A/N: Sorry to The RainWALKER. You're right, it was an accident. ^^;; I corrected it as soon as I saw the review. Which I would have told you, only you keep reviewing anonymously. It'd be nice if you'd sign in or leave an email address or something so I could properly reply to your reviews.
Last chapter! Ready?
She turned away from him, eyes closed.
"Mai!" Jounouchi cried. She stood motionless. He began to panic-- no, he had been panicking for the last half hour. He felt like everything that mattered to him in the world was about to disappear forever. In just a second, he could think of very little he'd have to live for himself. Would he follow her? His head was spinning. Inside, he cursed himself for his own uselessness. Maybe he deserved to go with her, if he couldn't stop her. Why couldn't he DO anything?
Jounouchi watched her, still standing on the ledge. He swore he saw her foot move and something in him snapped. Whether she had really been about to jump or not, neither of them could say. Maybe she would have stopped at the last second. Maybe she was stopping right now, that her minute-long pause was really indecision instead of her savoring one last moment of life. Jounouchi didn't take the time to think about any of that. He just acted.
"NO!" he bellowed, startling her. She glanced over her shoulder to see Jounouchi sprinting towards her, faster than he'd ever run in his life. He threw himself forward and wrapped his arms around her waist. She looked down at him, shocked.
"What're you doing?!" Mai cried. She struggled against him. He clung to her.
"I'm not..." Jounouchi grunted, grappling with her. She hit him as he tried to haul her back to the roof.
"...going to let you..." Now she started to pry his fingers loose. He pulled as much as he could without knocking them off balance and throwing them over the edge.
"...do this, Mai!" Jounouchi shouted. She kept fighting against him, and for a moment, she broke free. Jounouchi swore his heart stopped as he watched her slip away from him. He leapt onto the edge of the roof and grabbed her wrist. She was so far gone, though, that they both started to fall forward. With a loud yell, Jounouchi pulled her back towards him, wrapping his other arm behind her back, pressing her to him, while letting himself fall backwards. The sudden shift in weight had the desired effect. Mai fell on top of Jounouchi, both of them landing with a heavy thud on the roof.
"Now will you stop?!" Jounouchi gasped. The landing had knocked the wind out of him. Mai didn't respond at first, only tried to pull away from him. Jounouchi held her, literally, for dear life. If she hadn't been trying to kill herself he might've enjoyed being able to hold her. Memories of Jean-Claude Magunm and a ridiculous stunt double flashed through his mind. Mai trying to punch him in the stomach brought him back.
"Let go," she protested, still struggling. "You've got no right--!"
"I've got no right?!" he shouted back. "You're not the only one this affects. There're people who care about you, Mai!"
"Like you?! Then where have you been the past three years?" she cried, hitting him. "I don't care how you feel, but don't lie to me! You never came back; you can't tell me you still care!" She hit him, but Jounouchi clung, the stronger of the two.
"You left me all alone! Everyone left me! I've got nothing, nothing good enough to keep me here when he tortures me every night, let go, let me stop it, I can't do anything else..." Her voice was breaking, bordering on hysterical. "Please, let me go, let me GO! Stop--"
"But I did come after you!" he protested. "Eventually. I thought you needed time."
"Three years?!" she cried, giving up on hitting him, and trying to pull away. He held her back. "You come after me NOW, and you think--"
"No!" he shouted. "I didn't... I couldn't wait that long! It was maybe a month after we... last saw each other."
She stopped struggling. "What?"
"I looked for you everywhere!" he said. "Every tournament you were in, I went after you, but you were never around. I went all over Japan, I went to America--"
"Liar!" she fought again. "You're just saying that! You always LIED to me--"
The truth of that burned into him, but he kept going. "--hell, I went to China and found Vivian Wong! She says... dammit, what was it..." Jounouchi tried to think of the message that could save them. "Uh... 'I want a rematch after you settle things with him'."
Mai froze. "You saw Vivian?"
"I know I should've kept looking, but I thought you didn't want to be found."
"I didn't want to be found," she choked out, biting back more sobs. Her voice threatened to break every few words. "I-I stayed in Varon's house. He was long gone, traveling the world, and he gave me the key before I left. I figured... no one'd find me there. I didn't... think you'd come after me."
"I'm sorry," he said. Neither of them said anything for an age. Mai scoffed quietly.
"Stupid," she muttered at him, voice rising, still on the verge of tears.. "You always blame yourself. Did you ever think that this wasn't about you at all?"
"You wouldn't be trying to punch me if you thought it was," he replied grimly. She answered by trying to pull away from him.
"Not what I think! This doesn't have anything you do with you!" She tried again. "Just let me go!"
"No!" he shouted back, holding on. "Maybe it's not because of me, but it has everything in the world to do with me. I... I care about you, Mai..."
"Not another word!" She cut him off.
"Stop!" she said sharply. There was a pause, then she spoke again, her voice softer. "No, Jounouchi... I'm scared. You don't know what I've been going through, and when you talk like that... it makes me want to stay here."
"Well... that's good, right?"
"You don't understand," she said in a tiny, scared voice. Jounouchi saw her hands clenching his shirt, and realized with a start that she was holding on to him. "I can't get it out of my head. I've tried everything. I can't even tell you how many doctors I've seen, how much money I've wasted on therapists and medicine... I tried to get in touch with the Ishtars, but I'm afraid to talk to Malik, and I can't get a hold of Ishizu... Jounouchi, please," she begged. "After Battle City--before Doom--it wasn't all the time. Maybe once a week. Then it got more often. It was every night. So I slept in the day, I was fine... but now I can't sleep without seeing him.
"I don't even wake up from it." Her head was lowered, but Jounouchi could feel the hot tears on his neck. She snifled, trying to hide them. "I just keep sleeping while he tortures me," her voice started to break.
"Mai..." Jounouchi wanted to say something comforting. He wanted nothing more than to take it all away from her, but he had no idea what to do. He couldn't say that she was right to kill herself... but he couldn't say that he wouldn't try it, either, if he was tortured to death every night. "Is... is there anything I can do?"
The question hung in the air while Mai tried to compose herself. Jounouchi hoped.
"Let go," she whispered. Jounouchi squeezed his eyes shut. Oh, god... The image of her lying spread-eagle on the ground slid into his head again. He felt something prickling the corners of his eyes. He realized, horrified, he was probably strengthening her resolve to kill herself by making her talk about it.
"Please," she begged. He'd never heard her so pitiful before.
"No," he stammered. "Don't ask me something like that."
"Please... I'm begging..."
"I can't!" Jounouchi shouted. He squeezed his eyes shut, but the tears ran anyway. "I can't..." he mumbled, fighting with the image of her lying dead on the ground. He felt something cool on his face and opened his eyes.
"Please. For me." She took his face in her hands. Jounouchi tried to refuse again, but words failed him. She looked right into his eyes, and he felt everything melting away. How long had he waited for this...! And she wanted him to give it back?
"No," he pleaded with her. She let go of him and buried her face in his chest. "There's got to be some other way. Got to be... something..." he couldn't think straight. She was sobbing into his shirt, shaking her head.
"No!" she cried. "It won't end! I've tried everything! Don't make me go back, Jou, please don't make me go through it anymore... you always protected me, Jounouchi, make it stop!"
"I can't just..." Jounouchi started to protest lamely. He sat up, still holding onto her. She didn't seem to care. iMake it stop./i A crazy idea popped into his head. A crazy, conceited, probably impossible thought. It would hurt her if it didn't work. But it might buy him time. Oh, he was being a selfish, arrogant, inconsiderate jerk right now.
He didn't care.
"Mai," he started. "W-what if I can help?"
She looked up at him. "What?"
"I don't know if it'd work... but I could try," he added hastily, his plan forming. "You said you were afraid of being alone, right? Well, what if you weren't alone? I could stay with you, and... I dunno, I'd be there if you woke up, and I could... I could..." She looked up at him. "I could do something!" he finally said, throwing his hands up. "I'll do anything, Mai. I'll stay with you, and I won't ever leave. When you're afraid, I'll be there. I'll make it work. I'll be damned if I'm gonna let Malik beat either of us ever again. Mai, please. I..." he swallowed the rest of the sentence, knowing she didn't want to hear it.
"You'd do that?" she asked, unsure. "You'd come when I call, or stay with me through the night, deal with me when I'm a mess... when I'm like this..."
"Anything." Did he dare hope that this was working? "Say the word, and I'll do it, I'm there."
"Jounouchi..." she sighed. "I've been through so much. Don't promise and leave me--"
"Who do you think I am?" Jounouchi cut in. "Mai! I stood up to Ra! I dueled Malik, and nearly died. When you were with Doom...!" She lowered her head. "I... do I really need to say all this?"
"No," she whispered, head down. Jounouchi felt a pang of guilt for bringing up Doom.
She hesistated, finally said in a tiny voice, "What if I dream again? I can't take it anymore, Jou, not even once more."
He couldn't pretend that he could help with that one. It was all up to her. "Yes, you can, Mai," he comforted. "You're strong."
"No," she pleaded, shaking her head and looking down, away from his eyes. "I'm not, don't tell me I am, Jounouchi."
"You're strong enough to still be here with me, aren't you?" He gently tilted her chin up, so she could look at him.
"No..." she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "That's just 'cause you're stopping me."
"I haven't been for a while now, Mai." He kept up his calm, confident bravado, praying that she wouldn't take the chance to jump. She whirled around to see his hands no longer wrapped around her waist. She looked back up to him, tearful and confused.
"You..." Jounouchi fought to keep his voice level. "Y-you told me to... and if it's hurting you that much... if you don't want to keep trying..."
She looked from him to the edge of the roof. Jounouchi resisted the urge to grab her hand and pull her back to him.
"But I can help," he offered, seeing her indesicion and jumping at his chance. "I'll help you, Mai. You're strong enough to get through this."
Her gaze left the ledge and stayed on him this time. "And if I'm not?"
"You are." Jounouchi tried to sound confident, but he was begging her, and they both knew it.
"It's going to hurt," she said flat out, either being honest, trying to scare him off, or both.
"The Orichalcos hurt," Jounouchi said without thinking, instantly regretting it. "Er, no, I didn't--"
But it worked. Mai grabbed onto his wrist.
"For that?" he tried to say it lightly, but it didn't come out right.
"For that." She kept her head down, speaking quietly.
"I never blamed you," Jounouchi shook his head. "I didn't mean that."
"I know. I'm still sorry."
"What was that about taking blame?" he laughed.
"...stupid," she said with half a smile.
A/N: Liked the fic? Review! There may be a sequel in the near future...