This had no beta reader. I apologize for mass piles of crap that may be found in this fanfic.
Warnings: Shojo ai
Mai's house was large, Jounouchi noted. He wondered if she had been the only person who lived there, or if she had roommates or renters, and how much it cost to keep a house that big. There were three floors that all appeared quite capacious from the outside—it was probably a lot of space for just one person. The garden, really just a spacious expanse of trimmed grass with a few tulips planted along the building's wall, was clean and well kept. Thick ivy clung to one corner of the wall, and he suspected that Mai allowed it because she liked the way it looked, despite the fact that the plant was known for ripping buildings apart.
He wondered what it would have been like to be the one living with her.
She didn't give him much time to wonder, because she was out the door and walking toward him almost as soon as he stepped out of the taxi. It wasn't her briskly furious walk that made the heels of whatever shoes she was wearing clack loudly against whatever she was walking on. It was still hurried, but her steps were light and she wanted to talk with him. That was a good sign.
Her hands were shoved into the pockets of a coat that looked like it must have cost more than the rent for his apartment, her cheeks were quickly reddening, and he wondered why she was wearing a skirt that short in such cold. Of course, it was Mai, but Jounouchi didn't understand why women would inconvenience themselves so much for appearances. (She looked beautiful as always, though.)
She slowed down to stand in front of him, not close but not far away enough to make him think his presence wasn't wanted. For a second he waited for her to speak, but then realized that he was the one who needed to hear things from her.
"Is she doing OK?"
Mai nodded, shivered, and spoke. "She's better." A pause, considering how much she should say. "We went shopping today. It's a cure-all." Her breath was visible in the cold, little puffs of smoke that were too light to resemble cigarette smoke. "She keeps asking who helped move her stuff, though."
Jounouchi shivered then too, either from the cold or a combination of the temperature and nervousness. His coat's zipper was broken, and his hands were shoved into his pockets. The fingerless gloves he wore were useless, he decided, and vowed to get a new pair. "You told her it was only you, right?"
Mai nodded. "But she doesn't believe me. And I think it would be better if she knew it was you."
He found the even pavement of the sidewalk to be extremely interesting at that point. Mai's shoes caught his attention; they didn't look like they could keep any heat in them. Her toes must have been freezing. "I…"
"She's not mad at you," Mai cut him off. "I am, but she's not. She just wants somebody to support her. Somebody close. A family member." Mai's voice seemed to demand that he raise his head and look at her. He stubbornly refused to stop studying his shoelaces.
Mai clenched her teeth, remembered to stop because she had a habit of grinding them when she was upset, and tried to press her arms against herself even harder in the vain hope of holding onto some warmth. She exhaled, seeing the condensation float up her cheeks, and shifted her feet. I will not call him a coward, I will not call him a coward.… Restraint was difficult at best. It wasn't hard to act friendly toward Jounouchi, because she'd seen his better side, but at the moment it seemed as though all his common sense had shriveled up and died. Considering recent events as well, it wasn't hard for Mai to grow agitated with the boy very quickly.
"But she has you…"
Mai's hands were gloved in a soft material, and so the slap didn't sting like it should have. "Listen to me, Katsuya." Her eyes were narrowed dangerously and her red lips were stiff. "I know you didn't mean what you did, and I know you didn't think it would turn out this bad. And she knows it too. But she hasn't heard you say it. You are her brother. You are her idol, and if you disapprove of anything she does, she will hate herself for it." The woman breathed loudly. "I wish I was all she needed, because I hate not being able to make her happy. I wish she didn't need other people's approval, because other people are incredibly stupid, but for some reason she cares about them. I wish she didn't need you, because even if you didn't expect her mother to kick her out, you had no right."
If Jounouchi'd had trouble facing her before, now was impossible. He'd been stupid and jealous, and nobody knew that better than he did. If anybody else had told him these things, he would have told them where they could shove it. From Mai, though… he deserved this from Mai, because Shizuka would never yell at him that way. Despite how badly he'd hurt her, Mai was right – his sister wouldn't ever be able to be angry with him. She could be annoyed, or disappointed, but not angry.
Because he'd been jealous and hurt and had made a snide comment about who his sister was dating in front of their mother. He'd told as much to Mai when they were picking up his sister's things. As a result, their mother had emptied Shizuka's entire room, down to the futon and dresser, and dumped all the items on the side of the road. She'd probably hired somebody to do it for her, considering the weight of the dresser. Not even Jounouchi'd been able to pick it up by himself; he and Mai had slowly managed to load it into the pickup truck that Mai had borrowed from a friend. They hadn't been able to get there before some of the items had been taken, but most of his sister's belongings were recovered.
"I thought… that I was the one. For you, I mean," he'd admitted to her as they set the dresser down.
Mai inclined her head. "I know. I should have stopped playing with you sooner."
They'd turned around to retrieve more of Shizuka's belongings. "Why did you even start, if you knew…?"
She began to pick up stuffed animals and clothing. "Because I saw you, Jounouchi. You're the kind of guy a girl would be lucky to have… even though you have your asshole moments. And I saw that. And I wanted to be that girl." She headed back to the truck, followed by Jounouchi carrying the futon.
He didn't respond to that. He didn't know how to respond.
"People do it a lot more than you'd think," she told him. He tilted his head, waiting for her to continue. "Like Yuugi, he tells you he likes Anzu, right?"
Jounouchi brushed the dirt off Shizuka's blanket. "Yeah… wait, you mean—"
"He likes her as a friend, but nothing else. He knows her, though, and he knows she's a good person and a strong woman, and she'd be a wonderful girlfriend. But the person he really likes is that white-haired kid… Bakura, right?"
Jounouchi almost dropped the blanket back onto the ground.
They'd been bantering comfortably then, until Mai turned the conversation toward more serious matters. He'd found himself suddenly lacking his usual courage and despite Mai's efforts at persuasion (which included logical reasoning, cajoling, and insults) he'd refused to see his sister and made Mai promise not to tell Shizuka that he'd helped.
Mai had thought he was being incredibly stupid. She still thought that, and standing in the below-freezing air in a skirt was not helping her temper. But he wasn't going to stop being stupid anytime soon, and so she was going to have to stay calm despite his idiocy.
She let her shoulders untense. "Look, Jounouchi," she started, feeling a bit better now that she'd released her frustration onto him, but also realizing she felt a bit guilty for doing so. He obviously wanted more than anything to be forgiven, she could see, but she also knew what it was like to think you didn't deserve what you wanted most. His current self-loathing was the reason he was refusing to see his sister, because he knew that if he asked, she would forgive him instantly. "You care about Shizuka, and I care about Shizuka. And Shizuka cares about us, and this, it's torture for her. So, we're going to go inside, and you're going to spend the night because she's told me what your apartment is like, and you might need that money for things other than taxi fare, and tomorrow after you've cheered Shizuka up I'm going to give you a ride home."
Jounouchi still didn't say anything.
Over the past week, Mai had been able to see a side of the boy that his friends probably didn't generally think about, if they'd seen it at all. His usual loud and obnoxious demeanor was so different from his current uncertainty. Of course he was more than just a loudmouth—it would be scary if his personality was that flat and two-dimensional—but it was hard to understand unless he proved it. It helped mollify her anger to know that Jounouchi was capable of more than playing the clown and that he hated himself for what he'd done. As the clown, he wouldn't have been able to have those regrets.
"Come on," she offered, one last time. Much as she felt bad for the boy, she wasn't going to wait any longer. "It's cold out here."
Jounouchi looked at the woman, at her house, and then back at the empty road. Mai knew well enough the path his thoughts were taking; she'd mentioned Shizuka, and even if he didn't think he was worth forgiving, he wouldn't want her to be sad if he could prevent it.
"Sure," he shrugged, turning back to face her. "You got anything to eat in there? I haven't had dinner yet."
[je regrette de ne pas être honnêtte]