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 Twenty-Three: Project Paint
The weekend Serenity had come over had been over two weeks ago. Joey was missing her pretty badly and he had gone to see his dad regularly, at least four times since the two times he'd gone with his sister. He'd had trouble watching him deteriorating so quickly, but he'd lost a lot of weight on top of being put on heavier pain medication because he was in horrible pain. As Joey left school with Duke after another grueling day he couldn't help but to think about Serenity.
I wonder if Mom gave her a hard time about seeing Dad or not. I know she was rather short with me on the phone when I called two nights ago. At least she wasn't listening in on us talking that time. Joey pondered this as Duke pulled up to the Black Crown.
"So you don't look like you heard a word I said Joey. What's wrong?" Duke asked as he parked the car.
"Aw I'm sorry Duke I was just thinking about my parents is all. Dad looked really bad last night when you took me to see him and when I called last to talk to Serenity Mom was kinda short with me. Not outright rude, but just like she couldn't get me off the phone fast enough."
Duke sighed and reached over to the keys shutting off the car.
"Sometimes that is how it goes you know? We can't control the way other people treat us and I am just glad your dad seems to have come to his senses and recognized what a great guy you are. That he wants you to sell the house really amazed me."
Joey nodded, "Yeah he signed it over and all last week. That reminds me, I need to see if Yugi and Tristan can help me paint it and work on patching up some of the holes this weekend. I am still shocked he told me he wanted me to go to college. That was pretty deep for him to say that he hoped I would make something of myself."
Duke agreed, "Yeah when you told me I know my jaw hit the floor big time. But it's a good thing Joey. Whatever you want to do I am sure you'll be making him proud. I already know what I am going to be doing with myself if this new game gets the response I hope it will."
"So how is that going? Got anything you can show me of it yet?" Joey asked with a friendly wink.
Duke shook his head, "I wish I could Joey but I promised Kaiba, well you know he's the one producing it with his resources for virtual technology, so I can't show you until it is finished, but it shouldn't be too much longer. Maybe a couple months before we go into live beta testing and then you can see it all you want."
Joey grinned, "I can't wait Duke. I know how Kaiba can be and the last thing I wanna do is anything to screw up your gig with him. So don't sweat it man. I can wait seriously. So what are we up to tonight?"
Duke opened his car door and Joey followed suit, "I have a net chat later and I need to work on my blog, the fans are always starving for updates so I gotta give them what they want. I guess we can do Chinese Wall again for dinner, but I think I want to get Sweet and Sour Chicken this time. I'm kind of porked out."
Joey laughed, "Better not let your fan girls hear you say something like that."
Duke groaned, "Ha, ha, you are so funny Joey. But seriously man, I want chicken tonight so a family size of that between us ought to do the trick. You got money to cover it or you need a twenty for it?"
Joey quickly calculated what he had in his wallet and shook his head, "Nope I got it covered bro' no problem. You just let me know when you're ready to eat and I will call it in and go get it."
As they walked up to the front door Duke told Joey he was the best and Joey laughed.
"No man, you are the best. I mean that."
Duke smiled and fingered a lock of hair twirling it around his index finger as he pushed open the door to the shop, letting Joey in first. Then Duke let the door close behind them, but not before giving two teen girls the 'look' that girls seemed to fall over swooning for him after getting. He decided to work the store a little while as Joey said he was going to go do some homework. It wasn't that he had much to do, but he wanted it out of the way so he could enjoy the rest of his evening. Tomorrow was Friday and they were looking at a three day weekend because Monday was an in service day for teachers only.
He took the stairs just for a change, and soon was in his room at his desk. He figured he might as well call Yugi and Tristan later too and get that out of the way. His father had also asked for Joey to take over as his living will appointee. Joey hadn't liked the idea but Jim had insisted, saying that sometimes people with cancer fell into comas from which they never awoke. He didn't want that to happen to him so in addition to the living will he'd had non-resuscitation order so that if he did fall into one he'd be able to die in peace as opposed to being put on life support equipment prolonging the inevitable.
Joey pushed the morbid thoughts from his mind as best as he could and picking up the framed photo from the weekend Serenity was over of him with Mai he smiled. He'd already talked to her about it and was sure she would be right there with him should the time come that he had to make such a difficult decision. Joey opened his backpack and took out his math book, opening it to the assigned homework section and then he reached down to a folder he kept clean paper in. Taking out a sheet he put his name, date and class in the upper right hand corner preparing to do the twenty math problems that were on the page the teacher had assigned.
An hour later he was all done with his Math homework and didn't feel like doing his English assignment just yet so he stood up and stretched his legs. Then he went to the kitchen to get some left over pizza because it was too early to order dinner yet. So he microwaved it and then brought it back to his room. Unlike what people might expect Joey didn't let his room get dirty. He'd eat in there at his desk, he'd make sure no soda cans or plates were left in there. It made him feel good to take care of his things. As he sat down he glanced over at the closet. Up on the shelf was the old backgammon set. He had played Duke a few times already and been beaten almost every time.
Maybe we can play a round later if he's not too busy.
Then Joey picked up the piece of pizza and began to eat it. He didn't mind that the crust was not as crisp as it would have been if he'd have used the oven, but he didn't feel like heating it up over one lone piece so he'd been content to nuke the piece he wanted. After he was done with it he pushed the plate to the side and picked up the phone. Then he dialed Tristan's number and waited for someone to answer. After three rings his mother answered.
"Hi Mrs. Taylor. If Tristan home?"
"Why yes, hold on a moment Joey."
Joey waited as she put the phone down and went to get her son. After a few moments he heard Tristan coming up towards the phone, then he picked it up and greeted Joey.
"Hey Tristan. Listen I wanted to see what you thought about helping me this weekend with the house?"
"Yeah sure Joey I remember you mentioning it yesterday at lunch. You can count on me, I'd love to help."
Joey chuckled, "You're awesome to help me like this Tristan. I need to get this house situation settled soon. The sooner the better."
Tristan sighed, "So how is your dad Joey?"
"Bad bro' he looks real bad. I don't know how much longer he is gonna hang in there either. It's awful seeing him just wasting away like this. But there's nothing the doctors can do."
Tristan sighed again, "I'm really sorry things are looking so bad for him Joey. Are you holding up ok? This must be really hard on you."
Joey sighed, "Yeah I am hanging in there, but I want to get the house done and try to sell it like he wanted."
"That is really wonderful he wants you to go to college. Any idea what courses you're going to take yet?"
"Nope, not a clue. I'll know after I have some time to get my head together after all of this is over...You know in some cases death is really not a bad thing. Like when you're in horrible pain like Dad is. It's an end to that suffering at least."
Tristan didn't know what to say, "I'm sorry Joey. If there's anything I can do you know you just need to ask..."
Joey chuckled, "See if you're still saying that after Saturday I plan on doing the drywall work in the Friday after school myself and then if Yugi is helping too we can paint in the afternoon on Saturday."
"Sounds like a plan to me man. Ok well I got Math homework waiting on me so I will let you go, glad you called though Joey. Bye."
"Yeah me too man. See ya Tristan."
Then Joey pressed the hang up button and let go of it to get a dial tone. He called Yugi next and soon he greeted by his spikey haired friend.
"Hi Joey! What's up?" Yugi asked cheerfully.
"Hi Yug, nothing much, just finished my Math homework and wanted to call and see if we were still on for Saturday."
Yugi laughed, "Sure we are Joey. I can't wait to help you get the place painted. Are you asking Tea to help too?"
Joey shrugged, "Nah, I don't want to bother her with this. Besides the place is bound to be a wreck even after I get done cleaning a bit more. I took out ten garbage bags when I was cleaning up there yesterday after school."
"Wow that's a lot of stuff to toss out," Yugi said gasping with shock.
Joey chuckled, "Yeah it was. Mostly garbage and rotten food. I cleaned out the fridge and man it was nasty! But don't worry we'll air it out good because of paint fumes and then come back here to pig out on some dinner. My treat."
"Awesome Joey, that sounds like fun. So it's just you, me and Tristan?"
Joey grinned, "Yeah I don't wanna burden Duke with this, he's done so much for me already you know?"
Yugi agreed, "Yeah I can appreciate that. Well then I'll see you in school tomorrow then, ok?"
"Sure thing Yug, talk to you then. Bye."
"Bye Joey," Yugi said before hanging up the phone.
Then Joey hung up his phone and turned on his computer and then stood up to take the plate out to the kitchen. He washed it and then did the remaining dishes before going back to his room. It was getting late and he had homework left to do. So he picked up his backpack and pulled out his English book, intent on getting it done before he went to get his and Duke's dinner, which turned out to be an hour later.
Seto Kaiba sat at his desk, thinking about the news he'd gotten. It was shocking to learn that Joey's father was in Domino Hospital's Oncology Ward, but even more so that he was dying of cancer. Seto had heard he'd been in jail and that hadn't surprised him in the least, but the news that the elder Wheeler was dying of inoperable cancer was definitely unexpected.
Usually the good die young, not evil bastards like that Jim. I wonder how Wheeler is doing.
He'd been curious when the geeks had been so quiet that he'd asked Duke about it. That was when he got the news that Joey's dad was dying. It made the young man take a few moments to ponder this as he looked at the desk. Duke was working hard on the game and it would soon be completed, yet he could see that Duke was concerned about his friend, Joey's well being. So for the moment Seto was content to merely shrug as if to say oh well even if he didn't say it, he was thinking it couldn't have happened to a better person then Joey's abusive father.
"Be that as it may, how are you doing Duke? Did you get the latest animations that the rendering crew worked up?"
Duke nodded and smiled, "Oh I'm fine, no worries here. It's just I don't know how Joey is taking all of this really. I loved the animations they did, they were better in action then I could have imagined Seto, really great stuff."
Seto nodded, "I thought so too, but then with their jobs on the line I think they know all too well just how important this work is so they are giving it their full attention."
"Just as I would expect of any Kaiba Corporation employee," Duke sincerely complimented the young CEO.
"Yes well, if there is nothing else then I suppose we can call it a night Duke. Until tomorrow."
Duke waved, "Ok Seto, talk to you then. Goodnight."
Seto smiled, and nodded before closing the web chat window. He sat back linking his fingers as he rested his elbows on his desk, then he put his chin on his thumbs as he thought about Joey some more. If it was anyone else but Joey Wheeler he'd probably send a card with condolences, yet he knew such a gesture towards Joey would not be taken in good spirits and might be thought of as sarcasm. He couldn't really blame him, as he'd long been a tormentor of the young blonde until recently when he'd decided that he had it hard enough without the added grief that only Seto could doll out.
Perhaps I could send a card when he does die. I am sure I will hear about it from Duke if not from other students in school. Though I really don't feel sorry for the old man, I do feel bad for Joey to have to go through all that.
Seto remembered how his father had walked around like a zombie for months before he'd died of a broken heart after his mother had died. It was sad, but he'd already accepted that his own father had been long gone before his body was ever put to rest. The same could be said of Joey's father. That he was already long gone having lost touch with his soul after losing his wife and daughter years ago, crossing lines that couldn't be uncrossed as he'd beaten his own son until he'd been forced to practically run away to free himself from the abuse. After thinking about all this Seto found he was growing tired so he got up from his home office and headed to his bathroom to get ready for bed.
He'd already seen his little brother earlier and talked with him about homework that he'd needed to get done and as it was getting late he decided to check up on him first, so he went to Mokuba's room and knocked on the door. When he didn't hear and answer he opened the door and saw Mokuba sitting there with headphones on working on his homework just like he'd said he would be. Seeing this he closed the door and went back towards his bathroom. His brother knew how to take care of his own responsibilities, so he was able to relax and take care of himself. Seto Kaiba was ready for bed. As he entered his blue and white tiled bathroom his thoughts were already on sleep.
Friday came and went and soon it was Saturday morning. Duke had insisted on coming to help the guys work on Joey's house and after they had picked them up they went to the little three-bedroom home. The only home Joey had ever known and he was saddened by the idea of selling it, yet he knew it had to be done. He didn't want to live there any longer and the memories of the abuse were still fresh in his mind, even if he had forgiven his father, he could still see his angry face yelling obscenities at him. Joey shivered as they entered the eerily quiet house.
"Wow you did clean up a lot Joey, what are you going to do with the rest of the furniture?" asked Duke who had been inside the house a couple of times already with Joey earlier in the week.
"Oh I don't know, I plan on tossing out most of the stuff and giving the rest to like Goodwill. Not too much is really usable anymore. Looked to me like Dad went on a rampage, I had to throw my dresser out and my bed was totally ripped up like he'd used a knife on it or something. That went out Wednesday afternoon."
"He used a knife on your bed?" asked Yugi horrified at the revelation.
Joey nodded, "Yeah that is sure what it looked like to me Yug. Anyway it's not a big deal. Stuff can be replaced but people can't. You know?"
Yugi nodded and remained silent as Joey went to get the painting supplies. Duke followed along behind him as they had left everything they would need in the kitchen on the table. Six gallons of white paint, numerous rollers with trays and two rolls of blue painter tape to tape off the windows. The carpet was trashed and Joey told them not to worry about getting paint anywhere as he and Duke came back into the room carrying most of the supplies.
"Hey Tristan there are some more rollers and a couple of paint trays in the kitchen if you don't mind grabbing them we can get started. And seriously the carpet is going to get ripped up next week and replaced so don't worry about it," Joey assured his friends.
Yugi stood there with a tray and paint roller in his hand while Joey and Duke began opening a gallon of paint. When it was open Duke poured some paint into the first two trays, then Yugi put his tray down on the newspaper that was lying on the floor next to the can of paint which Joey then filled. He smiled at Duke as he loaded the roller with paint and then dragged the paint tray by the newspaper over to one wall while Joey and Duke got set up on two other walls. The house still reeked of smoke and even with the doors open it was not very pleasant work with the paint fumes mixing in with the other unidentified odors of the house.
Tristan came out and filled his own tray and took it over to the last available wall in the living room and soon they were moving on to the kitchen. The yellowed walls of the living room were now freshly painted white and no traces remained of the years of smoking that his father had done from his now thrown away recliner. Duke had brought a portable CD player and they were all enjoying the music from a CD he'd put in on repeat. It was almost lunchtime by the time they finished the kitchen. So Duke offered to go run to Burger World while the rest of them took a break.
"Believe it or not we have an old picnic table out back we could sit at, so that sounds like a plan. We'll be out back when you get back Duke."
Duke nodded and then was gone. Joey led Tristan and Yugi outside into the overgrown back yard. Joey sighed as they walked through knee high weeds and grass, thinking that this was yet another chore he had to do this weekend. But once it was done and the house was painted and the carpet replaced he could get it listed with some Realtor and pray it sold quickly. He still wasn't sure what he would go for in college, but after things settled down with the passing of his father and all, he'd be able to devote time to research his options. It didn't matter if he took half a year after graduation to get his head together.
God knows he felt like he really needed to and that was the only plans he had at the moment. To sit back and enjoy being with Mai and to live a little. He figured with all the help he had today they'd be able to get the painting done and then he would be able to focus on cleaning up the bathrooms next. He was really happy his friends were so supportive of him in his time of need. And need his friends he did. They were making a day of this and if they did finish before it was time to go grab something for dinner, he thought about asking them to help him lug out some boxes of junks from the garage. That was something he wasn't looking forward to. But he knew it had to be done or else he'd never get the house sold.
Duke returned with burgers and fries for all and they sat at the table, laughing and eating just like any other day when they were all together. After they were done eating they got right back to work and by the time they were done with the kitchen and finished painting the bedrooms Joey asked if they'd mind helping him with dragging stuff out to be taken with the next garbage pick up. One of the few things still being used at this address, along with water. After he'd gotten the house completely ready he'd have those shut off too. He was feeling pretty good when he was passing boxes to his friends to take to the trash when he found something.
Something that shook him up pretty badly. It was his old baby stuff. He had no idea that this stuff was around anymore, he couldn't ever remember having seen it and his blood ran cold thinking about it. Of all the things to find, he had to find his baby clothes and toys all boxed away like something forgotten, yet still thought of as important enough to keep. He sat down and went through the box and saw a baby book. Joey put it aside and looked at the toys. There were a few rattles and teething rings with big bite marks that made him smile to think of. He wondered how come this was here still, could it be his father just didn't realize it was all out here? Or had he kept them purposely for some unknown reason?
Either way he was pleasantly surprised that most of it was in decent condition so he put the box to the side and moved onto to another one of his dad's junk boxes. He walked it out to the curb and then went back inside the garage to direct the guys to the only remaining boxes left. The one with his baby stuff he decided he would keep and show to Mai. She would probably get a kick out of seeing the cute outfits and toys he'd had as a baby. Thinking about her then Joey smiled, she was off on another shoot, this time on location in California. She'd called him last night and they'd talked for awhile before she'd had to go to finish her beauty routine that she always did the night before a shoot.
When all the boxes but the one with his baby things were all out at the curb Joey looked around the garage, it was so empty now except for his dad's tool chest and the lawnmower. His father had told him to sell the car and that was how he'd gotten the money up to pay for the new carpet that would be installed next week. It was sad seeing the house gutted from all of the possessions they'd had here. But the truth was that everything that was destroyed would not be good enough to donate to charity, and the things that remained he'd already set up a pick up time for Tuesday afternoon after school. Joey had handled things pretty well considering how hard it had been to see the condition of the house after his father's very last rampage.
As they four young men drove back to the Black Crown they were talking about what to get for dinner. Duke was all for the Chinese Wall and Joey was second to say that he wanted that too. Tristan and Yugi went along with it and so Duke parked the car and the four boys headed over to the restaurant to get their orders taken. Joey paid for it and then they left to go back to the black crown. It would take about twenty minutes for all four orders to be done so when the time came Joey had planned on getting them himself. It was the best way he could show his appreciation for all his friends had done for him today and all their hard work.
As they went upstairs to the living room to sit in front of the big screen plasma television Joey kept his eye on the time. He knew how lucky he was to have such good friends and when enough time passed he got up and left to get the food. It was a cool night out, the summer heat had left for the moment and he ran his fingers through his hair as he walked around to the restaurant. The owner greeted him and passed him the huge bag of food, which Joey took graciously, thanking him for the great job on their dinner and he waved as he left. The staff at the Chinese Wall all knew him by sight and by order now and as Joey carried the food inside the game shop, he looked around and smiled.
He knew that Duke had cancelled a gaming session tonight to be able to help Joey out with painting the house and it made him feel good that Duke cared about him enough to do such a thing. Duke had told him it was no problem, but Joey knew that being there to help his friends was very important to Duke now. He'd definitely shown himself to be a great friend and Joey grinned as he entered the living room he began to pass around the take out boxes of food to their proper owners. The television was on and they were watching some video clip show of funny family videos and once the guys all had their food, Joey sat down to join them. It had been a really productive day and he was pleased that he was one step closer to making his father's dream of selling the house a reality.