Welcome to My World

"…What is that, and why do I want it?" Seto asked bluntly, gazing down at the little blond boy watching him from behind Yugi's legs.

Yugi scowled and placed his hands on his hips. "Kaiba, he needs someone to watch out for him! Since Yami and I—" Here he shot a glare to his darker half, who cringed and rubbed the back of his head. "—Need to go see the Ishtars about how this could have happened—and I'll be damned if I let him go near Malik and Marik in this state—someone needs to watch him, and you're the only one I know that would be able to do it decently."

The brunet narrowed his eyes at the little boy—causing him to cringe and duck back behind Yugi—before looking back up at his adversary. "…Give me one good reason why I should."

Seeing that he'd frightened the little blond, Yugi drew himself up to his full height—which would have been funny, had it been another situation—and glared daggers at the taller teen. His glare made Seto's seem pale in comparison. "Don't scare him, Kaiba! He's already frightened enough without you freakin' him out! You have to take care of him while we're gone, okay?! And if he's go so much as a hair out of place, I'll rip your off your dick and gag you with it!"

The three teens blinked as the smaller boy giggled and turned toward him. He smiled and covered his mouth as he continued to giggle. "Yug' said a bad word!"

"Yes, I did, and you should never repeat it," the small teen replied, nodding slightly. He then grabbed the boy's hand and led him forward. "Come on, Joey; you're staying with Kaiba for a while."

The blond let out a small whine of distress. "I don' wanna stay wit' Kaib'! Wanna stay wit' you!"

Yugi sighed and knelt in front of him. "Joey, I don't want you around Malik and Marik. Do you remember them?" When the blond shook his head, he sighed. "They—"

"They're the crazy Egyptians," Yami stated darkly, eyes narrowing.

"…Aren' you Egyp-shin?"

"Yes, but I'm not crazy."

"…You were yellin' at a toastuh."

"Toasters are evil pieces of technology that will kill you when your guard is down."

Yugi let out a frustrated groan and shot Yami a glare as Joey acquired a horrified expression. "Yami. Stop speaking."

"It's true!"

"Yami!"

Seto sighed and grabbed Joey's hand, pulling him inside the door as the two began arguing. "All Egyptians are crazy, puppy. Especially that one."

"Yami didn' seem so bad…" Joey murmured, frowning a little as he was led away from the door. "Wheh we goin'?"

"Since Yugi was kind enough to bring you over at seven, you need a bath," the brunet answered, immediately switching into the attitude he used with Mokuba. Considering Mokuba was at some sort of weekend trip for school—outdoor school or something—he had to get these brotherly instincts out somehow. "Come on."

"But I'm cleeean," Joey complained, trying to dig his heels in. "I haven' been playin' in da mud, an' I took a baff yesserday!"

Seto rolled his eyes and scooped the boy into his arms. "I don't care. You need one for today."

"But I'm cleeean!" the blond repeated. "Don' wanna baff!"

The brunet sighed, rolling his eyes again, but walked into the bathroom and shut the door. "That doesn't matter, because you're going to take one anyway."

Joey's bottom lip began to stick out as he was set on the ground. He crossed his arms and scowled. "Not takin' it."

"Yes you are," the teen replied, kneeling next to the bath and turning the water on. "Come here and tell me if this is too hot." The blond sighed loudly and rolled his eyes but wandered over nonetheless. Seto grabbed his arm and gently pulled it to the water. "How's this?"

"'snot hot enough," Joey stated, frowning.

Seto sighed and heated it up a little. "How about now?"

"No. Dad ahways makes it really hot."

"If I make it any hotter, it'll burn you," the brunet answered, frowning.

The little boy looked up at him in confusion. "Yeah. Dat's da point. Dad ahways makes it burn."

Seto stared blankly at the water shooting out of the spout before slowly turning his head to gaze at the blond. "…Your father burns you on purpose?"

"Yeah." Joey frowned at him, brows furrowing together. "But I deserve it. 's my fawt Ma left an' took Ren-Ren wit' her." He forced a smile. "I'm okay wit' it. I've ahways done somet'in' wron' ta deserve it."

"…Well, I'm not going to burn you. As far as I'm concerned, you haven't done anything to deserve it yet." The teen couldn't help a small smile as the blond's face immediately broke out into a large grin. "So let's get your clothes off and get you clean."

Now ecstatic with the prospect of a bath that wouldn't hurt, the blond lifted his shirt and hurried to get it off. "Okay!"

Seto watched in growing horror as the boy exposed his terribly scarred skin. True, his back was riddled with scars from his step-father, but Joey had them all over. Various scars crossed his arms and chest, and even a few burn scars dragged across his stomach. He lifted his hands to grab the blond's shoulders and turned him around slowly. The scars were worse on his back. Most of them were jagged, as if he'd been cut with glass, but there were others that were also from burns.

And then there was the large scar on his left shoulder, obviously reopened again and again, in the shape of a wavy paw print.

"…Kaib'?" Joey asked softly, tensing up as the teen traced the scar on his shoulder. "You okay?"

"How did you get this?" the brunet asked sharply, making him wince.

"Dad hits me when he gets mad. Sometimes, when I'm really bad, he gets some glass an' cuts me open." The blond's eyes began to water. "Did I do somet'in' bad, Kaib'? Ah you gonna cut me open?"

"No! Don't even think that!" Seto ordered, turning the boy to face him. "I'm not cruel. I'll take care of you."

Joey sniffled and rubbed his eyes quickly. "Ya mean it?"

"Yes."

The blond gazed up at him silently, looking at him through his bangs. It was then that Seto realized that the boy was a lot smarter than he gave him credit for. He'd thought that Joey just stared at people because he had been in one too many gang fights and needed time to focus on the person in question, but it wasn't that. He could see the thoughts in the intense brown eyes flying at a speed he'd never thought the blond capable of. A child should never have to think that fast.

He could see his thoughts easily. Was this man telling the truth? Was he trustworthy? Would he hurt me? He's touching me; could the hands holding me break me? His eyes, were they always that cold? He didn't want me at first, so why does he want to take care of me now? Will this man help me… or will he hurt me?

Joey was very much like a puppy, no matter how much he denied it. He was always learning from his experiences. This caused pain; don't repeat it. This got him a treat; repeat it when you really need it. This saved his life; use it constantly. This had left him open for attack; keep it from happening ever again.

He had been trained since early childhood to be a good dog or else.

Seto brushed the blond's hair out of his eyes and let the corner of his mouth quirk upward in an awkward smile. "Let's get you clean."

"…'kay."

-x-x-x-

"Wheh's Akai!? I can' sleep wit'out Akai!"

Seto groaned and let his head fall into his hands in frustration. "…And who, puppy, is Akai?"

The blond lifted his big, teary brown eyes to the teen and whimpered. "He's my dwagon. I can' sleep wit'out him, Kaib'!

"…You know what, tonight, you're going to have to go without him tonight, okay?" the brunet asked sharply, turning to face the little boy, only to find that the tears that had been in his eyes were currently running down his cheeks. Remembering Yugi's threat—and knowing fully well that the midget would carry out that threat if Joey was involved—he pulled the boy into his arms and sighed. "I don't know where Akai is. Can't you do without him one night?"

Joey sniffled. "B-but who's gonna keep da bad dreams away den?"

The brunet groaned and rolled his eyes. "Damn it…"

"What's dat word mean?"

"Um… It's a word grown ups get to say when they're frustrated."

"…So it's anudder bad word."

"Yes. And I would be very happy if you didn't tell Yugi."

"…'kay." Joey sniffled again before letting out a whimper. "I can' sleep wit'out Akai!"

Seto sighed and ruffled his hair thoughtfully, then patted his shoulder. "I'll be right back."

"What if da bed monsters get me!"

The teen let out another groan but humored the boy by looking under his bed. "I see no monsters."

The blond sat up and leaned over the edge. "No squiglies or mugwumps?"

"'Mugwumps?'" He sighed again. "A mugwump isn't a—"

"It's a 'republican,' right?"

He blinked at the boy for a moment before nodding. "Yeah…"

"And dat's a kind of monster, right?"

"…Close enough." Seto couldn't help a small smile. "I didn't see any mugwumps. What does a squiglie look like?" He could only watch in amusement as the blond immediately jumped into explanations.

"Squiglies have big green eyes an' wit'—wit' da big teef an' dey're sharp an' dey go raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! An'—an' dey have dese hairs dat can reach out from under da bed an' grab little kids an' take 'em under da bed an' den dey go howaaaaaaah! An' den dey eat you!"

"…I saw no big green eyes, nor did I see any big, sharp teeth," the brunet stated, patting him on the head. "Nothing will get you while I'm gone, okay?"

"…'kay…" he whispered, watching the teen leave the room. He then pulled the covers up over his head.

When Seto returned, he found the blond's adorable head missing and in its place was a quivering mass under the blankets, right in the middle of the bed. He sighed and pressed a hand to his temple. "Where'd Joey go? I could have sworn there were no squiglies."

The trembling boy clawed his way out of his haven and sat up straight. "I'm here! Da squiglies didn' get me!"

"What a relief. We wouldn't want Yugi to kill me, would we?"

Joey shook his head quickly, then tilted his head at the white thing he found in the brunet's hand. "What's dat?"

"Ah…" The teen blushed a little and rubbed the back of his head, offering the boy the stuffed animal. "I used to sleep with this when I was younger. I gave it to Mokuba, but he doesn't sleep with it anymore either. I thought that maybe you'd like to keep it."

"Her."

Seto blinked. "…What?"

"It's a her," the blond replied, holding the plush dragon up for him to see. "She's got eyelashes, see?"

"…Yes."

"What's her name?" Joey asked softly, hugging the white beast with blue eyes tightly. "And will she like me?"

The brunet couldn't help a smile. "I called her Aoi. And what dragon wouldn't love you, puppy?"

The little boy smiled and gave the stuffed animal an extra squeeze. "I just wanted ta make sure. She'll pwotect me if da bed monsters come in da middle of da night, won' she?"

Seto brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Of course she will. You go to sleep now, puppy."

Joey yawned and snuggled up to one of the large pillows, Aoi tucked under one arm. "Goodnight, Kaib'.'

"…Goodnight," the teen answered, patting his head again, before turning off the light. He began shutting the door, but stopped halfway. After pausing for a moment, he continued shutting the door, leaving it open just a crack, so a little bit of light could seep in.

He slept better that night than he had in years.

-x-x-x-

"I can't believe you would just— Do you know how— Why would you ever think— Midori! Watch this for me!"

His secretary looked up in surprise. Usually the CEO wasn't this mad until after lunch. She looked down at the little boy that had come to a stop beside her when the brunet had stormed past. The little boy watched the teen storm into his office and slam the doors bravely, the tears in his eyes never falling.

Until the door slammed shut.

Midori sighed as the blond burst into tears and pulled him into her arms. "Come here…"

"I didn' mean ta make 'im mad…!" the boy sobbed, clinging to her shirt. "I didn' mean it…!"

"Shhh… What happened, sweet thing?" she asked softly, lifting him onto her lap.

The blond sniffled and wiped his nose with his sleeve. "I… I…"

"Oh…" Midori frowned in frustration, accidentally scaring the boy further, then pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his nose. "Blow your nose." He did so with a honk. "Good boy. Now, take a deep breath." He did so with a whimper. "My name is Midori. What's your name?"

The blond sniffled again. "J-Joey."

"Joey? That's a cute name," she answered, smiling. "So, why is Mr. Kaiba so mad at you?"

Joey nearly started crying again. "I-I-I—"

Midori sighed and put a finger to his lips. "Calm down. Mr. Kaiba can't get you while I'm here."

"B-b-but— I didn'—"

"Take a deep breath, Joey."

The blond whimpered and snuggled up to her. "I didn' mean ta make 'im mad…"

She patted him on the back and closed her eyes. "Okay. What happened that made him mad?"

"D-dere was a puppy on da sidewalk near two buildings. I w-wanted to see what was wron' wit' it, b-but Kaib' wouldn' let me. He told me to stay by da cah and wen' inside da buildin' nexdor. I daught I'd go see what was wron' wit' da puppy while he was inside. Da puppy wouldn' move when I called it, so I was gonna touch it, but den Kaib' came back out, an'— An' he's been yellin' at me since we came inside!"

"I see." Midori sighed again and shot the office doors a glare, then patted his head. "Does he know you're sorry, Joey?"

Joey whimpered. "H-he wouldn' stop yellin' at me. I didn' have time."

"Well, I've got to work," she stated, setting him back on his feet. She smiled. "But I promise that if you keep to yourself and do as you're told, I'll send out for a big bowl of ice-cream for you."

The blond smiled and clapped, tears still in his eyes, but they were quickly fading. "'kay!"

"Good." She grabbed a few pieces of stationary and a pencil and handed them to him. "You can sit right here next to me and make a nice card telling Mr. Kaiba how sorry you are."

The little boy's nose wrinkled in distaste. "You don' have any colors?"

"I have… red ink and blue ink." She frowned. "We're not really known for our art."

"Mmph." The blond shrugged and sat down on the seat she pulled out from the waiting area for him. "Guess he just gets gray."

"Guess so."

-x-x-x-

"I don't care if that's not part of the contract! Go outside and take care of that stupid puppy!" Seto growled and pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's dying! I don't want it right next to my building!" After listening to the man complain for a few minutes, he sighed in frustration. "Never mind. I'll take care of it myself!" He slammed the phone down on its receiver.

Only minutes later, his secretary strode in with a stack of papers. "That contract that you were expecting just came in, sir, and here are a few invoices. …Oh, and a card from Joey."

The CEO sighed and rested his head in his hand. "I didn't mean to yell at him. I just didn't want him to see that puppy outside. He's so young, and the puppy—"

"Is dying. Yes sir, I know," Midori answered, setting the papers on the desk in front of him. "Some of the others have mentioned taking it to the pound or something."

"…Be better to just put it down," the brunet mumbled, sighing.

She nodded. "Of course, sir. I'm going to take Joey to the restroom and get him some ice-cream because he was such a good boy earlier." She smiled and clasped her hands in front of her. "Such a sweet little boy; he sat still for three whole hours."

"Okay. …Don't let him see that puppy again."

"Yes, sir."

-x-x-x-

"I shall name him Commodore Fluffy Paws!"

Midori giggled softly. "Oh? That's a bit of a mouthful, Joey."

"…He's so tiny he needs a big name," the blond answered, petting the puppy strewn across his lap. "I wond'r why ever'one was just lettin' 'im sit there…"

"Maybe they just didn't see him."

Joey nodded, easily accepting her fib without any suspicion. "You're right. He's so tiny…"

"Midori, do you have—" Seto came to a stop as he found the blond boy on the ground with the filthy pup before letting his gaze slide to his secretary, who had the decency to appear slightly ashamed. "…What is this?"

"Look, Kaib'! Midori an' me gave him some ice-cweam an' he popped right up! Isn't he cute?"

The brunet stared at the puppy blinking up at him, then shot Midori a glare. "It's… adorable."

"I named him Commodore Fluffy Paws!"

Seto blinked, still facing his secretary, before slowly turning his head to look at the blond. "'Commodore?'"

"Yeah, 'cause he's too tough for 'Captain' and too cute for 'Admiral!'" the boy replied cheerfully, unknowingly stunning both CEO and secretary with his knowledge.

"…Oh?" Midori asked, smiling. "I believe Commodore Fluffy Paws may need to go to the bathroom soon, Joey. Get ready to go outside, okay?"

"'kay!"

Once the blond was occupied, Seto shot his secretary a glare. "I thought I said don't let him see the puppy again!"

She shot a glare right back at him. "You try running after a six-year-old in high heels, Mr. Kaiba! I assure you it's not that easy, especially while he's hyper!"

"It can't be that hard; he's got short legs."

"Put them on and try it," Midori hissed, glare becoming just deadly. "I dare you."

The brunet sighed and rolled his eyes, then turned to the little blond. "Joey, you can't—Joey?" He felt his blood run cold when he found both boy and puppy nowhere to be found. "…Joey?"

Midori let out a squawk and jumped to her feet, immediately running for the door and shrieking, "Joseph Wheeler!"

Seto was only a few steps behind her. "When I get hold of you—"

Only seconds later, Joey came out of the bathroom off to the side. "'kay 'Dori, I'm ready ta go outside! …'Dori? …Kaib'?" The little boy looked around in confusion, then looked down at the puppy in his arms. "…Where'd dey go?"

-x-x-x-

"The little scamp—You can't take your eyes off of him for a second!"

"…Mr. Kaiba, he could be perfectly fine. I mean, he's highly intelligent for such a little boy."

Seto stormed toward his office as soon as the elevator doors opened with a pleasant 'ping!' "I don't care how intelligent he is, I—Puppy! Oh thank God!" he exclaimed in relief as his eyes landed on the little boy twirling around in Midori's chair. He rushed over to him and pulled him into his arms, nearly smothering both boy and pup. "Don't you ever do that to me again! Where were you?!"

Joey blinked innocently. "…In da baffroom."

"In the bath…?" The brunet looked down at them, then set them down and let out a roar of frustration. "IN THE BATHROOM!?"

Joey cringed and made himself the smallest target possible as he curled up on the ground. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Don' be mad, Kaib'! Don' cut me open!" He whimpered and covered his head. "Don' wanna be cut open!"

The puppy crouched in front of him and bared his tiny teeth, growling. The CEO could only watch in sad amusement as it lunged forward and caught his pant leg in its small jaws, growling and 'growph'ing as it tried to rip him to the ground.

Sighing, he caught the puppy by the scruff and grabbed the blond around his tiny waist, tucking them under each arm securely. "Midori, I'm going home. My puppy's puppy needs a bath, and once we finish with that, my puppy will need a bath of his own."

Joey let out a whine as he was carried toward the elevator. "But I'm cleeean!"

…Midori figured that she'd just let them be for the rest of the day.

-x-x-x-

Seto muttered darkly to himself as he drained the tub. "Calling that thing 'Commodore Fluffy Paws—' He should have named it 'Satan.'" He rinsed the dirt from the bottom of the tub before beginning to fill it with water. "Come here and tell me if this is too hot."

Joey stepped up to him timidly, eyes on his feet. "H-how can it be too hot if it's s'posed ta burn?"

"I'm not going to burn you, puppy. And I'm not going to cut you open. Now come and tell me if this is too hot."

He did the exact opposite; he shrunk back, eyes widening in terror. The man wasn't going to burn him or cut him open for his disobedience today? Why? Was he going to do something worse? What could be worse than burns or cuts? …Unless…

"Ya gonna come inta my room while I'm sleepin' an' touch me?"

Seto felt the blood draining from his face. "…Touch… you?"

Tears began forming in the tiny blond's eyes. "Gonna pull my shorts down an' touch my pwivates?"

The teen turned his head toward the blond sharply, eyes narrowing in anger. "Who touched you like that, puppy?"

"M… my…" His bottom lip began to tremble. "My dad… Y-you gonna do dat too, Kaib'?"

Seto pulled the blond into his arms quickly, suddenly understanding some of the nuttier and most oxymoronic quirks about the teen he found so frustrating.

His father showed him no affection, starving him of the love and care of someone who was supposed to make sure he was safe and healthy; his mother had abandoned him and taken his sister away, taking the one thing he cared about most. That's why he was so affectionate to his friends. They cared, so they should accept his need for physical affection. All of the hugs, the glomps, the noogies, the nuzzlings, all of them were for his personal quest to find care.

Seto wasn't the most affectionate of big brothers, but he did give his little brother hugs and kisses good night. He even made sure he got home on time to be able to tuck him in if he couldn't get away for dinner. He couldn't imagine what it must be like not to receive any affection or care at all from his family. All he knew was that when he tried, it hurt.

And suddenly the reason why Joey shied away from anything more intimate than strictly 'friend' touching was much too clear. He could be wrestling around with Tristan one minute and then actually trying to hurt him another. Judging by the apologies and swift reaction of the brunet to slink back, he knew exactly why.

He could only wonder why Joey put up with the pain so long.

"I would never touch you, puppy," he murmured, stroking the boy's soft hair. "Not unless you wanted it. You're too special to hurt."

Joey sniffled and nuzzled the teen's chest. "I didn' mean ta make ya mad, Kaib'!"

"I'm not mad," he stated soothingly. "You just scared me. Yugi told me to take care of you, and I thought that you might get hurt while I'm supposed to be watching you. I wouldn't want Yugi to be mad at me." He gave the boy a small squeeze. "I shouldn't have yelled at you today. You just have to listen to me when I tell you to do or not do something."

"I'm sorry I went ta look at da puppy." The blond leaned back and rubbed at his eyes quickly. "Mmn… An' I'm not a baby!"

Seto raised an eyebrow, managing a small smile. "Crying doesn't make you a baby."

"Does so! Dad said dat boys aren' s'posed ta cry!"

The brunet narrowed his eyes. "I don't want to hear what your father has said. He's the scum of society as far as I'm concerned." He turned back to the tub, which was quite full now, and let out a curse. "Damn it!"

Joey couldn't help a giggle at the other's expense. "You said anudder bad word!"

"…If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you have twice as much ice-cream as I did last night."

The boy clapped his hands together in glee. "I won' tell! Commodore Fluffy Paws gets some too, right?"

Seto paused, then scowled and stood, looking around. "Speaking of the little mutt, where is he?"

And just like that, a crash came from another room.

"SHIT! Joey, stay here; get in the bath," Seto ordered, running out of the room.

Joey looked at the bath, then wrinkled his nose in disgust. "But I'm clean." He paused, then frowned and crossed his arms, stalking out of the room. "Don' need a bath."

-x-x-x-

"Alright, you naughty little mutt, now we get to clean Joey," Seto sighed, carrying the tiny puppy into the bathroom. He frowned when he found no child in the bath, nor standing nearby. He sighed loudly, then leaned back and let out a frustrated roar. "Joseph Wheeler!"

-x-x-x-

"Will you do me a favor and just listen to me for once?!" Seto exclaimed, trying to force the little boy into the tub.

Joey squealed and struggled to get away. "Kaib'! Stop! Don' wanna go in da water!"

"You're going in!"

He squealed again as he was dunked into the water, then came up gasping. Once having recovered, he glared at the brunet and splashed him. "Meanie!"

Seto scowled at him and splashed him back. "Brat!"

The blond splashed him again. "Stupid head!"

Again, the teen splashed him back. "Scamp!"

"Jerk!"

"Imp!"

"Meanie!"

"You've already used that one."

"…Butthead!"

Seto smirked to show his amusement before ruffling the blond's hair playfully. "Weak comeback, puppy."

Joey stuck his tongue out at him. "Bleh!"

"Stick that tongue back in your mouth or I'll run soap over it."

"You would not— Ew! Gleh, bepth kchhh argh!"

"I don't make idle threats."

-x-x-x-

Yugi smiled at the brunet in front of him gratefully. "Thanks for watching him, Kaiba. Ishizu helped us find a way that might change him back. Glad to see that you're both still alive!"

Joey smiled and ran out, hugging the smaller teen around the waist. "Yug'! Ya came back for me!"

"Of course I did, Joey. You're my best friend," he replied, patting him on the head. He looked up at Seto again. "Well, I'll get him out of your hair now, Kaiba. Thanks again!"

Seto reached out and ruffled the blond's hair. "Whatever. Puppy?"

The blond turned and looked up at him, blinking innocently. "Kaib'?"

"If you ever need someplace to stay…" The teen paused before managing a small smile. "You can't stand your father, or something like that, you're always welcome here."

Joey tilted his head, his eyes wide and questioning. "…Ya promise, Kaib'?"

"I promise. Aoi will be here waiting for you and everything."

"…'kay." He smiled sweetly. "Take care of Commodore Fluffy Paws, 'kay?"

"Okay." He ruffled the blond's hair one last time before looking back at Yugi, who was blinking at them both questioningly. "…He found a puppy."

"Ah. …I see." The smaller teen nodded. "That makes sense. Let's go, Joey. After all, you've been at Kaiba's house for two days. Say thank you."

The boy smiled brightly and waved at the brunet. "Thank you, Kaib'!"

"You're welcome. Have a good night."

-x-x-x-

Joey stretched his arms above his head and sighed, frowning. "I don't really remember much of what happened. I remember the world being bigger, and maybe something about a stuffed animal, but not much more than that."

Yugi sighed. "I see. We're sorry we got you into that mess, Joey."

The blond smiled. "Aw, don't worry about it, Yug'. Well, I gotta go check on my old man. I'll see you guys later."

"Take care!"

Joey smiled again, but the grin soon faded. Like hell he was gonna go check on his old man! He'd have to be absolutely suicidal to do that! Did he look like an idiot?! No, thank you very much!

He stopped walking abruptly, brows furrowing together. If he didn't go home, where would he go? He couldn't stay with his friends all the time, and if he stayed on the streets, there was a high probability of something very, very bad happening to him. He liked being in one piece.

"Wheeler? …You do realize you're standing in the middle of a sidewalk looking dumber than usual?"

The blond looked up quickly, startled, then scowled again. "Shut the fuck up, Kaiba! I was just thinking about—" He looked down in surprise as he felt something tugging at his pants, then squealed in delight and picked up the tiny puppy. "Commodore Fluffy Paws!" He paused in confusion as he looked up at the puppy he was holding above his head. "…Where have I seen you before…?" he asked softly, brows furrowing together.

Seto frowned. "…Wheeler? Are you okay?"

Joey tilted his head. "I have seen you before… Where…?" He grimaced and suddenly dropped his arms, pulling the puppy to his chest as he felt a sharp pain in his side. "Ah-!"

"Joey, are you—Puppy!" Seto reached out and grabbed both the puppy and the blond as he swooned in a faint. "Joey!"

-x-x-x-

"Mn…" Joey opened his eyes slowly, wincing. "What the hell…?" He looked around and squinted slightly. He was in a white room. It smelled sterile. "…Damn…" He heard someone talking nearby—not inside his room, though; it was more like just outside the door.

"—couple of broken ribs—"

"I saw him last night and I can guarantee he didn't have any broken ribs then."

"Sir, it's been quite a while since last night—"

"I can also guarantee that he hasn't done anything that would get him broken ribs. He was in someone else's care and watched like a hawk specifically because we don't want him hurt."

"I don't know how he got those broken ribs, sir; I just know that he does, indeed, have them."

Joey frowned and looked down at his chest. He couldn't remember doing anything that could have broken his ribs yesterday, or when he had been back at Seto's house. Could he really have some broken ribs?

Poking the side that had hurt so sharply yesterday, he let out a gasp of pain when his experiment wielded positive results. "Yipe!" He clapped a hand over his mouth to smother the noise. He didn't want either of the people outside rushing in to see if he was alright.

A few moments later, Seto strode into the room, looking quite peeved. "Good-for-nothing old quack." He looked over to the blond and raised an eyebrow. "I don't suppose you know how you got those broken ribs."

Joey rubbed the back of his head and sighed, thinking back to any events that had happened before the park. "…Yugi said that I might be suffering from a few injuries from the change of my body aging so rapidly. Maybe I broke them in the change? I don't know."

"Hmm." The brunet leaned down and picked something up off the ground, then dropped whatever it was on the other boy's lap. "Here."

The blond squealed in surprise, then immediately smiled. "Commodore Fluffy Paws!" The puppy looked up at him innocently, then yapped in delight and bounced around in his lap. The blond couldn't help a loving coo. "Good puppy!"

Seto watched him carefully, frowning. "…You don't remember any of it, do you?" When the blond only blinked at him, he sighed. "I didn't think so."

"…Well…" Joey frowned and fidgeted with the sheet covering him. "…I remember all that happened, but I'm not sure if I believe it. You, being nice to me? You, offering your house up to me? I don't know."

"My offer still stands. If you don't want to go to your father, you can stay with me."

"…Can I go pick up my stuff first?" he asked softly, saying without using words that he wanted to stay with him and wanted to leave his father. He looked up at the other teen timidly. "I… I would like not going to bed in pain."

The brunet raised an eyebrow. "Do you believe that would be safe with your broken ribs?"

The smaller teen forced a smile, petting the puppy in his lap. "…I've had worse."

"Then I'll go with you," Seto replied, and the way he said it left no argument.

Joey couldn't bring himself to argue anyway.

-x-x-x-

Joey squeezed his stuffed dragon tightly, snuggling into the safe feeling of his new/old bed. He knew it had been his when he was in his chibi-form, but it didn't feel the same as it did now. He sighed, curling up on his uninjured side and hugging both the little dragon and his pillow to his body.

He jumped as he heard the door open and looked up quickly. "Kaiba?"

Seto walked into the room casually and looked down at the black stuffed animal. "Is that Akai?"

The blond blushed lightly and looked away from him. "…Yeah."

"Hmm." The older teen placed his white dragon beside him. "I'm sure he must get lonely during the day while you're gone. Aoi will keep him company, okay?"

"Huh?" Joey blushed a little more, ducking his head slightly. "Oh. Okay. Thanks." He frowned when the brunet knelt next to his bed. "What are you doing?"

The brunet glanced up at him, managing a playful smirk instead of a condescending one. "I'm checking for squiglies."

"Hey! I don't believe in those things anymore!" the smaller teen squawked indignantly. "Jerk!"

"It's all in fun." Seto stood and reached out to pat him on the head. "I'll see you tomorrow, puppy."

Joey watched him go, blushing a little and smiling as he hid his face in his stuffed animal. "Goodnight, Kaiba."

The brunet paused in the door, frowning in thought, before glancing back at him. "Joey?"

"Hmm?" the smaller teen asked, glancing up at him tiredly. "Yeah?"

"…My statement still stands." He took a deep breath. "I'd never touch you unless you wanted me too. You're too special to hurt."

And then the door began to shut behind him, stopping only a few inches from closing to let in a sliver of light.

Joey blushed again and buried his face in Akai. "…Whatever you say, Kaiba." After a few moments of thought, he jumped from the bed and ran out of his room to the one across from his. He hesitated outside the door, then took a deep breath and knocked politely.

A few seconds later, the door opened, revealing a frowning Seto. "Is something wrong?"

"Did you mean what you said?" the blond asked softly, brows furrowing together. "You really think I'm too special to hurt?"

"…Yes. I do mean that," he replied, nodding a little. He could only watch as the blond dipped his head slightly, staring up at him through his shining bangs skeptically. All he could do was stand and bear it; he knew that if he interrupted his thoughts or insulted him now, it could cost him everything he hoped for.

Finally, after a few minutes of just standing there, the smaller teen spoke. "I'd like that."

"Hmm?" The brunet's brows furrowed together in confusion. "You'd like to be too special to hurt? But puppy, I already told you—"

"I want you to."

"…Huh?" Seto rubbed the back of his head, perplexed by what his puppy was saying. "Joey, I—"

"I want you to touch me," Joey explained. "Make love to me tonight."

"…Wait, woah, that's not what I meant at all!" he exclaimed, frowning, as he reached out to grab the smaller teen's shoulders. "You're not ready for this yet, puppy. I meant—"

The blond put a finger to his lips, smiling sweetly. "I know what you meant. And I'm telling you that I want you to make love to me tonight. Show me just how much you love and care about me." He reached up and cupped the brunet's face. "…Show me just how special I am." With that, his eyes fluttered shut, and he brought the taller teen's head down to pull him into a tender kiss.

Seto could only kiss back before leading him into his room to show him just how he deserved to be loved, treated, and cared for.

-x-x-x-

"Hmm… Is that really the way I deserve to be treated?" Joey asked softly, looking up at the brunet and smiling a little.

Seto scowled slightly. "That is how you deserve to be treated by me. If anyone else tries to touch you like this, tell me and I'll have them killed."

"Mm, my big, strong master…" The blond reached up and slid his arms around the other teen's neck. "So easily jealous…"

"My puppy. Mine!" the CEO hissed, yanking him closer, and nuzzled the side of his neck roughly. "No one else's!"

Joey couldn't help a giggle at the feel of the brunet's hot breath against his neck. "That tickles, Seto!"

"Mm, I know a lot of other things that would tickle."

"Don't touch me there, Seto, I— Ooh!" He giggled again. "That tickles, too! Oh, you pervert! Ah, stop that!"

Seto growled and smirked, rolling on top of him again and being extra mindful of the blond's sensitive side; he didn't want to damage the poor ribs anymore. "Me? Pervert? Oh, that's just not true." He leaned down and nibbled on the smaller teen's collarbone, relishing the gasp that soon turned into another giggle; the blond was ticklish anywhere as long as it was a light nibble.

"Ahahaha!" The blond squirmed a little, moaning as the CEO spread his legs. "You gonna make love to me again, Seto?"

"Oh yes." The brunet shot him a sly grin. "My goal is to make sure you can't walk in the morning so that we can stay in bed all day, and I can wait on you hand and foot."

Joey blushed and frowned. "Oh, Seto, you don't need to do that!"

Seto leaned down and pressed their lips together in a tender kiss; he broke the kiss seconds later. "I know, but I want to; you're just that special." He smiled as the blond blushed even more and tapped him on the nose softly. "And don't you ever doubt just how special you are."

"…Yes, sir," Joey answered softly, his lips curling into a small, hesitant smile. "And thank you. …For making my life so much better."

"You're welcome. …And I love you," the brunet whispered, before he pulled the smaller teen into another sweet kiss.

The blond moaned again, parting his legs further. "Prove how much you love me."

"You already know." The CEO smiled a little sadly. "Must I prove it to you again?"

"Yes." He frowned. "Please. Just one last time. Show me how sweet you can be and make me feel good about myself."

"Always," the brunet whispered, before capturing his mouth in a deep, thorough kiss that silenced any other words from the blond's lips.