"I am so sorry, Joey! I forgot I promised Yami to go with him to the museum!" Yugi exclaimed, looking up at his best friend guiltily.
Joey smiled sadly. "Hey, we can go to the arcade some other time then." He didn't mention that now he was left alone with nothing to do, as everyone else had made plans already. "You go have fun with Yami. …And buy me something cool from the gift shop."
The smaller boy laughed. "Okay! I'm glad you understand, Joey. You're the best!" he exclaimed, before running toward the game shop, where Yami was waiting impatiently to go to the museum.
The blond's smile faded. "…If I'm the best, why doesn't anyone want me…?" He shook his head quickly, then looked down at his watch and sighed. "Well, ten hours to do… whatever."
It hurt that no one would make time to spend with him now that they had significant others. Well, Yugi and Tristan tried to make time for him, but were often foiled by said 'others.' With Yugi, he easily forgave Yami; after all, now that he had his own body, he wanted to figure out how most of the technology worked for himself. Thus, Yugi always had amusing stories.
He called that specific hour of stories 'what Yami learned this week.'
For Tristan, though, it was much harder for him to forgive Duke. Had it not been for the dog suit thing, he'd probably give him a little slack, but not near enough to forgive him either. As it was, Duke either got his friend so worked up that he forget about his 'Joey time,' or he'd come with him and distract him so much that Joey just gave up and stormed off, which often led to Tristan being angry right back at him.
But Tristan was happy with Duke, so he tried not to let it hurt too much.
Hell, he was so lonely that he'd even be glad to hang out with Kaiba. He'd been missing for the last few weeks. When calling Mokuba in concern (well, Yugi and the others were concerned; he just pulled the short straw to call), he'd been informed that 'Seto is working on a big merger and probably won't be in for a few more weeks.'
…He hated to say it, but he missed the insults.
Sighing, the blond finally started away from where he'd been standing, a look of loneliness clear upon his features.
"You look lonely."
Joey squawked in surprise and looked around for the source of the voice that had spoken to him so… creepily. "What?!" His eyes landed on a girl with long black hair with blond and fuchsia streaks and intense red eyes, sort of like Yami's. He growled when he realized that a Millennium Eye was glowing on her forehead. "Who are you?!"
She smiled faintly. "A ghost of someone long forgotten. What is your deepest wish at this very moment?"
He frowned at her and crossed his arms, not at all sure that he should trust her. …But she gave off a feeling of love and—dare he say it?—care, and he felt compelled to answer. "I wish I had someone to love and love me like all my friends do," he admitted.
When they all went out, and then started breaking off into pairs, he was the odd one out. He wanted so badly to feel the happiness that was so obvious in the others' eyes, to feel the love of someone else for him. No one had ever loved him like that. Hell, it was a miracle he was loved like a friend.
"You love someone like this, my mop-haired friend?" she asked, tilting her head.
He shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged. "Sort of. I mean, I like Kaiba, and I have the potential to love him, if he'd just give me a chance." He lifted his head and flashed her a weak smile. "But he's straight."
"…Isn't he a bit young for you?"
"What? EW! No! The older one! The older one!"
"Ah, I see. …What if I could help you make your wish come true?" she asked, lips curving into a smile. "Would you accept my help in finding the one to love you?"
Joey began to shake his head but stopped himself. He had nothing to do and no one to hang with. He probably wouldn't be missed until tomorrow, at least, if it took that long. And if it took longer than that, that was fine; he couldn't get anyone to hang out with him anyway.
And he deserved to be happy!
"Yeah, okay," he answered, nodding slightly. "What are we gonna do?"
Her smile still in place, she shook her head. "You? You will do nothing but enjoy the company of dragons that care for you."
…That didn't sound good.
"What?! What are you—" he began, backing away from her as the Eye of Horus began to glow brighter. "Aw, come on! Don't send me to the Shadow Realm! I haven't done anything to you!"
She shrugged slightly. "You asked for help to find the one who will love you. I am simply granting that help." Her form began to fade from sight. "No harm will come to you, Joseph."
"Have you seen some of the monsters in there!?" Joey shouted, before the Eye gave one more flash and he saw no more.
Yami turned his head sharply and came to a complete stop. Yugi looked up at him in concern. "Yami? What is it?"
"I have not sensed magic of this magnitude since I was Pharaoh in Egypt. I thought she'd die and I'd be rid of her," the once-spirit stated, eyes narrowing. "Her magic is supposedly used only for good, but she's always got an ulterior motive and it always brings whoever she casts her magic on endless pain."
"Can you tell where it was?"
"Back by the game shop."
Yugi gasped softly and turned, dragging his dark back the way they'd came. "What if she got Joey?!"
Once realizing what the smaller boy had said, and once realizing that his fear was legitimate—because the woman was a sadist and usually stuck to easy targets—he hurried his steps. He at least knew that Joey would be able to take care of himself—at least until they were able to get him out—but he was worried about one thing.
Physically, Joey might be fine; emotionally, though, was hard to tell.
Coming to a stop just a few yards from the game shop, Yami narrowed his eyes and looked around. "Hasina! I know you're there!"
"Ah. Is that any way to greet your sister?" the girl asked, raising an eyebrow at him as she faded into sight.
He glared at her. "You are no sister of mine, Hasina!"
Yugi looked up at him and frowned. "Sister? I thought you said—"
"Aibou, this witch is my little sister," he spat, never taking his glare off of her.
Hasina shrugged and stood up from leaning against the building behind her. "I expect you'll be looking for that adorable little blond boy now."
"Joey? What'd you do to him?!" Yugi exclaimed, alarmed.
She glanced him up and down in interest, then smiled. "Ah. Your soul mate is quite cute. But I have done nothing to Joey. I merely sent him on a small trip to visit some dragons."
"Oh yeah?" Yami asked, eyes almost glowing in his anger. "And when will he be coming back?!"
"Whenever the one he loves and loves him goes and gets him, I suppose." She shrugged carelessly. "Pray to the gods that it's soon."
Joey groaned and turned his head, bringing a hand up to rub a throbbing temple. He blinked his eyes open slowly. "Uh, what happened…?"
"You fell from the sky and into the lake."
The blond turned his head in confusion to see a close up of dark brown scales. He tilted his head back to see a dark grey-blue eye embedded in the scale and squeaked softly. "Thousand Dragon?!"
"Ah… They call me Taus here, Master." The large dragon frowned. "Now how did you get here?"
He frowned as well and rubbed the back of his head, sighing. "I don't know. I was just told I'd be safe here with dragons that care for me."
"I see. Well, I can take you to the other dragons. I just happened to be flying when I saw you falling from the sky."
"…Really?" Joey frowned. "I wouldn't want to put anybody out."
"…Master, we're dragons, and we live together in one place. Our valley is quite large. You won't be putting anybody out but yourself."
The blond sighed. "If you say so." He climbed onto the dragon's back and slid his arms around the large dragon's neck as far as he could. "But you better be right!"
"Of course, Master," he replied, before taking off into the air with a few powerful flaps of his wings.
Joey let out a yelp and clung tighter to the dragon. "Taus!"
"Girls, could you give me a moment of rest? …Please?"
"It's not fair—"
"Ah, Akai, there's someone here to see you."
The black dragon sighed and turned his head. "Taus, please. I've been up since three this morning with— Master!" He brightened up instantly, lips curving into a smile that exposed all of his sharp teeth. "What a pleasant surprise!"
"Ah… Hi, Red Eyes." The blond waved hesitantly. "And… Blue Eyes…es…?"
Akai closed his eyes and tilted his head, looking oh-so-much like a curious but happy puppy. "I'm called Akai here, Master. And this is Kisara—"
The largest Blue Eyes nodded at him. "So you're the one he talks about all of the time."
The dragon next to her—larger than the other but smaller than her sister—nodded to him as well. "A pleasure to finally meet you."
The smallest Blue Eyes smiled brightly. "Master Seto was right. You are really cute!"
"Ah… come again?" Joey asked, frowning, as he tilted his head.
Aoi gave Shira a warning slap on the thigh with her tail. "That's enough of that."
"No, really. Kaiba said somethin' about me?" the blond asked, walking up to the smallest Blue Eyes and tilting his head.
Kisara shot her sisters a warning glare. "We can speak of it no more."
Akai scowled. "He deserves to know."
"I said no."
"I'm… going to go now," Taus stated, before quickly taking flight again, leaving the four dragons and one human.
The black dragon reared back onto his hind legs angrily. "Just because you're older than me doesn't mean you get to call all of the shots, Kisara. We've discussed this before!"
She reared back as well, eyes narrowing. "I am trying to protect my master. If he finds out we've let his secrets slip to his rival, he'll never trust us again, and we are his most loyal companions!"
Shira squeaked in alarm and hurriedly wrapped her tail around the blond that was so tiny in comparison to the two angry dragons and turned to walk into the cave. "Well, better go check on those eggs!"
"You do that," Aoi ordered coolly, not taking her eyes from the two dragons standing off against each other.
Joey let out a squawk as she carried him into the cave. "Hey! Akai, calm down!"
The black dragon let out a frustrated roar. "Kaiba has put my master through so much pain and you want me to keep his secrets?!"
"What do you want from me?! I could not protect my master when he was being abused, so I'm protecting him now by keeping his darkest secrets!" Kisara shouted, lightning crackling warningly around her teeth.
"Are you saying my master isn't worthy of yours!?"
"He will never be worthy of my master!"
Joey winced and covered his ears, trying to ignore the tears glazing over his eyes. He didn't want to hear anymore; why, oh why did the dragons' voices have to be so loud?
"How dare you say that about my master?!"
"He will never be able to give my master all the love and care that he needs!"
"How can you be so sure when you've never met him?!"
"He's such a little moron, Akai! Seto's so intelligent! Why should he be held down simply because your human can't keep up with him!?"
Joey turned his head away only to find a pair of angry blue eyes gazing past him to the entrance of the cave. He winced slightly, afraid she might be angry at him for having caused the argument outside. "I'm sorry; if I had known I'd cause this much trouble for you all—"
"My human is not a moron!"
"Well he keeps trying to defeat my master, doesn't he?! And he always fails! You'd think he'd learn! And all he does by setting himself up for these failures is get you hurt!"
"Oh, so you're worried about me now, is that it!?"
"I get tired of humiliating you on the battlefield!"
"I'm sorry I'm so incompetent that you're ashamed to fight me, Kisara."
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
"I know you believe me to be a fool because I stand by my master despite the pain I must suffer when we lose but that's no right to call him unfit for your master!"
"Seto needs someone to take care of him and help him; your human can't do that!"
"Well a relationship wouldn't last long anyway."
The blond winced slightly when his dragon agreed. So he thought he'd be an incompetent lover, too? So no one would ever want him…
"Because my master needs the same amount of care that yours does and your master cares about nothing other than his brother, his company, or himself!"
"DON'T INSULT MY MASTER!"
It was so obvious that they were about to fight. Joey looked up at the dragon holding him and whimpered. "If you want to kill me now for making him say such horrible things about your master, you can."
Shira let out a frustrated roar and dropped him on the floor, rushing back out to crash into both dragons, who'd both been readying their attacks. She was so angry now, beating them both with her tail and clawing and ripping with her teeth and white lightning—
A human should not have had to offer his life in exchange for two dragons that usually got along quite well to stop fighting. She was so angry that she didn't realize how dangerous it was fighting near the old cave until after the cave in of the tunnel leading to their eggs.
"Okay, so we've made a list of all the people Joey has ever had a crush on. We just need to narrow them down to who might return his feelings," Yami stated, looking over the small list of names. "…This appears hopeless."
Tristan frowned thoughtfully. "You know, there really weren't a lot of people Joey showed interest in. I mean, sure, we used to chase tail together, but he was never really serious."
Yugi looked up at his friends pleadingly. "Come on, guys! We have to get Joey out of the Shadow Realm! What if he gets hurt while we're all just standing around talking about his personal life?"
"Okay, Yami," Ryou sighed, shaking his head. "Please read the list."
"And let's see who would want the blond idiot," Bakura added, before he was elbowed in the side by his hikari. "Ow!"
Yami shot him a glare but began to read the list. "Valon—"
"No," Téa answered quickly, frowning. "Valon likes to tease people and Joey doesn't like being teased. They'd rip each other apart."
"Okay. …Bandit Keith—"
"Who put that name on there?" Mai asked in disgust, nose wrinkling slightly. "That is wrong on sooo many levels."
"Scratch one Bandit Keith," Duke agreed, nodding.
Yami sighed. "Okay. Mai."
The blonde blinked at him in surprise. "I'm still on that list? I thought you said the person that loved him. I mean, sure, the kid's great. I love him as a friend; but I don't love him like that."
"So Mai's out," Ryou sighed, leaning on the table. "Who next?"
"…She doesn't like him," Téa answered softly, sighing. "She's only nice to him because she's so polite."
There was silence for a while before Tristan leaned forward, looking desperate. "Who else?"
Yami at least had the decency to look slightly ashamed. "We've… never really noticed him take an interest in anyone else."
"I'll give you a freakin' hint," Hasina sighed, appearing out of thin air leaning against the wall. "He's a Dragon Master."
There was another pause as the statement sunk in before Duke, Yami, and Bakura began laughing. "That's absurd! Kaiba?!"
"Oh, Ra, I thought you might be serious for a second!"
Hasina narrowed her eyes. "I am being serious."
"Um, Hasina— Is it okay if I call you Hasina?" Yugi asked nervously, fidgeting.
She nodded shortly. "Yes, you may."
"Okay. Um, Hasina, Joey doesn't really like Kaiba."
The spirit's eyebrow lifted slightly. "Is that so? I thought they argued like an old married couple." She shrugged. "In any case, if you want your friend back, you're going to have to get Kaiba's cooperation. Only Dragon Masters can enter the dragons' valley at this point of the year safely."
Téa frowned. "Why?"
Hasina raised an eyebrow again. "Because, my dear, it's just about time for their eggs to hatch."
Joey scrabbled at the wall of fallen stones and rocks frantically, then turned and stared into the gloom of the cave and whimpered. He could hear the dragons' roars of horror and anxiety distantly through the rubble, reminding him that there were eggs in here, and they were probably more worried about the potential lives of their kits than they were about him. He sighed at this morbid—but mostly true—realization, then stood up straight and nodded to himself.
He'd take care of the eggs until the dragons could manage to get inside.
Kisara let out a sob, clawing at a few of the larger boulders, before turning a teary glare on her mate. "This is all your fault!"
"Now, wait a minute—" Aoi began, but stopped herself when she took in the horrified and furious expression of the dragon that was her mate as well. "…Akai…?"
The red-eyed dragon growled loudly, drawing the attention of the other dragons of the valley. "What did he ever do to you?" he asked softly, narrowing his eyes at the eldest female. "To say such horrible things about him while he can hear you, Kisara, is so not like you. I don't know what he or I did to make you so angry and bitter, but you had no right to take it out on him. I don't know whether I want our eggs to survive or not."
At this, every dragon in the valley gasped, and Kisara realized just how angry she'd made her younger mate. She'd forgotten that he thought so highly of his master, disregarding all of the human's flaws and valiantly serving beside him, even when the battle appeared futile. To make him wish that the eggs he'd made with her hadn't survived meant that she'd not only insulted his master, but she'd made him feel like an unfit father.
She'd forgotten that he had been the one hesitant to mate with her, exactly for the reason that he was afraid she'd find him incompetent or unworthy of being a father to their kits, because he was so much younger and inexperienced.
Akai had been abandoned as a kit, striving on his own to survive and believing no one would ever mate with him because he was so worthless not even his parents wanted him. It suddenly made sense that he'd be so protective of his master; the boy had basically been abandoned by his family as well. They both needed large amounts of affection and care to believe that they were really loved.
"You had better hope that my master is still alive when we get inside or you'll find yourself without a mate," Akai stated coldly, then turned and leapt from the cliff they were on, large black wings spreading out to catch the air like little parachutes. "I'll go find someone to help dig our eggs out."
Kisara watched him go as tears gathered in her eyes. She really didn't deserve someone like Akai. Even after giving his ultimatum, he still cared enough about her to find someone to dig their eggs out.
"…Are we going to ask him to stay, even if his master perished in the collapse?" Aoi asked softly, frowning.
Shira bowed her head. "I'm sorry I made the tunnel cave in."
Kisara lifted her head to see if the black dragon was still in sight, then sighed dejectedly and sank down to the ground. "I keep forgetting just how sensitive he is."
Seto sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "So let me get this straight. Some spiteful Egyptian spirit sent Wheeler to the Shadow Realm and you want me to go get him?" At the multiple nods he received, he scowled. "Absolutely not."
"But Kaiba, you're the only one who can get him!" Yugi exclaimed, tears forming in his large eyes. "It's not safe for us to go, and—"
"Who left him alone to be taken advantage of, anyway?" the brunet cut in, glaring at him. "The mutt's gullible after all. It's easy to screw him over. Why would you leave him alone if it's obvious he gets into trouble whenever you do so?" When no one answered immediately, he sneered at them. "What, too busy with your lovers to think about your friend? Tch, and after all your speeches about friendship and caring about each other."
Tears began forming in a few pairs of eyes. Tristan, however, growled and turned, punching his lover in the face. "You jerk! I told you I needed to go see Joey today and you deliberately distracted me!"
"Ow! God, Tristan, what are you—ow!"
"How dare you make me ignore my best friend?! No! Don't touch me!"
Seto watched the other brunet storm out of his office and couldn't help smirking in amusement after Duke ran after him, calling out apologies and begging for forgiveness. He turned his gaze back on the others and scowled. "Why should I care what happens to Wheeler?"
"Because—" Yugi began, then cut himself off. "…He's… your… friend…?"
"Don't speak nonsense, Moto."
"I'll give you a reason to care about what happens to him," Hasina stated, striding up to his desk and scowling at him. "Do you know who your dragons' mates are?"
He vaguely wondered how that led to dealing with Wheeler. "No, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me."
"Well, let me put it to you this way," she sighed, closing her eyes. "They all share one mate. That one mate is black and has red eyes. That mate is currently ready to leave them to raise their eggs alone because your dragons insulted his master. Now, normally, you shouldn't care. However, without a male figure for the kits, your dragons may fear for the lives of your dragons-to-be. It's quite common for kits without both parents to perish. Female dragons may be the dominant ones in relationships, but dealing out discipline is the male's job. Without their mate to discipline the kits, they could possibly kill each other off. Therefore, your dragons would be unhappy, and wouldn't do well in battle because of all the stress." Her lips twisted into a triumphant smirk. "And you wouldn't want that, would you?"
Seto scowled at her before reluctantly standing from behind his desk. "Fine."
Yugi blinked at her before looking up at his lover in confusion. "Yami, she doesn't seem like a witch. You said she only caused people endless pain and—"
"HE SAID I DID WHAT!?" Hasina shrieked, turning her flaming crimson eyes on her brother.
"Ah… Now, Hasina, don't misunderstand—"
"Why would I hurt the one that looks like my only companion in the palace? The companion that you had sent away because you believed he was using me?!"
"…I… am going to go now."
"You made me sound evil when really you were the one that made me this way!"
Seto sighed loudly in frustration. "Can we get this over with?!"
"Whoa…" Joey whispered, looking at the large nest made of the foliage of various leafy trees. It was nearly the size of his apartment. …Then again, that wasn't saying much. He hesitated before climbing up the side of the nest and peeking in the top.
What he saw took his breath away. There were maybe two dozen eggs at most. One half of them were white; the other half were black. Some of them had blue speckles and some of them had red speckles. He crawled over the edge and slid into the nest, surprised to find that the eggs were only half his size; granted, they were large for egg standards, but dragons were so big that he figured the eggs would be bigger.
He hesitated before timidly reaching out and pressing his fingertips to the shell. The shell was surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, really; it was a dragon's egg, after all) hard, and it felt very warm. He paused in thought before wrapping his arms around the egg and hugging it tightly.
He was immediately bombarded with anxious feelings of fear, want, and sadness. The kit inside the egg was upset, and he could tell that the other eggs were probably unhappy as well. He felt a wave of guilt as he realized it was his fault; their parents had been furious with each other and had upset their eggs, and he had been the cause of it.
"I'm sorry, babies," he whispered, stroking the shell of the egg he was hugging. "I'm a horrible human being. All I seem to do is make people mad. I take Yugi's time away from Yami, and he gets mad. I take Tristan's time away from Duke and he gets mad and jealous, then I make Tristan mad because I call the jerk on it." He leaned his cheek against the egg and sniffed. "I always make your mommies' master mad, too. Sometimes I think life would be much easier for everyone if I just stopped bothering them."
The waves of emotion wavered from anxiety to sympathy. He felt the egg grow warmer beneath his fingers and couldn't help a smile. The poor little thing was trying to make him feel better even though he was the cause of its pain.
"Silly babies. You're just like your daddy." He wiped away a tear as it slid down his cheek, then hid his face against the egg he was holding. "Always trying to make me feel good about myself and take away my pain." He sobbed softly. "You need to be like your mommies and be able to judge people for what they are. I'm no good. The only thing I'm good for is flipping burgers." Another sob escaped his lips. "Kaiba's right. I'm a worthless mutt."
He winced as he heard rocks cracking against each other in the distance; Kisara, Aoi, and Shira would probably be on their way to check on the eggs soon. He would have dwelt on the thought longer but for the egg a few yards away beginning to tremble. He watched it in horror before rushing over to it.
"No, no, no! Wait for your mommy or daddy to come! Don't hatch!" He hugged the egg and began rocking it back and forth. The egg went silent in his arms. He sighed in relief before squeaking as the egg began shaking anew. "Oh, come on!" He gasped as, with a crack, a piece of shell poked out sharply, then went back into place because of the strong skin inside.
The piece of shell was pushed against twice more before he heard a soft, miserable squeal. Joey sighed and grabbed an edge of the broken shell. He pulled as the little kit inside bashed at the shell with its tail and skull. With one last prod of its sharp tail, the skin inside ripped and both human and piece of shell were sent flying. It appeared that this made the shell weaken immediately, as it didn't take the dragon kit long to break out on its own.
The blond caught his breath sharply as he gazed at the kit. It had the eyes and physical structure of a Blue Eyes White Dragon but the black scales of a Red Eyes Black Dragon. It was covered in goo from the egg and was cooing in confusion, expecting a Mama or a Papa to be there to clean it. When it trembled, he realized that—though the nest was very warm—the goo must have been making it cold, because the cave was very dark.
Joey took off his jacket quickly and began using it to wipe the sticky goo from the little reptile's body. The kit cooed at him and began to purr, rubbing its head against his arm affectionately. He couldn't help a smile.
This kit appeared to believe that he was someone worthy of its time.
"You mean Wheeler's in there with your eggs? Alone?!" Seto asked, eyes widening. "He's clumsy and he breaks things! Why would you let him in there!?"
"He's only that clumsy around you," Akai stated coolly, narrowing his eyes at the human. "And only because you make him feel so self-conscious. You make him unsure about himself. Excuse me." He began down the tunnel, sniffing carefully for his master.
The brunet shot him a glare before looking up at Kisara. "I don't know what you see in him. He's just like the mutt."
Kisara sighed and let her head droop slightly. "We were not the only ones vying for his attention. A kit that survives without the help of its parents is considered one of the strongest dragons merely because so many creatures want to kill dragons before the dragons can kill them." She turned an intense blue gaze on him. "This was one of the few instances in which females fought over a single male. It's usually the other way around." She sighed and began into the cave after her sisters had past. "But he was worth it."
"You speak about him like there's more to it," the human stated, scowling.
"That's because there is. He didn't want to be my mate. Shira and Aoi's, maybe, but not mine."
"Why?" Seto would be lying if he said he wasn't upset. His dragons were perfect! Who wouldn't want to be their mates?!
"Because he didn't believe himself worthy of me," she replied, glancing down at him and eyes shining with amusement at the anger slowly draining out of his expression. "I'm a few centuries older than he is. He didn't feel he'd make a decent mate for 'such an experienced beauty.' He thought that surely, I'd pick another mate when I realized he was young, inexperienced, and a bit slow."
"Oh, I'll admit, he's a bit slow to learn." She smiled. "But the smile that lights up his face when he finally understands is worth the frustration. And I don't mind that he's younger than I; in fact, I like it. Younger dragons have more stamina, after all. And as for experience, well… We soon gave him the experience he needed."
"…I'm afraid to ask, but what do you mean?"
Her smile turned feral. "He's usually so tired after two of us that the other has to ride him if we want to make another egg. We took turns." When he remained silent (she supposed that he was too stunned by her blunt statement to speak), she continued. "You see, it takes quite a few tries to get even one egg. Since Shira's so young, she only got four eggs. Aoi got eight. I got twelve." She leaned down to nuzzle her master's shoulder lovingly. "As you can probably tell, my genius master, it took a lot of tries to get twelve eggs."
"Oh my GOD, I so didn't need that mental image!" Seto shouted, shoving her head away. "You and that—that third-rate duelist's—"
Kisara frowned. "Please don't say it, Seto. I do not wish to get in another fight with Akai. He was so angry with me that he threatened to leave not only me but Aoi and Shira if the cave-in had killed his master." She stooped over to look him in the eye. "And I don't want him to leave us. Without both the mother and father, the kits could possibly kill each other. Dames are for comfort; studs are for discipline. I don't want my kits to kill each other when I went through all of the pain of passing the eggs." She narrowed her eyes. "You wouldn't want me to have gone through that pain for naught, would you, Master?"
"Absolutely not," he agreed quickly, letting out a small sigh of relief when she turned and began forward again.
When they heard an infuriated roar, the human took off at a sprint and Kisara began trotting.
Joey shrunk away from the kit quickly, cringing as Aoi instinctively rushed forward to protect her baby. He slunk back to a corner of the cave as the protective new mother cooed at her kit, licking away all of the goo that the blond had failed to wipe away. He shivered slightly; without his jacket, and hidden in his dark corner, he was very cold.
Akai rushed in seconds later, looking around for his master, only to be distracted by the tiny blue-eyed, black-bodied being his mate was tending to. "Is that-?"
Aoi smiled, curling her tail around their kit lovingly. "It's a beautiful boy."
He leaned down to nudge it with his nose. "A boy…?"
Shira was in next, letting out a delighted squeal. "I'm an auntie!"
"…You're going to be a mother soon."
"But I'm not yet, so I'm settling for being a happy auntie!" She let out a startled squawk as Seto came flying into the cave and tripped over her tail. "Master! …What's wrong?"
Seto groaned and sat up. "Ow… Where's Joey?" He looked around for the blond in concern, then looked up at Aoi. "You didn't eat him, did you?"
She looked appalled at the accusation. "I would never eat a human, Master!"
"Okay, so…" He stood up and dusted himself off, frowning. "Where is he? I was told he was here."
Akai looked around in concern as well. "Master? Where are you?"
Seto turned his head sharply at the timid voice, startled. The Joey he knew wasn't hesitant or timid. This soft, cautious voice was wrong on… so many levels. He gazed into the corner he'd heard the voice coming from in concern, afraid that the blond had somehow managed to hurt himself.
The blond slunk into the dim light slowly, hugging himself and trembling slightly, though whether it was from the cold or fear no one could tell. He turned big, watery eyes on the dragons and CEO guardedly. "…I cleaned him off as well as I could. I'm sorry if I did something wrong. I didn't really know—"
Aoi leaned over and hissed, tongue flicking out to lick across his cheek. "You did perfectly."
Joey shivered, blushing lightly, and looked down at his feet. "T-thank you."
Seto was unnerved by this timid and… otherwise docile blond. He grabbed his wrist quickly and began dragging him out of the cave. "Come on, mutt. You're going to catch a cold."
"Ow-! Hey! Moneybags, you're hurting me!" The blond clawed at the taller teen's hand, cursing in his head when he realized that though he could pack a punch harder than the CEO, his damn hands were way too muscular for him to pry off. "Ouch…!"
Once outside the cave (Kisara had followed them out, quickly followed by Akai), the brunet turned toward him sharply, scowling. "You idiot! Everyone's worried about you and you're just hiding in a fucking corner—"
"Shut the fuck up, Kaiba!" Joey snarled, finally getting his wrist out of the brunet's iron grip. "You're lying! No one was worried about me! They're all too busy with their lovers to care!"
Seto sighed angrily. "Mutt, that's—" he began, but the blond cut him off.
"I don't need you to point it out to me, moneybags! I'm always getting ditched and dumped off by myself by everyone because they oh-so-conveniently 'forgot' that they'd already made dates with their boyfriends or their girlfriends or whatever—"
The brunet frowned, unhappy that he had to witness the blond's meltdown. It wasn't that he couldn't stand the tears, or the shouting, or even way the poor pitiful blond looked; he was more despondent because he could tell that each and every word the blond said he believed was the truth.
Joey sobbed and reached up to rub his tears away frantically, though deep down, he just didn't care who saw him anymore. "And I can't even go home because my dad doesn't want me—and I just get so lonely, and—everyone keeps saying I'm the best friend they could ever have because I just let them walk all over me and be abandoned-! If I'm such a good person then why doesn't anyone want meee!"
Seto slid his arms around the blond's waist and pulled him closer, beginning to just stroke his hair. "Calm down, puppy."
The blond turned his head to cry into his chest, digging his fingers into the CEO's shirt. "Nobody wants me! Nobody wants me…!" He hiccupped softly; despite being distraught, he was being slightly comforted by the brunet's hand stroking his hair. "…My mother doesn't want me… My father doesn't want me… Nobody wants me… Why? What did I do wrong to deserve this?"
"You did nothing, puppy," the brunet replied soothingly. "…Life just threw you a curve you hadn't been expecting. You'll bounce back soon."
"No!" Joey snapped stubbornly, hiding his face again. "No one wants me. I… I'm just a useless mutt. Pathetic dog. Why would anyone want me…?"
Seto winced, though it was more from the feeling of guilt welling up in his stomach than the glare he was receiving from Akai.
Had he really done so much damage to the blond's confidence? Had he really hurt him enough to make him believe the things he said? …He'd only wanted to see the blond's eyes spark, to see them fill with passion that few people were ever brave enough to show to him. After all, he… he was one of the few people in the world that would ever talk back to him, let alone argue.
But he'd only served to destroy that passion, that spark that he desperately wished to capture and nurture into a full-blown fire. The thing he'd wanted so dearly he'd unknowingly devastated.
Knowing nothing else to do, the brunet closed his eyes and—using one hand to tilt the younger teen's face up—gently pressed their lips together in a soft, sweet kiss.
Joey squeaked in protest, but other than that, didn't do much. Seconds later, he dug his fingers into the taller teen's jacket, sighing as the brunet's hands ran up and down his back.
Akai scowled. "Master, this is the same man who tormented you, if I'm not mistaken!"
Kisara scowled and grabbed his tail, dragging him back into the cave. "Leave them alone, Akai. If anyone needs a moment, it's them. Now, let's go see the kit."
"But what if he tries to take advantage of—"
"Akai. My master would not do that."
Joey blushed, breaking the kiss, and hid his face in the brunet's chest. After a few moments, he looked back up at the taller teen, frowning. "Why did you come for me?"
Seto cleared his throat and looked away from him, blushing lightly. "I was asked to by your friends."
"…Oh." The blond looked down at his feet, absently tracing a nonsensical pattern over the CEO's chest.
The older teen sighed and glanced away from him. "…I also…" he trailed off, then sighed. "I also… came because… I was… worried about you." As soon as he admitted this, however, he looked away.
Joey looked up at him and tilted his head innocently. After a moment, the blond grinned, then leaned up to place a sweet kiss on his lips. "Thank you."
Seto blushed and looked down at him quickly in surprise. "…Puppy…?"
"Let's go home," the blond suggested, smiling. "And then we can talk some more."
"Why the hell would I—" the brunet began, but was once again cut off.
"Because I asked you to." The smaller teen tilted his head, pouting slightly. "Isn't that enough?"
"…Ah…" Seto cleared his throat softly. "…I suppose that's enough this time."
"This time? What will I have to do next time?" Joey asked, smiling coyly.
The brunet growled and grabbed the smaller teen's rear. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Oh-! You pervert!"
"You asked. I answered. …And actually… I'm thinking that getting to know each other physically as well as personally is a good idea."
"Ah! Pervert! Oh, what are you—Oh, oh…"
Kisara turned a smug smile toward her mate. "You were saying?"
"My master obviously didn't want it at first!" Akai exclaimed, huffing.
"…It reminds me of you a lot that first time."
Joey let out a squawk as he was thrown to the ground, then laughed softly. "Jeez, Yug', I'm okay."
"I'm sorry, Joey, I should have gone to the arcade with you! I promised and then I just blew you off—let's go right now!"
Joey laughed and patted his friend on the head. "No can do, buddy. I've got a date!"
Yugi blinked at him for a moment in confusion. "Really?"
"With whom?" Yami asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.
"Me. Excuse me, Motou, but this is my puppy." Seto plucked the blond from the ground and threw him over his shoulder. "And you probably won't be seeing him for a day or two."
"Wait a second—" Téa began in surprise, but the CEO was already carrying her brash friend out of the room. "…Or not…"
Yami frowned. "…What if he—"
"Let's trust Kaiba," Yugi ordered, looking up at his friends and smiling. "I haven't seen Joey smile like that in a long time." He paused in thought. "…And I think that's the first time I've ever seen Kaiba smile period."
Joey gasped softly in relief as the brunet rolled off of him, then let out a moan as the CEO began lapping behind his ear, shivering. "Seto…"
Seto growled and yanked him closer. "Mine."
"…Yeah… I'm yours…" the blond sighed, smiling. "Thank you, Seto."
He smiled and began playing with the blond's hair. "You're so sexy, puppy."
Joey gasped again as he felt the brunet sliding a hand between his legs, then moaned as the larger teen merely rubbed the sensitive skin there, eyes fluttering closed. "Ooh…"
"I'm so glad I came to get you, pup. You're so beautiful."
"Ooh… Seto… Mm… Please, I—"
Seto brushed their lips together and smiled. "Goodnight, pup."
The blond sighed and cuddled up to him. "…Goodnight…"
The brunet watched the smaller teen for a few minutes, then smiled and let his eyes drift shut as well. "I love you, puppy."
"Mmn… Love… you… too…" the blond murmured, sighing. Then, he lay still, silent for the rest of the night.
Seto smiled and allowed himself to fall asleep as well.