Return of the Wild Gang

M

Disclaimer: I don't own YGO, it is property of Kazuki Takahashi.

Author's note: This may be confusing to those of you who haven't read the manga. Yu-Gi-Oh Vol. 2 contains a story introducing Hirutani, a gang leader from a school called Rintama. Read that story and this'll all make sense to you.

It was the last couple of weeks before graduation. Yugi's class were third-years, or seniors, rather. Tea would be going to New York to study ballet just as she'd always dreamed. Tristan and Yugi would be going to the local college, so that they'd be near the game shop should anything happen to Yugi's grandpa. Kaiba had earned academic scholarships to universities around the world, but he intended to put off college for a few years to run Kaibacorp and look after Mokuba.

No one was really sure what Joey was planning to do with his life. People who didn't know him very well assumed he would go to an automotive school, or just keep delivering papers for the rest of his life. Yugi never actually thought Joey had the grades to get into college, but he'd never say it flat-out. Neither would Tristan. It wasn't until one Thursday morning when Joey came to school, that anyone decided to ask him.

"Hey Joey," Yugi said cheerfully. "are you exited about graduation?"

"Yeah, I guess it is time we got out of dis joint and moved on." Joey said lazily. Yugi glanced at Tristan, hoping he'd take the conversation from there.

"Well, you know if, I mean," Tristan stuttered.

"I ain't going to college, Tristan. I'm poor."

"Joey what about the prize money? Surely Serenity's operation didn't cost…" Yugi lowered his voice to a whisper. "all three million dollars!"

"Nah, but my old man blew the rest on slots," said Joey. Yugi looked down.

"S-so you can't even go to Domino University?" he asked, knowing the answer, but feeling the need to ask anyway.

"It requires tuition, don't it?" Joey said. "Don't worry guys, I'm going to be fine."

"Well, are you going to get a new job?" asked Tristan. Joey shook his head.

"Nope. I've got support myself until I can kick my dad into rehab, then live in my apartment without him," Joey said confidently.

"Are you sure?" Yugi asked. "I mean, I know you collect welfare but--"

Before Joey could respond, the bell rang and Ms. Chono came in. There were some hoots and hollers from some of the boys in the class towards the hot teacher, but she simply went forward with her lesson.

At lunchtime, Yugi, Joey, Tristan and Tea went outside to eat. Joey and Yugi played Duel Monsters while Tea and Tristan watched. "I'll play…dis cawd!" Joey said, playing Alligator Sword in Attack mode. "and I'll also tro' dis on da field for latuh!"

"Let's see…" Yugi plotted.

"Don't you guys ever get bored with that game?" Tristan yawned. Yugi gave him an offended look.

"Hey, dis game is awesome! Maybe if you knew how to play you'd appreciate it!" said Joey.

"So, are we all going to hang out at Yugi's after school?" asked Tea.

"Not me, I've got some appointments," Joey said. "I'll see you guys tomorrow at Yugi's," he finished as he walked away.

"Hey Godfather, what do you mean 'some appointments?'" called Tristan.

"Tristan," Joey made a motion that told Tristan to 'zip it.' Tristan got frustrated but decided to sit down with his friends.

"What'd he mean by appointments?" asked Tea.

"And what did you mean by 'Godfather?'" added Yugi. Tristan shook his head and patted Yugi on the shoulder.

"Ha ha, oh Yugi, sweet, innocent, little Yugi…Joey used to be in a gang, right? I was just referring to him as a mobster." Yugi frowned at being patronized and dropped Tristan's hand from his shoulder as if it was something repulsive.

"So Joey could still be in a gang?" asked Tea. Tristan didn't say anything. The three friends waited for Joey to come back to class that day, but he never showed up for the second half of the day. No one knew where he'd gone, and Yugi was getting worried.

"Should we look for Joey?" asked Yugi after school. Tristan shook his head.

"Yugi, you and Tea should go home. I'm going to look for Joey on my bike."

"But Tristan--" Yugi still felt the need to prove himself to Tristan and Joey, even though they didn't care if he was a tough guy or not.

"Yugi, I'm serious. If Joey is with a gang this could be dangerous even for me!" Tristan scolded Yugi. He headed off in the direction of Joey's apartment. Then he turned back. "Tea, promise you guys won't get involved!"

"We promise!" shouted Tea.

"Joey, glad you could make it!" said a gang member when Joey made his entrance in the gang's headquarters. The leader's basement.

"Joseph Wheeler," said a shadowy figure, stepping into the light.

"Hirutani," said Joey.

"You got the orders?"

"You got da cash?" Hirutani slapped a few hundred-dollar bills into Joey's hand. Then he sent Joey out of his house and across town.

"Hey Wheeler!" called Hirutani, lighting up a cigarette. "Bring back the stuff by midnight or we'll come find you." Joey just kept walking. Other gang members laughed and applauded Hirutani. "Heh, at last I'll have the most powerful gang in the country, and If Wheeler tries to protect those friends of his, well…we'll be ready for them. Won't we, guys?"

"Yugi Son, you're not eating," commented Solomon. Yugi was pecking and picking at his mashed potatoes, and had only filled up on milk. "Are you getting sick of mashed potatoes?"

"Huh? Oh, it's not that," Yugi sighed. "Joey cut class today."

"I see."

"Uh-huh. And he isn't home 'cause I keep calling his house and there's no answer. Tristan went to follow him and he said for Tea and I not to get involved. But I'm worried."

"Yugi, you should tell the principal."

"What good would that do? It won't stop Joey from hanging out with gang bangers, and--" Yugi stopped himself. "never mind," he said.

The sun was just beginning to set by the time Joey had made it to the beach. There was a man in a leather jacket and kakis waiting for him. "You got the dough?" asked the man, adjusting his sunglasses. Joey nodded.

"You got da goods?" the man handed Joey a paper bag that was stapled shut , so if Joey tried to open it Hirutani would know. Then he accepted the wad of money.

"Nice doing business with you, Chump," he said, shaking Joey's hand. "You need anything else, you'll know where to find me."

"Thanks," Joey said. He stuffed the bag into his coat and walked back to Hirutani's house.

"Wheeler my man. Hand over the bag!" ordered Hirutani.

"I will as soon as you give me the ring," Joey said, risking his health. Hirutani grunted and got up out of his chair.

"Wheeler, you'll get the ring when I'm good and ready to give it to you. Now give me the bag." Before Joey could resist again, five gang members jumped him and smuggled the bag out of his coat. Bruised and humiliated, Joey snorted and brushed himself off. "Ah yes, this is nice," Hirutani sighed as he admired the treasure in the bag. "But little Joey didn't relinquish it without being forced! Boys, I think it's time we taught this chum of ours a lesson!"

"I haven't got time for dis. Are you going to give me da ring or not?" Hirutani merely snapped his fingers, and in a second there were gang members all over Joey, punching his stomach, pulling his hair, giving his wrists Indian Burns and doing it mercilessly. They got up after hearing another snap from their leader.

"OK Joey, now you may have the ring," Hirutani tossed Joey a diamond ring. "Now get out," he hissed. Joey headed out. He wrapped the ring in the doily Mai had given him with her tournament entry card; he always had it with him. He thought he was in the clear about half of a block from Hirutani's when another dark figure grabbed him by the collar and threw him against a wall.

"What the F, Joey!"

"Whoa, hey, easy Tristan!"

"What were you doing with the Rintama Gang? I thought you and those bums were through!" Tristan argued.

"Hey, we were just working out a little deal's all! Now chill out, Man." Tristan relaxed his muscles and dropped Joey gently to the ground.

"What kind of deal?" he asked.

"None of your business, and I thought I told you not to follow me!" Joey said, turning away from his friend.

"Fine! But don't expect any help from me when they're chasing you down!"

"I won't need your help!"

Back at Yugi's house, Yugi was desperately trying to call Joey but no one answered. By the time Joey got home, Yugi had stopped calling and just left a message. Joey groaned at the '15 Messages' red lights on his answering machine-- for he was sure that they were all bill collectors. After skipping to the newest one he was intrigued to find that it was Yugi who'd left it.

"Joey, it's Yugi. Listen, I'm really worried about you so please call me. Bye."

Joey dialed his friend's number, and was answered on the first ring. "Yug'?"

"Joey? What's up?"

"I'll tell you what's going on, so meet me in the square."

"O-OK," said Yugi. "Grandpa, I'm meeting Joey in the square! I'll be back soon!"

"Alright Yugi, be back before ten!" Yugi hurried and ran to the square, and met Joey under the big clock.

"I knew you'd show, Pal," he said.

"Alright…Joey…what's…this all…about?" huffed Yugi.

"Well, you probably know that even if I do graduate, I ain't got da money to go to college," Joey explained. "And, I don't have a lot of money as it is, but I figured, well, I don't know how to say dis, Yug' but I'm going to move out. I mean, I know I said I was gonna live in my apartment, but now I think it's time I let you in on my plans."

"Are you going to live with your mother and Serenity?" asked Yugi, saddened.

"Naw, not dat far away. Just across town. See, I'm going to…I'm going to um, marry Mai," Joey finally said. Yugi was shocked.

"Marry her?"

"Yeah. Now I know you're my friend and you're going to tell me not to ruin my life but this is what I want. I mean, I love her…so much."

"But what about us?" cried Yugi. "You're just going to leave Tea and Tristan and me and move away and marry Mai?"

"Well, yeah. If I move in wit her, which I will, we'll both have jobs and we can both live together and split the rent, and I want to marry her, Yugi." Yugi was crying now. He sat down on a bench and wiped his eyes. Joey sat down next to him and rubbed his back comfortingly. "There's nothing here for me, Yugi. You and Tristan are going to college and Tea's friggin' going to America, Mai's the last person who understands me and loves me, and I want to marry her."

"Well, I want you to be happy," Yugi sniffed, lifting his head up to look at Joey.

"Thanks Yug'. Promise you won't tell anyone about dis? I want to tell everyone myself."

"Deal," said Yugi. "I should get home."

"'K, bye." Joey and Yugi went their separate ways. Joey reached the apartment Mai Valentine lived in. He rang the doorbell and she answered it looking thrilled to see him.

"Joey, this is a surprise," she said.

"Yeah, uh, can I come in?" he asked. Mai nodded and gestured for him to come inside. He looked down and rubbed his eyes. "Aw boy, where do I start? Um, Mai?"

"Yes?"

"You know I love you, right?" he asked, gathering the courage to look deeply into her eyes. Mai nodded.

"And I love you," she reciprocated. Joey blushed and put his arms around her waist. She wrapped her arms around his back and leaned her head on his chest.

"Well, I'm a senior and graduation is coming up, and…I don't have a lot of money but…I was hoping…that maybe you'd…do me the favor of-- I mean the honor of--" Mai pulled away from her boyfriend.

"What, Joey?"

"Um, uh, never mind. I'll tell you latuh, Mai." Mai happily rocked back and forth in Joey's arms, as if they were slow-dancing without music. After a while Mai asked Joey if he wanted something to eat. The two eventually settled down to a pleasant dinner of beans, rice, and other Mexican food.

"So," Mai began, still chewing. "how've you been?" Joey raised his index finger, meaning 'give me one minute, I'm eating!' and then he answered.

"Well, I'm pretty sure that I won't get into any college. Grade-wise and financially…and that's why I'm a paperboy. You know, I'm poor. And I was thinking that I'd get a better job, and then when I'm a better man I'd…oh man…" he trailed off.

"Joey, did you come here to mooch and beg for money?" Mai asked.

"No! Mai, no. Come on!" Joey jumped, raising his voice. "Mai, I need to make myself a better man so I can deserve you!" Mai dropped her fork. Joey got out of his chair, got down on one knee, and took Mai's hand in his.

"Joey…"

"Mai, I love you and I think you're beautiful and you're the most wonderful person I've ever known in my life and…I want you to stand by my side forever, so…Mai Valentine, will you marry me?" Joey took out the diamond ring.

"Joey I…I don't know," Mai said. "you got a diamond ring and you're willing to give up a bachelorhood just for me?" her eyes filled with tears. Joey smiled.

"So how 'bout it, Mai?"

"Don't you…think this is too soon? We've only been a couple for a year and…what if we end up…uh…Joey I don't know," Mai admitted.

"Hey it's OK, I don't blame ya," said Joey. "But Mai, having you for a wife would make all my dreams come true. Will you marry me?" Joey asked again. A tear slid down Mai's cheek and she took in a breath.

"Yes. Yes Joey, I will marry you," she finally said. Thrilled, Joey put the ring on her finger. She stood up, and he lifted her above ground, letting the tips of her toes lightly dance on top of his own shoes. She giggled. "I will marry you, Joey Wheeler." Joey gently set her down on her own feet and kissed her.

"I love you, Mai," he said.

"I love you, Joey," Mai returned. The lovers kissed each other again and again until they tired of it. Then they just snuggled together on the couch. They didn't mean to, but they drifted of into a deep sleep. Joey awoke first, around eight AM.

"Mai, Mai wake up!" Joey eased her. Mai stirred.

"Hmm, yeah Joey?"

"I've got to go to school. Can't graduate if I don't even show up," he joked. Mai released Joey from her embrace and he go off her couch. "Ugh…what time is it…?" noticing a clock, he panicked. "YAAGH! I'M LATE FOR WORK!" Joey dashed out of Mai's apartment and ran home as fast as he could. Got to get my bike, got to deliver papers, got to get home-- But when he got home, not only was their a stack of newspapers by his door, but his drunken father was up and distorted.

"Brat, where you been all night? You were s'posta make dinner!" his father growled, and ended his sentence with an obnoxious belch.

"Never mind Pops, I got to get to work--"

"Yeah, that reminds me; we got a call from the newspaper guy. Apparently a bunch of subscribers have called the headquarters sayin' they never got a morning paper! Some lazy moron PAPER BOY never got to deliverin' 'em! And they says you're fired!" roared the old man.

"Fired?" said Joey. "Aw man! Well, OK I got to get to school and them I'm'll look for another job-- I'll see ya latuh, Pops!" Joey ran to school. He got there after his first class already ended. He was about to ring the office doorbell, but first he thought, What's da use? I'm never going to graduate. I'm a drop-out plain and simple. An engaged, jobless drop-out. Well, I know who I can work for. Joey entered the school, just to keep himself looking good for the time being. Third period was just beginning, so he sat through the rest of the day. After school it was Tea's turn to take over the Q & A.

"Hey…Joey?"

"What's up, Tea?" Joey asked.

"What's going on? Why did you ditch class yesterday and get to school late today?"

"Slept late and lost my job. Now I'm off to find a new one. See ya." he turned and waved. Tea just stood there, dumbfounded.

"What the heck was that!" she squeaked as Yugi came over to her. "Yugi, did he say anything to you?" Yugi tried to hide his blush, but he decided to take a shortcut between lying to his best friend and telling a secret he'd promised to keep.

"Uh, there's nothing I can tell you, Tea." It wasn't really a lie, there was nothing he COULD tell her. He'd promised not to.

"Tristan won't tell me anything either. I don't get it. What's going on?" asked Tea. Yugi looked at his feet.

"Hey, this is Joey we're talking about," he clutched the Millennium Puzzle, reminding himself that it was the reason he made friends with Joey way back when. "he'd never just stop being friends with us." Tea nodded and hoped that Yugi was right.

Unfortunately, Joey returned to Hirutani's house that day. The gang was happy that he'd showed up. "Wheeler, how's life?" Hirutani asked.

"Ya got another job for me? 'cause I need da money," Joey said right away.

"Actually, I do have a thing or two that I need you to pick up for me, but I can only pay you in cash!" the rest of the gang snickered while some whispered a few homosexual jokes about the diamond ring, unaware of Joey's real reason for wanting it (implying that he liked jewelry).

"Cash'll be fine," Joey informed.

"Then siddown and we'll talk business," said Hirutani. "Here's the deal; you're going to drop out anyway, right? The way I see it you join up with us-- permanently. I mean why not? The gang is like a family. We cover each others backs, we all support each other. What more could you want?"

"Look, I just need a job until I can get an honest one. For now, I'll work for you, Capish?"

"Alright then. You're loss," Hirutani pulled out a brown envelope. "Take this and give it to the same guy you went to see last night, only this time he'll be under the bridge."

"Uh, what's in--"

"And don't even think about looking in there. Or it'll be your head in the melon smasher," sneered another gang member.

"Uh-huh, so what's da rest of da plan?"

"He'll give you another envelope, you bring it back here, I give you three-hundred bucks. Any questions?" Joey smirked. Then he got up and headed towards the bridge Hirutani spoke of. He made it to the bridge without any trouble, but when he got there the man wasn't there waiting for him.

Where is dat guy? I got to be home by six to make dinner!

He waited until 5:40, and still no one showed up.

Dis is probably a test…they want to make sure I'm loyal. thought Joey. 6:02, and still no one. Joey was getting hungry and the wind had become fierce and cold, even for spring. Finally, the man in the leather jacket and kakis walked over to Joey.

"About time! I've been freezing my butt off waiting for you!" Joey complained. The man smirked and handed Joey a white envelope in exchange for Joey's brown one. "Nice. Next time we better synchronize our meeting time!"

"Heh, you're a sad case, Dweeb!"

Dweeb. Why does dat name sound so familiar? Ah forget it, I better get back to Hirutani's.

Meanwhile, Mai had just called Joey's apartment and all she'd gotten was a cranky response from his dad. Worried that he may have been there, lying bruised, bloody and beaten, she called Yugi.

"We came as quickly as we could, Mai," said Yugi. Tea and Tristan were right behind him. "What's going on?"

"That's what I want to know. I just called Joey's apartment and the only answer I got was a surly one from what I assumed was his father."

"Well, he's been blowing us off lately. But I don't know anything," lied Tristan, trying to respect his best friend's confidence after he had so rudely betrayed him the other day.

"M-me neither," said Yugi. He noticed Mai's ring, and started to fiddle with his own fingers. Mai got the message and took off her ring before either Tristan or Tea saw it.

"He told me he'd been skipping school to get a new job," said Tea.

"Same here," Tristan fibbed again.

"Yeah," lied Yugi, too. For some reason the two boys didn't seem to trust one-another with the information they'd acquired from Joey. Tristan didn't want to scare anyone by letting on that he saw Joey hanging with the Rintama Gang, and Yugi had already promised not to breathe a word about the whole marriage-thing. Mai's expression turned to a worried frown, and she sat on her couch head in hands.

"I say we find Joey and shake the answers out of him!" growled Tristan, more determined than ever.

"But what if we just talk to-- oh, never mind," Yugi said, immediately giving up. "Joey's always been a man of action." Tea had shed a few tears by now.

"I just hope he's alright," she sniffed.

Why is he hanging around with Hirutani? thought Tristan.

How can I keep Joey's secret from my friends when it's hurting them so much? thought Yugi.

This has to be about more than just looking for a new job. What's happening Joey? thought Tea.

That following Saturday, Yugi, Tristan and Tea all marched right up to Joey's front door and confronted him.

"Alright Joey, what's going on!" asked Tristan.

"Yeah, you don't have to skip school just to look for another job! And you could stand to stay home and answer the phone!" Tea growled.

"And there's absolutely no reason you should be hanging out with Rintama!" added Tristan, feeling comfortable about it now.

"And if you keep up this criminal record how are you ever going to marry Mai!" shouted Yugi. Everyone gasped.

"Marry Mai?" asked Tea.

"Have you lost it, Man? You're seventeen!" shouted Tristan, grabbing Joey's shoulders. Steamed, Joey lost all control of rational thought and burst into full rage at Yugi for telling his secret.

"YUGI, I'M GONNA KICK YOUR BUTT!" he screamed. Yugi bolted, completely terrified. Tea followed, leaving Tristan and Joey to argue.

"You think you're going to marry her? Joey, you'll never be man enough to marry her! You're barely man enough to hold your own in a duel! You'll never even graduate!"

"Hey Man, stay out of my business! It's my life and I'll marry whoever I want! At least Mai believes in me! At least Mai cares about me!" Joey said, punching Tristan in the face. Tristan stumbled back, and rubbed some blood off his jaw.

"Like she'd ever want to marry an idiot like you!"

"She said 'yes,' Tristan! Mai and I are engaged!"

"Yeah? Well does she know about you and Rintama?" asked Tristan. Joey huffed and looked down. "Well she will now!" Tristan turned his back on Joey, and went to catch up with Tea and Yugi. Joey was completely engulfed in rage. He'd been betrayed by his best friends and now even got discouraged about the future. He sat on the floor and pouted angrily. It wasn't until the phone rang that he calmed down from the trauma, but he decided to let the machine get it.

"Wheeler, it's Hirutani. Listen; get yourself over here, I'll pay you in something better than cash!"

End of chapter 01