The Morning After Everything Changed
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 Seven: The Morning After Everything Changed
Mai opened her eyes and looked at Joey. He was still asleep and she remembered how he'd stayed with her. Why he'd been up and heard her having that damned nightmare she didn't know. But she had been relieved he'd come in waking her up to chase away the darkness of her dreams. He was her knight in shining armor; if ever she could say she had one, it was without a doubt, Joey. It felt funny being in her nightgown with Joey still in his jeans and tee shirt, but then just the feeling of not being alone in her bed was unusual enough to her. It was on her mind, why he had been hurt like he was when at seventeen his life should be so much happier.
His rhythmic deep breathing was soothing, but she knew it would come to an end soon enough and she sighed as she turned to face the clock. It was just past seven and she decided to wait before getting up so she turned over so her back was against his, losing herself in thought. There were critical years between them age wise and though she wouldn't hesitate to ask him to stay with her permanently, she knew he would never agree to such an arrangement. It was nice to think that she had this chance to be so close to him and she smiled from ear to ear as he turned over onto his stomach, moaning softly as he did so.
'Oh my god he is so cute! If only he was a couple years older, I'd be with him in a heartbeat, if he'd have me that is.'
Fighting the giddy feelings of a school girl crush, Mai chuckled to herself as she felt one of his hands move up her back and around her waist over the covers. He seemed to have moved to curl up behind her so that she now felt his breath on her shoulder, sending delicious chills up her spine as their bodies touched. Closing her eyes she tried to burn this precious moment in time in her mind forever, to permanently etch the pleasure of just waking up and being held in his arms like this. A few minutes passed and she heard him yawning behind her and then she felt him wake up, his hand stretching out and then closing resting on her hip.
"Oh boy, I'm sorry Mai, I meant to get up after you'd fallen asleep," Joey said sounding like he was still half-asleep.
"Good morning Joey. I'm glad you stayed. It was nice to wake up next to you like this, but I'm sorry if I woke you up last night."
Joey slowly rolled onto his back and yawned again covering his mouth with a hand, "I was up with a cramp in my leg believe it or not. I was walking it off when I happened to hear you in here like that. I'm sorry if I shouldn't have come in like I did. I was just worried and you sounded so alone I couldn't just walk away from you like that."
"I'm glad you came in Joey. Just like I'm glad you're still here. If you think that you're up to eating I'll go make you something to eat if you'd like," Mai sat up, her hair falling down her back as she rose from the bed.
Joey turned towards her then looked away quickly. He had no idea how revealing the shiny purple nightgown had really been so as he glimpsed her milky skin beneath spaghetti straps he immediately averted his eyes out of respect for her, yet he felt a rush of emotional reactions to the sight of her. Closing his eyes he thought back to how it had felt with his arm around her, waking up pressed against her as he had Joey felt shooting pains of longing thinking about the way he had curled up with her. He gave her a few seconds more before he opened one eye, just as she finished tying up the front of a lavender bathrobe.
"That would be great, but I can help you with it." Joey moved to sit up and she whipped around, eyes flashing as she held up a hand.
"No Joey, you just sit this one out ok? I'll come wake you when I'm done out there so don't worry about it. You're staying home sick, remember?" she cocked her head to the side and put a hand on her hip, posing as she waited for his reaction.
He nodded then closed his eyes, snuggling up on his side feeling the warmth from where she'd been next to him it was as if he totally gave in to the urge to sleep. The young woman hesitated watching his face relax then she shut the door almost all the way. She planned on making omelets for them with wheat toast and orange juice. It was hard to keep from skipping along her apartment, she felt so light and free. Going over to the kitchen table Mai turned on the CD player. Listening to the melodic love tunes of one of her favorite bands, she dropped the robe leaving it over a chair and then she pranced around dancing as she moved between the sink, refrigerator, stove and the toaster.
It didn't take long before she was singing along with the music. Mai let herself just feel the music with her entire body as she moved about. It had been a long while since her heart had been light enough that she'd been moved to dance like this. Something that she enjoyed doing that unlike little Tea, she would never dream of dancing in front of people like the teenaged brunette friend she was convinced was in love with Yugi. Not letting herself think about it for long, she just spun around her kitchen, singing with all the sincerity she possessed. Wishing that Joey was out there dancing with her.
Unnoticed by Mai, Joey had come to stand at the doorway watching her for a long time with the biggest smile on his face that would have stopped the blonde's performance instantly had she been able to see it. Once she had the table set, Joey quickly retreated to the bed faking sleep. Though his heart was racing from the idea of being found out and fear of what she'd think if she knew he'd been watching her dancing like that.
'If I felt free like that I guess I'd dance too. I hope she feels like that because of me being here, I know I can't deny that I could so easily fall totally in love with her. But being only seventeen I can't offer her squat, now if I was on my own and had my own place I could see coming over like this and not waste the entire night sleeping either.'
She opened the door and he tried to stifle laughter. He turned towards her lazily opening an eye when she told him breakfast was ready.
"Mmm, ok thank you Mai. Do you have a comb I could use first?"
He stretched his arms up above his head and yawned, hoping she hadn't detected any deception on his behalf. Looking at her he could see she didn't suspect a thing so he got up to follow her back out to the kitchen. He still felt shaky, but he definitely felt better then he'd felt yesterday. During the night when his fever broke he remembered Mai holding him close, stroking her hand through his hair. If what he thought they could have together was real it would still be there once Joey had taken control over his life and that would be when he would make his move to claim Mai as his. If it were meant to be it would be.
"Sure in the bathroom, let me get it for you. Unless you'd rather use a brush? I have both, so whatever you'd be more comfortable with is fine with me."
Mai headed to the bathroom and already had the light on despite the sunlight shining through the lines of the blinds. He stood at the doorway and she moved closer to the counter, making room for him to join her so Joey passed behind her, catching the scent of her hair as he stood behind her briefly. He reached down to the brush and ran it through his hair fluffing it up a few times, then he pulled the strands of his own short blonde hair from it before laying it back down on the counter. He dropped the hair over the garbage can and then smiled as she picked the brush up and bent to the side to start brushing her long locks.
"You sure look pretty in the morning light like that Mai, your hair is just gleaming in the sunlight, it looks like spun gold. I hope you take it for granted that I think you're absolutely beautiful and the smartest girl I know." Joey leaned against the counter as Mai blushed at his compliment.
"Why thank you Joey. I hope you can take it for granted that I think you're something special, someone worth waiting for and someone I'd open my door to any day or night. I admire that you're courageous and confident outwardly, but it's more then that. I've seen deeper inside you, how you're somehow just able to keep your cool better under pressure is very impressive. Last night meant a lot to me, what we talked about, and I know you're going through some heavy shit right now. But the bottom line, I don't do the whole damsel in distress thing well and yet you stood up against Gods to try and save me even when I'd given up on myself. I won't ever forget that."
The morning sunlight continued streaming in between the blinds on the bathroom window dancing around as leaves moved on trees outside. Joey nodded and reached over to her shoulders as she turned to face him. She opened her arms to him and slowly the two embraced. Because they were friends exploring such unfamiliar ground emotionally she reached up his back, resting her cheek on his shoulder as his arms reached around her, holding her close. Having just bared their souls being close like this was exhilarating for both of them. He knew all he had to do was turn and face her, then they would easily end up kissing.
'I really love you Mai. I wish I could be with you like I would like to be with you, but with the age difference I don't want to pressure you or go too fast. I'll free myself and be dancing there with you in no time once I have something to give you beyond just my love.'
"You're worth waiting for too and I'd never think twice about opening my door to you day or night. What do you say we go sit down? I'm kind of dizzy, but I really appreciate you taking care of me like you have. I did a lot of thinking as I woke up from sleeping yesterday and last night."
Joey laughed and Mai pulled away, he could see she was blushing like he was. She nodded and reached to hold his hand as they left the bathroom together. He followed along behind her, and then sat down at the place she'd set for him. He didn't really feel up to eating much and really felt more like talking. Somehow sharing their stories and talking as they had, affected the teen deeply, putting his life into an almost crystalline focus. Clarity he didn't want to go to waste, so he waited until she was sitting down before he took a big sip from the orange juice.
"You know Mai, I'm sorry but the other night, I lied about something. I lied because I was ashamed of it, but it's not something I should feel this way about because it's not my fault."
Mai reached over to hold Joey's hand and knew what was coming. He was going to tell her about his father and it was almost too much for her to bear. She reached over to touch his face and cupped his swollen cheek.
"I know Joey and it's ok, you don't have to apologize, you cried out in your sleep too, I don't know if you remember. When you were shivering and your fever broke? You were in the same position I was in when you heard me last night. I know you couldn't just live here with me Joey, but if you could I'd be really happy to be together with you. You have to get your own place as soon as possible, you have to get away from him."
Joey nodded and felt his face flush, but he pulled her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it and just held it between his hands. He looked deeply into her eyes and forced himself to stay frozen where he was. Since what they were talking about was indeed heavy shit, he wanted to make sure nothing happened to confuse either of them as they tried to make sense of their feelings, testing the depths of their growing bond. He knew there was no mistaking the difference in how he was acting with her and he made no mistake in interpreting how she was acting differently towards him.
"I will get my own place Mai. When I do I'll be able to have you and the rest of the gang over." Joey laughed and released Mai's hand.
"I'll help you however I can Joey. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I stayed because of my feelings for you. I know you feel the same but the time is just not right, I know you feel that too."
Nodding Joey met her eyes again, feeling really comfortable to be talking like this with her, confirming what he'd suspected. That she had as deep of feelings for him as he had for her. He felt her eyes on his, if this was just how talking about your innermost thoughts with someone you'd die for, the teen didn't have to think hard to imagine what taking things any further would be like. Knowing that some things had changed between them as they had, he was determined to cherish his relationship with her just like he cherished her.
"Yes, I do. I know you don't look at me as just some teenage fan boy, you see the man I strive to be, don't you Mai? I'm not the kind of guy who takes a promise lightly and if you were to wait for me, I'd want to make sure it was worth the wait, for us both."
"Yes Joey, I will wait for you and it will be worth the wait. I don't think that we can just go back to being straight friends though. I can't stand the idea of you hurt or lonely. Being with you takes away that heavy feeling I've had that I will end up alone with no one to love me or want to be with me. When we're together I'm afraid I can't just live as a friend to you anymore. I get the distinct feeling though, that you don't think we could just be only friends after last night." Mai smiled and saw he was smiling at her.
"I don't want to rush into anything like I said, I want things to be special like last night was special. After you opened up to me I couldn't just deny what my heart was telling me anymore. That I love you Mai. Something is different now. I can't just wait for time to pass letting things stay as they are, my father won't rest until he tears me down to nothing. But I won't let him win." Joey took a deep breath and then gestured to his face, "You know, when he does this crap, it shows me just how I don't want to be. I could never hurt someone I love the way he hurts me and now that I realize I have to step up and get away from him I feel more at ease," Joey looked down and sighed.
"When he hurts you, it hurts me too Joey. I don't want to see you hurting and alone, not when you don't have to be. Can you just accept that I want you to stay here if he does something like this again? Don't just go to the park, watching passively as life moves along around you feeling helpless. Get out there and move within it you know?"
He nodded, "You know one thing I really adore about you that I don't think others can truly appreciate?"
"What?" Mai replied coolly, still tingling from him telling her that he loved her.
"That flair for life you have. You are more then just another pretty face; the whole package is just incredible. How you didn't just sit by watching, you picked up my notebook and read my story. You opened your place to me and then last night you opened your heart to me as well. Instead of being with that rich movie star guy, you're here with me, I know it's because you see that same flair for life in me."
Mai nodded, "Yes I sure do see that in you. That and much more, more then you give yourself credit for I might add. Yes, I did pick up your notebook and I did leave my numbers for you. I even called Yugi last night to let him know you were all right because I knew he was probably really worried. There is something about you that makes you different from any other guy I've met. You have more integrity then anyone I've ever known, but more then that, you possess a fire inside that refuses to accept defeat. I don't want to see that destroyed by abuse Joey."
He reached over and held her hand, "I won't let him. No worries there. You know, before whenever he went off on me, I would think about Yugi and being anywhere but there with my dad. I think I will only have to think about you and he won't be able touch me. I think I've seen it called 'disassociation' or something, but there is no doubt it is a coping tool I have used along with many others. The only way for something to move on between us now is for me to get on my own two feet."
Squeezing her hand he raised his eyes to the CD player and a big smile came to his face.
"You are the girl of my dreams Mai and I want to be the one in your dreams, keeping away those demons that try to scare you late at night. Last night was special. Waking up next to you was almost magical. I think we can still be close even if I am home or soon out in my own place. But I know you must be able to feel how I am holding back, I am out of respect for you. Just as talking brought us closer last night, anything else would be harder to walk away from, you know?"
"I know. But having read my story Red, you have an advantage over me that I don't have over you yet." Mai winked and picked up her glass of orange juice.
"Oh? And what would that be? That I know you like to cuddle and be swept off your feet from the way your characters interacted? I would never use that knowledge against you though. But I could see myself using it to get to you in ways you probably can't imagine. Or at least not by chapter ten which is as far as I got on your story so far."
She coughed and laughed, "Damn yer good. Maybe you could write me something special sometime. I know I write things I don't put up on that site. You are a big inspiration to me and you don't have to worry about me, I understand completely why you're holding back in some ways. You really surprised me last night though, as if the way you look sleeping isn't hard enough to witness, you are a really good cuddler. I really enjoyed sleeping with you."
Joey coughed and then laughed nervously, "Yeah, I'm sorry I'm so sick. I feel better though this morning though. Don't let me hold you back from digging into that omelet Mai. Would you mind if I went and lay down on the couch? My stomach is jittery and I don't think I can eat anything just yet."
"I'm sorry you're sick too, but if you need to lay down go right ahead. If you need anything just let me know." Mai picked up her fork and used it to cut into her eggs.
He nodded and stood, she watched him go to the couch, wheels already spinning in the young woman's mind. She ate in silence and thought about getting another cell phone to give to Joey before she let him leave so that he could call her or for help if he ever got in trouble. Hopefully Yugi would stop by later, Joey needed to see him, she had seen the flash of pain at the mention of his name and somehow she just knew that he'd been lying to him about all of this too.
Now though, something had awakened in him, something that was unbreakable, pure and strong as love itself. She had no doubt he would get out on his own and that the time would come when they would get to see if they could make each other happy. With her standing behind him the teen had more then just luck on his side and the strength of his friendships with the others there would be nothing to get in his way of making his own decisions and living his own life.
It was lunchtime when the gang minus one blonde teen sat at their regular table. Everyone was pretty quiet this morning and Yugi knew it was obvious that there was something serious going on in Joey's life at home that had to change. Tristan, Tea and Duke looked around the lunchroom but without Joey here it felt like there was a big hole in the day. Yugi sighed and picked up his milk, sipping from it for a few moments before putting it down, trying to think of what to say to break the ice at the table.
"Do you guys think Joey is ok? I mean really. He looked real bad yesterday. I don't think things are ok with him at home or something," Duke asked, concern evident on his face and in his voice.
"I don't know, but you're right, I'm worried too. Yugi if something was wrong he'd tell us wouldn't he?" Tea turned to her tri-colored haired friend.
"Yeah he'd tell us. But Duke is right. Something is going on, the question is what can any of us do to help him?" Yugi clenched his hand, still having a lot of anger that Joey had kept the abuse at home hidden from them all.
"I don't know Yugi. I don't think any of us can really help. But then again, there might be some things I can do for him," Duke leaned his chin onto his palm, thinking about the young man he'd forced to wear a dog suit as a ploy to bait Yugi into dueling him.
'Joey needs to get out of there and I could help him. He could come live with me, be my room mate and even work at my game store if he wants to. I think someone said he was with Mai. I think I still have her cell number here somewhere.'
"I'm going to go to the bathroom guys, I'll be back in a bit. Can I leave my books here?" Duke winked at Yugi who nodded at Duke who strolled off reaching into his pocket for his cell phone.
Once outside he dialed Mai's number and waited while he walked around outside to get more privacy. On the second ring she answered cheerfully.
"Hi Mai? It's Duke. How are you doing?"
"Duke, hi, so nice to hear from you. Joey is sleeping on the couch. Did you want to talk to him?"
"Yeah but it can wait. How is he doing?" Duke asked, looking around the area to make sure no one could pick up on his conversation.
"He's pretty bad off to be honest with you. I don't know how he could put up with-well never mind. Maybe you and Yugi could come by after school if you'd like to see him."
"I'd like that Mai, thanks. Listen let me leave my cell number with you ok? I'm glad he's with you and getting some rest, he looked so bad yesterday," Duke let the thought hang as he mentally went over his apartment with the thought of moving Joey in weighing heavily on his mind.
"It's ok, I have a feeling things are going to turn around for him real soon."
"I do too, real soon. Hey I have to go but do you have something to write my number down on?" Duke asked, grateful again that he was close enough to this group of friends who he felt lucky enough to be among.
"Sure, what is it?" Mai asked, wedging the phone between her shoulder and ear while she wrote down Duke's number in her address book. She said goodbye and soon Duke was on his way back to the lunchroom. He had seen Joey grow so much over the Battle City Finals and it was because he felt genuine admiration for the young duelist, that he wanted to be the one to help get him out of the danger he was skirting every time he opened his front door.
'If I didn't know better, I'd think something is going on between them, but it must just be my over active imagination. I don't care what I have to do, I am not going to let him say no to me and I will help him stay in school and he can start living away from all that shit at home. Whatever it is, I am going to help you through it Joey Wheeler. I'm not the only one who cares either.'
As the raven haired Duke Devlin rejoined his friends at the table he was confident that he could help Joey turn his life around if only he could get him to let him help him. The mood had lightened in the group and Duke sat down smiling. He'd drive Yugi over to Mai's and they'd sit down and talk. If he could he'd try to take Joey aside to make his offer to him, all he could do was put it out there for him to think about and hopefully accept.