To Serve Epilogue.
Betaed by Skippyscatt
o 0 o
Seto stirred first as usual, but for once he just settled down and went back to sleep. He'd taken time off from his duties allowing his board of directors to take over yesterday afternoon. This was part of what he'd been so busy doing for the last two days while Joey found their Letter Lady.
When he woke again, he realized that Joey was watching him sleep with a rather silly grin on his face.
"Mmmm. What are you grinning at? Do I have bed head?"
Joey just grinned wider. "No. You just look so peaceful like that. I want to see it more often." Joey scrunched down to kiss Seto.
"Well, be happy. You will. I've arranged to take six months off. Not just not be in the office. I'm taking completely off. All I'll be doing is supervising the construction of KC's new central office building. The board of directors is taking over running Kaiba Corp. Unless something selfdestructs, of course."
Joey yelped happily and did his best to hug Seto into oblivion. "You mean it? Really? God, Seto, you've made me so happy."
Seto smirked at Joey and rolled him over onto his back. "I have something else that I think will make you even happier. You'll get it in a few days. As soon as it's finished. In the mean time. . . . breakfast."
Seto hauled Joey out of bed and handed him a yakuta, donning his own he headed down to the kitchen to see what Sakura had for breakfast. He never even thought of going out onto the balcony or into the fancy dining room. Joey had somehow managed to convince him that eating in the kitchen was better.
Joey followed Seto admiring the view and wondering what Seto was hiding. He wasn't too worried, Seto had admitted that he had a present for him he just wondered rather idly what it was.
As they ate, they discussed what they should do next. Sakura came up with a suggestion which she cheerfully threw onto the table.
"Why don't you just email everyone and tell them that you've got the Letter Lady and you're having a party to celebrate? Have it right here. I can get people from the village to come in and help me. We'll give one of the grandest parties ever."
Seto smiled. "Good, good. Excellent idea. I'll send out the email as soon as we decide what to do about Mrs. Fujiwara."
Joey sipped his tea for a moment and then sighed. "I don't think we should do anything about her. Let the Department and her relatives deal with her. She's demented. I don't want anything else to do with her. I want to forget she . . . strike that. If she hadn't done what she did, I'd be miserable. I wouldn't have you. So she threw us together but I still can't forgive her for scaring us all to death that way. Just let her go. We'll move on to more pleasant things. Ok?"
Seto gaped at Joey for a second, then just shrugged. "Ok. Joey you're amazing. I love you so much it's frightening. After all you've been through all you want to do is . . . "
Joey smiled at Seto and interrupted. "Get over it. That's all. I want to get better. I want to move on, love you, have my friends back, duel a little. Just live. What's wrong with that?"
Seto laughed out loud. "Not a damn thing. If that's what you want that's what you'll get. Give me a kiss and I'll send that mail."
Joey obligingly gave Seto his kiss and reached over to snag another sweet roll, mumbling something around it he picked up his teacup and wandered out onto the terrace to finish his breakfast.
o 0 o
The email Seto sent out started a cascade effect of returning people. Mokuba was the first, he came home from France the same day.
He mailed Seto that he was leaving on a Kaiba Corp. Lear jet that was kept at Charles de Gaul Airport at Paris, the trip would take approximately seventeen hours, which would put him coming into Hanida Airport at 3:00 P.M. the next day.
Seto was delighted, he'd missed his brother very much and was anxious to see him again. Joey was happy that Seto was happy but he was a little worried, he was still unsure of how Mokuba was really taking the whole 'Seto is gay' thing. He'd just have to wait and see.
Seto continued to receive and answer mails for the next hour. Happily realizing that everyone would be in town in time for his surprise. He was getting unnaturally excited. He just hoped that Joey didn't 'rumble the cheat'. Where the hell did I hear that?
o 0 o
Mokuba and Tristan came in on the same plane. Tristan had been in Paris on an advertising jaunt for his company. When he got the email from Seto he'd called Mokuba and hitched a ride with him.
Seto and Joey met them at the airport.
Mokuba deplaned first and nearly jumped into Seto's arms. "Hey. Bro' I really missed you. Really, really missed you. Damn, I'm so glad to be back home, I'm acting like a ten-year-old."
Seto smirked at Mokuba. "If I remember correctly, when you were ten you were a great deal more reserved than you are now."
"Damn. Bro' give me a break. We're both older and wiser. When are you going to make Wheeler an honest man? Tell me you're going to dump him and I'll . . ."
"Quiet! Not another word. I'll tell you about it later. Don't let him hear us."
Mokuba gave Seto a knowing look. Seto hated surprises for himself but he was really good at finding the perfect surprise for others. He wondered exactly what Seto was up to but decided to be an obedient brother, for now.
"Ok Bro' mums the word. Come on. Tris' should be here in a minute, he came in with me and he's snagging the luggage."
Mokuba dragged Seto into the nearby Gold Club. "We're supposed to wait for him here. Where's Joey?"
Seto glanced around. "Don't know. He was with me a minute ago."
Joey waved from a table near the windows. "Here! Seto, I thought I'd go ahead and get us a table . . . give you time to greet Mokuba and what not . . . You look good, Mo' how's things?"
Mokuba blinked at Joey for a minute. He still looked bad. Too thin, dark circles under his eyes and a little strained.
"I'm good. You been sick? You don't look so good." Mokuba turned to Seto. "Big Bro' I'm surprised at you. You usually take better care of people. You're the one who has to be sat on. What's up?"
Seto grimaced. "He's been running on coffee and nerves for ever. He actually looks better than he has for a while. He's gained five pounds. And he doesn't jump at every little sound anymore. He's going on vacation with me soon."
Joey raised an eye brow and started to ask a question, but Tristan came up just then and he forgot.
He greeted Tristan and they put their heads together for some gossip. Tristan didn't remark on Joey's appearance but made a mental note to rip Seto a new one when he got a chance. Joey really looked like shit.
Joey watched Seto and Tristan and worried. He knew that Tristan and Seto were friends so he didn't understand the glare that Tristan gave Seto. Seto just braced himself for some serious explaining.
The ride home started out with Tristan and Joey arguing about who was going to sit where. Tristan hated to sit backwards and so did Seto so they wound up with Seto and Tristan side by side with Mokuba and Joey facing them. Not very comfortable.
"Seto you got to get a bigger limo. This one sucks and the armor isn't worth shit. Why not get one of those stretch limos with the horse shoe lounge, and a wet bar and a fridge and . . . ow!"
Seto gave Joey a not so gentle kick in the shin.
"Stop whining. This limo is fine. We don't haul this many people around often."
Joey just grumbled and rubbed his smarting shin. Tristan tried to stifle his snickering and failed rather spectacularly.
Joey gave him a dirty look and grabbed one ankle. He yanked and dumped Tristan onto the floor where they wrestled around for a moment until Tristan grabbed him around the chest. He let go quickly as he realized he had grabbed Joey's harness.
"Oops, sorry. You're still a walking arsenal. When are you going to lose the fire arms?"
"When I don't feel like everyone and his dog is gunning for me." Joey bopped Tristan on the back of the head and dumped him back on the seat beside Seto.
"Ok you two. When you're through acting your IQ instead of your age, we'll decide where we're going to have supper."
Seto gave Joey an affectionate look and jabbed Tristan in the ribs with his elbow.
Mokuba just had hysterics.
o 0 o
When they reached the restaurant. Seto got out and claimed Joey's attention. "You'll like this place. The sea food is fresh, really fresh."
"They dip it out of a tank?"
"Yeah. One of my business associates told me about it."
Joey smirked at Tristan. They'd been in competition with each other 'before' to find the freshest sea food.
They were seated immediately and the waiter brought a menu. They studied the menu and Joey and Tristan both decided on lobster, Mokuba oysters and Seto shrimp. He acquired a taste for them from Joey.
The waiter took their orders and went away after Joey glared him into submission. Tristan wondered what that was about so he asked.
"I'm tired of every Tomcat, Dick-less and Harry-ass, hitting on Seto. All he does is ignore them, which makes them even worse. If I give them a few dirty looks they do their jobs then go away."
Tristan choked on his tea. "Dirty looks? How about incendiary. You nearly set that guys hair on fire."
"Well if they wouldn't flirt with my boy friend I wouldn't feel like shooting them. So there. Nyah!" Joey stuck out his tongue at Tristan.
"Nyah, yourself." Tristan returned the favor.
The food finally arrived and Seto turned pale. It arrived in a bucket still alive and flipping. Except for Mokuba's oysters which were shucked at the table and placed on his plate.
Joey stood up and motioned for the waiter to step aside.
He picked up the knife and grinned at Seto. He caught Tristan's lobster and whacked it in the head then cut it out of the shell, sliced it into neat slices and plated it. Then he started on Seto's shrimp. Seto watched in fascination as he dipped them out of their bucket and just chopped their heads off, he used his thumb to de-shell them and cut them up into bite sized chunks with the knife. All with some very interesting flourishes. He finished up with his own lobster and sat back down.
They ate slowly, dipping their food in various sauces. Joey's favorite was plain soy sauce with sesame oil. Mokuba favored curry, while Tristan liked wasabi. Seto tried several different ones and asked for the recipe for a ginger garlic sauce that he especially favored. It was neatly written on plain paper by the chief himself and delivered on a small tray. He thanked the waiter and the chief.
After tipping heavily they left for The Cedars.
o 0 o
Yugi, Tea and Serenity were the next to arrive.
They just came to The Cedars straight from the airport without any warning. And walked into a wrestling match between Joey and Tristan that had somehow wandered into the Audience chamber from the gym area.
They broke it up and Joey jumped Serenity grabbing her and hugging her enthusiastically. He hadn't seen her in forever. She immediately burst into tears.
"Hey! Don't do that. What'd I do? Tell me and I won't do it again. Please don't cry. Lil' Sis"
Serenity just sobbed harder. Joey cuddled and cooed at her until she finally managed to stop. Tristan handed her his handkerchief over Joey's shoulder. She dried her eyes and sniffled.
"I'm so sorry. I'd have written to you but Mom wouldn't let me. She said you'd turned out just like Dad. And . . . and . . . oh, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. I . . . I don't deserve it. And after all you've done I wouldn't blame you a bit if you never spoke to me again. "
"Whoa, hang on. I love you. You're the only family I've got that's ever paidattention to me instead of what they think I am. You're forgiven. I figured Mom wouldn't let you write. But she sure could have. Where is she, by the way?"
Serenity sighed. Joey had maneuvered her onto the stairs as the nearest place to sit. "She went to America. Something about a job. She's trying to get back into the design studios. Dad quit paying alimony and support when I turned eighteen. So she has to go back to work."
Joey bit at his lip. Then just rushed his fence and threw himself over. "And how are you making it?"
"I'm working a part time job and serving as a live in housekeeper to the Yamagutchi's. Don't care for it much but it's the only job I could get and I want to finish school . . . Joey!"
Joey just dragged his phone out of his pocket and called Roland. "Roland, go to the Yamagutchi's and claim Serenity's stuff. Make sure you get it all. And bring it here. Find out which of the local schools is the best and enroll her. Uniforms and what not. Ok?"
"Joey you can't do that. What if Seto doesn't like it."
Seto just gaped for a second. "What if I don't like it? Serenity, you know better than that. I take care of my family. Joey's my lover. That makes you family. Don't worry."
Serenity blinked at Seto then smiled so happily that Seto had to smile back. "I'm so glad. You both deserve to be happy." Serenity got up and blew her nose firmly then walked up to Seto. "You better take good care of my brother. He's had enough grief in his life. Don't you give him any. Or I'll . . . I'll . . . talk you to death."
Seto hugged Serenity and grinned. "And I believe we've been rather rudely ignoring the rest of your party . . . Hello, Yugi. Tea. Please . . ." Seto motioned with his hand and smiled at the waiting twosome.
Yugi came forward and offered rather shamefacedly to hug Joey. Joey scooped the smaller man into his arms and squeezed. "Man Yugi. I'm glad to see you. You ok? You look a little tired . . . or something. Here . . . Seto where's my manners, we need to get them into the salon and get some tea and snacks. I'm starving."
Yugi gave Seto a speaking look over Joey's head. Seto didn't bother to try to keep anything from Joey. "What Yugi? He's getting better. He still looks bad but he looks better than he has for a long time. He's putting on weight. He eats everything in sight but the doctorsays that's to be expected. Don't worry. I've got my eye on him."
Yugi just sighed and went to put his arm around Tea. Tea sighed and scooted out from under it.
"Joey, I'm sorry. I talk and talk about friendship and then turn around and . . . I'm really feeling like a hypocrite right now."
Joey reached out and tapped her on the nose. "You love Yugi and want what is best for him. Being friends with a yakuza thug isn't good for anyone. All you wanted to do was protect him from himself. Didn't like it much, but I do understand. You have some serious groveling in your future. But I'm in too good a mood right now. I'm really glad to see you all. . . . " Joey turned and caught Tristan sneaking into the salon. "Tris' you leave some for me. Don't hog all the steamed buns."
Everyone followed them into the salon and settled in for tea, snacks and catching up.
o 0 o
"You're hiding something."
Seto smiled into the dark. Only a few short days ago Joey would have nagged at him until he was ready to tell just to shut him up.
"Sure. Keep your secrets. You'll tell when the time's right. Right?"
"Will I like it?"
o 0 o
Joey smiled happily. All his friends were here except Mai and her new husband. They were on their honeymoon. He sighed, then murmured. 'No honeymoon for me. No wedding . . . ah well, Wheeler. Be satisfied with what you do have." He didn't notice Seto hovering in the doorway with a mysterious smirk on his face.
Seto distracted Joey for one after noon by sending him shopping for Serenity.
"Joseph, you have to go into Tokyo and get Serenity her uniforms and books. . . the only place you can get the uniforms is not in a good neighborhood. So you'll have to go. I've got someone who can tailor them. Now go."
Joey groaned. "Ok. All right." Serenity made an anxious face." Serenity, don't look like that. When he calls me Joseph, I know he means business. I'll have to go."
Serenity glanced from Seto to Joey. "I want to go too. I don't want . . ." she trailed off at Seto's hot glare. "Ok. Whatever . . . just . . . if they're really horrible, he'll have to take them back."
Seto sighed. "Sorry Serenity, the school requires uniforms. Although they're not that bad. Dark blue skirt. White blouse and a school tie. You can wear pants if you'd rather. But I think both . . . don't you, Joey?"
Joey just sighed. "I did something. Seto what did I do?"
Seto put on his most blank face. The one Joey referred to as 'I just played the trump card face' "Joey, I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't feel that it is good for Serenity to go into the city just now. You're her brother, she lives with us. It's your duty to take care of such things. Go . . . I already have the car around for you. Roland will be going with you. He has instructions."
Joey rolled his eyes, then went up to change into street clothes from his ragged jeans.
When he came back down, everyone except Seto stared. He paused at the top of the stairs to look down on them puzzled.
He was handsome in a very masculine way. His Armani suit of angora and silk fit him like a well-tailored suit should. It stretched over his broad shoulders and nipped in to show off his slender waist. The trousers had a crease sharp enough to cut and they clung to his muscular thighs just enough without being too tight. His hair was neatly braided into a thick braid that reached to his mid back, and his bangs had finally been tamed into something resembling order.
Seto smiled at him and snickered softly as Joey glared sulkily back. "Do I have ta? I do' wanna go. I wanna stay here. I wanna show Yugi and Tristan the new firing range. I wanna show Serenityand Tea the 3-D assembly. Why do I haveta go alone?"
"Because she's your sister. And I asked you to. Don't sulk. If you're good and get back early I'll have Sakura make steamed buns for you. Your favorite shrimp and sweet bean paste one's. Now. No kiss for you. Your grammar went into the gutter. Get going. Love you."
Joey sulked even harder. "But . . . no kiss? That's . . . please Seto? Kiss? " Joey blatantly whined.
Seto sighed and gave in, kissing him gently, then turning him around and pushing him gently toward the door. Yugi and Tea waved and said good-bye with twitching lips, Serenity hung on Tristan's arm and hid her face in his shirt. Tristan just grinned like a loon.
o 0 o
Tristan and Yugi cornered Seto in his office to ask what was up.
"Ok, Kaiba what's up, and where's Mokuba. I thought he'd stick around for a few days."
"Mokuba is making arrangements for me, he'll be here in about an hour. Go entertain yourselves for a while. When Mo' gets back, meet me in the library, I have a favor to ask of all of you."
Mokuba arrived within the stated time and they gathered in the library for Seto's meeting.
"Ok here's the low down. I love Joey. More that I ever thought I could love anyone beside Mokuba." He paused to give his brother a loving look. "So. According to Japanese law and custom we can't be married in a religious ceremony. So . . . I've been researching.
"There have been several instances where two male members of clans with no daughters were joined in a contractual alliance. For all intents and purposes . . . married. I have copies of the contracts right here. I just need some help in surprising Joey. He's a very good detective. He'll figure out something . . . in fact he already has, but he's doing his best to be patient. So, distract him for two days so I can get everything in order. Please?"
Serenity and Tea squealed happily. Tristan and Yugi both just looked stunned, Mokuba smirked like Seto. Then everyone settled down to figure out how to keep Joey in the dark and out of the way until everything was arranged.
Yugi broke the happy glow with a question. "Have you proposed to him yet?"
"No. I'm waiting for the rings. Or should I do that tonight?"
Tristan frowned. "You ought to propose tonight. He'll be happier if he has some inkling of what's going on. He . . . sometimes needs time to . . . get his head into something. I . . ."
Seto cut him off with a sigh. "Yes, you're right. He'll be happier if I don't spring everything on him. Tonight then."
o 0 o
When Joey got back from Tokyo he walked into the small dining room in time to see Seto straighten his tie for the hundredth time. He gave Tristan a puzzled look but Tristan just smirked in a knowing way and jerked his head at the others.
Seto paced then turned to Joey. "Joey . . . I . . . love . . . dammit!"
Joey hurried to Seto's side. "It's ok. What is it? Who do I kill? Whoever made you this nervous is a dead man."
Seto sighed and wrapped his arms around Joey. He put his forehead against Joey's and closed his eyes. The others stayed quiet and watched in amazement as confident Seto Kaiba fumbled and mumbled.
"You . . . you're the one. The only one . . . I mean . . . I want . . . I need . . . "
Joey rubbed gently at Seto's back. "Easy, baby. Whatever it is you're trying to tell me . . . just spit it out. I'll fix it . . . so . . . You don't want me to move out?" Seto gasped and shook his head wide eyed. "Calm . . . I know better than that. Just tell me already."
"I . .." Seto took a deep breath. "I want a domestic contract." Seto held his breath.
"Oh, is that all? Ok. I'll sign whatever you want. I know you want to protect Mokuba. It's ok."
Seto smacked Joey on the head. "Dammit, Joey. I don't want to protect Mokuba he has plenty of money of his own. More than he could spend if he tried. I want to protect you. You ass."
"Oh . . . ok. Whatever. I really don't care about your money . . . and that didn't sound at all . . . uummm." Joey's eyes glazed over as he realized what Seto had just said.
"Ohmugod. Fuckin'shitona . . . Seto! You just asked me to marry you. You sure? Ya wanna lumber y' self up wit a dock side rough. Y' sure? Really?" Seto nodded solemnly. "Really? Sure?" Seto nodded again.
Joey's whoop scared birds off the roof.
Tea and Serenity smiled through romantic tears, Yugi and Tristan shook hands and slapped backs. Mokuba just grinned until it looked like his face would split.
"Gee. Oh, hell. I gotta . . . I mean . . . fuck . . . my mout'"
Seto smirked, 'Later."
Joey turned several shades of red and snarled. Tea squeaked, Yugi grinned at Tristan and Serenity just looked puzzled.
o 0 o
That was the last peaceful time for the next three days. Seto was distracted and snarly except with Joey. Mokuba disappeared right after breakfast each day and stayed away until just before supper. Joey poked and pried but didn't get very far as he was swept away as soon after breakfast as could be managed. He didn't object too much as he was sure Seto was planning something nice for their signing and he didn't want to spoil Seto's surprise.
So they, Yugi and Tristan and Joey, wound up at a mall to do some shopping. Joey groaned and clutched at Tristan. "Save me. I swear going shopping with Yugi is as bad as going shopping with any girl. We'll be here all day. I know." he held up one hand palm out. "You're keeping me distracted. Amusing the spouse. It's ok. I understand. But if I have to be tortured, you're here too, Buddy." Tristan made a face and groaned, he was even more aware of Yugi's shopping habits than Joey.
They followed Yugi around the mall for what seemed like hours. Then they ran across a group of school children, mostly junior and senior high school age, with a few younger. Their teacher recognized Joey and called them all to order.
"Rank up. Dress your lines. BOW!"
Joey flinched. The whole group bowed to him. He bowed back with a puzzled look. Tristan was ready to grab him and take off. Then the teacher addressed the group
"We are privileged to see this man. He is one of the heroes of our time. He has devoted years of his life to the thankless and very dangerous job of under cover police work. Remember we read about him in the newspaper." Joey vaguely remembered a back page article. "He broke the back of a yakuza family and stopped the import of illegal arms and drugs into our country. Making our lives much safer. Please thank him properly."
By now Joey was bright red and looking flustered, Tristan and Yugi had grins a mile wide. When the whole group started to applaud, he joined in. People on the concourse asked what was going on and when they were informed who Joey was they also began bowing and applauding. All Joey could do was bow back.
The mall security came to see what the noise was about and 'rescued' them, politely requesting the people to move along and allow Wheeler-sama to go about his business. Calls of 'speech, speech' persuaded Joey to say a few words.
"Well, I'm not good at this. I was trained to keep my mouth shut, not make speeches. But . . . I'd like to thank you all for this. It's this kind of thing that makes it all worthwhile. The knowledge that I did do some good. I somehow made a difference. The police oath is 'To Serve and Protect' I did my best to do exactly that. I guess . . . well, the department wasn't so grateful. It's nice to know that you appreciate what I gave. I won't whine about sacrifices, I knew I'd have to make some to do my job. But . . . well. I'm gettn' maudlin so I'll shut up."
Joey bowed to the crowd and they all bowed back.
As he turned to go, he felt something against his legs and looked down. There at about shin level was a small boy. He reached out and wrapped his little arms around Joey's legs.
"Hey there, little guy. What's up?"
"Hug you. Don't be sad."
"I'm not. Not anymore. You lost?"
The little boy looked up at Joey and shook his head. "No Daddy around . . . there" The little boy looked around then pointed.
"What's your name?" Joey picked the little boy up and nodded to Tristan and Yugi. "Be back in a sec. I'll just get Shorty here back to his Pop."
Joey carried the boy back to his father, who was shocked to notice that he'd slipped his leash and thanked Joey profusely. Joey just gave him a short lecture on keeping his eye on the kid, 'they're slicker than a greased eel.' Then he ruffled the boy's hair and walked away. Back to Yugi and Tristan who were astonished to see how good Joey looked with an arm full of little boy.
"Well. That's that. Yugi, don't look at me like that. Tris' and Serenity will have kids. AFTER you're married. Or else. And you and Tea will have kids. So, just get ready for Uncle Joe to spoil them all rotten."
Yugi didn't miss the change of name or the sad expression that flitted over Joey's face.
The security chief for the mall interrupted them asking if they needed anything else. Joey turned to him and shook his head. The man turned slightly pale as he realized that Joey was, as always, heavily armed/ Joey just smiled at him.
"Relax. I'm not planning on starting WW III. I'm just not comfortable without them. I've worn harness every day for four years." Joey managed to look sheepish and stern at the same time.
I'm sorry sir. It's just that we don't . . . well . . . I don't even know how to shoot a gun. Do you have papers? It's mall policy, if we see someone armed we have to ask for paper.
Joey obligingly handed over his papers and watched as the man blinked then whistled. "Really? Any explosive? Any arm?"
"Yeah. Any. How'd you even tell I was armed?"
"Well, when you turned, your jacket stretched funny. We're trained to recognize the signs. Why?"
Joey grimaced. "I'm going to have words with my tailor. He was supposed to make sure that something like this didn't happen."
Yugi tugged gently on Joey's arm. "We better get on the way and stop bothering the gentleman. I'm sure he had duties to get back to."
Joey nodded. "Yeah. I know." He turned back to the officer and winked. "I'm sure you have better things to do, but if you don't mind, I'd like to trade a few war stories. And I'm sure that Tristan would like to hear them too. Wouldn't you, Tris'?" Tristan looked at Joey's grimace blankly for a second then came to.
"Yeah sure. I'd love it. Yugi, why don't you get whatever it was that Tea wanted, then catch up to us at the tea house in the food court. Ok?"
Yugi somehow got the feeling that he was missing out on something, but he agreed readily and walked off, whistling softly.
Tristan just sighed. "Wow. Saved by the whatever."
Joey turned to the officer and sighed. "Man you don't know. You don't have to hang with us if you really are busy . . . but shopping with Yugi? I'd rather take a beating . . . well, not really, but makes my feet hurt just thinking about it and he's too softhearted for cop stories."
The Chief grinned happily, most of his people would be interested in listening to Joey. He got his three best men on the walkie and told them to meet him at a smaller, more elegant tea house buried in the depths of the mall.
"How'll Yugi find us?"
"I'll have one of my people find him and tell him. He's rather easy to find."
So Tristan and Joey wound up drinking tea with five of the mall's best and swapping stories.
o 0 o
The next morning Joey kicked over the traces slightly. He didn't want to go back into the city and he wasn't interested in dodging Seto most of the day. Instead he decided to take a hand in his own entertainment.
After consulting with Sakura he took a pair of saddlebags to her and packed the carefully wrapped parcels into them.
"Seto? Hey, come up for breath for a second." Seto gave him a barely civil look. "I'm going to go for a horse back ride. Tristan and Yugi are taking Serenity and Tea into the city for some more shopping. If they'd told me last night, I'd have told them that I'm not a shopaholic and couldn't stand another day of shopping after yesterday. So, they're going, I'm staying . . . live with it. I'll be gone most of the day anyway. I'm going up to that valley that we saw from the chopper the other day. Can I come in for a kiss or should I just duck and cover?"
Seto sighed and came around the desk for a kiss and some cuddling before he went back to trying to write his nuptial contract. The contracts he'd gotten were not much help but they gave him a few ideas.
"Sorry. I'm trying to write our contract and not having much luck. I'm getting really frustrated."
"What's to worry? I give you every thing I've got and that's that. It's mine, I can do what I want with it. I don't need your money. If you go before I do, I'll be along soon . . . don't look like that. Give me my kiss and just write up a reasonable something or other. After all it's just a social contract."
Seto kissed Joey then sent him on his way. He returned to his desk with a few new ideas. What was his was his to do with as he pleased and he'd forgotten that for a moment. Mokuba had his own money. Joey had his. And he, Seto, had plenty to go around. He sighed happily, trust Joey to cut to the heart of things with his down to earth practicality.
Joey headed for the stables, carefully evading the others so that they didn't try to shanghai him into shopping. He smiled at the stable hand who came to help him and asked what horses were available.
"Well, we don't have many horses that are good for a beginner. But we do have some real nice steppers. You got experience?"
Joey shrugged. "I won't fall off."
The wrangler grinned. "Ok. Well. How 'bout. . . . m m m m m. . . . Kicker is Mr. Kaiba's personal mount, so you can quit droolin' over 'im. But we got Pet. He's a bit large, but you got long legs. He's a mutt. Part Morgan and part something big. Got spirit to spare. Good natured though."
The man led the way deeper into the stables and showed Joey a black horse with a head like an Arabian but built more like a Budenny and he definitely had some sort of larger ancestor somewhere.
Pet was nearly fifteen hands high and sturdily built. He was, in other words, very big. Joey eyed him for a moment then said. "Well, bring him out. I'll take a look at him."
When he was led out he immediately tried to nuzzle Joey.
Joey pushed his head away gently and looked him over better. He was in good shape but showed signs of not having been ridden regularly.
"Not ridden lately is he?"
"No, sir. He's a good horse but he's tall enough that the riders are a little hesitant with him, so he gets away with stuff and then they get even more nervous. . . vicious cycle. You like him?"
Joey nodded. "Yeah. He'll play me up a little, then find out that I'm not falling for that shit. I think he's just playful and bored. Saddle him up and I'll let him know who's boss."
"He might buck a little." The stableman didn't want any blame if the young master fell off.
I rodeoed some at The Farm. Angola Rodeo teaches a guy to have glue pants. Don't worry about me. He could crow hop and sidewind all over and I'll stay on."
So they saddled Pet together and Joey tossed his saddlebag onto the skirt and snugged it down. He mounted and checked his leathers. They were just a bit short so he started to dismount to lengthen them. The stableman stopped him with a grin and did it for him.
Pet, knowing a good rider when he felt one, decided not to show off any of his tricks and behaved himself. Joey's firm but gentle hand let him know that it wouldn't be tolerated.
Joey headed him up hill, into the inviting trails toward a small valley above the donjon plateau. He rode for nearly half an hour, presenting a handsome picture mounted on the big horse.
He rode like he was part of the horse, easily adjusting to the uphill angle. When they reached a stream, Joey encouraged Pet gently with a pat to the neck. Pet snorted softly and waded in without any more protest. They crossed and entered the pretty valley.
Joey dismounted and loosened the saddle. After removing the bridle and clipping a lead to the halter he pulled from the saddlebag he ground tied Pet and let him crop at the grass.
Joey spread the ground cloth and set out his lunch. Sakura had sent sandwiches, fruit, cheese and tea. He settled down happily to eat and just be for a while. No one wanted anything, no one needed anything. He could see around for at least a quarter mile in any direction and there was no way into the valley except the way he'd come.
He sat easily on the cloth eating and relaxing, watching Pet graze, the clouds drift by. Birds swooped after bugs and sang. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool. Joey ate the fruit and cheese then started on the tea and his sandwich.
He was munching on his sandwich and digging into the saddlebag with one hand when Pet came over to poke at his shoulder with his nose. Joey turned around and tugged gently on the drop line.
"You can't be hungry. I know you got fed this morning." Joey finished his investigations and produced an apple. "But here. You can have this. I think it's for you anyway. I had a pear and apple salad. With nuts."
Joey offered the apple to Pet who took it, crunching energetically. And slobbering all over. Joey groaned and ducked, just missing being slobbered on.
"See if I ever give you another apple. Carrots for you from now on. Slobber monster."
Joey laughed at his antics as Pet finished up his apple and continued to lip around in the grass looking for bits he had dropped. He now had green slobber instead of regular, strings of which were hanging from the corners of his mouth. Joey grimaced. This was going to be a mess to clean up, which he had to do before putting on the bridle again.
Joey finished his sandwich and tea and cleaned up his things. All he left in the tiny valley was some crushed grass and a crust of bread. He repacked his saddlebag and tossed it over Pet's back then prepared to rebridle him.
The only difficulty in bridling Pet was the slobber, but Joey easily wiped it off with a handful of grass. Which Pet immediately tried to eat. Joey wouldn't let him, deciding that there was enough apple juice in the slobber to bring about another bout of drooling.
Pet didn't object to the bridle and didn't blow when Joey started cinching up the girths. Joey mounted swinging into the saddle easily.
A gentle kick sent him into a collected canter and back down the trail in good form. Joey settled into the rocking canter with a light heart and a happy smile. Something really good was going to happen, he could just feel it.
O 0 o
The day finally came and Joey was ecstatic. All he wanted to do was sign the contract and get on with things.
Torrace's face was the first sign that something special was up. He came to get Joey early. Seto was already up.
"Sir, this way please."
"It will be ready in a moment. You need to be in and out of the shower and do your meditation. I have been instructed to see that you are relaxed. The ceremony starts at two." Torrance consulted his watch. "It's nine now. That gives you time to do some yoga and meditate, have breakfast and start getting ready. Mr. Kaiba has given instructions as to what you're to wear. Lunch is to be in familia. Scoot!"
Joey grinned at Torrance. "Ok. On my way to the shower. Then I'll head down to the gym. Put out hakama for me. I'll do tai chi today and meditate. Don't feel like yoga. Don't want to roll around on the floor. I'm a little too restless. If I'm going to meditate, I'll have to move around more."
After showering Joey went downstairs to the gym area and did an hour of tai chi, moving through ever more complicated forms until he was sweating. Then he settled siza to meditate. He dropped into a deep meditation so easily that he didn't even notice the passage of time.
When Yugi poked his head in to see what Joey was doing, he frankly stared. Joey looked so serene, kneeling on a zabuton, his gaze fixed on the middle distance. Tristan slipped up behind Yugi and whispered. "Wouldn't think he's capable of some of the things he's done, huh. Watch out if you get close to him. Let him know you're there before you get into arms reach of him."
Yugi's eyes got big. "That bad?"
"Worse. Just be really careful. I'll get his attention. I hate to interrupt his meditation because it's so good for him." Tristan approached Joey carefully and spoke softly. "Joey? You need to . . . come back."
Joey's eyes snapped to Tristan's face, sharp and clear. "Hey. Tris'. What time is it? I really went away there. Feel good. Hungry."
Tristan smiled at his friend. "You're always hungry. It's nearly lunch. In fact you probably should wait until after lunch to change. Be better anyway, save a change of clothes. Come on."
Joey stood up and draped an arm over Tristan's shoulders. Yugi put his arm around Joey from the other side and they headed for lunch, which was being served buffettstyle on the terrace.
Seto settled himself next to Joey and took his hand. Mokuba had finished everything in good time Seto was happy with everything and only hoped that it made Joey happy too. Little did he ever realize that Joey would have been happy with a dock side hovel and a single bowl for their rice.
They ate and argued about games and laughed. Everyone was waiting for the new Duel Monsters game to come out.
"Well, it'll be out in three months, give or take. This honeymoon is going to put it back a bit. I don't like to set a firm release date just because of this sort of thing."
Yugi eyed Joey for a moment. "And you know about that because?"
"Well I wrote the thing, didn't I? I supervised the development of the graphics and designed about half the new cards. So . . . yeah . . . I now about it. That's where most of my money comes from. I got some from the department. Back pay, vacation pay, and hazardous duty pay. Nearly didn't get any of it, but Seto put the screws to them with the help of my boss. But it didn't mount to a hill of rice next to what I made on the last game and what I'll make on this one as developer . . . well, it's kind of scary."
Yugi opened his mouth, closed it and then made a tiny wheezing noise. Tea frankly goggled.
"You. . . developed. . . designed. . . oh, my."
Serenity was frankly delighted. "Oh, Joey. I'm so glad. I knew you weresmart. Smarter than . . . I mean . . ." She rolled her eyes at a snickering Tristan and whined. "Help a gal out here."
Tristan just shook his head. "Not a chance. I want to marry you so I better not piss off the brother-in-law. At least not yet."
Joey snorted. "You better keep your hands off her until you do. I catch you canoodling in a corner and you won't have anything to canoodle with. Get me?"
Tristan gave Joey a pained look. "Yeah, I get you. Not that I would anyway. Kissing is one thing, getting into trouble is another. You can trust me, you know that."
"Yeah I do. But I'm her brother and guardian; whether she's legal or not. And I'm not going to take any chances even with you."
Serenity turned red, but Tristan just patted her arm and handed her some more tea.
Lunch broke up just then and everyone left to get ready for the ceremony.
Seto took Joey back to their quarters and straight into the shower.
"You look so sexy in that hakama. God, it's all I can do not to tear it off you. Shower, now."
Joey grinned. "Getting a little commanding here. Like it. We got time to . . . mmmffff" Joey sighed into Seto's mouth, this was getting good.
"No. We don't have time. Not if I'm going to wash your hair and dry it properly. And I want you to leave it down, so it has to be dry . . . don't argue." So Joey didn't, he just submitted to Seto's washing and drying. And fussing. It felt good.
Seto made quick work of washing his own hair but after he'd dried Joey's, Joey insisted on returning the favor. Seto enjoyed the combing and blow drying just as much as Joey did, even if his hair was quite a bit shorter.
After brushing and fixing hair they both went back into the main room where Yukari and Torrance were waiting. Joey was startled to realize that instead of western style suits, they were both going to be wearing formal Japanese wedding costume. All he could do was grab Seto and kiss him.
"Wow. Will you look at that? Matching. And . . . " Joey carefully turned the left sleeve cuff up. "Custom made. Very slick."
Seto smirked. "Only the best for my life partner. Stop stalling and let Torrance help you get ready. We'll be late. Not a good omen."
Joey gazed at Seto for a second. "Didn't think you believed in all that stuff."
Seto shook his head. "I don't but you do. So . . . get ready."
After being helped into the kimono and unsplit hakama, Joey eyed the haori happily. Instead of the traditional black and gray. Or brown. Seto had chosen bronze the kimono was of a simple basket weave pattern, and the hakama were water marked silk which changed colors with the shifting light. But the haori was special heavy chrysanthemum brocade with the Kaiba Corp. logo embroidered where the house chop should be, but on the back was Joey's house chop. Giving him place of honor.
They were finallydressed. Joey hadn't remembered how many layers there were to a full formal kimono. The under kimono, the kimono then the obi, hakama, another obi and finally the haori. They both sighed in relief as Yukari and Torrance knelt to help them on with the tabi and house sandals. Neither of themwould be wearing geta as they weren't leaving the house.
Then Torrance carefully brushed Joey's hair into a golden cascade over his shoulders. The glittering gold curtain fell almost to his waist. Seto decided he was the luckiest man alive to have him. The shaft of sunlight he was standing in made his hair glitter like spun gold and the shifting colors of the kimono and haori emphasized his grace and power. He didn't even realize that he looked commanding in his own formal wear. Joey thought he looked like a god. With his glossy brown locks, deep blue eyes and extraordinary height set off with broad shoulders and a proud carriage he was a match for Joey in every way.
Seto led Joey to the audience chamber where he realized that this was more that just a simple ceremony. The crowd was impressive, they'd been arriving for the last two hours, carefully primed before hand not to arrive too early. Many of Seto's business acquaintances were there. Mokuba had invited some of his friends, Joey gave up, there had to be at least a hundred people there. He just turned his attention to Seto and his friends and forgot the rest.
They made their way to a large ornate table at the front of the room. Set up on a dais it was clearly visible to everyone in the room. Approaching the table, Joey saw that there were two pieces of paper placed just so on a blotter.
Seto picked up one of the papers and cleared his throat.
"As you all know. I am a homosexual. Jonouchi Katsuya has consented, much to my delight, to be my domestic partner. There is plenty of historical precedent for this arrangement. Therefore, I . . . we have invited you to witness the signing of our contract. I will now read it to you all as the law requires."
Seto read the contract, which was simple. He agreed to provide love, affection, and emotional support to Joey, care for him in old age and/or infirmity and left everything to him in case he predeceased Joey. And the contract stated that Joey did the same for Seto.
After Seto finished reading the contract there was a moment of silence then everyone began to applaud. Joey wondered if he could blush any harder.
Seto placed the page carefully back on the blotter then reached for the pen. He signed both papers with his name in both romanji and kanji. After sanding the signatures carefully he tapped the sand off into a tray provided for the purpose. He handed the pen to Joey and watched as he signed following Seto'sexample.Seto was rather startled to realize that Joey's handwriting wasn't nearly as bad as he remembered. Joey sanded and tapped, smiling in a completely silly fashion that made Seto want to kiss him right there.
"Joey would you please turn around?" Joey obediently turned and Seto took a tie from his sleeve, pulling Joey's hair into a high ponytail announcing. "This symbolizes the tie between Joe and I."
One of Seto's attorneys came forward and picked up the papers, examined them then put them back on the table. He lifted a small pot and poured red wax at the bottom then pressed in his seal. After waiting a moment to allow the wax to cool he rolled each paper in to a tight scroll and tucked it into a sandalwood tube. Then he handed Joey and Seto each their copy of the contract. Seto handed Joey the pen and turned to the gathered people.
"We are now contracted for life." He reached into his sleeve and took out two rings. The rings were of titanium with a platinum insert. In the insert were five quarter carat diamonds. He gave one ring to Joey who took it with a shaking hand. Seto took Joey's left hand and slid the ring onto his ring finger. Joey took Seto's hand and carefully slid the ring on his finger, then he kissed Seto, a careful, public sort of kiss, which Seto returned. Then he announced, "Please . . . celebrate with us. There is a buffetand servers will begin circulating with drinks. Champagne, and mixed. As well as wine, saki, and beer. Please."
Seto motioned toward the banquet hall and watched as people began filing past them into the room, every one of them bowed to the happy couple and offered congratulations and best wishes.
The party lasted long into the night with the last of the celebrants leaving just after dawn.
O 0 o
Six weeks later.
Joey looked up from the paper he was reading to see Seto coming through the balcony doors with a handful of papers and a sour look on his face.
"What's up, love. Can't be that bad, can it?"
Seto snorted. "Well, Masahiro is arguing with Mokuba again. Mokuba wants to replace him. But getting him out is going to be a nuisance."
"He owns shares. Quite a few voting shares. Unless he's been stupid enough to sell them to support his extravagant life style. He lives better than we do."
Joey smirked happily. "Well. I know for a fact that he doesn't own shares anymore."
Seto made a questioning noise around his croissant.
"Yeah. Because I bought them about three weeks ago. So go ahead and give him the boot. Oh, and while I'm thinking of it. Between Mokuba's ten percent, your fifty one percent and my six percent. We've pretty much got the board of directors in our pockets. Nice huh."
Seto swallowed his coffee before he choked on it. Between them they now owned sixty seven percent of the voting stock. No one else owned enough or could gather enough proxies to out vote them ever again.
Seto gazed at his lover and partner. They were rather ridiculously happy and were taking the grand tour.
Seto stood up and walked over to the railing. He leaned on it for a moment looking at the Paris skyline then he turned to Joey.
"Joseph, are you happy?"
"Seto, I've answered that question every day for six weeks. Yes, I'm happy. Happier than I ever thought to be. We're rich, not that that is so important except for not worrying about things like food and rent. We both have jobs we like. I don't . . ." Joey looked up as Seto clasped his shoulder.He put his hand over Seto's and smiled as their rings clicked together gently.
"Well, I'm so happy it ought to be illegal. Would you like to go to Momart this after noon?"
Mmmm Yeah. There's some jewelry I want for Serenity. And I saw a jacket I want."
Seto smiled. "Yes. We'll go to Armani as well. You've quit wearing harness as well as gaining twenty pounds. It looks good on you. You don't look anorexic any more but you need a complete new wardrobe."
Joey grinned at Seto and finished his coffee.
O 0 o
Six months later
"Seto, I need to get back soon."
"I've got another game on my mind and it won't let me alone."
"Ok. I need to get back too. Mokuba needs to get off so he can go back to school. Time we went home."
"Yeah." Joey got a dreamy expression on his face. "Home. So good."
Seto kissed Joey gently and sighed. "Home sounds good to me too."
So they went home to Japan.
O 0 o
Looks around, wibbles. Wah! Its all over. Done! Finished! I can't believe it.
Sitting siza means that you kneel back on your heels with your feet flat, instead of with your toes turned under. It's easier on the feet for long term meditation.
Brightens. But. I have other stories. I've still got to finish The Price They Paid. And then I'm starting another GW. I think I'm calling it The Sampson Effect.
For a better idea of a Cohabitation Contract go here: http/ 248 reviews it's not possible to thank everyone individually. But thank you so much to every single one of the people who took their time to review my story. It means more to me than I can ever say.