So after toasting my brain writing an ten page essay, I decided that I needed to do and light. Because I can. This is the third part to my story arc per say and I must say this one might be my favorite as of yet.

And Holy Crap on a stick! I've almost been here a year! I started in December 20th. Pretty awesome huh? Not that you guys care...*grumbles something*, you guys just wanna read the story.

Note: This takes place approximately 4-5 months after "The Choices That We Make"

"Friendship often ends in love; but love in friendship - never."
-Charles Caleb Colton

Autumn was always Mai's favorite season; it wasn't too cold like winter, nor too hot like summer. Spring was always too windy and too unpredictable . Autumn, autumn was just right. She adjusted her scarf as she sat at the small table of the coffee shop. Her tall latte sat complacently on the wooden table, steam pouring from the tiny hole in the lid. She reached for it, her manicured nails clicking on the styrofoam, when the door of the coffee shop slammed open, the bell on the door jingling frantically. She jumped, startled as she nearly tipped over her drink. Her thought unleashed a string of well placed insults at whoever opened the door, but she stopped herself once she saw who the customer was and a small corner of her mind remembered that this as Joey's favorite coffee shop, on his route from his house to his school. After giving him her number at the Grand Prix, the pair kept in close contact. Vivian, a new friend of hers, claimed that it was "love".

Coincidence? Even she wasn't sure at this point.

She watched him furtively as he placed his order and the barista's attempts to flirt with him. Mai suppressed a twinge of jealously as Joey stumbled through his rebuffs of her attention.

Jealously? What was she even thinking?

He turned around and leaned casually against the counter, waiting for the barista to fulfill his order. He finally noticed her and his face lit up in a grin. "Hey Mai! Long time no see!" He snatched the slender cup of coffee from the counter, yelping and nearly dropping it from the heat. Mai rolled her eyes and he flushed, chagrined. He grabbed a cardboard sleeve, sliding it on the cup as he walked over to where Mai had been sitting. "Mind if I sit and chat for a bit?"

She shook her head. "No, "I don't mind."

"Good," he practically flopped over in the stool across from her. He took a sip from his cup before speaking. "Soo, how have you been? Anything new?"

"Nothing much really, just life." Mai took a good look at her friend across the way. He was clad in a blue long sleeved shirt coupled with a pair of dark washed jeans. A black windbreaker complimented the ensemble. To her, he looked oddly, sophisticated. "And good looking," her mind quickly supplied, before she shut it up. It wasn't going to be her day, she could tell. "How about you?"

"Eh, so so. I got an invite to some tournament somewhere and went to Duke's Halloween party." He tried to lean back in his stool, but had forgotten that there was no back to the stool. He gave a shout as he nearly fell, his hands flying to the edges of the stool. He managed to balance himself again, the stool wobbling slightly.

Mai sighed; really, were men built with an inability to possess common sense? "Joseph, you're going to end up hurting yourself with your stupidity one of these days."

"Yeah yeah. They should put warning labels."

"Like you read it anyway. And they do put labels on things. You seem to forget the woman who sued McDonalds after spilling her coffee."

Joey's face fell. "Well, it should be in bigger print."

"Suure. How was Duke's Halloween party?"

"Pretty cool. He invited everybody, even Kaiba, though he didn't stay very long. I bet it was his brother." Joey then started to snicker.

"What's so funny Joey?"

"Man, you should have seen his costume!"

"Let me guess, something along the whole Blue Eyes thing?"

"A Blue Eyes White Knight." He burst into laughter again.

"That man is obsessed. What did the gang go as?"

"Well, Duke went as Tony Stark..."

"Doesn't surprise me."

"And Bakura went as the Grim Reaper."

"Again, doesn't surprise me a bit."

"Yug' went as the Magician of Black Chaos—costume was a bit too big though—and Tea, well Tea went as the Dark Magician Girl. She kept it as a surprise from Yugi until the party. Boy, was he surprised! They hooked up finally too."

"Good for them, they've been flirting with each other for years."

"Well, I wouldn't necessarily call it "flirting" really."

"What would you call it then?

"Not entirely too sure. Guess just a lot of tension."

"Jeez Joseph. Now if only I could get a guy. Oh Mai, what has gotten into you today? Maybe they put something in the coffee." Mai gave the cup a suspicious stare, one that went—thankfully—unnoticed by Joey. "What about you and Tristan?"

"Tristan went as Master Chief...wait, do you know what that is?"

"Joey, I haven't living under a rock all this time."

"Well, usually girls don't know these things..."

"Joesph, you're digging yourself into a bigger hole."

"Errr. Good point." He took another sip, hoping to divert the conversation.

"And you?"


"No, I'm talking to the people behind you." Joey half turned to the table behind him. "Yes, I'm talking about you." For a millisecond, Mai wished that she could reach over and slap him, but they were in a public place and the barista had been throwing Mai glances that could take out an elephant. While Mai knew she could easily beat the girl (and not in a duel), she wasn't going to run the risk of the barista going psycho.

Joey started to flush, starting on his nose and spreading to his cheeks. "Well, I erm, I went um."

"Don't tell me you went as a dog."

"I did not! I went as King Leonidas!" he clamped a hand over his mouth right after he said that.

"From 300."

"That's the one."

"What's so embarrassing about that?" And suddenly, the image of Joey running around as a Spartan sprang in her head. It wasn't a bad image, but Mai had the nagging sense that the image was going to pop in her head the rest of the day. Again, not a bad thing...Wait, did her mind just go into the gutter? "I have got to stop this," she inwardly smacked herself.

"Well, I guess it wasn't that horrible. I had fun." He paused, suddenly contemplative. "You could have gone."

"To the party?"

"Yeah. I bet you could've had fun."

"I'm still not sure about your friends though..."

"It's been almost five months since the Grand Prix Mai. What are you so worried about?"

"Rejection," she thought, but she kept it to herself. "Besides Joey, what could I have gone as?" she added in a teasing tone. This was going to be fun. "And if you suggest something along the lines of a cop, nurse, pirate or even Harpy Lady, I will reach over and pour that very hot coffee down your lap." She chuckled to herself as she could just imagine the wheels in Joey's head spinning.

"Let's see, you could have gone as...hmmmm." His mind froze as something sprang to his head and he broke out into a blushing fit. How could he say that out loud? She would kill him, after pouring the steaming coffee down his lap.

"Remember what I said," Mai interjected playfully. She was having way too much fun with this one.

Joey's mind, meanwhile, spun frantically as he tried to think of an acceptable substitute. "Aha! That could work! Hopefully...You could have gone as Athena, or Hera..."

"A Greek goddess then Joseph?" He nodded weakly. She idly traced patterns in the wood table. "Or, I could have gone as Aphrodite." Oh, she loved teasing him!

"I know..." Well, it wasn't exactly what he was thinking of, but hey, it could do. He couldn't say what he wanted to say out loud, she would have laughed at him, or made insinuations that his feelings for her were stronger than suspected. "As if she feels the same way."

The pair sat in silence until Mai glanced up at the clock. "Well, guess I better get going. I have to take care of a couple of things at home. Bills, an errant kitten..."


"Oh, I found this kitten at my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. I tried to find her mother or owner, but no one came forward, so she kind of became my cat."

"I like cats."

"Thought you were more of a dog person. Golden Retriever sort of thing"

"Oh very funny. You know, I could walk you home. I have nothing to do today. Its best to stay as far away from my houses on weekends."

Mai was taken aback by the simple chivalrous gesture, though the last part piqued her curiosity, but she didn't want to press it; he would tell her in his own time. "Sure, I don't mind at all. What you want to see the kitten?" she jested.

"Only if it doesn't turn me into a walking scratching post." The pair walked out of the coffee shop, much to the displeasure of the barista. Mai inwardly gloated at her miniature victory.

The walk home to her condominium was peaceful, the winds kicking about the leaves in flurries. Joey grinned like a child as he kicked about a small pile that sat alongside the sidewalk and Mai had to stifle a gentle smile. He had his moments yes, but there was something about him that drew her to him. They complimented each other very well, almost to the point like two puzzle pieces fitting together perfectly. She blushed at the thought. Clearly, someone had put something in her coffee that day, to make her think these almost scandalous thoughts Besides, just because they were friends didn't mean that..."Oh, what am I thinking? IT wouldn't happen, even if, if, I wanted it too. Well, maybe just a little."

"Hey, have you ever played in leaves before?" he asked after catching her looking at him funny. Something was definitely up with Mai today.

"It's been a really long time since I had."

"Well come one, let's try it!" He grabbed her by the wrist and started to pull her towards a very large pile of leaves he had just spotted.

"Joey, I have the kitten to take care of. I'd love too, but not today."

"Well, alright, but I'm going to make sure you do it. Before it snows though, then you're just screwed over."

"I'm sure you'll manage to find a way." A gust picked up and Mai shivered. The temperature had just started to drop and while her violet jacket was fashionable, it was not the thickest material. That is, until she felt a weight on her shoulder and she noticed that Joey wasn't wearing his jacket. He had given her his.

"I'm fine Joey."

"You looked cold to me."

"I don't need it." she insisted.

"Nor do I. Trust me Mai, you need it more than me."

"I said I don't-" but Joey broke off her protest.

"Don't make me."

"By what?"

"See that pile of leaves over there?"

"I don't—oh no you aren't!"

"Jacket or pile of itchy, dirty leaves, caught in your hair and clothes and..."

"Alright, fine! I'll wear the jacket!" Mai placed the windbreaker on, admitting that it was very warm and it blocked out the wind. "You are stubborn, you know that?"

"As are you."

"Touche." The pair soaked in the calm and peace that came with the falling leaves and the smell of wood smoke in the air. Clouds started to form and Domino soon turned into a flat shade of gray. Mai luxuriated in the senses that fall evoked and she was reminded again why she loved the season so much; however, what she didn't realize was that somehow she had looped her arm in Joey's becoming close to him.

Very, very close.

She finally took notice of the situation, just as Joey happened to look at the site. They both looked down at their arms, then back at each other. A part of Mai wanted to shout and jerk her arm away, but the rest of her was content to leaving her arm where it was. And apparently Joey felt the same way. He only shrugged, while flashing a smile that said "Got you." But Mai wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of said smile and she turned her eyes back to the sidewalk and the sights, acting as if nothing happened.

Even though something did.

They eventually made it to her condominium, arm in arm, content with their lot in life. Mai and Joey paused at her front door, as she fumbled for her keys. "Guess, guess I'll see you around then Mai." Joey began, shuffling his feet. He had thoroughly enjoyed spending the afternoon with her and was reluctant to let it end. But a pitiful "mew" from the other side of the door suggested otherwise. "Sounds like the kitten's pretty hungry. Have you named it yet?"

"Well, I was either thinking 'Shizuka' or 'Autumn'," Mai replied, while rummaging through her purse, looking for her keys. She finally pulled them out and as she started to place them in the lock, she paused. Joey was still there, waiting for something. She tuned to faced him, keys still in the lock.

"I like Autumn," he said finally, hands in pockets. "That sounds really pretty." Another yowl interrupted him before he he could say anything other. "Guess you better go feed her before she knocks the door down, demanding that her mother feed her." He laughed at his own joke.

At that moment, Mai felt strange, giddy, like a flock of butterflies had just migrated in her chest. "No no no," she began to think "Aw, screw it." She wrapped her arms around his neck and she planted one on the lips. She pulled away after a few moments and Joey looked as if he had just been run over by a semi, dazed and confused.

"I better get going. See you soon Joey." She finished turning the lock and opened the door, shooing the small tortoiseshell kitten inside. Before she shut the door, she popped her head out the door. "Maybe Duke will have a Christmas party, if you catch my drift."

"Hmm? Yeah, he might," Joey stammered, the effects of the kiss still frying his nerves, so to speak. "See ya Mai." She closed the door and he leaned up against the hall outside her door. "Whoa..." he pinched himself, just in case. "Nope, not dreaming." he then sauntered down the hall whistling as he went, feeling oddly triumphant. It wasn't until a block from his house he realized that Mai still had his windbreaker jacket. He shrugged to himself. He had been warm all the way home anyway.

Then he remembered that his wallet in in there.


After closing the door behind her, she leaned against the door and sighed to herself. How she had managed to pull it off, she still wasn't sure, but is most certainly felt good. She hugged herself, feeling ecstatic and on top of the world and in that moment, she realized that she was still wearing Joey's jacket. She placed her hands in the pockets and felt a thin wallet in the confines of the pocket.

"Yep, he'll be calling soon. But at the very least, he;ll have to come over again to get it. I wonder what would happen if I conveniently "lost" it."

My Ra, that was mushy lol. And there you have it, the ending to the story arc that began with "The Road Not Taken", though I do have to admit, the last two paragraphs felt "odd", like I should have ended it with the line "Then he remembered that his wallet was in there.", but that's just me. What do you guys think?

And Remember, reviews are always appreciated!

And may your dreams be guided by Dragon wings-

~Gweniveve Skyes