It was a month after Battle City--one month of hard work fishing after losing out of the tournament, but the nineteen-year-old could hardly complain. With a low chuckle, the fisherman stretched languidly as he walked along the walkway to the docks--he may have lost, but his duel with Joey Wheeler had been a magnificent one...on par with his Duelist Kingdom battle with Yugi Motou.
He had no regrets.
Well...maybe one--tomorrow was to be an early and long day, and going to the local watering hole with the older fishermen may have been a mistake. Running calloused fingers through his wild black mane, he could only hope that--since he had avoided drinking the honjozo sake in excess--that he would be able to think clearly come morning.
The last thing he needed was to either oversleep or get his foot caught in his net...again.
As he walked, a noise from the alleyway drew his attention. On one hand, it could simply be someone who had too much to drink, stumbling about--such things were more common than most seemed to think after all--but on the other...this was not exactly the best section of town on a good day and more than the usual thugs roamed about during the warmer months. A soft noise that he couldn't place, followed swiftly by a pained grunt and the sounds of a struggle and--against his better judgment--Mako entered the alley.
Cautiously he drew closer to see a tall, roughly dressed, blond-haired man holding someone against the brick wall--both of the man's larger hands wrapped around the other's throat. Whoever he was attempting to strangle, however, was fighting back as best they could--punching, clawing, and kicking to try to get free. A flash of blond hair and a far too familiar voice, from the smaller male, growling out "Fuck off, ya psycho has-been!"...
Mako raced over, bringing both of his fists down together in an axe-handle on the assailant's broad back--the older man yelling out in surprise at the sudden blow. Taking his advantage, the fisherman wrenched the bandanna-wearing man away, shoving him back into a row of trashcans--causing the blond teen to drop to his knees against the wall, coughing violently now that the hold on his throat was released. Stormy, navy blue eyes narrowed in a dangerous glare at the man who had yet to move from where he now lay, before Mako turned and knelt at the fallen teen's side--reaching out to rest a hand on his shoulder. "Joey? Do you hear me?"
"...Mako?" Chestnut brown eyes blearily looked up through messy bangs--bruising beginning to form on one paler cheek; Joey coughed again, rubbing at his throat as if thinking that the gesture would help ease the pain. "Yeah...I'm...I'm alright--just failin' at breathin' 'ere, ya know?"
"Come, let me help you, my friend." Mako said as he shifted one of the blond's arms over his shoulders and slowly rose to stand, bringing Joey up with him--thankful for their similar height.
Mako cast a sharp look at the unconscious man still lying in the trash as he and the younger teen made their way out of the alley, before the fisherman looked back at the lither blond leaning heavily on him. Joey glanced up at the older teen, only to lose his footing on the cracked concrete; before he could end up in a crumpled heap on the ground, strong arms wrapped around him--a sharp hiss of pain escaping bloodied lips. Mako frowned and carefully moved around in front of Joey, helping the blond climb up onto his back--standing only once Joey was secure, and beginning to walk.
"Thanks, Mako. I owe ya one." Joey muttered softly, his arms loosely draping the elder's shoulders and he rested his head next to the fisherman's own.
"You owe me nothing, my friend." Mako said as he made his way towards the dock where his ship was--at the least, he had a first aid kit and a bed where the younger male could rest.
Questions are asked, answers are given...but still mysteries remain.
I know it's been a while, but here's the new chapter.
I am so sorry--by this originally was lost when there was an incident with my laptop and then real life became such a pain.
I'll try to get the chapters for this out quicker.
Sitting on the single bed in the cabin of the small fishing vessel, while Mako Tsunami tried to wrench a first aid kit out of a metal cabinet that had somehow wedged itself shut, wasn't quite how the blond had expected his night to be going...but it could be worse.
He could still be in the alleyway, fighting a losing battle against an insane former United States Duel Monsters Champion--Thanks for THAT one, Marik. Really. Thanks for pushin' 'im off-a the fuckin' deep end, ya bag-a-dicks.'--who had decided that HE was the source of all of his problems instead of Maximillion Pegasus. Though, if he were honest...he kind of saw the 'troll logic' there--he'd stopped Keith from getting his rematch against the Duel Monsters' creator--but trying to beat him up and strangle him in a dark alley seemed a little extreme.
'Has-been should be more pissed at Pegasus or Marik than me. I see 'im again, I'll be ready.' The blond told himself as he waited on the fisherman--his own thoughts tuning out the random swear and final pained screech of metal giving way under brute strength.
"Ah. Finally." Came Mako's voice as he extracted the white plastic case from the cabinet. 'My apologies, Joey--"
"No need for dat, Mako. 'S cool." Joey said, staring down at the drying blood on his knuckles. 'Keith's face must be harder than I thought.'
Mako sat down next to the blond--opening the case once he set it down on the bed between them. He picked up one of the younger teen's hands and began cleaning the split knuckles first. Uneasy silence quickly settled over them like an old, wet woolen blanket as Mako worked on the left hand--bandaging it before moving on the the right.
"Joey." Mako started, finishing bandaging the blonde's right hand, but continuing to hold it firmly in one of his. "Who was that man and why did he attack you?"
"Huh?" Joey said, wrenching himself out of his head to stare at the older teen. With a frown, he shook his head. "'Bandit' Keith Howard. He was the US champ 'fore he got humiliated by Pegasus. Guy had the brass ones to sneak into Duelist Kingdom--wanted a rematch--but...he's a cheater. Durin' our match in the semi-finals, he kept pullin' power-up cards outta his wristbands and, I won, but...he didn't take the loss or bein' called out as a cheat well."
Mako's expression hardened--everyone lost every once in a while, he had lost to Yugi Motou and Joey, but he didn't try to harm either of them for it. "That--"
"He pulled a gun on Pegasus." Joey said and the fisherman's jaw snapped shut--how in the hell does someone fall that far from losing? This man sounded like more of a sore loser than Seto Kaiba--not that very many people would ever say that the Kaiba Corp CEO was a sore loser to his face if they didn't want to be financially ruined.
One does not piss off an individual who has more than enough money to hire the best of hitmen and pay off any judge and jury the world could conjure up.
Chestnut eyes raised to lock with navy blue. "Pegasus dropped 'im through a trap door and dumped 'im in the ocean. All I know after's that he, uh, got picked up by someone and 'somethin' 'appened that drove 'im batty. He tried to kill Yug' in a warehouse fire a week or so 'fore Battle City."
Mako was no fool--he caught the stress on the words. "Joey...even if you do not know the specifics, you have an idea of what happened to him."
The blond looked down at his bandaged hands, slowly pulling his right hand free of the fisherman's grip. "I...I ain't allowed to tell ya that, Mako. 'm sorry."
None of this was sitting well with the nineteen-year-old--if anything, shouldn't they call the police about a mad foreigner in the country intent on murder? One look at the blond, told the ravenette that the sixteen-year-old may have considered that once upon a time, but now, he didn't want to bother. With a heavy sigh, Mako began dabbing the damp cloth over the still red scrapes on the blonde's cheek, earning only a weary grimace of pain.
"Joey." Mako started as he finished with the scrapes. "What were you doing out at this hour anyway?"
"Can't sleep." Was all Joey muttered, not even resisting when his face was turned so that his split lip could be cleaned.
"When was the last time that you slept?" Mako asked--noting the dark circles under the blond's eyes and cautiously wiping a clean section of the cloth under them, keeping his touch as gentle as possible.
"I don't know."
One week later...
Is a storm on the horizon?
Special shoutout to Fran.
Also, enjoy chapter three everyone.
I'll try to get chapter 4 written/posted within the week.
One week later, as the ravenette sat cross-legged on the deck of his boat, mending his nets, and it hit him just how much things felt off ever since his evenings had gained a blond-haired fixture that was often waiting on the dock for his return.
He wasn't complaining by any means, mind you, as he greatly appreciated the nightly company that Joey brought into his, admittedly, lonely world--while he knew many of the fishermen around the docks, he would not call them 'friends' as most only saw, and treated, him like he was a child...even at the local watering hole and despite the fact that he could hold his drink better than quite a few of them.
'Actually...' He thought as he finished with one section of netting and moved on to the next, dark eyes narrowed in concentration. 'Yugi, Joey, and their friends may be the only friends that I have.'
That thought cast aside--to keep it from taking root in his mind and making him question things in his life that he didn't trust himself questioning--but still he dwelled as his hands worked quickly over the worn nets.
What was amiss this last week, was how he felt like such an outsider whenever the blond was with him. There were so many secrets that Joey kept--often deflecting Mako's curious inquiries with a quiet "I don't wanna talk 'bout it" or an apologetic "I'm not allowed to tell ya that", or simply changing the subject as easily as Mako might change the direction of his boat out on the open sea.
It worried him more and more each day...
The secrets that seemed to weigh down on Joey like an ever-growing anchor, the dark circles from far too many sleepless nights that marred his friend's face, how slight the blond's frame seemed to have become, the haunted look that he always saw in those dark eyes...and how the younger teen's smile, somehow reduced to a small and broken shadow of what it had once been, never reached his eyes.
Even his laugh, once so cheerful and brimming with such warmth and confidence--he remembered it well from the evening in Duelist Kingdom, and their duel in Battle City--had turned hollow and brittle.
All that he could gather is that something must have happened in Battle City after their duel, but he could not figure out, for the life of him, what it could have been that had broken so much in the younger male and left him a shell of his former self.
He could try to find Yugi and ask him...but all that he really knew about Yugi's homelife was that his grandfather owned a game shop in the city and, in a city like Domino, there had to be more than one game shop, and--sad as it was--he wasn't so sure if he could take the time away from fishing now to even go looking for the shop. Mako frowned, looking down at the repaired nets in his hands.
"Nevah seen ya lookin' so pensive 'fore, Mako. Ya...alright?"
The familiar accent caught him off-guard, though it shouldn't have, should it? Mako looked up at the blond standing on the dock almost like a lost dog waiting for someone to take him home--as soon as that thought entered his mind, it immediately chilled the fisherman to the bone despite the balmy night air. The ravenette shook his head and set the netting aside, reaching up the rake his fingers back through his hair.
"I assure you, I am fine, Joey. I was merely lost in thought." Mako walked over to the dock and extended his hand to the blond who merely laughed that quiet, broken-sounding laugh he had developed and took the elder's calloused hand so he could safely board the boat.
"So...uh, what 'appened? Whole dock's lookin' kinda rough."
"Bad storm further out to sea earlier today. Thankfully, everyone made it back to dock safely, so this evening is more a matter of clean-up and such." Mako reassured, moving to walk over to the netting...and only realizing that his and Joey's hands were still linked when they made it to the nets. For a moment, he considered letting go, but something in the blond's exhausted posture was practically screaming for him not to--never one to disobey his instincts, Mako held on. "Thankfully, most of the damages I've had to deal with are to my nets. I was on the outskirts of the storm this time, so I only had the rough waters and such to give me problems."
"...Do ya evah get scared out there?" Came the soft question--barely above a whisper and, if not for how close they were standing to one another, Mako was certain that he would have missed it.
"I do." The ravenette answered--internally surprised when those chestnut eyes looked up at him as if searching desperately for proof that the fisherman was speaking the truth. Mako kept the worried frown off of his face, but only just barely--that lost look in the younger's eyes felt like a gutpunch. "The storms always frighten me and remind me of the past...but I have to tell myself to keep pushing forward. That if I weather the storm, I can get passed it and I will return to dock...that I will be fine."
The blond looked up at him...then back out to the horizon--the sky darkening to deep violet and indigo, speckled with stars and wispy navy and black clouds. The ocean was dark--almost black at it's furthest point--but rolling waters closet to them seemed to shimmer from the amber docklights. The moon overhead was a sliver of a crescent against the darkening sky as evening gave way to night.
"...If...if I weather dis storm I'm goin' through..." A pause and a shaky breath. "...will I...will I be fine at the end?"
Mako gently squeezed Joey's hand in his own, encouraging the blond to look back at him before he wrapped his free arm around the lither male and hugged him tight--feeling, more than hearing, the blond's shaky breathing as one of his hands reached up and clutched tightly to the thin white tank top that the ravenette was wearing. "Yes. You will be, my friend."
Memories to keep us awake...
Nightmares to bring us together.
Joey-centric chapter to shed some light on a few things.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The blond jerked awake, taking in shallow gulps of air--terrified chestnut eyes suddenly narrowing in confusion as to why the owner of those eyes wasn't sprawled on the floor.
Slowly, the sensory information filtered through the sixteen-year-old's head--salty air in his lungs, he felt comfortably warm despite not having sheet wrapped around him, the quiet sound of water lapping against something, a steady drumbeat from somewhere in front of him, and...a muscled arm draped loosely over his side...wait.
Joey blinked and looked forward, finally processing the white tank top-clad chest of Mako in front of him.
'...The fuck 'appened?
Slowly, the lithe blond squirmed free of the fisherman's protective hold and made his way over the elder so that he could get out of the bunk to sit on the foot of the small bed. He raked his fingers through his sleep-tousled hair.
'Okay. Stop an' think a minute 'ere. Ya both dressed, ya head ain't 'urtin' no more than normal afta' ya try to sleep, so ya weren't drinkin'...Oh. That's right.'
Last night--after the cracks in his mask had finally split open even more than normal and Mako had hugged him and reassured him--his friend had taken him to the ramen stand that they'd been frequenting every evening for the past week. They had both stuffed themselves--Joey honestly grateful that Mako always paid since he never had any money for anything thanks to his father's...'habits'--and talked about...what had they talked about?
Joey frowned--not his reason for nearly falling apart, not why he couldn't sleep, not about the semi-finals of Battle City, and not about anything relating to why he hadn't gone to the police about Bandit Keith yet.
'Like that'd work. If we could-a just gone to the cops 'bout every whackjob runnin' 'round in this city, we'd be short a whole lotta cops.
All those nutcases, that he couldn't name, that Yami had mindfucked into oblivion or outright killed? Sure, the cops could have been involved, but you try telling the pharaoh--who, if they were all honest, was definitely a lot more psychotic at the start of all of this--that he didn't have the authority to do what he pleased.
Yugi was probably the only one who could get away with that one without ending up mindcrushed or sent to the Shadow Realm.
Kaiba back when he had that lime green hair? Hell no. He was still rich as hell and marginally moral on a good day--though, to be completely fair, he had gotten somewhat better since getting his ego handed to him by Yami and Exodia, but still, Joey was sure that the brunette just wasn't all right in the head.
Though...Gozaburo Kaiba had a pretty huge chunk of the blame on that one--sure, he was basing most of his opinion off of how the guy's digitized mind had behaved, but still.
The spirit of the Millennium Ring? Yeah--no question there. Even the pharaoh couldn't get that guy 'off the streets' for more than a day at best. Sure, the ring spirit would 'lay low' for weeks at a time, but the blond did notice that--within twenty-four hours after Yami banished the tomb robber to the Shadow Realm--random 'impossible' thefts started popping up all around town, mostly at the museum or various jewelry stores.
Hell, one time, Kaiba's brand-new Bugatti was stolen from Kaiba Corp only to show up a week later in the school parking lot with a couple thousand new miles put on it, sand in the tires, and unknown stains on the passenger seat.
The picture of Kaiba looking ready to have a rage-induced aneurysm was going to have a special place in the blond-haired duelist's wallet and on his cellphone for years to come.
Pegasus? Financially untouchable and, let's be honest, who would have believed "he stole Mr. Motou's soul and put him in the hospital"--that'd be a one-way trip out to ye ole funny farm. Though...at least the guy played somewhat fair, even if he was egocentric as all get out.
And...he kind of had a good reason for what he did--books, movies, and all made it clear that even the best people would do the craziest things for the person that they loved, more so if they were trying to bring them back from the dead.
Those five assholes who tried to trap Kaiba in virtual reality? Kaiba or Mokuba could have called the cops, but, considering what happened in Battle City, Joey was pretty damn sure Kaiba had just killed them all himself while they were trapped in the virtual world the first go round, a theory not helped by how Mokuba had pretty much said that Kaiba "was pissed" and how scared those five had suddenly been.
The brunette could throw playing cards like Gambit, but everyone knew that he always carried a loaded handgun for 'just in case'--though, with how often his life, and Mokuba's, was threatened, you really couldn't blame him.
Hell, even Joey carried a switchblade in his pants' pockets for 'just in case'.
The Rare Hunters and especially Marik in Battle City? Yeah. That would have ended in a lot of 'missing' and dead police officers, no question about it. He was sure that Odion would have at least been decent about not killing the cops--the guy was an honorable duelist and someone deserving of respect--but Marik? Even without his dark side in control, he might have gone that far since he was the one who rigged that whole duel with the anchor and shit.
Though, considering Marik's background, Joey couldn't really blame him for going crazy in attempt to escape from his 'predetermined fate'. Who in the world wouldn't cross every line possible if it meant that they could change their fate and have their freedom from a life that they'd never wanted?
Joey's eyes narrowed as a shudder ran down his spine--thinking about Marik and his dark side always brought back those memories that fueled his nightmares and haunted his waking hours.
Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet--taking a moment to steady himself against the gentle sway of the boat--and crossed the floor to go out onto the deck.
'I hope Mai's okay. We ain't talked since aftah that bullshit.' The blond thought as he moved to the side of the boat and rested his forearms on the guard railing, staring out at the horizon that would not begin to lighten for several more hours.
Mai. He wondered if she suffered nightmares like he did--if Marik and Ra were the focal demons that kept her up at all hours or caused her to wake up screaming like he did.
Did she have someone, anyone, to tell her it would be okay? That they were only in her head for now? That she was safe? He worried so much about her--he respected her, she was his friend...but he wished with all his heart that she had listened to the pharaoh when Yami had tried to warn her and get her to surrender that duel.
Slowly, he breathed in the salty air, trying to resist shuddering from the cold sweat clinging to his skin beneath his clothes.
The Lava Golem featured far more heavily in his own nightly terrors than Ra did--though, more often than not, all three of the God Cards made their rounds in terrorizing him somehow, even though he had only been on the receiving end of Ra's wrath twice. Unlike Mai, he had been shielded by the pharaoh's power at the end of his duel with Marik...but still, the Shadow Realm had seeped through the cracks in the hastily-thrown-up barrier, and he still swore that he could feel that infinite abyss prickling at the edges of his subconscious.
There were things that had happened to his mind while he was in that coma, that he wasn't sure that he could tell anyone--things that still made him question if he was in reality...or still balancing on the razor's edge between life and death on the blimp.
Even in the balmy nights, he felt a chill that wouldn't let him be--he'd taken to wearing longsleeves or layering as much as he could get away with these days, but he was certain that Yugi and Tristan suspected something, but if needed, he could just tell them that he was covering bruises from fights...but he hadn't gotten into as many of those these days, outside of his verbal wars and occasional brawl with a certain rich asshole.
And, even when he was fighting others as much, even Tristan had rightfully suspected that half--more like seventy-five percent if he was being generous--of his bruises and other injuries came from his father's drunken beatings.
'Oh man...I'm...my life sounds like a bad soap or somethin'. Teen from a broken home, abused by his parent, dragged into some crazy bullshit and...bein' utterly useless at fuckin' dealin' wit' it.' Joey thought with a bitter smile on his face--Mai had said that his reasons for being in Duelist Kingdom read as the plotline for a 'bad soap opera'...but, she'd also said "who doesn't love a bad soap opera?".
But...this? he wasn't even sure what his life was turning into at this point.
A tragedy in the making?
He stared down at the water lapping gently at the sides of the boat--he had dreamed about that damned duel again. He had dreamed about being chained to that anchor as the timer hit zero, but...this time there was no key in the box to save Yugi with. This time, Serenity didn't dive into the water, risking her life to save him. This time...all that he saw was himself being dragged deeper into the depths...deeper into the swirling, black and purple maw of the shadows...rending claws coming out to grasp onto--
"Joey! Are you alright?! What is it?!" Came Mako's voice, forcefully ripping him free of the shadows' grip and back into reality where he was on his knees on the boat's deck, clinging to the railing in a white knuckled grip, and choking on his breath like the wind had been knocked out of him.
Joey kept his grip on the railing as the fisherman's strong hands pressed to his back and chest--pressing on his chest to help force his body to get back the ability to breathe. Slowly, the blond felt his hands release the railing, and--as if through a haze--he felt the older teen pick him up in a bridal carry and walk back inside of the boat's cabin.
When Mako went to set Joey down on the bed, the blond wrapped his arms around the ravenette's neck as if to anchor himself in reality...and Mako? He just moved to sit down and hold the lithe teen on his lap--arms wrapped protectively around his friend--as quiet, broken sobs echoed into the still night.
Okay, let's be real here. After Marik practically mindfucked him, near drowning, getting struck down by Ra, feeling guilty over not saving Mai, the virtual world debacle, losing a Shadow Game against Yami Marik and ending up in a short-term coma and near dying in said-coma, there is no way that Joey is completely alright, especially if Mai wasn't after she took a trip to the Shadow Realm without all of the other crazy happening to her.
(I do remember that she went villain for most of the Awakening Dragons [sp?] arc.)
On less dramatic notes:
Part of Joey rationalizing why they can't call the cops on things in Yu-Gi-Oh world comes from an old conversation with a friend/ex-boyfriend from high school, though what he said as a joke I decided to bring in a different direction.
Also...I figure, when Bakura's laying low after losing to Yami, he's got to do something to bide his time, and he was a tomb robber and a thief...so why not make the world his thieving oyster? Gotta keep those skills sharp after all. And, if he gets to drive people insane in the process, that's his icing on the cake.
And, I do like Seto Kaiba as a character...but I also like harassing him a little for fun.
The gang's all here.
Okay...so, first off...I am very sorry it took this long to get this up.
RL went batshit insane for a while and work stress got me sick on and off.
I hope to get back to this with something resembling a regular update schedule.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mako smiled to himself as he made his way down the sidewalk, doing his level best to ignore the people who stopped and stared or merely turned their heads to follow him as he walked. A small frown formed on his face as he glanced down at himself--he didn't look that weird or out of place, did he?
Sure, he was wearing his favorite headband, a pair of black flip-flops, and a faded pair of cutoff jeans--in all honesty, he was at least eighty-five percent certain that these jeans were the same ones that he'd worn in Duelist Kingdom--but he'd made certain to cover up with an off-white tank top--the only one that he'd found in his footlocker of clothing that was, thankfully, missing any conspicuous stains or discolorations that came from wearing white and being out on the open sea for any length of time--and an aqua-colored sleeveless Hawaiian shirt.
The pattern--thin white lines creating the look of rippling water--on the open shirt wasn't even anything worth noting, was it?
The fisherman chewed on the inside of his lower lip thoughtfully--if they were staring at his hair or his scar, then people really did have some odd problems, didn't they?
"Hm?" Mako said, turning to look behind him when a young man walking passed him ended up running into a lightpole because he hadn't been paying attention to where he was going. The nineteen-year-old blinked, then shrugged and kept walking, deciding that he had no time to feel self-conscious. He had a personal mission today.
His mission? Have a certain blond duelist introduce him to an arcade.
The ravenette chuckled a bit to himself--his usual easy-going smile sliding onto his face and replacing the frown that had been there prior.
His morning and early afternoon of fishing had yielded a truly unexpected boon in the form of all of his nets becoming so overladen with fish that he'd had no choice but to radio another ship to come to assist him. While normally it would have galled his pride to admit that he required help from any of the older fishermen--there were more than enough who would have taken advantage of his circumstances for themselves--he knew that if he had not called, that the entire catch would be lost.
Thankfully, the sea gave him an even greater fortune in that the ship that answered his request, was captained by one of his father's oldest friends who had no issues with aiding the ravenette and fairly splitting the sea's bounty.
The end result of returning by noon with such a magnificent haul for himself? His quota for the entire day was more than filled and he had made enough money to cover his dock fees for the month as well as purchase a few basic upgrades for his vessel. Even after taking out what he would need to spend to pay for new nets and a few other basic necessities that he required, the ravenette was still left with quite the tidy sum of pocket money.
After putting some aside for savings--one could never predict when an emergency might arise--the nineteen-year-old had decided to indulge in inviting Joey Wheeler to show him an arcade and then treating the blond to a meal at one of his favorite ramen stands.
Mako thought on that--admittedly, he worried a great deal for his friend, especially after what had happened two nights ago when he'd gotten out of his bed to find the younger teen on his knees and practically in the throes of a panic attack against the railing of the ship. He didn't know what all that his friend had gone through that had left him so traumatized, but the fisherman was determined to help however he could.
As Mako neared the walls surrounding Domino High School, he was pulled from his thoughts by a particularly irate, and familiar, voice practically screaming "YA DIDN'T JUST GO DER, YA RICH BASTARD!!!"
The ravenette frowned and jogged up to the open gate to see Joey being restrained by Tristan and some other teen with long black hair, while Yugi--who looked far angrier than Mako could ever recall seeing him--was standing between the furious blond and a tall, smug-looking brunette who was speaking quietly, but was clearly egging the blond on even more, as if he found the sixteen-year-old's rage amusing.
Mako took in the scene, spying Tea--who was at Joey's side--spouting off a few choice insults at the brunette teen who shot her a dark look...but the girl refused to back down as she told him off in a way that made Mako wonder if the girl had sailors in her family because some of those swears and insults were fairly impressive. A slender, white-haired teen moved to assist Tristan and the other ravenette in holding the blond back, but it was clear as day that the three teenagers were fighting a losing battle.
The fisherman looked at the brunette and couldn't stop himself from narrowing his eyes when he noticed that the tall teen had now focused back on Joey in a way that made the ravenette want to protect his friend at any cost--he couldn't truly explain it beyond something that felt primal, instinctual...and he moved forward, getting directly between the blond and the brunette--stormy eyes narrowed. "Is there a problem here."
If asked, Mako couldn't say who had said his name--Joey, Yugi, Tristan, Tea, the white-haired boy...or all of them at once--but he knew that Joey's struggles for freedom had stopped behind him. "I said, is there a problem because how it looks to me is that you are harassing my friends."
"And who exactly are you and why should I care?" The brunette scoffed--earning a growled "Kaiba" from the blond--but Mako chose to ignore the issue to focus on, in his eyes, his latest opponent.
Seto Kaiba...CEO, multi-billionaire, owner of three Blue-Eyes White Dragons, expert duelist...and one of the biggest sore losers in existence from the many rumors that the fisherman had heard on the dueling circuit. One of the rumors that infuriated him? The one where the teen had supposedly torn up the fourth Blue-Eyes just to make sure no one else had one that could be used against him.
Mako stood firm--the blue-eyed teen may be a dragon ruling the land...but how would he fair against a dragon of the sea?
"I am Joey's friend and I do not like seeing someone who is beneath him, trying to harass him."
Somewhere behind Mako, he heard a quiet "holy shit" and a faint click sound...but all that he could focus on was the white hot rage that he saw come across the brunette's face, replacing the smug expression. The fisherman squared his shoulders, fists clenching at his sides--if this devolved into a fistfight, he was certain that he could take the brunette.
The legal issues after? Maybe not so much.
"That worthless, third-rate mutt is above no one, especially me."
"Third place is still better than last no matter how you slice it." Mako said firmly--feeling a hand coming to rest on his back between his shoulder blades. "And, considering everything that I've heard for years on the dueling circuits about you, he is far more honorable than you could ever hope to be. At least he never tore up a card just so that he could have the only ones left in existence."
Another 'click' and muttered "wait, what?" followed by a "who is this guy? Tristan, introduce me now" from an unfamiliar voice--probably that green-eyed teen with all of the eye make-up--followed the fisherman's words. Kaiba's expression darkened as blue eyes narrowed into a scowl...but the fisherman simply stood his ground in the face of this storm. "Now, if you're done acting as if you have a right to treat one of my friends like trash when you do not even deserve the privilege of being around him, we'll be leaving."
With that, Mako felt Joey slide his own wrist into the fisherman's calloused grip and the nineteen-year-old started walking, keeping himself between the blond and the brunette until they got passed the gate...leaving the CEO seething in fury behind them in the school yard.
Once they got to the corner, Mako turned to look at Joey. "I...am sorry for intruding--"
He stopped short when Joey held up a hand. "Ya don't need to apologize, Mako. He...he was crossin' lines dis time. Brought up my sista and...bastard's got a little brotha--he'd kill someone for mouthin' off 'bout Mokuba. Ain't got no right bringin' Serenity into dis."
The fisherman frowned but nodded, pulling the blond into a one-armed hug. "You are right, my friend. He had no right to bring her into whatever problems that he has with you."
The quiet that seemed to surround them, practically crashed into a brick wall when Yugi's voice reached them. "I can't believe him. Joey...everything he said...Kaiba had no right to say all of that."
The diminutive duelist wasn't alone as Tea--who was practically growling a few choice insults about the billionaire and calling into question if the brunette was even human or if he was some kind of "shitty android programmed only to be an asshole"--was right behind him, as was Tristan--who was equally furious at the brunette CEO--and the other two teens. Mako did not remove his arm from Joey's shoulders, and the blond didn't even make an attempt to leave the raventte's side--if anything, he almost seemed to push himself further into the fisherman's space.
"I...I know, Yug. Just...ya know how I get when it's 'bout Serenity." The blond muttered--still angry, but more hurt than anything by the verbal low blows that the brunette had dealt out.
An awkward silence fell over the group before they all began to walk down the sidewalk. After a moment, Tea spoke up. "It's good to see you, Mako...though, well, not the circumstances of course, but yeah."
"It is good to see you as well, my friends. I apologize that I did not inform you that I was still in Domino after Battle City, but...well, work and such." Mako offered with a half smile--grateful that the girl had broken the tension in the air. Yugi grinned up at him. "It's fine, Mako. It is good to see you."
"Definitely man. What've you been up to?" Tristan asked, before giving a long-suffering sigh and an annoyed glare at the ravenette who was glaring at him as if his refusal to do what the green-eyed teen was demanding of him, was offending the Dungeon Dice Monsters creator on a personal level. "Duke Devlin, Mako Tsunami. Mako, meet the biggest pain in the ass since long division."
A solid punch to the ribs was the brunette's reward for his snark.
"I swear." Tea and Yugi muttered at the same time, rolling their eyes to the heavens in unison, as the group stopped to watch the now-arguing duo. Mako looked at Joey who merely gave a small shrug. "Yeah...dis' normal."
The white-haired teen sighed softly and, taking advantage of the distraction that would probably be drawing attention from the general populace soon enough, spoke up. "Hello Mako. I'm Ryou Bakura. I admit, I'm not certain if we've met before, but it is nice to meet you and see you."
Mako nodded, shaking the offered pale hand. "Likewise."
The blond duelist blinked and looked back at the fisherman. "Uh...outta curiosity, what're ya doin' 'ere anyway? I thought ya'd be fishin' 'til nightfall and all."
"Ahh. Yes." Mako said--almost embarrassed that he had forgotten why he was here in the wake of seeing the tailend of the debacle at the schoolyard. "Well, my friends, the sea granted me a most wonderful boon this morning and, as such, I now have the rest of the day and tonight free. I was hoping that you would be willing to introduce me to an arcade and that I could repay you by treating you to a meal at a ramen stand, Joey."
The blond blinked...then laughed. "Alright. Can do, buddy."
Not wanting to get rid of the lightened mood, Mako looked at the group. "Perhaps all of us can go? After all. I imagine that 'the more the merrier' applies to this situation?"
"Works for me." Yugi said with a small laugh as the group headed on towards the arcade. After a moment, Tristan spoke up. "So...you've never been to an arcade, Mako?"
"Not really. Well...a few of the usual watering holes my father went to, and brought me along for, and places that I've gone on my own, have had pinball machines and Pacman--maybe the odd Pachinko machine--but that would be the limit of my arcade experience." The fisherman said with a small shrug, only to earn a half-smile from Joey and seemingly eager grins from everyone else in the group.
"Well that just won't do." Tea said with a smile as she pushed the door open. "Gentlemen, I think we need to educate our friend."
Stepping through the glass doors and into the noisy, neon-lit building, Mako could only wonder what exactly he had signed up for...but a reassuring one-armed hug around his middle from a certain blond was all the final encouragement that he needed as the door shut behind them.
What arcade games do YOU think the gang will introduce our favorite fisherman to?
(DDR from Tea's a given, let's be real.)
Also...I'm going to avoid any Tea bashing in this story since I'm in my "the speeches get repetitive and annoying but she's okay as a character" phase, so, let's be adults in the comments about the subject, k?
One step forward, two steps back.
Moving forward in reverse.
Please read the bottom author's notes for important information.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Joey grinned to himself as he watched Yugi and Duke having another of their weekly Dance Dance Revolution match--he didn't remember when exactly these matches had started after the debacle known as Battle City, but...it was better than the green-eyed teen trying to out-duel Yugi, or Yami, in Duel Monsters or Dungeon Dice Monsters.
As if anyone could actually beat either of the Game Kings.
The blond took in the scene immediately around him--Yugi and Duke on the platform, their scores so close that they were bordering on being identical to each other. Tea was standing next to Mako, cheerfully informing him that 'Yes. This is a thing now with them', to the fisherman's confused nodding--the girl even admitted that the two were doing better at the game than they had the week before, though Joey tuned out when she talked about last week's 'incident' where Duke had gotten overconfident and had ended up fallen over the railing, causing a domino effect of soda and snack spillage, and had somehow caused three separate 'rigged' games to hit 'jackpot' for trade in tickets for prizes.
As far as the blond was concerned, the only reason that they hadn't gotten banned for that was because it had clearly been an accident...though he was starting to suspect that the owner had, somehow, realized that one teen out of their group also had a tendency to make things go purple and black when he was pissed and the owner had, wisely, decided that the risk just wasn't worth it.
Tristan was on Mako's other side, doing his now-weekly job as the 'designated Millennium Puzzle holder' so that Yugi didn't injure himself with it while playing the game. They'd all learned that little lesson after he'd ended up with a black eye and the pharaoh almost blamed Duke for it...until Tristan--whom Duke had been hiding, if not slightly cowering, behind at the time, claiming that the brunette was 'tall and generally built like a wall' when Tristan had, after the fact, complained about being a human shield--and Tea, and possibly spirit-Yugi, had managed to talk the over-protective puzzle spirit down
He snickered a bit as he thought back to how they'd decided on who would keep an eye on the puzzle--they'd used the old-fashioned stand-by of rock-paper-scissors and Tristan had beat out Ryou for the job. Joey was pretty sure that the Spirit of the Millennium Ring was pissed after that.
Speaking of Ryou, the white-haired teen was on Tristan's other side and Joey bit the inside of his lip when he noticed how Ryou would keep glancing at the Millennium Puzzle in Tristan's hands--eyes narrowing in consideration--then look back up at his friends with a cheery smile so full of innocence that it would fool a priest. Joey breathed in sharply--well...that was right on schedule; maybe he should tell Yugi to pass it on to the pharaoh that the tomb robber was back again.
He could...but it wouldn't do anything to stop the thief. If anything, ratting him out might just piss the spirit off and, in all honesty, the sixteen-year-old really didn't want to wake up one night with his possessed friend standing over him, pressing a knife to his throat and sporting a smirk full of sin.
Joey shuddered at that thought--that smirk reminded him so much of Marik's dark side's own--and he instinctively shifted to pull his uniform jacket just a little bit tighter in attempt to ward off the internal chill. Slowly, he breathed in, gave a mental count backwards from three, and breathed out--he needed to stay calm. He was safe. He was safe here with his friends, one of whom could regularly kick the tomb robber's ass at a card game and at least two others who could physically kick ass if needed. Furthermore, he wasn't defenseless--he could fight back if push came to shove.
'I'm fine.' Joey whispered like a mantra in his head, trying to consciously shift his posture from tense to relaxed so that he didn't tip off any of his friends that anything was 'off' about him. He couldn't be that burden on any of them--they all had their own things to deal with, especially Yugi and Yami. He needed to stay strong and ready to fend off whatever apocalyptic doom decided to manifest next. He needed to be fine.
He didn't have a choice.
"Joey? Did you hear me?" Tea's voice came from his right and the blond barely avoided freezing--no. They didn't notice. They CAN'T notice. Immediately, he put on a smile and focused on the girl. "Er...not 'xactly. Sorry, Tea--was kinda thinkin' 'bout somethin'. Wanna run it by me 'gain?"
The brunette girl frowned in concern, resting her hand on the other teen's shoulder. "I was asking if you'd help me carry back some sodas for everyone. Yugi and Duke are going to need it--apparently, they're doing 'best out of three' this time."
Joey nodded and turned to follow the girl to the 'Snack Station', chewing the inside of his cheek in worry as the walk over was silent between them. Once at the counter, Tea relayed the soda orders for their group then, once the clerk had gone to make them, she turned to the blond at her side. "Joey...are you okay?"
"Eh? Uh, yeah. I'm fine, Tea."
"You don't look it." She bit the inside of her lip--trying to figure out how to word this just right. "You...you haven't looked like you're 'fine' in a few weeks. Are you sure everything's okay?"
Joey tensed at that--no. He rubbed at the back of his neck, refusing to meet his friend's eyes. "Uh...just ain't sleepin' right's all. Ya know how it goes."
The brunette girl didn't look convinced in the slightest, but she knew that she couldn't force the blond into doing anything that he didn't want to. All she could do was hope that, whatever was going on, he would turn to someone for help before it was too late. "Joey, you can talk to me if you need to. Even if I don't understand, I promise I'll listen. Total judgment-free zone."
Thankfully, in Joey's opinion anyway, he was saved from answering by the timely arrival of the clerk with their soda orders. Each taking a tray, the pair of teens made their way back to their friends--Tea passing out the drinks to their respective person and setting her tray, with Yugi and Duke's drinks, down to await the pair's next break in the game.
Joey twitched as he held his cup in his hands--Tea noticed. She knew something was wrong...but how could he tell her? Could he just pass it off as home life troubles? School concerns? Kaiba still being ten pounds of asshole shoved into a three pound bag? No--that probably wouldn't work since, odds were, she'd already thought of those.
But, if Tea had noticed, then what if Tristan or Yugi, or even Yami, had noticed too? If Ryou had noticed then that meant that the tomb robber knew and...no. No! He couldn't be exposed as that weak! He had to stay strong. He had to be ready to fight at the pharaoh's side--he couldn't afford to be the wimp who got taken out first because of the shadows clawing at his mind!
A strong arm draped over the blond's shoulders and pulled him into a one-armed hug--snapping him out of his thoughts and making him realize that he'd been steadily tightening his hands on his soda cup in a death grip. His first thought was that it was Tristan offering the comfort...until he noticed that Tristan was arguing with Duke--who was sipping at his own soda in between sentences and random gesturing--with Tea, Ryou, and Yugi looking on in boredom at this now-regular occurrence. Joey turned his head, looking up at Mako standing next to him--navy blue eyes focused on the younger in concern.
"Are you alright, my friend?"
"I...jus' in my head 'gain, Mako. I...I'll be okay."
Mako frowned at that, but did not remove his arm from the blond's shoulders--focusing on trying to keep the younger teen grounded in the now. If all that he could do, even now, was help to anchor his friend against the storm, then that was what he would do. If the younger teen actually leaned into his side, seeking more contact between them, then so be it.
If anyone had a problem with any of this, then they could try to take it up with him.
Okay...I know that, last chapter notes, I said that I'd try to have a more consistent update schedule for this, but...in all honesty, I've been dealing with a depressive episode since August. (Admittedly, my support system is also mostly broken down, but it is still there.)
If you are more curious about this, I have a full journal entry on my deviantArt--DemonAngelSakina as the name to look up if you want to--to help explain.
But, in general, I'm taking a break for a while from doing artwork and writing--or at least I won't be posting anything for a while--so I can focus on some self-care and trying to overcome this ongoing episode.
I promise that I will jump back on this when I'm able to, so please keep watching.