After coping with years of abuse from his father, Joey Wheeler decides to break away. Will he make his way in the world, or will disaster befall him? Joey x Mai
Author Note: I do not own Yugioh or any of the characters from the show. I hope you enjoy this story and I look forward to seeing what people think of it. If you like it please R&R. I don't expect this to be a long story like my other two Yugioh fics, but I think it will be a fun ride as it moves along. Just a warning this story will contain spoilers for Battle City and possibly the Noah's Virtual World saga.
It was so humid out that his blond hair clung to his forehead like he'd just gotten out of the shower. The sun beat down on the top of his head making him wish he'd worn a hat or at least brought one to school to wear on the way home. Joey Wheeler cursed the summer heat for the hundredth time. The air was so hot he decided to go someplace he never went to, the library. It was only a couple blocks away and was sure to be air conditioned, offering Joey a needed break from the scorching journey home.
'It's too bad that the guys were staying after school to work on plans for that dumb dance coming up. Maybe today is the day I actually get a library card. Wouldn't they laugh if they knew what I was up to.'
He kept walking, making a beeline for the library. By the time he made it inside he felt like his brain was cooking inside his skull. Joey quickly scanned the library and saw tables with all kinds of people sitting at them with books in front of them. He recognized some of the kids there and was relieved a certain snobby CEO wasn't anywhere in sight. He figured that he was safe from discovery for the moment and he went over to the main counter people checked books and videos out at. An older woman with short gray permed hair smiled at him as he nervously approached the counter.
"Hello. May I help you with something?"
Her voice was low and husky, like she'd swallowed a frog or something. Joey resisted the urge to run back out into the afternoon heat and looked around before looking back to the woman, nodding quickly. He put his backpack down by his feet and leaned onto the counter. He apprehensively cleared his throat and hoped he didn't look as fearful as he felt.
"Uh, yeah. I was wondering if I could, uh, get a library card?"
"Why certainly young man. Do you have an ID card or driver's license with your current address?"
He nodded and reached into his back pocket to take out his license. It was a horrible picture but then most people's license photos weren't flattering. Joey opened his wallet and removed his ID, then timidly handed it to the librarian. While she was readying a fresh plastic library card for him, Joey looked around some more at this new environment. He saw several rows of computers, some with people in front of them and he smiled to himself.
'Now that is something useful. Maybe I will get something out of this card after all. I wonder if those are connected to the net at all. That would be too cool.'
The pleasant woman behind the desk handed him back his driver's license and a blue card, facing down. She pointed to a spot on it where she asked him to sign his name. He took a pen that was hooked to the counter by a weak looking chain; the same kind banks used that would never prevent a pen thief from acquiring the darn thing, and signed his first name. She smiled at him and handed him a pamphlet with all the library policies and told if he needed any help with something he had only to ask.
"Now that you mention it, are those computers hooked up to the net?"
"Yes, they sure are Joseph. Would you like to sign up to use one today? As long as there are open machines you are free to use one as long as you like."
"Yeah that would be really great ma'am. Thank you for the help."
She smiled and put a clipboard with a sheet of paper where people put down their first names to record who had been in using the library computers. He eagerly put his name on the next available line and she told him he could use any of the open machines. He thanked her and put down the pen. He put the card and his license back in his wallet, before reaching down to pick up his backpack. Joey was quite pleased with himself for finally working up the courage to check out what the library had to offer. All his friends raved about coming here and he was starting to understand why.
Seeing an open machine at one end of the two rows of evenly divided mini desks he decided on taking that open seat. There were twenty-four computers total, six mini desks sat with six more on the opposite side, all connected by partitions that offered some privacy for the occupants. He put his backpack down and then pulled the chair out so he could sit down. Wiping his brow Joey focused on the screen before him. It looked like it was already set with an open browser on some search engine. Joey wiped his sweat-covered hand on his jeans before lifting both hands to the keyboard.
He'd taken typing a couple years ago and was good enough at it that he didn't need to look at the keys as he typed in a search string looking for websites on anime. He clicked on one and quickly hit the back button due to ugly graphics. Making a disgusted face Joey clicked another link. Soon he was browsing around a site that had stories written by fans of various shows, as well as original short stories made up with original characters. After checking out a couple of stories he decided he could write one as well as the ones he'd checked out or perhaps even better. People didn't think he was good with writing or that he ever read a book outside of assigned material for classes, but they were wrong.
Joey didn't want to shake that image however, he'd worked hard to not be labeled as a geek or bookworm and he had no intention of doing anything to destroy that image. He signed up for a free web based email address and then signed up for a pen name on this website he'd spent an hour on already. He chose the name "RedEyesDuelist" and had to laugh. It was the best he could think of and he looked up at the clock noting that he'd been here almost an hour and a half. He also did a quick inventory on the people around him; he wanted to make damn sure no one he knew saw him sitting here at a computer.
Satisfied no one around cared what he was up to, Joey opened a new text document and began writing. He concocted a story about a guy named "Jack Havoc" who was kind of like himself, street smart and someone who didn't take any crap off anyone. He opened it with Jack on his way home from work. Setting it up so his character was a private detective that took all kinds of cases, he thought it would be cool to make this a mystery/horror story. He was so engrossed in his writing that he didn't realize another hour had passed by the time he actually spell checked and posted his first chapter on the website.
'Now that was fun. I am going to have to think of what I want Jack to do and what will happen to him and the case he just took. I bet no one bothers to read or even review it, but so what? I really enjoyed doing this.'
He looked up at the clock again and closed the browser, deleted the text document he'd made for his story, then got up and stretched. Joey pushed the chair under the desk and grabbed his backpack. He went to the bathroom and washed his hands, then splashed some cold water onto his face. Ripping off a long piece of the brown paper towels from the dispenser he sighed contentedly as he lifted it to his face, drying it first and then his hands. He crumbled up the damp brown paper towel then pitched it into the trashcan. Now that he was refreshed and rested he headed back outside.
The heat of the day had given way to some puffy white clouds, blocking out the remainder of the sunshine. There was even a cool breeze blowing which made Joey feel really glad he'd stopped by the library. He determined that he would probably go back tomorrow on his way home, regardless of what the gang was doing. He'd much rather hang out there in the nicely cooled library with the comfortable silence allowing one to sit and think undisturbed. Silence was rare in his household. He tried to push thoughts of his abusive father away from the surface of his mind, unwilling to allow them to rob him of his joyful discovery of writing.
'Maybe I can even get some stuff written at home. Not like I have that much homework to do with exams just around the corner. I hope Dad is out by now. He sure yelled at me loud last night. I don't know why he has to be so mean.'
He sighed recognizing his failure to keep his father from the forefront of his mind. Everyone in the gang knew about his home situation not being the greatest, but they didn't know, or at least Joey hoped they didn't know that his father was at times physically abusive to him. It wasn't long before he'd unlocked and cautiously opened the front door. It was quiet inside so Joey closed the door and went to check around the house. Much to his relief his father apparently wasn't home, so he headed to the kitchen, putting his backpack down on one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
'Hmmm, what should I have to munch on? Big surprise, there's not much here, beer, beer and more beer. Dammit, why can't my dad get any decent grub? I guess I'll just slap a sandwich together, again.'
Joey sighed as he took out the mustard and the half-empty pack of bologna he'd bought earlier this week with money from his paper route. He shut the fridge and put the mustard and bologna on the table, then he went to the pantry and took out a loaf of bread. He sighed again as he took a couple paper plates and put four pieces of bread down on the doubled up paper plates. He deftly made two sandwiches and put the bologna and mustard away before finally sitting down to enjoy the two hastily made sandwiches.
After he finished the first sandwich he reached down to his backpack to pull out a spiral notebook he could continue working on his story in. Opening it towards the middle he started musing over possible titles to his story. So far he'd just went with "Jack Havoc Private Eye" and knew it was a pretty lame title, but he'd been thinking about it ever since he left the library and had come up with a couple others. As he ate the second sandwich Joey made some notes about possible things to have happen in his story and after about ten minutes he had one idea that held the most promise.
'Yeah, I think it would be really cool having ole' Jack take on a case with a wife convinced her rich husband is cheating on her and wanting Jack to help her get evidence so she can leave his two timing ass and get full custody of their two kids. Then the mistress ends up murdered right in front of him. Offed by some person wearing a disguise that makes him think it was a woman doing the killing but ends up being the husband. Yeah that would be cool.'
He was so caught up in writing his notes that he didn't notice the sound of keys fumbling in the front door signaling the arrival of his father. It wasn't until the door opened that Joey realized his father was home. He frantically put his notebook away and threw out the dirty paper plates, frightened of being caught writing. He father didn't like to see him around and before Joey could escape into his room with his backpack his father was already in the kitchen.
"What the hell are you up to boy?"
Joey choked and shrugged, "Uh nothing Dad, was just finishing up some homework."
"Whatever. I got company staying over tonight so make yourself scarce hear me? Do it now-get your shit and get out. If you know what's good for you, you'd better not come back until after school tomorrow either. Now get outta here girly boy!"
His father's voice boomed at him, shaking the house and chilling the teen to the bone. Even though he hated it when his father called him a 'girly boy' Joey bobbed his head up and down indicating he understood and he quickly left his father alone in the house they shared. At times like this he really missed having a real family.
He could remember what it was like when his sister and mom still lived here with him and his dad. As he closed the front door, Joey Wheeler felt like he was all alone, a feeling he was all too familiar with. He didn't know where he would end up sleeping tonight and as he headed out into the twilight he couldn't help but to wonder what Jack Havoc would think of his dad and how he treated him.
'I bet ole' Jack Havoc would pop Dad one in the kisser big time. Shit, what am I gonna do? I sure don't want to sleep in the park. Blasted cops already kicked me outta there more times then I care to remember. I can't go to Yug's or Tristan's 'cuz they'll get wise to Dad's crap. Oh well, guess it's the park, not like I have much choice.'
About twenty minutes later when Joey reached the park he sat down on an empty swing. He tossed his backpack to the side and started swinging. There was a small baseball field next to the park and if he was lucky tonight there wouldn't be a game. If there was he was surely bound to either get in a fight or tossed out of the park once it ended. He built up good momentum and then he reached out to grab the swing next to him, carefully he hooked his legs through it so that it was under his knees. Joey sighed bitterly, just letting the swings sway back and forth as he watched the evening creeping out driving away the light, triggering the street lamps all around. It wouldn't be long now before he had to find a hiding place.
"Well if it isn't Joey Wheeler. Hi hun. What are you doing here all by yourself?"
Joey nearly fell off both of the swings upon hearing the sweet voice behind him that belonged to none other then Mai Valentine.
"Oh hiya Mai. I was just looking to hang out here awhile is all. How are you doing? I'm surprised to see you here in Domino City."
Joey pulled his legs off the second swing and then put his feet down to slow down as Mai walked around to sit on the empty swing on the other side of him. He smiled and chuckled nervously as he waited for her to answer.
"I was in the neighborhood. Actually I found a great little apartment in town. I decided to stick around for awhile."
She sighed and kicked her boots in the dirt. He got the distinct impression she'd come here seeking solitude and he wondered if he ought to make an exit so she could have the swings to herself.
"It's really good to see you again Mai. I thought you'd be long gone by now, with Battle City over and all. So tell me, how are you really doing?"
She sighed again, "Am I that obvious?"
"Uh, no, I just happen to know that look and recognize that sigh. Something's wrong isn't it?"
She nodded and stepped back then started to swing. It was evident that something was bothering her and if she wanted to talk about it he would gladly listen, even if there wasn't a thing he could do to help. Joey Wheeler always had time for his friends and ever since she'd given him her Glory of the King's Hand card at Duelist Kingdom he'd had a soft spot for the buxom blond. Not that he'd ever admit it to her, but still seeing her upset worried him.
"Yeah well, not like it's any big deal. I just didn't want to leave is all." She paused and then sighed again, "Oh who am I kidding? I've been pretty lonely since the tournament ended and figured that I could find some things to do here in Domino that might get my mind off how bad I feel lately."
"Why are you feeling bad Mai? You did pretty well in the tournament, even if Marik cheated to win against you and played dirty. You're still a great duelist Mai. I've always thought that."
She looked up at the sky and then back at the ground. If Joey didn't know any better it seemed that she was about to cry.
"Thanks Joey. That's sweet of you to say. Really it is, but I know in my heart I wasn't good enough in the end to reach my goal. Not only that, but my goal was unrealistic so it was only natural that I failed."
Her voice dropped really low as she sighed again and stopped trying to move the swing, just letting it carry her along as he'd done only minutes ago when he'd thought he was alone here. He stood up off the swing and reached out to grab the chain on hers. She turned to look at him surprised by his action and then her mouth dropped when she saw the stern look on his face.
"Mai, you are good enough to reach your goals. Hell I didn't win either tournament either but that doesn't stop me from dreaming or trying. You know? Look at me. Do I look like a failure to you because I didn't win some stupid tournament?"
She shook her head and he could see she was shaking. He knew she was about to cry even without hearing her talk. He reached a hand down under her chin and smiled.
"Mai, listen to me. Trust me on this, you are good enough to do whatever you want to do. Winning a duel against some psycho wouldn't have made any difference in who you are inside. Losing one to a cheating psycho shouldn't make any difference either."
"Oh Joey, I-I..."
The tears started falling slowly at first then she pulled her hands up to her face to hide it from him. Leaning down he reached his arms around her and held her as she let out all the pain that had built up inside her over the past weeks.
"Shhh, it's gonna be ok. I'm here for you Mai. Everything's gonna be just fine. You'll see."
He held her like that for a few minutes until her sobbing subsided. Then she looked up at him, her face streaked with mascara and her blush was all blotchy, but he didn't care. He smiled at her as he let her go, giving one hand a final squeeze. She tried to smile and then wiped at her eyes making the black mess even more pronounced.
"Thanks Joey. You're a real friend you know that?"
He nodded and winked, glad to see the sparkle come back into her eyes. She reached to her purse and took out some tissues which she used to wipe across her face and under her eyes. Joey hoped he'd helped make her feel better and yet something told him she really didn't want to be alone right now. Going over how much money he had left from his weekly paycheck he decided he had enough to take her out to get something to eat.
"What do you say we get outta here and go get a soda or something?"
She was still wiping her face and he could see the gratitude filling her eyes.
"Sure Joey, let's get out of here. What would you say to coming over to my place? We could watch a movie and order pizza or something. What do you say?"
"I think that would be a lot of fun Mai. Let's make like a tree and leaf."
She laughed and then stood up from the swing as he picked up his backpack. All thoughts about Jack Havoc were long forgotten as were any thoughts about his problems with his old man. All that mattered to Joey was that he'd helped make a friend feel better. To him that was the best feeling in the world.