Summary:  A little story about Seto Kaiba's birthday.  Yup, it's another Joey POV.  Post Dungeon Dice Monsters.  Mild Seto+Joey if you squint.

Author's Notes:  Well, I thought I'd write another fic.  This isn't a sequel to anything, though.

Warnings:  Hm.  Language, maybe?

Disclaimers:  Of course I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh!  I'm broke, poor me.  I made up the Hawkins book in the story, but if it actually exists, forgive me.  The survival book is "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook" by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht.  I don't own them, either.  Or the Happy Birthday song.  Oh, and no cameras were harmed in the making of this fic.

~ blah ~  is singing, by the way.

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To Seto, From Joey

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I've been wandering around the mall for hours, and one thing keeps running through my mind.  One thing, one universal truth that nobody can deny:

Seto Kaiba's impossible to shop for.

But only if you're Joey Wheeler.

What are you supposed to get for somebody who's filthy stinking rich?  Clothes?  Food?  Books?  Some sorta high-tech gizmo?  I've never had this much trouble deciding what to get for somebody's birthday.  I mean, with friends, you kind of know what they like 'cause you hang out with them.  And if they don't like what you get them, well, it's not the end of the world.  They're not gonna hate you for it.

Kaiba, on the other hand...

Don't get me wrong.  It's not like I totally hate him or anything, but if I had to choose between spending time with Kaiba or getting bashed unconscious, I'd take the nap any day.

I think the feeling's mutual, but I'm not about to ask him or anything.

So why am I trying to buy something for Moneybags?

Mokuba.

That's right, kid-Kaiba.  The little guy just showed up one day at the Turtle Game Shop where me and the gang were hanging out and invited us all to this birthday party he was putting together.  Mokuba did the "sweet little kid" thing, saying how he considered us his friends and how much he'd appreciate it if we all came to his party.  Of course, he didn't tell us the party was for a Kaiba of the Seto variety until after we all said yes and promised to show up.  Yeah, the little guy's a Kaiba through and through.  He just hides it better.

I sure wish Mokuba gave me some sort of Seto wish list or something, though.  I've been looking around for the right kind of present for weeks.  It's hard.  It's 6PM and I've got to get going in an hour, present or no.  Everybody else got their shopping done.  Are they beating themselves up over what to get for Kaiba?  Nope.  They're all on their way to the mansion right now.  Yuugi wanted me to come along with them, but I needed more time to figure out what to buy.  Lots more time.  And I don't want you to help me out on this, Yuugi.  Don't tell me what you got him.  Don't tell me what any of you guys got him.

I walk past a bunch of shops.  Nothing looks good.

What does Kaiba want that he hasn't got already?  The thing is, I don't know what he's already got.  I know he likes feeling all powerful and stuff, but that's not exactly something you can gift wrap.  I don't have enough money to get him something really nice.  I don't know what he likes to read, so no books.  Clothes are a no go 'cause I don't know his size.  I could always go cheap and buy him socks, but something tells me he's gonna laugh in my face if I get him that.

I want to get him something nobody else is gonna get him.  I want to get him something that'll make him go, "I never thought that you'd be able to do something right, you pathetic dog, but... I like this.  Thank you, Joey."  Something good.  Something original.

Something special just for him that'll make him see me as something better than a guy to stomp on when he's feeling bored.

I'm guessing that's aiming too high, so how about something that'll just make him lighten up a little?  Make him smile?

Right.  And this present's gonna end world hunger, too.

I'm just about to give up and buy him socks when I walk by some sorta second-hand shop and something catches my eye.  I wish it hadn't.

It's...  That's...

I hate the idea that's cooking in the back of my head.

No.  Freaking.  Way.

Kaiba's not going to be expecting it.  I know I wasn't when I was trying to come up with something original.

But it's stupid.  I hate it.

...So he'll like it.  Maybe.

So I go in, buy the damned thing, and have the pretty salesgirl stick it in a box and wrap it up for me.  It doesn't cost too much.

He'd better like it.  I'm really going out of my way to make him happy.

~~~###~~~

I get to the mansion half an hour late, but that's okay, 'cause the birthday boy's not the one who opens the door.  Maybe Kaiba won't find out.

"Joey, you made it!" says Mokuba, grinning.

I have to tilt Kaiba's present a little so the box can fit through the door.  "Yeah, I said I'd come, didn't I?"  I toe my sneakers off.

Kaiba's little brother helps me put the box with the five other boxes on the kitchen table.  Presents from Mokuba, Yuugi, Bakura, Tristan, and Tea.  That's it.  That's all the presents Seto Kaiba's getting.

The place is pretty quiet for a party.  "Where's everybody?"

"Oh, in the living room watching a movie."  He's still messing around with the presents.  It's like he's trying to make it look like a bigger pile.

I leave Mokuba to his thing and head for what I'm guessing is the living room.  If Mokuba's idea of "everybody" is one guy, then yeah, everybody's in the living room watching a movie.

"Hey, Kaiba."

"Dog."  He's not wearing his trench coat for a change.  Black turtleneck, black pants.  He looks like he's dressed for a funeral, which is kind of handy 'cause Birthday Boy glares at me like he wants me dead.

Okay, I came here expecting him to be evil to me, but I was sort of expecting some kind of backup, too.  Not that I need backup, but where the hell are my friends?!

And, wow, that evil look on Kaiba's face...

I start backing away just in case.  Not that I'm scared of him or anything.  "I'll just... uh..."  I leave Kaiba to his movie and walk back into the hallway.  Mokuba's still in the kitchen.  Kitchen sounds like a safe place to be, so that's where I go.

He's moving the presents to some out-of-the-way corner.  "Uh, Mokuba, where's the rest of the guys?" I ask him.

Mokuba takes a quick look to see if Kaiba's around.  "Well, this was a surprise birthday party, and... um... big brother doesn't like surprises," he mumbles.  "He... let everyone know exactly how much he doesn't like surprises."  The kid coughs.  "Everybody suddenly had someplace else they had to be."

Wow.  Way to go, Kaiba.  "No way!  Everybody?"

The little guy nods.  "Uh huh.  It's just us.  Even the servants got scared and left."  He turns back to the presents.  "I was kind of hoping big brother would like a birthday party, but..."  Mokuba gives me a wobbly smile.  "Seto can be really mean sometimes.  He's calmed down a lot, but If you don't wanna stay, it's okay."

If that's 'calmed down', I don't want to know what he was like before.  Breathing fire, maybe.  Or maybe his head was doing 360-degree spins and spitting up goo like in that movie.

I'm tempted, I'm really, really tempted, but I have to stay.  At least until Kaiba's done with his presents, anyway.  I flash a grin at Mokuba.  "Of course I'm staying!  I wouldn't miss this party for the world!"

Mokuba grins back at me.  "That's great!"  He gives me a bowl of chips and some dip.  "Could you take this to the living room?  I'll go get some drinks."

I walk back to the living room.  I should get some sorta medal for this.  How about one that reads "Joey Wheeler, The Bravest Man on Earth"?

Kaiba looks a little surprised when I actually come back and plop food on the coffee table instead of running for the hills like everyone else he's scared off.  I park my butt beside him on the couch before he can complain about it.

He narrows his eyes.  "Wheeler, get out of my home before I throw you out myself.  Leave."

"Chill, Kaiba."  The chips are a little too far away, so I lean over, grab the bowl and stick it between me and Kaiba.  The more stuff between him and me, the better.  "Have a chip."  He's still glaring at me, waiting for me to burst into flame or something.

"Really, Wheeler, most dogs understand simple commands like 'leave' and 'fetch'.  Would it help if I threw a stick?"

It's Kaiba's birthday.  Today's special, so I.  Am.  Not.  Gonna.  Start.  A.  Fight.

Even if Kaiba's staring holes into my skull and being a total bastard.

Mokuba comes in with some soft drinks after a few minutes and leaves just as fast.  There's some clattering coming from the kitchen.  I think he's setting up the cake and stuff, so I start to get up.

It's like the kid's psychic.  He runs back in.  "Don't worry, I'll take care of it!" Mokuba tells us.  "Keep big brother company!"  The kid looks at me.  "Please?"

"Mokuba..." growls Kaiba.  He starts to get up, too.

"Please?  It's your birthday."  Mokuba does the wide-eyed kid thing.  "Please, big brother?  Joey?"

I can't fight Mokuba's evil powers and I flop back down onto the couch.  Kaiba sighs and does the same.  "Fine," he says, giving up.

Mokuba beams at us before running off again.

Time to take my own advice.  I chill, take a gulp out of my drink, and help myself to a chip.

After a while, Kaiba defrosts a little and has a chip, too.

The silence is pretty awkward, but I'm not gonna say anything.  If I open my mouth, it might set him off, so we both end up staring at the TV.  I have no idea what we're watching.  It could be a blank screen for all I know.  All my attention's on Kaiba.

"Why are you still here, Wheeler?"

I shrug.  "'Cause it's your birthday."

"I want you gone."

"And your little bro wants me to stay."  And what Mokuba wants, Mokuba gets, even if Kaiba's against it.  "He did the birthday party thing for you, you know."  I take a quick look at him out of the corner of my eye.  "Mokuba's pretty down 'cause it's going so bad, thanks to you and the way you're acting."

Kaiba won't look at me.  "He should have known better."

I can't believe this guy.  "What's your problem, Kaiba?  It's your birthday!"

"Exactly.  I'm one year closer to the day I die."  He pauses.  "Of course, some people might consider that something worth celebrating."

I'm glad Mokuba's not around to hear this.  "Well, your brother doesn't think like that, so take that stick outta your-"

Mokuba sticks his head into the living room.  "Is everything okay?"

I stick a smile on my face just in time.  "We're cool."

"Big brother?"

"The dog is still alive.  What does that tell you?"  Kaiba gives me an icy look.  'But not for long,' it says.  Brrr.

"Great!  I was kinda afraid that you'd... but I know you're *way* better than that!"  He goes back to the kitchen.  "Let me know if you guys need anything!"

So we end up spending forever watching some flick I can't remember.  I think it was a good movie, but I don't really know 'cause I could feel Kaiba's glare the whole time.  I'd just give up and say 'screw the party, screw his present, I'm leaving', but no way am I going just because Kaiba wants me gone.  Mokuba comes in every now and then to make sure his big brother hasn't killed me yet.

After we're done with the movie, Mokuba announces that it's time for the cake.  It's a huge one covered in chocolate frosting with "Happy Birthday SETO" squirted in big white letters on it.  Mokuba's all smiles as he starts sticking candles on the cake, eighteen of them.  He lights them one by one.  Kaiba stands around with his arms crossed while I do my best to look like I'm having a good time.

Once the candles are all lit, Mokuba claps his hands.  "Okay, everybody, it's time to sing!"

Kaiba frowns.  "Sing?"

Mokuba laughs.  "Not you, silly!  You have to sit down and blow out the candles!"

So Kaiba gets in a chair while me and Mokuba stand around the kitchen table and, you know, sing.

~ Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday dear Kaib - err - Seto... ~

"Happy Birthday, dear big brother!"

Uh, yeah...

~ Happy Birthday to you. ~

Kaiba winces a little from our stellar singing.  Well, tough, we can't do any better than that.  He stares at the cake, thinking.  Is he trying to come up with a wish or something?  If he is, I wonder what he could want deep down inside?

Once he makes up his mind, he gives me some look I've never seen before, takes a breath and blows out all the candles with one shot.

Mokuba claps and kicks me in the shin 'til I join in.  "What did you wish for, big brother?"

He raises an eyebrow.  "If I told you, it wouldn't come true, now would it?" he says, reaching over and ruffling Mokuba's hair.  Kaiba glances up at me.  "Go grab some forks and plates... Joey."

And I go do it without telling him to go get them himself because, for some freaky reason, he called me 'Joey' out of the blue.

Kaiba cuts up the cake and we all dig in.  It's a pretty good cake.  It's a pretty good party, too, if you keep in mind that it's for a rotten, lousy guy who acts like he hates me sometimes.  I'm not really fighting with Kaiba, Kaiba's not really fighting with me, and we're sitting around eating the cake without killing each other.  I guess he actually paid attention to our little 'talk' before.  Kaiba's almost nice right now.

Once we're all done, Mokuba brings the presents over.  He has to make a separate trip to get mine.  Kaiba stares at the huge box.  "Who is that from?"

The kid points at me.

Kaiba gives me a funny look.

...I'm having serious second thoughts, here.  It's like... what's it like?  It's like I was thinking 'oh, yeah, he'll like this, so I'll buy it' without really getting the fact that he's gonna have to open that sucker up and I'll have to be right there with him.  And Mokuba, too.  Well, my friends won't be watching, at least.

Stalling sounds good.  I swallow.  "Save that one for last."

They're both giving me funny looks now.  "Is there any particular reason why you look like you're going to faint, Wheeler?"

I force a grin.  "Nah.  Just save mine for later.  Best for last, right?"  I get up, fumble around, grab Bakura's present, and chuck it at the birthday boy.  "Oh, wow, I wonder what this is?  Open it!"

Kaiba looks pretty suspicious, but he carefully opens up the gift I tossed at him.  He runs his nail along the edges of the wrapping paper, cutting through the tape.  Once the tape's gone, the wrapping paper just unfolds nice and easy in one piece.  Bakura did a real good job wrapping that present.  I think this whole thing would've been better if Bakura had actually been here to watch, but there's no point complaining about it now.  I'll tell my friends how it went tomorrow.

It's a book.  A textbook.  Yuck.

Kaiba reads the cover and makes a little "hmm" sound.  He flips through the pages with an interested look on his face.  I take a look at the spine.

"The Duel Monsters of the Nile" by Arthur Hawkins.

Looks like Kaiba's enjoying it.  As much as you can enjoy a textbook, anyway.  He puts it down after a while and opens up another present.

This one's just an envelope with a card and gift certificates in it.  From Tea.  Kaiba sticks it in his new book so he doesn't lose his page.

Next one's from Mokuba.  Kaiba opens the box and takes out a glazed clay... thing.  It looks like a bowl gone wrong.

Mokuba sorta hovers around.  "Do you like it?  You have so many pens and stuff I thought I'd get you something to put them in."  He straightens out a little.  "I made it myself!" he says, all proud.

Kaiba smiles.  "It's perfect, Mokuba.  Thank you."

Personally, I think it looks like... uh... the greatest thing in the world, so stop glaring at me, Kaiba.  "Wow, Mokuba, you did a great job on this thing!  Could you maybe make me one for my birthday, too?"

The kid tries to not look smug, full of it, or generally, well, Kaiba-ish, I guess.  "I'll think about it, Joey."  He looks pretty happy.  I try to look happy, too.  I see Kaiba nod at me out of the corner of my eye.

Next present's from Tristan.  It's another book.  Some sorta survival handbook.

Kaiba flips through it.  I read over his shoulder.  "'How to Deal with a Charging Bull'.  That's sure gonna come in handy."  Mokuba rushes over, looks, and starts laughing.

The birthday boy smirks as we go through the table of contents.  They're all pretty weird.  "Strangely enough, some of these entries might be useful, but the others..."  He shakes his head and puts the book down next to the one Bakura got him.

Next up:  Yuugi.  Mokuba starts backing up.  I don't know why, but I follow his lead anyway.  Kaiba pries the lid off the box and out comes a little white dragon statue.  I take a closer look.  Blue-Eyes White Dragon, of course.  There's a note tied to its foot and Kaiba reads it.  A second later, he unties the string, takes the note, and chucks it across the room without bothering to get up.

I'm about to give him a piece of my mind, but Kaiba opens his mouth first.  "The note was sickening, but the actual gift itself is acceptable."  He picks up the statue, runs a finger along its wing, and puts it back down.

Well, since he didn't chuck the statue across the room, too, maybe Yuugi's actually getting somewhere with him.

There's only one present left.

No way am I gonna let Mokuba watch.  This whole thing is bad enough as it is with just Kaiba.  I turn to the kid.  "Don't you have somewhere you have to go right now?"

He blinks at me.  "Joey?"

Come on, Mokuba, work with me here.  "You know."  I jerk my head towards the exit.   "Somewhere else you have to be."  I give him a look.  No offence, kid, but beat it already!

Mokuba stares at me.  "Um, right..."

"See ya later, Mokuba."  Hint, hint.

"I guess I'll... be upstairs."  He stares at me some more, but leaves in the end.

I turn around and see Kaiba glaring at me.  Great.  Everybody thinks I'm a freak now.  "I don't want your little brother to see, okay?"

Kaiba eyes the last box like it's going to attack him.  "Exactly what kind of present did you get me?  Should I call the police... or a bomb squad?  Would an ambulance be a better choice?"

Now he's never gonna open the stupid thing.  I don't know if that's good or bad, but I spent so long trying to find him something...  I have to go through with it.  "Just open it already!  It's safe, I swear!"  Kaiba looks like he doesn't believe me.  "If it were dangerous, I wouldn't be in the same room, right?"

He thinks about that.  Picks up the present.  He has to use both hands because it's so big.  He's gonna do it.

I break out into a cold sweat as Kaiba turns it this way and that, reads the label, shakes the box, that kind of thing, taking his time with it.  He's doing it on purpose just to drive me nuts.  "'To Seto, From Joey'.  It's rather... big."

I swallow.  "Yeah."

A smirk.  "Overcompensating for one of your many, many inadequacies, Wheeler?  Should I guess which one?"  He slowly runs his eyes down my body.  When he reaches my feet, he works his way back up just as slow.  I can feel that freaky, measuring gaze right to my bones.

Ha ha, very funny.  "Just open the damn box," I growl.  Freak.

Kaiba finally gets bored with staring at me and starts unwrapping his present.  He runs his thumbnail along the edges of the wrapping paper, slicing through the tape.  Once the paper's off, he finally opens up the box.

I wipe my clammy hands on my jeans.  Me, nervous over some stupid present?  Nah.

He reaches into the box and pulls out the... the...

He's not impressed.  "A dog costume, Wheeler?  What am I supposed to do with this?"  He's really, really not impressed.  "I thought that even you could do better than that."

Yeah, it's that dumb dog outfit Duke Devlin made me wear.  The exact same one.

I will go through with this.  It's Kaiba's birthday and he's gonna get something special.  No chickening out.

"It's..."  My voice is all squeaky so I try again.  "It's not what you think."  Better.  Now for the super hard part.  The words get sorta stuck, so it takes me a while to say the rest.  "Pass it."

Kaiba hands the thing to me without saying anything, looking curious.

It unzips in the front, so it's pretty easy to get into.  I get one leg in, then the other.  The arms are next.  I fumble with the zipper on the dog suit a little before I manage to zip it up.

I never thought I'd be wearing this thing again, but this is a special occasion, and I couldn't come up with anything better, so...

It's weird, but I'm not just doing this for Kaiba.  I'm sort of doing this for me, too.  Kaiba's always the one calling me a pathetic dog, but it was Duke that actually made me into one.  And he had it broadcast on TV, so just about the whole freakin' world thinks I'm a loser.  A loser in a stupid dog costume.  It hurts.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...  if I can do it for Duke and the world, I can do it just for Seto Kaiba.

My way.  My choice.  Mine.

It's just a dog suit, and I'm going to do everything I can until I believe that.  It's like if you do something enough times, it stops having so much power over you.

I hope.

I take a deep breath... and ease the dog hood over my head.

There.

Kaiba blinks at me.  I think he's a little shocked.

"So... um... Happy Birthday, Kaiba."  One of the fake ears gets in my face and I shake my head to get rid of it.

Kaiba smiles as the doggy ears flap around my head.  Not a smirk, a smile.  A real smile.  I look stupid, but he's smiling, so it's cool.

Might as well go all the way, right?

I get down on my hands and knees and bump my head against his leg.  "Woof!  Woof!"  I look up at him, all serious.  "Woof."  I get my 'paws' on his lap and try panting with my tongue hanging out.  I'm guessing I don't sound like a dog, but it's the thought that counts.

He fights against it, but that smile just keeps getting bigger and bigger and he can't help it.  He starts chuckling.  After a while, he can't hold it in anymore and starts laughing for real.  And he sounds... normal.  It's nothing like his 'evil' laugh.  It's... Kaiba.

It suits him.

Laughter's contagious, you know.  He sounds so damn happy I chuckle a little, too.  I can't believe I made such a big deal out of putting this thing on!  It makes him happy, so it's more than worth it.  I mean, it's his birthday.  He deserves to be happy.

He falls off his chair and ends up on the floor with me, still laughing.  We both laugh like idiots.  I think I see Mokuba peek in.  There's a 'click' and a flash of light, but the kid disappears again.  I'll worry about that later.  I don't want to wreck the mood.

Kaiba finally calms down after who knows how long.  He smiles at me.

It went good, it went better than good, but I still have to ask.  "So you like your present?"

Kaiba runs his hand over the hood and pushes it back so he can really look at me.  "Yes."

And he pats me on the head.

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The End.