It has come to my attention that I have become one of "those" authors, who writes about "those" things. I have tried my best to avoid certain subjects simple due to the nature of them, but ultimately I have been drawn to them like moths to a flame. For English class I had to read a book called "The Kite Runner". This book, though dark, sparked the inspiration for this story and I have spent roughly the last two months working on this little guy. It was a one-shot that got out of hand, thus resulting in me splitting it into two parts. I've rambled long enough; time to get to the story.
I do not own Yugioh.
Warnings: Foul language, implied rape, cruel realities, and questionable ethics
Father forgive me for I have sinned.
Even though I had been friends with Yugi for years, it still annoyed me to no ends just how nice he was. To everybody. It didn't matter who they were, or what they had done to him in the past, he never seemed to hold any malice towards anyone. When everything was done with the Pharaoh, after he had finally left for the Afterlife, Marik offered us to stay in Egypt just a little longer. Yugi was an emotional wreck and he thought it would be a way for all of us to find closure. My first instinct was hell no, not after everything he had done to us. I detested the fact that we had to see him, period. I didn't want us to have to spend any more time than necessary around him. After all, he had kidnapped me and Anzu, and then tried to have me kill my best friend. You don't forget something like that.
But Yugi—he accepted right away. And I wanted to shake him for it. I wanted to scream at him, "Don't you remember? He almost killed you!" And that was before he went all physcho on the blimp. Tricking Yugi into that warehouse, that whole deal with luring him into that old circus tent, holding Anzu and me hostage against him, that was Marik. Not the psychopath who nearly murdered half of the finalists. That was him, the real him, and there was no denying it.
Yugi seemed to have forgotten. Maybe it was because he was still in a state of shock because the Pharaoh left. I can't imagine how he must have felt. How empty. Atem had lived inside his head for years, had always been there. When Atem was around, Yugi was never ever alone. And then it all disappeared in one moment. It was all just taken away from him. He must have been so depressed.
But he still forgave Marik. And I wanted to grab him by the shoulders, throttle him, scream right in his face. Marik didn't deserve his forgiveness, his trust, his friendship. But I restrained myself when I thought back to my earlier high school years and realized that I didn't deserve it either.
Yugi was always one of those guys who made you want to be a better person. He made you see your own faults in his virtues. I doubt he noticed because he was never doing anything other than being himself. He was also a huge trouble magnet, always had been. And I know he resented it, but I couldn't help but become protective, especially since Atem wasn't around to do it anymore, and Yuge—he was like a china doll, so fragile and sweet, you always had to be careful how you held him because you were afraid he would break or crack. Yugi never said anything about it, though I could tell he was annoyed by the subtle looks in his eyes he would shoot me when I suggested that I accompany him somewhere, or when I told him to be careful.
I felt it was all justified though. We had almost lost him so many times in the past few years. I swear that day in the warehouse I thought he was gonna die. That ranks in the top three worst days of my life, in case you're wondering.
Another reason though, was that not too long ago, Atem had asked me that I protect Yugi. Atem asked me, he put his faith in trust in me to take care of Yugi, the most important thing in his life. I had wanted too before, but now that Atem expected me too, wanted me too, I had too.
But the funny thing is…no matter how hard I tried, and I tried hard, believe me, I couldn't protect Yugi when he needed me most. I had always been so good at protecting him over the stupid stuff, like making sure he didn't go out with that bitch girl who would only break his heart in the end, or that he not walk downtown after midnight. Sure, these don't sound that insignificant, but compared to what I could not protect him from, they don't mean a damn thing.
It took me a long time to decide whether or not I should speak of this. I don't want people to think badly of Yugi, because he was the nicest damn person I ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life, and I want people to remember him as the King of Games as I will always remember him, but there are some sick bastards who will surely take this wrong way, and though it's not my intent to make Yugi's last days make him seem like a wimp, there are going to be some who see it that way. I can't make people think what I want them to think. I can't change their opinion about me or Yugi or anyone else once they've made it up.
But it's a good thing I'm not doing this for me. Shit, I don't even know if anyone outside these four walls will hear, but now that I've begun I know I have to at least finish, for Yugi. I mean, you will listen, right? You kind of have too, I think. It's not going to make up for me failing him and it won't make me feel any better about myself. It's not even my story to tell, but it still needs to be told, because Yugi was a martyr, and I want everyone to know about Yugi, so they can strive to be the better person Yugi made me want to be.
I didn't deserve any of the friendship and kindness he gave me. No one who met him did. But he still treated everyone like a dear friend, even shitbags like me who made his life a living hell for years. He saved me and Tristan, even though we deserved to get our asses handed to us by Ushio. Even after I stole a piece of his Millennium Puzzle and taunted him and belittled him, he stood up for us.
That was the day I wanted to be like Yugi. More than anything in my life. I finally had a role model I could look up too. I had an escape from my drunken father. I had a distraction from my nearly blind sister.
Yugi saved me from my life that day.
And I was never able to repay the favor.
Not long after high school, Yugi and I moved into an apartment in the west side of town. It was dirty and damp and flooding with roaches when we first moved in, but it was cheap, and we were still excited about the prospect of living on our own. Besides, money wasn't really the issue. Kaiba had invested time and money into Yugi by paying for his school so that one day Yugi would help him design games for KaibaCorp.
School had never been my thing, and honestly, I had never had any intentions of continuing on after high school. I was a decent enough duelist that I could win money from tournaments that would usually last a month, but my main source of income came from working at Grandpa's Game Shop.
My life was looking pretty good for once. I was in a safe environment with a steady job and a roommate who did his share of the chores and paid his rent on time. There were no evil megalomaniacs hell bent on killing my friends. Everything seemed to be going good for once.
Until my past came back to haunt me.
It started out as a couple of phone calls. He would leave short messages that usually involved the words "fag" "traitor" and "ass" in a specific order whilst he threatened to hunt me down and kill me. I'll admit—they were unnerving. I hadn't heard from Hirutani in years. Not since Yugi got me out his clutches. How had he even managed to find me?
Still, I ignored it. Hirutani was nothing more than bad memories and faded scars and I had no interest in getting involved with him ever again. I always deleted his messages right away. The longer time went on, the harsher and more violent they got. But the less affected I felt by them. So far, they had been nothing more than messages, just some simple, albeit annoying, harassment. He had never acted on them. It wasn't the Hirutani I knew, but then, I wasn't the same Joey I used to be. People do change.
Well….most of them.
I kept the messages my little secret. I didn't want get a lecture from Yugi on how I needed to call the police and report him. It would've been a giant hassle, and besides, I didn't want to worry Yugi. He had enough on his plate already, with school, and then interning at KaibaCorp. Hell, I barely saw him most days and we lived together. If he found out, then there was no doubt he would get involved. Anyway, this was my problem and I wanted to be able to deal with it on my own, the Joey Wheeler Way.
Which meant ignoring it and hoping it would go away on its own.
But, I had no such luck. Joey Wheeler, for the record, is not a lucky man. In fact, he is probably the unluckiest man in the history of unlucky men.
I came home from work one day to see a rather pissed off Yugi sitting on the couch, arms folded over his chest. It was amazing how much he had grown over the years. He looked so much like Atem. Yugi also has a bit of a Napoleon Complex, meaning that, when he's mad, you know you've screwed up big time. Having Yugi stare angrily at you is probably scarier than having your own mother stare angrily at you. I closed the door slowly behind me.
"Hey." I said. "What's up?"
"You tell me." He snapped, then pressed the button on the answering machine. I swore internally. Yugi beat me to it.
"Hey, Wheeler," Hirutani's snarly voice came in, "I'm gonna kill you, ya know? No one betrays me and gets away with it. Ya little asshole blondie, I'm gonna kill ya." Then the dial tone.
Yugi continued to glare at me. "Well?" He snapped.
"How long has this been going on?"
Another thing about Yugi: he doesn't know when to decipher between something that's his problem, and something that's my problem.
"What does it matter?" I said walking towards the fridge. I wanted him to stop staring at me. I felt like every time Yugi stared at me he could read my soul.
"He's threatening you."
"That's all it is, Yuge, threats. He hasn't done anything he's said he was going to do."
"So this has been going on for a while then?"
I raised my hands up in resignation. "Yes, it has okay?" I looked at him. I sighed. "Look, I'll call the police tomorrow, alright? Right now it's late and I'm tired."
Yugi relaxed a little. "Okay." He agreed. "I was worried, Joey; I know how awful that man was to you when we were younger."
"That was years ago, Yuge. 'Sides, I can take Hirutani, and you know it!" I flexed my muscles and grinned. Yugi rolled his eyes and scoffed.
"Yes, you're very physically fit, no need to rub it in. But still, this is a job for the police. They deal with cases like this all the time."
I snorted. "I'm surprised he isn't even in jail. You know what kind of stuff he was into back in high school."
"Yeah. I don't think many people can say they were in a gang fight with yo-yos."
"Hey! Those things were lethal weapons and you know it!" Yugi grinned. I mentally slapped myself. Of course he knew it. He knew because I dragged him into my problems and he was used as a hostage against me.
"You'll go to the police?"
"Tomorrow, I swear." I lied. I hated lying to Yugi. But I wasn't going to the police. I had waited around too long. Yugi was right. Action needed to be taken. But it was going to be by me.
But Yugi still smiled, regardless of the fact that I was lying to him.
It would be a long time until I saw that smile again.
After Yugi had retired to his room, I picked up the phone and called the number that was last listed on the caller ID. It rang three times before it was picked up.
"It's about time you son of a bitch."
"Listen to me, asshole." I spat. "We finish what we started back in high school tonight."
Hirutani chuckled. "Perfect."
I left the apartment as quietly as I could, tightening my jacket. It was a bitter cold night. My teeth began to ache. I walked towards the designated area Hirutani and I decided on. Me and him would fight in out; I would be the victor. He would never bother me again, and I would manage to sneak back home, clean myself up, and crawl back into bed all before Yugi woke or suspected anything. He would never condone what I was doing, but he didn't seem to understand that this wasn't something I could just go to the police about. This wasn't about harassment: this was about honor. More specifically, mine.
I suppose it could be considered ironic that we chose to meet up in the same old warehouse we had last seen each other. I looked up at the roof before entering. I could still see the holes in the tin roof Atem made, chasing Hirutani's thugs around. Memories…
That voice…I turned around.
"Yugi!" Shit. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question." He spat bitterly. He was pissed. "You said you were going to wait for the police!"
"You followed me?"
"I can't all in good conscience let you go and get yourself killed, can I?"
"Go home, Yugi. This isn't your concern."
"You're my friend, Joey. It is my concern. And I'm not going home, and you can't make me. Either we both go home and call the police in the morning, or we both go inside that warehouse. Your choice."
"Then I choose the warehouse."
"Then I'm going with you."
Yugi was stubborn, and once he made up his mind, there was no changing it. So I gave in. "Fine." I said. "Just stay out of my way." I took a step forward and could hear Yugi scuffling behind me. I pushed the door and walked in, Yugi inches behind me. It was dark, until a bright light was suddenly turned on, blinding me.
"Look who finally decided to show up." I recognized the voice. Hirutani. As my eyes adjusted I noticed two other people behind him—people I didn't remember. He had gotten new thugs.
"It takes time preparing to whip your ass." I retorted. He smirked.
It happened so fast I didn't have time to react. His thugs had me pinned to the ground, and I couldn't shake them. Hirutani laughed. "Is that the best you got, Wheeler? Hey, who's your friend over there?"
Yugi didn't stand a chance either. Hirutani held him in a vice grip. I watched as Hirutani studied him. "Hey, I know you. You're that little shit who stole Wheeler from me. What are you doing here, you little shit?"
Yugi struggled and tried to break out of his grip. It was useless. "Boys," Hirutani said, "deal with Wheeler." I felt myself being lifted up. I tried to fight out of their grip, but they were too big, too strong. I felt myself being placed in a wooden chair in the center of the room, and with a quick snap, I had been handcuffed.
"Hey!" I shouted, trying to break them. My hands had been placed between the bars in the back, and I couldn't slip my hands over or through. I was stuck. "Hirutani you bastard!"
"You know," he said, looking at Yugi, "I was going to kill you, but I think instead I might kill your little friend here." He pulled a gun out of his pants pocket and placed it at Yugi's temple. I watched as his pupils widened and I clenched my teeth. I half expected the Pharaoh to come out and save us like he used to when we were knee deep in shit like this. But the Pharaoh was dead. We were on our own.
"After all, he is the reason you are me had a falling out, isn't he, Wheeler? Tell me, how does a big strong gang banger like you become friends with a scrawny little shit like this?"
"You hurt one hair on his head," I said through my teeth, "and I will rip out your jugular." I meant it. With every fiber of my being.
"One hair, huh? There's an idea!" He put the gun down and instead pulled out a knife from his pocket. "There's an idea." He grabbed Yugi by his hair and used the knife to cut a lock of it off. Yugi continued to uselessly struggle against him. Hirutani continued to shave off Yugi's hair, letting the multicolored locks fall to the dirt floor. But Hirutani didn't seem satisfied.
"Tsk. Surely there are better ways of hurting the both of you, after you both hurt me so?"
Moonlight peered in through the holes.
"What's the best way I can hurt you?" He took Yugi's chin in his fat, meaty hand. Yugi uselessly tried to fight. "I think I have an idea." He put the knife back in his pocket, bent down and grabbed the gun, then threw it to his blonde lackey who stood to my right. I felt the gun being placed at my temple. I clenched my eyes. Is this how you feel right before you die?
"Motou," he said, "you're going to do what I say, or I'm going to make sure that the only way Wheeler leaves here tonight is in a body bag, with a nice piece of lead in his puny little brain."
"Run Yugi!" I had gotten Yugi into this mess…but what could Hirutani possibly want with Yugi? If he wasn't going to kill him….
He let go of Yugi and pushed him down. "Strip." He barked.
No….no…nonononono! He couldn't….I looked at Yugi, terrified. Run, I shouted in my mind, run you idiot, save yourself! But instead I saw the look of fear in his eyes and he turned his head towards me. That one look said everything.
"Don't you do it, Yugi!"
"Strip, Motou, or Wheeler dies!"
"Don't you fucking do it!"
The lackey cocked the gun. I watched as Yugi reached for the button on his jeans.
"Don't you fucking do it!"
And then Hirutani laughed a wicked laugh and looked at me as he got down on top of Yugi. "Make sure he watches."
I wasn't sure how long I was there. A few hours, at least. Hirutani's lackeys had unlocked the handcuffs after he was done and I just fell to the dirt floor, shell shocked, shivering, paralyzed. Yugi's back was to me, but I could hear his soft sniveling.
This is all my fault, I thought. Over and over and over and over again. This is all my fucking fault. But when the room started to become full of sun instead of moon I knew we needed to go. I crawled towards him, slowly. I could see the bruises on his shoulder where the bastard had held him down. I could smell the blood in the air. I grabbed his clothes on my way over there. All of it was damp. But better than nothing at the moment.
"Yugi?" I gingerly touched his shoulder. He turned to look at me, flushed and snotty. "Come on, man." It took everything I had not to cry again. My throat was raw from it and screaming. "We need to go." I helped him into a sitting position. "Ugh…do I need to call an ambulance, or—"
"No." He said, defeated. "No. No hospitals, no police…let's….let's just go home."
"But Yugi—he—he—" I couldn't say the word, it was to terrible, "you need to get checked out, man, you need—"
"No, no." He said softly, running his hands through his hair. It was terribly botched. It was nothing more than black now and it was sticking all over in parts that were longer than others. "I just want to go home, Joey. Please? I just want to go home?"
This was all my fault. If I had just called the police like I told him I would….If I hadn't snuck out….If I had just gone back home when he gave me the chance….This was all my fault. I had no right telling him what he had to do. Who was I to further his pain, his humiliation? I reluctantly handed him his stained clothes. "Okay. We can go home."
He took them. He looked at me. "How bad did they hurt you?"
Dumbfounded, I said nothing.
I sat outside the bathroom, listening to the sound of rushing water; could feel the steam on my ankles. He had been in there for two hours. At least. I'm not sure. I wasn't in any hurry to force him out.
This is all your fault.
Then, the water stopped. After a few more minutes, Yugi stepped out in an old robe. His skin was bright red. He must've had the water as hot as it would go. He slid down next to me, brought his knees to his chest. Silence. He looked so different without his hair. It would be harder to find him in a crowd now. He would be able to blend into the background, just like how he wanted to do back in school.
Are we going to talk about this? Ever?
As if he were reading my thoughts, Yugi sighed, and then said, "No one knows."
He hugged his knees tighter. "We tell no one. Anzu…Tristan…no one." He shifted uncomfortably. I could see in his eyes he was in pain.
In all the time I had known him, Yugi had never kept anything from anyone. I wanted to reject his idea, tell him it was stupid, that our friends would not judge him differently. But, I hadn't brought him to the hospital either. And it was too late now. All the evidence had run down the drain as Yugi attempted to scald himself just moments earlier.
"Promise me, Joey. Promise you won't tell anyone." He stuck out his pinky towards me.
I reluctantly wrapped mine around his. Because if no one ever found about this night, then no one would have to know how badly I failed him.
…..Six Months Later…..
Her name was Becky. She was good for him, I told myself. She could help him in a way I couldn't. She was a classmate of his and somehow the two of them just started hanging out. And then it became more than that. Honestly, I thought if Yugi were to go steady with anyone, it would be Anzu. But she was halfway around the World now and couldn't help him like Becky could.
She was small with dark hair and round glasses. She reminded me of our friend Rebecca from California, but there were minute differences that made her stand out. She didn't squeal like Rebecca, which I thanked God for every day.
Even though time had passed since that terrible night, Yugi didn't let his hair grow back out to what it was before. He kept it short and black, and when asked about it, would simply just respond, "It was time to go." Kaiba had called me the next day and bitched me out, asking why I let him cut it. I kept my promise to Yugi and didn't explain that Yugi didn't cut it. I just told him what Yugi was telling everyone else. It was time to let it go.
I could see the two of them on the couch, their arms locked around each other's necks in a kiss. I did my best to ignore them. I felt awkward being there. I shouldn't have been there, I should have given them the privacy they needed. Even though I was in the kitchen and out of their line of sight, I felt like I was intruding. But I couldn't help it. I had to watch them. I had to make sure.
"Mmm…." She moaned softly. "You're surprisingly good at this." She said coyly.
I could see the scarlet roses race across Yugi's cheeks. "Uh…."
"Come on, sweetie. You don't have to be embarrassed." She reached for the buttons on his shirt. He gently took her hands.
"Joey's still here—"
"Oh, you are a virgin, aren't you?"
"Please. I don't—"
Her smile dropped. "Okay."
"No, no, don't be. It's alright, I understand." She stood up.
"I'll see you in class tomorrow, right?"
"Yeah." She leaned in and kissed him. When she left I saw Yugi lay on his side on the sofa, bringing his knees to his chest.
One day Becky cornered me in the Game Shop during the off hours. "Does Yugi not want me?" She said.
"Of course he does, why would you ask that?"
"Because, every time I try to—"
I put my hands up to my ears. "La la la la la la….." Yugi's sex life (or lack thereof) was of no interest to me.
"He pushes me away."
I took my hands away. She looked sad.
"Does he not love me?"
"He adores you."
"He's just shy." I said, praying to God for the conversation to end. I really, really, really did not want to talk about Yugi's nonexistent sex life.
She didn't seem convinced. Or she didn't like my answer. Either way, she thanked me for talking to her and then left the shop.
When I got back home that night I saw Yugi sitting on the floor outside his bedroom door. It was late. He didn't even look up when I walked past. "She dumped me." He said.
"I'm sorry." What else could I say? Was it my fault? It couldn't be coincidence that the day I talk to her is the day she breaks up with him. But what could I have possibly said that would make her break up with Yugi?
"She says she can't be with someone who doesn't tell her the truth."
Yugi's abilities to seemingly read minds had increased in the time since….He wasn't acting like someone who was just dumped too. He sounded sad. His eyes looked empty. But he wasn't crying.
Then I remembered that Yugi doesn't cry anymore.
It was before the incident with Hirutani, before Atem left, but after Battle City. I had wanted to duel with Atem to get back my Red Eyes fair and square. It was my dream to be as good and strong a duelist as he was. I would never get anywhere close to the level he was at.
So when my life points hit zero, as the sun began to peak over the horizon, it was a surprise to no one.
"You fought well, Joey." He told me, smiling as he approached me. He had a card in his hand, and outstretched it. "Here, take it."
It was my Red Eyes, I knew. I shook my head, dumbfounded. "I can't." I said. "I can't take it back until I beat you. It's my fault I lost Red Eyes in the first place. I was irresponsible. I'm not ready."
"But you are, Joey. You are ready and you are worthy. Red Eyes wants you back; you should hear how he mourns for you, wailing. Aibou hears it too, and we both want nothing more than to reunite you two."
"But I didn't win."
"That is irrelevant. Take it, Joey. You and Red Eyes are meant to be."
He was serious. I could tell. He wanted me to have Red Eyes. Atem was stubborn and wouldn't stop until I conceded defeat and accepted it. So I took it, unable to stop the smile that came to my face when I felt the card touch my skin. I could feel Red Eyes' energy flowing through me.
"Hey buddy. I missed you."
Atem smiled softly, then turned his head. "It's a beautiful sunrise, is it not?"
"I guess so."
"Symbolizing a new day, time to make new friends, reconcile with old. A lot is about to change, Joey."
"Yeah." He now had all three Egyptian god cards. He had the information to his past. I could not imagine how he must have felt, to be a stranger to himself all this time and then to suddenly have the key to all his questions given to him.
"Joey," he said, somber and turned to me. He looked sad, like he was on the verge of tears. "There is another reason I asked you here today. Can you make me a promise?"
"Sure." I said. "Anything, you ask, I'll do it."
"I will not be here forever….Aibou knows it too and it makes him sad. I cannot bear to know he's in pain, but whenever the subject comes up, he refuses to discuss it and changes it. You and he are very close…"
This was before the ordeal with Dartz. I had never seen Atem cry before, but that moment was probably the closet I had come too.
"When I am gone, will you promise me that you will look after him for me?"
"Do you even need to ask? Yugi's my brother; I'll protect him with my life."
Atem smiled softly. It was amazing to me how the mannerisms of Atem and Yugi seemed to merge together. Sometimes it was hard to tell them apart, especially in quiet moments like that.
"Can he hear us?"
Atem shook his head, grabbing onto the Puzzle. "No. I have blocked Aibou for the moment, so he cannot hear what we are saying."
And I said, "I'll take care of him, Pharaoh, I promise." And he smiled at me. And that was the end of that.
Sometimes I wonder what Atem must think of me now, after I fell back on the promise I made to him.
…Four Months Later….
I know it's been a while since we talked, and I'm sorry. I know I just disappeared for a while. After the experience with Dartz and with Valon, I needed some time to myself, to travel the world and find out who I really am. I think I've done that now, but I can't be sure. Not until I see you again. I'll be in Domino for a few days. If you want to meet up, give me a call.
At the bottom corner she had scribbled her number. I stared at the letter for a long time, unsure of what to think. The letter had no return address, like it had just been dropped into the mailbox. I hadn't heard from Mai in nearly four years. I had never stopped thinking of her, but I figured I would never see or hear from her again. The letter….
"Are you going to go?" Yugi asked. I looked at him. He had grown up so much. His hair was still short and black. He had lost some weight, but his eyes looked older, more aware. He was looking more and more like Atem each day.
"I don't know." I said honestly. "How do I even know if this is real? That she really wrote this? For all I know, it could've been written by anyone."
"It looks like her handwriting."
"Yuge, it's been years. I can't use that to judge the authenticity."
"Joey, it sounds like she's apologizing. I think she wants a date."
A date? In my teenage years I had dreamed over and over again of having a dinner date with the voluptuous Mai Valentine. But then she had disappeared, and I let go of my childish fantasies. I was twenty now. A man. Besides, I hadn't been on a date in a long time. Other priorities had taken place. Grandpa was getting old now and couldn't keep up with the shop as much, and I had to make up the difference.
When I wasn't at work, I gave all my extra attention to Yugi. I knew he was depressed. I knew we should talk about what happened nearly a year ago with Hirutani. But we didn't. I knew it ate away at him inside some nights when insomnia struck. I knew some days were better than others. Some days he wouldn't eat at all, and would just stay in bed with the curtains drawn and the covers wrapped over his head. Some days I was afraid that I would come home and find him in a pool of his own blood, or on the floor, eyes open but lifeless, with an empty bottle in his hands.
Yugi would never kill himself, I tried to tell myself. But I could never fully convince myself.
"You should call her."
I was silent.
"Let me rephrase that. If you don't call her, I will."
I looked at him in shock.
"Joey, it's been four years. She wants to talk. She reached out to you. She deserves another chance. She at least deserves a chance to explain herself."
If Yugi could forgive me for all of my sins, then I could forgive Mai for hers. I reached for the phone.
We met up in a fine dining restaurant on the outskirts of town. I felt hot in my tuxedo, but the restaurant had a strict dress code and Mai had been the one to choose the place. Mai came in about five minutes after I did, and if I didn't feel sweaty before, I was drenched when I saw her. She was wearing a skin tight red dress that emphasized her curves, and black stiletto heels that gave her an extra four inches.
"Joey!" She said and I stood to give her an awkward hug. At least it was awkward for me—she threw her arms around my neck, nearly choking me. 'It's so good to see you again!"
"Good to see you too." She let go. The awkwardness fell like a blanket. I coughed. "Uh, sit down, please." I said. She did.
I got back into my chair. The waiter came and took our initial order and when we left we were back in the silence. She took a sip of her water.
"I'm glad you came." She said.
"After our last encounter, I was worried you wouldn't want anything to do with me ever again."
"Well, I was so mean to you—all of you, and I nearly killed you."
"You were in a bad place. We've all be there." I said. "Dartz saw that and took advantage of your vulnerability. But you fought back when you realized it was wrong."
"So, no grudges about me nearly feeding your immortal soul to an ancient, demonic serpent?"
"Water under the bridge."
She laughed. "Joseph Wheeler, you really are something else."
If Yugi can forgive me for everything wrong I've done, I can forgive you for your mistakes. "How did you find me?"
"After Dartz I needed to find myself. I spent the next few years traveling the world, meeting all kinds of people. I was in New York City and I ran into Anzu. She wanted to contact all of you saying that you guys had been worried about me. I thought she was just deluded, but she seemed so sure. Still, I didn't know if I wanted to get back into contact with you guys. But I stayed in touch with her, begging her not to tell anyone about me. After sometime, when I felt like I could face you guys I asked and she gave me your address. And, now we're here."
The waiter came with our food. "What have you been up too?" She said. "Anzu says you live with Yugi."
"Yeah. It seemed like the most logical decision. I work at his grandfather's shop most days. I still duel, though. What about you? I'm not that into the Duel Monsters grapevine."
"I do a tournament every now and then. It pays the bills."
I found it surprising how easily we slipped into conversation. It was like she never left in the first place; like she had been there with us all along. I found myself laughing with her, able to talk about mundane things and joke about how pompous Kaiba was even after all these years.
"So, how's Yugi doing?" She asked. "Anzu told me about the Pharaoh, I can only imagine how he must feel."
I wasn't sure how to answer her question. I didn't know how Yugi was doing. He doesn't talk to me much anymore. I mean, he talks to me, but he doesn't talk to me. So I did something I was pretty good at: lying.
"He's doing as well as he could, considering the circumstances."
"Well, that's good, I suppose. I hope I can see him sometime. He still owes me a duel if I remember correctly."
I didn't mention the fact that Yugi hadn't touched a duel disk since Atem died. "How long are you in town?" Get the topic off of Yugi. Please, talk about anything else, just don't talk about Yugi.
"Well, that depends on several factors. Namely you."
"If you want me to stay for a while, then I'll stay."
She was everything I wanted in a woman. Smart, proud, sexy. She was a good duelist and always gave me a good challenge every time we played.
She was ten years older than me. People would stare, make accusations. If the Dueling tabloids got word of it, our reputations could be ruined. She was the kind of woman my mother always warned me to stay away from. Sure, she it was okay for her to be friends with Serenity, but my potential love interest? I'd be disowned. But, I didn't care about any of that. She was Mai Valentine. I was Joey Wheeler. And I loved her.
"I want you to stay."
And she smiled.
We spent another few hours in that restaurant, laughing and talking about nothing until they kicked us out. When the waiter came with our check I was reaching for my wallet, but she slapped out a debit card faster than I could blink.
"My treat, honey. I asked you here, it's the least I could do." Mai is very proud and to be honest part of me is scared of her, but when she makes a decision nothing will deter her from it, so I didn't argue.
And we ran around the city. It had begun to rain. Hard. But we didn't care because we were like kids, too engrossed in our own fantasies to take notice of the real world. Our hair was soaked and stuck to our face. Mine was a moppy mess but hers framed her face perfectly, bringing out the oval.
And her already skin tight dress seemed to have only become tighter, and part of me was embarrassed for a moment, but it was soon forgotten for other feelings. Like when we were outside my apartment door, chilled to the bone in rain water. But I took her face in my hands, and she did the same and we kissed and it was romantic and wet, but warm and it was perfect, just like I had always imagined.
For one night, I had been able to forget everything and focus only on her.
"You wanna come in for some coffee?" I asked in between kisses.
"Coffee," she said, "or coffee?" She was so coy, I friggin loved her.
"Why not both?"
So we entered the apartment, prepared to do what we had both wanted to do since we first met back on the boat to duelist kingdom nearly five years ago. God, saying it aloud—it makes me feel old. It sounds so long ago, but when you think about it, it seemed like it could have been just yesterday. Anyway, I digress. We entered the apartment, but found Yugi on the couch, watching some infomercial. He turned his head when we came in.
"Hey." He said, smiling shyly.
"Oh, Yugi!" Mai squealed rushing over to him. She pulled him into a hug before either of us could blink. "I've missed you so much!"
"I-I've missed you too, M-Mai." He was so embarrassed. It was adorable. Mai released him from her grip, but kept one hand on his shoulder, running the other though his hair.
"What did you do?"
Yugi pushed it away gently. "I just…thought I would try something different."
"It looks nice. Grown up."
Yugi's eyes went from her to me. We must have been a sight, barging into the apartment at two in the morning, soaked to the bone. His eyes kept to a certain spot on my face. I brought my hand up to the area and rubbed it. When I looked at my fingers I saw lipstick. Now my face had turned red in embarrassment.
"Am I…interrupting something?" He said, taking a step back.
"Not at all, hon." Mai said. "Why don't you and I catch up? It's been so long. You don't mind, do you Joey?"
"No." I didn't mind, not really. I never saw Yugi as any sort of threat, especially to my love life. Mai and Yugi were friends; they deserved to have the chance to catch up.
…Two Years Later…..
It was a normal day. As normal as one could have ever been. I was in the shop tending the register while Grandpa enjoyed a nice day off. I had sort of become the unspoken manager of the Turtle Game Shop. Grandpa was still alive, but he couldn't keep up with it all anymore. His back was too sore to lift the merchandise or sit behind the counter for too long. He still handled most of the paper work, though. But I was the face of the store now.
It was a slow day. He came in. I recognized him instantly; there was no way I could not. You don't forget a person like that, a person who handcuffs you to a chair. He was one of Hirutani's old lackeys. He brought back old memories that were bile in the back of my throat. I hadn't thought of him in a long time. But I recognized him. And I hated him.
"Get out." I growled.
"Listen man, I have something I need to tell you."
"Get out before I call the cops!"
"Hirutani's dead." He deadpanned. I was taken aback for a bit of a moment. Part of me was actually mad. The bastard was dead and it was not by my own hands. Part of me felt like I had failed Yugi again. But then I realized, dead is dead. So I collected myself.
"Good riddance." I snorted. "Thanks for the good news. Now get out."
He was quiet and didn't move. "Man, Hirutani was into some pretty weird stuff—"
"Drugs, prostitutes." He looked at me like he expected me to know the answer to the puzzle.
"He raped my best friend." I hissed; it was the first time, I realized, that I had used the word "rape" to describe what exactly Hirutani had done to Yugi. It was a terrible word, but still, it didn't seem to suffice. What Hirutani did to Yugi was worse; but rape was the closest word there was. "I don't give a damn what shit he was into; he's dead and that's all I care about."
"He died of AIDs."
I found myself silent once again. AIDs? He….Yugi….That meant? "He contracted it…after Yugi….right?" I found myself pleading.
Hirutani's ex lackey shook his head. "AIDs doesn't kill you that fast. So your friend…if…if he hasn't been…you know "checked out" yet….he really should."
And he left. I never learned his name, never saw him again. I don't know why he told me what he did to this day, but I can only imagine that maybe he was searching for forgiveness too.
I had no idea how I was going to tell Yugi. The whole rape-….God it feels so weird using that word-…..the rape had been more or less pushed under the rug. We didn't talk about it. Ever. At all. But now we would have to do. And I hated it. I was engaged, soon to be married. I was moving up in my job. Soon enough I would have a family of my own. I was doing everything I could to get away from my past, to move onto a better future. But Fate…Fate had other ideas.
Mai, thank whatever God in heaven there be, was out of town that week on a tournament. So it was just me and Yugi. He sat there on the couch looking at me with those puppy dog eyes, his hair halfway in his face….goddamn that freaking hair. Why wouldn't he just let it grow out? Why keep around the reminder? I sighed.
"Yugi, we need to talk."
He tried to get out of it early when I brought up the lackey. He tried to go to the other room, covering his ears, but I made him listen. He had to listen. And when I was finished, he sat there still, looking more dead than alive.
"We need to go to a doctor." I said.
He shook his head, adamant. "No." He said. "We agreed, no doctors."
"I know Yuge—but, the circumstances are different now. Come on, it's just one blood test! We need to know."
"No we don't. No doctors then, no doctors now."
"It'll be humiliating and degrading and I really just want to forget all about it."
I knew Yugi better than I knew myself. I had a trump card against him. It was one I rarely played, it was so unfair against him and I knew if Atem were still around he'd probably penalty game me. It was the closest to cheating I had ever come. But I needed to use it. He needed to see a doctor.
"Please Yugi? For me? It would really make me feel better."
He hesitated. I saw his eyes waver. Bingo. He sighed and rubbed his face. "Fine. One blood test. One visit. For you. Then we never, ever, ever speak of this again. Understood?"
I smiled despite myself. "Thank you."
A few weeks later we were in the doctor's office. It smelt like bleach and we both sat in uncomfortable chairs. The doctor had all his degrees posted on the wall behind his large oak desk that was messier than I would have liked it to be for a doctor. He sat there with glasses falling off his nose, a folder out in front of him.
Yugi shifted, nervous.
"Mister Motou," he said, "I have your test results."
Conscious or not, he reached out and grabbed my hand for support.