Looking Around In A Different Light
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 Six: Looking Around In A Different Light
Yugi left school feeling really worried about Joey and no one seemed to know where he'd gone. As Yugi was walking down the sidewalk a black limousine drove up and stopped. The window rolled down and Yugi could tell it was a summons, so he headed off to see what Seto Kaiba could want.
"Yugi. You look like you could use a ride. Why don't you get in?" Seto Kaiba gestured to his side and opened the door.
"Uh, I don't need a ride Kaiba. Thanks, I know you're busy, is there something I can help you with?" Yugi puffed out his chest, trying his best to be like Yami and the spirit held back laughter he felt from this exchange.
"Sure, whatever Yugi. I thought you cared about that dog in the first place. My mistake, I commend you Yugi, he's not even gone five hours and you've already written him off." His icy tone of voice matched his fierce blue gaze.
"What do you mean? Spit it out Kaiba, what are you trying to tell me about Joey?" Yugi put his hands on the door of the limo that Seto had just pulled closed moments ago.
Seto looked down at his tiny hands and smirked at his rival. He looked so totally pathetic and what he could possibly see in a loser like Wheeler was beyond the CEO's ability to work out. But that wasn't what drew him into baiting Yugi into taking the offer to ride with him, no he wanted to see what was going on in their little insignificant lives to validate his own superiority over the dueling duo that was Joey and Yugi. In a way he was proud of how he'd faced those rare hunters with Yugi as a teammate. He was the only person of any that had ever earned his respect. And so because of that he had taken a casual interest in what went on in his life and the lives of his friends.
"Get in Yugi. Let's talk," Seto shifted over making room for the young man to join him.
'Let's hear him out Yugi, maybe indirectly something we learn from Kaiba can help Joey so try to be civil with him.'
Yugi nodded and opened the door before scooting in next to the young businessman who'd told his driver to go around the park and then back to the Kame Game shop. Yugi sat patiently, trying not to be aggressive with his body language. After a few moments Seto leaned forward and directed his gaze at Yugi.
"So what is going on with you? Do I detect trouble in paradise between you and Wheeler?"
Yami flushed with anger and ended up facing Kaiba next, as Yugi sat back shocked with the spiteful way the brunette spoke towards him about his friend Joey. Kaiba seemed to notice the change in Yugi's facial expression that read clearly 'I've lost my patience with you already' yet he felt no urge to give up the control he held over his spiky haired nemesis.
"What is going on with him? He looked pretty beat up today Yugi. He left so suddenly too. I thought you'd have seen him off with that pretty young blonde from Battle City. What was her name? Mai? I'm sure it was her I saw him leave with."
"What do you mean he looked beat up Kaiba? Did you have something to do with..."
Seto interrupted the former pharaoh before he could finish the morbid thought, "Of course not! Be reasonable. I wanted to see what is going on with him, to see if he is in danger somehow. Is there some kind of gang thing going on that I need to know about?"
Even though his voice was cold, he was completely sincere. Yami sat there stunned for a few moments before he suddenly snapped back into reality as he shook his head.
"No, but perhaps you might have some suggestions for me Kaiba. Since you asked me to join you and seeing as we're talking like this. Tell me something. How do you become able to take care of yourself legally? I think I know someone who needs to get recognized legally as an adult, emancipation I think it's called." Yami held Kaiba's unwavering gaze as he took in what he'd been asked.
"You mean about Joey then? You mean-his father?" Kaiba muttered and Yami nodded.
He smiled sadly as he nodded again, then he looked out the window. Yami felt bad that he had allowed himself to bridge this conversation, almost encouraging it between himself and the young billionaire. Power and influence are things that Seto Kaiba possessed and wielded proudly, so he had no doubt that this was a private conversation, one that happened between himself and his former high priest once in a blue moon. But helping Joey was the motivating factor behind Yami's actions this afternoon.
"Well, that all depends Yugi. There are many ways to deal with parental neglect. However there are cases where the courts will recognize the legal need of a minor to live on their own, hold a job and even going to school under their own authority. That is what you're getting at isn't it?"
"Yes, in a nutshell it is. What else did you want to say to me Kaiba?" Yami resumed looking in front of himself, thinking about Mai and how she could have come to get him. It was interesting that somehow Kaiba knew Joey had left with her. He wondered about that as he sat in silent apprehension.
"Like I said, I thought you looked like you needed a ride Moutou. Nothing else I need to say, except perhaps only this. That if Joey is being beat up by his dad, he might have to end up facing him in court and with that in mind I doubt your friend has what it will take to face his old man there. He might just see about finding a job and getting his own place, I don't see why he couldn't if he'd just do it."
Yami nodded, "Yes, I think someone like his dad is the type to even try to stop him from moving out on his own. I bet he probably wouldn't even notice. I appreciate the ride by the way Kaiba. Thank you, for that and for just coming out to me about what you saw and also for your advice about Joey's situation. Please Seto, between us only, all right?"
Seto nodded and the limousine came to a stop in front of Yugi's grandfather's shop. Yami knew better then to try to shake the young man's hand so he just got out and they exchanged nods again before Kaiba was on his way and Yami was stood in front of the gameshop, wondering what direction Mai lived in. Yugi didn't know that she was even around and Yami felt him flinching from the idea that she was back and Joey even had her phone number to call her to come get him from school.
'Quiet yourself Yugi. You're too worked up and over nothing if you ask me.'
'Really? Well it's not nothing to me Yami. Why didn't he tell me he was going to leave with Mai? Not only that, how could he keep it secret from me that she was around Domino? How Yami? I don't know if I can trust him anymore.'
'Oh I doubt that very much Yugi. You might be hurt thinking that Joey could be keeping something from you, but can't you understand that when he's ready he'll come to you and tell you whatever he needs to. You know he will, you're his best friend Yugi.'
'Yeah? Some best friend. He left and I still don't know where he is. Let's just get inside Yami. I better just get to work on my homework.'
Yami let Yugi take over and he went into his soul chamber to meditate. He could tell Yugi needed to be alone with his thoughts and he hoped that his young friend would heed his words. It didn't feel right, him and Joey not being open and forthright with one another. All the spirit could do was wait and watch over them both.
Mai worked in her kitchen, getting a chicken set up to go in the oven, she'd planned on making mashed potatoes if Joey's stomach was up to having some with her. For right now she was comfortable just thinking about Joey and how that loneliness she'd felt when she was alone was gone when he was around. She could feel he had deep feelings for her and it was hard to keep her mind on making dinner preparations. Joey made an angry grunt from the living room and she wondered if he'd checked his email or seen the review that flamer had posted.
"Everything ok Joey?" she called out to him.
"Yeah, I just read something is all. Thanks for letting me use your computer Mai. It's really cool of you."
"Think nothing of it hun, I'll be out in a little bit. Have fun with it!" Mai giggled to herself knowing she'd been right and that he'd probably read /AngelofDeath/'s latest review.
Five minutes later when she'd put the chicken in the oven she went to rejoin him in the living room. He had wrapped the blanket around his shoulders, with his feet pulled up under him Indian style, his back against the arm of the couch as he held the laptop on his knees, typing as he noticed her warm presence returning to sit near him. Since he wasn't interested in eating, Mai decided to do something a bit daring.
"So how about I sit down and you stretch your legs out over mine and you read to me?" her lavender eyes overpowered any thought he'd had of protesting.
"I can just sit up Mai..."
Mai reached over and took her laptop off his lap then put it beside her on the couch as she sat down, cutting off his options dramatically. Joey went to stand and she put a hand on his arm.
"I want you to stretch out really. You're still sick you know, but if you elevated your feet I bet your head would feel better."
"Are you sure about this Mai?" Joey's complexion was already flushed from his fever working its way through his system.
She nodded and helped pull his socked feet out from under him and over top of hers. Joey had to admit, it was pretty comfortable. His head wasn't throbbing intensely as he saved the finished draft he'd been working on and then in a final preview Joey scrolled to the opening and slowly bringing his eyes up to his female companion's, he started reading to her. After a few minutes he started shivering and then Mai moved her hands to his feet, rubbing them firmly between her surprisingly strong fingers. Joey stopped talking as he just let his head flop back listless and moaned, yet she noted he held onto her laptop carefully so that it wouldn't fall to the floor.
"You know that is really wonderful. To hear you reading it like that, well it's very powerful you know? Now maybe you should try eating something? If you feel like reading later, I can show you one I wrote."
She frowned upon seeing the huge grin crossing his lips as he opened one eye and peered up at her.
"Oh you mean like "Forever Yours" my dear /RoseWhipLady/? Perhaps you should check your inbox for any new reviews, hmm?"
Mai blushed and Joey laughed, "Oh come now, you didn't think I wouldn't go see some of what someone who left that kind of a review about my stuff had written?" Joey smiled, "Give me a little credit please. I'm just surprised you'd write such romantic things though. Your original characters were really dynamic and vividly portrayed. I would have left the same review even if you hadn't told me what your name was there."
Mai felt her breath catch in her throat as he revealed something personal about something she'd written. Had she been able to tell him what her best was, "Forever Yours" wouldn't have been her first choice, but it was definitely an interesting choice none the less. She felt her stomach twitch with awakening emotions that were undeniable to her any longer. She really felt something for him, something that could end up becoming the start of a lifelong partnership between them.
It was overwhelming wanting him like this and yet she knew without even a second thought that Joey was nowhere near ready for anything more then friendship at the current point in time. In the future? Who knew?
"Then I guess I better take a turn at the comm eh Red? Can I call you Red Joey?"
"Heh, that sounds funny, but I like it. But only if I can call you RoseWhip."
The two friends laughed together and she got her email loaded and blushed at the two reviews Joey had left as /RedEyesDuelist/. She was really impressed with him and what he'd said about her story was insightful, things no one else had said. She sat and just read over reviews, spending time with him like this was more about getting Joey to open up and having succeeded at doing that Mai was quite pleased with herself.
Joey was sleeping again soon, but not before getting some of the soup down. He'd begged her to bring something for him to have by the couch just in case he got sick and needed something to run with to the bathroom. She had a hunch that Yugi might be worried about Joey so after she checked on Joey one more time she left to use the phone in her bedroom. After finding the number to Yugi's grandpa's game shop, Mai dialed the number and waited for someone to answer.
"Hello Kame Game shop, can I help you?"
"Hi Yugi, it's Mai. Listen hun, I wasn't sure Joey told you I was in town or not, but I got an apartment out here."
"Oh hi Mai! I wondered how you were doing. How's Joey? He was pretty sick at school."
Mai laughed, "Oh yeah and he's plenty sick now too. But I got a little chicken soup into him and he's resting now. I just thought I'd call to leave my number with you in case you wanted to get together or something some time."
"Sure Mai, thanks, I'd like that," Yugi replied as he looked around his desk for a pen and his address book. After he located the book and a working pen he took down Mai's number and just because she was such an open book about herself she even gave him her address. Yugi was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the blonde who was taking care of Joey and he smiled thinking to himself that he was in good hands with her as he hung up.
'See Yugi? I told you there wasn't anything going on and that Joey would have told you about Mai if he hadn't been feeling so sick today.'
Yugi shrugged and took off to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Having done his homework and knowing that odds were Joey wouldn't be in tomorrow, at least he could go visit him tomorrow after school if Mai didn't mind. He was pretty sure she wouldn't mind either. She had been rather distant after waking up after Yami and Yugi defeated Marik. But at least he knew where he stood with the young woman and that she counted him among her few friends.
Alone in his bedroom Seto sat at his desk, his computer in front of him as he read over what Joey had posted on his story. As the young brunette read over what the annoying blonde had written he couldn't help but to read through the text with a different perspective. Looking back at the sickly appearance of the young duelist earlier at school he could see now how the bruises he'd seen on Joey's face were from the hands of a out of control drunk. Only someone out of their mind could punch their own flesh and blood so viciously. At first he'd been willing to believe it was gang related since it seemed to him that Joey's very nature seemed to thrive when he was challenging people.
'But today, when I saw Yugi with his hand on his shoulder like that, I had the idea it was just Yugi trying to give his pathetic friend a pep talk or something. I can't flame what he's posted, not after what I've come to realize about him. There are some things about him that remind me of myself, dark things that I hope no one ever sees. The damage from Gozaburo will never totally heal and yet I didn't let him break my spirit.'
As Seto read the final sentence of chapter three, he wished he could leave a sincere review, but his own nature wouldn't allow it. He continued thinking about it, wondering if what he'd told Yugi would prove to be useful to Joey Wheeler, whose spirit as far as he could tell was anything but broken. That was another thing about Joey that Seto identified with. He like Joey never backed down nor did he run when things got tough. Seto had felt by standing up to Ra not once, but twice that Joey had earned some of his respect, even if he never acknowledged it to him or anyone else.
"So, maybe I do understand after all what could make you turn to writing. No matter though. I will see if I can slide by without antagonizing you for the moment Wheeler. Even I can tell that you deserve some slack after what you've been through."
He decided to shut down his computer without doing anything else. It was getting late and he had school in the morning. As Seto turned off the monitor and got into bed, he looked up at the ceiling, not meaning to, he was taken back to how hard things had been when Gozaburo was alive and totally dominating him. He had destroyed the blasted collar that he'd insisted Seto wear and he'd even used a horse crop on the young child to motivate him to work his hardest. Of course it had been both humiliating and degrading to have to endure such treatment.
What would have made it absolutely unbearable would have been if his little brother had ever seen him like that. Taking a deep breath Seto turned on his side and slid his hand under his pillow, pulling the soft comforter over his shoulder. He let the pain come just below the surface of his psyche, but he never let go of control over it for a second. It was one thing to look back at that abuse and quite another to try to keep emotional distance from those dark remembrances that at times threatened to overcome him if he gave in to it. But Seto Kaiba had fought back, and always would fight back. He'd win and come out on top regardless of the circumstances.
Joey awoke with a cramp in his calf that made him jerk in agony. Jumping up off the couch, he tried to stand and force his weight onto the spasming foot. Mai had told him that she didn't have to work Friday so she would gladly have him stay over out of school to get some rest. It was nice being here with her but Joey didn't have any illusions, he would be back home by Saturday and out of Mai's hair. He figured that she'd be sick of having him around by then. Wincing Joey made his foot go flat against the floor stretching out his screaming calf muscle.
He could see that the light under Mai's door was out so he tip toed to the bathroom, slowly closing the door almost all the way until he turned the light on. He winced at the brightness of the light and when his eyes came into focus he gasped at how terrible he looked. The one thing he was thankful for was that his eyes weren't black and blue. The bruising on his face was one thing, it was ugly sure and it hurt. But it always upset him so much more whenever his father either purposely or accidentally hit him near his eyes.
'What do you see in me Mai?' He came up with some ideas and remembering how she'd touched him tonight left his knees weak.
Joey leaned onto the edge of the sink and looked down to his feet. He was still in shock Mai had rubbed not only his neck and shoulders, but his feet. It wasn't a surprise to him that she'd shown him how attracted to him she was. However he had been surprised to find out she was in fact /RoseWhipLady/. Leaving the bathroom Joey turned off the light and lightly made his way in the dark apartment. He stopped a foot from her door; something drew him to peek in through the tiny crack to return the favor.
'Man she looks so pretty, even asleep like this. I am going to turn around now and walk away like a good boy.'
Mai stirred in her sleep and Joey froze. He thought he heard her whining softly and he couldn't leave her. Protective instincts kicked in and he stood waiting, to see if she'd become more agitated and force him to intervein or if she'd slip back into a comfortable sleep. He barely breathed as he stood there and after the third round of fifteen seconds of her cries Joey decided to go ahead and venture into her bedroom. She just sounded so scared and he knew what that felt like and it killed him to think that she still felt that way in her dreams.
'No damn way am I walking away from you Mai. Not after almost losing you for good.'
Joey pushed open the door and quickly took action, he came to stand over her, reaching down to her face he called out to her and sat down on her bed slowly so as not to startle her. He reached out to her hand and then he felt her stiffen as she woke up crying. He feared for a moment that he'd been wrong to have come in like this, but when she threw her arms around his neck sobbing he knew that she needed someone to just hold her and tell her that things would be all right. He remembered when he'd done that before, and how Yugi had had to jump in to help him keep that promise, but Mai had been all right.
"It's ok Mai. I'm right here with you. You're not alone anymore." Yugi's words rung in his eyes, he could see Yugi's accusational expression and he could feel there was no accusations in the reason behind his presence in her bedroom suddenly.
'I wonder if she didn't leave the door opened like that just in case she heard me having a nightmare. I'm just glad I was awake to come comfort her like this. Poor thing is shaking like a leaf.'
"Stay here with me Joey. Don't go back out there, I don't want to be alone."
Mai looked up and wiped her eyes as she pleaded with him in the dim light of a rather large digital clock. He nodded and she lifted the covers to accommodate him in her queen sized bed. Whether it was just instinct again or just silent communication between them, but Joey pulled her close, letting her head rest on his arm and she curled up against his side, calming down a little bit now that she was sure she wasn't still dreaming.
"Shhh, just go back to sleep now. I'm right here and I won't let anything happen to you Mai." Almost before he could stop himself he leaned his face down and kissed the top of her head, like he had when he'd been close to his sister.
'I can't believe I just did that. What an idiot! I bet she kicks me out of her bed here in the next thirty seconds!' he chastised himself harshly.
But Mai did no such thing, in fact she sighed, seeming to relax even more against him. His heart was racing and he hoped she couldn't hear it beating from being this close to her. Joey shut his eyes and let his thoughts drift, soon he was dreaming pleasantly, thinking about what being with Mai made him feel like. He imagined being at the park with her and talking. Then he imagined what it would have been like to actually kiss her earlier in the living room, but that was as far as he let his train of thought carry him. For her having his presence in her bed kept the bad dreams away and kept the loneliness at bay.