Title: A Love / Hate Relationship With Spring - Chapter 1?
Beta: Jennie B. (She's a saint, I tell ya! A bloody saint!)
Spoilers: Don't think so, no. At least, not in this chapter.
Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh, although for all the money I've spent on it, I could probably own a controlling percentage of the stock...So you corporate fatcats don't sue me and I'll keep buying your stuff, deal?
Summary: Joey Wheeler has no shortage of reasons to hate the season of flowers, butterflies, and rebirth. Can someone unexpected give him a reason to enjoy it as well?
Something felt wrong. Very wrong.
Joey turned his face to the side and hesitantly cracked open one eye.
"Gahhh!" he exclaimed hoarsely as a piercing bright white light penetrated his groggy brain. Turning his face back into his warm, if slightly damp, pillow he groaned and wished away the glowing yellow ball forcing its way through the crooked blinds adorning his one and only bedroom window.
"Fucking daylight savings time..."
Blindly, he reached an arm out from inside his cozy cocoon of blankets and flailed at the offending window covering. The blinds managed to block the majority of offensive sunlight, but were hanging just askew enough to allow a single, irritating ray to strike him full in the face. Unfortunately, Joey's window blinds were no strangers to his frequent abuse and today's efforts were the final straw. As Joey scrunched himself closer to the edge of the bed preparing for one final vindictive swing at his enemy, the bracket above the window gave way on its own and Joey's bedroom was flooded with glorious spring sunshine.
After that, Joey's Saturday morning only went downhill. Finally deciding the best offense was a good defense, Joey retreated under the covers, pillow and all, and had just achieved the nirvana of peaceful slumber when a harsh jangling sound accompanied by an equally harsh, yet familiar, voice called,
"Jooooeeeeyyyy! Are you up yet? It's almost noon! Wakey wakey!"
Joey indulged a brief fantasy in which he banished his best friend to the shadow realm before answering sulkily, "Go ' way Yug! ' M sleepin' here!"
The sound of booted footsteps paused outside his bedroom door. "If you didn't wish for me to come over unannounced, then you probably shouldn't have had a key made for me," came Yami's amused voice. "Now get out of bed and get dressed; we're going to meet Tristan and Tea at the park in half an hour. That dreadful month-long monstrosity you people call "March" is over with, and I want to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts."
Realizing that Yugi wasn't going to do the decent, compassionate thing and leave him alone, Joey grunted, "I hate spring. There's sunshine, and bugs, and pollen, and bugs. Besides, everyone and their grandma's gonna be at the park today. This is the first sunny day we've had in a week, and there'll be bratty kids everywhere. Trust me, the park's the last place you wanna be today." Joey raised his head and craned an ear toward the door, fervently praying his pleas would have the desired effect on the pharaoh.
"Joey, please get up and come with me. I want to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather with my best friend. I didn't realize that was asking too much..."
Yugi's plaintive whine was starting to break through his defenses. He could feel the devastating effect of the sad, wide-eyed violet gaze all the way through the door and across the room. Joey rolled his eyes. He was starting to crumble...
"Stop rolling your eyes and get your sorry ass up," Yami grouched.
"Stop switchin' back and forth just to annoy me, and I might!" After several half-hearted attempts, Joey managed to kick his tangled bedcovers to the floor and, with considerable effort, levered himself up on his elbows to call "Alright, alright, I'm gettin' up! Y'don't have to stand outside the door all day y'know. C'mon in, I'm decent."
"That remains to be seen," replied Yami sardonically, and seconds later the door burst open to admit a blurry ball of dark leather and spiky hair. The ball landed forcefully on top of Joey, a small knee coming perilously close to slamming into his groin, which would have made his rotten Saturday morning infinitely worse. As it was, his bladder protested Yugi's treatment mightily.
"Oof! Oh man, get offa me; I really gotta pee!" With a frantic shove, a giggling Yugi was rolled off the end of the bed to land with a thud on the hardwood floor. Joey bolted straight for the bathroom door, his progress impeded a number of times from tripping over dirty laundry strewn about the room. As he rounded the corner headed for the bathroom, Joey's foot slipped on a discarded Duel Monsters magazine. His feet flew out from under him, and he landed on his tailbone with a spectacularly loud crash.
Joey quickly scrambled to his feet, tugged at his sliding boxer shorts, and disappeared around the corner not bothering to shut the bathroom door behind him. "Owwwww! Oh, that's SO gonna leave a bruise..."
"What's one more amongst the many?" Yami spoke darkly inside Yugi's head, his words accompanied by a mental image of his friend's cut and bruised body as he had witnessed it just moments ago. Yugi's sunny mood was dampened slightly by dwelling on the unavoidable facts of his best friend's home life, and although he usually affected not to notice for Joey's benefit, he opened his mouth and spoke deliberately, "Hey Joey, what was the name of that kid you said you rescued from that bunch of bullies the other day? I think he might be in my geometry class."
Joey's head appeared in the doorway, his brow wrinkling. "Huh? Oh, oh yeah. Nah, I don't think you know him; his name was uh, Lawrence something-or-other. He's a sophomore I think, so you probably wouldn't have any classes with him," Joey flashed a crooked grin at his friend and then ducked back into the bathroom. Various articles of clothing flew by the open doorway as Joey muttered to himself, searching for something clean to wear.
"That's funny, since just yesterday you told me the kid you bailed out was a freshman named Danny something-or-other. Do you think they could be brothers?" Yugi raised his eyebrows questioningly and waited.
The flurry of activity in the bathroom ceased suddenly and heavy silence ruled for the space of two heartbeats. Joey came out of the bathroom wearing a pair of faded jeans and sat down on the edge of the bed above Yugi.
Avoiding his friend's gaze, Joey stared down at his hands resting in his lap and took a deep breath. He raised his head and gazed sightlessly at the far wall. "Why you givin' me a hard time about this, Yug?" Joey turned his head slowly and peered down at Yugi from under tousled blond bangs, shoulders slumping. "My word not good enough for ya anymore?"
Yugi hadn't counted on the fact that his voicing aloud what everyone surrounding the blond already knew would have such a profound effect on his friend's demeanor. Belatedly, he realized that Joey's naive insistence that his friends were clueless about his situation was a defense mechanism that he used to protect himself.
"Protect himself from what?" Yugi mused, temporarily stunned into silence, "I only want to help."
"From your pity, Aibou," Yami countered gently, "He never wanted that, and you should honor his wishes in that regard. When he's ready, he'll ask for our help. Until then, be his friend and reassure him that he is also yours."
"I - I'm sorry Joey. I guess I was just confused for a minute. I must be thinking of something Tristan was telling me." Yugi knew he didn't sound the least bit convincing in his lie, but hoped it would be enough to put Joey's mind at ease. For now. He looked up with a reassuring smile plastered to his face, and was relieved to see it returned tentatively by Joey.
"Yeah Yug', you can be a real ditz sometimes." Yugi gave an indignant squawk, grabbed the nearest clothing article within reach, and hurled it full force into Joey's grinning face. Joey snatched it out of the air just before impact and continued taunting the smaller boy, "No offense and all, but everyone knows that Yami's the brains of this outfit. You're more like the...uh, mascot." Joey had the good grace to blush and look slightly apologetic before glancing down at his hands. "Oh hey, I was lookin' for this shirt!"
After a bit more good natured teasing on both their parts, and a great deal more procrastinating on Joey's, the two teens made their way out of Joey's apartment building. After travelling several blocks in the warm spring sunshine, Joey's spirits were beginning to lift a little in spite of himself. At least, that is, until the sneezing started.
"Wah... wha... whu... hahhh...ah, ah, HA-CHOOOO!" Joey paused in his steps to press his forehead against the cool, red brick of the closest building, rubbing his nose and blinking furiously.
"Man, are you ok?" Tristan asked anxiously, jogging from across the street to join them.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm good. Just stunned m'self. Damned allergies," Joey muttered, swiping the back of his hand across his tearing eyes.
"My mom hit a mailbox once."
Amused at Tristan's non sequitur, both Joey and Yugi looked at him expectantly, awaiting further explanation. "Huh? Oh, she uh, sneezed while she was driving. She ran off the road and flattened a mailbox. It was wicked funny."
The boys all laughed at the mental image of Tristan's prim and proper mother mowing down helpless mailboxes until Joey began experiencing an odd twitching sensation in his nose yet again. The small group paused outside the entrance to Domino City Park as Joey bent over slightly, resting his weight on his hands just above his knees and staring intently at the ground.
Tristan cupped his hands around his mouth and intoned to the world at large, "Look out, he's gonna blow!" Not raising his head, Joey retorted with a middle-fingered salute in Tristan's general direction.
Yugi furrowed his face and looked around briefly before spotting Tea just inside the gate and waving her over.
"Hey guys! Took you long enough to get here!" Tea admonished with a bright smile before turning her attention to Joey's predicament, "Um Joey, is everything alright?"
"Allergies," Yugi and Tristan informed her in unison. The word was spoken in such solemn tones, it was as if they were informing her Joey had only weeks to live.
Joey pinched the bridge of his nose and tried pressing his eyes tightly closed to clear his blurry vision. "You guys go on without me; I'll only slow you down. Go. Have fun frolicking or whatever the hell you crazy people do outside on sunny days. I'll stay here until my sinuses clear up."
"No! We're not leaving a man behind! You can make it, Joe! It's only a little bit farther!" Tristan energetically mimed, alternately karate-chopping, kicking and shooting unseen enemies as he yelled, pausing only to grab Joey around the waist from behind and twirl him around several times. "If we can just take the next hill, we'll be back in neutral territory! Just stay with me, man! We'll get you a med evac - dammit, don't you die on me!" Tristan set a dizzy Joey back down on his feet and leapt over a nearby hedge. "This way men!" He hit the dirt, popping his head above the greenery to gauge his startled friends' reactions.
While Yugi and Tea goggled at Tristan's outburst, Joey opened his mouth to either laugh or tell Tristan off; he wasn't sure which. But instead, he inhaled something evil and microscopic that made his nose and throat tickle warningly.
"Oh shit. Uhh...ahh...whoo..." Joey doubled over yet again, shaking his head frantically back and forth as if to deny what was about to happen. "Hahhh... hee..." The pressure was building agonizingly slowly; this eruption was going to make the previous one look dainty in comparison.
A pair of black boots adorned with buckles suddenly appeared on the sidewalk in Joey's line of vision. Still shaking his head in a futile effort to dislodge the sneeze, he heard a dreadfully familiar, snide voice above him sneer, "I think you losers had better get that mutt to a vet. It looks as if he's finally contracted rabies."
Joey had only a split-second in which to panic before he briefly lost all awareness of the world around him, "Hehh...ahhh...WAH-CHOOO!" The explosion caused his knees to give out from under him, and he was treated to the quick, yet immensely satisfying, image of those expensive boots thoroughly splattered with a variety of viscous fluids.
"Heh. I did that," Joey thought insanely before his brain shut down in the face of imminent collapse. Drained and relieved, he flopped over onto his side and gazed sheepishly up at the crowd gathered around him. His friends looked down at him in mute horror and he was almost certain he could see his own impending demise reflected back at him.
The two new arrivals, however, had totally different reactions to Joey's predicament. Mokuba, nearly eclipsed in his brother's looming shadow, was flat on his back laughing hysterically, sneakered feet kicking helplessly in sync with his loud, wheezing laughter.
Seto Kaiba, on the other hand, stood stock-still, gazing down at his boots with an almost confused expression sliding over his face. "The hell...?"
As Joey watched in a detached haze, Kaiba's face morphed into an expression of apoplectic rage as he turned his head to meet Joey's still-watering eyes. Kaiba's mouth opened and closed several times before finally forming the word "Mutt..." But that was all he got out. Moving like lightning, he reached down and grabbed the front of Joey's t-shirt with both hands. The hapless teen was hauled upright to face the enraged CEO eye-to-eye, his feet dangling several inches above the ground.
He was sure that this was exactly the kind of situation in which his life should be flashing before his eyes, but instead of taking this time to reflect on his past triumphs and regrets, Joey opened his mouth and said conversationally, "Hiya Moneybags. Lovely day, ain't it?" He was dimly aware of a chorus of startled gasps from his friends as Kaiba's dark blue gaze narrowed.