Author's Note: What if, after Yugi saved Joey and Tristan from that thug, they didn't fit together as seamlessly as what happened in the manga? Don't get me wrong. I love the idea of Yugi protecting them and Joey and Tristan seeing it as a testament of strength or trust or whatever and just falling into step beside him because yeah, that's a good guy to have on your side.
But what if Tristan and Joey are skeptical, because let's be honest, this kid is a dork, but he's a dork with a future, so why would he and his pretty and smart friend want to hang out with a guy who was part of a gang and his friend who got dragged down with him because he was too loyal to save himself? What if Joey and Tristan need more than a stupid kid stopping a thug from beating the shit out of them once; what if they need a kid that can prove that he's always going to be there even after he sees how fucked up they are?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT wow I had the idea but the execution is terrible. Well! \o/
Cookies Are Glue for a Broken Heart
Joey flinched as he heard yelling from inside the game shop and seriously thought about walking to school by himself. This was probably a bad idea anyway. Yugi would be bullied even more if they saw him hanging around with a known thug.
Téa caught him by the sleeve and yanked him closer. "These are things you have to get used to with Yugi as your friend," she told him firmly, but not unkindly. "Besides, this is normal. Yugi gets up on time, but then he does that stupid memory game."
Joey frowned, brows furrowing together. "…I see." He didn't see at all, but he figured he probably never would. His broken family was never going to be fixed.
Yugi stumbled out the door and beamed at them. "Hi, Téa! Hi, Joey!"
"Hi," Téa said cheerfully, because she was normal and used to walking with people. She didn't worry about what people would say if they saw her with someone.
The blond shrugged awkwardly. "Hi."
Yugi opened his mouth to say something else, but then the door opened after him. He blinked in surprise. "Mom?"
"You forgot your lunch," the older woman scolded, but her expression was fond.
The smaller boy smiled up at her. "Oh, thanks, Mom! Have a good day, okay?"
She smiled back and pulled him into a hug, pressing a kiss against his cheek. "I should be telling you that. Study hard, okay?"
"Okay!" he replied cheerfully, taking his lunch and turning back to his friends. "'bye, Mom!"
"You two have a good day as well!" Mrs. Muto said when she noticed the other two. "And make sure Yugi studies! He was doing his sock game this morning instead of his homework!"
Téa laughed and nodded. "Sure thing, Mrs. Muto. Come on, Yugi, or we'll be late."
Joey glanced over his shoulder to give the woman one last glance before following them. "Is somethin' special happenin'?"
Yugi looked up at him in surprise. "No, just a normal Wednesday. Why?"
"Oh. Well, your mom gave ya a hug, so I thought…" He trailed off as Yugi and Téa both looked stunned. "Never mind. It's not a big deal," he muttered, hunching his shoulders and hurrying a few steps ahead of them.
Yugi opened his mouth, but Téa elbowed him before he could actually say anything. When he looked up at her, affronted, she shook her head, brows furrowed together in concern as she shot the blond a confused frown.
"Well of course it would be weird to him," Tristan snapped, rolling his eyes. "His dad is an asshole to him and his mother left with Serenity six years ago. The only one that really hugs him is Serenity, when she visits, and that's not often."
Téa frowned. "But he's always so touchy feely with you."
He sighed. "We were friends before the gang. He knew me before every other touch was a punch."
Yugi felt that right in his stomach. His mom was strict, but she still hugged him and kissed him. Grandpa did, too. And Téa's parents were really supportive of her.
"…I'm going to hug him when he sits down," he decided, nodding firmly.
Tristan looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "I just told you he doesn't get touched like that. Why would you make him uncomfortable on purpose?"
"Well how is he supposed to get comfortable if we don't try?" Yugi retorted.
The brunet rolled his eyes and sighed, but he let it go.
"I can't fuckin' believe Niyazako," Joey snarled, plopping down beside them. "I swear that bastard has it out for me. Well ya know what? He can suck my dick."
"…You didn't do well on the test?" Téa guessed, grimacing at his word choice.
"I studied my fuckin' brain t' mush and I only barely got a C. Man, what's the point of even tryin' if I'm just gonna get bad scores anyway?" he grumbled, chomping into his sandwich with a vengeance.
Téa frowned at him, then brightened up. "Maybe you just need some help. I'm acing math, so I can help you!"
"No," the blond answered flatly.
She plowed on like she didn't hear him. "We can study Tuesdays and Thursdays until you're up to speed."
Joey scowled at her. "I said no."
Téa shot him a look so cold that he shivered and got goose bumps. "I'm not giving you a choice, Joey."
"Uh." He glanced at the other boys frantically, but Tristan was pointedly looking away, and Yugi just gave him a longsuffering look that spoke volumes of his relationship with her. "…Okay."
"Yugi and Tristan can come, too! Their scores are dismal. It'll be a great big study date!" She clapped her hands together, pleased. "I'll bake cookies."
The boys brightened up, because Téa's cookies were legendary.
Tristan raised his eyebrows at Yugi and tilted his head toward the blond, as if daring him.
Yugi admitted momentary defeat, because Joey still looked like he was in a questionable mood and he was almost certain that Joey could punt him from one end of the school to the other without breaking a sweat.
"Well, thanks," Joey said, half-heartedly, because studying sucked but the cookies were good.
Téa beamed at him. "Do you finally understand that Pythagorean theorem?"
Well, he knew how it worked for a right triangle now. "…More or less."
"Glad I could help!" she replied, looking proud of herself.
Joey smiled, because it felt… good, knowing that he'd made her happy just by trying to learn with her.
"See you tomorrow, Joey!" Yugi exclaimed, then darted forward for a hug.
The blond made a wounded noise and lifted his arms out of the way, brows furrowing together in confusion. "What are ya doin'?!"
"I'm hugging you," the smaller boy retorted, as if it were obvious.
Joey felt ashamed for a moment, because it probably was obvious to anyone that wasn't him. He looked up at Tristan and Téa helplessly.
Tristan shrugged and grimaced, motioning for him to just go with the flow.
Joey looked up at the sky and sighed, then hesitantly patted the smaller boy on the head. "Thanks, Yug'." Yugi leaned back and beamed up at him. He felt incredibly uncomfortable.
"Okay, that's probably enough now," Téa finally said, grabbing the younger boy by the collar of his jacket and tugging him away.
Joey was about to sigh with relief, but then she darted forward and pressed a lip-gloss-sticky kiss to his cheek. He flailed backward down the steps, hand flying up to rub the goo from his cheek as he gaped up at her. "What the hell!"
She simply smiled and shrugged. "See you tomorrow!"
Joey stared up at them, jaw hanging open, before he shut it with a click and backed up a couple of steps. He paused, then turned, walking down the pathway to the sidewalk, then turned to peek over his shoulder at them. When he saw they weren't following him, he narrowed his eyes suspiciously and finally turned onto the sidewalk. He gave them one last look, like he was trying to figure out their angle, then ducked his head, hunched his shoulders with a parting wave, and began trudging back home.
But not before Yugi and Téa saw his tiny smile and the way the tips of his ears turned pink.
Téa elbowed Tristan in the ribs, hard. "We'll get him used to us!"
"Ow." He gave her an affronted look and rubbed his side. "Fine, if that's what you want to do, I'm not going to stop you. It's not that I'm trying to discourage you, I'm just—" He sighed, frowning. "…He's been through a lot. And I'm not saying you guys haven't, but you've already seen what it's done to him.
"He doesn't like asking for help, has a terrible temper, pushes your limits so he can get you to push him away like he expects you to. He's just… He's so broken," he whispered, face falling even further. "I wish you could have seen him before his family split up. He was a great kid." He shoved his hands in his pockets and slouched down the steps. "And they just broke his heart."
Téa and Yugi frowned as they watched him walk away.
"I think maybe when Joey's heart broke, it broke Tristan's a little, too," Yugi finally whispered. "And it just kept breaking the further Joey's spirits fell."
Téa nodded decisively. "We'll just have to work twice as hard to put them back together then." She clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on. We're going to stuff them with so many cookies that they get sick of them."
"It's impossible to get sick of your cookies, Téa," he told her sincerely, endlessly loyal.
She tilted her head, then hummed, shrugging. "Yeah, that's true. But it can be a start anyway. We'll go from there." She smiled. "And I'll make an extra sandwich for Joey. He always looks like he's still hungry after he finishes lunch."
Yugi wondered if there was a reason for that, too, but decided that fixing the blond's problems wasn't on the to-do list right now. They needed him to trust them first before Joey would ever let them help him with anything big.