Company for the road

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Warnings/notes : Seto/Joey, AU.

Disclaimer : I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. This ficlet is part of 'Feast of the king's shadow', meaning its title is taken from this novel by Chaz Brenchley.

written at 13th october 2003, by Misura

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It was said that he was heartless, without any emotions but anger and disdain. Most people meant it as a sneer, but personally Seto considered such remarks a compliment. What use did he have for affection? That'd only make him weak.

He needed to be strong, to defend the weak against the dangers that lurked in the shadows. Occasionally, he would also be called upon to defend them against the strong, renegade priests who had forgotten about the responsibilities that came with their powers.

That kind of missions weren't his favorite ones, even if there was a certain satisfaction in defeating another mage, to pit his talents against another human being and find himself the superior one time and time again.

He disliked them for what came afterwards, the near-pathetic gratefulness of those whose lives he had saved -or at least made a whole lot easier. They made him want to yell at them. Because he hadn't done it for them. Everything Seto did, he did for himself.

His colleagues disapproved of him, making bets about how long it would be until he too would turn against the order imposed by the Pharaoh. Their slights, he had to admit, had hurt him a little in the past. Not anymore though.

Nothing and no one touched him now. Yet still he traveled from village to village, inquiring about Shadow-monsters or other problems a Priest might help to solve. A neat, regulated life.

If there was one thing Seto did care about, it was order. Order in his own life, and order in the world around him. That was why he did what he did. And because there was no better alternative.

Currently, he was walking through one of the borderlands of Egypt, near Kush, an area with a reputation for trouble. Seto wasn't particularly afraid though ; if one was to judge by his calm expression he might as well have been taking a walk in Thebes or Piramese.

Where he was, mattered little to the Priest, really. His loyal Blue Eyes would accompany him anywhere, ready to defend him at a mere word. A rare smile appeared on his face as he envisioned his most magnificent monster, a creature of both beauty and strength.

Thus, lost in a moment's revery, he almost missed the lone figure that was lying half-buried in the sand. If the sun hadn't reflected on the sword that was lying nearby, he might have walked past, never knowing he had just left another person to die. Now though, he knew. Which meant he'd have to take care of whomever it was, for the sake of his honor.

Sighing, Seto summoned one of his Blue Eyes to keep guard, while he inspected the near-dead man. Well, 'boy' was a more appropriate term in this case ; his age could hardly be any older than Seto himself. The boy was blond, an uncommon haircolor in Egypt. His clothing seemed to indicate he was some sort of soldier, a hireling maybe.

As he uncovered the small amulet of Bast around the boy's neck, Seto frowned. What use would a fighting man have for the special attention from the goddess of love?

" 'zuka." The boy had regained consciousness, more or less, his hand grabbing Seto's robes, his mouth trying to form a word.

"Spare your voice. I will take you to the nearest village. They'll take care of you there." Seto tried to sound soothing, if only to make his job of carrying the boy easier (since there was no way he was going to let his Blue Eyes humiliate itself like that and the boy obviously couldn't walk by himself).

The boy shook his head emphatically. The Blue Eyes, responding to Seto's growing annoyance growled low in its throat. With a soft 'eep!' the boy lost consciousness again.

After properly thanking the Blue Eyes for that, Seto began making his way back to the last village he had visited, praying they wouldn't make too much of a fuss over having to take in a stranger.

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The boy's name, Seto learned in the next few days, was Joey and he was, indeed, a hireling. Some wealthy merchant had hired him to guard a caravan. Which had been ambushed by bandits on the first day they entered Kush. Joey had been sent to get help.

"I have to get back." Joey stated.

Seto was almost beginning to wish the boy hadn't been so quick to recover. Anything was better than this endless stream of words.

"They're all dead by now ; it'd be useless."

"You can't know that for sure." Joey argued. "And it wouldn't take that much time, would it? You're a Priest. One of your monsters could take us there within seconds."

Seto shook his head, swallowing the snappy reaction to the suggestion of his monsters being reduced to carrying people like ordinary mounts and opting for a more diplomatic "It doesn't work that way."

"But - " Joey started, before a furious look from Seto shut him up.

"It doesn't work that way." Seto repeated, somewhat mollified. "You can't be expected to know that, of course, but I assure you it's true. Only the Pharaoh's Dark Magician can teleport at will."

"Oh." Joey replied. For a moment, Seto was fool enough to believe he had finally managed to stop the blond's seemingly incessant talking.

"Still, I think we should go back." Joey remarked, after a full ten seconds.

This time, Seto gave him no reply, not even a glance. Maybe if he ignored the problem it would go away on its own. False hope ... Fortunately he'd only have to bear with his unwelcome companion for three more days, then they'd reach their destiny.

Three more days ... he could manage that, couldn't he?

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He hadn't said 'goodbye' when he'd left. In fact, he'd thought 'good riddance' and hurried off in the middle of the night, as if he was some petty thief instead of a Priest. Seto told himself he'd done it to make up for the lost time.

Never before had he experienced the silence of the night as something else than peaceful. Never before had he found himself longing for the sound of another person's voice. It was annoying and humiliating and he sternly told himself there was no way he could be missing the chatty boy.

It was the next morning, when the sun was just reaching its highest point in the sky that he heard footsteps approaching from behind him.

"Hey, Seto! Wait up a little will you?"

Odd how he had been wishing for the boy's presence mere seconds ago and now longed for him to be miles away again. Normally he was more rational, more orderly than that.

"Why would I? What are you doing here?" he replied.

"Geez, Seto, isn't it a bit late for a morning temper?" Joey muttered, finally having caught up with the Priest's brisk strides. He was still limping slightly, his face pale and sweaty from the effort.

"I'm always like this." Seto informed him coldly. "And you didn't answer my questions."

Joey rolled his eyes. "I'm here 'cause I thought you'd like some company for the road."

"You were mistaken. Go back to the village and leave me alone." Seto retorted.

"Nope. You saved my life, so now you're stuck with me." Joey grinned at him.

Seto scowled, yet something told him arguing wouldn't help here. And somehow, he didn't mind too much. Besides, he could always order one of his Blue Eyes to chase the boy away if his company got too much on his nerves ...

-ending of this snippet-