Warnings/notes : Seto/Joey, one-shot, oocness on both their parts.

Disclaimer : I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh.

written at 7th november 2003, by Misura


The ending was like the beginning.

A snatched kiss, a brief touch ... a few days in which they wouldn't fight in public, evading each other instead or pretending not to notice it when the other walked past in the hallways.

The silence before the storm, Yami had called it once, smug in the knowledge his relationship with Yugi was a lot less turbulent. Seto had glared at him.

Joey thought Yami's comparison made a lot of sense though. The only question of course was of what nature the 'storm' was going to be. And what Joey could do about it.

He liked to think he wasn't as obsessed with being in control as Seto, who was a positive freak when it came to that, yet the amount of influence he could excercise over his not-quite-lover (which seemed to be non-existent) scared him a little sometimes.

All too often, it felt like he was being pushed around; a puppet of which Seto held the strings. From time to time, the CEO would let go of the threads that bound him but invariably he'd end up back with Seto, doing what Seto wanted him to do, saying what Seto wanted to hear from him.

He had tried talking to Yugi about it, who had shrugged and replied that Joey should follow his heart's voice, do what his heart told him to be the right thing to do. That didn't help him much.

Yami, when asked, had replied Joey should just forget about Seto, dump the jerk and find someone nice. That advice was even less helpful. If he could have kept his mind off Seto, Joey'd never have gotten involved with him in the first place, after all.

He had considered consulting Ryou, who was in an odd kind of relationship too, with that weird yami of his, but decided against it in the end.

Someone living with a psycho in possession of a great fondness of sharp objects could hardly be expected to have any good advice to offer about how to get out of a slightly twisted relationship. Though, for all Joey knew, Bakura might be an entire different person in private.

Seto was a lot different from 'Kaiba' too, even if the two sometimes seemed to mix, blending into one person, especially when Joey'd begun to spend more time with him.

Mokuba seemed not to notice, adoring both sides of his brother equally, or maybe Seto always was Seto when Mokuba turned his big purple eyes on him to plead for some kind of favor. It was hard not to envy the little pest for that sometimes, though it was harder still not to like him.

Perhaps it ran into the family, that boundless ability to charm, turn other people to helpless tools. Mokuba might be possessed of a more gentle and charitable nature than Seto, yet the ability to manipulate was there just as well.

The only difference between them was that Seto's magic seemed to work only on Joey, while Mokuba was adored by anyone who met him.

Joey sighed, wondering for the dozenth time that day why he couldn't do anything but wait for Seto to make the first move, why he was only capable of reaction rather than action.

He had never before thought of himself as being passive. He had always considered himself to be someone who liked to be in the first row, always ready for some kind of adventure. A bit of a hothead even, who acted and spoke before thinking.

Yet here he was, incapable of doing anything but waiting. He hated it, this sitting around, despised himself for lacking the strength of will to break through. Or to break free.

He should tell Seto he wouldn't take this kind of treatment anymore, not from him and not from anyone else. He wasn't some kind of pet, a dog to be whistled back whenever its owner felt like it.

Angrily kicking against a pebble to watch it splash up the fallen rain that was gathered in a pool, Joey wished he knew how to change. Himself. Seto. Both of them.

"Lost you favorite bone, mutt?"

He wondered who had told Seto to find him here, wondered if he ought to be grateful to them for telling.

"Naw, just being mad at you."

Seto snorted. Joey swore that if he'd get another smart-ass comment, he'd do his best to hit Seto. Not that he'd succeed of course, but it was the gesture that counted.

"I take it that's a 'yes'."

Joey shrugged. "Take it anyway you want it."

"Is that an invitation?" Seto inquired, probably with a smirk. Joey wasn't looking at his face, all too aware of the impact those blue eyes would have on his resolves.

"Did I say you could take -me- anyway you wanted to?" Joey questioned in return.

"Not recently," Seto replied.

"You're such a jerk, you know that?" Joey sighed, hearing Seto's footsteps behind him, coming closer.

"So I have been told," Seto agreed pleasantly. "Not that I care what people think of me, of course."

"Of course. You don't care about anything or anyone, do you?" Joey accused.

"I care about Mokuba," Seto pointed out.

"But not about me." The words slipped out of his mouth before he could stop them. They sounded plaintive, wailing. Pleading. Begging.

"Sometimes I do, just a little bit. Just enough to want you back." Seto sounded pensive. "It's odd, really. I don't understand why I would feel that way about a worthless mutt like you. But there it is."

"And here you are." Joey turned around. "And I hate you and I swear next time I won't listen to you again."

Seto merely smiled. Or perhaps 'smirked' was a better word to use to describe his expression.

"You can kiss me now," Joey added.

"Like I need your permission." Seto grinned, cupping Joey's face in his hands and doing as he had been invited to do.

The beginning was like the ending.