Leaving The Past Behind
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. This fic has been beta read by Minor Arcana; a big thank you to her for all her help and advice on the story.
Dog Days Chapter Nine: Leaving The Past Behind
They arrived at Joey's house around eight-thirty and he asked Mai to wait for him in the car. She nodded and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze before he opened the door to her car and headed inside the only house he'd ever lived in. The front door was unlocked and as he opened it Joey wrinkled his nose at the horrible smell greeting him as he entered the humble dwelling. His father was no where in sight so Joey carefully crept to his room avoiding the empty beer cans that littered the dirty carpet.
'I hope dad sleeps in late today like he usually does on Saturdays. If I can quietly get my school clothes and everything else I should be able to get out before he even knows I was here.'
After he'd gathered all the clothes he was taking and piling them on his bed, Joey went out into the kitchen to get a couple garbage bags to put them all in. His fear of being caught magnified with every passing moment, so he quickly chucked everything into the garbage bags and then went to his closet. There weren't many things left that he cared about as his father had slowly destroyed his toys along with anything that he owned. But Joey had a really expensive backgammon set with a tan leather box the board itself was housed in. He'd picked it up at a secondhand shop a few months back and he imagined he could play it with Duke since he was a whiz with dice.
Besides that he had his tape collection, a photo album and a few books that he'd managed to save from being destroyed. The last things he took were the clock radio and the cheap stereo from his nightstand, putting them on top of his clothes and tennis shoes. He'd written a note to his dad before they left this morning and as he lugged the bulky garbage bags out towards the front door, Joey heard movement in his father's bedroom. His heart pounded in his chest so he left the garbage bags right where they were two feet from the door, then he took out the note from his pants pocket, which he swiftly put on the coffee table.
Joey heard the door to his dad's room opening and he panicked. He bolted towards the two garbage bags. He grabbed them both in one hand and lugged them to the front door. He had it open in seconds and then he was trying to be quiet as he shut it. His dad hadn't yelled or anything so he thought it was safe to assume that he hadn't noticed Joey was even in the house. Moving one of the bags to his other hand he headed for the purple sports car that Mai owned. He smiled at her, but he was still terrified that his dad might come out hollering at him ready to beat him to a pulp.
Mai used the trunk release from inside the car so that Joey was able to put his stuff in there while she started the car up. After he closed the trunk he walked swiftly around the car to the passenger side and got in. He shrunk down in the seat, cringing when the door to his house opened and his father, holding the note looked around to see if he could spot the young teen. Mai put the car in drive and then they were on their way away from the house of horror that Joey never had to spend another night in again. He relaxed once they were out of sight of the house and then he sat up properly in the seat.
"Thanks Mai, I really appreciate this. I'm glad I didn't have to talk to him, but that was sure too close for comfort," Joey said, shrugging off the fear of facing his father.
"You're welcome, but you don't have to thank me Joey. Friends support each other no matter what."
"Yes they do. But even so I have to thank you for all you've done for me Mai," Joey smiled and looked out the window.
He had a feeling that things were going to get a lot better for him now that he was away from the exploitative influence of his father.
Fifteen minutes later they arrived at Duke's Game Shop, the Black Crown. Mai parked her car and pulled the trunk release before taking her keys out of the ignition, putting them into her handbag. Joey unbuckled his seat belt as Mai unbuckled hers, then the two got out of the car. They walked up to the entrance together with Joey carrying both bags holding his earthly possessions. When they got to the big glass doors Mai held one open for him as they entered the huge place Duke called home. They saw Yugi and Duke getting out of the elevator and called out to them.
"Hi Joey, everything go okay?" Yugi asked, expressing his concern for his friend.
Joey nodded, "Yeah we had no trouble at all."
Duke gestured to the elevator, "Shall we go upstairs and put your stuff in your room Joey?"
Joey smiled and nodded, following Duke to the elevator with Yugi and Mai right behind him. They all got in and Duke pressed the button for the third floor. The elevator doors shut and it began making the ascent to the third floor. Joey was anxious about living here and Duke gave him a reassuring smile.
"I think you'll like it here Joey. I'm excited about having you around."
"I'm looking forward to it Duke. I hope you don't mind showing me the ropes around here, I'm a fast learner, but I don't have that much job experience. Just delivering papers and mowing lawns," Joey thought back to his days of mowing some of his neighbor's lawns for ten bucks a week.
"You'll do fine Joey, don't worry. It's your love of games and experience dueling that I am counting on. If you wanted to work in the restaurant you are welcome to do that or if you'd be happiest working the register and helping customers that's fine too."
As the elevator came to a stop Joey felt his stomach lurch from the inertia of his body adjusting to the sudden lack of upward momentum. The doors opened and Duke smiled, gesturing to Mai to exit the elevator first.
"After you Mai."
"Thank you Duke," Mai said coolly as she got off the elevator and turned to meet Joey's gaze, easily picking up on his anxiety.
'I wish he wasn't so nervous. I can see it in his eyes that he is worried. Duke is such a nice guy to do this for Joey, it's just what he needed right now.'
They followed Duke around the richly decorated third floor. Yugi was right next to Duke and having already seen everything up here he was pointing out different things as they headed towards the bedrooms. There were a total of five bedrooms along with three bathrooms, a full service kitchen and an elaborate recreation room. It was very inviting with a large oval table with red velvet covered chairs, a pool table, video games, a huge plasma television sitting in a black lacquered entertainment center with all sorts of components. Joey gasped at the sight of it and Duke laughed.
"I really enjoyed having you over last night Yugi. It's nice to have friends around to share all this with. If you want you can sleep over again tonight and we can stay up late playing games or watching movies or something."
Yugi grinned, "I'd love to Duke. I know my grandfather won't mind at all. Especially as this is Joey's first night here, I wouldn't want to miss it for the world."
Duke looked over at Mai and cocking his head to the side he asked her if she'd like to stay over too as he had plenty of rooms if she did. She shook her head and told them she had to get ready for a job Monday and needed to get to bed early, but she'd love to stick around until she had to head home later. So it was decided that the foursome would spend the day together. No one commented on the state Joey was in, despite the bruises on his face being quite visible. Duke opened a door and led them into a bedroom that looked just as Yugi had described to Joey on the phone last night.
"Wow Duke, this is a great room. I'm definitely going to like it here," Joey said as he turned around looking at the room that was now his.
"Hey you're doing me a favor by moving in Joey, so don't worry about it. Yugi would you mind coming with me to the kitchen to get some breakfast going? We'll meet up in the rec room sound good Joey?" Duke gave the blonde teen thumbs up as he and Yugi left the room.
Joey took the garbage bags over and put them onto the bed before turning around to face Mai. She had crossed her arms over her chest and was smiling at him. He laughed and sat on the edge of the bed, still stunned that he was actually here freed from the bondage of his father.
"What do you think handsome? Could you be happy here and still keep up with school?"
Joey blushed, "Sure I could. In fact I think I could be more then happy here. It's a queen-sized bed like yours is. Definitely more comfortable then the old twin I've been on since I was a kid."
Mai giggled and came over to sit next to Joey. He looked so happy he was practically glowing. There had been something behind Duke's comments earlier, as if he was making an effort to hide his desire to help Joey. Having rgown close to Joey and the gang she had come to know the group pretty well. It was obvious to her that Duke hadn't needed a roommate and that he was as worried about Joey's well being. She didn't know if Joey had picked up on it or not, but it didn't matter as he had accepted the offer to live here and she would not need to worry about his safety any more.
"I am really glad things are getting better for you Joey. Since you have a computer now I bet you can get a lot more done on your story. And maybe meet up with me online, we could chat using one of those instant messenger programs. I'd enjoy that a lot."
He nodded, "I'd enjoy that too Mai. I'll see if I can get one of those programs set up today and we could meet up whenever you want."
Mai leaned over and kissed his cheek, "You do that and look for me tonight. I'll email you after I'm home."
Joey blushed and grinned. He was feeling really good about himself right now and having Mai here made him feel at ease. He stood up and when she did he pulled her into a warm embrace. If the door to his room hadn't been open he might have taken advantage of the opportunity to steal a kiss from her, but worried that they might be interrupted so he soon released her from the hug.
"Do you want to go see what Duke and Yug whipped up for breakfast?" as if on cue his stomach growled and he rolled his eyes.
Mai laughed and nodded, then they left the room heading to the rec room where Duke and Yugi were waiting for them.
"What do you mean there isn't anything you can do? He's been missing for three days dammit and I want my son back!" Jim Wheeler yelled into the phone to the female officer he was talking to.
"I'm sorry sir, but from what you told me he wrote in that letter he doesn't want to be found, like I already told you, we'll put out an alert so that if he is found we can get him back home to you. That is the best thing we can do. I suggest you try getting in touch with his friends and wait at home in case he returns."
"Yeah sure, thanks for the help," Jim hung the phone up without waiting for her response, his head was spinning from over indulgence of alcohol.
He looked at the letter Joey had left him again, reading it over for the twentieth time.
I don't want you to worry about me anymore. I am moving out and going to take care of myself now. You need help Dad, you really do and I am not going to be your punching bag anymore. I've had enough of your abuse and I am done with you. Don't come looking for me because you won't find me and even if you do I won't go anywhere with you. I hope you get your act together someday Dad, but I won't let you hurt me anymore.
'How the hell am I supposed to use this note to help me get him back? Damn asshole, he's doing this on purpose to humiliate me and I'm going to kick his girly ass when I find him. He'll be the one who needs help when I'm through with him by god.'
Jim went into the room his son had left behind and looked around. All his clothes were gone and there was nothing left that he hadn't already broken. He sighed and shut the door as he left the room. He didn't know how, but he would find Joey and when he did he would make him pay for thinking he could escape his wrath like his wife had. Oh yes, he'd pay dearly for this.
It was after seven when Mai left the Black Crown, and Joey was putting his things away getting settled into his room. Duke and Yugi were playing video games in the rec room, so Joey decided to turn on the computer after he'd put the last of his clothes into the large dresser. He sat in the comfortable desk chair and smiled as he spun around in it a couple times while the computer went through its booting sequence. Joey was surprised to see that when he tried to open a window it loaded a search engine almost instantly, telling him that it was already connected to the net.
"Whoa, Duke must have a cable or DSL connection to get that kind of speed loading pages. I bet I can get one of those instant messenger programs installed in no time. But I better check with Duke just in case he doesn't want me using something like that on here."
Joey stood up and went to join his friends in the other room, hearing their delighted hoots and shouting as they played against each other on some console game. When he entered the room Duke paused the game and Yugi smiled at Joey.
"Hi Joey, what's up?" Duke asked him.
"Hey guys, I was just wondering if you'd mind me getting one of those instant messenger programs to chat with Mai online sometime. Man that computer is wicked fast Duke. But I wanted to check with you before I downloaded anything like that in case you didn't want me using an IM program."
Duke laughed, "Yeah it's connected to my network and the net through a T1 setup so the speed is pretty awesome. I have a firewall protecting everything so if you want to use one of those programs I don't mind but I might have to help you get it set up."
Joey smiled as Duke went on, "I have a pretty good website and have my own live chat server hosted with it so if you wanted to, Mai could meet you there and you guys could chat whenever without having to worry about downtime on those other programs. I found them to be kind of unreliable and when you need them most they don't always work."
"Wow Duke you have all that stuff set up? Damn you are smart I bet your site gets a ton of hits doesn't it?" Yugi asked, his violet eyes wide with awe.
Duke twirled a lock of his raven hair around his fingers as he nodded, "Yeah it gets some high traffic sometimes and I even have weekly chats scheduled so fans can come chat with me about the game or whatever they want. It should be listed in the browser's favorites under 'Black Crown Main' and on that page there is a link to the chat room. I'll get you set up with a private room so you can chat with Mai and not have people eavesdropping on your conversations."
Duke stood up and walked over towards Joey who backed up to give him room to exit the room. Leaving the game paused Yugi joined them and together they all went to Joey's room. Duke sat down in the chair and his fingers began flying across the keys rapidly as he went to work setting up the private room he'd told Joey he'd set up for him and Mai. After ten minutes he had everything situated so he got up and gestured to the chair.
"You'll have to get Mai to make a name and then she can log into it to access the chat. I've given admin privileges so you could give her username access to the private room. If you need anything don't hesitate to ask for help ok?"
Joey grinned, "Thanks Duke, I really appreciate all this. I'll email Mai and let her know what she needs to do so we can chat together. That chat setup looks pretty cool, amazing that it has emoticons and all those other features."
Yugi giggled, "Joey do you mean you actually understand how to use that thing?"
Joey rolled his eyes, "Yeah Yugi, I do. So, what of it? It's not that hard to figure out after all."
"Oh nothing, I was just thinking about how you try to act like you're not that bright. It's all an act, I can see right through it Joey Wheeler and I bet others can too, right Duke?" Yugi winked at their dark haired friend who raised his hands up and shrugged.
"Hey keep me out of this ok? I don't care who knows what, just as long as I don't have to get between anyone, got it?" his expression was serious and it made Joey and Yugi burst out laughing.
"What's so funny you two?" Duke asked not seeing the humor they saw in the situation.
"Oh nothing, just that you thought we were being serious. It just was too funny seeing you reacting like we were actually arguing over something so stupid!" Yugi grabbed his sides and fell over onto Joey's bed.
Joey meanwhile stopped laughing, but he was smiling so Duke chuckled at the two teens and picked up a throw pillow from a nearby chair and whipped it over at Yugi who was still in hysterics.
"Hey! Watch it Duke, I sense a pillow fight coming on!" Yugi said, his violet eyes full of mischief.
Yugi hopped up from the bed and grabbed the two pillows there and tossed one to Joey. He easily caught it and raised his eyebrows at Duke who took one look at them and ran away yelling that he was unarmed and it wasn't fair to pick on an unarmed opponent like that. They ran out after him and then saw he had come out of his room with a long pillow that he held over his shoulder, as if daring either of them to get within his range. Yugi felt brave so he ran over and as he was about to whack Duke, he was hit with Duke's pillow.
They ended up in Duke's room and beat the pillows at one another until they were exhausted lying on the plush red carpet breathing hard from all the exertion of their playful pillow fight. After few minutes the three friends left Duke's bedroom and while Joey told them he was off to email Mai, Yugi and Duke went back to their game. Joey had to laugh to himself; he had no idea that Duke was so much fun to be around. He was really glad to be here and knew he was pretty lucky having friends like them that cared about him.
After he shut his door he went to the desk chair and sat down to get his email to Mai written and sent. He gave her the link to the site and told her what she needed to do in order to gain access to the private room he would be waiting for her in. After sending the email he decided to do a little research about a subject he needed to know more about. Looking over the results of the search he'd run, he went to one site that had information on how teens could become emancipated or in other words, legally allowed to make their own decisions without having to deal with their parents.
He learned that it was usually cases like his, where abuse existed that teens were granted the legal rights to make their own choices about their lives. Part of that depended on how they would be able to support themselves and that they had a safe place to live as well as being able to keep themselves in school. He knew he'd have no problems meeting those requirements and he was sure Duke would vouch for him on all counts, from being his employer to being his roommate. So Joey relaxed a little. He really would be free soon, he just needed to file a petition for emancipation Monday and hopefully it would be granted without having to face his father at a court hearing.
'Hard to believe that things are coming together like they are. All I have to do now is go through the motions and I should be granted the right to control my own life so that Dad won't ever be able to hurt me again. I bet he is pissed as hell at me for leaving, but everything I said in my letter to him was true even if he is too messed up to realize it.'
Joey refreshed his email inbox and was a little disappointed there wasn't anything from Mai yet. He thought about calling her on the cell phone she'd given him, but he didn't want to be too pushy. He also had a lot of thinking to do in the meantime about where their relationship was heading. Even though he knew Duke had asked him to move in with him here because he had been able to figure out that something bad was going on with him at home, Joey didn't feel guilty for accepting his friend's kindness. Mostly because he admired Duke for the way he carried himself and how he didn't take any shit from anyone.
'In a way he reminds me of myself and Tristan and how we are together or if we need to help one of our friends. I know he likes my sister, but I think even he realizes that he's too much of a free spirit to become seriously involved with someone Serenity's age. But am I in that boat? Mai is older then I am and god knows she's a hell of a lot more mature then any of us are. I don't want to risk losing her friendship, but at the same time if she got with another guy I would hate myself for not asking her out when I had the chance.'
Joey wondered what Mai wanted. She'd said she'd wait for him, but had she meant it? If she had it wouldn't be as long of a wait as he'd first thought it would be when they'd talked that day. He closed his eyes and called up the image of her in the bathroom that morning, how the sun had looked as it reflected in her hair. He could almost recall the scent of her as he shivered thinking about that embrace they'd shared that morning and how badly he'd wanted to kiss her. But was it worth risking their friendship to see if they could be good for each other?
He sighed and refreshed his inbox again, this time there was a reply waiting for him from Mai. He opened it and she'd told him she'd be there in a few minutes once she got settled in. He closed his eyes, wondering where she was in her apartment and whether or not she'd changed out of her clothes yet or if she was still wearing the purple leather miniskirt and white tank top. He waited in the chat and got an alert that a HarpyLady was online and wanted to chat with him. He smiled at the name and knew it had to be Mai, so he granted it access into the room.
Mai had changed into a nightgown and was sitting comfortably on her couch, with her laptop on her knees. She had to smile at the name Joey had chosen, RedEyesDuelist/, the same as his penname on the writing site. She had gone with /HarpyLady and was impressed with the site Duke had set up for his game shop. The chat itself was equipped with more features then she knew what to do with. As she was taken into the private room Joey was waiting for her in she smiled when he greeted her.
They chatted for a long while before she found she was yawning and had to call it a night. He said he was going to stay up and play games with the guys, but that he'd be thinking of her. That made her smile and she told him she'd be thinking about him too and that she wished him lucking beating Duke and Yugi in whatever games they ended up playing. A couple minutes later she shut down her computer and went to her bedroom. It seemed to be larger then she remembered and she figured it was just because she was missing Joey. As she got into bed she sighed, feeling that familiar heaviness of being lonely.
'I wonder if he is really thinking about me. I bet he is, the big softie. I doubt he knows how much I care about him though. Maybe I can show him just how deeply I care about him soon. After he gets comfortable being on his own maybe he will want to take things between us to the next level. I know I wouldn't think twice about being with him. Not after all we've been through together and how it feels right being in his arms. Having dated other guys I know what I feel for Joey is different because I've never felt this way towards anyone else in my life. Until now.'
She turned on her side and let her mind drift, as images of being in his arms filled her thoughts. It wasn't long before she was sleeping soundly, dreaming about being with Joey on a beach, walking hand in hand under the light of a full moon. The uncertainty of the future loomed ahead of her, yet she wasn't afraid, not with Joey at her side. Even though she might feel alone, she knew even as she dreamed that she wasn't alone and wouldn't be as long as she held him close to her heart.