Can't Hurt to Ask – Chapter 1 : Friendship and Trust
Disclaimer: I don't own YuGiOh or any deliberate/accidental references to anything else.
Notes: This story is rather silly. I've wanted to write something like this for a while; I'm throwing my more refined writing out the window and concentrating on cute, goofy fluff. As per the dub this is taking place in California, otherwise it wouldn't be very culturally accurate; the dance is based entirely on my own school experiences.
"Community service hours?" Joey asked, staring up at Téa.
She bent her head down to roll her eyes at him. "Mno," she said through a mouthful of thumbtacks.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," Joey cracked, snickering to himself. Téa cupped her hand and let the thumbtacks fall into them carefully before turning to him with an annoyed pout.
"You think you're so funny," she said, shaking her head. Bracing her shoulder against the poster, holding it to the wall, she quickly shoved the thumbtacks through the paper and into the cork board behind it. Once she'd added support on all four corners, she stepped down the ladder and tilted her head, admiring her handiwork.
"It's crooked," Joey said, pointing up.
"It is not!" She shoved him in the shoulder playfully. "Come on, admit it. It looks great."
"Yeah, it's nice," he said, leaning against the ladder and studying the poster. "Did you make it?"
"No, someone on Student Council did. But she had softball practice after school today so I said I'd hang it."
The poster, done in cheery tones of silver, blue, green, and pink, advertised the Spring Fling. The Fling was the dance held at Domino High School every mid-April. Come for dancing, food, and fun! the poster urged. $10 for singles, $18 for couples.
"You are going to the dance, right?" Téa questioned, putting away the unused thumbtacks.
"Of course!" Joey pointed to the first line. "Hello? Food? I'm there."
She laughed, grabbing the ladder and dragging it down the hall. "Help me put this back in the janitor's closet," she called over her shoulder.
"Sure thing," Joey said, grabbing the other end of the ladder and helping her carry it. "So you stayed after to hang the poster up?"
"Yeah," she responded, grinning at him through the rungs. "I figured it'd be nice to help out."
"Like you don't do enough already," he joked, squeezing through the door and depositing the ladder in the corner of the small closet. Téa placed the box of thumbtacks on a shelf, and they exited together.
"So why are you staying after?" she questioned. "You're usually out of here like a rocket. You didn't get a detention, did you?"
"No," Joey shot back, making a face at her. "I can stay out of trouble when I want to, thank you very much."
"Riiight," she replied, hiding a smile. "Then why are you here?"
"Eh." He scratched his neck sheepishly. "Yugi's helping me with that algebra homework. Miss Pederson said we could use her classroom if we were just going to study."
"Where is Yugi now?" she wondered innocently.
"Probably back in the classroom," Joey responded, shrugging elaborately.
Téa stopped walking and crossed her arms, giving him a disapproving look. "You left him alone? After he stayed after to tutor you?"
"I heard you being all noisy in the hallway," Joey defended. "I had to see what was up."
She sighed and shook her head, grabbing him by the sleeve. "Come on, back to work, Wheeler."
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Joey whined as she dragged him down the hallway.
"Oh. Hi, guys," Yugi said, looking up as they entered the math classroom together. "Joey, I figured out what your problem was. This is a one, not a seven."
"You can't do your homework because you can't read your handwriting?" Téa asked, rolling her eyes as Joey dubiously looked his notebook over.
"It could happen to anyone," Yugi said, smiling at her and shrugging.
"Yeah, but it would only happen to Joey," Tristan said, sticking his head in the door.
"Hey," Téa said, surprised. "What are you doing after school too?"
"Studying math," Tristan mumbled sheepishly.
Téa crossed her arms and tapped her foot, mock-glaring at him. "So you abandoned Yugi too?"
"I don't mind," her small friend said earnestly. "They were only gone for a second. I had a chance to look over Joey's notebook. He actually understands a lot of this stuff, he should just take more notes in class."
"Well, there's a shocker," Téa smirked, as Joey crossed his arms and huffed.
"I was just getting a drink," Tristan declared, holding the bottle triumphantly aloft, as proof of his ventures. "I was really thirsty, and doing algebra always gives me a craving for sugar. Or a hamburger, but they don't have vending machines for those. Hey, Téa, did you see the posters in the hall?"
"I hung one of those," she responded proudly.
"The dance is on a Saturday this year," Tristan remarked. "They usually hold it on Fridays. I guess they got sick of all the girls who'd leave school early for their hair appointments."
Téa rolled her eyes as Joey and Tristan sniggered back and forth. Yugi smiled tolerantly, flipping through the textbook and searching for problems. "How about this one, Joey?" he suggested, pointing to number 28 in the section review.
Joey glanced it over and made a face. "This says 'trigonometry'," he complained, pointing at the heading on the page.
"Trigonometry is related to algebra," Yugi said patiently. "Since this is algebra year two, we're studying a little trigonometry before we actually start the trig classes."
"Eh…" Joey stared at the book, at a loss. "What's a cosine?"
Téa crossed her arms disapprovingly. "What were you doing the last two days? Sleeping?"
"Who asked you," he shot back, sticking his tongue out at her. "But since you were wondering… I was playing paper football with Tristan! Right, buddy?"
They all looked over at Tristan, but he paid them no attention. He was resting his chin on the soda bottle, staring dreamily off into space.
"Tristan?" Joey wondered, sticking his hand in his friend's face. "What're you thinking about that made you get that goofy smile?"
"The Spring Fling?" Téa guessed. Immediately, Tristan jerked up and started blushing.
"So you were!" Joey crowed triumphantly, and abruptly his smile disappeared. "Waitasec. If you are even thinking about taking my baby sister to the dance…"
"I… wasn't!" Tristan floundered defensively. "I was just thinking about Devlin, that's all."
"Duke?" Téa asked, an amused smirk playing across her lips. "Why? Are you going to take him to the dance?"
As Joey guffawed and gave Téa a high-five, Tristan smacked his soda bottle on the desk and glared at them. "No. I just hope he doesn't get to Serenity first, that's all."
"What?" Joey yelped, and Téa wisely backed away. She sat on top of Yugi's desk, shrugging at him.
"Are you going to the dance, Téa?" Yugi asked, smiling at her and shoving the textbook away.
"So I take it you've given up on algebra with those two?" she asked, giving the book a sidelong glance. "And to answer your question, yes! Of course I'll be there!"
"Are you bringing a date?" Yugi wondered aloud.
She felt the red heat rising in her cheeks, but stubbornly pushed it away. "Um- well, you see… I don't know."
"Don't know?" Yugi asked quizzically, tilting his head.
"See…" Téa blew out a breath, nervously playing with her bangs. "I sort of had someone in mind. But I don't think he'd be very interested in going with me."
"What?" Yugi asked, sounding shocked. "Who wouldn't want to go with you?"
She ducked her head, shrugging. "I don't really want to talk about it…" she mumbled. Téa peeked at Yugi through her curtain of hair: he looked nothing but concerned. But an ominous feeling had been rising in her stomach, and she wanted to get things out in the open. "Um, you didn't ask because, you know…"
It took Yugi a few moments to get it, and he hastily covered an undignified squeak with a cough. "No! I mean, of course I like you as a friend, but I wasn't planning for us to go together. I mean, if none of us have dates…" he motioned to a still-arguing Joey and Tristan- "We could go as a group, but…"
"Okay," she said, interrupting him and looking relieved.
"Anyway," Yugi said, shaking off how flustered he was and smiling at her again. "I'd give you advice, but I really don't think you need it, Téa."
"Oh? What would you say, then? Just out of curiosity?" she grinned, leaning towards him.
"Follow your heart," Yugi said seriously. "And never be afraid of it. If you're nervous… you might lose out."
She was quiet for a moment, then flashed him a brilliant smile. "Thanks, Yugi. I think I needed to hear that."
"Joey," Yugi said loudly, reaching over and catching his friend's sleeve. "We're not going to get any more work done. Want to walk home together?"
Joey glanced over. "Yeah, sure Yug." He started gathering his stuff together, addressing Tristan in an apparent continuation of their argument. "And Mai is off dueling in Europe, so even if I did want to ask her- which I don't- I couldn't! So there!"
Téa grabbed Tristan's arm before he could retort. "Come on, big guy," she said playfully. "Walk me home."
Tristan glanced at her. "Téa, your house is right on the way to mine."
"Lucky you," she winked. "Things should be easier that way."
He laughed and slung an arm around her shoulders, dragging her close to him and bending her neck in a most painful manner. "See you guys," he called over his shoulder. Yugi was gathering up his books, but bobbed his head up and down happily, and Joey made a face at his friend and saluted Téa. "Later!"
They walked out the door- rather, Tristan nearly dragged Téa out the door- and Yugi finished cleaning up. Joey had already crammed everything into his backpack and was slinging it over one shoulder. "So, you excited about the dance?" Joey asked, glancing at Yugi out of the corner of his eye.
"Sure," Yugi replied, shrugging. "So who do you think Téa's mystery guy is?"
Joey made a face. "As long as it's not someone else who wants to kill you. Maybe it's Marik…"
Yugi rolled his eyes upward, blowing irritably at his blonde bangs. "I doubt it."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Joey said solemnly. "You know what Téa's like… she gets all excited about making a new friend, 'specially if he's already an outcast."
Yugi shook his head, amused with his friend's antics. "Very funny, Joey. So are we going together like always? As a group? You, me, Tristan, maybe Téa if she doesn't have a date… maybe even Duke. Unless he invites your sister," he added, grinning. He meant it to be teasing, but Joey's eyes widened in real panic.
"Aw, man," he moaned. "I've got to do something! I need to think…"
"Good luck," Yugi grinned, suppressing a snicker, but the joke went right over Joey's head.
"I've got it!"
Yugi raised an eyebrow. "That was pretty fast, Joey. Now if only you could apply yourself like this to math-"
"You can ask Serenity to the dance!"
"…or maybe not," Yugi's voice trailed off weakly. "I'd hate to see how you'd mangle trigonometry like this."
"Yugi, what are you talking about?" Joey asked, glancing down. "Seriously, listen to me. You can take Serenity to the Spring Fling! We can call her from your house right away. Then Tristan can't take her, Duke can't take her, and I can still hang out with her at the dance! It's perfect."
"Why does it make a difference if I take her instead of Tristan?" Yugi protested.
"So you'll do it?"
"Joey! That wasn't the question!"
"You said it yourself, there's no difference if you take her. So will you?"
"C'mon, Yugi!" Joey turned pleading eyes on the shorter duelist. "As a favor? To your best friend?"
Yugi opened his mouth to reasonably point out that Tristan would be a very courteous date, that Tristan would never try anything funny with Serenity, and that the redhead would probably prefer going with Tristan anyway. But to his horror, his lips parted and a voice that wasn't his came out smoothly, "Absolutely. I'd be delighted to."
"Excellent!" Joey punched the air with his fist. If he noticed the sudden change in behavior, he didn't say anything about it. "I'll call her; I know her number," he said, dashing ahead and barreling up the steps into the Game Shop like he lived there with a shouted "Hey, Gramps!". Yugi followed slowly, his jaw hanging open.
'Yami!' he sent in abject horror. 'Why did you just do that?'
'As a favor to a friend, of course,' his darker half replied, all too smoothly.
'As a favor to who?' Yugi asked suspiciously.
'Joey! Of course.'
'Stop saying 'of course'. Nothing about this is 'of course'. You realize you just volunteered me to take my best friend's little sister to a dance? As a date?'
'If it bothers you so much, I'll be glad to take your place that night,' Yami replied with forced innocence.
Yugi paused halfway up the stairs. 'Waaaait… is that what all this is about?'
'I have no idea what you're talking about.'
'Yeah, I bet you don't. Joey is going to pummel you, you know that, right?'
'I promise to be a perfect gentleman.'
'So you admit it!'
'I said nothing.'
'You like her!'
'She's a very nice girl.'
'Joey is going to kill you.'
Silence. Yugi shook his head, his eyes wide and thoughtful, and resumed climbing up the stairs. Joey was already in the Game Shop, leaning against the counter and talking on the phone. Grandpa was wiping off the counter and waved to Yugi as he entered the room, then took his rag to the back room to dust off the shelves.
"Yeah, I've missed you too," Joey was saying. "So anyway, good luck with that spelling test! Now, Yugi wants to talk to you."
His face paled as Joey handed over the receiver, a puzzled "What?" floating up from the other end. "You didn't tell her about the dance?" Yugi hissed, reluctantly accepting the phone.
"That's for you, as her date, to explain," Joey said patiently. "Come on, get on with it!"
Gulping, Yugi slowly lifted the phone to his ear. "Hi, Serenity. How are you doing?" He was blushing furiously, he could tell.
"Um… fine?" she tried. He thought she might be blushing as well, on the other end. He wondered fleetingly if she had any idea what was coming.
"Listen, my school is having a dance next Saturday and…" his voice suddenly stopped. His mouth kept moving, forming the words 'and Joey wants me to take you so you can come without worrying about Tristan or Duke fighting over you,' but they made no sound. Instead, for the second time that day, Yami picked up the flow for him. "And I'd be honored if you would accompany me."
He heard a muffled gasp from the other end. Then, slowly, Serenity asked, "Does this have anything to do with my brother?"
"Yes," Yugi replied, glad he could speak for himself again. "He was wondering if you'd mind coming with me." 'Was that tactful enough for you?' he demanded of Yami, slightly miffed.
'You're always tactful,' Yami sent back in way of an apology. 'I'm sorry for taking control. I just thought it might be a good idea if I asked Serenity myself, seeing as I am the one interested in her.'
'So you admit you like her,' Yugi said halfheartedly. He cleared his throat. Serenity had just replied. "Sorry- I missed that."
"I said if you don't mind, I'd love to go," she repeated, sounding a bit more relieved. "I'm sure the dance will be fun."
"There's free food," Joey said excitedly, plucking the phone from Yugi's hands now that his best friend had completed the required task. "Well, once you pay to get in, of course."
"Pay. I almost forgot," Serenity said suddenly; Yugi could just barely hear her voice.
"Tell her I'll pay," he said hurriedly. "I am supposed to be the date, after all. I'd better start acting the part."
"Aw, Yug, I couldn't make you do that-" Joey began to protest.
"Oh yes he can," Grandpa said, suddenly appearing in the doorway again. Yugi's face flared red, realizing that he must have heard the entire exchange. "Yugi has a paycheck coming, anyway."
"Grandpa, I don't get paid for watching the Game Shop," he said, confused.
"Well, then, I'm raising your allowance," he said with finality, giving both boys a wink. "Yugi, you've been working extra hours lately, to give me more free time. You deserve a little something extra."
Yugi blushed furiously, both at his Grandpa's praise and the shrug Joey gave at the telephone. "Are you there?" Serenity was asking.
"Yeah, sorry," Joey apologized. "I got sidetracked. Yugi said he'd pay, and there's no use arguing- we already had this conversation." Yugi smiled weakly.
"Um, all right," Serenity said. She still sounded slightly confused. "Tell Yugi thanks and that I'll see him there. I can get a ride from mom."
"Yugi, she'll see you there and she can get a ride from our mom," Joey recited obediently. He heard his little sister giggle.
"I'll see you there too," she added, her voice brightening. "It's next Saturday, right?"
"Yep. In, like, ten days," Joey guessed. "Because today's Wednesday."
"Okay. See you then. 'Bye, Joey."
"Take care, Serenity."
They hung up the phone on opposite ends. Joey turned to Yugi and flashed him the peace sign. "Thanks," he said earnestly. "But will you stop moping around? It's not like taking my sister to a dance is such an awful thing!" He put his hands on his hips and scowled.
Yugi felt a sudden surge of guilt. 'Maybe I should just let you take over,' he thought sourly at Yami. "You're right," he said seriously. "I'll have fun taking Serenity. Thanks for trusting me."
"Of course I can trust you not to make any moves on her!" Joey grinned, clapping Yugi on the back. He must have seen the sudden worry in the smaller boy's eyes, however, and suddenly realized that there might be more to Yugi's hesitation. "I can trust you… right?"
End note: This story is finished; there are three total chapters. I'll post the next one in a week (unless, of course, everyone hates this, heh). Next chapter focuses much more on Téa and her mystery crush (although, really, if you read the summary, you already know who that is, and that's probably why you're reading the story in the first place).