Disclaimer: I do not own Yugioh.

"Talk"

'Thoughts'

Flashback/Dream


...

...

...

Lub dub.

No.

Lub dub.

No, no no.

Lub dub.

Please God no.

Mai frantically ran down the hospital hallway, not caring if she pushed someone rudely out of her way, or that she looked like a mess with hair flying wildly, cheeks covered with black streaks from tears and mascara, not caring that one of her heels had broken somewhere along her run and she was running oddly, her feet and legs hurting. She wasn't aware of anything except the thumping of her heart as fear gripped it, clenching it, determined to squeeze the last beat out of it.

Let this be a dream. A really bad dream.

She begged in her mind but was only too aware that it was real. This was very real, and it was happening to her. It had happened to her. It had happened to Joey.

Muffled sobs escaped her mouth and her vision blurred from tears but she continued running. There was no time to pause, to wait, to do anything. She had to reach him.

She finally saw familiar faces and speedily approached them, barely stopping herself from bumping into them.

"Where is Joey? Where is he?" She asked. Tristan shared a grim look with Yugi before replying.

"He is still in the operating room." He pointed to a set of closed double doors. "The doctors have been in there with him for a while now. We don't know what's going on."

"What happened?" She demanded.

"We don't know the exact details." Yugi said. Just then, they heard running footsteps and saw a crying Serenity approach them, followed closely by a stone-faced Seto Kaiba.

"Where is Joey?" Serenity cried. "Where is my brother?"

"Serenity, please calm yourself." Yugi said. "Joey is in the operating room. The doctors are doing all they can to save his life."

"What happened? How did he get so hurt?" She repeated the same question Mai had asked not a minute ago.

"Like I was telling Mai, we don't know the exact details." Yugi said. "I got a call from the hospital informing me that Joey had been in a very serious car accident with an 18-wheeler truck. It happened on State Road."

"What was he doing there?" Seto asked. State Road led out of Domino. It passed through essentially desolate landscape littered with abandoned factories and their storage units for hours before reaching a town. The road was mostly used by cargo and transportation trucks. Other traffic never used it because there was another, more scenic route to the town.

"We don't know. From what the truck driver told us and the police, Joey was speeding. He was behind another cargo truck but he changed lane. The road is a 2 lane road and the other lane was reserved for the incoming traffic. Because of the size of the truck Joey was behind, it is possible that he didn't see the incoming truck and when he changed lane to overtake, he was struck by the incoming truck." Mai and Serenity let out loud gasps followed by sobs. Serenity moved towards Seto and collapsed against his large frame. He wrapped his arm around her and kept her standing and steady as he stared at Yugi to continue.

"The truck driver said that when Joey saw him come, he did try to move out of the way but it was a little too late. He was still hit on the side. The car broke through the metal railing on the side of the road and flipped a few times before stopping."

"Oh God." Mai said in a horrified voice, her hand covering her open mouth. Her face was pale and she looked ready to faint. Yugi noticed it and was quickly by her side, holding her.

"The truck driver stopped and ran to Joey to see if he was okay but he was unable to help." Tristan said with a pained look. "Joey was bleeding heavily but the car was crushed and he couldn't be rescued. He called the emergency services but they were in the middle of nowhere and the ambulance took time to get there. They had to use the jaws of life to get him out." Even Seto took in a sharp breath, his grip on Serenity tightening.

"Joey... he..." Tristan struggled to speak. "They said he had lost too much blood and was too mangled to still be alive but somehow he was. When the doctor saw him, he said it was a miracle that he hadn't died on impact or died during transport to the hospital."

"No, no no." Serenity cried loudly against Seto's chest.

"How long have the doctors been in there with him?" Seto asked.

"About three hours now." Tristan said.

"There might be some hope." Seto assured them. "If he was past the point of help, the doctors would have told us a long time ago. The fact that they are still in there implies that he can still be saved and they are doing just that." Tristan and Yugi shot Seto a grateful look. Even though they were putting on a brave front for the sake of Mai and Serenity, inside they were just as afraid and hopeless. They hoped and prayed that what Seto had said was correct.

After another agonizing hour, the door opened and a doctor dressed in a surgeon's garb came out. Immediately, Yugi and Tristan stood up and went to her.

"I'm afraid I don't have good news." She said solemnly.

"No." Serenity screamed and stumbled towards the doctor, Seto hot on her heels to steady her.

"My brother is okay. He can't be dead. He can't be dead." She hysterically yelled.

"Miss please." The doctor said, prying her shaking arms off her gown. "Mr. Joey Wheeler is not dead... at least not yet." She said.

"Explain." Seto demanded.

"It's truly a miracle that Mr. Wheeler managed to arrive to the hospital alive. The best doctors in all of Domino were in there with me, trying to save his life. We have done all that we could but... we are now facing an obstacle that is out of our hands." The doctor said. "Mr. Wheeler has lost too much blood. If he has any hope of surviving past the next two hours, he needs blood. Unfortunately, we don't have his blood type at the hospital."

"I can arrange for that." Seto said. "What blood type is he?"

"Mr. Wheeler is O-negative." The doctor said. "It is the rarest of blood types. Usually, hospitals try to always have some in reserve for emergency situations such as this, but unfortunately we ran out of our last batch yesterday."

"Can't you get it from another hospital?" Yugi said desperately. "You said hospitals have some in reserve. Maybe they can lend you some." The doctor shook her head.

"We placed an order for it before it ran out, but we were informed that we won't be receiving any for two weeks. The nearest two hospitals are also running low and they have neonatal wards and immuno-compromised patients that require it. They would help us out but they don't have any to give us."

"So you are saying that there is nothing we can do?" Tristan asked in disbelief.

"If you know someone who has O-negative blood type, please contact them right away. You can use your resources to advertise on TV. There has to be someone in Domino who would have this blood type and would help Mr. Wheeler, if not out of the goodness of their heart, then for money. But you need to hurry." The doctor said. "I'm truly sorry for delivering this news. I have worked tirelessly on Mr. Wheeler for the past four hours and I want to see him live. I hope that your search is successful. Inform the nurse at the end of the hall when you find someone. You have approximately forty minutes before it will be too late for us to help him." With that, the doctor left.

"Serenity, Serenity." Seto called out to the slumped figure of the small girl. She had fainted. Her face was deathly pale. Seto picked her up and placed her on a bench besides the wall. While he fussed over Serenity, gently tapping her cheek and calling her name to wake her, Yugi tried to comfort a hysterical Mai. Her entire body was shaking with cries and sobs as she chanted Joey's name over and over again. Tears filling his own eyes, Yugi sat down besides Mai and held her tightly, not shy to let his tears and sobs mix with hers. They couldn't do anything. They didn't know anyone with that blood group and with the way things were, Domino hated Joey. It was a miniscule chance that someone would help him. The doctor had said that they had forty minutes to help Joey but Yugi felt like the time was already up. Every passing second was taking Joey away from them.

Tristan hadn't moved from his spot after the doctor had delivered the ultimatum. To be honest, he couldn't move, even if he wanted to. There was a loud buzzing sound in his ear, so loud that he couldn't hear anything else, couldn't focus on anything else, couldn't think anything else.

Joey was dying.

Just behind the closed doors, not more than a few feet away from them, Joey was slowly dying.

And there was nothing they could do about it.

His best friend was dying.


Everything hurt. Everything hurt so much. He wanted to groan in pain but he couldn't even do that. Death sucked, he concluded. All those movies and TV shows and books were wrong. It wasn't an ethereal feeling of lightness and warmth. It was painful, as if he was still being hit by that truck that appeared out of nowhere. And the stupid truck wouldn't stop crushing him. His entire body felt like it was under some great pressure. He felt heavy. Maybe he was dead and the pressure was from the dirt covering his grave. Now that was a scary thought. He would rather continue to be hit repeatedly by the truck than be conscious of his buried state.

"Ughmmmm..." Somehow he had managed to produce a sound. Immediately, he heard footsteps and a voice.

"Joey, are you awake? Can you hear me? Nurse, NURSE." The voice yelled. It sounded familiar. He knew that person, but it was too difficult and painful to think.

"What is the matter Mr. Motou?" Another voice had entered the picture. This one was unfamiliar, he knew that much. Who was this person?

"He woke up. He made a sound. I think he groaned in pain. He must be in pain." Mr. Motou said urgently. There was movement somewhere near his head. He felt a small gust of air, and then suddenly, he felt relaxed. The pressure crushing his body was rapidly disappearing.

"There." The unfamiliar voice said. "This will make it better for him and keep him down till morning. The doctor will check up on him tomorrow morning and decide on further course of action."

"Thank you." Mr. Motou sounded extremely grateful and relieved. But Joey was confused. Keep him down? Down where? But he couldn't dwell on that thought any further. A weird feeling was overcoming his senses, limited as they were. His head felt heavy. His eyes felt heavy. But this heaviness felt good so he gave into it, slowly succumbing to the drugs putting him back to sleep.


Great. He was back to feeling like he was being crushed by a ton of weight. But this time, it was somewhat manageable. And his head didn't hurt so much either. He contemplated making a sound to alert the person from last night who had made the pain and pressure go away. But he remembered that the same person had also put him to sleep. He wasn't ready to go back to sleep just yet. He wanted to think, to figure things out. Trying his best to ignore the pain, he thought about what had happened. Last night was the best place to start with.

Mr. Motou.

That must have been Yugi. And the unfamiliar voice must be the nurse Yugi had called for when he had woken up. Then he must be in a hospital. That also meant he wasn't dead like he had originally assumed. Somehow he had survived that horrible accident. He was one lucky dog as Seto Kaiba would say.

A wave of pain shot through his back and he let out a groan. Just like last time, there were shuffling footsteps and a voice.

"Joe, you awake? Let me call the doctor. Don't move." The footsteps moved away from him. He recognized that voice. He was conscious enough to know that it was Tristan who had just spoken to him.

"He groaned. Is he awake?" Tristan's voice came back.

"Let's see what's going on." The other voice was female but unfamiliar. Joey heard rustling and beeping sounds, and felt gentle touches.

"Can you hear me Mr. Wheeler? I am Dr. Sanders." The female voice spoke slowly. "Do not try to speak just yet. Open your eyes if you can." With a lot of struggle, Joey managed to lift his eyelids. He had expected blinding light and pain, but encountered none of that. His eyes quickly adjusted to the low light conditions and he wondered if it was evening or night, or if the room was kept dim.

"Very good." The friendly female voice spoke from near his head. The person's face soon appeared in his vision. It was a smiling female in a white coat.

"So glad to see you awake and relatively well." The doctor said. "You gave us doctors quite a challenge." Joey blinked slowly in response. The doctor continued to stare at the various monitors and machines he was connected to, making notes in her notebook, occasionally touching him.

"Can you speak?" She asked him. He swallowed thickly and opened his mouth.

"Wa...ter." He choked out.

"Of course." The doctor said and motioned to someone behind her. A glass of cool water was soon pressed to his lips and he greedily opened his mouth to swallow as much as he could.

"Slow down Joe." Tristan said as he gently tipped the glass to allow minute amounts of water to pass Joey's lips. "You'll get sick or worse, choke on it. Wouldn't that be a stupid way to die after fighting death at its worst?"

"That's enough." The doctor said and Tristan withdrew the glass, much to Joey's annoyance. He wanted more water.

"More." He said.

"After a few minutes." The doctor assured him and continued with her checkup. Joey tried to turn his head to see Tristan but extreme pain shot through his neck. He hissed in pain. Immediately Tristan was in his line of sight, a worried look on his face.

"What happened? What's going on? Is he okay?"

"He is fine." The doctor said. "He tried to move his head in your direction." She fixed her eyes on Joey and spoke to him. "Mr. Wheeler, you were in a horrible car crash. It's a miracle that you are still alive. The best doctors at this hospital fought against all odds to save your life, and your friends and loved ones suffered through one of the worst experiences of their lives when they came so close to losing you. Please be respectful of our efforts and your friends and loved ones feelings and don't make any sudden movements. If you have any requests, voice them. I'll try my very best to accommodate you." Joey sobered up quite a bit at her words. So he really had come close to dying.

"I will give you a brief report of your injuries so you are aware of your condition and are more careful." The doctor said. "Let's start from the top. You have a rather large gash on your forehead where you split the skin and cracked the skull a bit when you hit the steering wheel. The airbag prevented your skull from completely smashing to bits. Such was the force of impact of the crash you were in. Your neck is sprained. Your collarbone is shattered, as is left your shoulder blade. Your left arm is broken while the other has multiple fractures. You have two broken and four cracked ribs. Again, it is a miracle that your lungs weren't pierced or damaged. You have some damage to your lower part of spine but that is thankfully minimal. Your left hip is broken and you also have a fracture in your left leg. Your right ankle is twisted and one toe on that foot is broken." Joey swallowed as he took in the damage his body had suffered. They were right. It was a miracle that he was still alive.

"But your handsome mug survived." Tristan said in a light tone from besides the doctor. Joey stared at him but couldn't find an expression to formulate. So he just stared blankly.

"You had lost a lot of blood but thank your friends who managed to find a donor just in time to save your life." The doctor continued. "You were unconscious for thirty six hours straight. You woke up last night but the nurse was able to put you back to sleep. Your condition is much improved now so I will allow you to stay awake for a bit. But you must promise me not to make any movements. Don't stress yourself. You don't want to aggravate your healing injuries." Joey muttered an 'okay' in consent.

"Great." The doctor said with a smile. "I'll leave for now but I will be back to check on you in an hour. I believe that should be sufficient time for you to meet your friends and family should you desire it." She turned to Tristan and spoke to him. "You can give him more water every fifteen minutes, but give him very little and carefully." Tristan nodded his head and the doctor left, leaving the two alone. No one spoke for a while.

"You want more water?" Tristan finally broke the uncomfortable silence.

"Yeah." Joey responded after a pause. Tristan moved closer and allowed Joey to take a few more sips. When he began moving away, Joey called.

"Tris..."

"Yeah Joe."

"Why are you here?" Tristan didn't answer for a while, but Joey saw an incredulous look appear on his face.

"What do you mean?"

"After what I said... what I..." Joey hesitated. Tristan sighed.

"Nothing would keep me away from you when you need me. You should know that." Even though Tristan was in Joey's line of sight, he couldn't lift his eyes to look at him.

"We just had a little fight." Tristan said with a smile. "We have been through worse and have said worse to each other, so don't worry about it." Tears sprung to Joey's eyes and he didn't know why. He wasn't an overly emotional person, no, far from it. Over the past years, he had learnt to channel everything into anger and only display that. But all of a sudden, he had become an emotional wreck. Perhaps his near death experience had affected him more than just physically.

"Thanks." He finally managed to say, after gaining some control of his emotions. He was sure that Tristan could see his moist eyes but he was grateful that he didn't mention it.

"Was Yugi here last night?" He asked. Tristan dragged the chair from near the bed to even closer so Joey could see him clearly as he sat.

"Yeah." He replied. "We made the deal so that Yugi will stay the nights and I'll stay during the day. I would have stayed nights but Seraphina tends to wake up a lot during the night and Nina isn't fully healed yet. So I gotta pull daddy duty at night."

"You have a daughter." Joey said softly. Yugi had told him but because of his anger and misplaced pride, he hadn't gone to see her.

"Yeah. You haven't seen her yet but I'll bring her around one day so you can meet her." Tristan said. "Thank God she has Nina's looks." Joey managed a small smile at Tristan's comment. His easy-going attitude was enough to make Joey forget what had happened between them, what he had said and done, and that was just what he wanted.

"If you are up to it, I'll inform the others that you are awake." Tristan said.

"Who will you tell?" Joey asked.

"Yugi, Serenity, and Mai." Tristan said. Joey grimaced at the last name.

"I don't know. Maybe not yet." He said, looking away.

"I will tell them not to come but I have to tell them, especially Mai and Serenity." Tristan said. "They have cried themselves to exhaustion because of your state. They weren't leaving your side since they learnt of the accident. Kaiba managed to convince Serenity to go home and rest. But Mai didn't listen. She was here for over 24 hours, awake and crying. It took all of us to convince her to leave last night." Tristan explained. "She left on the condition that we would inform her of any change in your situation, so I have to at least tell her. I bet she is still crying and not resting like she is supposed to." Joey didn't answer. He wanted to feel something at what he had just been told. Anger, pain, hate, hurt, anything. Anything at all. But there was only emptiness.

"I promise I'll make them leave quickly and you can feign tiredness so they will leave you alone." Tristan proposed with a smile. Joey sighed and gave up. It was unavoidable. If not today, then tomorrow. He would have to face them eventually. Might as well get it over with. Tristan stepped out to make the calls, leaving Joey alone with his thoughts. He returned soon, telling him that everyone was on their way.

"So I gave you guys quite the scare, huh?" Joey said with a smile.

"More like a heart attack. It was something out of a movie. You were hanging on to life by a thread and then the doctor said that you needed blood and if we didn't arrange for it within forty minutes, you would die." Tristan said with a shudder, recalling the horrible situation they were in. "Maybe we can sell your story to some Hollywood company and they can make a movie." He suggested with a smirk. "I'm sure there is some washed up actor who can play you." Joey managed another smile.

"So who was the donor?" He asked. The smile disappeared from Tristan's face and he suddenly looked uncomfortable.

"The donor requested for anonymity so I can't tell you."

"Why?" Joey wondered out loud. Tristan was spared from answering because the door to the room opened and Serenity came barrelling in, heading straight towards Joey.

"Oh Joey." She cried and was about to throw herself at him when Tristan quickly grabbed her wrist.

"Careful." He said. "He can't be moved or touched. He can only move his eyes and speak." Serenity nodded her head and then stood in front of Joey, tears streaming down her face.

"You are okay. Thank God you are okay." She said through sobs. "I was so worried. I thought... I thought... but you are okay." Joey smiled sadly at her state.

"Sorry Ren." He said in a small voice. "I didn't mean to worry you."

"It doesn't matter." Serenity said. "What matters is that you are alive. If anything happened to you... if ..." Her body shook with sobs and she hugged herself for comfort. Joey wished he was able to move so he could comfort her. Just then, the door opened and Yugi and Seto entered. Both talked briefly with Tristan who updated them on Joey's condition and then moved to stand besides Serenity. Yugi had a huge smile on his face whereas Seto looked just like Seto.

"Welcome back Joey." Yugi said cheerfully. Joey smiled at his friend.

"How does it feel to be back from the dead?" Seto asked.

"Like wishing that I was still dead." Joey replied. Serenity gasped loudly.

"Don't say that." She admonished. "You almost died. I don't want to ever hear you say that."

"He is kidding." Seto assured her.

"I'm fine sis." Joey said. "Give me a few more days and I'll be back to normal."

"More like a few more months." Yugi said. "You are going to need extensive physical therapy after your body is healed."

"So you better be nice to us because we will be the ones to take you to the bathroom once you are out of the hospital." Tristan teased.

"Actually, once he is out of hospital, he is Mai's responsibility." Yugi pointed out with a smile. "We will just show up randomly to relieve his boredom." At the mention of Mai, Joey's smile disappeared. This did not go unnoticed by the others.

"Don't worry Joe. Mai said she is on her way. She will be here any second." Tristan said, thinking Joey was upset that she wasn't there yet. Joey didn't reply.

"How are you really feeling big brother?" Serenity asked.

"Honestly, like hell. Everything hurts." He admitted.

"Good." Serenity said. "This should teach you a lesson. What were you thinking, being so reckless?"

"More like wasn't thinking." Tristan quipped.

"No Tris, I was thinking." Joey admitted in a small voice. "I was thinking." The others exchanged confused looks but didn't comment.

"I hope you never have those thoughts in your head again." Serenity declared. "I came so close to losing you. I never want to experience that again."

"You are one lucky dog Wheeler." Seto said.

"So I have been told." Joey said. "Tristan said it was all very dramatic with you guys scrambling to find me a blood donor at the last minute. I wonder how you found the person. Tristan said the person chose to remain anonymous. Do you know who it is?" Everyone suddenly looked stiff and uncomfortable, except Seto. They all refused to meet his gaze too.

"The person requested anonymity and we are going to respect the person's wishes." Seto said.

"But you know who it is?" Joey insisted. They were all behaving very similarly so they all must know. Then why not tell him? Did the person only want to hide from him?

"Where is Mai?" Serenity said impatiently, desperate to change topic.

"I'll call her again." Tristan said and stepped outside the room. The door hadn't closed when they heard his voice, speaking with Mai. No later, both entered the room.

"She was just standing outside." Tristan said.

"If you want to be alone with Joey, we can leave." Yugi offered kindly.

"No." Joey immediately said. The others shot him and Mai worried looks.

"What's going on?" Serenity asked, noticing Mai's eyes filling with tears.

"Joey..." Mai said in a broken voice. Tristan grabbed her arm and guided her to stand in front of Joey, but Joey refused to look at her.

"Joey please." Mai begged. "I... none of it was true. It was all a lie. I was... I was trying to trick him." She said between sobs and hiccups. "You know I would never say anything like that. I love you. You know I love you."

"Leave." Joey said, still not looking at her. "I don't want to hear your voice or see your face or talk to you. Leave me." Mai collapsed on the floor and cried hysterically.

"Please Joey, listen to me. Believe me. I didn't mean it. It was a lie. I love you. I love you."

"Someone, anyone, take her out of my sight." Joey growled, suddenly huffing to take in breaths. His chest and ribs hurt and he grimaced in pain.

"Joey please, Joey, look at me. Joey." Mai begged as Yugi and Tristan grabbed her by the arms and led her out of the room. They didn't immediately return and Joey wondered what they were saying to her. But they came in soon after.

"What's going on?" Serenity asked, clearly as confused as everyone else.

"It's nothing." Joey said. "You should all leave. I want to rest." Serenity frowned at his response but before she could protest, Seto was leading her out of the room. Yugi and Tristan remained.

"I'll see you tonight Joey, if you are awake." Yugi said and left. Now it was just Tristan and him. He wondered if Tristan would ask him to explain what had happened, but instead, Tristan dragged the chair from besides his bed to the table and began working, like he had been before Joey woke up. Joey closed his eyes, feeling exhaustion overcome him. It wasn't long before he had drifted off to sleep.


Outside the room, Serenity hurried to catch up to Mai.

"Wait." She called out. Mai turned slowly, wiping her still tearing eyes.

"What the hell is going on?" Serenity demanded angrily.

"It's nothing. Just a misunderstanding." Mai assured her but Serenity wasn't having it.

"Don't lie to me." She spat angrily. "What did you do? You said you were lying and acting and trying to trick him. Who is 'him'?"

"I told you-." Mai began but Serenity grabbed her shirt angrily, pulling her down to her eye level.

"Whatever you said or did brought my brother to this state so don't even try to placate me with your bullshit."

"I love Joey. I never meant for him to get hurt." Mai sobbed helplessly.

"But you did hurt him. You caused him to almost commit suicide. I'll ask you again, what did you do?" Mai only cried. "It has something to do with Valon, doesn't it?" Serenity accused, referring to what had happened in that very same hall two days ago.

"It's just a misunderstanding."

"Did you cheat on Joey with him?" Mai's eyes widened in shock and fear, and she vehemently shook her head.

"I would never do that. I love Joey. I-."

"Liar." Serenity yelled in anger. "You only love yourself. You only think of yourself. You are a selfish person Mai. And because of your selfishness, I almost lost my brother. Stay away from him from now on."

"You can't do that." Mai said angrily. "Joey is my boyfriend. I love him. You can't keep me from him."

"He is my brother and he doesn't want to see you." Serenity said with just as much force. "I'm warning you Mai. Stay away from Joey. You have hurt him enough. Leave him alone now." With that, she began walking towards the exit. Seto, who had witnessed the entire ordeal as a bystander, ignored Mai's crumpled form and followed Serenity.


The next time Joey woke up was when Tristan was leaving. Yugi was already there. Tristan said his goodbye and promised to bring his daughter the next day. Yugi took the seat Tristan had been occupying and opened a folder to begin working. Joey tried to stay awake but had fallen back to sleep within a few minutes.


He woke up to the sound of hushed conversation. He didn't open his eyes but instead, struggled to hear what was being said. Yugi wasn't in the room so Joey guessed he must be one of the participants. The other was definitely a male whose voice was somewhat familiar but Joey couldn't place it just yet. He cursed the beeping machines that were making it difficult for him to eavesdrop. But thankfully, the door opened and Joey could hear better. Footsteps approached him and he feigned sleep.

"He does look a bit improved than last night." The second person was Mokuba. Joey managed to hide his surprise and continue the act of sleeping. Why was Mokuba there? The kid had pretty much ended all contact with them along with his brother. Then why was he here, so late at night? It couldn't be out of concern for him, he knew that much. But then again, Mokuba was visiting at a time when no one would see him, including Joey. Maybe he cared to some degree but wasn't willing to admit it.

"The doctor said he is recovering nicely." Yugi said.

"I'll let her know." Mokuba said. Joey heard footsteps again and he knew Mokuba had left. He wondered who 'her' was. A name and a face did appear in his mind but he refused to acknowledge it. But this time, it wasn't out of anger.


Serenity came to visit him the next day, sans Kaiba. She seemed tense. He asked what was bothering her but she brushed his concern off, instead, focusing on him and his health. She stayed for an hour and during that hour, they made little conversation. Joey was surprised to realize that they had nothing to talk about. After the small talk about his pain and recovery, they had sat in an uncomfortable silence. Serenity had fidgeted every now and then and he guessed she was struggling to find a topic of conversation, much like him. But they had nothing to talk about. How was that possible? He knew there was definitely something she wanted to ask him and that something had to do with Mai, but he refused to bring up that topic, not even to alleviate his boredom or to satisfy her curiosity.

Tristan brought his daughter. That had been the highlight of his day. The little girl had beautiful features, much like her mother. She stayed awake the entire time, and openly stared at Joey. Even he noticed that she was very attached to Tristan because she clung to him, and protested when he tried to put her in her baby car-seat. After a few moments of bargaining from Tristan, during which Joey teased and taunted the other male, Seraphina settled in her seat and Tristan relaxed his arms. But he was careful to stay in her sight lest she think him gone and begin crying.

They talked for over an hour and Joey was surprised to find that they had settled into familiar friendship, as if they had never fought or argued. It felt like old times when they didn't have a care in the world. They laughed and laughed and teased each other, recalling past events when they had gotten in trouble together. Their conversation had Joey wishing he could go back in time to when they were in high school, and carefree. He would rather deal with the challenges they faced then than the struggle going on in his heart now.

Nina came to collect Seraphina and see Joey. Her visit surprised him. She had never been close to their group, much to Mai's and Serenity's chagrin. In fact, Joey could recall a few incidents when he had spoken to her. He had always felt that she had kept her distance from them, and that Tristan had encouraged that. Yet she had been there, smiling pleasantly at him and inquiring about his well being.

Flashback

"Thanks for your visit." Joey said honestly. "I don't think I deserve it, considering how rude I have been."

"Nonsense." Nina replied pleasantly.

"I'm sorry for not visiting you and Seraphina." He continued.

"It's okay. Seraphina came to visit you." Tristan chuckled from besides the baby and Joey smiled as well.

"How are you doing?" He asked her. "Tristan said you were still recovering. You shouldn't have bothered coming."

"I'm doing just fine. Ever since the pregnancy, Tristan has become an overbearing, over-protective mother hen. He likes to exaggerate." Nina said, shooting Tristan a teasing smile.

"I'm not a mother hen." Tristan protested. "I'm a father cock." Joey guffawed at Tristan's response, Even Seraphina gurgled something. Nina blushed prettily.

"I'm also visiting another friend." Nina said. "I just came from there."

"Hope your friend isn't in as bad a state as me." Joey said.

"No no. She is doing much better." Nina replied. "I'm going to take Seraphina to visit her and then we are off to home."

"Okay. You can go now." Tristan said, too quickly in Joey's opinion. He also brought over Seraphina and handed her to Nina, kissing her briefly and leading her to the door. Nina said goodbye over her shoulder and was gone.

End flashback

Many aspects of Nina's visit her piqued Joey's curiosity. Her presence itself had been a surprise, but when she had mentioned her friend, Tristan had stiffened. After that, he had very quickly led Nina out of the room. Joey hadn't even gotten a chance to inquire further about Nina's friend's well being. When he had complained to Tristan about Nina's hasty exit, Tristan had used the flimsy excuse of Seraphina needing sleep and food. But Joey recalled Tristan telling him that they had fed her and made her take a nap before bringing her to meet him so she would be calm. It was obvious to Joey that Tristan was avoiding telling Joey something, and that Nina was somehow related to that. Again, the same thought, the same guess, the same fear emerged in his mind but he brushed it aside. It was too difficult to believe that.

The door opened and he wondered who that was. It was late evening and he had all the visitors he was meant to have for the day. Was it someone who wasn't authorized? Mai perhaps?

"Wheeler." It was him.

"What are you doing here?" Joey asked brusquely. Valon looked away in discomfort, annoying Joey even further.

"I came to apologize." Valon said and Joey wished he could move. Because he would have loved to punch the brunette right now.

"I don't give a shit about what you have to say. Get out of my room."

"I wanna clear a few things and I'll leave right after, I promise." Valon said. "Give me ten minutes and after that, you will never see me again." Joey growled, wishing once again he could move. But as it was, he was helpless. He sighed in irritation.

"Hurry up and say the bullshit you want to say and then get out of my sight."

"I really am sorry about all this." Valon said, gesturing to all the machines hooked up to Joey. "Believe me when I say that I never, in all my dreams, wanted this to happen. When I was talking to Mai and having you listen, the worse I expected was you guys fighting and breaking up, but never this. I never wanted this, any of it." Valon said in a frustrated and hurt tone, running a hand through his hair. As Joey observed him, he realized that Valon meant what he was saying. He really did appear extremely guilty and regretful.

"I just wanted to teach Mai that she couldn't manipulate people as well as she thought. I wanted to show her that she wasn't as smart as she thought herself to be, that she didn't control others. I wanted to bring her down from her high pedestal, and show her that playing with emotions and feelings wasn't right, that the end didn't justify the means. Sometimes you paid a price for every step you took." Joey mentally scoffed. That was a lesson Mai would never learn. To her, the ends always justified the means, and for that reason, she wasn't above sinking to any level to get what she wanted.

"When I met her that day, she immediately went into her charm mode, thinking she could play with my feelings and get money from me. She assumed that I must still be attracted to her because she was so special and alluring. That's how arrogant she was." Valon explained. "I knew that she was acting. She had no intention of doing anything for me. She just wanted to use me. She has no feelings for me, never had. It had always been you."

"If you are here to advocate on her behalf, then you should leave." Joey said plainly.

"I have no intention of doing that." Valon said. "I'm just telling you the whole truth. I have no feelings for Mai. I got over her a long, long time ago, when I realized that she was in love with you."

"She doesn't love anyone but herself." Joey spat angrily.

"Mate, she has been crying non-stop since your accident. From what I hear, she has barely eaten or slept. She was camped outside your room for over a day. She would still be here if you hadn't made it clear that you didn't want her here."

"Why are you defending her?" Joey asked, hiding his surprise at the information Valon was giving him. How did Valon know all this? How long had Valon been in the hospital? Why would he remain here for days?

"I'm not."Valon said and Joey scoffed loudly. "Listen Wheeler, I really am sorry about this." Valon continued. "If I knew what would have come out of my little stunt, I would have never done it."

"I didn't know you cared so much about my well being." Joey sneered.

"There are others who have been unintentionally affected by my actions." Valon clarified, and again, Joey noticed the look of absolute regret and pain on his face.

"I suppose you mean Mai." Joey said. Valon refused to meet his eye.

"I hope you fully recover, and wish you all the best on your journey." Valon said and turned to leave.

"How did you get in here?" Joey asked him before he could exit. "My visiting hours are over. The only one allowed in is Tristan, and he stepped out for a few moments. I find it very suspicious that you not only managed to find my room and get in, but at such an opportune time too." Valon looked taken back at Joey's observation and struggled to find a good response. Finally he answered.

"I was already in the hospital, visiting someone else."

"That doesn't explain how you knew my room." Joey persisted.

"It's not very difficult to find out. Your story is all over the news."

"I doubt they are giving out my room number." Joey wouldn't give up.

"Good bye Wheeler." Valon said and left.

"Just say it. Just fucking say it." Joey yelled at his back but he didn't stop or turn. Joey breathed heavily, in anger or exhaustion he didn't know.

Thoughts were swirling in his head too fast to fully decipher. But he knew one thing for sure. Whatever was going on had to do with her. He had been suspicious after Mokuba's visit, and more so after Nina's. Both were friends with her and Nina had specifically said she was visiting someone else in the hospital besides him. And Valon's presence had solidified his suspicion. Valon was friends with Alistair so it made sense that he knew her and was friends with her as well. Valon's presence alone would have been enough but his words, his guilt, pain, and anguish weren't for his sake or even Mai's. It was for her. It was all making sense now; the way everyone reacted when he asked them about the donor, why Tristan removed Nina from his presence when she mentioned her, and why Mokuba and Valon were in the hospital.

It was the only explanation that fit. It was the only common link between everyone. Mokuba, Nina, and Valon were in the hospital for her. She was here. She was the donor. She had to be. She was the only one in their group who had the same blood type as him.

"My blood sister." He whispered, recalling the first time he had uttered those words, many years ago.

Flashback

He was busy arguing with Tristan over something meaningless when Tea and Yugi appeared.

"Hey guys." Tea greeted them cheerfully. "Are you ready for it?"

"Huh?" Both shot her confused looks. "Ready for what? Is there something going on?" Joey said. Tea shot him a exasperated look.

"Domino Blood Services is here for blood donations. It was announced weeks ago, and there have been flyers posted outside every classroom."

"Oh that." Joey said carelessly. "I didn't sign up."

"But why?" Tea asked in a surprised tone.

"I just don't want to. I saw the sing-up sheet. There are a lot of people donating. It wouldn't matter if I did. The blood services group will have more than enough." He explained. "Besides, I don't think anyone can handle my amazing blood. It would burn them from the inside because it will be too awesome for their body to handle."

"That's just another way of saying you are afraid of needles." Tristan teased and Joey glared at him.

"I am not scared of tiny prickly needles. I told you, I don't see any point in it."

"But Joey, what if your blood type is rare and in need. Then every drop counts." Tea said.

"I doubt it." Joey replied.

"What is your blood type?" Yugi asked curiously. Joey seemed thoughtful for a few moments before smiling sheepishly at them.

"I don't know." Tristan guffawed from besides him.

"I guess your blood is too awesome and amazing to be categorized into the normal types." Joey cuffed him in annoyance.

"Shut up Tris. Like you know yours."

"Sure I do. I'm AB." Tristan replied smugly. "I'm a universal acceptor. Anyone's blood will do for me so I don't ever have to worry about it. But I'm still donating."

"See Joey, even Tristan is." Tea said. "You should too, if not to help out someone else, then to find out what your blood type is. They tell you after you donate." She tried to entice him. Joey seemed to be contemplating but didn't appear too interested.

"You get a donut after you donate." Yugi added with a knowing smile and Joey was up in no time.

"Donut. Why didn't you say so? Let's go get me a donut... I mean donate some blood." The others laughed at his sudden enthusiasm, with Tea shooting Yugi a grateful smile.

They met up after Yugi, the last one among them, had finished. While Yugi was getting his complimentary donut, Joey swiped another one for himself, completely ignoring Tea's scolding look. They walked out of the school gymnasium where the blood services group had set up and headed towards the cafeteria.

"See Joe, that wasn't so bad. You faced the scary needle and you are still alive." Tristan said, laughing as Joey tried to scowl at him with a mouth full of donut.

"Did you find out your blood type?" Yugi asked and Joey nodded his head.

"I'll tell you after you all tell me yours." He declared. They all shrugged their shouldered carelessly.

"I'm B-positive." Yugi said.

"I'm O-negative." Tea said and Joey got a huge smile on his face.

"I'm O-negative too." He said.

"That's so amazing." Yugi said with a smile. "It's the rarest blood type. Hospitals are always looking for donors with this blood type because it is so valuable."

"Every drop of your blood is precious and can help someone." Tea asked. "Aren't you glad now that you donated?"

"I'm happy I got two donuts." Joey said cheekily.

"You should show some appreciation for people who donate, especially since you are O-negative. If everyone with your blood type had your mentality, then you would be in big trouble if you ever need blood in the future because you can only accept blood from other O-negative individuals." Tea said.

"I'm not too worried about blood anymore." Joey said, placing an arm around Tea's shoulders. "Especially now since I know you are also O-negative. If I ever need blood, I'll take it from you." Tea pushed his arm off her and moved away from him.

"I don't know if I'll give it." She said teasingly. "Especially now since I know how you feel about donating blood. I'll save it for someone nice and worthy."

"Aww come on." Joey whined. "You have to. You are my blood-sister."

"Did anyone else think of vampires when Joey said blood-sister?" Tristan asked, making the others laugh.

"That would make an awesome show, with lots of hot girls who are all blood-sisters and they live together and spend quality time together, if you know what I mean." Joey said, sharing a knowing look with a grinning Tristan.

"You guys are disgusting." Tea said, turning her nose at their perverted idea.

"Let's get something to eat and a place to sit." Yugi said. "I am feeling a bit woozy."

"Oh Yugi, are you feeling okay? Should I take you back to the nurse? She said you can rest there if you don't feel good after giving blood. You shouldn't have given so much." Tea fussed worriedly over Yugi, earning smiles and winks from Joey and Tristan. They continued laughing and talking, with Joey and Tristan teasing Yugi about his fragility, Tea chiding them for being mean, and Yugi trying unsuccessfully to defend his masculinity from them all the while trying to appear weak to get more attention from Tea.

End flashback

He had called her his blood-sister, and then had done that to her. He had hurt her, humiliated her, abandoned, ostracized and isolated her, all for a woman who probably never saw him as anything more than a means to a selfish end. He had hurt his friend for someone who never cared for him, who always manipulated him with her words and actions, who used his feelings for her gains. Mai had always played dirty, and had only gotten better at the game with time. She had masterfully manipulated his over-protective nature to make Serenity's wrong right. She had prayed upon his insecurities, along with his friends, and with twisted words, gotten them all to turn on a part of their heart, a piece of their soul. She had used them. She had used them all.

And he knew what was happening. He wasn't that naive. He knew exactly what was happening, but it was too hard to acknowledge it, too hurtful to admit it. It was easier to pretend that they were right, that Mai was right, that she did it all out of love for him and for Serenity.

But he couldn't even pretend anymore. With every heartbeat, it was getting more and more difficult to ignore it because every beat was a proof, pounding in his chest. It was the constant reminder of who had brought him here to this state, and who had saved him from going over the edge.

God, how he wished he could move his arms so he could wipe the tears that freely streamed down his face.

"Sorry about that Joe. The phone call took a lot longer than I expected." Tristan said, entering the room with a sheepish smile. As he noticed Joey's face, he quickly walked over to him.

"Are you in pain? Did you move? Where does it hurt? I'm gonna call the nurse." Tristan said in a panicked tone and turned to leave but Joey called him.

"No wait. Don't call the nurse." He said in a chocked voice, throat constricted from emotion. "I am not in physical pain. I don't need a nurse." Tristan turned back, confused and worried. "But I do need you to do something for me Tris. Tell me who was my donor." Tristan looked away, supremely uncomfortable with the question.

"Like I told you before Joey-."

"Just say the name Tristan. Just say it." Joey pleaded as more tears fell from his eyes. "Just say her name... please." Tristan watched the broken form of his best friend and he knew that somehow Joey had found out. But he still wanted to hear it. With a defeated sigh, Tristan answered.

"It was Tea."

...

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Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this chapter.

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