I'M BACK!

I am so sorry! I didn't mean to leave this fic unfinished for so long! The holidays got really busy for me, then I couldn't concentrate on ANY of my stories! I hope this chapter makes up for my long absence!

Aura Black Chan (turns to see Mokuba): Hey, how are you? Why isn't your brother with you?

Mokuba (shrugging casually) Oh, he's stuck in Egypt in one of Mamono's fics.

Aura:::You don't seem too upset about it.

Mokie (smiling) Oh, she wouldn't really hurt him, especially after you got him to dance with her in the last chapter!

Aura (smiling) Well it's nice to know you're not worried. You read the last chapter?

Mokie:::Yeah! It was really good, except…

Aura:::What is it?

Mokie:::Well, what was up with Seto? I mean, he seemed kinda upset about something.

Aura::: Oh, well don't worry. I'm going to explain that in my fic 'Brotherly Bonds', so don't think I'm gonna leave you hanging.

Mokie (excited) When's it gonna be updated?

Aura:::Hmmm, soon.

Mokie:::How soon?

Aura:::I'll start working on it again after I post Chapter Five.

Mokie:::Okay!

Aura:::Wanna do the disclaimer? (Braces herself)

Mokie:::Yeah! AURA BLACK CHAN DOES NOT OWN YU-GI-OH!!!!

Aura (quietly) Always the yelling….

Chapter 5: Fear of Formalwear

Joey looked up at the clock for the hundredth time in nearly twenty minutes and let out a small, audible growl of frustration. It now read 11:49.

'Where da heck are dey? I've been here since forev-'

"Joey?"

"Huh?" he turned at the sound of his name being called by a very familiar voice.

"Joey!" Serenity, now certain that it was indeed he came running up, flinging her arms around her brother. Joey only smiled as he returned her fierce embrace.

After a few moments like this he finally released her, a goofy grin spreading across his face.

"Hey Sis! Long time no see!"

Serenity beamed at her brother. "I know, it feels like Battle City was ages ago! I'm so glad you could come!" She suddenly gripped him in an even tighter embrace than before.

"Hello Joseph."

Joey turned again at the sound of his name.

"Hey Ma. It's good to see ya again."

A rather awkward smile spread across his mother's face. "It's good to see you too. Is this everything you brought with you?" she asked, noting both his duffel bag and what looked to be a garment bag.

"Eh, yeah. That's all of it."

"Are you hungry? Have you had anything to eat yet?" She'd already started to gather up his things for him.

"Yeah, I had a snack when I got off the train, but…. Ma! I can carry my own bags y'know!" His duffel alone must've weighed at least fifty pounds, but his mother lifted it as though it were nothing. When he tried to take it from her, she only put up a pacifying hand, a firm look on her face.

"No Joey, I will carry your things to the car. I'd thought we could stop somewhere for lunch, or if you'd like we could just go strait home and I'll make something for all of us."

Joey considered this as they moved through the parking lot by the station; Going out to eat could be fun, but he really was kinda beat from the trip up here.

"Let's go home." He said.

His mother and sister, both of whom were just ahead of him, turned and smiled brightly.

"I was hoping you'd say that." His mother told him warmly. "C'mon then, let's go home!"

As she was putting his things in the trunk she noticed the garment bag looked new and made a somewhat crinkly sound when she put it down; almost as if the clothes inside were still in their dry cleaner bags.

"Joey, are all these things new?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah! The stuff in the garment bag, anyway."

"Well," she continued with a smile, "I can't wait to see what you're planning to wear!"

Serenity suddenly turned to him, a look of worry on her face. "Oh Joey, I'm sorry! We should have offered to take you clothes shopping for this. I mean, you only had to get them because of my dance! I hope you didn't end up spending all your money for it."

Joey only shrugged. "Nah, it was no big deal. Anyway, don't worry about it! I'd spend my last dime on you if I needed to!" This last statement caused Serenity to blush.

"Well, still she's right. We should have at least offered." His mother said these last words in a distracted tone as she slowly guided her car out of the parking lot into the main flow of traffic. "Did you have trouble finding something to wear?"

"Oh no, that was no problem!" He told her cheerily from his place next to Serenity in the back seat.

"No problem at all!"

This was a very big problem!

The last time Joey had new clothes for a special occasion it was for his Great Aunts funeral when he was six, and he wasn't the one who bought them. He'd long since outgrown those clothes and the nicest ones he'd had since then were his uniforms for school, which he later decided was pretty pathetic. His mother had picked out the funeral clothes knowing exactly what would look good on him without even having to bring him with her.

Now he was at the mercy of Mai Valentine who, for all he knew, would dress him up like a fool for her own amusement.

"Oh, stop looking so worried Joey! I wouldn't make you look stupid for Serenity's dance, so relax! Remember, I'm doing this for her too!"

Joey suddenly realized that what he was thinking must have shown on his face, so he tried doing as Mai suggested.

Easier said than done.

This was the fourth store they'd gone to looking for the right clothes. She'd sent Yugi, Bakura and Tristan into one store to find shoes for him and that was the extent of how much she would let them help. Tea was with the two of them, hoping to speed up the search. At every other place they'd been to Mai had decided that what they had was either tacky, over priced, or "Not fit to bury a street bum in!" So now they were looking at some clothes which were a bit pricier than the others were, but at least looked nice.

"Finally! I wondered if we'd at least find some decent shirts!"

Joey turned to see what Mai considered a 'decent shirt'.

They were standing in front of a circular rack with several different shades of button down dress shirts, all of which looked pretty much the same to him. Mai had pulled out three for him to try on.

"Alright, we'll start with these and work our way from there. Well? Go on! They're not going to button themselves on you, y'know!"

Joey stared down at the shirts Mai had handed him for a moment. One was white, another light blue, and the last some lighter shade of brown. They looked okay.

"Tea, have you found anything yet?" He suddenly noticed that Mai had moved off to the other side of the store where Tea had been looking for pants and a dinner jacket for him.

"I think we may be in luck!" Tea proclaimed loudly. She was proudly holding up two pairs of casual dress pants that she had wrestled from another rack.

"Great job Hon! Either one of these should be perfect!" Taking the pants from Tea, Mai brought them over to Joey whom she noticed was starting to look uneasy again.

She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and made him look at her. "Don't look so worried Joseph. You'll look fine in these, I promise." Her smile then brightened. "Now lets go see which one's look best on you, okay?"

Joey, after feeling the genuine warmth and kindness Mai was radiating, finally started to feel better about the shopping trip. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. At least it couldn't get any worse! After he'd tripped Tea on the dance floor he'd told her after their pizza, that he didn't want to come back here to do that again, so she compromised; If he let her keep teaching him how to dance, the lessons would be confined to either her house or Yugi's. That was fine with him as long as there wasn't an audience for his embarrassment this time.

"Hey Joey, are you changed up yet?" Tea had joined Mai by the changing rooms shortly after he'd entered, and it sounded as though she had brought company with her. He heard Mai say something about how she'd assumed that they were the responsible ones in the group, and why the hell had they gotten these? She sounded furious with these people!

He had to check it out!

Making sure that the pants were zipped and the shirt buttoned Joey stepped outside the changing area to see Mai's latest victims.

Uh oh.

There stood Yugi, Tristan and Bakura with varying degrees of fear on their faces. Tristan stood between the other two holding what looked like a shoebox. Mai looked like she was going to kill all three of them.

"What?!? I gave you a simple job to do and you mess it up?!? What's with these shoes?!?" She then reached into the box Tristan was holding and held one up as if she couldn't believe what she saw. That's when Joey saw why she was so upset. She was holding what had to be one of the ugliest sneakers he'd ever seen in his life! It was bright orange and red with some sort of strange black design all over it making it seem more appropriate for Halloween than Serenity's dance.

"But Mai," Tristan finally spoke up, "they were on sale! We thought you'd be happy that we managed to score such a good deal!"

"Good deal? How are these ugly things a good deal?!?"

Tristan paled slightly under Mai's ferocity.

"Er, they were buy one get one free?"

"WHAT?!?" Mai just about exploded at this last statement. "Are you telling me that someone had the audacity to make more than one pair of these things?!?"

Joey had caught Yugi's eye from the door and noticed that there was something strange about the way his friend looked. What was going on? Then he noticed the slightly mischievous gleam in Yugi's eyes.

No way! Tristan had convinced Yugi and Bakura to go along with him on a joke? This was too good to miss, so he continued watching from the doorway. That was when it was Bakura's turn to speak up.

"Um, actually this is a very popular formal look in some parts of the Mediterranean."

Mai then shifted her glare to their pale British friend and spoke in a deadly calm voice. "Excuse me, but what difference does that make? Are you saying that you picked these out on purpose?!?"

Bakura, wavering only slightly under Mai's intensity tried again. "Well, yes, you see-"

"I don't want to hear it!" Mai proclaimed throwing the lurid shoe she was holding back into the box. "Now take these vile things back and get the right shoes!"

"Mai, don't you want to see the other pair we got first?"

She turned to Yugi looking wary. "I'm sorry, did you just say 'other pair of shoes'?"

Yugi then took a box from behind his back, holding it out to her.

Mai took the box, looking at them suspiciously. "I can't imagine what else you three would pi-" She'd stopped mid-sentence when she opened the shoebox Yugi had handed her.

Joey watched as Mai pulled out exactly the kind of shoe that she had sent them to get. A dead silence had come over the group since Mai was no longer shouting at them. Instead she looked like she was going to murder them!

Joey couldn't help himself anymore, it was too much! He just bent over and started laughing! This soon got everyone going to the point where most of them were almost on the floor in hysterics!

Mai, looking as if she might be plotting revenge for some later date, gave them a somewhat frigid smile. "Thanks so much boys. I can always count on you for something like this." She then turned to see Joey still bent over and flushed from peels of laughter.

"If you're done now can I see how the clothes look on you before I kill you?"

Joey straitened up then. "Aww, I'm sorry Mai, but that was just too good-"

"Mmhmm, lets see how you look, before I change my mind about putting you in a monkey suit."

"Yes ma'am."

"Let's see now." Mai was now fussing over some of the smaller details, a thoughtful tone in her voice. Joey had put on the white shirt with the blue (Tea had called them navy) pants. He thought it looked pretty good considering he never really wore clothes like this.

"Pull the shirt out a bit, you look like you just came out of the bathroom."

Joey did as he was told, wondering when Mai would make up her mind about the clothes.

"Alright, let's see how the shoes look with it." Mai picked up the box she had set down on the floor only to find that Tristan had switched it again with the sneakers.

Okay, that was it, Mai had had enough. Picking up the box, she went up to Tristan who was trying to look innocent. It didn't save him though.

"Tristan," She began with a voice that would make any guy fall to his knees. "If you don't stop fooling around, I'll tell Serenity that you screamed like a girl when you saw the eyeball soup at Duelist Kingdom."

"Uh, that was Bakura not me." Bakura scowled slightly as Tristan began to sweat.

"Are you sure about that? Why don't we ask the others what happened since they were there too. I'm sure they can recall every detail of Duelist Kingdom perfectly."

Tristan, who was now sweating buckets, looked away from Mai's piercing glare and returned the shoes. Mai smiled at him sweetly, her anger now forgotten.

"Thanks hon. Here Joey, try these on."

Joey put on the shoes wondering how much longer this was going to take. They were just getting clothes after all! It's not like when you go car shopping and you ask about options, standards, safety ratings and stuff like that! These are just….clothes!

"Aww, Joey, you look so handsome!" Tristan said in a teasing voice.

"Shaddup!" Joey's patience for this whole thing was almost gone.

"Well, he's right you know." Mai told him. "You do look handsome! Go see for yourself!"

"Alright already! I'm goin'!"

Joey went the mirror he'd passed a moment before, and was stunned. He actually looked good in these clothes! It was amazing! He'd expected to feel awkward or out of place in something that wasn't a tee shirt and jeans, but these clothes did seem to suit him.

"Well? Did we do good work, or what?"

Joey turned to Mai and smiled broadly at her. "Yeah, you guy's did good, thank you. I mean that too. This is ten times better than anything I would've picked out on my own, thank you."

Mai and Tea both smiled at his extravagant praise pleased that Joey was happy with what they'd found for him. Tea continued looking at Joey as though considering something.

"Do you think he still needs a dinner jacket?" She asked as she turned to Mai, who in turn looked at Joey.

"This is a dinner dance, right?"

"Yeah."

"Right, then you should probably get a jacket to go with the pants. Let's see what else they have."

Mai went over to where Tea had found the pants and came across a jacket that looked like it was supposed to go with the ones Joey was wearing.

"Alright, lets see how it looks with everything else!"

Joey pulled on the jacket and went back to the mirror to see how it looked.

Perfect.

Everything looked great together! He could tell by looking at Mai and Tea's faces that they agreed with him.

"Joey, you look good!" Tristan proclaimed. "Now all you need is a little spinning bow tie to finish the look and you'll be all set!"

"NO!" Mai, Tea, and Joey said in one voice.

"Okay, it looks like we're all set then." Mai decided. "Joey, go change out of those so we can pay for them. Don't forget to get them dry cleaned before the dance."

"Okay, I'll be right back." A tremendous wave of relief passed over Joey now that this ordeal was over. He'd meant it, he was grateful to the girls for their help, but he could only stand so much of this. He'd felt like a damned dress up doll the whole time! Formal wear was not his thing.

As they left the store a few minutes later, he went over everything else that he had left to do. Dry cleaning was no big deal; he could scrape together a few bucks to have his new stuff done. Bakura had offered to let him use a garment bag his father kept for his own formal suit, saying that he wouldn't mind.

That was when Joey remembered his own father and that if he came home with all these things he would want to know what they were for. How was he going to hide them from him? Lightly tapping Yugi on the shoulder, he pulled his small friend to the back of the group with him.

"Would you mind if I left this stuff at your house?"

Yugi looked puzzled for a moment or two before his eyes widened in understanding.

"Yeah, that'd be okay Joey. I'm sure Grandpa won't mind."

"Thanks man."

From that moment up until the morning Joey left, he decided not to worry too much about anything. He kept busy with the last few weeks of school, (as if anyone does any actual work then), he met Tea at Yugi's house or hers for dance lessons (she assured him he was doing much better), and he just hung out with his friends.

The morning he left his friends had come to see him off (Tristan wearing the ugly sneakers he'd bought) and sent their best wishes to Serenity and her mother. Then Joey spent most of the morning with nothing to do but stare out the window, and think about things. Not something he really liked to do for long stretches of time. It wasn't that he didn't care, or that his mind was an endless void, as some people have accused him of before. It just seemed that too much time alone with his thoughts had a way of making him anxious, or overly think things. Such as where he wanted to live.

"We're here!"

"Huh? Wha-what's up? Where are we?"

Serenity smiled at his question. "You really can't think on an empty stomach, can you?"

"No, actually, the problem was that I was thinking too much just now." He thought to himself, but he only asked again "So, where is here?"

She just tilted her head and smiled at him as she answered. "Home"

A thousand apologies to my readers/reviewers for this many times delayed chapter! I will try to be a better person about updating my stories (all of them!) and get the next chapter out as soon as possible! Didja hear that Mamono?!?! I UPDATED!!!!!! NOW STOP PRODDING ME, OKAY?!?! Seriously though, if I hadn't been so terrible about updating, I might not have gotten e-mails from you asking where the next chapter is and we wouldn't have gotten to be such good pals! See, there is a bright side to this being soo late!

As for the rest of you, go forth and review!!!!!!