another lie to cover up for it. Yugi waved and then as he got closer his eyes widened as he took in Joey's appearance.
"Oh my god, what happened to you?"
"Uh I got jumped on the way home last night. Nothing to worry about. Shall we get going?" Joey tried to smile but felt his face was not cooperating and he ended up looking like he was sneering instead.
"Joey that is not nothing. This happens to you too much, no one gets in that many fights..." Yugi let his voice trail off and he looked like he was close to tears.
"No one but me Yug. I guess I'm a fight magnet or something." Joey tried again to make light of his injuries as Yugi regarded him somberly.
"Why are you lying to me? Why do you think you have to go through this alone Joey? Why?" Yugi reached up a hand up to Joey's arm and lightly squeezed it.
'Yugi are you sure this is the right time to do this?'
Came the worried voice of Yugi's friend Yami, as he spoke to him through their mindlink.
'You're kidding right? There is no right time and I can't take it anymore. It has to be his father doing this to him, I know it has to be and I can tell he's been lying about this for a long time. How can I help him if I can't get him to talk about it?'
Even without the link it was obvious to Yami that Yugi was close to breaking down.
'All right Yugi, but please try not to be angry with Joey. I can sense you are and if you let that get in the way you can't help him.'
Yugi didn't reply to Yami and stood with tears filling his eyes as he confronted his best friend.
"Yugi, will you please just drop it? I got in a fight, I get in fights and shit happens so lay off will you?" Joey was hurt by his friend's accusations and the fact that they were right on the nose hurt him even more.
"No Joey, I will not drop it, I can't. How long has he been hitting you like this?"
"I don't know what you're talking about Yugi and I don't care to. If you don't mind I'm going to school so please take yer hand off my arm," Joey's eyes flashed anger he felt over being put in this position.
He knew Yugi was a very sensitive soul and that knowing Joey's dad was knocking him around would really upset him, but then so would the fact he'd been lying to him about it for awhile. Which was not something Joey had wanted to do but did thinking of protecting his friend. Yugi had been through so much from the time that he'd known him and some of it had even been inflicted upon him by Joey himself, never mind that he'd been under the influence of that psycho Marik and his Sennen Rod. He still harbored a lot of guilt over that incident and even though Yugi might have forgiven him, he couldn't forgive himself.
Slowly Yugi removed his hand from Joey's arm then something happened to him. He got that fierce look he had sometimes that Joey had learned to recognize, as it usually meant trouble for whoever was facing off against his friend. Unfortunately it was only Joey here and he wasn't about to let this other side of Yugi bully him into admitting the truth, not without a fight he wouldn't. He matched the grim expression that was on Yugi's face, as if daring him to do something to shake him or make him talk.
"Joey, I'm not your enemy here and though it hurts to think about this, if you continue lying about it things won't change. I only want to help you, please let me," Yugi's voice was fuller, deeper and exuded compassion beyond words yet Joey wouldn't budge, couldn't show weakness in front of his friend like that.
"Come on Yugi we're gonna be late. Forget about this ok? Nothing is happening, I don't want to argue with you about it anymore." Joey started off and Yugi sighed behind him.
'Yugi I'm afraid this isn't helping,' Yami sounded as frustrated as he knew Yugi felt.
Staying glued to the spot Yami folded his arms over his chest. Joey only got a few steps before he saw Yugi wasn't with him so the blonde turned around to see a familiar thought provoking sight he'd seen before. Crimson eyes glared defiantly at his chocolate brown ones, instantly deflating Joey's will to argue any further. He looked down in defeat at the sidewalk for a long moment before he heaved a heavy sigh, his shoulders fell when he finally spoke in a low voice.
"All right, my dad's been hitting me. There, I said it. Are you happy now? Can we please forget about this and go to school?" Joey stood there motionless, feeling weak and helpless, making no effort to hide it from Yugi.
"Joey why didn't you tell me sooner? He has to stop or he might really end up hurting you or worse..."
Yami felt Yugi crying in his soul room and the former pharaoh wished there was some sort of solution to help Joey, but he couldn't think of one. He'd kept his suspicions to himself as he'd figured out a long time ago that Joey wasn't being honest about where his injuries came from. It was so sad that Joey felt he had to shoulder this burden on his own. Yami hoped that maybe he could help him, even if it was just being here to talk to. Joey's was a cause Yami would eagerly champion to, that was just the kind of relationship he had with the young man standing before him, in mind numbing pain.
"Because I didn't want to upset you, why do you think I didn't tell you about this already?" Joey raised a hand to his forehead, he felt awfully warm and thinking about this made his stomach feel even more upset.
"Does your mother know?"
"Like she'd care. I don't know if she knows or not. But it got a lot worse after she refused to let Serenity visit him when she was in town. Don't worry about it, I'll be fine ok? Next year we graduate and I'll move the hell out of there. Speaking of graduating, let's get going Yug, I don't want to be late."
Yami walked over towards Joey and put a hand on his back lightly, "Sure Joey. Let's get going. If you need to talk I'm always here for you. If it gets real bad you're always welcome to come over to my place."
Joey shrugged, "No way, it's bad enough you know about it, I don't need your gramps finding out about this. I'd appreciate it if we kept this just between us. If the others figure things out so be it, but with my reputation for being thickheaded I doubt anyone else but you will care."
"Well I do care Joey. But I won't tell a soul, I promise." Yami rubbed Joey's back for a few moments as they resumed walking, the spirit wished he could have hugged his friend, but concern over the state of his body kept him from it.
"Thanks Yug. I'm real sorry I been lying to you, I just didn't want you getting upset after all you been through..." Joey felt light headed as he tried to forget the rage in his father's eyes last night.
Yami nodded then removed his hand just as a black limousine drove by. They both knew without looking who was inside it and neither young man looked forward to the long day ahead. If they were lucky it would be another uneventful day of school where nothing interesting happened. The rest of their journey to Domino High was traversed in silence, but it wasn't unbearable. The two young men had cleared some of the air that had gone stale between them so they walked up the steps leading to the main building together preparing to face another day.
It was lunchtime when Joey started to feel really sick to the point he couldn't ignore it any longer. When he didn't feel like eating Yugi went with him to the clinic. Joey had protested at first but after seeing the determination kindling in the violet eyes of his friend he knew better then to argue, plus he didn't feel up to it at the moment, fatigue rippled through his neglected form. The nurse greeted them and Joey told her how his stomach was bothering him. When she asked him to let her take his temperature he nodded weakly, sitting down in a chair at the foot of one of the beds.
"Oh my, you have a low-grade fever Joey. You probably should go home. Is there anyone who can come get you?" her voice was as sweet as honey and her eyes sympathetic towards the blonde.
"My dad's at work but I can walk home."
"You're supposed to have an adult pick you up you know."
"I know, I guess I better just get back to class then huh?"
The nurse shook her head, "No, how about you just stay here and rest? If you feel up to it after lunch you can try to go back to class then."
Joey nodded and lay down on one of the two cots here, closing his eyes falling into a fitful sleep almost immediately. The nurse looked over at Yugi and smiled. Since it was still lunchtime and Yugi had brought a bag lunch he decided to ask the nurse if he could stay here with Joey.
"Uh, would it be all right if I stayed here and had my lunch with you and watched over my friend?"
"Sure, I don't mind. He'll be fine though, he might just have a little twenty-four hour bug or something. Sure sounds like it."
"Yeah, for Joey to turn down food is definitely a sign of something serious. Thank you for letting me stick around, I'm really worried about him," Yugi chuckled nervously as he took a seat near the cot Joey was resting on.
'Yami? I'm really worried about Joey.'
'I know Yugi, so am I. But we promised him we wouldn't tell anyone about this, so if you're thinking about talking to this nurse I'd forget about it.'
'No, I just wanted to talk to you about it Yami. I have heard there are ways for kids to become legally able to make their own decisions. I think we might encourage Joey to see if he can't get emancipated and deemed legally able to take care of himself. Do you think that would be a good idea?'
Yami was quiet for a few moments and then when he finally responded Yugi got the feeling that the spirit wasn't as sure as he'd tried to sound about his answer.
'We could try that. It wouldn't hurt. But even that won't solve his problem with his father. He needs a new place to live and we know he'd never allow us to ask grandpa if he could stay with us.'
'I know, but we have to do something. He looks so sad Yami, I know he's being ripped up inside that his dad treats him like this. I don't know how someone could hurt their own child like that.'
'It doesn't make any sense, I know Yugi, but sometimes there are things deeper and beyond our ability to understand. No one can know what is going through another person's mind. All we can do is be here for him when he needs us.'
'I know. Thanks for your help earlier. I didn't think I could have gone on without crying and that would probably have made Joey clam up even more.'
'I understand Yugi. It will work out. We'll do whatever we can to help Joey.'
Yugi agreed with Yami and then focused on his lunch. He usually enjoyed peanut butter and jelly, but today he hardly paid it any attention as he ate the sandwich. His troubled thoughts remained on his friend and after he'd finished his lunch the first warning bell sounded. Yugi tossed his brown paper bag with his plastic baggie into the trashcan and said goodbye to the nurse. As he walked off to his science class he couldn't get Joey off his mind. He kept thinking back to how bad his friend's face looked and it made him wonder how many other bruises were hidden beneath his clothes.
Even though his biology book was open in front of him Yugi had no interest in the assignment they were going over that would be due Monday. He forced himself to take notes, thinking that he could share them with Joey so that his friend wouldn't miss out on their homework. Yugi was anxious to see how Joey was doing so when the bell rang and class was dismissed he jumped from his seat heading out into the hall. He practically ran back to the clinic and was shocked to see Joey wasn't there. When he asked the nurse about it she told him that Joey had been picked up and was probably at home by now. Stunned, Yugi went to his next class wondering who could have taken Joey home.
"Thanks for coming to get me Mai. I really appreciate it. But you don't have to take me home, I can walk," Joey smiled, hoping he didn't come off as looking like he was sneering.
"No way Joey, you're coming home with me. I'm glad you called me, I had finished the job I was out on anyway, so let me take care of you ok?"
"You don't have to do that, really. I'll be fine. Just drop me off at this next corner and I can walk the rest of the way," Joey protested, hoping to persuade Mai to stop and let him out.
"Joey, I am taking you to my place and you can crash on the couch. I don't want you to have to walk in this heat. End of discussion."
"Ok, you win. I'm too tired to argue about it."
Mai laughed, "That's a good boy. We're almost there so just relax, I really want to do this and you know me. I won't take no for an answer."
Joey laughed and agreed with her. He knew full well just how alike they were in that regard. He hadn't wanted to call her, but something had told him to. Part of him wanted to let her take care of him now and the other part wanted to run off so she wouldn't see how weak he was. Or how weak he thought he was. Joey hoped she didn't ask him about his face, now that he'd talked about what was going on at home with Yugi he was afraid of anyone else guessing at the truth.
"Ok we're here, let's go get you some chicken soup," Mai said as she parked her car and turned off the engine.
Joey nodded and fought nausea as he opened the car door and slowly got to his feet. Mai seemed to notice this and came over, taking his hand and putting his arm around her shoulders to steady him. They walked together to her apartment and she unlocked the door. She helped him to the couch and handed him the remote before going back to the kitchen to warm up some soup for him. He was asleep by the time she came out to see if he wanted to try to eat and he looked sicker to her.
She brought the tray with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, ginger ale and crackers, out to the coffee table. Mai put it down thinking about getting him a nice wet wash cloth for his face. She went to her bathroom and opened the linen closet, taking out a pink washcloth she then took to the sink. Turning on the cold water, Mai got the terry cloth wet and wrung it out a bit, before turning off the water. Leaving the bathroom, she went back to the living room and gently laid the cloth on Joey's forehead. She bit her bottom lip as she took in the state of his face.
'He looks so beat up. I am really worried who could have done this to him. I really have to wake him up, the poor thing.'
"Joey? Wake up, I made you some soup like I promised and I got you a glass of ginger ale for your stomach."
Mai dabbed at his forehead with the washcloth some more and then he stirred from his slumber. His flushed appearance wasn't helped by his surprise seeing her face so close to his. She smiled and looked over to the coffee table she'd set up for him. It felt strange having someone to care for like this. And Joey Wheeler of all people for that matter. He'd proven his devotion to her during Battle City when he bravely faced Ra with her rather then letting her suffer that fate alone. Strangely Yugi ended up being the one to shield her, and in so doing shielding Joey from the wrath of the great Egyptian God of the Sun.
She sensed how deeply they cared for one another and as she faced the young blonde on her couch Mai thought back to the way they'd acted during Duelist Kingdom. How he'd blushed at the bold way she approached Yugi and him, it felt like years ago compared to the darkness that still haunted her at times. That time sealed away in that dark airless realm as Marik had done to her, it had shaken her up, and though she'd faced Marik head on play for play, she still ended up getting played by the psychopathic Egyptian. That Joey had stood up for her meant more then she could ever express to him in words.
"Boy I have been sleeping a lot today. I'm sorry I'm sick Mai. I hope you don't catch this. You didn't have to go making soup. I don't know that I am up to eating anything."
Mai held a hand down to him and Joey took it, allowing the young woman to help him to sit up slowly. His body was aching all over and he felt feverish still. Joey wondered what time it was and if school was out yet. The last he could remember was lunch time and when he'd fallen asleep in the clinic. He smiled at her as she sat down beside him, putting an arm around his shoulders. Her hand reached to his shoulder and squeezed, slowly, then she moved it up to his neck and rubbed the nape of his neck, his soft blonde hair fell over her white hand as he shivered. He closed his eyes and let his head fall forward, an uncharacteristic gesture of submittal for the young teen.
"Mmm, that feels so good Mai. I sat up too late last night and I think that might be why I came down with this stomach thing today."
Mai resisted the urge to giggle, "Don't worry I won't catch it. I know how it feels to have a lot of tension in your neck and I want to make you feel better Joey."
Joey slowly lifted his head, "You are Mai, thanks. You can stop though. I'm awake now and that ginger ale looks pretty damn good."
He didn't know why he was here on her couch. He remembered she wouldn't let him go home and he'd been to sick to fight her about it. So he reached over to the glass of ginger ale and put the straw to his lips. It was a little unsettling being this close to her and Joey wondered why she had him here when she could have any guy she wanted. He didn't even want to think that there could be ever be a glimmer or hope that she'd feel about him the way he felt about her. But those feelings aside, he would never do anything to risk their friendship. Yet he felt compelled to reach down to her leg, right above the knee, resting his right hand on her left leg. Something about it felt right and he left his hand there as he forced his eyes to meet hers.
"Sure thing kiddo. If you want me to rub your shoulders later I will. I'm going to leave you here for a minute, I have to get my laptop out of my bedroom."
He felt his heart pounding as she put her own hand overtop of his, then squeezing it before she stood up to fetch her computer. Joey giggled nervously and tried to take a couple sips from the ginger ale, hoping he didn't get sick. Since he hadn't really eaten anything it wasn't like he had anything down to throw up. Leaning up, Joey put the glass down and lay back down onto the couch, groaning softly in pain and dizziness. He rested his eyes and before he knew it Mai was back, setting up her laptop from a chair with a wooden fold up table he could see her using to have microwave dinners on.
She went and got a blanket for him and gently laid it over him. Looking down she frowned seeing he hadn't even touched the soup. He smiled up at her and she nodded then sat down in front of her computer. He didn't know she'd seen anything in his notebook, but she had and this was part of her plan to draw him out and get him to open up more to her. She'd decided she would share with him that she was /RoseWhipLady/, if it felt like it was the right thing to do, otherwise she was going to just focus on something she was writing as a means to open up a conversation about his mystery story.
'God I am so dizzy, I feel so sick. My god my stomach hurts. I wonder if I can get her to take me home or not. I really don't want anyone to know exactly where I live anyway so maybe I should just stay here for now and sleep.'
"Mai? I hope you'll kick me if I snore too loud. Please?" Joey opened one eye and tried to look over at the chair she was curled up on.
"Don't be silly, you don't snore that loud at all. Just get some rest. I am going to just sit here and work on something I am writing."
She peered over at his one open eye and winked. This made him risk opening his other eyes and he tried to focus on her face. She looked back at her laptop and started typing away. He smiled when she looked up at him and did not stop typing, as if her mind was just chugging along on what she was writing and it peeked his interest. He cleared his throat and leaned up to grab the glass to take a sip from the ginger ale before laying back down into the softness of the couch.
"So whatcha writing then? If you don't mind telling me that is."
She stopped and looked at him directly, "Oh this? Just a short story thing, ever heard of fan fiction?"
Joey felt the color drain out of his face as her question sunk in. He nodded and forced himself to sit up. She smiled and told him it was something she was writing for a website he had been interested in. He got a feeling that she was telling him something and he wished his mind wasn't so foggy from fatigue so that he could focus on Mai better.
"Well it's not like I am trying to write a best seller or something, you know? This is just something I like to do for fun, probably sounds boring to you eh Joey?"
He shook his head, "No, not at all. Just the opposite really, believe it or not. And I have a feeling you do. I have just joined that site myself. What's your penname then?"
She gulped and held her breath before answering, "RoseWhipLady, hello there RedEyesDuelist. Care to have a go on here yourself and add your next chapter?"
Joey blinked at the use of their pennames like that and he nodded. For now all that mattered was that he was here with Mai and that she was sharing with him something he was just discovering the fun of. He grinned and though he hoped he appeared confident, he never felt more vulnerable in his life. There was something different in the air between them tonight and he was no fool. He could see that she wanted to have him here with her and even though he wasn't well physically, his spirit was heartened by her openness with him.
"Would you mind if I took my jacket and shoes off first? I feel awfully warm and I need to get my stuff out."
She got up and came over to his side, reaching a hand down to help him up slowly. He let his legs fall off the couch and then centered himself before letting go of her hand. She went around to the back of the sofa and he felt her hands on his back, helping him with taking off his jacket. He pulled himself out of it and then he stretched back against the couch, closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths before he opened his eyes and leaned down to take off his shoes.
Mai had taken his jacket over to one of her four kitchen table chairs. She retrieved his backpack from beside the couch and then laid it up on the couch beside Joey. He just had on jeans and a white tee shirt now with his white socks. His hair was ruffled from the way he'd been laying down on the couch cushion, but she found it endearing on him. Mai went back to her chair and picked up the laptop, bringing it back to the couch with her. She then sat down on the other side of Joey, not so close that they were bunched together, but close enough their legs touched lightly.
"Let me just save this and close it up so you can open a new browser yourself Joey," Mai clicked around a bit and then turned it around to face him.
"Thanks Mai, so you really liked Jack Havoc eh?" He looked up at her shyly, making him look even more appealing to the young blonde.
"Yes I really did. But I have to confess, I read over your notes and I think you've got some great ideas. I've got a few stories up of my own and you have to be prepared for those trolls out there who seem to live to flame your every keystroke. Anyway hun, I am going to let you alone for awhile ok? I am going to go start something for dinner."
"I had no idea you read in my notebook Mai. I'm flattered you were interested enough to do something like that and your review was really sweet of you to share."
Mai stood up, she just had to get away and relax. Being this close to him was affecting her unusually strongly tonight. She just wanted to reach out and hold him, but she knew that it wouldn't be a good thing to do in his current state as he would be worried of making her sick and she was worried about what he looked like under that thin cotton tee shirt. It wasn't his thin yet powerful frame that was on her mind, rather it was more about what kind of injuries lurked there unseen yet potentially painful. She looked over to the living room as she moved out of sight. Backing up against the wall of her kitchen she let her thoughts drift back to Joey.
'I know he's sick, but I can't help seeing his arms around me, his lips on mine. Can we really ever be that way together? He needs time to work out whatever is going on in his life, but that won't stop me from being there for him.'