Take Me Away
People who don't know think the change will be extreme. They don't know that the pain will be gradual, getting worse and worse. They expect it to be one big change. Sometimes it is. Rarely. Most of the time… most of the time it's many small changes that people notice, but mark as insignificant, because no one would ever be so stupid. They'd get help. Only a complete moron would do nothing to help themselves.
Everyone noticed the change. How could they not? Joey was always loud, spunky, spontaneous; everyone still remembered when he broke into song during art class, using his paintbrush first as a microphone, then a guitar, then a drumstick, dancing around as he went for more paint and rocking out to the songs on his MP3 player. He even got away with disturbing the rest of the class—multiple times—like that, because his art was always so good that no one wanted him to be punished so he could keep working on his projects.
Little do they know…
His paintings had gotten darker lately. The dragons that had been cuddling and playing earlier were now ripping and tearing at each other. Beautiful scenery became dead, burnt landscape. Blue skies became black with clouds.
Lots of people are that stupid, and lots of people are morons.
Even Kaiba felt the change. Joey was slower to anger. He was slower to jump to his defense. He was slower to jump to his friends' defense. He wouldn't snark at him that he was a good duelist—he'd come in second at Duelist Kingdom, after all—or snap that he wasn't a dog, damn it! He wouldn't even smile when he commented on the fact that he wasn't a complete moron when he got a B on a test.
But no one knew why.
Do you feel the pain? It's like there's a pressure in your chest that keeps growing and growing and just won't stop.
He began to withdraw from his friends. Instead of walking home with them everyday after school, it went down to two or three times, until it was lucky if he walked with them twice a month. He declined any time to hang out with them; sometimes, he didn't even answer his phone.
It seemed like he was always tired. He slept in classes he loved and was usually hyper for. Hell, he fell asleep in PE once. Then he'd gotten hit in the head with a basketball. While the rest of the class laughed, he couldn't even manage a small smile, as opposed to the usual grin he plastered on to hide his embarrassment.
It just keeps growing and growing until finally it just explodes. Nothing seems worthwhile. Things you used to adore don't look appealing anymore.
Sometimes he'd come to school and disappear after half of his classes. Or he'd show up late, after half of his classes had already passed. What C's and D's he'd managed to scrounge up dropped down to solid you'll-never-catch-up-you-damn-slacker F's. Except for the single A he got in art.
Pain was the only thing to tune you into reality. A cut here, a slice there. No one would be looking at your thighs or ankles; no one would question a single cut on our wrist.
He stopped answering calls altogether eventually. He wouldn't answer the door when his friends came and knocked, trying to find out what was wrong. He eventually stopped getting out of bed unless he absolutely had to, like to eat or relieve himself; he didn't eat a lot anymore.
No one pays attention to you. They begin to drift away like soap bubbles in the wind, or leaves to the ground during a blustery autumn day. You're alone. So alone.
No one realized exactly how bad it was until Kaiba found his painting of a dead puppy laying in the wreckage of a car crash and his duel deck next to it in the art room one day.
No one wants you, so you decide to leave.
Dear Yugi and Yami,
Hey guys. It's Joey. I want you to have my porn collection, 'kay? I mean, not that you two need it or anything, what with you two going it slow, but I just thought you'd be the ones to really appreciate it. And I want you to keep my deck, too. I left it with my last painting. Hell, while we're at it, you can keep all of my art. I don't care what you do with any of it. Keep it as a memento, sell it for some extra cash, give it away to charity, I don't care. Why should I? I'll be dead. Don't be sad when I die, please? I'm just so tired of being alone. It seems everyone has someone else. And I know you guys don't mean to—hell, you guys probably don't even know you're doing it—but I can't stand it when we're hanging out and then you all couple up. We're an odd number now, and I'm the odd one out. I love you, guys. Don't let my death get to you too much, and try to get over it as quickly as you possibly can.
Dear Tristan and Duke,
Hey. Glad you could stop groping each other long enough to read this. Trist', you get all of my CDs. …And those blackmail pictures I got of you while we were both trashed. Good times, huh? Anyway, I just want you to know I love you (yes, even you, Duke. Stupid prick that you are, 'cause you made me wear a dog suit) and I want you to get over me quickly. …Though I'm sure you'll help each other through it, huh? Everyone will help their significant other, like always.
And then there's me. All alone.
Well, I'm dead now, so I guess it doesn't matter what else I say. Duke, you look like a girl and you stole my favorite leather pants! Tristan, keep an eye on him. He steals people's leather pants.
Much love (Duke, you're going to leather-pant-stealers' hell),
Dear Ryou and Bakura,
Hey. I don't really know what to say. We really didn't know each other that well, did we? Well… I'm sorry I didn't change that. I'm sure you're both really good people. Well, that's a lie. I'm sure Ryou's a really good person. Bakura, I'm certain that you're the devil's incarnate. Take it as a compliment since I'm not around to torture, okay?
I know we didn't really know each other, but you're my friends and I love you anyway. Tch, I bet Bakura's pretending to vomit right now, all this mush. I'd vomit, too. Well, I would, if I had any food in my stomach to throw up. Anyway, I love you guys and I wish you the best. Bakura, you thief, you stole my freakin' Swiss army knife! I'd say I want it back, but since I'm dead, I guess you can keep it. …If you absolutely must.
Dear Malik, Marik, Ishizu, and Odion,
Didn't really get to know you well. Sorry. I do know that you were fun to hang out with, especially when you annoyed Kaiba. Keep doing that in my memory, will you, Malik and Marik? And Ishizu, don't scold them too much. Kaiba needs a little pestering sometimes. Odion, don't let them kill Kaiba. They'd probably do it accidentally. I don't want it on my head, even if I am dead.
Dear Téa and Mai,
I'll miss you. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get over me quickly. After all, that's one of the great things about girls, right? You bounce back pretty fast? …Well, I could just be making that up, but please get over my death as soon as possible, okay? Everyone looks up to you two—whether they admit it or not—as their pillars of strength.
Besides, who wants to mess with two chicks that can punch better than Rocky? I love you guys. You hit me for being a pervert or being rude a lot, but I love you.
Best of luck,
I'm sorry. I'd explain, but you'd never be able to understand. I guess I'm not a very good big brother after all, huh? Just know that I love you more than life itself and that I'll always watch over you, okay? I want you to have all of my pictures. Remember the good times, not the bad times. Get over my death quickly, please. I hate to see you suffer. Big Brother loves you bunches!
Dear Kaiba and Mokuba,
It was fun while it lasted, huh? Well, this is goodbye now. I don't feel too good. Just want you to know I never hated you. You guys are my friends (even if I didn't act like it, moneybags!). Mokuba, don't ever change. Kaiba… Well, if you changed, I'd probably have a heart attack in my afterlife, so don't you ever change either, got it?
I guess I've got to hand it to you, Kaiba. I'm giving up with my tail between my legs like a dog instead of dealing with the pain. Kudos for you. Mokuba, don't mourn me too long. Your brother might get a little mad, heh.
P.S.—Seto Kaiba, I love you. I'd give you a kiss to knock your socks off before I die, but I'd rather kill myself than have you kill me. Toodles.
"Tch. Only a mutt like you would proclaim your love to your rival and then say 'toodles,'" Seto muttered, crossing his arms. He turned his head away so he wouldn't have to look at the blond's pale face. "Moron."
For reasons yet unknown, Joey had chosen right outside of Kaiba Corp. as his death bed. He'd sat down against the wall late that night, after everyone in the building had left, and slit his wrists. That was the only time in his life that Mokuba had thanked him and every god known to man that he always worked late. He'd slit his wrists, holding the small stack of letters in a death grip, and waited to die.
The doctors said that Seto had found him just in time; any later and he would have been dead.
He'd hesitated before calling Joey's little geek squad friends, but he got around to it eventually. Yugi and Yami had been the first to arrive. Yugi had burst into tears. Yami comforted him. Yugi read the letter and burst into tears again. Yami read the letter as well and once again tried to comfort his lover, but had a hard time doing so and keeping his own tears in check.
Tristan and Duke had arrived next, Tristan looking as if he was ready to murder someone. Duke tried to calm him down but nearly went hysterical when he finally laid eyes on the pale blond. It was Tristan's turn to comfort him. Then they read the letter and Duke went into a whole new set of hysterics, clutching Joey's hand and yelling that he didn't mean it, he could have his pants back, he was sorry about the dog suit, just don't freaking die. Tristan had to pry him off and lead him outside to calm him down.
Ryou and Bakura had arrived after that, the latter looking a bit peeved at having to come to the hospital past midnight. Ryou had taken one look at Joey, the one he'd thought would never give up on anything, and his world tilted. Bakura panicked as Ryou burst into tears much like Yugi had and yanked him into a hug. Once they'd both calmed they read the letter Joey had written. Ryou had then proceeded to rip Bakura a new one for stealing something and then ripped him another new one for stealing from Joey, who obviously didn't need that happening because he was in this state.
Ishizu and Odion had dropped by to give their condolences, bringing along Malik and Marik because they didn't trust them alone. None of them looked ready to cry, but Malik didn't seem to know what to do with himself. They'd all read the letter. Seto found himself worried about the maniacal grins sent his direction and the look of surprise on Ishizu's face. Odion lifted a hand and covered his face in frustration, muttering something about barely being able to control one of them let alone both.
Téa and Mai showed up in the meanwhile, the former looking ready to cry and the latter holding her, glaring daggers at the blond in bed for doing 'something a moron like that shouldn't be left alone to be able to do.' Then they'd read their letter and Téa really began to cry. Mai looked a little less peeved and a little more distraught as she comforted the brunette.
Serenity wasn't there yet, but she'd bought the first ticket to Domino when she heard. Seto knew that, though he'd be mighty ashamed of being found after a suicide attempt, the blond would be ecstatic to see her.
Then there was Seto and Mokuba. Mokuba had been distraught, started crying, calmed, then read the letter and started crying again, exclaiming that his big brother was a horrible, horrible person for calling Joey a dog and treating him like crap. He'd then wailed that Joey was a saint to love him even after the things he'd said and done. He'd finally quieted and fell asleep in the chair next to him, his head resting on his older brother's shoulder.
Seto himself didn't really know what to do. He'd never expected Joey to do something so drastic, so… so intense. It was painful, thinking that the one boy so full of life wanted so badly to die. Joey would never do that, not his Joey. Not the Joey that smiled to make his friends smile; not the Joey that would make a fool of himself for a laugh; not the Joey that tried so hard to succeed no matter what the odds; not the Joey who, when he did fail, got right back up and tried again. Not his Joey. Not his puppy.
He turned his head as he heard loud cursing, raising an eyebrow, to see Téa shouting at both Bakura and Duke. "What the hell would prompt you to steal those things from him?! Have you seen how much he has?! Because it sure as hell isn't a fucking lot! Do you have any God damned idea how much he must have saved for those things?! He even asked me to borrow ten fucking dollars so he could get the pants! He loves those damn pants! And that knife was practically his best friend! He's had it for years and all of the sudden you just fucking take it away?! And he knew it was you, damn it! Did you two ever stop to think that maybe Joey would notice his favorite pants and his lucky knife missing?! He may be a little bit slow, but he's not fucking blind!"
Tristan and Ryou found it in their best interest to back away from them; Yami and Yugi decided they had the right idea and followed their example. Téa wasn't one to curse. When she did curse, you knew something was wrong. And then, you ran and hid.
"…Tch… Figures…" Seto turned his head to the bed sharply to see Joey squinting at his friends, a bitter smile on his lips. "I can't even die right. I'm just a failure…"
It was always strange how Mokuba could be sound asleep enough to sleep through someone shouting or crying one second and wide awake the next, the elder Kaiba admitted, watching as his brother suddenly sat up and launched himself onto the bed.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow! I'm in pain, you little brat!"
And suddenly Yugi, Ryou, and Téa were on or around his bed, hugging him and crying. Seto decided that Joey would have a lot of affection-induced bruises soon.
Mai walked over and smacked him in the back of the head, scowling. "You little twerp! You had us worried!"
Joey rubbed the back of his head and winced, patting Mokuba on the back absently as the smaller boy continued to squeeze the life out of him. "Sorry. Wasn't thinkin' straight."
"No, I suppose you weren't," Ryou agreed, then suddenly turned an icy glare on Bakura that would have made the yami proud had it been directed at someone else. "Bakura has something he'd like to give you. Don't you, Bakura?"
The taller of the two rolled his eyes, then sighed and trudged over to the bed, as if he was walking to do something (shudder) nice for someone else. "…Here."
Joey blinked as something thick and heavy fell onto his lap and looked down, frowning. His eyes lit up slightly as they landed on the white ivory handle of his Swiss army knife; it was a family heirloom, one that he'd saved just in time before his father pawned it for money for alcohol. …But… He squinted his eyes at the knife and frowned again.
He'd never kept the knife in such good condition. True, he never had the money to actually put good care to it, but he took care of it. Now, the white handle was clean, bare of any fingerprints or dirt. He flipped out one of the blades to find it sharpened to perfection. The whole thing had been polished with a loving hand.
Bakura actually loved this knife. He took care of it almost as well as he took care of Ryou. Joey snorted at the thought; Bakura may have acted rough, but when it came down to it, he was whipped. He held the knife back out to the yami without looking at him.
This brought a stunned silence. It was obvious that the blond loved that knife. The way his eyes had lit up when he saw it, the way his fingers traced over the handle knowingly and the way he flipped the blade open with such familiarity and fluid motion that it appeared the knife had become a part of him. And he was giving it away?
"Why?" Bakura asked suspiciously. Seriously; he'd just tried to kill himself, why would he give away something that meant the world to him?
Joey raised an eyebrow, then began playing with the knife. "You take better care of it than I ever did. Besides, what am I going to do with a knife anymore? …Would you guys even trust me alone with one?" he added softly, before snapping the blades, screwdriver, and scissors back in place. He smiled a little and turned his eyes on the former tomb robber. "Tell ya what; you keep it for me until you guys can trust me with a knife again, 'kay?"
"Hmm… I would feel better if you didn't carry a knife with you when you're alone," Yugi admitted, and Yami nodded his agreement.
Ryou sighed, then placed his hands on his hips and glared at his yami sternly. "You better give it back, Bakura."
"Deal," Bakura agreed, holding his hand out to take the knife back. "I'll take care of it."
The blond glanced around the room, then frowned when he saw Duke and Tristan hanging back. "Hey. Why ya hangin' back?"
"I swear I'll bring your pants next time!" Duke exclaimed, looking about ready to have another panic attack. "Please forgive me!"
"…You're still going to leather-pants-stealers' hell," Joey answered, smiling slightly.
The raven-haired teen scowled at him. "I'm giving them back!"
"You deserve it!" Tristan answered, patting him on the head affectionately. "He's just teasing."
"…You stole Joey's pants?" Mokuba asked, frowning.
"They're awesome leather pants!" Duke exclaimed defensively. "I didn't think he'd miss them!"
Joey raised an eyebrow. "Duke, that's my only pair of leather pants. I'm gonna miss 'em."
"…Well, I hoped you didn't wear them often."
"Still. My only. Pair. Of leather pants."
"I see your point, damn it! I'm going to leather-pant-stealers' hell!"
"Glad we've had this conversation."
"…You're lucky you're bedridden!"
Joey smiled weakly and shrugged. "I guess it is. Guys, I'm still kind of tired. Is it okay if I go back to sleep?"
Yugi smiled at him. "Of course it is, Joey. We'll come back and visit you first thing tomorrow."
"Ah… Thanks," he answered, smile fading as he watched his friends leave the room. Once the door shut, he turned his gaze on the two Kaiba brothers, frowning. "So… who found me?"
"I did," Seto snapped, standing and leaning over the blond. "And let me tell you something, you stubborn little mutt—"
"I'm going to get a candy bar from the vending machine," Mokuba cut in, hopping off of the bed. "Do you want something, Joey?"
The blond glanced at him absently. "A Snickers bar would be greatly appreciated."
"Okay. I'll get you two."
The two teens watched the door shut again before Seto turned and grabbed the smaller teen's thick hair, pulling his head upward as he growled in the back of his throat. Then, seeing the confused, frightened gleam in the blond's eyes, he leaned down the rest of the way and crushed his mouth with his own. Joey squeaked in surprise and grabbed his coat, clenching the thick fabric in his fists as he whimpered. He tried to pull away, but the brunet would have none of it. He slid his arm around the smaller teen's back and pulled him closer, tilting his head enough to dominate the kiss and make it deeper.
Joey gasped and finally managed to pull away, tears forming in his eyes as he glared at the CEO. "Why would you do that?"
"Isn't… that… what you wanted?" Seto asked softly, frowning. Hadn't the blond written that he loved him, that he wanted to kiss him? "…Did you not like it?"
"No, you jerk! Why would you take what I said and use that against me, you—you—" The blond sobbed and turned away from him. "I told you something personal and you just throw it back in my face—why do you always have to mock me!?"
The brunet blinked in confusion. "What? But, puppy, I—"
"No! You're always just trying to humiliate me and hurt me and now—" Joey began, before he was yanked into another kiss. He whimpered and pounded on the brunet's shoulders weakly, gasping in relief as the kiss was broken.
Seto scowled at him. "I would not sink so low as to use this against you after what you've been through!" He grabbed the blond's hair again and tugged his head back, forcing eye contact that the smaller teen desperately didn't want to give. "Why did you choose in front of my building to die? Why did you choose to die where I would find you!?"
"…I thought you'd gone home earlier," he whispered truthfully, before trying to look away. "I thought you wouldn't be back until the morning. I thought I'd be dead and one of your other employees would find me. Not you. Never you."
"Do you know how I felt when I came out of the building and found you bleeding on the sidewalk!? I've never been as pissed off as I am with you right now!" the CEO snarled, then sighed in frustration and released the blond's hair. He began to run his fingers over the smaller teen's scalp, as if to apologize for his rough treatment earlier. "…Why didn't you ask for help, puppy…?"
Joey had to admit that the brunet looked completely lost, searching his face for an answer he wouldn't be able to find without his help. "…Why would anyone want to help a filthy mutt like me?" he asked softly, truly wanting the answer.
It was then that Seto realized what damage he'd done to his puppy's psyche. "…Life would be so boring without you, pup," he answered sincerely. "It's the same thing, day after day. Work, school, work, home. Arguing with you is the second highlight of my day. Spending time with Mokuba is the only thing I enjoy more than spending time with you."
"…Really…?" the blond asked softly, lips hesitantly twitching into a smile. "You look forward to seeing me?"
The CEO sighed quietly. "Yes, puppy. I look forward to seeing you. You're just that unpredictable."
Joey gave one last sob—tears of happiness this time—before he threw his arms around the brunet's neck and nuzzled his chin. "Kaiba!"
"I'll call you Joey if you call me Seto," he murmured, smiling slightly.
"…I'll let you call me 'puppy' if you let me call you 'dragon,'" the blond replied, looking up at him hesitantly.
Seto reached up and brushed some of the tears from his lashes. "You can call me 'dragon' any time you want, puppy. My gorgeous, gorgeous golden puppy." He smiled. "Kiss me."
Joey blushed. "Me?"
"Who else would I be talking to, Joey?" The brunet moaned as the smaller teen leaned in for a timid kiss, his lips clumsily pressing in. "Mm…"
"Hey, Joey, they didn't have any—woop." Mokuba paused in the doorway, blinking innocently as the two teens pulled away from each other with a wet smack. He took in Joey's flushed cheeks and his brother's shifty eyes and nodded to himself. "I'm gonna come back later."
Joey blushed and covered his cheeks, looking down at his lap. Seto frowned and stroked his jaw softly. "Don't look like that, puppy."
"Hmm?" The blond looked up at him in confusion. "Is there something wrong with the way I look?"
"Yes." He scowled slightly. "When you look so cute, all I want to do is molest you."
The blond blushed even more, eyes widening, before he let out a yelp as the larger teen shoved him back, hovering over him like a predator that had just captured its prey. "Ah… K-K-Kai—Seto—I didn't mean—aaahhhh…!"
Seto slid his hands up the hospital gown and smirked, for once glad for the revealing garment. "So sexy, puppy… Always blushing and timid to make me want to take advantage of your innocence."
"I'm not innocent-!" Joey began indignantly, only to gasp as the brunet's fingers found his nipples and began tweaking them. "Ah-!"
"As I said… Innocent."
"Oh… Seto, please…" The flushed blond squirmed slightly. "What if someone comes in and sees-?"
The CEO snorted. "Please. I'm Seto Kaiba. Who would stop me?"
"Ah… I don't know… The doctors?"
"…They can be bought."
"Ah-! Seto, please! Not here!"
"Don't argue with me, pup."
Joey blushed and crossed his arms, scowling as he stared at his lap. "I told you we'd get caught, you jerk. But did you listen to me? No."
Seto shrugged nonchalantly. "That intern was easily silenced with a few thousand dollars."
"The fact of the matter is that I didn't want anyone catching us, but did you care? Absolutely not! That guy walked in on us right as you were beginning to— …To… Uhm…" His blush darkened. "Touch me down there."
The brunet smirked and raised an eyebrow. "You mean just as I was shoving my fingers in and out of you?" At the smaller teen's embarrassed gasp, he chuckled and slid into the limo, placing the blond on his lap. "While you were making all of those cute noises, squeaking and moaning like that."
"I wasn't squeaking!"
"Yes, yes you were." Seto ran his tongue over the smaller teen's collarbone, smirking. "Just be glad that we're going to the mansion now."
Joey frowned. "…Why should I be glad?"
"…Hmm…" The brunet purred and nuzzled his neck. "Because I'm going to finally have my sinful way with you without being interrupted."
"H-hey! That's nothing for me to be glad about! Not being able to walk?! Last time I checked, that wasn't a good thing!"
"Even if I promise… to wait on you hand and foot when I'm finished?" the CEO asked, raising an eyebrow.
The blond shook his head quickly, blushing. "Seto! I promised to go see Yug' today!"
Seto raised an eyebrow. "…He'll understand."
"And Serenity's coming into town today!"
"…She'll understand as well, as long as we give her the right excuse."
The black-haired boy in question rolled the window between the front and back of the limo and scowled. "Seto, leave him alone. You've already covered him in hickeys; give him a chance to hang out with his friends and sister before you make him unable to walk!"
"…Pft…" The brunet grumbled to himself and leaned his face into the smaller teen's neck.
Joey heaved a sigh of relief. He knew he dodged a bullet on that one that he'd definitely pay for later, when the brunet cornered him in the bedroom.
But he'd be lying if he said he wasn't looking forward to it.