A/N: This is just a crazy/fluffy/random Christmas idea that's been bouncing around in my head for years. I figured this year I should actually write it. Hope you enjoy!
The storefronts in the city of Domino were covered in colored lights and evergreen garlands—okay, so they were fake, but they were still festive. The sound of sleighbells filled the frosty air. There were carolers, and Santas ringing bells on the sidewalks, and huge store displays, and Christmas carols playing in every mall, and—well, you get the picture. It was Christmastime. Everything was festive. Everyone was merry.
All except for one.
Well, okay, so there were probably a lot of people who weren't feeling particularly merry at that moment. After all, Christmas is a very stressful time of year—all that shopping, and baking, and obnoxious relatives coming over. More suicides occur during the Christmas season than at any other time of year, after all. But the point is, there was one particular person that this story is about that was unhappy at this moment and the reason why that person was unhappy is the whole point of this story, so stop griping over details and pay attention.
The person was Joey Wheeler. It was kind of surprising, because Joey was usually such a energetic, cheerful person, particularly when there was food around, but for the past couple of days, he had been downright…mopey.
Téa frowned at him. She knew Joey didn't particularly care for shopping, but they'd been out less than an hour, and Joey already looked like the Grinch had stolen his Christmas tree. She fished in her purse for a candycane. "Here, Joey. Have some sugar. This outta help make your season bright." She waved it in front of his face.
Joey just looked away. "Nah. No thanks, Téa."
"Ooh! Can I have it?" Tristan said eagerly, but Téa didn't pay attention to him. She stared at Joey blankly.
"Did he just…turn down food?" She blinked. "Hey, Joey, are you okay? What's going on?" When the blond boy didn't answer, she frowned. "Did something happen with your dad?"
Joey shook his head.
"He's probably still down in the dumps because Kaiba owned his butt at the Dueltide Tournament last week," Tristan scoffed, still eying Téa's candycane.
With a sigh, Téa tossed the candy to him. "Joey doesn't normally mope like this just because he got beat. He gets mad. If he was still worked up about that, he'd be working on his deck and throwing around a lot of trash talk about how he's going to kick 'rich boy's' butt the next time they meet."
"You got me there," Tristan admitted, nibbling on the end of the candycane. "But he's been acting like this since the tournament ended. What else could it be?"
Téa thought carefully. The Dueltide Tournament had been a relatively low-key, normal event compared to all the crazy stuff they normally went through. It was just a small charity tournament Kaiba had thrown to raise money for Christmas gifts for the kids in a local orphanage. Téa hadn't been able to see Kaiba without the phrase "His heart grew three sizes that day" running through her head, but aside from that, it had gone smoothly. No magic, no soul-snatching weirdness, and best of all, no evil masterminds trying to destroy the world, or just take over a company. It'd just been the usual crowd, Kaiba, Yugi, and Joey, of course, along with Rex Raptor, Weevil Underwood, Bonz, Espa Roba, Mako Tsunami, Mai Valentine….Mai. Téa turned and gave Joey a long appraising look.
"Joey," she said carefully, "does this have anything to do with Mai?"
Joey nodded glumly.
"But you guys got along during Dueltide and everything," Tristan pointed out. "She acted like you were just an old friend, like the whole Dartz thing never went down."
Joey nodded, looking even more dejected.
"Hoo-boy," Téa said. "I see the problem."
"You do?" Tristan scratched his head. "'Cuz I'm lost."
"You would be, monkey boy." Téa sighed. "Okay, think of it this way. What if Serenity came to visit and she greeted you 'like you were just an old friend?'"
Joey glared at him. Then he threw up his hands and gave a cry of frustration that caused half of the heads in the shopping mall to whip around. "I just don't know what to do! I gotta let Mai know how I feel about her!"
"Why don't you just talk to her?" Téa suggested.
Joey shook his head. "Nah, it'd just be all sentimental and crap."
"Girls like sentimental crap," Téa said with a smile. "It doesn't have to be some big production, Joey. Sometimes, a quiet conversation is all a girl needs."
"Not Mai," Joey said. "Mai's into flashy."
"He's got a point there," Tristan admitted, throwing a look at Téa.
Joey scuffed his sneaker on the floor. "Mai deserves…I gotta do this right. I just gotta. But I don't know how."
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree…
Joey's ears pricked and a strange expression crossed his face. "What's that?" he asked in an awestruck tone.
Téa and Tristan looked around, but saw nothing. "What, the music?" Téa said. "The Twelve Days of Christmas, silly." She made a face. "And it's that really annoying arrangement with the electric guitars, too. Ugh."
"The Twelve Days of Christmas," Joey repeated to himself, still looking dazed.
"Are you okay?" Téa asked him suspiciously. "Don't tell me you've never heard that song before."
"No, no, it's not that. It just…" Joey grinned, a full, huge grin that was cheerier than Téa had ever seen him wear. "I think I've got it! But I'm going to need your help."
Téa exchanged glances with Tristan. Tristan crossed his arms. "Whatever half-baked plan you just came up is bound to be a disaster," he said. "And I don't particularly feel like getting caught in the middle of it."
Before Joey could protest, Téa grabbed Tristan's arm and drug him off to the side. "Can't you see how important this is to Joey?" she hissed at him. "We're talking about his future happiness here!"
"Besides," Téa added in a more cajoling tone, "You do realize that once Joey and Mai get together, it'll make it a lot easier for you to make some progress with Serenity without Joey breathing down your neck, don't you?"
Tristan considered this. "Joey is my best friend," he said. "How could I refuse to help him in his time of need?"
"That's the spirit!" Téa clapped him on the back, and went back over to Joey. "We're in," she told him. "So, what's the plan?"