I figured that as long as I'm on FanFiction, I may as well write everyone a Christmas-themed story. This is my first one-shot--in other words, this will be extremely painful--so it may be slightly longer than you're used to. This is also based on the dub, so sorry to those of you who don't like the English characters. They may be a little OOC; I'm used to mostly OC-based fanfics. And all these characters--except Joey's dad, I think--belong to Kazuki Takahashi.


Together for Christmas

Several months after Battle City, Joey sat on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, wondering how his sister had been since she'd gone back to live with their mom. Letting Serenity go after seeing her for the first time in six years--and making sure she'd be able to see for years to come--had been tough for him.

He sat up and tried to shake the thought off. Christmas was just around the corner, and he hadn't even begun to consider what he'd get for his friends. "Ah, man!" he panicked as the notion crossed his mind. "I totally forgot!" Joey jumped up, threw on his jacket, and headed out of the house. About halfway down the sidewalk, he realized he didn't have any money on him and hurried back. Just as he was about to walk through the door, he heard someone coming up behind him and turned, on edge. When he saw it was just the mailman, he relaxed.

"Package for a Mr. Wheeler," the guy said, holding out a small box. "I just need you to sign here." Once he'd gotten Joey's signature, he turned and left.

Joey examined the package. "Serenity," he murmured when he saw the label. He hurried inside and opened the box to find a video cassette, just as he had before Duelist Kingdom. Slightly apprehensive, he turned on the TV, slid the cassette into the VCR, and pressed play.

His sister's face appeared on the screen. "Hi, Joey! I've missed you a lot. I wanted you to know that I've been doing really well, and that so far my eyes are still perfect from the operation. I also sent this to tell you that I've been begging Mom to let me go see you, and she finally said yes! We're coming over for Christmas! I'm really excited, and I hope you are too! We should be there on Christmas Eve. I'll see you then! I love you, Joey." The screen went black.

Joey was silent as he continued to stare at the television. Over for Christmas? Here by Christmas Eve? He looked over at the calendar. Already the eighteenth. Finally gaining control over his voice, he started yelling to nothing in particular. "Ahh! The house is a mess! What'll I get her...them? What'll Dad say if he finds out...?" And then there were his friends he still had to worry about. Joey shuddered. There wasn't much time left, and he had a lot to do.

---

The next day at school, there was little Joey could do to keep from showing his anxiety. He didn't want his friends to get worried about him, but there was no hiding how agitated he was.

Yugi was the first to comment. During lunch, he looked up from his food and said, "Hey, Joey, what's up? You've been acting kinda weird today."

"It's nothin', Yuge," Joey replied, trying to ward off any further response.

It was to no avail. "Are you sure?" Yugi persisted.

Joey snapped, "I told ya, it's nothin', so just back off, a'right?"

"Oh," his friend said in a small voice before returning to his lunch.

---

No further conversation ensued until the end of the day, when everyone was released for the holidays. Joey and Yugi were walking to Grandpa's shop together when Joey finally spoke up. "Look Yugi, I'm sorry about what happened at lunch. It's just...well..." He hadn't wanted to go on, but one look at Yugi's patient face forced everything out. "I got a message from Serenity yesterday. She said that she and Mom are coming over for Christmas."

Yugi's expression clouded with confusion. "What's so bad about that? Aren't you glad that she's coming?"

"Well, yeah," Joey answered, "of course I am. The thing is, my house is a mess. I ain't got any decorations up, I haven't got anything in the way of presents, and...ahh! I'm just totally freakin' out here, Yuge!" By that time they had come to the door of the card shop. "Look, I gotta go work on this. I don't want Serenity to be disappointed."

"Wait a minute," Yugi said before opening the door and sticking his head inside. "Hey, Grandpa! I'm going with Joey! I'll see you later!" He turned to his friend when it was apparent he had permission. Like he needed it. "I'll help you out."

Joey looked down at him. "You don't have to do this, man. Weren't you supposed to help Gramps decorate the shop today?"

"He'll be fine," Yugi replied. "It sounds like you need a lot more help than he does."

Knowing Yugi couldn't be swayed, Joey began down the sidewalk toward his place. "What should we do first, then? I'm not really sure where to start. There's so much I gotta do, and only four and a half days to do it."

"Let's go to your house so we can see what you already have."

"Eh, that ain't much, Yuge. I'm not sure how I'm gonna make this work. I really wish Serenity woulda given me more of a warning."

"We'll make it work, Joey. I promise." When he stepped through the door at Joey's house, Yugi's eyes grew. "Um, I hate to break it to you, but...this place is a mess."

"What'a I been tellin' ya? I got a lot to do before Serenity and Mom get here. Where do we start?"

"Well, let's get this place cleaned up."

Yugi and Joey spent the entire afternoon picking up, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, the works. It was five o'clock before they could step back and survey the fruit of their labor. Every surface was shining, the carpet was spotless, and nothing was just laying around where it had been thrown.

Joey was nearly speechless. "Oh...wow. The house hasn't looked this good since Mom left. Thanks, Yuge."

"Now what?" Yugi asked. It was obvious he was determined to get the place completely ready before he left.

He knew there was no way he could get his friend to leave, so Joey thought for a moment. "Well, every year--when Serenity and I were little--we'd put up this old Christmas tree. I haven't taken it out since she left. I'm not even sure I still have it here. Mom may have taken it."

"Let's check."

The two searched the entire house before finally coming to a broom closet. There were two boxes, labeled 'Christmas Tree' and 'Ornaments'. The boys hauled them into the living room and began unpacking the tree.

"Where does it go?"

"We usually put it over there, in that corner," replied Joey. "C'mon." After getting the pieces mixed up several times and having to start over, the tree was finally up. "That was almost more trouble than it's gonna be worth," Joey muttered.

Yugi shook his head. "I don't think so. Now what about these ornaments?" he asked as he motioned with his head to the other box.

"Uh...I wanna wait on Serenity. She and I always put them on." He paused and looked around his house. "Looks like that's all there is, then. Thanks a lot, man. I owe ya."

"No problem, Joey. Do you--"

"Don't bother comin' back, Yugi. The rest'a this I gotta do on my own."

"Oh. Well, bye Joey!" Yugi called as he walked out the door.

"Bye!"

---

The next morning, Joey was startled out of his slumber by his alarm clock. He moaned and looked at the time. "Six? I musta forgotten to turn it off." He tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but something was on the back of his mind, keeping him awake. Joey suddenly remembered what it was. "Ah, man! I gotta find somethin' for Serenity!" He was soon on his way to the mall, this time carrying his wallet. He arrived just as the stores were opening up. To his surprise, Joey wasn't the only last-minute shopper getting up at the break of dawn to get the gifts he'd been putting off buying. "Tea!" he called when he saw her from behind.

The girl whipped around at the sound of her name, searching for the source. She smiled when her eyes came to rest on her friend. "Oh, hi, Joey. What are you doing here?"

"I should ask the same of you," he replied as he caught up to her.

"Well, I'm here to finish up my Christmas shopping."

Joey rubbed the back of his head. "Heh heh, yeah. I'm here to do my Christmas shopping."

"Oh, well, I guess we should probably split up then. Don't wanna spoil each other's presents, right?"

"Wait!" Joey grabbed her shoulder before she could walk off. "Before ya go, would ya mind helping me find somethin' for Serenity? I really don't have a clue what to get 'er."

Tea's surprise was clearly shown on her face. "Well...sure! Let's see what there is!" She dragged Joey all around the mall, but nothing struck either of them as something that would be particularly suited for his sister--and his wallet. After a couple hours of searching, they sat on a bench. "Wow, Joey, I'm really sorry that we couldn't find anything."

Joey shook his head. "Neh, don't worry about it Tea," he said unconvincingly. "I'll find somethin'." Reflexively, he opened up his wallet to look at the picture of Serenity of himself. An idea struck him after a few moments of just staring forlornly at their smiling faces. "In fact, I think I just found it. Bye, Tea!" Joey jumped up and dashed off before his friend could even reply. He spent a few minutes in a craft store buying up paper, ribbon, glue, glitter, whatever he could think of to make his special gift for Serenity with. He hurried home and dug out an old box of pictures, which he dumped onto the kitchen table along with the craft supplies he's just bought. "Well, I better get goin'."

---

Joey spent the next three days bent over his work, barely eating, hardly sleeping. On the morning of Christmas Eve, he held the hand-made scrapbook out in front of him. On the front was a copy of the same picture from his wallet, bordered with green ribbon and red glitter. He flipped through, making sure every picture was on as securely as he could artistically manage. Once he was sure that it was done, he placed the book in a box and wrapped it. "I hope ya like it, sis," he whispered.

Not an hour after he'd laid on the couch to rest, there was a knock on the door. "Joseph? Are you home?"

He jumped up and ran his hands through his hair. He'd had no idea they'd be there so early. "Just a second, Mom!" he yelled as he ran to get the door, nearly tripping over his own feet in his haste. He swung the door open to see his mom and sister carrying trays wrapped in tin foil. "Serenity! Mom! You brought..." He trailed off, realizing how lucky he was. "Ah, man! I totally forgot about food!"

"That's okay, Joey," his sister said with a smile. "We figured you would, so we made Christmas dinner. Can we come in?"

"Wha'?" Realizing he was blocking the entrance, Joey stood aside to allow the two women into the house. He watched as they set the trays on the kitchen counter, gauging their response to his and Yugi's work. As he did, something else crossed his mind. "Um, you two can share my room, I can sleep on the couch. I--" He paused at the amused gaze he received from his mother. "What?"

"We can stay in Serenity's room, Joseph."

"Oh, yeah..." Joey silently wondered if it was in decent shape. He had purposely skipped over it when he and Yugi had cleaned the house, not wanting to disturb it; it hadn't been touched since its inhabitant had left.

His mom gave herself a short tour of the main rooms in the house, ending with the living room. "You even got up the tree. But where are...?"

"Right here," Joey replied, pulling out the ornaments box. "Serenity?"

The girl threw her arms around his shoulders. "Oh, Joey! Thank you for waiting!" They spent the rest of the afternoon hangin up the ornaments, moving them from one branch to another. Finally, only the angel for the top remained. Serenity lifted it out of the box, almost reverently. It was her favorite decoration. "Well?" she asked expectantly as she stared at her brother.

Joey was unsure. "You ain't as little as you used to be, Serenity. Are you sure?"

"Mhmm," she said with a grin.

"A'right, but I warned ya." He lifted her up and helped her set the angel on the top of their tree. It wasn't quite the same as them being a human ladder when they were small, but all-in-all, they'd kept their Christmas tradition.

The three stepped back to admire the tree. "It's beautiful," they murmured at the same time.

As they looked at the masterpiece, another voice rang through the house. "Joey, there's a car parked outside! Do you know whose...it..." Mr. Wheeler stopped in his tracks as he saw whose the car was.

Serenity was the first to speak. "Hi, Dad."

The man stood in the hallway, speechless. When he finally found his voice, all he could say was, "Joey, I really wish you would have told me about this."

The two adults stared at each other for a long time before finally breaking into a hug. It looked like everything wouldn't be ruined after all.

After dinner, everyone went to bed, excited for the next morning.

---

Joey awakened early the next morning and dressed. He got up and set the box he'd wrapped under the tree before getting everyone else up. No time to waste on Christmas day. "C'mon, c'mon, everybody up! Santa came while we was sleepin'!" Obviously, he knew Serenity didn't believe in Santa anymore, but it was fun all the same. He ushered her to the tree, where the lone box sat. "I asked him to get a gift for you, sis. Go ahead, open it."

Awestruck that the only gift there was hers, she took it and carefully unwrapped it. Slowly, she lifted the book out of it's wrappings and looked at it. "A scrapbook?"

Joey was starting to have second thoughts about his incredible gift idea. "Uh, yeah, I just--"

"Oh, Joey, I love it! Thank you! This is the best Christmas ever!"


I know, I know, very cliche at the end. But it's the best I could do in order to get it in on Christmas day. So R&R as a present to me. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!