"Love is blind; Friendship closes its eyes."
Some days she wondered why she had put herself through the things that she did. If there was one word to describe Kaiba Land, it would be chaotic, to say the least.
"Well, egotistical could fit here too," she thought to herself, hands shoved deeply into her pockets. "I swear, Kaiba has definitely taken an obsession way too far. Someone need to pop that zeppelin of an ego. Oh wait, he has a zeppelin." Statues of the Blue Eyes White Dragon loomed over her, their toothy expressions leering down at her as she walked past them. They were sentinels to a land of chaos, of sticky fingers and pricy, unappetizing food and lines that lasted for eternity and a day. Mai sighed gustily as she leaned against a iron wrought railing.
"Why do I do this to myself?" she wondered. "Oh right, to "face" my past." She had managed to convince Mokuba to allow her in the park, even though she wasn't competing; access to the park during the KC Grand Prix was highly restricted and exclusive. The only exception to the rule was the fact that Seto had allowed a few local orphanages to let their children to spend the whole day there, with everything paid for them, courtesy of the CEO himself. One of the things that struck her during the conversation was how, friendly, Mokuba sounded, like the whole DOMA incident was completely forgotten. But Mai's actions never really affected those of the Kaiba brothers, that was Alister. "The things that I do to make up for everything. Oh, why won't the past just let me be?"
There was an unexpected tug at her jacket and she looked down, to find a girl, about eight or nine, looking up at her expectantly with soulful doe eyes. She was holding a piece of crumpled paper in her hands. "Are you Ms. Valentine?" she asked.
The young girl shoved the paper at the duelist. "Can I have your autograph? You're my favorite duelist."
Mai was taken aback at the gesture. It had been a very long time since someone had asked for an autograph, not since the aftermath of Battle City had she received a request. Mai took the paper and pulled out a pen from her purse. She started to sign it, then paused, her violet hued eyes going to the little girl, clad in a blue and white dress, reminiscent of Dorothy from Wizard of Oz. "Tell you what hun," Mai began, reaching for her deck pack strapped to her thigh. "I got something better." She pulled out a "Harpy Lady" card and signed it. She handed it back to the girl, who let out an audible gasp at the sight.
"Thank you!" The girl ran off as fast as her feet could carry her, back to a small crowd waiting nearby. Mai went back to the railing, contemplative.
"Well, there goes my good deed of the month," she muttered to herself. She had only given one card away before; she definitely wasn't going to make a habit of it in the future. "Still..."
"Welcome guests and duelists alike!" A Jumbotron shouted, getting her attention. "We're just about the start the duel between Leon Wilson and The King of Games, Yugi Moto..." She continued to watch, rapt. The Jumbotron droned on and on, and Mai lost interest, instead drowning out the monotone voice in order to focus on the duel. She had only heard of Leon Wilson recently; a child genius known for using a deck that focused on fairy tales, but these cards weren't the Disneyfied ones; they were the Grimm brother ones. It was interesting, she noted, how a duelist's deck reflected their personality and their lives. It is a fascinating process, one that any psychologist would delight in, picking apart any duelist deck, trying to figure out how the duelist ticked.
"Bet they would have a field day with mine," she thought to herself as she continued to watch. The duel went back and forth, no clear winner until the illegal card was played, and the impromptu conclusion that followed shortly afterwards. It was almost anticlimactic to her; there was no real way someone like Leon could have beaten the King of Games, even if he carried an illegal card and was a child genius. Nobody could beat Yugi, and that was something she knew from experience.
The crowds began to gather as they milled around the park. Some decided to stay, to ride the rollercoasters and other rides; others, feeling that the thrill was gone, left. Mai thought about leaving, but something rooted her to her place. Perhaps it was the small Italian bistro that was only a few yards away, located in the "Little Italy" section of KaibaLand.
"They better have a good anti-pasto," she remarked to herself. As she winded her way through the throngs of people, a familiar voice echoed in her ears.
"Mai? Mai, is that you?"
And her world came to a screeching grinding halt.
"Man Pharaoh, you really showed 'em!" Joey proclaimed, pumping his fist into the air. "And that's why you're the King of Games!"
The Pharaoh nodded. "Thank you for the words Joey, but it was Leon who showed the strength to not give into his brother's temptations of power and revenge."
"That was pretty messed up for Siegfried to use his brother for his vengeance," Rebecca agreed.
Meanwhile, Tristan was busy studying a map of Kaiba Land. After the tournament, Mokuba gad allowed the duelists to spend the rest of the day at the park. Of course, the boys took it in stride. "Let's see, should we ride the Whirlygig first, or the Dragon Comet? I vote the Dragon Comet."
Duke snorted. "Psh, I say the Whirlygig."
"The Dragon Comet's better."
Joey clamped his hand over his ears. "Can't you two agree on anything? I swear, I bet you can't even agree on a color."
"Are you kidding me? Blue's a much more masculine color."
"Oh, I'll show you masculine..."
Tea pried the two apart before they started something. "Calm down you two. We're here to have fun, not to bail you out on assault charges."
Rebecca rolled her eyes. "Men."
"You know squirt, I take offense to that."
"Don't call me "squirt", Joey."
They conversation dissolved into a playful banter, a war of wits between them. Then, Joey's stomach growled. "Man, I am starving."
"Joey, you're like a bottomless pit on legs. You just had a loaded hot dog before the competition started."
"That Tea, was a appetizer." Joey glanced around, but with the throngs of crowds surrounding them, it was difficult to see a food stand, let alone get to one. He went onto his tiptoes to look over the mass of people-
-And he spotted her.
It was like the crowds parted and everything went to an achingly slow pace. "No way," he breathed. "It can't be."
"Joey, what's up man..." Tristan's voice trailed off when he saw what Joey had seen. "What the heck is she doing here?" A hint of bitterness tinged his tone.
Joey ignored Tristan and moved forward, towards her, as if caught in a trance, or under the spell of the Millennium Rod. Tristan opened his mouth to shout something at his friend, but the Pharaoh stopped him with a raised hand. He had noticed her too.
"It would be wise of you to learn the power of forgiveness, as Joey had. It is a powerful weapon, you know." It wasn't chastising, but it rested on Tristan heavily. He opened his mouth to protest, to give voice to his opinions, but under the Pharaoh's imperial gaze, he seemed to wither.
Tristan released a hefty sigh, conceding. "Alright. Should we follow him?"
The Pharaoh shook his head. "No. This is between him and her, not us. If he wanted us to follow, he would have said so."
"Then should we wait?" Duke asked.
"I'm sure he'll be able to find us."
Joey pushed and shoved his way past the park-goers, earning shouts of protest and the occasional bird, but he had to see her, find her.
It was only for a heartbeat or two, but it was enough for something to spark between them again, in his opinion. They always had that connection, even if he had been too blind to see if before. "Mai?" He yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Mai, it that you?"
She turned around at the sound of his voice and she froze, like a frightened hart in the headlights of a vehicle. Her eyes widened and she mouthed, "Joey."
Joey came to a skittering halt only a few feet from her. He reached a hand out to her and she pulled away, holding herself to her chest. "It is you Mai. It's, it's been so long."
"What do you want Joseph?" she asked, if a little tersely.
"I wanted to see you. Like I said, it's been so long."
Mai stepped back spreading her arms. "Since when, when I tried to steal your soul away to make myself feel better about myself? To completely abandon all of my principles just to satisfy my own ambitions?" She closed her eyes. "You see me now, right?"
Joey shook his head and moved closer, not by much, but it was noticeable. "You know that's what I meant." He cocked his head to one side, his brown eyes difficult to decipher. "You've changed Mai." he finally said after a few heartbeats.
"Yes, yes I have," she admitted, more to herself than to him; he always managed to get to the heart of the truth, even if he didn't mean it. She looked away from him, her eyes glassy and contemplative. "I have changed, Joseph."
Joey studied her for a moment and if she cared to glance at him, she would have noticed the softening of his features as he watched her. He went to her and hesitantly, placed a hand on her shoulder. This time, she didn't toss him away. He took a deep breath and the words tumbled out:
"I forgive you Mai."
She looked up at him and took a step back. Joey's hand hung there, then fell back to his side. "What?" she finally sputtered.
"I forgive you Mai. I've forgiven you for a very long time. I understand what you went through and in the end, you redeemed yourself. I forgive you."
"How can you say I redeemed myself? I tried to destroy you!"
"You broke free from the power of the Orichalcos. Remember, there was no winner, so you didn't destroy me." He paused, biting his lower lip. "I chose to lose."
"How could I forget?" Mai murmured, the unpleasant memories surging back to the forefront of her conscious. But the second part, him choosing to lose, to lose himself to the Seal, even though the Pharaoh and his friends needed him. "Maybe, maybe he does...oh, what am I thinking? Why Joseph? Why did you "choose" to lose?"
"Because, you needed me at the time. It was the only way to, you know..."
"Yeah, I know." She walked closer to him. If he could forgive her, the source of his pain, maybe she could finally find a way to forgive herself. "Some days I wonder about you, Joseph."
Joey beamed; maybe this was the start they needed to reignite their friendship. "Yeah, I know. About what?"
"Stuff." Mai smiled. It was a faint one, but still a smile nonetheless. "Aren't you with your friends?"
"Yeah, but they can go on without me. What are you doing here?"
"I came to watch." Not to wallow in her own self pity at not competing, not to feel anger or jealousy, but to simply watch.
"Did you see my match?"
"Well, that was to the chase, but yes I did. That one guy totally whipped you."
Joey seemed to slump. "Don't remind me."
"And he did it with a bunch of "My Little Ponies" on steroids."
"Now you're just rubbing it in."
Mai laughed. "It could have been worse."
Joey threw her an odd look. He had heard her laugh before, either laughing at imminent victory or just rubbing in to her opponents, but this was different. This was a ringing laughter, reminding him of bells. "Yeah, it could have been a bunch of fairy tale cards. That is one weird family." He rubbed his hand behind his head. "Hey, um, would you, erm, how do I say this? Do you want to hang out at the park?"
"Is this a date?"
"I- errr, um, no? Just two friends, that's all, I swear."
"I'd love to, but I just don't think I'm ready to be around your friends just yet. You may have forgiven me, but I don't think they have."
"I understand. Well, um, is there a way to see you again?"
"I'd thought you'd never ask." Mai reached forward and grabbed his hand, flipping it so that the palm faced the sky. She tried to ignore the tingling feeling she had when she touched him. She pulled out the pen from earlier (The little girl never did ask for her pen back.) and she scribbled something down.
"That tickles," he chuckled when she pulled it away. He read the scrawling handwriting and he took on a look of mild shock. "Is this your number?"
"What do you think?"
He shot her a teasing glare and went back to the number. "That's a Domino area code. Does that mean you're back in Domino?" She nodded.
"I got a condo there a couple of months ago. Kind of to "test the waters", so to speak."
"I get it. Wish I had a piece of paper to copy this down, but I am pretty good at memorizing numbers."
"In that empty space of yours? Well, that would make sense, considering all the free space in there."
"You know I'm kidding. Mostly."
Joey grinned. It was just like old times. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels. If he could, he would have stayed the whole afternoon, just enjoying her company. "Joseph, why don't you get back to your friends? They're probably waiting on you."
"But what about you?"
"I'll be fine, trust me."
"Positive. Besides, you have my number, we can talk again."
"Alright." Joey started to turn away, but he then faced back to her, un-scribbled on hand thrust out at her. "It was nice seeing you again, Mai."
She gave Joey a smile and she clasped her hand in his in a firm handshake. "It was nice to see you again too, Joey." They held the position for a few moments, until Joey broke away and started to walk away. She watched him leave, until he was lost in the crowd. If one were to watch her face, one could claim that there was an almost dreamy quality to it, but she would vehemently deny it, possibly.
"Perhaps there's something there that wasn't there before."
~Beauty and the Beast "Something There"
So yes, I decided to continue this into a three parter. After making so many attempts at making a decent Mai/Joey fic, especially when it's dealing with closure, I might actually satisfied with this one. :). There's one more after this one!
And if you are looking for more Mai/Joey fics, I would recommend "Of Sleeping Princesses and Leather Clad Fairies" and "Vigilante". Shameless self-advertising here folks ;). And you should feel special that I finished writing the last half while doped up on cold/flu/we don't know what it is but it still sucks- meds. Bloody flu season. . .