Aria: Sparked by my sudden craving for vanilla ice cream earlier today. Disclaimer: If I owned Yu-Gi-Oh, do you think the shounen-ai would only be hinted at? Nor do I own Good Omens, or Neverwhere. Well, except for a few (very) dog-eared copies. But I don't own the rights or the authors, as much as I wish I had Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman around. But if anyone knows how to put me in contact with them.*wink*

Oh yes. And this was really supposed to be a one-shot, but I'm up to 18 pages and I'm nowhere near done. So, you get parts. Besides, anticipation is good for you. Enjoy.


It started with Joey being hungry. It turned into a coincidence, and then the coincidence became something of a game, and then the game became a habit, until, finally, it turned into something new and strange and completely indefinable.

But it started with Joey being hungry.

And this is how it happened.

* * * *

Joey ran a hand through his hair, the other twiddling a pencil impatiently back and forth. He sat with one long leg swung over the arm of the bench, with one foot resting loosely on the ground and a book sitting between his pinky and thumb, leaning up against his thigh.

He was hungry.

Yugi had promised him that going outside would keep his distractions to a minimum, being away from TV's and video games and cards.although he'd brought his deck with him. It wasn't as if he'd be parted from his Red- Eyes ever again.

And to give Yugi some credit, it was a spectacular day, and he was glad to be outside instead of wasting his time inside frying his brains trying to get a new high score on one of his video games. The sun felt really good on his neck and shoulders, and the park was kind of a nice place to be, even though people did keep walking by and staring at him. He wondered, idly, if it was really that odd for someone to be relaxing, reading a book in the park these days.

Watching the people rush by, he guessed it was.

And the day was nice, the book was pretty good.something about an angel and a demon and the antichrist.he hit a particularly amusing part and chuckled to himself.

But he was getting kind of bored.

And he was hungry.

Closing the book around his index finger, he looked around. Except for a few dog-walkers and some people valiantly trying to relax under nearby trees, the place was fairly empty, but he thought he'd noticed a small refreshment stand around. Ah. There it was.

Shutting his book, he stood up and stretched, feeling sun-warmed t- shirt stretch across his back and shoulders in a lazy, content kind of way, and reflected that late spring really was one of the nicer times of the year. Walking over, he felt the cool grass spring under his sneakers, and that was good, but then---

"What?" He stared disbelievingly at the bored girl behind the makeshift counter. She shrugged, and kept chewing her gum.

"Sorry," she said, without a trace of believability. "We're all out of everything. Just vanilla left."

Joey sighed. "Alright, fine," he said, and handed over a handful of crumpled dollar bill and clattering change that he'd dug from out of his pocket. The girl looked at the sad pile of money, and swept it into her hand before digging out a large cone of vanilla ice cream.

Turning away, Joey licked warily at the ice cream, annoyed. Vanilla. Figured. The most boring flavor ever. Although---he sucked a wayward drip off his lip and felt it melt against his tongue---he hadn't had it in so long that he'd forgotten that it was actually pretty good. Simple. Sweet. He shrugged, and walked along, concentrating on keeping the ice cream from melting all over his hand, until he saw a familiar pool of blue coat spread over the grass under a tree nearby. Curious, he walked over, and saw the ever-present laptop open and whirring lazily in the warm spring air, the usual silver briefcase glinting in a patch of dappled sunlight. The tapping of keys floated up, dull and monotonous, and he grinned.

"Long time no see, Kaiba."

Pale fingers paused, blue eyes flicked in his direction, and then the typing continued. "You know you're not allowed out without your license, Wheeler. Aren't you afraid you'll be sent to the pound?"

Joey grinned easily before licking a small rivulet of vanilla off the cone. "Gee, it's nice to see you, too, Kaiba. Hard at work, I see."

Blue eyes rolled. "Just because it has no meaning to you doesn't mean others are so fortunate," Kaiba replied, his eyes darting back and forth over the perfect rows of programming.

"So this is why we haven't seen you around for the last three weeks?"

The fingers hesitated, and Kaiba looked up, annoyed.

"Listen, Wheeler," he began, but then a drip of melted vanilla that had been flowing unnoticed over Joey's fingers fell onto his exposed wrist, and he looked at it, surprised.

"Oh," Joey said, looking down. "Um, sorry."

Quirking an eyebrow, Kaiba lifted his wrist and licked the drip off quickly, tasting warm vanilla and wishing, abruptly, that he could close up his laptop and lay back in the warm, sweet-smelling grass. He stared at the suddenly meaningless rows of characters on his buzzing screen wordlessly for a moment, until he looked up and realized that Wheeler was still looking down at him.

"What?" he asked, annoyed.

"Nuthin'," Joey replied defensively. " was nice seein' you, Kaiba." He waved long fingers---clutching a book, Kaiba noted with slight amusement---and walked off to a patch of sunlight some fifty yards away where he flopped into the grass and opened the dog-eared book, licking at the melting surface of his ice cream.

Kaiba looked after him, and tasted vanilla.

* * * *

Summer heat found Joey in the park once again, this time sweating in the shade of one of the larger trees, fanning himself with his math homework while highlighting historical hotspots in brilliant yellow. Putting down the marker as he finished the chapter, he stretched up against the tree and tossed the book off his lap, rummaging in his pocket for the dollar he thought was in there. Pulling out a handful of loose change, he counted through it carefully; tossing away the bits of paper and lint that came with them.

He'd been coming to the park almost every nice day, surprised and pleased to find that, after all, Yugi had been right and he'd been able to work much better here, outside in the sun and the soft grass. Not to mention the little reward he gave himself when he finished his work. He seemed to have developed something of a passion for vanilla ice cream, and he got a cone whenever he'd finished with his work, or gotten a particularly good grade, or when he had the money. The bored girl behind the makeshift counter at first seemed mildly surprised at his obstinately ordering the most unpopular of flavors, but she'd gotten used to it after a while, much as he'd gotten used to seeing Kaiba's long legs stretched out behind some shady tree, the sound of typing fluttering through warm late spring air, carried on the scent of grass and vanilla. The first few times they'd met here, he'd been surprised, but reflecting on it later he decided that if the park did wonders for his work ethic then it must surely have a magnetic appeal for the young CEO. They hadn't talked much after that first encounter---it wasn't like they'd been the best of friends, he thought as he paid for his cone and licked off a dangerously loose lump at the side---but they never seemed to sit that far from each other, and, though he didn't like to admit it, even to himself, Joey found that the now- familiar tapping of keys seemed to help his concentration.

Sitting back down against the tree, he listened for it, but it seemed Kaiba had packed up for the day and gone home, so he opened up his---now very---dog-eared book and turned to the place he'd last left, chuckling softly at the ridiculous wordplay and enjoying a blustering, shy character as he attempted to fall in love and save the world. Dappled in the shade of the tree, he didn't notice as another shadow fell over him, or as Kaiba smiled slightly

"More ice cream, mutt? Is that really that healthy?"
He looked up, squinting a little, and grinned. "C'mon, Kaiba, look at me," he said, spreading his arms. "I'm skin and bone. I think a little ice cream now and then won't hurt."

"Well, it's either that or this is your only meal of the day," was the dry response. He just shrugged, and grinned around a mouthful of melting vanilla that was cool against his tongue.

"Done with work?" he asked after he'd swallowed, nodding toward the silver briefcase that Kaiba held loosely in one pale hand.

"For now," the other answered, a little surprised at the friendliness of the question. True, they hadn't been exactly enemies of late, but it wasn't as if they routinely talked to each other or discussed anything in depth other than Joey's innate worthlessness and the fact that Kaiba was a bastard.

Although they hadn't really been having many of those conversations lately, either.

He felt a little awkward, but attributed it to the heat of the day and the weight of his customary trench coat. Looking at Joey, cool in shirtsleeves and worn jeans, he wished he'd reconsidered his usual wardrobe. "I see you've been busy," he said, gesturing towards the pile of papers and the history book that lay on the grass beside the other boy.

"Yeah," Joey said, glancing in the same direction. "Homework, you know. Be glad next week when school gets out, and I'm free of the stuff for the whole summer. Won't you?"

"Oh, yes," Kaiba said drily. "I can't wait to be stuck at the office every day from 9 to 5 without having school to break up the monotony."

Joey just looked at him, a little taken aback by Kaiba's apparent readiness to be friendly, as opposed to the cold-hearted bastard he'd thought he'd known. "Well," he said after a short silence, "that would be kind of a drag, I guess. Still," he said, brightening, "at least you run the company. You could probably get some time off if you really wanted."

"How astute of you," Kaiba said, amused. He watched Joey lick a trickle of ice cream from between his thumb and index finger. The scent of vanilla rose in the warm air.

"Is it any good?" He asked, curious, remembering the small taste he'd had a few weeks ago. Joey shrugged.

"I like it," he said, and then offered the cone up. "Want a taste?"

Kaiba hesitated, surprised by the artless familiarity of the action, but the scent of vanilla was rising sweetly through the air, so taking the cone, he licked off a small mouthful of cold, sweet, slightly melted ice cream and handed it back to Joey.

"Thanks," he said, and licked a trace of vanilla off his lips. Joey shrugged.

"No problem," he said, and wavered only briefly before continuing. "Sit down," he invited, indicating a spot of dappled grass nearby. "Take a load off."

Kaiba blinked. "I can't," he said, and didn't bother to hide the slight hint of regret that had crept into his voice. After all, it was a beautiful day, and it wasn't as if he was looking forward to getting back to his office and dealing with the reality of running an empire. He wished fleetingly that he could sit and talk with Joey, just relax in the warm sweet grass. But he couldn't.

And why would he want to spend time with the mutt anyway?

Joey shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said. "See you around, I guess."

Kaiba nodded, and strode off, one hand in his pocket, the other sweating against the slim silver handle of his briefcase, the scent of vanilla swirling in his wake.

* * * *

June saw Joey stretched out in the sun-warmed grass, chewing on a green stem and slowly flipping the pages of a brand-new paperback book, the unbroken spine gleaming in the golden afternoon sunlight. Since school ended, he'd been spending most of his afternoons in the park, and after finishing his book; he'd gone out and bought two more, one by each of the authors. The one he was reading now was much darker than the other, and he frowned a little, his eyes darting back and forth over the small print.

Reaching the end of a chapter, he closed the book and flipped onto his back, letting his arms sink into the warm, gleaming green grass, squinting as he looked up into cloudless blue sky, warm and clear, arcing thousands of miles up and around him. Closing his eyes against the bright sun, he dug fingers into the grass and pretended to feel the swing of the Earth as it flung itself headlong through its orbit.

A coolness fell over him, and he squinted one eye slightly open, looking up into amused blue the same depth and color as the sky behind him. "Hey," he said indignantly. "You're blockin' my light, Kaiba."

"You know, mutt, there are other things to do with your time than lying in the sun all day doing nothing," Kaiba said, looking down at long limbs loose in the dappled grass.

"Yeah, well," Joey muttered, closing his eyes again, "I'm not doing nothing. I have a book."

"So I see." A long-fingered hand came down and plucked his book from where it had lain in the thick grass, and Kaiba flipped it over, looking at the short summary on the back before he tossed it back onto the ground. "Which you find enthralling, I'm sure."

Joey quirked a slim golden brown brow but said nothing, feeling like nothing more than a puddle of contented warmth and melted heaviness, although when the coolness moved away, he felt a slight disappointment that Kaiba hadn't stuck around, and he was lazily debating the pros and cons of getting up and getting the other boy to come back when he heard the snap of a briefcase opening and a small pause before the air was filled with the soft tap-tap-tap of fingers flying over a keyboard.

Rolling his head to the side, he opened his eyes and saw Kaiba seated a yard or so away, back against the rough wood of the tree whose shade he was currently enjoying.

He grinned to himself, and, grabbing the book from where Kaiba had dropped it, held it up against the blue sky and kept reading.

He suddenly wanted ice cream.

It was surprising, Kaiba thought to himself as he typed in rows of code and programming, checking every now and again some of the other running programs on the laptop, how easily they sat together now. Silence, it seemed, was very conducive to their particular brand of wary friendship.

Was it even friendship? He didn't really know, not having too much experience to base such a decision on, but it was true that he no longer despised the mutt's company, and it was true that it was sort of nice to have a relaxed body so close to his own, and, looking at the mutt, he decided that the small frown of concentration that appeared between his brows while reading the small print must mean that he had some intelligence. Enough to appreciate a good book, anyway.

Joey glanced over. "What?" he asked, bringing his book down and laying it against his chest.

"Just wondering what you thought of that book," Kaiba said, a little abruptly, glancing back at his laptop. The typing sped up.

Joey looked at the book he held, considering. "It's pretty good," he said. "Not as funny as the other one I read, but I guess this guy's pretty good on his own, too." He paused, watching a lock of silky brown hair fall across Kaiba's forehead and over one blue eye. "Did you---"

The other boy looked up, expressionless, and Joey felt himself flushing under that cool blue gaze. "I mean, have you read it before?" The brown head nodded, and Kaiba turned back to his computer, but Joey, confidence bolstered by this unexpected peaceable response, continued. "It's a lot darker," he said, tossing his head slightly as he turned back to the book so that a few unruly strands of golden-brown hair fell back out of his eyes, "but really interesting. He likes that kind of awkward, trying-hard-but-not-really-getting-it character a lot, doesn't he?" The typing paused, and he glanced over. "What did you think?"

"It's an interesting concept," Kaiba answered slowly, staring at the screen in front of him and trying to ignore the sudden slight climb of his pulse. He shifted a little, uneasy in this sudden lack of tension, and didn't look over. "But it's been a while since I've read it."

"Oh." Joey watched him for a moment, and then turned back, flipping to the next page, and wondering briefly at the bizarre factors that had lead them to this; sitting in the warm late afternoon sun, only a few feet apart and not wanting to kill each other.

And then he shrugged it off and became immersed in the book, sparing only a few extra seconds to register a craving for vanilla ice cream.

* * * *

Aria: Thus endeth part 1 of, I believe, 3. Hope you enjoyed. Leave some love.