Drastic Measures

Summary: Duke had to stop his train of thought right there before it derailed into temptation station. Not that it wasn't a wonderful place to be, but not in the middle of Joey's birthday party. // Chaseshipping, Duke/Tristan

A/N: Rating for slight language and innuendo. For the YGO Fanfiction Contest Round Two—Chaseshipping. Enjoy!

Drastic Measures

January 25

If you love someone, you have to let them go.

Duke wondered how he got himself caught up in all of this. It really wasn't his fault, this crush—he winced at the thought—he'd developed on the strangest of all possible targets. Cupid must've been laughing, somewhere, probably drunk off his ass or missing his glasses or contacts or whatever must have caused these horribly unwelcome and clearly contradictory feelings of contentment and clumsiness that seemed to overtake him anytime he came into contact with the unlucky individual.

Tristan Taylor stood next to him, on the tiny porch of Joey's dilapidated apartment, holding a box. It was wrapped, but Duke could tell it had probably served as a shoebox until very recently. He looked down; his own box was wrapped perfectly—he'd had an employee do the work for him, including picking out the gift, not that he cared—and Duke wondered briefly what was written on the matching card.

"If Joey's still asleep, I'll eat the cake all by myself," Tristan said.

"Hm," Duke mumbled noncommittally. He was still listening to Tristan's voice, substituting his own words for the brunette's. Something like, 'I love you, let's ditch this lame birthday party,' or 'Let's ditch this lame birthday party, and did I mention, I love you?' were wonderful options. The order of the two didn't particularly matter, and Duke had almost responded with, 'Of course, darling, let's keep his presents and the cake, too, while we're at it,' before realizing that Tristan had stopped talking and was pounding on the doorframe, yelling something to Joey about being late for his own birthday party.

"He can't hear you," Duke muttered. He reached forward, twisting the doorknob, hardly surprised when it opened without effort. "He left it unlocked."


Without further comment, the two trudged inside and shut the door behind them, where a slew of boxes and ripped wrapping paper littered the floor of the living room. Joey laid on the couch, asleep, a plate with a half-eaten cake slice on the table in front of him.

"Joey, wake up! I'm eating your cake!" Tristan threatened, giving Duke a slight grin. Duke's heart leaped, but whether from the act or from Joey's subsequent leap into attentiveness as he dove for the slice of cake, Duke couldn't tell.

"What? Tristan? Don't joke about stuff like that, man," Joey said, grabbing the plate and holding it to his chest protectively. "Serenity made this for me, and this stuff's better than Double Meat Fridays at the school cafeteria!"

Duke felt the contents of his stomach take a sizeable shift and decided that adding some cake into the mix was probably not the best idea.

"Where's Yugi? And Anzu?" Joey asked.

"Anzu couldn't get off work, and Yugi came down with something," Tristan said apologetically. "He got you a card—actually, I think there's a card within the card, you lucky dog!"

"Don't call me a dog," Joey muttered, but he took the offered box and card with a smile, calling out, "Serenity! Come on, we're opening presents!"

Seconds later, Joey's sister emerged from a narrow hallway, barefoot and wearing a red sundress. Tristan's smile grew immediately upon seeing her.

"Serenity!" Tristan exclaimed. "You're looking beautiful, as always. I guess Joey here got all of the funny genes in the family—"

"Hey, knock it off," Joey said. "That's my little sister you're messing with, and you're not worth the dirt on my doorstep."

"Well, save your praise until you open my present, Joey," Tristan said, eyes still locked on Serenity, who'd nervously taken a seat next to Joey.

Duke surveyed the scene before him, working to contain a scowl at Tristan's obvious affections. What did Serenity have that he didn't? Several clear options came to mind, but none that made any sense. Serenity was just so…so…modest! She had Tristan by the hair—wonderful, lush, silky—Duke had to stop his train of thought right there before it derailed into temptation station. Not that it wasn't a wonderful place to be, but not in the middle of Joey's birthday party.

"Hey, thanks, man!" Joey said, holding up a bicycle lock. "I've been needing one of these!"

Duke had never seen someone get so worked up over a bicycle lock, but that was nothing in comparison to Joey's delight when he opened Yugi's card, sliding out some supposedly-rare trap card.

Cards were just boring, to Duke. It was pretty printed paper, just like the kind ripped off of Joey's presents, and look how he treated that? By stepping on it in a poorly-coordinated dance of joy.

He sighed. Tristan was still staring at Serenity, but a closer inspection of the girl proved that she was sneaking some careful glances at him. Duke didn't know whether to feel flattered or worried. It was probably curiosity, he decided. They'd never formally met, so it was natural for her to be a little curious.

He looked up, noticing that she was now looking at Tristan, and Duke was starting to feel more than a little put-out until Tristan interrupted him with a—"Hey, Duke, aren't you going to let Joey open your present?"

Duke's mind traveled all of the suggestive pathways that question could've meant before mutely handing over his present. Joey immediately tore through the dark green wrapping paper, opening the square box, sifting through the matching tissue paper, and pulling out—

"A pair of socks? Uh—thanks, Duke," Joey said, tossing them to the side. Socks. Duke had to admit they were really nice socks, dark blue with an interesting silver stripe pattern, but getting socks as a present was boring, no matter the kind, or the quantity.

Joey dug through the gift-wrap to see if he'd missed anything. "Two pairs of socks," he finished appreciatively.

All manners forgotten, Joey turned to the uneaten piece of cake before him. "Time to eat!" Duke wondered briefly how Joey was going to eat that without silverware befor—oh. Now he knew.

"Help yourselves," Joey mumbled through a mouthful of cake.

"Sure," Duke said, lifting himself off of the worn leather sofa and making his way into the kitchen, where a half-finished cake stood on a platter on the counter. He opened a few drawers until he found the one with the plates and silverware, pulling out two sets of each when he noticed Tristan had followed him.

"Thanks," Tristan said after Duke handed him a plate, moving to cut a slice of the cake for himself. Serenity had joined them, a plate of cake in her own hands, and Tristan immediately turned to her, a ridiculous grin on his face. "If you're not busy later, would you like to go—"

One of Joey's new socks hit Tristan in the face as Joey yelled, "Put a sock in it!"

Not quite the use Duke was hoping his present would get, but it gave him the opportunity to joke, "Hey, Tristan, you're not going to get much luck at that rate."

"Actually, Tristan, I'd—"

Oh, no, Duke panicked. She had that same happy grin on her face. This couldn't be a good sign.

"What'dya mean, Duke?"

Suddenly, it was quiet, and all eyes were trained on Duke. He looked back-and-forth from Serenity, all hopeful anticipation, to Joey, simmering anger momentarily relieved by cake ingestion, and Tristan, casually waiting for a response.

"I—ah—uh," Duke coughed a few times.

"…what was that?" Tristan asked. Duke memorized the look on his face before thoughtlessly blurting out his reply.

"Because I'll be taking her out this Friday," Duke finished.

'I'll be WHAT?!' His brain caught up with his mouth in one seamless motion as he took in the new looks of confusion, wrath, and confusion on the faces of the others around him.

"…what?" Tristan's dubious answer gave Duke the reckless amount of courage and competition he needed to see this—whatever it was—through to the end.

"You heard me," he challenged. "You're not man enough for a woman like Serenity!"

"You wanna say that again?" Tristan said.

"Sure!" Duke was throwing caution to the wind now; he'd already decided that with Joey's look he'd be lucky if he made it out of there in a bodybag. "I'll shout it to the world! I'm in love with—"

By then, Joey had caught him by the arm and was hauling him towards the door. "Devlin, thanks for coming to my party and all, and I'll say this once: Stay away from my sister."

Duke managed a wave at Serenity before the door was slammed in his face, although on the inside he was smacking himself with the cake plate still in his hands, chanting stupid, stupid, stupid.

He couldn't believe he'd just done that. It didn't even make any sense, and Duke prided himself on his flawless logic. He never done anything like this before; every move he made was always thought out so far in advance that his opponents didn't see it coming until it was already too late. He supposed the same thing could be said for himself now.

He'd always believed that fate was talent, luck was well-placed opportunity, and love was something that people settled for when they couldn't get their lives to move in any other direction.

He supposed there was a first time for everything. Stupid decisions included. For instance, hitting on Joey's dormouse of a sister just for the slightest possibility that she wouldn't pick Tristan.

He supposed he'd live with the misery just to ensure that Tristan wouldn't be…attached like that. He didn't think he could bear it to see Tristan with anyone but himself. They belonged together, like two socks in a pair!

He'd been so caught up in internal self-loathing that he hadn't even noticed when a motorcycle with an extremely familiar rider drove up alongside the sidewalk.

"Hey!" Tristan called out.

"What is it?" Duke resigned himself to the fact that he had lost, again.

"Hop on! I'll give you a ride!"

Wait, what? Duke hadn't been expecting that.

…He could hardly refuse his generous offer, after all.

Duke slid behind Tristan with an inaudible sigh of contentment. Tristan took off down the street, and it took Duke a few moments to realize it.

"Hey, Tristan, my house is that way." He jerked behind him with a thumb, nearly falling off and grabbing onto Tristan's jacket to steady himself when he took a sharp right turn.

"I know," Tristan said.

"Then where are we going?"

"We're going to get pizza, and you're paying, to make up for scaring me half to death back there."

Duke didn't argue with that, settling his arms comfortably around Tristan's waist.

If you love someone, you have to let them go. And it they love you, they'll eventually come back.

A/N: Joey's birthday is January 25th, according to Wikipedia.

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