Welcome to my longest one-shot to date.

Not much else to say except Enjoy...

R&R and all that...


-[x]-

Angel of Mercy


It was easy.

She finished writing her speech and smiled, placing her pen on the dimly lit desk. The woman wiped her brow with a handkerchief and sighed, looking at the clock.

2:08am

She should be at work in six hours.

Undoing the buttons on her work shirt, slipping off her pants and leaving them in a pile on the floor, she crawled into bed and fell asleep almost instantly.


--


“Hello and welcome to the Pokémon Centre. How may I help you today?”

Joy, true to her name was happy and polite to everyone who happened to enter the hospital. Serving as the various Pokémon trainers deposit their charges - watching as they loaf around the waiting area - die slightly on the inside as each and every time they leave without as much as a thank you.

But they say, even at orientation, 'nursing is a thankless job'.

Joy had joined a nursing college fresh from school with a zeal to help sick Pokémon get better again. Little did she know that she would fail her exams, throwing the proverbial spanner in her works. Still adamant about working in a centre however, she joined up as a care assistant. It was her job to accept Pokémon in need of healing and give them to the doctors, the real brains behind the operation and those getting the meaty government salaries.

She was still called nurse.

Although she rarely got to help do anything other than her designated job.

From eight till two, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, she would work. The same thing over and over, again and again. Happy Happy Joy Joy. Then she would go home, get drunk and stay up till one am watching the darkness outside her bedroom window. The next day she would wake up at around noon, wait for the hangover to clear and sort out the grotty apartment she called home. Washing and ironing her work clothes was a priority, the work she did was all about appearance, if she turns up late one day with some wrinkled clothes on and bags under her eyes, she'd get told to go home without pay.

Still. It was better than the orphanage.

You got whipped and chained to your bed for insubordination, starved for not finishing your meals, abused daily and tortured nightly. It helped her one way however, she could at least pretend she was perfectly fine whilst hurting on the inside, a prerequisite of her job.

'As long as you look happy, I don't give a rat's *** what you feel like'

Her manager's favourite saying. Another one was

'Wake the hell up Joy, there's people to be served'

When Joy thought about it, it was rather similar to the orphanage. She still had a domineering manager and she still felt like crap every time she walked into the building, only... this time she doesn't have her sister to help her out.


* * *


There were two girls sat silently on a cold rickety bed, a thin mat the only thing separating them from the metal. One of them, a small pink-haired girl dressed in dirty rags, was looking up to the older girl in similar dress.

“So what do you want me to do?” asked the small pink haired girl.

The older girl sighed, attempting to rationalise what she intended to do to the little girl. “I need your help Joy. There's something I need you to do - I
want you to do for me.”

The older girl sighed again, and the little girl noticed. “What's wrong?”

“Nothing... nothing. I need to get away from this place. Tomorrow they'll strap me to the bed in solitary and leave me until morning, that's when I need you to sneak into the room... I'll have everything sorted... Just believe in me this one time.”

When she finished speaking, she hung her head and fell silent. The younger sibling leant over and hugged her big sister.



* * *


That's where Joy thinks her want to help people started. Maybe it's because of that she was so determined to become a doctor, maybe she feels slightly saddened that she couldn't live her dream for her sister.

“You dreaming about me. 'Cos if you are I don't mind.” A slick, low voice broke Joy from her reverie and she jolted back into position at her desk.

“Piss off Carlos, I wouldn't touch you with a ten foot barge pole.” Joy retorted, smiling ever so slightly.

“I'd like to touch you with my barge pole.” Carlos replied in a sickeningly sweet voice.

Joy felt an anger rising within her, 'why won't he get the message?' she asked herself. “Make one more remark like that and I'll report you for sexual harassment.” she said threateningly.

“And who are they going to believe sweet cheeks? The best damn doctor in this place or a care assistant who can't stay awake for ten minutes at a time.”

“Can you just... please go away, I didn't get much sleep last night. And I can't stand looking at you at the moment.” Joy submitted and told the truth, not wanting to play games any more. She rubbed her temples and looked at her desk, scanning a nearby magazine article for nothing in particular.

“Your loss I suppose. I've got better things to do than stand around chatting to the help, lives to be saved and all that.” and with that he strutted off through a door labelled 'wards'.

Carlos. the in house chauvinistic, narcissistic pig who thinks he's god's gift to women. Thinks he's a 'maverick' doctor just because he because he bends the rules a few times, Joy couldn't help think what her favourite hospital drama doctor, Gregory House would say to him, probably show him what a true maverick is. Now that was a real man.

But again, Joy found herself daydreaming. Lost in her thoughts as she often found herself, luckily it was Thursday tomorrow, so she could at least get some stuff off her chest


--


“Thank you for listening everybody.”

The twenty something stepped down from the podium and sat gingerly back in his seat. A large woman next to him congratulated him on speaking his mind “Very nicely done Daniel.” and gave him a pat on the back.

Taking his place was an elderly man who was the leader of this group of people congregated in the community centre hall, he wore casual clothes and seemed happy and approachable. “Thank you Mr. Cameron for sharing with the group. Now I see we have a new member with us today, if you'd like to stand up and introduce yourself to the group. You should know the drill after watching the people before you.”

Tentatively, a nineteen year old girl wearing shabby jeans and a thick black hooded jacket stood and looked about the room like your average Buneary caught in the headlights. Everybody sat in the circle just stared at her, waiting for her to say something, but all the words were trapped in her throat. She didn't belong here, if it wasn't for her few friends, she wouldn't be here in the first place 'it's for your own good' they told her, 'we're really worried about you.' All that. She didn't believe she had a problem, she could quit any time she wanted, she just didn't want to. But if it'd please her friends...

Taking a moment to move her long pink hair out of her face, she began. “My name is Joy... and I am... I am an alcoholic.”

The group applauded and the elderly man from before said “Admitting you have a problem is the first step. If you'd like to continue.”

Joy regrouped and started to think back. Back to when she thought it started.


* * *


The little pink haired girl sat with her big sister, a lanky brunette, at the dinner table with all the other orphans. Each had a spoon in front of them, next to a bowl. And each waited for the cook to bring them their sub par food.

When it arrived, in the big grey metal 'vat' almost, filled to the brim with a lumpy cream coloured porridge, the children knew not to complain or make any noise of discontent else they get sent to solitary without eating any food. Everyone sat at the table would prefer something to nothing.

Upon the filling of her bowl, the small girl winced when the food made the audible slapping noise against the ceramics. No one liked the stuff, but it was cheap and no one cared if the orphans went hungry, who were they going to complain to? Their parents?

The girl looked to her sister, who was already looking into her eyes, conveying the message she had told her the night before. She was going to do something. The taller girl stood and threw her food at one of the carers, the room stood silent and the cracking of the bowl against the concrete floor rang through each head in the room.

There was shouting... lots of shouting. And the girl was dragged away to solitary. The little pink-haired girl sat silent, remembering her end of the bargain. She acted like a good little girl and finished her food in peace, every care worker eyeing her as if she would do the same as her sister. Finishing up she made to go back to her room, but slipped into solitary confinement as her sister had commanded.

“There you are. The stuff is in the cupboard over there.” with her head; the girl, who was lashed to the bed posts with thick rope, motioned to a small dingy door in a dark corner of the room. I say dark corner, the whole room was bathed in dusky blackness, only light flitting between the cracks of the boarded up window betrayed the darkness and lit various strips of the room. The wallpaper was peeling and the floor was dusty, it was clear no one cleaned up in here, the bed still had dried urine stains from other children lashed in here for the odd crimes they had purportedly committed. Lay upon the bed, looking for all the world like Roman era slave being crucified... was Hope Harrison.

Tentatively, little Joy crept over to the cupboard, being sure not to make a noise and grasped her small hands on the dusty handle. She pulled and swung it open on rusty hinges, the little girl cringing at each and every squeak made.

Waiting as she adjusted her eyes to the new darkness of the cupboard, the little girl stood thinking about what it could hold.

“Quick grab them. They might have heard the door.”

Hearing the hurried whisper of her sister, Joy reached and grabbed three items. A small bottle which rattled when shook, a plastic bag (judging by how much it rustled) and an elastic band. Joy looked confused and voiced her concern. “How are these going to help you escape, Hope?”

“They'll help me far better than you know. Now Joy, I need you to take the lid off that bottle and catch as many things as you can on your hand.” Joy unscrewed the lid and poured the little white things on to her small hand.

“What are these things Hope?” asked the little girl, poking one of them with a tiny finger.

“They're sleeping pills. They'll help me to fall asleep.”

“But why do you need so many?”

“I want to sleep for a long time. Now stop asking questions and keep on doing what I tell you to.”

Pleased with her big sisters explanation, but also confused, little Joy followed the orders as best she could. She poured all the little white sleeping pills into her sisters mouth... waited for her to swallow... placed the plastic bag over her sisters head... tied the elastic band around her neck.

Her sister, obscured as she was behind the plastic, weakly smiled and mouthed 'thank you' before she fell asleep. Joy stepped back and watched as the bag went up and down with her sisters breath, she watched it slow down, the bag filling less and less as the seconds dragged on. Joy stood concerned as the final breath inflated the bag and finally stopped.

The little girl tried her hardest to rationalise what had just happened, she knew that she had just helped her sister and that her sister was extremely grateful for what she did, and Joy helped to bring this around. The little girl smiled and lay down next to her sister on the bed, falling asleep in her outstretched arms.


--


The next day, the little girl was awoke by screams.

“How did this happen!” inquired a social worker to no one in particular. A gaggle of rubberneckers had gathered outside the room as the blanketed figure was stretchered out. The social worker pushed the children unceremoniously out of the way and stalked towards the little pink haired girl sat on the bed. “What did you do!” he screamed, being sure he knew the paramedics had exited the building.

Joy cowered at the imposing figure of the social worker and mumbled something at the floor.

“What was that? I can't hear you.” he asked softer than before.

Taking a deep breath, Joy began to tell the story. “I was helping her to fall asleep sir.” she said as she finished.

The social worker sighed and stood up, straightening out his suit. “I've got my eye on you.” he said menacingly, then left. Little Joy still sat on the bed.


* * *


The group had fell silent, enthralled by the tale the nineteen year old was telling. When she finished, she hastily sat down and looked at the floor.

The older gentleman from before stood again and began an applause, the rest of the group joined in and Joy felt slightly heartened that these people were willing to accept her. “Well done Miss Harrison, I understand it must have been difficult for you to tell that story. Now group, that's all the time we have for today. I'd like to thank all those who spoke and make sure you all attend next week. Same time, same place.”

The group disbanded, some leaving the building and some flocking to the buffet table to pick up a few snacks or a quick cup of coffee. Joy was one of the latter, sat on her chair with a steaming hot cup, she blew the top to disperse the heat and took a sip.

“Sugar?” the question came from a standing man, the one from before. He held out his hand waiting for her to shake it. “Daniel Cameron, I spoke before you.”

Joy reached her hand over and grasped his softly, “Yes, I remember. And no my coffee is just fine thank you.” she mentioned, not at all showing any signs of a smile.

Daniel Cameron, still standing above Joy, tried to say something else, but found it caught in his throat. He scolded himself mentally and threw caution to the wind. “Would you like to erm, go to the place across the street? The coffee there is much better than this crap they put out.”

Joy stopped mid sip and looked up, placing her cup on the chair next to her, “Yeah why not.”

“It's okay if you don't want to... wait what?”

“I said yes.”

“Wow, I can't say that's ever worked before.” Daniel said all too cheerfully. Joy however raised an eyebrow.

“What do you mean 'worked'. It's not like were going on a date or anything, I just want some decent coffee.”

“Yeah yeah, sure. I didn't mean it to be anything other than just getting coffee, it's not like I'm some creepy guy that picks up girls at these kind of meetings, oh God why did I just say that, now you'll think I'm a stalker, damn it, why did I say that-”

Seeing that he was flustered and talking to himself, Joy decided to step in, “Shall we just go?”

Daniel stopped talking and grabbed his coat, “yeah, let's do that.”


--


The pair sat in a diner in a booth filled with red leather seats, the table between them was empty except for a box with condiments in it and two cups of steaming hot coffee.

“-so I opened the door and there he was, eating a horse.”

Joy laughed harder than she ever had at the anecdote Daniel had just told. “You sure are a funny guy, Daniel-”

“Please, call me Dan.” he interrupted.

“Okay... Dan, as I was saying, it feels great to be out with a friend, having fun and not having alcohol involved.” she said with a slight giggle.

“The thing you have to think about however, is not to replace one addiction with another. But if you think about it, coffee isn't as destructive as booze or drugs. So as long as you take it easy on the caffeine, that's fine by me.” Daniel added on a more serious note.

“I suppose if I've got someone to look after me, I'd be fine. Sadly, I live alone, with no one about to see if I'm okay.”

From the windowless booth, it was hard to see a window or a clock unless one really tried, so the pair sat there talking and sipping coffee until the waitress came over and told them the diner was closing soon. Joy looked at her watch and was shocked to see that it was nearing midnight.

“I need to go, I have work in the morning. I'm sorry, I should have realised earlier.” Joy made sure she had everything with her and stood up to leave, but Daniel interjected.

“Do you have a car? 'Cos I could drive you home if you want. It'd save you walking through town at night.” the brown haired twenty something had grabbed her arm across the table to stop her rushing off.

“If it isn't any trouble. The area I live isn't the safest place at night.”

“Then it's settled, I wouldn't like to see you get hurt or worse.”

The pair thanked the waitress and left the small diner. Daniel lead the way to a dark blue sedan and he climbed into drivers side door, unlocking the other door from the inside. Joy climbed inside and made herself comfortable on the soft leather seat.

“So where abouts do you live?” asked Daniel nonchalantly, whilst starting the engine.

“Cane street, not that far from here. Do you know it?”

“Is that the one that's just off Bambridge?”

“Yeah, just across from the church.”

“Cane street it is!” Daniel said dramatically before he pulled out of the diner car park and took a right. Steadily, they cruised through the streets of Violet City in relative silence, Daniel was concentrating on not crashing whilst Joy was watching the city at night through the passenger window, it was different to what she usually saw from outside her small bedroom window. It seemed almost safe in here.

“St. Redmond's Church is just up here, you're almost home.”

Joy took her eyes away from the window and looked over at Daniel, whose eyes were fixed firmly on the road ahead. “Thanks for this.” she said softly.

“Nah, it was my pleasure. If you ever need anything Joy, just ask me and I'll try my best to get it sorted.”

“I'd appreciate that.” Joy replied.

The car slowed and Daniel looked over to the sat next to him, “So which one is yours?” he asked.

Joy looked out of her window and pointed to a three story building not that far away. “That one with the flat roof and the red door.” Daniel sped up slightly and parked outside the building Joy had pointed out. She climbed out of the car, turned and bent over so that she could see Daniel at the wheel.

“See you next Thursday I suppose.”

“Yeah, I guess. But if you'd like to talk to me before then, for any reason, just call me-” he grabbed a pen and a scrap of paper from his glove box and scrawled something on it. “-at this number. Don't be a stranger.” He handed over the slip of paper and started the engine up again, he gave a quick wave and pulled away from the curb.

Joy stood and waved back at the retreating car. Slowly she strolled towards the door, headed up the stairs and unlocked the door to her apartment. She looked at the mess that greeted her and sighed; she put her keys in their bowl by the door and flung her small bag onto the couch, she didn't really care about the look of the place at the moment so Joy just took of her jacket and jeans and flung them next to her bag. She'd sort them out in the morning.

Clothed in only underwear and a loose shirt, Joy fell into bed and hoped for dreams to take her as quickly as possible.

But it just wasn't happening.

A realisation dawned upon her, she'd had far too much coffee. The caffeine coursing through her system was screaming at her to stay awake, not giving her a chance to sleep a wink. Joy mentally scolded herself 'Why did I have to stay out all night drinking coffee?' she asked herself again and again.

She'd had fun though didn't she.

Joy gave herself that one, socialising with people outside of work was a rare treat for Joy and Daniel was so attentive and polite and interesting, plus, he seemed interested in her not just for her looks, but rather what she had to say. 'He did give me his number, maybe I should call him, No! It's far too early. He'd had as much coffee as I did, maybe he can't sleep either. I don't want to seem desperate.'

After a lengthy discussion with herself, Joy decided that calling him at this late hour would be rude, therefore went about figuring ways in which she could make herself sleep. 'Cleaning always made me tired.' she thought. Two birds with one stone, she could get the cleaning done and get ready for a nights sleep all in one.

Starting with her own room, she picked up all the clothes strewn across the floor and placed them in a wicker hamper in the corner of the room. 'I'll sort those when I come to them.' she decided. Seeing as she wouldn't be sleeping in it, she removed the sheets from her duvet and dumped them in the hamper with the clothes, the same with the pillow cases. Next she removed any and all cups, plates, mugs and the likes and put them in the bowl in kitchen, again she decided to sort those out when she got around to them.

Joy carried on like this well into the early hours of the morning. By the time she had finished, the apartment looked spotless. Her coffee buzz had all but dissipated and she was ready to catch some shut eye, she entered her bedroom and lay her head down on the fresh pillow case, it smelt so fresh, she closed her eyes and fell quickly into sleep.

Minutes later however, her alarm clock rang.

Joy sat up in bed, 'that sleep sure didn't last long' she thought, 'and it wasn't that refreshing, I still feel like crap. Ah well, I suppose I'll have to get ready.'

Joy rolled out of bed and walked slowly and tiredly over to the wardrobe and picked out a clean and tidy white shirt and matching skirt to wear. She laid them out on the bed and walked into her bathroom to clean herself up. The door closed and various noises could be heard from the other side; the shower turning on, a lacklustre rendition of YMCA, the shower being turned off, the hair dryer whirring and eventually the door opened revealing the woman wearing a long towel. She did some last minute drying and got dressed.

A quick look at the clock revealed she had to leave in ten minutes or risk being late. Running into the kitchen she quickly put some bread into the toaster and ran back into the bedroom to grab a jacket, a few brief minutes later, the toast popped. Joy spread on some butter and left the apartment clutching toast in her mouth.


--


“Hello and welcome to the Pokémon Centre. How may I help you today?”

Joy sat at her post, smiling at all the trainers rushing in and out, accepting hurt Pokémon and transferring them to the doctors in the back.

Just like any other day really.

“Have you reconsidered my offer?” came a male voice from behind her.

Joy span around in her swivel chair like an old Bond villain and confronted Carlos. “Yes, Carlos I have, please take me now.” she said not even trying to hide the sarcasm.

“Really?” asked the doctor in a brief moment of stupidity.

“No Carlos, I still want you to piss off.”

“You say that now, but no woman can resist my charm. You'll be throwing yourself at me soon enough.” the doctor replied.

“Whoopee, I can't wait. Now can you please leave, I have customers to serve.” Joy span back around to face the growing queue of trainers that had gathered during her little 'conversation' with Carlos.

“Hello and welcome to the-”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, just heal my Pokémon sharpish. We have training to do.”

Joy was taken aback by the red-haired trainers rudeness, but she fought the urge to scream in his face and smiled hesitantly. “We'll have you them sorted out as quickly as possible.” she said, listing off the trained response as she'd done many times before.

“Whatever, I'll be back in an hour. They better be ready.” he said threateningly.

She waited through countless customers, repeating the greeting that had been drilled into her skull during her training.

At least the monotony was broken that day.

A large moustached man wearing a white vest and baggy camo pants walked into the centre; he strode confidently over to the reception desk but tripped half way, sending all six of his Pokéballs flying onto the floor, each one being released as it hit the tiles. There have been instances in the past where exceptionally large Pokémon have been released indoors, (the trainers always insist that it was perfectly accidental) the centre Joy works in has had to replace large chunks of its ceiling various times.

Luckily, this time the only thing released were six identical balls of pink fluff. Jigglypuff to be exact. The large man blushed furiously and tried to return them, but the Jigglypuff had other ideas; each confused by it's surroundings, they all began a chorus of sleep inducing melodics that echoed around the Pokémon centre, sending each patron into a deep slumber.

Except one that is.

Deep within the Care Assistants handbook, there is a small section with an even smaller sub section that says 'Always have earplugs at hand. Pokémon like Jigglypuff will use the attack known as Sing when nervous. As a Care Assistant, you are no help to anyone asleep.' Joy always had a pair beneath her desk after she was caught off guard one day and woke up at the end of her shift feeling infinitely more refreshed. It may not seem like a bad day, but she wasn't paid for the hours she slept.

Joy got up from behind her desk and sighed. The nurse walked slowly over to the large man and picked up the Pokéballs, returning all of the Jigglypuff. She took out the earplugs and placed them in her pocket. Joy then turned and saw one patron on the floor in front of her desk, she bent over to try and put him into a sitting position, but he was too heavy. She just let him drop to the floor and continue snoozing. Joy stood upright and wiped some sweat from her brow.

“You know. Those nurse skirts are awfully short.” came a pointed voice.

Joy turned to berate whoever had just said that when she realised who it was. Daniel Cameron. “Oh, hey Dan. First of all, you should have said something ealier rather than leering at me from the door. Secondly, as punishment, you've got to help me wake all these people up.”

Daniel laughed and walked forwards slightly. “I wasn't leering... I walked through the door and there you were... presenting yourself. Your eyes say no, but your incredibly short skirt says yes, look at me! And punishment? You were going to make me do that anyway.”

Joy stared daggers at the brown haired male, “Just for that, you can do all the work while I sit down and have a cup of tea.” and Joy did as she said, she sat behind her desk and sipped at a green mug, staring over the top of it. “Well go on then, I don't have all day.”

Daniel rolled his eyes, “Geez, I come in to say hello, now I'm doing your job. What next, will you make me wear your skirt?”

Joy, mid way through a sip, laughed and spat tea all over the desk. “I'd love to see you in a skirt.”

“You'd have to tie me down and force me wear it. 'Cos I aint wearin' no skirt. Anyway, I have an idea for waking these people up.” Daniel fished a minimized Pokéball from his pocket and enlarged it, the ball opened to reveal a mid sized, dark blue frog like Pokémon, a large reddish orange sac on it's lower jaw inflating and deflating with each breath.

“Toxicroak, ready a Smellingsalt attack, try to spread it around the entire room. Get everyone conscious again, okay.”

The Toxic Mouth Pokémon inflated the sac on it's lower jaw to mammoth proportions and breathed out a faint yellow gas that spread around the room. Each person that breathed the pungent odour instantly opened their eyes and held their noses to protect against the fumes. One by one, each person woke up and shook themselves, trying to figure out why they had suddenly awoke on the floor.

Daniel, from somewhere, had produced another Pokéball. “Dustox, blow these fumes away with a gust attack, try not to make it too powerful.” The green and purple moth Pokémon materialised and flapped it's quarter circle shaped wings sending a blast of wind throughout the Centre. Many patrons held onto their hats until the winds had abated, but were pleased when they were able to breath fresh air again.

Daniel returned his two Pokémon and walked over to Joy at her desk smiling. “How was that for a performance? I used to compete in the odd contest or two way back when.” Daniel smirked and seemed to basking in a compliment he gave himself.

“It was certainly helpful and as much as I'm loathe to say it, thank you. Just a note for the future, no demeaning or objectifying me, I hate those kind of guys.” And just as if the universe wanted to prove a point, Carlos walked through the waiting room and flashed a smile and made a 'shooting' hand gesture to Joy at her desk. She just sneered in response. “Like that guy. He's done nothing but try and get in my pants since I started working here.”

“But you don't wear pants.”

“Oh haha, funny guy. It's a figure of speech dumb ***.”

“I know, I just like it when you get all mad.” replied Daniel with a cheeky grin.

Joy momentarily wanted to rip his head off, but took a deep breath and calmed herself. “I'm not going to rise to that. It was nice to see you again Dan, but I'm a very busy woman and if I'm seen talking to you, my manager will shout at me. And he's a scary guy.”

“Okay, I don't want to you get shouted at. It was great seeing you again Joy.”

“It was only last night, it's been what... twelve hours?” said Joy slyly whilst she stared at her watch.

“It's always fun talking with you. See ya.” and with that, Daniel turned and left the building. Leaving Joy with her queue of angry patrons wanting to know why they woke up on the floor.


--


Joy woke up that next day with the worst headache, and for the first time in many years, it wasn't a hangover. She reached into the bedside table and pulled out some Aspirin. Forcing herself out of bed and into the bathroom, she poured herself a glass of water, swallowed the pills and looked at her reflection in the mirror.

Argh!

The pink bird's nest that was her hair stuck out in almost any direction you cared to note. She forewent the use of a hairbrush and simply slicked it back with cold water, it had the doubled effect of getting the sleep out of her eyes, waking her up.

At least it was her day off.

At least she had time to recover.

Time...


Time to do what?

Without alcohol, she had nothing. The alcohol used to dull the pain, it used to pass the time, but now she was determined to stop. And then what would she have?

Ring ring

'Who's calling at this hour?'

Ring ring

'Oh shut up, I'm coming.'

Ring ring

“Hello”

“Joy? Great. I didn't wake you up did I?”

“No, I was just doing the usual morning routine.”

“That's alright then. You up for breakfast? Unless you've already had some.”

“No, no. What do you have in mind? I've never been out for breakfast before.”

“I know this great place, they make the best eggs, any way you want them. Scrambled, fried, sunny-side up, the works. So what do you say?”

“Okay then, but I don't have that much money on me.”

“That's fine. I was going to pay anyway, I'm not a complete arse, no matter how I may come across. I'll pick you up in half an hour, be ready.”

Daniel Cameron, for who else could it be, hung up the phone and Joy smiled.

Was this considered a date? She was going out, she'll be with a guy, he'll be paying. That sounded like all the date criteria checked off, so this would be her second, if you counted the time in the diner. The Pokémon centre was a brief visit, so that doesn't count. 'So, the second date means what? Am I expected to do anything?'

Just make sure you're ready!

That little voice inside Joy, the no-nonsense, take no crap little voice said. It's usual ferocity matched only by it's message. 'I must be starting to like this guy.'

Well. He passes the time.


--


Honk!

“Ooh, that's him!”

Joy stood up suddenly and looked out of her window, the one that overlooked the front of her building, and there was the dark blue sedan from a few nights ago. Joy grabbed her keys and ran out of the apartment, making sure to lock up behind her.

Joy had opted to dress herself up a bit before Daniel came to pick her up. That involved brushing her hair into a respectable style, choosing her best smart/casual clothes out of the wardrobe, finding a pair of shoes to match said outfit, finding a bag to match said shoes, finding an accessory to match said bag. Then and only then, was she ready to go out. Luckily she didn't have to wait long for Daniel to pick her up.

“You look a bit done up for a simple breakfast.” noted Daniel when she climbed into the car.

“There's no harm in looking good.” Joy retorted with a smile. “Besides. Would you want to be in public with someone who looked like crap?”

“It'd take a lot to make you look like crap.” Daniel said, only to cringe at the blatant mistake he'd just made. “I'm sure you can pick a compliment out of that. Maybe I should have just said 'you look great''”

Joy laughed and slapped Daniel's knee. “Just take me to breakfast y'idiot.”

“Right-o ma'am.” Daniel said whilst pulling away from the curb. “It's not that far, just on the edge of the city centre. You have to walk to get there, but it's totally worth it.”

“You do this a lot then? Going out to eat I mean.”

“Most days. It just depends on what I'm feeling at the time. I might go for dinner at a restaurant or at that diner we went to. Maybe I just want to get a bite to eat for lunch, and if I don't have work I might go out for breakfast. It's usually always this place though.”

Joy looked pensive for a while, either looking at Daniel or outside at the various buildings moving past. “I've been meaning to ask you something Dan. How did you stop drinking?”

“I don't think I could have done it without the help of everyone at the group, they all have such great stories and advice. One piece of advice that stuck with me was to find something else you can be addicted to, something healthy. I really took that to heart, I decided that I would finish off my education and try and get a proper job. No offence-”

“No it's alright. I hate my job.” Joy interjected.

“-yeah, I decided I'd finish my Law course, get my degree and try for a job in that area. It took a few years or so to do it, but that advice is what helped me pull through. I obsessed with my studies, I did everything I could to make sure I made it. I wasn't even tempted to take a sip of champagne at my graduation. I told the guys in the group and they were all so proud. It drove me on to do bigger and better things, with their help I have my life on track and I actually have a career, something I can build upon, you know.”

Joy thought for a while and smiled. “That's great, I wish I could make as much progress as you.”

“You will, It just takes dedication, and the help of a few people who actually want you to stop. That's why I stayed in the group, to help anyone who asked for it. I've been given some great advice over the time I've been there, so I felt it necessary to pass the mantle of knowledge I've gained.” Daniel smiled sagaciously, and pulled the car over to the curb. “We're here.”


--


They sat on a square table; the white tablecloth smudged with flecks of yellow and red, stained memories from the various meals eaten earlier that day.

The restaurant that Daniel had mentioned was called 'Buttercrusts', a small family owned business that had defied economic crisis and come out still standing, still serving their famed breakfasts. It was a simple enough place, a minuscule eating area outside for those who wished for the sun on their backs as they enjoyed their meal. For those days where the weather was less hospitable, an awning would be stretched out to cover the customers from the rain. Inside were a few more tables and the counter, behind which was the kitchen. Where 'the magic happens.'

Joy and Daniel were currently sat on one of the tables outside, the sun was out and so the awning was in. They sat eating a hearty Full English whilst in animated conversation of which mainly revolved around the food. Joy, who had never eaten here before, wasn't ready for the veritable taste sensation about to assault her taste buds, and so when she did, she felt obligated to voice her delight.

The poor old woman sat at the table behind Joy found her brown sauce laden Bacon Sandwich running down her new white cotton suit when Joy suddenly shouted “Oh My God! This is amazing!” Needless to say, she tried to wipe away the sauce but instead only rubbed it further into the fabric. Indubitably a disastrous dilemma, but one solved easily, by demanding a replacement sandwich.

“I told you it was good.” Daniel said between mouthfuls, seeming as determined to eat his own meal than Joy was to eat hers.

Joy, tried to respond, but merely succeeded in spraying chewed bacon, sausage and egg into Daniel's face. As Daniel dramatically wiped the food from his person, Joy swallowed hard and breathed a breath of relief. “You said it was good, but I wasn't expecting it to be this good. This may very well rank top of my 'greatest meals' list. But my choices are quite limited, having the same basic meal for your entire childhood isn't what you would call varied.”

Daniel stopped picking from his near empty plate and looked into Joy's eyes, “That's terrible what they did to you there. I didn't think any places like that existed any more, it just seems a bit too 'Oliver Twist' you know. Not something you expect in this day and age.”

“You'd be surprised what still goes on nowadays. In some places of the world, they don't have access to any technology and basically live in the past, you'd go there and you'd swear you've just stepped out of a time machine. Someone else's words not mine. It makes you think, 'Why don't we just help them?' One of the main reasons I tried to become a doctor was to help people, it pains me to think that there are people out there more worried about whether they can reserve seats for the latest movie than about their fellow man, living in squalor in some god forsaken hell hole not designed for human habitation. It's just not fair, it's... just not...” Joy emptied all emotion she had been bottling for the past few years and dumped the contents onto the table. She became a sobbing wreck, leaking her salty cargo onto the very plate she was previously eating from, she didn't know why she was crying, she didn't know when she would stop, but she knew that she needed to.

Daniel, sat stock still in his chair. 'What should I do?' was the only thing he was thinking. He could either comfort her as she lay crying on the table, or he could sit awkwardly finishing his meal as she sobbed uncontrollably into her food. He chose the former option. Daniel stood and moved around the table so he could suitably sit her back up, he held her in his arms whilst she cried into his shoulder. “Don't worry, it's all right. Let it all out.” he whispered softly into her ear.

“I'm sorry Daniel.” Joy stammered, her voice muffled slightly as her face was buried into his shoulder.

“It's nothing, it's an old jacket anyway. Tear stains come out right?” Daniel said jokingly, hoping the humour would at least cheer her up a little bit.

Joy laughed a muffled laugh and looked up at the man holding her.

“Come on, it wasn't that funny. There's no need for tears.”

Joy smiled and said simply “Thank you.”

Daniel, unsure as to what he did that deserved thanks, shrugged it off as a job well done. “No problem.”

He looked into the girls eyes, the one cradled in his arms, into those beautiful sapphires and just stared. Joy, entranced by this, just stared back. A moment of almost perfect harmony, time stopped and they became the centre of the universe for a brief few seconds, neither of them wanted to move a muscle, but just to savour this moment, but they found themselves leaning slowly towards each other, they didn't even seem to notice until their faces were inches apart... lips met and an electricity shot between the two, each experiencing a terrific lust for the other, an insatiable hunger for more - an unquenchable thirst for passion – an undeniable sense of right.

The universe adjusted and time set at it's own pace again then the pair separated. Joy couldn't help but giggle like a school girl and Daniel sat back in his chair.

“Are you two quite finished? I have your bill.” The waiter stood impatiently tapping his foot holding out a slip of paper.

“Er... Sorry about that.” Daniel said, feeling rather embarrassed.


--


Joy woke up that next day feeling giddy and appreciated. The day afterwards included walks in the park, ice cream and dinner at an expensive restaurant. That night she found it hard to say goodbye at the door and when she got home she couldn't get to sleep, she was on some kind of high that felt unlike anything she had felt before. This was better than alcohol. With Dan, she knew who she was and she liked that.

Begrudgingly, she rolled out of bed and started the morning routine of getting ready for work.

An hour later, Joy stood fully dressed at the bus stop. Her hair was pulled back into two long ponytails which she formed into loops that sat either side of her head, she still wore her skirt but she wore a long black coat that went down to her knees, masking the fact that she was just about to go to work in a Pokémon centre. She wasn't exactly proud of her job, but it paid.

After a few more minutes of waiting, the bus finally pulled around the corner and the gaggle of people waiting, climbed onto the bus and paid the driver the required amount to get where they wanted. Joy settled on a seat near the back and leant her head against the window, somewhat lost in thought.

'This week has been great. Surely there's going to be a downside to this, there always is.'

Joy sat on the bus staring out of the window, staring at people walking down the street – stray animals crossing the road, she seemed so preoccupied that she almost missed her stop. Apologising curtly to the driver, Joy stepped off and walked the short distance to the red roofed building where she worked.

The automatic doors 'swooshed' open and Joy waved to the care assistant on duty, a short stocky brunette, and walked through a door to the left of the counter marked 'staff only'.

Joy removed her coat and hung it alongside the other jackets and coats upon entering the staff room, said a quick hello to the other people in there and walked back out again ready for her shift.

Bzzzz. Bzzzz.

A vibration against her midriff told Joy her phone was ringing.

“Hello.” she answered in a slight whisper.

“It's me.” said Daniel, rather cheerily.

“What do you want?”

“What's with the tone?”

“I'm in work. So you can understand if I'm a bit annoyed you called.”

“Okay, sorry. I thought you started at ten, not nine. Don't worry, I'll see you later.” And he hung up.

'Odd.' thought Joy, 'thoughtful though' and filled with a sense of pride for her 'boyfriend', she couldn't really think of him as anything else any more. She smiled at the thought and continued to her post.

Beryl, the woman sat on the desk at the moment, stood and let Joy sit down. “I'll switch with you in two hours.” she mentioned before leaving.


--


Joy was wandering around the high street, window shopping during her break. She ended up staring through a window in which various pairs of shoes were sat on personal, glittering platforms. She was just ogling a pair of black heels when she felt a hand on her shoulder pulling her around.

She was surprised to see Daniel, but looking worse for wear.

“Joy, thank God I found you. I really need your help.” he sounded desperate, and sincere.

“Daniel, what's wrong?”

“Unsavoury types. They found me. I helped put one of them away for a long time and now they're after me.” He was frantic, he had dark bags under his eyes and he was sweating profusely, and it looked like he hadn't changed since yesterday. “They raided my house, everything was broken and there was paper everywhere, it was just good I went out early in the morning or they probably would have found me. You have to understand, I needed to see if you were okay.”

Despite the concern on her face, Joy couldn't help but smile slightly on the inside. 'He must really care'. “This is the first I've heard about anything of the sort. I don't think they know about me.”

Daniel sighed, he seemed to become a lot happier then and there. “That's great. That's a relief. Look, Joy. I really need some help, I need to escape.”

Joy understood perfectly. She put her finger on Daniel's lips and shushed him. “Here's the key to my apartment, you can stay there, but you have to agree to meet me at your place when I finish work at four. I need my chance to say goodbye.” Joy stressed the last word.


--


Knock knock.

Joy stood outside a clean, brown apartment door. A door which opened a small degree, stopped short by a chain lock. Through the gap, Daniel could be seen, his eyes darker and more bloodshot than before, as if he hadn't even blinked since their last meeting.

“Can you let me in please?” asked Joy, who was wearing her long coat.

“Did you see anyone following you?” asked Daniel, still not relenting control of the door.

“Shh. Don't worry, your fine. I'm here to help you, I'm going to help you escape.” Joy fingered the top button on her coat and undid it, revealing nothing but her pale skin. “Besides, I need to say goodbye first.”

The door slammed shut and the jangling of a chain could be heard, the door flew open and Daniel stood, wearing a dishevelled looking suit.

“It's going to be really awkward with those raggedy things on.” Joy said slyly.

Daniel, getting the message, started to take his outer layers off whilst Joy walked through the bedroom door. Turning, she motioned for him to follow.

He didn't miss a beat and followed straight after, he entered the bedroom to find Joy wearing her nurse's uniform, stood at the end of the bed.

“Lie down.” she said simply.

Daniel complied instantly and lay face up on top of the covers, a hunger and excitement in his eyes that Joy was glad to see, rather than the glum ones she'd seen lately.

Joy, from behind her back, pulled out two pairs of handcuffs and dangled them in front of Daniel's eyes.

“I never pegged you as a kinky type, Joy.” he said.

Saying nothing and merely smiling, Joy fastened the handcuffs to the bed posts and fastened the other end to Daniel's arms and legs. As he lay smiling, Joy grabbed her handbag from the floor and pulled out a small cylindrical object that Daniel couldn't quite make out. She stepped over to his side slowly but Daniel's smile faded from his face as he recognised the object in her hands.

“Joy, what's with the hypodermic needle?”

Joy merely smiled and quieted him by pressing a finger to his lips. “I've seen the signs Daniel, I know what you want, I've been able to see it in yours eyes for so long. And it doesn't matter. I've accepted it as an inevitability and decided to help you – to help you escape, just like I helped my sister.” Joy smiled once more and injected the needle into Daniel's carotid artery in the neck and depressed the plunger, forcing the anaesthetic to flow into his blood stream.

After a few seconds, the effects started to kick in, Daniel could feel his eyes dropping as if they were made of lead, he just couldn't keep them open any longer, his breathing shallowed and his muscles relaxed.

Joy looked into Daniel's eyes and stared, waiting for the drug to take full effect. But just before he dropped off, Joy kissed her index and middle finger and pressed them against his lips. “I love you” she whispered, but he was gone, lost in a drugged stupor.

Joy stood again and grabbed a plastic bag from her handbag and wrapped it carefully around Daniel's sleeping head, making sure to seal off the flow of oxygen with a tight elastic band.

Joy looked at what she had done and she smiled. She had saved another life, she was finally doing what she had dreamt of doing as a child and it brought her the greatest thrill she had ever felt in her entire existance.







“I'll never forget you Daniel...”