Categories > Anime/Manga > Yu-Gi-Oh! > Dog Days

Behind Closed Doors

by Pamster 0 Reviews

Behind Closed Doors

Category: Yu-Gi-Oh! - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Duke Devlin, Joey Wheeler, Mai Valentine, Serenity Wheeler, Seto Kaiba, Tea Gardner, Tristan Taylor, Yami Yugi, Yugi Mutou - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2006/09/27 - Updated: 2006/09/27 - 6771 words

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Author Note: I do not own Yugioh or any of the characters from the show

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.

Additional Author Note Chapter Specific: this is of course a completely fictional situation and in no way meant to represent what seeking this kind of legal emancipation is like for a person. I created it to the best of my knowledge to be realistic and believable and I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. I'll say this though, we haven't seen the last of Jim Wheeler, so hang in there while I continue with the story bit by bit. This was a longer then normal chapter, but I think something that needs to be done 'right' deserves to have that given to creating it, such as a hearing scene as you will see here: 'Behind Closed Doors' I look forward to your reviews on this long and detailed chapter.

Dog Days Chapter Twelve: Behind Closed Doors

-o-

It was late Sunday before Joey made his way back to the Black Crown. He had stayed at Mai's all weekend and they hadn't left her apartment from the time they'd arrived Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, when she hadtaken him back to Duke's. If he hadn't have had school the next day, Joey would have wanted to stay. He headed upstairs to get a change of clothes and ran into Duke in the hallway.

"Hey Duke, what's up?"

Joey grinned at Duke, who laughed, "Hey yourself, Joey! I knew you wouldn't be home until today. I guess your date went well."

"Yeah, it sure did. I'll get that shirt washed and back to you when I do laundry later. I think Mai liked it," Joey winked and chuckled.

"I bet she did! So are you going to spill details freely or do I have to bribe you about it?"

Duke reached up, began twirling a lock of his hair and smirked at Joey.

"Oh no, I don't kiss and tell. Sorry, Duke. I can't be bribed or tortured into it. Not going to happen."

Duke gestured towards the kitchen area, "Are you sure about that? I've got half of a pizza from last night in the fridge..."

Joey's eyes widened and he licked his lips, "Damn, Duke; pizza is one weakness I do have! Ok, let's go chow down and I'll toss you a couple bones, sound fair enough?"

Duke let go of his hair and nodded, and then he led the way into the kitchen with Joey right on his heels.

-o-

Two days passed smoothly as the day arrived for Joey's hearing to grant his petition. Duke and Joey had both called in sick to school so that they could go to the hearing. Joey was extremely nervous about the idea of going to court and seeing his father there.

The two teens walked into the courthouse and Joey took out the paper he'd gotten in the mail that was a copy of what his father had been served last week. After double checking the paper, go through a metal.

The female deputy that was there with a security guard eyed the two teens from her vantage point behind the x-ray machine. Joey went first, emptying his pockets into a gray plastic tray that went through the machine as he walked through the metal detector. It beeped loudly and the security guard came over and ran a wand over Joey. It beeped near his chest.

"Sir, do you have any metal in that shirt anywhere?" asked the somber man, who towered above Joey by at least six inches.

"No sir, I don't think so. Oh, wait a second. I'm sorry; I forgot to take off my necklace."

Joey grinned sheepishly as he reached under his shirt and lifted the dog tag from around his neck and handed it to the guard. Then he waited while the man used the wand again. This time it was silent.

"It's fine, go on through."

Joey nodded and walked over to retrieve his belongings from the tray at the end of the x-ray machine. He waited for Duke to get through the process and then the two teens headed towards courtroom "C" where Family Court was held. Joey went up to a man holding a clipboard and asked him if he was in the right place, showing him the copy of the papers he'd brought with him. The man nodded and noted on the clipboard that Joey Wheeler had arrived. He told him that his friend wouldn't be allowed in when he was called to go before the judge because they held closed hearings when it involved minors. He would have to wait outside until he was called upon to offer his statement to the judge.

"Don't worry about it, Joey. It's not like I have anywhere else to go. Besides, take a look at that blonde over there. I think I can easily find something to distract myself." Duke winked and Joey smirked as they sat down on one of the numerous benches to wait.

-o-

Jim Wheeler looked at the papers he'd been given, telling him where to appear for the hearing. As he walked towards courtroom "C", he glared back at the Deputy and guard who'd searched his person for weapons before admitting him into the lobby. He had a real problem with people who had legal authority over regular citizens and he folded the papers before putting them into his coat pocket. The brown suit he had on was very uncomfortable; the collar irritated the skin on his neck, creating a bothersome distraction.

'/Damn! It pisses me off that these people think they are above everyone else. What kind of fool would bring a gun to a courthouse anyway?' /

Jim muttered under his breath as he turned a corner and saw Joey sitting on a bench with his friend. He rolled his eyes and headed over to a man holding a clipboard near the entrance to courtroom "C" as he removed the papers from his pocket. Jim held them in his right hand and asked the man if he was in the right place, even though he was sure he was. He was told that he was and to sit down and wait until they were called upon. So Jim nodded and turned around. He did not make any eye contact with Joey as he walked towards a nearby bench that three women were sitting on. One had a baby in a stroller in front of her and he sat down a foot away from her.

'/God, I can't wait to get out of here!'/ Jim thought bitterly, anger beginning to churn in his stomach at being forced to come to court.

-o-

All the color drained from Joey's face as his eyes locked onto the tall figure of his father. He tried to tear his gaze off him but he couldn't. He could see rage in the way his father stood there, the summon papers in his clenched hand. Joey was all too familiar with his father's body language and shivered, thinking of what would happen if his petition weren't granted. Finally, able to look away from his father, Joey recognized a woman who was making her way over to the man with the clipboard. It was a social worker that'd come to visit him in school, to talk about what the school psychologist had reported as possible child abuse.

'/Oh my god! What is she doing here? If Dad sees her and she gets up to talk he will flip out! I just know he'll think I had something to do with her being here. Damn what should I do?' /

Joey felt trapped; his father went to sit down on an empty bench just as the woman began to speak in a low voice to the man holding the clipboard. The man went into the courtroom, closing the doors behind him. A few moments later he reappeared and called Joey and his father's names, saying that it was time for them to go before the judge.

Slowly Joey stood, not wanting to face this, but he knew he had no choice if he ever wanted to move on with his life. He looked at his feet, which felt like balls of lead, as he walked over to the courtroom, hearing the sound ofhis father following behind him.

A man wearing a finely tailored suit gestured to Joey to join him. Joeyhimself saw the female social worker at the table next to him and forced a weak smile onto his face. He didn't look to his left, too afraid that his father would be staring at him. He didn't want to break down in front of all these people but the idea of talking about his life was terrifying.

Everyone stood, waiting for the judge to call the hearing to order; the tension in the air was immense and though Joey wouldn't look at him, he was sure his father was seething at having to be here.

A door opened to the side of the courtroom and a female judge walked in. Her black robes billowed out behind her as she moved to take her place behind the bar. The bailiff announced that the private hearing would come to order, and then the court reporter stated Joey's name and the reason for the hearing, which was to rule on the petition Joey had filed for emancipation.

Joey swallowed hard at the lump in his throat and looked up at the judge whose expression was solemn and unreadable. Her hair was on her head in a tightly wound bun; only a white collar protruded from beneath her robe and Joey couldn't stop from shaking.

"You may all sit down. As to the matter of Joseph Wheeler's petition to gain emancipation from his father's custody we will hear from the Petitioner first. Mr. Anderson, do you have a witness to call?"

The man stood and the social worker rose as well, "Yes, your honor; I do. Ms. Winters; a social worker who met the petitioner at his high school earlier this semester."

Joey watched in silence as the social worker moved to sit in the witness stand and was then sworn in. After that, Mr. Anderson moved over towards her, glancing over at Jim and the man who sat next to him that Joey assumed was his lawyer. Joey quickly tore his eyes from that side of the room and made himself look only at the table in front of him as the lawyer began questioning his witness.

"Please state your name and occupation for the record, Ms. Winters."

"My name is Victoria Winters and I am a state social worker."

Mr. Anderson then moved onto his important questions now that the formalities were out of the way, "Can you tell the court how you came to be involved with Joseph's Wheeler and in what capacity you've been called here today?"

The woman nodded, "Yes, I was called by the school psychologist at Domino High earlier this year about a suspected child abuse case that involved Joseph Wheeler. The psychologist spoke with me at length about his suspicions and it was agreed that I meet with him during school hours to see if there needed to be some investigation into the matter."

"And did that meeting take place, Ms. Winters?"

"Yes it did. OnFebruary 18th of this year, I met with the psychologist and Joseph during his lunch hour."

Joey wanted to crawl under the table and curl up into a ball; just hearing about this meeting being discussed made him feel extremely uncomfortable. If his petition failed, he knew his father would make him pay dearly for hiding the meeting from him and for even trying to break free from his control.

"Can you tell us what happened during that meeting and what you observed of Joseph's behavior and physical state?"

"Yes sir. The psychologist had talked about seeing bruises on his face and arms, as well the bruises on his legs that the gym teacher had reported to him. When Joseph came in we'd already finished out discussion so I had a good idea of what I was looking for."

"And what was that?"

"I was trying to see if he fit the profile for an abused child. Despite being a teenager, abused children often exhibit certain behaviors that people trained to detect them can perceive. That is if they are looking for them. I was also going to see how he reacted to questions about his family life."

"What did you make of his situation when you met with him that afternoon?"

"Well, when the psychologist dropped a book and Joseph didn't expect it, he jumped and was visibly shaken. That's one of the tests that we use to determine if a child has been abused over a long period of time. He also exhibited notable discomfort when the subject of his home life was brought up."

"In what way did he seem uncomfortable Ms. Winters?"

The tall thin man at the other table stood and spoke before she could answer, "I object your honor. This witness is not a psychologist and her subjective interpretation of this boy's state of mind really isn't relevant..."

The judge quickly held up a hand to silence the other lawyer, "Mr. Cole, I am well aware that in a open case this kind of evidence might be subject to higher scrutiny. But this is a hearing regarding this minor's petition and I am going to allow the witness to answer. Please, Ms. Winters, answer the question."

"Yes your honor. He seemed to have no self-confidence whatsoever and didn't feel able to talk about his relationship with his father. That tells me that there was at least psychological abuse in the home. As to whether or not physical abuse existed..."

"Your honor, I object!"

"Mr. Cole, please don't make me tell you again that this is a hearing in closed court. Therefore I am going to hear the testimony of the witness. Mr. Anderson called her in to question her regarding this minor child's state of mind and wellbeing in relation to his petition. Because a social worker called in to a school to look into possible abuse of a child, it is well within the bounds of this hearing to hear what she has to say on the matter."

Joey gasped at the annoyed tone of voice the judge used when chastising the man who was the only one on his father's side of the room.

'/Damn! She doesn't play around. I'm lucky she seems to be on my side so far. God, I hope I don't have to go into details over Dad hurting me. I don't want him to go to jail or anything,' /Joey thought to himself, as the woman began to answer the last question Mr. Anderson had asked.

"He seemed disturbed that someone thought he might be being abused. Most children, despite being abused, still feel protective over the parent who is abusing them. And this seemed to be the case with Joseph in that he refused to reveal any details of how he sustained the injuries that had been reported to me. The stories he did give us struck me as made up cover stories." The woman sighed and Joey looked over, meeting her eyes.

'/God, she feels sorry for me! I could see it then and I sure as hell see it now. Thank god Duke isn't in here to hear all this. I doubt I could face him if he was here.' /Joey's face reddened as he tried to hide the embarrassment he felt over the details of his life being so openly talked about.

"Thank you, Ms. Winters. That's all the questions I have for you."

Mr. Anderson returned to sit next to Joey, giving the young man a confident smile as he did so. Joey grinned up at the older man and then looked over at the man defending his father's rights as he got up to move towards the witness stand.

Clearing his throat, he then asked the social worker, "Is it true, Ms. Winters, that a child last month who was supposed to be under your protective authority was placed in foster care. And then that he died in that foster home from the unreported abuse of that foster family?"

Mr. Anderson didn't need to interject because the judge did so for him, her angry tone of voice meant to warning the man that he was treading on thin ice.

"Mr. Cole, you are out of order! One more inappropriate question or comment from you and I will hold you in contempt of court. Do you understand me?"

The man nodded and the judge went on to instruct the witness, "Ms. Winters, you will disregard that question. Mr. Cole, if you have anything that applies to this case and this minor's petition for emancipation then please proceed."

"Yes, your honor. I apologize to you and this court. I do have one question I feel applies here, if I may be allowed to ask the witness."

The judge waved a hand and her stern expression was crystal clear that she was not about to allow this witness to be badgered, "Now then, Ms. Winters, isn't it true that in some cases where a minor child applies for emancipation it is with the intent of revenge against their parents?"

The judge rolled her eyes and waved her hand again, nodding when Ms. Winters looked up to her to see if she was required to answer this question.

She then nodded to Mr. Cole, who grinned as he said, "Ms. Winters, the court reporter cannot hear a nod. Are you saying that it does indeed happen that minor children sometimes make up false allegations to get revenge upon their parents, and that could be true in this case?"

"Your honor, I object! This has no bearing on this petitioner's case..."

"Agreed. Ms. Winter, there is no need to answer this rephrased question. If that is all you have, Mr. Cole, then this witness is excused."

Mr. Cole's expression soured and he nodded, already moving to sit back down next to Jim. The judge then excused the social worker and she was let out of the courtroom. Mr. Anderson whispered to Joey that he was going to call him next, and to just tell the truth as best as he could and things would be fine. Joey nodded and took a deep breath as his lawyer stood from his seat.

"I call the petitioner to the stand, Joseph Wheeler."

Joey stood and moved to the witness stand, avoiding his father's menacing gaze as he sat down on the hard wooden chair. Joey raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth, then he looked up at the judge, whose expression had softened as she smiled down at him and nodded. Then Mr. Anderson began with his first question.

"Joseph, can you tell the court why you seek to become an emancipated minor free from the custody of your father?"

Swallowing hard, Joey answered, "Uh, because I am close to being eighteen and feel I can make it on my own without having to be a burden to my father anymore."

Mr. Anderson frowned, "Surely there is more to it then that? You stated in your petition that you felt your father was under a great deal of stress and that you were afraid of what he might do to you, isn't that right?"

Joey nodded, "Y-yes, sir."

"Isn't it true that he has hit you and hurt you for quite some time?"

Joey flinched at his father's annoyed sigh over this question but he knew if he were to get his petition granted he had to face this head on. Running wouldn't help him now.

"Yes, sir. Ever since my parents divorced he had a hard time and his drinking got worse and worse. I don't think he really is aware of how badly he treats me at times, but I can't go on living in fear any longer," Joey looked at his father, whose angry expression gave way to surprise.

"So he drinks a lot, you'd say? Would you say that he is an alcoholic?"

Again Joey nodded, "Yes, sir, I would."

"So it's when he's been drinking that he loses control and hits you?"

"Sometimes, yes. He wasn't always like that though. He used to..."

"Thank you, Joseph. We understand you love your father and don't want him to get in trouble, but the fact remains he has abused you, hasn't he? To a point that people in your school have seen the evidence of that abuse and shown concern over it?"

Joey nodded and looked down at his feet, "Yes, sir."

"This is my final question. Joseph, I know this hasn't been easy for you so I thank you for your honesty and applaud your courage. Now, if you would please tell the court where you've been living for the past week and what you would do if the court were to grant your petition today?"

"Thank you, sir. I have been living with a friend from school who is financially stable and offered me a room in his place as well as a job to help me cover my expenses. If I were to be granted emancipation today I would continue to live there with him and work in his gaming store until I graduate. After that I'll be eighteen and plan on going to college."

"Thank you. Joseph. You're a brave young man, and no matter what the court's decision is here today I wish you the best of luck with whatever you do after you graduate," Mr. Anderson came over and stood beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder.

He squeezed gently before he nodded to the judge and moved to retake his seat.

"Mr. Cole, do you have any questions for this witness?" asked the judge, her expression stern and cold once again as she looked down at the man defending Joey's father.

Nodding, Mr. Cole stood up and smoothed his coat before he cleared his throat, preparing to speak, "I'm sure this is difficult for you, Joseph, but I have to ask some tough questions in order to fulfill my responsibility to your father."

Joey nodded, though looking at this tall dark haired man in his shallow pretense of sympathy made him want to throw up on his black leather shoes.

"Now then, let's start with this. Do you love your father, Joseph?"

Joey rolled his eyes at the sarcastic tone of voice the question was asked in, "What kind of question is that? Of course I love him! He's my dad for god's sake!"

The judge glared at Mr. Cole and Joey tried to calm down his fury as he asked his next question, "It's a fair question, young man. You've put forth some vague allegations that my client has been abusing you and I needed to have you answer that before I went any further. So then is it fair to say you sometimes have disagreements with him?"

Again, Joey wanted to vomit on this insincere man who thought to cloud the issues in front of the judge with emotional baggage.

"Sure, we disagree sometimes, but that isn't why I filed a petition..."

"So your answer is yes. Fine. Mr. Wheeler, would you say that your relationship with your father isn't very good, especially since you came home from that tournament for that game...What is it again? Dungeon /Fighters/?"

Joey grit his teeth, "It's Duel Monsters and that has nothing to do with why I am here /sir,/" Joey's voice tossed the sarcasm back at the lawyer who chuckled.

"Oh, I do think it's relevant. And here's why. You didn't ask your father for permission to go to that tournament did you?"

"I object, your honor. This has no bearing on Joseph's petition," Mr. Anderson stood up and Joey looked to the judge.

"Agreed. Find another question that relates to this petition, Mr. Cole, or you're done questioning this witness."

"Yes, your honor. However, I would like to pursue this avenue of questioning to establish a motive for why this petition was /really /filed against my client, if I may."

"Then by all means proceed but do so cautiously. If you fail to establish this alleged motive you're referring to, your questioning will come to a halt."

"Thank you your honor. Now, Joseph, would you please answer the question if you had your father's permission to go to this tournament?"

"You know, if he had been home during the two days when I was preparing to go I'd have been able to ask him, but he didn't come home and I had to go."

"You had to go? Why was that, Joseph?"

"Because I wanted to win to get the money to save my little sister's eyesight. She was going blind and there was no hope of getting the money for her surgery by any other means. That's why I had to go."

"So you just went without even leaving a note?"

"No I left him a letter right on the refrigerator where I knew he'd find it. I would have tried to find him, but when he doesn't come home for more then two days it usually means he's staying at some woman's house and doesn't want me to find him."

Joey glared at the lawyer for a few seconds and then he moved his gaze to meet his father, who looked very smug until he saw how angry his son was. Then his expression hardened into one Joey knew very well; one that said he was going to get it, it being a severe beating. Joey then looked over to Mr. Anderson, surprised this other lawyer hadn't objected to what he'd stated.

"I see. So, you're saying you didn't know when he would be back and that he did this kind of thing regularly?"

"Yes. That is what I am saying, /sir./"

"All right, I think we understand that. So when you returned was he happy you'd gotten the money for your sister's surgery?"

"I didn't get any feeling from him about it. He didn't react at all. He just asked me to get another beer for him, if I remember right."

"I move to strike that last comment from the record, your honor."

"Denied. You opened the door Mr. Cole; it's too late to close it."

"All right, then let me end with this final question. Would you say your relationship with your father wasn't one of mutual respect then, Joseph?"

"No sir, I wouldn't, and it hurts that it isn't but I can't go on like things were anymore. He's hurt me and will continue hurting me if my petition is not granted today, as I am in fear of my life just sitting here this morning."

"No further questions, your honor."

Mr. Cole moved to sit down next to Joey's dad and Joey averted his gaze as he left the witness stand to sit back down in his chair beside Mr. Anderson. He leaned over and whispered, asking if Duke was outside, and Joey nodded.

"I have one final witness to call your honor, if it pleases the court."

She nodded, "Please proceed, Mr. Anderson."

"Thank you your honor. I call Mr. Devlin to the stand. He is outside of the courtroom and has some relevant statements to enter into the record regarding Joseph's petition and future plans."

"Bailiff? Please call for the witness and let him into the courtroom."

-o-

"Please state your name and relationship to the petitioner, Joseph Wheeler, for the record."

"Duke Devlin. I'm a friend of Joey's and we go to school together."

Mr. Anderson smiled, "So, Mr. Devlin, do you know what you're here for?"

"Yes, sir. To show my support for my friend and to tell the court how he has been living with me and works with me in my gaming shop."

"Thank you, Mr. Devlin. Do you know what this hearing is about?"

"Yes sir, I was there when Joey filed his petition. He is seeking to become emancipated from his father's control because of abuse going on in the home."

"I object, your honor. This witness has no direct knowledge of any alleged abuse occurring in the Wheeler household."

The judge shook her head, "Objection overruled; I will hear what this witness has to say, Mr. Cole. You will have a chance to cross-examine him once his direct testimony is concluded. Please proceed, Mr. Anderson."

"Thank you, your honor. Mr. Devlin, can you elaborate on what makes you think that there was abuse going on in Joseph's home?"

"Yes, sir. A couple of weeks ago, Joey came to school looking really beat up. His face was all swollen and he had numerous bruises all over his body."

"And you know this from seeing it firsthand?"

"Yes, sir. We have gym at the same time so I saw his back and the rest of him when we were changing for gym class. It was terrible, and as his friend I couldn't just let it go on without trying to help him in some way. I knew I could give him a job in my shop and that he could move in with me and not have to live in that kind of situation any longer."

"So, you were worried about your friend's welfare if he continued to live with his father?"

Duke nodded, frowning as he looked up at the judge, "Yes sir, I did. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't take action right then and he ended up in the hospital, or worse."

"Thank you, Mr. Devlin; that's all the questions I have for you," Mr. Anderson smiled at the dark haired young man before turning to go sit back down beside Joey.

Mr. Cole stood up and cleared his throat before beginning his cross-examination, "So, Mr. Devlin, you claim to be a friend of Joseph's?"

Duke frowned, already afraid of where this was leading, but knew he would have to address it in order to help his friend, "Yes sir, I am."

"Then could you please explain to the court how you behaved when you first came to Domino city and challenged Joseph to a duel?"

"You have it wrong, sir. Joey challenged me to a duel and I don't see how it has anything to do with my becoming his friend."

"I don't either, Mr. Cole. Get to the point of this line of questioning quickly or else this witness shall be excused and I will make my ruling on the petition."

"Yes, your honor. I am trying to show this young man's motives for befriending my client's son and his behavior as being reckless and uncaring about Joseph's wellbeing."

The judge waved her hand and looked at Joey's father with cold hard eyes.

"So you faced him in a duel, then in this game he went off to play without his father's permission?"

"Objection, your honor!"

"Objection sustained. Mr. Cole, I don't want to have to warn you again that your behavior here is anything but ethical. Now stick to the facts and scope of this witness's bearing on this case."

"Yes, your honor. I'll rephrase the question. So you faced this young man in a duel. What were the stakes in this game you played?"

"It was for him to do whatever I wanted for a week or for me to do what he wanted."

Joey sighed, 'Where did this guy get all this stuff on us, I wonder?'

"So, then, he wanted you to do what if he won?"

"He'd said he wanted me to close my shop."

"So then, when you won, what were your demands of him?"

"That he wear a dog suit and be my dog for a week."

"Ah, so this is how you went about befriending this young man then? By humiliating him publicly?" The lawyer made no effort to hide his amusement at these facts coming to light.

"No, sir. I didn't know him that well. We became friends after things resolved between us, when I faced his best friend in a duel to end his debt of wearing the dog suit."

"Ah, I see, so this is the same friend that gave him the prize money for his sister's surgery, then? The King of Games, I think he is referred to as?"

"Yes," Duke was trying hard to maintain his cool but he wanted to deck this guy in the worst way for being so sarcastic about something important.

"I see. So, you plan on supporting this young man and having him live with you until you both graduate?"

"I plan on having him stay with me as long as he wants to and he is welcome to work in my shop for as long as he desires. It pays more then his other job and I know he enjoys working with me there. I don't have to support him as he is supporting himself with his salary and has plenty of money to take care of himself with."

"Ah, well then, I have nothing further. Thank you, Mr. Devlin," Mr. Cole replied, his voice still sarcastic as he turned away to move back to the table Jim was sitting quietly at.

"You may be excused, Mr. Devlin. Thank you for coming," said the judge, smiling at the young man as he stood to exit the courtroom.

"Hang in there, Joey, I'll be right outside," he whispered as he walked by on his way out.

"Do you have any other witnesses to call, Mr. Anderson?"

"No, your honor," he answered politely before looking over to the other table where Mr. Cole was still standing.

"Do you have any witnesses to call, Mr. Cole?"

"Yes your honor; I call James Wheeler to the stand."

Joey gasped and gripped his knees with his hands as he watched his father get into the witness stand to be sworn in.

After he'd sat down and swore to tell the truth, Mr. Cole began, "Please state your name and relationship to the petitioner for the record."

"James Wheeler. I'm Joseph's father."

"Mr. Wheeler, do you think your son is capable of taking care of himself in the current setting he is living in with Mr. Devlin?"

"I don't think two teenage boys are able to be responsible and keep up with their schoolwork left unattended; no sir, I don't."

"Would you say your son exhibits a pattern of defiant disregard for your authority?"

"Yes sir, I would."

"If the court grants his petition, do you think it would be in his best interests?"

"No sir, I do not. I'm his father and I have raised him just fine."

"Thank you, Mr. Wheeler. That's all I needed to ask."

Mr. Cole glared at Mr. Anderson as he moved to sit down and observe the cross-examination about to ensue.

"I will get right to the point, Mr. Wheeler. Isn't it true you have a drinking problem and that you get physically violent towards your son when you've been drinking?"

"No sir, I don't have a drinking problem and I do not get violent towards my son when I have had a few beers after work."

"So you'd like the court to believe that the other witnesses who've all testified that you've been abusive towards this young man are lying?"

"I don't know what they were doing, but no one knows what goes on between my son and I but Joseph and myself."

"I see. So, then you were home when Joseph wanted to go to that tournament to win that prize money to save your daughter's eyesight?"

"No sir, I wasn't. I was at an educational seminar relating to my job."

"So you didn't tell your son what you were doing or where you'd be and yet you consider this responsible parenting?" Mr. Anderson didn't hide his anger towards Jim in the slightest, and one look at the judge told Joey she echoed his sentiment.

"I told him it's his own fault he can't remember or call the number I had left him. I wasn't irresponsible. Not at all."

"Oh, so then you have a letter or note you'd like to enter as evidence to prove you'd left a note to tell him where to reach you?"

"Uh, no sir; I didn't think to bring it."

"You didn't think to bring it. I see. So, how do you explain the bruises your son came to school with over a period of months leading up to this petition being filed?"

"I can't explain them. He gets in fights all the time, I don't know where he got beat up at or by who. I have a job and I can't be there all the time."

"So, you're saying you had nothing to do with him getting beat up?"

"No sir, I didn't."

"I see. So you're the only one we should believe here and everyone else is deluded and lying. I have nothing further. Thank you, your honor."

Mr. Anderson swiftly retook his seat and the judge told Jim he could step down now, as she was ready to make her ruling.

"In light of the evidence shown today, I am prepared to grant Joseph's petition and further order Mr. Wheeler to have no contact with his son without the supervision of an agent of the court. I wish you the best, Joey. Stick with what you've been doing, living with Mr. Devlin, keep your grades up and rise above all of this. You're a good kid and deserve to be able to live without fear. I grant your petition and hereby grant you the power to make your own decisions about your life. The clerk will have your paperwork ready for you before you leave." The judge smiled at Joey and he nodded, returning the warm smile, relief written plainly on his face.

"And Mr. Wheeler; you're very lucky to not be standing before me in a criminal case of child abuse. If you were, you'd be going straight to jail for what you've done. Keep your distance from this young man and leave him alone. You have not shown me any reason to deny him the rights he deserves and in my opinion are a classic example of an abusive alcoholic parent who has no right to have custody over a minor child. I hereby order you to get professional help for your drinking problem, and until such a time as you are sober and stable you will have no unsupervised contact with your son. This matter is now closed and this hearing is over."

Jim stood and glared at Joey as he left the courtroom without so much as saying one word to his lawyer. Joey stared back at him coldly and for the first time in his life he didn't fear this man who'd been so hard and brutal with him. He walked over to the clerk, waiting for her to finish up with the paperwork she was working on. She told him he would have to carry it with him all the time to prove that there was a standing court order to keep his father away from him and giving him the legal rights to make his own decisions. For the first time in his life, Joey felt truly free and it felt /good/. He knew he and Duke would not go back to school today, but he was relieved that he wouldn't ever have to ever go back there with bruises inflicted by his coldhearted father. It was indeed a good day and he felt confident that his life was truly turning around.
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