The song "8 Minutes To Sunrise" belongs to Common and Jill Scott- hey, come back! It's not a songfic! It was just the inspiration! ^-^ All YGO charas belong to Kazuki Takahashi, but you knew that already. Some of Joey's interior monologue was borrowed from manga chapter 33, and the street fight he got the scar in was in chapter 25. And if you don't like shonen-ai, hit the Back button now and spare me the flamage.

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Sleep never comes easy when you have something on your mind. Joey knew that to be true in the past and he knew it now. He'd been sitting in this dark alley the whole night, a sleeping Yugi nestled on his lap and in his arms. They'd been on the run from Marik most of the day and couldn't establish contact with their friends until tomorrow- today, make that. It'd be sunrise soon.

Joey was normally a heavy sleeper, but when he was awake, boy was he awake. He didn't have a watch on, so he had no idea how many hours he'd been mulling things ever, his best friend and the only person he truly loved asleep in his arms, knowing that sooner or later everything could be all over.

'Strange, isn't it,' he thought, brushing a finger along his friend's face, 'that Yuge's the one who should be worried the most, and *I'm* the one who can't sleep. But then again, he's always been the strongest of us.'

His fingers traveled to Yugi's hair, gently twirling golden blond highlights. 'I never really liked myself until I met you, Yuge. You were this innocent kid everyone took advantage of, and I couldn't stand to watch you at first! I thought you were an idiot. But I wasn't mad at you…I was mad at myself.'

Joey shook his head at himself, full of contempt for the jerk he'd once been, and then traced a finger along the edge of Yugi's medallion, which rose and fell with his chest as he slept on. 'Was it really so long ago I stole part of your puzzle? When I gave it back, that took more courage than anything, crazy as it sounds now. But then I started to like myself a little bit for the first time in my life.'

He hugged the sleeping figure closer to him. 'I don't know if I could pinpoint the exact moment I realized what I felt for you- maybe it was when you got me to see the good in myself. I'm grateful for that. I love you, Yugi.' He smiled and felt a dim heat rise in his face. 'It's different from the love I feel for Tristan or Serenity or the rest of the gang- it's the kind of love you feel with all your heart. It's rare, like an endangered species. If it comes to you, you're not supposed to turn away, but take care of it. Protect it against everything and everybody.' Joey blushed even more in his solitary embarrassment. 'Man, if any of the other fellas could hear me now I'd get called out like you wouldn't believe. But I really mean it. You've done so much for me, Yuge, I owe you a lot. And if that means protectin' you at all costs, that's what I'll do.'

Joey looked down to see his friend's mouth curled into a tiny smile. It was beautiful.

'If Marik killed me today, I'd be happy because my last thought would be of your smile.'

If *Yugi* was the first to go, however…Joey shivered from both the early morning cold and his fear. 'I'd die right along with you. There's no way I could stand to lose you first. That's how much I love you.'

He felt helpless tears flow and hugged Yugi even closer to him, enough to feel the rhythm of their heartbeats. Who knew what messages they were sending to each other? He pressed his tearful face in his friend's hair, as if sharing his sorrow would connect them deeper.

Misty oranges and purples were beginning to show and stars to fade along the city skyline, it was sunrise now. As if obeying a clock inside his body, Yugi's violet eyes fluttered open, their first sight being Joey's distressed face.

"Joey? Is something wrong?"

Such an innocent voice, despite every hardship its owner had been through! What could Joey say? 'I'm scared for your life'? 'I'm scared of losing you'?

But looking into the eyes of the one he loved, he couldn't say those things. All he could get out was, "I was just thinkin'. That's all."

The other boy smiled knowingly and ran a finger along his friend's left cheek. The scar put there so long ago from one of Joey's street fights was, after all this time, finally fading away. "Almost gone," he whispered.

"I had to fight that punk tooth an' nail," Joey said, remembering, "but it was worth it to get your puzzle back. I made a promise to you."

Yugi's smile widened. "You've done a lot for me, Joey. I wish I knew how to pay you back."

The taller boy smiled at the sweet irony. "I can think of a way to start," he said with a twinkle in his eyes and leaned in to place his lips on Yugi's. What started as a joke quickly became serious as Yugi put his hands on his friend's shoulders for support.

"I love you," he whispered when the kiss ended, their lips barely an inch from each other.

'I hear…and I love you, too. I'll always be here.' Joey wiped his tears away, stood, and set his friend on the ground.

"What a great sunrise," Yugi commented.

"Yeah." Joey clapped the other boy's shoulder. "C'mon. We gotta get a move on if we wanna catch up to the gang before Marik does."

Yugi nodded and slipped his hand inside Joey's with a smile. "Yeah," was all he said, and the two began the long day's journey.