Favors

It's been three years since the gang was together. Three years since we all stepped out of High School as new people. Some college bound, others bound by the ties of family and responsibility.

Yugi, being a big brain, of course got a full ride to a big shot University, leaving his friends behind in the pursuit of knowledge and a pretty degree that'll bring in some nice cash flow. Tea followed suit, being accepted into the University and promptly stalking the hell out of Yugi.

Tristan gave everyone heart felt goodbyes as he went overseas with Serenity, saying it's what they need to do and that their love should grow in newer pastures. Of course Serenity wanted to get away from Domino City, who doesn't? And being away from her brother will allow her to mature without him there.

Joey stayed home. He had to. He couldn't just leave his father to rot away on the sofa like that- a fragile shell of a man with such big debts and heavy burdens threatening to break his thin barrier every second. So Joey worked. Day in, day out, Joey did everything he could to make as much money as possible to get out of this hell hole he lived in.

Joey's father had a problem—a serious addiction to alcohol. Joey would come home and see him sprawled out on the couch, smelling of cheap beer, and have to drag his sleeping form upstairs to his bed. His father paid bills with credit cards and chased debt collectors with broken bottles. Joey had to help his father out of this situation… No one else would.

He only started off with one job—Cutting grass. It paid fifteen dollars a lawn and he could do about five lawns a day before he was so tired he couldn't stand to push the mower into the shed at night. After a month of cutting grass Joey got a job at a local grocery store during the night shift, stocking the shelves and cleaning the floor. This was full time and paid him a lot more than mowing lawns could.

With his first paycheck he enrolled his father into Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Protesting in incoherent mumblings, his father put up quite a fight that lasted until Joey forced him down in to the uncomfortable plastic chair in the circle. The first few meetings Joey watched as his money went down the drain as his father did not say anything. When asked his name every week his father would grunt and slouch more in the chair. But, as the weeks went on he responded with a last name, then a full name, and finally a complete sentence. The meetings were working after half of a year and the road to recovery was ahead of him.

By the time Joey's dad was off of his addiction to alcohol and shaping up slowly but surely, Joey had four jobs. During the day he would either be a Mailroom boy at a local business, a Sales Associate at a small retail store, or an attendant at a carwash and in between his hours he would cut the same lawns he used to cut. At night he stocked shelves at the grocery store, allowing him five hours of sleep a night before having to wake up and go to another job. Every two weeks he brought in enough money to pay off seven hundred dollars of debt at a time and afford groceries with no extra spending money for him. Thank god their dinky little shed of a house was paid off.

Working was all Joey could think about. When he went to sleep at three a.m. in the morning he would be thinking about where he worked tomorrow, how long, and what he needed to get done. He'd become a workaholic! Wait, didn't he used to call someone else a workaholic? Oh the irony.

It was three years since he graduated high school that Joey had the dream. In the dream he was sitting at his old school desk. The worn wood felt so familiar under his fingers, the bleached surface bringing back so many cloudy memories. Has it really been three years? In his dream, Joey folded his arms on the desk top and attempted for sleep.

But someone else had other plans. A book was slammed down on Joey's desk before he could even close his eyes. Kaiba was there, arms outstretched and a smug grin on his face. Oh how Joey just wanted to reach up and punch him right in the mouth.

"Don't smirk at me!" Dreaming Joey shouted at Kaiba. "Get away from me you workaholic!" Joey snapped up, waking himself up from his little nightmare in a cold sweat. Had he really turned into that guy? The man he shunned all through high school being embodied in his every move? Joey turned over, greeting an alarm clock that blinked Four twenty a.m. He had to be at work in an hour. Joey pushed himself out of bed and let his feet stumble across the hardwood floor.

On his way to the bathroom, he saw his dad sleeping soundly in his bed. No tossing, no turning, the smell of the air was clean, not filled with vomit and body odor. Joey had done well, he'd helped his dad and allowed him room to grow and recover and this was the right thing to do… Right?


I flipped through the records I'd kept these past three years. There were bills, payment notices, bank statements and paycheck stubs. I kept everything so neat and orderly I wondered how on earth I found anything back in high school. Three years of hard work really grows a person up, you know?

In the back of the folder marked "Statements" was the first bank statement I saw with dad's massive debt written in red across the top. Eighty thousand dollars ($80,000) stared back at me. That number was so monumental at the time. I couldn't even imagine paying that off ever, but now, after three years, I've been able to pay back fifty-four thousand, six hundred dollars ($54,600). With interest added in, there's still a good thirty thousand left, but it's almost done. Almost. I can hang in there for a little bit longer.

I check my files every day before work. It gives me drive and meaning. It helps me understand what I'm doing, why I'm doing this, and how much progress I've made. It helps me start off the day with a positive attitude and even more energy than coffee. Time to go to work.

The walk to work is peaceful. At five in the morning the street is empty and the air is cool. It's like walking through an abandoned city, but you can smell the life behind the closed doors and dark windows. Someone is making eggs in this building. And here some last minute laundry is being washed for the day ahead. Here I can hear a child laugh and the grumble of the sleepy parents as they attempt to distract them with TV. I'd like to think these people are happy.

When I stepped a foot in to the mailroom something was off. This is a pretty big business, so there's usually so much mail the room is filled almost to the top with stacks of papers, but today there were only two mail bags on the main table and no one else was there but me. The large off-white room looked small and sad, like many others like me had walked in and found the same scene, felt the same despair I feel right now. My throat closed up.

Soon, John, the general manager for the workers like me, came in and put a hand on my shoulder. I heard him through the ringing in my ears.

"Sorry Joey." Was the first thing he said, and I closed my eyes. "The CEO sold the business to the bank to pay off a sick gambling habit, I'm afraid we're closed for business." He patted my shoulder and told me to follow me to his office where I received my final paycheck. Just a measly forty dollars, not even enough for groceries. I shook his hand and he wished me the best of luck.

My feet dragged out of the building. I counted how much money I had received earlier in the week from my other jobs. I had just enough to pay off the seven hundred to the bank, but what about food? What do we have…? Some frozen meat and vegetables… Soup… But is it enough for another two weeks? I stopped walking. I felt horrible, I've never lost a job before, never been fired. Sure, I have two other jobs and a side job, but it's not enough for dad. Not enough to live off of. I need to pay off this debt. I need my life back.

I snapped myself out of my thoughts and continued home. I needed to check the newspaper, the internet and the local stores for any job openings and he needed to check now. It's too hard to find a job these days, any hesitation could cost him. I swung the door open and went right towards the table, flipping through the newsprint as fast as I could. If I called in now and talked to a manager then maybe I could start today. Wishful thinking I know.

I heard my dad shuffle into the kitchen and turned around. He wasn't even close to the man he was before. His skin was clear, his stomach smaller, his eyes brighter and a smile on his face. I smiled back at him and he walked closer.

"Whatcha up to son?" He asked, taking his eyes off mine to look at the paper in front of me. He had a confused look on his face, "You know it's six o-clock, you're late for work…" A frown appeared on his face. He knew I was never late. I begged he would figure it out so I wouldn't have to tell him.

"Dad," I started and he looked back up at me, the frown spreading to his eyes. I sighed, "The business I worked at got closed down. I lost my job…" After I said that, he seemed a bit happier. He put his hand on my shoulder, the same John had laid his hand on when I was told I was jobless.

"As long as you didn't get fired." He smiled at me. Lately I've realize how positive a man my father is. Always looking at the bright side of life, hopefully it would rub off on me. He dropped his hand and went over to the stove, taking out four eggs and popping two pieces of toast in the toaster. "Sit down." He told me. "I'll make you some breakfast and we'll read the paper together."

That sentence made me the happiest I've been for three years. My functional, recovered father was making me breakfast and now I get to spend some time with him. Maybe loosing my job wasn't so bad after all.

During breakfast we talked about the current events we stumbled upon in the paper, my dad always talking about positive points in every article. 'Well, that mugger could have killed him slowly. No pain.' 'At least the whole building didn't burn down. Some of their furniture could be saved.' 'Oh, look, the Help Wanted section is a bit thicker today! More jobs for more people.' And he just kept smiling, even when chewing his toast.

"I was thinking…" He said after we finished the Life section and were moving onto Sports, "I was thinking that maybe I should get back to work." I looked up from the paper rather quickly and stared at him. "Oh, don't look at me like that. I've made a full recovery! Let me pay for some things around here."

I was still staring. With him working it would take a lot off of me… And maybe getting out of the house will be a good thing… Or maybe he'll go out drinking with his coworkers after work one day and be dragged back in to the pit of depression and alcohol. I gave him a look that said I was uneasy about it and he laughed… He was always the optimist.

"How about this, you go to bed. I'll take a walk around the city and find a place that will hire an old man like me or a young guy like you. Maybe I can get us some cushy jobs that pay us enough that you don't have to cut grass or bag groceries anymore." He seemed sad when he said that last part. Was my working really that bad? I just nodded at him, shocked by how much initiative he was taking. He grabbed our plates and put them in the sink.

"Alright Joey, let's get going." He punched me in the arm and walked back in to his room. Everything was falling into place the way I imagined it three years ago. I gladly accepted my dad's invitation to go to sleep. I shuffled into my bedroom and closed the door. The familiar sounds of my dad scurrying around the house could be heard through the thin walls. I trudged over to my bed and snuggled myself down under the covers, not even bothering to change my clothes. I need to catch up on sleep…


When my dad woke me up it was dark outside. He was shaking my shoulder hard and fast, eager to wake me up. I rolled over and met his face, eyes wide and mouth smiling. I sat up and smiled back.

"Hey dad…" I said, my voice thick with sleep. "What time is it… It's so dark out…" I had so many other questions about the job hunt and how his walk went but I was too focused on the now setting sun I could see outside my window.

"Joey, it's six o-clock at night, you slept all day you lazy bones! Oh well, no time to worry about that now. I have great news!" I could smell his breath, not a trace of alcohol on it. I felt my smile getting wider—He didn't use his alone time to drink… Good.

"What is it dad? Did you find any good jobs?" Ideas of jobs for him ran through my mind—Blockbuster, he's good at organizing things and he loves movies; Librarian, he likes to help people; Sales associate, he's very friendly now…

"No sadly, not one for me, but one for you! I found you a great job and it's just downtown! It pays forty dollars an hour Joey!" He was getting really excited now and I sat up straight in my bed almost hitting our heads. Making thirty dollars an hour? I made that much an hour with all four jobs combined! Where on earth is this job? "And I talked you up! Talked to the CEO himself and got to brag about what a hard worker you've been!" I blushed slightly. My dad thinks the best of me now, that's so rewarding.

"That's so great! Do I need to have an interview or anything? Where's it at?"

"No, no interview necessary! You want to know the crazy part? The CEO said he knew you! What a small world! So he said you wouldn't even need to give him a resume, he hired you on the spot!"

Wait, the CEO knows me? When on earth did I ever meet a CEO?... Then it dawned on me.

"Dad, what did you say this place was called again?"

"Oh, this is the best part! It's a job at Kaiba Corp.!"

Crap.

To be continued….

(Hey guys. Long time fan, first time ever writing a KaibaxJoey and I like the idea of my story, but I might not be doing a good job of writing it. I got the idea when I was at work, how appropriate. I hope to get the next chapter out tomorrow or some time tonight. I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Favors!)