Author's Note: So much filler! OTL Guys, I think we're finally getting somewhere here?!

Chapter 11

Seto waved as his brother turned for one last look at them before continuing to his den. He missed him already. He had promised to come back every week for dinner with them, but he missed him, because he wasn't the child he'd raised anymore; he was an adult. …More or less.

He hummed as he felt a pair of arms wrap around his waist, then purred, lifting his tail to trail the tip over the blond's ticklish side.

Joey yelped. "Eek! Seto!"

Seto turned and nuzzled his shoulder, purring a little louder as he lifted his hands to dig his fingers into his hair. "The book said telling you exactly what I'm going to do to you can help, too, so we're both prepared. Would you like that?"

"Yesss," the blond moaned, nuzzling his chest as he pressed up against him. "Yes, please…!"

"Well, first, I thought…" The older boy paused as he glanced the blond up and down, then sighed, frowning. "I thought I'd make you a nice chicken dinner."

Joey looked up at him, scowling. "Seto."

"And then I'd draw a nice hot bath for you and put the soap in it that makes it foam up."


"…And then I'd stroke your hair until you fall asleep."

Joey whined angrily. "Seto, why would ya get my hopes up like that?!"

Seto reached out to run his thumb over the blond's cheek gently. "Joey, if you looked in a mirror, you'd know."

"Looked in a mirror for what, asshole?!"

The brunet rolled his eyes and sighed, then slid his arms under the younger boy's knees and back. "Let me show you."

"Lemme go! Gah! After ya did that shit-! Let me go what are ya doin' leave me alone I was so excited and—" He yelped as he was set down in front of a full-length mirror and shoved at his mate angrily, scowling. Seto snarled and grabbed his chin to jerk his head around so he had to look at his reflection.

Joey hissed, but then paused, actually taking a moment to look at himself. He immediately sagged, defeated. If he was Seto, he wouldn't want to have sex either. It was almost embarrassing.

He'd run himself ragged trying to care for Seto and Mokuba. He'd been so busy feeding them and trying to get them to gain weight that he'd forgotten to make decent meals for himself. He'd been so busy making sure that they were clean and comfortable that he hadn't taken the time to bathe, instead just quickly wiping himself down with a washcloth and washing his hair in the sink. He'd been so busy making sure they rested that he'd rarely slept more than he had to.

He looked awful. He had light blue bruises under his eyes that he hadn't even noticed until his mate had made him look at himself. He was thin—thinner than he had been before Seto had hurt himself—and he could tell some of his bones were sticking out more than they usually did. He was covered in smudges from herbs and smoke from the fire and he realized with a start that while he enjoyed taking care of his mate, he really needed someone to take care of him, too. He had to admit that even though he'd never used the word before, this was truly the embodiment of the word 'haggard.'


Seto cupped his chin and drew his head up for a light kiss. "I'm sorry."

"I didn't know I looked so awful," Joey muttered, frowning. "And I was really lookin' forward to…"

"I know." The brunet nuzzled his neck gently, then carefully scooped him up again, sighing as the black dragon laid his head on his shoulder. "But after you get some rest, maybe we could…" He shook his head quickly, because now that Joey saw how bad he looked, he seemed exhausted by it. He sighed and carried him into the kitchen, placing him on one of the stools there. "Tomorrow. I'll definitely show you tomorrow."

Joey sighed and let his head fall onto the counter with a loud thump.


Joey stared at the foamy bath tub, then sighed. He looked up at the brunet and smiled sadly. "Thanks for the dinner, Seto. 'nd the bath. You're a good mate."

Seto reached out to grab his pants and pull them down, then slipped his arms beneath his knees and back again, kissing his neck softly. It seemed as soon as he'd finished eating, his exhaustion had come to the fore. He hadn't even been able to walk to the bathroom without leaning on him. "You're a good mate, too." He carefully set the younger boy in the water, then dug the tips of his fingers lightly into the back of his neck.

"Uhn, Seto…! That hurts so good!" the blond moaned, tilting his head back a little.

The older boy hesitated a minute before shedding his own pants and climbing into the tub as well. It was a tight fit, but then the blond curled his legs around him, drawing him closer. He couldn't help but think it was cozy instead of tight now, and he liked that. Somehow, it felt even more intimate than when he touched him to keep him warm.

Joey smiled as the brunet slid his hands over his legs. "Feels good."



Seto smiled a little and grabbed a bar of soap to lather his hands with, then began running his hands over the blond's left leg, starting at his ankle and running down over his feet before sliding back up to rub his calves. He moved his hands up the younger boy's thigh, frowning a little when he moaned and twitched his legs open wider, then turned to give the same attention to his other leg.

Joey dug his teeth into his bottom lip in disappointment, but he knew he was tired. Seto probably thought he might be pushing some boundaries by touching him like that when he was so tired, and he had to admit that he probably wouldn't enjoy it as much as he would if he were well-rested. He sighed, unable to help his lips quirking into a smile as the brunet's hands moved up to his hips. He had the best mate.

"I love you."

Seto jumped, jerking his hands back quickly. "What? What?!"

The blond raised an eyebrow. "I said 'I love you.'"


"What did you think I said?" Joey asked, tilting his head.

The brunet blushed a little. "Oh. I… I wasn't really listening, so I thought maybe you'd told me to stop."

"No, I liked what you were doin'. I was sayin' 'I love you,' ya weirdo."

"Oh." Seto paused awkwardly, then lathered his hands up again to continue cleaning him. "I love you too."

Joey smiled, purring quietly as the brunet's hands slid around his waist to scrub his back all the way up to his shoulder blades. He hummed quietly and slid his arms around the brunet's neck to hug him gently. "Mmm, that's nice…"

The older boy smiled a little and slid his hands up to scrub his shoulders, then slid his arms around further to hug him. "I'm sorry we didn't get to do—"

"'s okay. This… this is nice," the blond cut in, smiling a little. 'I think it's almost better than sex. And if it weren't winter, it definitely would be.'

Seto turned his head to nuzzle his neck, smiling, then pushed him back and soaped his hands up again before rubbing them over the blond's chest and the front of his shoulders. He paused at his shoulders for a moment, then slid his other hand over to slip down the blond's right arm. He was much more careful with his arms, and once he got closer to his hand, he leaned down to kiss the tip of each of his fingers.

Joey blushed a little, biting his bottom lip again. 'Oh, no, this is definitely better than sex.' When Seto turned to give his other arm the same attention, kisses and all, he melted, because even though he'd been looking forward to sex, this was much better.

It was even better when the brunet lifted him out of the tub and began to rub him dry with a towel. "Seto, I can do it myself—"

"I don't care. I'm doing it."

Joey smiled and reached out to wrap his arms around the brunet's neck, hooking his legs around his hips to press up against him. "Mm. Seto, you're the best."

Seto blushed a little and leaned back. "I—"

"And I'm not sayin' that 'cause I'm hopin' you'll still have sex with me t'night. I'm tired. I just wanted ya t' know," the younger boy added quietly.

The brunet tilted his head, then chuckled a little and wrapped the towel around him. "You're pretty great, too, Joey, putting up with me."

"Yeah. I guess I am," the blond teased, and couldn't help a shrill shriek when the older boy retaliated by tickling him. "Seto wait please agh!"

Seto leaned in to nip his neck and chuckled again, then picked him up gently and carried him back to the bedroom. "At least now you'll be able to recover a little." He placed him on the bed and smiled a little, reaching up to brush his damp hair out of his eyes. "Get well-rested and maybe I'll show you some of the things I read."

"I don't know what this 'maybe' bullshit is, because you're doin' it when I feel better and I'm not takin' 'no' for an answer," Joey informed him firmly.

The brunet sighed, then smiled a little. "Alright. I really didn't think I could get away with letting you rest longer anyway."

"I don't wanna get too cold…" the blond whispered, blushing a little and looking down at his lap. He realized he might make the older boy upset by saying it and looked up, quickly adding, "I'm not cold now—we did it recently enough and the days are gettin' longer, so I'm settlin' down, but… I don't know how long it'll last."

Seto cupped his cheek and kissed him lightly, unable to help a smile. "Don't worry. You said I was the best, after all."

"Yeah, you are," Joey cooed, reaching up to cup his cheeks. "You are the best, Seto."

The brunet leaned his forehead against the younger boy's and sighed, smiling a little. "You are, too. I couldn't have found a better mate." He paused, then leaned in closer to brush their lips together.

"Mmm, Seto…" He curled his fingers into his hair and sighed, lifting his legs to wrap around him again. "Mm…"

Seto broke the kiss and brushed his thumb against the blond's damp bottom lip, smiling a little. "You're beautiful."

Joey blushed a little. "Seto, quit it! You're makin' me blush!"

"You look great when you're blushing. Do it more often."

"…I can't just blush at the drop of a hat."

"Learn to," Seto teased, then kissed him again before tucking him carefully under the blankets. "Go to sleep."

"Mm." Joey cupped his cheeks and drew him down for another kiss, smiling. "Only 'cause I really am tired."

"How kind of you." The brunet brushed his hair out of eyes. "Sleep well."


Seto watched him drift to sleep, then sighed and stood, cupping his cheek for one last moment, then turned and walked out of the room. He needed to clean the kitchen; he made terrible messes when he cooked. Joey never had that problem. Perhaps he'd could figure out a system, or… or get Joey to teach him, or…

…Or maybe they could trade off sometimes. Joey had enjoyed cooking for him while he'd been injured. He enjoyed cooking for Joey. Maybe they could trade some days. Joey might like that.

Seto smiled to himself as he walked into the kitchen, gathering all of the used dishes and setting them in the sink. He pumped some water into it and poured some soap in, then began to scrub them, glad that he was finally able to do something. He'd been forced to stay in bed so long that he was actually enjoying doing the dishes, and he normally hated doing them.

He tilted his head as he heard a knock at the door. He wondered who it could be. It couldn't be Mokuba; he only had enough energy to get home before he needed to rest. Maybe it was Yami. Yugi had said that he was going to try and come make amends. He smiled a little. He and Yami butted heads more often than not, but they were family, and Yugi had mellowed him out.

…Sort of.

Seto paused thoughtfully, then shrugged, setting the dishes back in the sink and wiping his hands on a towel as he made his way to the door. He would have hurried, but the skin of his back was still tight from healing and his wings ached when he brushed them against walls or doorways. He couldn't put his eagerness ahead of his health, especially after all Joey had done for him.

He paused at the door, wondering how to greet his cousin, then figured he'd let Yami go first and wing it from there. He grabbed the latch and pulled the door open, having to use a little more effort than he usually did because wow, he didn't realize how much he used his back to do that. He should probably stop that. Doing things with your back could strain it, and Joey would probably tease him about it if he wrenched his back wrong.

Seto blinked when he wasn't immediately accosted by his cousin in a tearful, manly embrace. He blanched when he recognized his mate's sister and lurched backward. "AGH."

Serenity glared up at him balefully. "…Is Joey here?"

He almost wanted to scamper up and get his mate just so he didn't want to deal with her. But Joey had been in such bad shape, so tired… And she'd probably only have bad things to say about his skills in keeping his mate healthy, anyway.

Joey had just gotten to sleep. He couldn't wake him so soon. "He's sleeping."

She scowled. "Well, go wake him up!"

Seto's jaw dropped slightly at the way she'd ordered him. He couldn't help but glare back at her. "If I had been so inclined to do so before, I am certainly not now. He is exhausted; I am not going to wake him up. Come back later."

"I want to see him!" she snapped, wings flaring out threateningly. "So I know you're not keeping him locked up against his will-!"

"No. I am not. Come. Back. LATER," he snarled, glaring at her, then slammed the door in her face even as she screeched at him. He kept his hand on the door for a minute, just in case she tried to force her way in, but instead he heard her wings beating as she left.

That was comforting. At least she didn't barge in, because he would have been within his rights to throw her back out (and perhaps rough her up a little). He didn't think he could have, though, because Joey still loved his sister and he didn't want to make him angry, even though he had sent her away before.

Seto sighed, wings wilting with exhaustion. He hadn't been this tired when he'd gone to answer the door. Actually, he'd been kind of excited.

…Happy, even.

He flinched a little at the thought. It had been a long time since everything had gone well and he'd been excited for company. And now he just felt so… so disappointed, and…


Joey grunted in affront as he felt something sharp dig into his side. "Mrgh."


"'s it time t' get up?"

"No. Sorry I woke you."

"Mrh. Cuddles." The blond muttered some more under his breath, but it was too quiet to hear. He rolled over onto his stomach and crawled almost on top of him. "Mm."

Seto wrapped his arms around him tighter, being careful not to knick him with his claws this time, and buried his face in his neck. "'m sorry."

Joey hummed and nuzzled against his neck, then frowned, sitting up a little. "Seto, everything okay?"

The brunet smiled up at him. Even when he was exhausted, he could tell something was wrong and wanted to comfort him.

He didn't feel so badly anymore.

Seto curled his hand around the back of his head and drew him back down to lay his head on his chest again. "Everything is fine. Go back to sleep. I'm sorry I woke you up."

Joey blinked slowly, eyes still glazed with sleep. "Y' sure?"

"Go back to sleep," the brunet repeated quietly.

The younger boy sighed and let his eyes drift closed. "'kay, if ya say so." He smiled a little as he felt the fingers still in his hair curl, carding through it gently, and turned his head to brush his lips over his chest gently. "Seto, go t' sleep."

Seto couldn't help but smile a little as he pressed a kiss to the blond's forehead. "Okay." When he felt his mate's head tuck up against his neck, he sighed and finally let his eyes drift closed.

Joey smiled as he felt the brunet's heart slow beneath his hand and nuzzled closer, then sighed. He knew something was up. Seto had clearly been upset when he'd come in—even more so when he'd accidentally clawed him—and he really wanted to ask, but Seto hadn't wanted to answer, so he wasn't going to push him. At least, not right now.

He'd ask in the morning, though, even if he had to do it while Seto was groggy. He was going to get to the bottom of this. He just hoped Seto would let him instead of fighting it tooth and nail, insisting on being a good mate by keeping his feelings to himself. He was starting to open up, but just when Joey thought that they might be making progress, he'd close up again, terrified that he'd do something wrong.

But he'd continue to coax him out. He had to be patient, after what Seto had been through, and Seto still had no idea what the hell he was doing some days. That was one of the most attractive things about him, though; he didn't know what he was doing most of the time, but he winged it and still managed to do okay.

Joey just had to show him that he wouldn't get angry if he messed up. Frustrated, maybe, even irritated—but not angry. Seto would learn it was okay to screw up eventually, that it was okay to be wrong and have to apologize, that Joey wasn't going to just start hating him again if he did something wrong. Until then, he would continue to stand by him and love him, even when he frustrated and irritated him.


Serenity pressed the tips of her fingers to the window and frowned as she watched her brother cuddle up to the brunet. No, 'cuddle' didn't cover it; he was smothering him. With his body. He had rolled on top of him and was shoving his head under his chin and forcing him to cuddle whether he liked it or not, even though the idiot had woke him up, had hurt him with his claws—

And Joey didn't even care. The asshole had woken him up with his claws and Joey had forgiven him instantly. He didn't even get mad.

…He looked so… happy, there, curled up on his mate's chest. Like he didn't hold their mating against him. Like he didn't even remember it.

She nibbled her bottom lip for a few moments, then turned, spreading her wings and leaping from the windowsill. She had a lot to think about before she returned again.