Disclaimer: I do not own YuGiOh!. That pleasure belongs to Kazuki Takahashi. This is solely written for fun and not for profit.
A/N- This story has been languishing on my hard drive for the best part of a year, so whilst I think about how I should tackle editing the last two parts of Kaiba's New Assistant, I figured I should tidy it up and post it.
I thought about splitting this into two or three parts, but I think it works better as a long one shot.
Also, I decided to use the American names for this one. Just for a change.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
"Hello, this is The Literary Dog. How can I help you?" Joey Wheeler cheerfully answered the phone at his place of work, the small bookshop that he'd worked very hard for. He'd only been in residence for a couple of months, only having recently managed to get the funds together to afford the rent on the small shop and flat unit and he'd also managed to secure a loan to enable him to furnish it.
He'd always been interested in books as a child, something that he thought he'd left behind after his parent's divorce and during his gang days. However, after Yugi became his friend and after the events surrounding the millennium items had passed, he'd rediscovered his love of books and could often be seen with his nose buried in some volume or other. Kaiba had made several disparaging comments along the lines of not knowing that dogs could read, but Joey's renewed love of books had calmed him somewhat and he'd simply let the comments pass him by, much to Kaiba's disgust. Eventually, unable to get a rise from him, the CEO had simply left him alone.
Before long, Joey had wanted to find a copy of a book that he had fond childhood memories of, but it had long since gone out of print and had never been all that popular so it was quite hard to find. He'd had to go through quite a few different channels, internet searches and second hand book shops to find the book that he had wanted, but before too long he had the book in his hands.
Initially, only Yugi had taken interest in what Joey was doing and after seeing Joey's success in finding the books he'd wanted for himself, Yugi had asked Joey to help him find a rare book on Egyptology for his Grandfather. Again, before much time had passed, Joey had also managed to turn that particular volume up and Yugi had been rightfully impressed. So, too, had his Grandfather, as he had been looking for the book for a long time without success.
Soon word had spread of Joey's aptitude for searching out hard to find books and things snowballed as Joey found himself with the reputation as the guy to go to if you needed to find a rare volume. People had begun to pay him well for this service and he'd scrimped and saved every penny he could until he finally had enough to afford his shop and flat, which had also enabled him to get away from his loser of a father.
Since then his business had gone from strength to strength. The shop itself was always fairly quiet – the way he liked it – but he did a fair amount of business on the internet and over the phone, the shop presence only there to give him stability and to add to his already considerable credibility.
He'd called his shop 'The Literary Dog' for two reasons. First, as a reference to his being especially talented in sniffing out rare volumes and second, as a reminder of the 'nickname' that his high school crush, Seto Kaiba, had given to him during their schooldays. He had briefly considered using the word 'hound' instead of 'dog', but The Literary Hound, to his mind, just didn't have the same ring to it. So The Literary Dog it was.
But back to the phone call. As he listened to the caller on the other end of the line his heart simultaneously sank and raced. The person calling to use his service was none other than Seto Kaiba!
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Kaiba cursed in frustration as he read the latest email to land in his inbox. He'd been looking for a a copy of his adoptive father's autobiography, but he wasn't having much luck. It didn't help that there had only been a thousand copies total printed, most of which had been destroyed soon after printing. Seto shook his head as he considered that the man had always been a touch unstable, you only had to look at how he treated his 'family' to see that. That he'd take the time to write his own autobiography and commission the printing of it only to have most of them pulped, confirmed that the man could be considered eccentric at best.
As he was about to delete the email, he noticed that the book finder he'd employed this time had given him some advice, that being to try a service provided by 'The Literary Dog' as the owner of that establishment seemed to have extraordinary luck when it came to finding rare and out of print books.
Kaiba considered this for a moment, then decided that it couldn't hurt to try. The worst that would happen would be that this so-called book finding whiz wouldn't find a thing and he would be back to square one. He picked up the phone and dialled the number that had been given on the screen.
"Hello, this is The Literary Dog, how can I help you?" the pleasant and strangely familiar tones came over the line as the call was answered.
"I've been told that you provide a book finding service," Kaiba said evenly.
"Yes we do, and with a one hundred percent success rate," the man on the other end replied.
Kaiba wasn't sure about this as the voice seemed slightly less assured now. He put that concern aside for a moment and continued. "Good," he said, "then perhaps you could help me find a copy of my late father's autobiography."
"Sure thing," the voice now sounded more confident. "Tell me whatever you know about it and I'll get right on it."
Kaiba gave all the details that he knew about the book, including the fact that most of the copies had been destroyed. "So, when do you think you will know anything?" he asked.
"Well, you've given me a fair amount to go on, so if any copies still exist I hope to have a lead before too long," the man said. "But if this is as rare a book as you have led me to believe, then I need to know how high you are willing to go with regard to the price."
"I understand," Kaiba said, "and money is no object. I will pay whatever is necessary to obtain this volume."
"That's fair enough," the man said. "Could I have your contact details please?"
"My name is Seto Kaiba, hence money being no object," Kaiba couldn't help but sound a little smug about that, then he quickly gave his contact number.
"OK then Mr. Kaiba. If that is everything, I'll get right on it."
"Thank you. I'll look forward to hearing from you soon." Kaiba hung up, then looked at the phone with a puzzled expression on his face. The proprietor of The Literary Dog had sounded oddly familiar and he couldn't help but wonder that the man had failed to give his name.
However, he was stopped from thinking about it any longer as his secretary buzzed him. "Mr. Kaiba, Your 11 o'clock appointment is here," she said cheerfully.
"Thank you Sara," Kaiba said, putting the conundrum out of his mind for the moment and preparing for his meeting.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
As Joey hung up, his hands began to shake. Fuck. Kaiba. How come HE was calling to use his service? He could only come to the conclusion that someone must have recommended him as that was how he got most of his clientèle after all, through word of mouth. One thing was for sure, Kaiba obviously didn't realise just who he was dealing with or surely he would not have been able to resist making some kind of 'mutt' jibe. Joey also knew that if Kaiba had any inkling that he owned The Literary Dog there was no way that he would have wanted to use the service and he wouldn't have put it past Kaiba to deliberately attempt to destroy his hard won reputation just for spite.
And that was the crux of the reason that he'd felt compelled to take this job – reputation. Under any other circumstances he would probably have hung up on Kaiba, or at least told Kaiba just who it was he was trying to employ so that he could hang up instead, but his bookshop and finding service was incredibly important to him and to refuse a job from someone like Seto Kaiba had the potential to leave his reputation almost irrevocably tarnished. Of course he was fairly confident of being able to find the book, after all, he already had a fairly good idea as to where he should start looking. He just hoped that Kaiba would stay professional if, no, when he delivered results. He, of course, would have to remain at the height of professionalism, but given their past, he couldn't count on Kaiba's reaction to be favourable and he felt that he really was caught between a rock and a hard place.
He let out a sigh as he thought about the icy cool CEO of Kaiba Corporation. He had no idea what he'd done to make Kaiba hate him so much during their school days and it had hurt a fair bit when Kaiba had started to ignore him towards the end of their last year of high school, but he had told himself that it was for the best. But it didn't make any difference to how he felt about Kaiba, even after all this time.
Up until this point Joey had thought he'd managed to get over any feelings that he'd had for Kaiba. It was something that he'd put a lot of effort into as he'd been certain that he would never cross paths with the CEO again, but the phone call and hearing Kaiba's cool, cultivated tones had brought it all painfully rushing back. So much for getting over it, he thought, shaking his head ruefully.
He allowed himself a few more moments of melancholy reminiscence, then straightened up and turned to his computer, ready to get to work. He was determined to find the book that Kaiba desired so that he could prove to Kaiba once and for all that this 'mutt' was good for something. Hopefully he'd get through this quickly and with his reputation intact, then he'd be able to start the long and painful process of getting Kaiba out of his heart and mind all over again.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Several weeks passed and Joey had finally found a lead and was following up on it. He'd made an appointment to see the owner of the book to see if it was indeed the genuine article and whether he could persuade the man to sell.
He pulled his modest car up outside quite a grand house. Not that it was a patch on the grandeur that was the Kaiba estate, but then there weren't many people as rich and powerful as Seto Kaiba.
Shaking himself out of any thoughts of his unrequited love, he exited his car, walked up to the entrance and rang on the doorbell. Soon a pretty maid with long, braided blonde hair answered the door. "How can I help you," she asked shyly.
"Good afternoon," Joey said pleasantly. "I'm Joseph Wheeler from The Literary Dog. I have an appointment to see Mr. Johnson." Joey always used his full name when he was doing this kind of work as it made him sound more respectable, no matter how much he hated it.
"Oh, yes, Mr. Wheeler," she nodded and opened the door to let him in. "Master is expecting you." She closed the door. "Please follow me."
Joey followed her quietly, a little worried over the maid's subservient demeanour and how she had intoned the word 'master'. Still, it was none of his business how people lived their lives. He was simply here to try and negotiate the sale of the book if it proved to be the genuine article, nothing more.
Soon they entered an opulently and somewhat gaudily appointed lounge room where the 'master' was in attendance. "Mr. Joseph Wheeler to see you, Master," the maid bowed deeply as she introduced him.
"Thank you Marissa," a deep voice came from a balding and slightly greasy looking middle aged man. "You may go."
"Yes Master," she said, bowing again as she left.
"So, you're Wheeler, hmm?" he said, looking the bookshop owner up and down with a contemptuous eye.
Joey didn't like that regard, which was obviously intended to set him on edge, but he held his nerve. "Yes sir," he said, holding out his hand. "Pleased to meet you." Joey cringed as 'master', otherwise known as Frank Johnson, shook his hand. The man felt as greasy as he looked and Joey struggled to repress a shudder. He was sure that there was something familiar about the man, be it his name or demeanour, but whatever it was eluded him and he let it pass from his mind for the moment.
"Likewise," Johnson said, although Joey had the suspicion he wasn't being very sincere. "Now I believe that you were enquiring over my copy of Gozaburo Kaiba's autobiography."
"Yes sir," Joey said. "I have a client that is looking for that particular volume and I was wondering if you would be willing to sell it?"
"Hmm..." Johnson said, rubbing at his chin. "My late brother was given that book by Gozaburo Kaiba himself, you know?"
"Ah, I see," Joey said with sympathy in his tone. "So it has some sentimental value?"
"Oh no, not at all," Johnson said, waving a hand dismissively. "Neither of us liked the old blow hard and I don't know about my brother, but personally I never had a happier day than when he threw himself out of his office window. I'll be quite pleased to see the back of it. For the right price, of course," he added with a chuckle.
Joey was quite taken aback by this, but decided to hold his tongue for now.
"Anyhow, never mind that," Johnson waved it to one side, "Could you tell me who it is that is interested in obtaining the book?"
"I'm sorry sir," Joey said apologetically. "Client confidentiality. I'm sure you understand."
"I see," the greasy man nodded sagely. "So... I guess we should get down to the nitty-gritty eh?"
"Yes sir," Joey said. "May I see the book please?" He needed to make sure that the book was both the one he was looking for and complete. He'd heard of other book finders who had lost their reputations after not checking the merchandise properly and delivering books with pages missing or something completely different inside as to what was on the dust wrapper.
"Of course" Johnson said agreeably. He picked up a book from his desk and handed it over to Joey for inspection.
Joey looked over the book carefully, taking in the state of the dust wrapper and the boards that actually bound the book. He carefully opened it and checked the pages and contents inside, looking at the publication data that all books had, even if they were self-published. He noted that Gozaburo had signed this volume, not that he supposed that Kaiba would be impressed by such a thing. Soon enough he was finished with his inspection and he was satisfied that the book was indeed genuine and in good condition. "Everything seems to be in order," Joey said, "so now I guess it comes down to how much you want for it."
Johnson smirked and named an outlandish sum of money. As he noticed Joey blanch at the price, he explained his reasoning. "I know for a fact that the volume is very rare," he said nonchalantly. "Gozaburo himself told my brother that only a thousand copies were printed and I also know that he had most of them destroyed. He tried to get this one back but my brother refused him, partly because he had already passed the book to me. That didn't go down too well, I can tell you. I'd guess that there could only be what? Less than five copies left in the world? In fact it is quite possible that this may be the only one left." Johnson smirked, making Joey shudder. "Rumour also has it that there is information buried in these pages," he stroked the book reverently, "that, if it could be decoded, would make that person very rich. Of course, I would want suitable compensation to part with such a treasure."
"I understand," Joey said, thinking that he now understood why Kaiba wanted to obtain the book. Getting hold of his adoptive father's secrets could very well be worth the cost to him, especially if it were to protect Kaiba Corporation, but Joey was still cautious. "If you don't mind, I'll have to call my client to see if such a sum would be acceptable," he said.
"Of course, of course," Johnson said, waving a hand. "I understand the need for privacy in such matters, so if you just go through here," he indicated a door, "you'll be able to call your client without being overheard."
"Thank you," Joey said, bowing then slipping through, past Johnson and closing the door behind him. He pulled out his cellphone, calling Kaiba Corporation and navigating the various channels to get access to Kaiba himself, shaking his head at Kaiba's idea of a 'contact number'. Eventually he reached Kaiba's secretary and then she was putting him through.
"Mr Kaiba," she said perkily, "The representative from The Literary Dog is on the line for you."
"Thank you Sara," Kaiba said pleasantly, then Joey was put through to him. "I take it that you have news for me?" Kaiba said without any preamble.
"Yes," Joey said agreeably. "I have located a copy of the book and verified that it is the genuine article, but the owner has put a very high price on it."
"Oh?" Kaiba said. "How much are we talking here?" Joey named a figure and Kaiba couldn't help but whistle.
"I can turn him down and keep looking if the price is too high," Joey offered.
"No, that's fine," Kaiba said. "I did say that money was no object so I don't see a problem."
"I just wanted to be sure that you were alright with it before agreeing to the sale," Joey explained. "It is a lot of money, after all."
"Yes, and thank you for being so responsible about this," Kaiba said. "In that case I shall shortly expect to see you in my office to collect the payment."
"Um... I'm sorry, but wouldn't it be better for the payment to go through the banks as is usual for this kind of thing?" Joey asked worriedly, feeling the situation beginning to spiral out of control.
"Normally, yes, but I do not want any electronic records tying me to this transaction, even through your shop. I'm sure you understand," Kaiba said in a reasonable tone. "My staff have run an exhaustive check on you and they assure me that you have shown to be trustworthy, so I shall expect to see you in my office shortly."
"Yes Mr. Kaiba," Joey said, stomach plummeting at the prospect of seeing Kaiba in the flesh, something he had been hoping to avoid until it was time to deliver the book to him. "I'll see you soon." He ended the call, then walked back out to tell Johnson the news.
"Did your client agree?" the greasy man said eagerly.
"Yes sir," Joey said, "but I will have to leave to collect your payment. My client does not want any record tying him to this sale and, as I'm sure you'll understand, I don't have enough capital myself to cover anywhere near this amount of money."
"Take the book with you," Johnson said. "You can bring me the payment afterwards."
"I couldn't possibly do that, Sir," Joey protested, not wanting to open himself up to any more risk than he was already taking. Things were bad enough, what with Kaiba insisting on giving him the payment in person.
"I insist," Johnson pressed the book into Joey's hands. Joey could see a dangerous glint in his eye and he knew that he wasn't being given a choice.
Joey subsided reluctantly. "Thank you sir," he said, taking the book, wrapping it carefully and placing it safely in his bag. He turned to leave, only for Johnson to call his attention again.
"Mr. Wheeler, I know that you will come back with the payment," he said with a sinister grin. "After all, if you don't I'll ruin you."
"Noted sir," Joey said, trying to control his nerves. He could not get out of there fast enough!
Johnson watched Wheeler leave, the sinister grin never leaving his face. He was going to enjoy ruining that mutt. He'd instantly recognised the bookshop owner as one of those damned kids that had caused his brother to lose his life in the virtual world so this was quite the opportunity to extract some kind of revenge. He couldn't get at Kaiba - to attempt to do such a thing would be suicidal - but he knew that Kaiba had to be the one who had been looking for the book, hence why he had put such a high price on it. He also knew that Kaiba and Wheeler could not stand each other and the odds of Kaiba giving Wheeler the payment were close to zero. There was no way he would ever accept taking the book back, thus he would leave Wheeler with quite the dilemma.
Oh yes, crushing Wheeler would be fun.
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Joey approached the Kaiba Corporation building with a heightened sense of trepidation. He was not sure about this in the slightest, his worry only rising because he had, in effect, found himself railroaded into bringing the book with him. Holding the bag containing the book tightly, he stepped smartly into the foyer and walked confidently up to reception.
"Can I help you?" the receptionist asked pleasantly.
"Yes, I'm the representative from The Literary Dog here to see Mr. Kaiba," Joey said with much more confidence than he was currently feeling.
"Oh yes, he's expecting you. Please go up," she said, indicating the lift that he was to take.
"Thank you," he said politely before walking up to the metal doors and stepping inside. On the way up to the top floor he tried to bring his emotions under control, both the anticipation of seeing Kaiba again and the fear of what Kaiba might do to him threatening to turn him into a quivering wreck. As the bell dinged to signify his arrival at the top floor, he took a deep breath, stepped out and walked towards Kaiba's personal secretary.
"Oh, hello," the woman said perkily. "Are you the representative from The Literary Dog?"
"Yes," he said simply, still unwilling even at this late point to give out his name. Although Kaiba had said that his staff had checked him out, he obviously hadn't bothered with the information past the fact that his staff had said he was trustworthy. If he had, then Kaiba would know exactly who he was dealing with and Joey was pretty damned sure that he wouldn't be standing here right now.
"Mr. Kaiba is expecting you," she said. "Please go through."
"Ah, thanks," Joey said, steeling himself as he first knocked, then walked through Kaiba's office door.
"Mutt, what the hell are you doing here?" Seto Kaiba spat as the last person he'd ever expected to cross paths with again walked into his office. It was a real shock to see Joey and he couldn't help but fall back into familiar patterns.
Joey, however, was totally determined to stay professional. "Mr Kaiba," he said pleasantly, crossing to stand in front of the CEO's desk, "I'm the representative from The Literary Dog and..."
"You?" Kaiba said in surprise, cutting Joey off. "You are the book finder that came so recommended?"
"Yes sir," Joey said, determined to keep hold of his temper.
"I'm sorry, but I find that extremely hard to believe," Kaiba snorted dismissively. "If I'd known that you were the one in charge..."
"Yes, I know," Joey sighed, resigned to the fact that Kaiba obviously still utterly hated him, "you'd have gone elsewhere. But then you would still be looking for that book," he couldn't help but point out.
"Riiiight," Kaiba drawled insultingly. "And how do I know that you are not just going to take my money and run?"
Joey bristled at the blatant insult to his character. "Because I have the book right here," he said, carefully pulling the wrapped volume out of his bag and placing it down gently on Kaiba's desk. "You can take a look and make sure that it is the genuine article before we go any further."
Kaiba gave Joey a sceptical look, but unwrapped the book and looked it over carefully. He quickly came to the conclusion that yes, it was the real thing, right down to Gozaburo's signature on the flyleaf, but he had to wonder just how come Joey had got the book with him. He was certain that there was no way the mutt had the resources available to have paid the exorbitant price for the book before bringing it to him so the only conclusion he could come to was that Joey was trying to rip him off. There was no way he was going to stand for that so he decided to call Joey's bluff.
"I'm sorry, I don't want to pay that much money for it," Kaiba said coolly as he placed the book back on his desk. "You'll have to take less."
"With all due respect," Joey said, ignoring Seto's snort, "You already agreed to the price and you specifically told me that money was no object. Hell, I even called you before I came here to make sure that the terms were acceptable."
"Well, I've changed my mind," Kaiba said, eyes narrowing. "It's way too much to pay for the book and I object to being gouged."
"Now hang on a minute," Joey said, annoyed at being accused of doing such a thing. He leaned forward and slammed his hands onto the desk. "Why on earth would I jeopardise my hard won reputation for something like this?"
"You tell me," Kaiba said, sitting back and crossing his arms as he gave Joey a contemptuous glare. "The lure of money has been the undoing of many a better man than you."
"God damn it," Joey exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air. "I should have known better than to take this job on, reputation be damned." With that, he turned around and stormed out. He stewed all the way down in the lift and out through the lobby and it was only as he'd left the building and was about to get into his car that he remembered...
"Shit, I forgot the book!"
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Several days later, Seto Kaiba pulled up outside The Literary Dog, intending to throw the book back at Joey and tell him not to attempt to cheat him again in future. However, he was to be shocked as he found that the shop's sign board was turned over and the windows were all whited out. He stood there, staring at the obviously closed shop for several long minutes before entering the small bakery situated next door in order to see if he could find out what had happened.
"Hello," A small older lady said pleasantly as Seto entered her shop. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"Possibly," Seto said guardedly. "Could you tell me what happened to the bookshop next door?"
"Oh yes," She said with a downcast expression. "It's very sad. Joey told me that he was done over by a couple of rich guys and lost everything." She sighed, "It's such a shame, especially after he worked so hard to get where he was."
Seto felt a small pang of guilt. Had he totally misjudged Joey? "Can you tell me where Mr. Wheeler is now?" he asked.
"I'm sorry, love," she said, shaking her head, "he just up and left. I offered for him to stay here with me until he could get things straightened out, but he refused."
"He did?" Seto blinked.
"Yes, he said that he didn't want to bring me any trouble." She sighed again. "He's such a thoughtful boy. I do hope he's alright."
"I hope so too," Seto said sympathetically. "Thank you for your time." With that, he turned and left, thoughts rushing through his mind.
From what the old woman had told him, he had obviously done Joey a very great wrong and somehow ended up costing him his livelihood. He wasn't sure what to make of what she had said about trouble, but it was possible that whoever Joey had acquired the book from had made some kind of threat against his person when the payment hadn't been forthcoming and knowing what Joey was like, he wouldn't have wanted to get other people involved.
With one last look at the shop that had been Joey's, he got back into his car and headed back to Kaiba Corporation, determined to find out just what had happened to Joey. If it was his fault that Joey had lost his shop, then at the very least he owed it to him to put things right.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Several days later, Kaiba was still none the wiser as to what had happened to Joey. The first thing he'd done was to call Yugi to see if he had any idea what had happened or where to find him, but Yugi had been just as puzzled over where Joey had got to as Kaiba was, if not more so because Yugi truly had no idea why Joey had closed his shop and disappeared.
Yugi told Kaiba that he had called the police to look into the problem, but they had seemed strangely reluctant to take him seriously. Kaiba had thanked him, promised to let him know if he heard anything, then hung up. He didn't bother to attempt to get in touch with Joey's other friends as if Yugi didn't know anything, then it was more than likely that the rest of them wouldn't either. Not that he wanted to speak to any of them anyway. Out of the little group of friends, Yugi was the only one that he could really stand, well, apart from Joey, but that was something altogether different.
Seto sighed as his thoughts once again turned to the feisty blond. He'd always done his best to push Joey away, not wanting him to realise that he didn't actually hate him at all. No, far from it. At the time, he'd regarded such feelings as an inconvenience, especially given the unexpected turn some of his fantasies had taken. That he was having these kinds of feelings for another male just made everything worse, but unfortunately he'd done better than expected in pushing Joey away. Once Joey had got heavily into reading during their last year of school, he'd calmed down a lot and had effectively begun to ignore him. Even though that was what he'd wanted, the situation had somehow left him feeling hollow. But soon the end of their school time was upon them and the chance to rectify things was gone, not that he would have considered doing such a thing at the time.
In fact, after they had graduated from school he had not seen any of the group again and the loneliness he had felt, especially as Mokuba began to rely on him less, had been almost overwhelming. He had regretted not becoming closer to the group as a whole, even with those members that he could not really stand. He was sure that if he had approached them at any time they would have accepted him with open arms, but his pride had stopped him from admitting he was wrong not to accept their friendship. And so it went on.
When Joey had walked into his office a few days ago he'd been shocked to say the least. If he'd thought about it, he would have found it strange that the bookshop owner had not given his name. He regretted not checking out the shop's credentials for himself, instead having trusted one of his underlings to do it for him, taking the verbal report that the owner was completely trustworthy as good enough. Still, when he'd thought that Joey had been trying to rip him off it had really hurt and he'd reacted in the typical way, belittling the blond and not giving him chance to explain himself, instead causing him to turn tail and run.
Now he felt terrible because he'd so badly misjudged the situation. By rights he should have been impressed that Joey had managed to turn his lot around so well, especially considering the start he'd had in life with his time in the gang and his borderline abusive father. That he'd managed to come good, doing so well as to be able to afford the small shop and flat and to obtain such an impressive reputation was no mean feat, but then he'd had to spoil it all. First he owed it to Joey to put things right, then he would try and see if there was any chance of building some kind of friendship. But before any of that could happen he needed to find the wayward bookshop owner.
Suddenly, his attention was drawn to his computer as the machine made an insistent beeping noise. Seto's eyes widened as he took in the information shown on the screen, then he shot out of his seat and made a bee line out of the office. He finally had a lead! Now he just had to get there before Joey could disappear on him again.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Joey Wheeler sat heavily down on the park bench and pulled his jacket closer around him. All he had left were the clothes on his back and a empty wallet.
After he'd realised that he'd left the book on Kaiba's desk, he'd instantly tried to get back in to retrieve it, only to be rebuffed at every turn. He'd made such a scene in the lobby that security had escorted him back to his car and watched him drive away. Then he'd tried to call Kaiba instead, once again failing to get through.
He knew, however, that it was likely to be an exercise in futility even to try as he was sure that in the event that he got the book back it would not have saved him, Johnson having given the distinct impression that he wanted rid of it and would not accept it back. Maybe he could have sold it on to recoup some of the money, but he knew that it would not have been anywhere near enough.
Eventually, he'd been unable to put it off any longer and he'd had to inform Johnson of what had occurred. Predictably, things had not gone well. He'd lost his home, his shop and his car. Indeed, all he'd been left with was what he was wearing. He'd also been warned not to get anyone else involved or things would go badly for them too. Joey had taken Johnson at his word and had avoided his friends, not wanting to put them in potential danger because of his own stupid mistake.
Having said that, he had still tried one last time to get in touch with Kaiba, figuring that in the unlikely event that he could get Kaiba to listen to him, that he would have the clout to help him out. But once again he was without success. He'd felt that he'd had no choice but to give up and now his life consisted of being constantly moved on from place to place, park bench to park bench. He hadn't eaten properly in days and he had not been allowed to sleep much either as he was constantly being hounded to move on.
He wasn't to get to rest here either. "Come on now, move along," the voice of the police officer - or goon dressed as a police officer - who had obviously been assigned to harass him today shocking him out of his introspection.
"Yeah, yeah, I get it," Joey said wearily, slowly getting up and wearily walking away. Once Joey was sure that he was out of the line of sight of the official, he leaned heavily against a nearby wall, exhaustion both mental and physical taking him over. He spied another bench a few yards ahead and set it as his next goal, taking one heavy step after another. It was to no avail, however, as his reserves finally hit rock bottom.
The world tilted and went dark as Joey passed out.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Joey groaned as he began to regain consciousness. He was lying on something soft and he was warmer than he had been in days. Blearily, he blinked, squeezing his eyes shut again at the bright light in the room. He brought his hand up to rub at his eyes, then started as he realised that he was on a drip.
More fully awake now, he began to swear copiously. With his current situation there was no way that he could afford a hospital stay, so he made himself sit and begin to get out of bed. Maybe he could escape before things got even worse for him.
However, he wasn't even to make it as far as standing before the door swung open.
"What do you think you are doing?" the harsh voice of Seto Kaiba said as he moved to push Joey back onto the bed. Kaiba was alarmed by Joey's appearance. He was pale and gaunt with black smudges under his eyes and he obviously hadn't washed or shaved for several days.
"Kaiba," Joey said bitterly. "Why are you here? Haven't you done enough?" Joey turned his face away from his long term crush and one of the reasons behind his downfall. He didn't want to show too much weakness, even in his current state, but he felt so low that he couldn't look Kaiba in the eyes.
Kaiba mentally facepalmed. He'd come here hoping to be able to put things right, but the very first thing he'd done was to snap at Joey. He took a deep breath and started again. "Joey, I... I apologise," he said, more calmly now. "I misjudged the situation and I did not mean for things to turn out this way."
Joey looked sharply up at Kaiba as he registered the contrite tone in the other man's voice and the fact that he had called him by his given name instead of a derogatory term. Seeing no guile in Kaiba's features, he spoke. "OK, I guess that's fair enough," he said warily, not quite ready to accept that Kaiba was being completely genuine just yet, "but why did you assume that I was out to rip you off? You should know that's not my style."
"I know, but I think I reacted that way because I was so shocked to see you. I was surprised that you were the one to find the book and part of the problem was that you actually had it with you," Kaiba explained. "I knew that there was no way that you would have the capital to cover the cost. The price was rather extortionate after all." He said that last with a wry smile.
"I could have explained that," Joey said with a sigh. "If I hadn't lost my temper and left, that is." He looked up at Kaiba to gauge his reaction. "I was railroaded into bringing the book with me. I didn't want to take it, but I wasn't really given a choice." A bitter look crossed Joey's features. "I get the feeling that he knew this would happen."
"Tell me who it was," Kaiba said intently. "Let me put things right."
Joey looked sceptically at Kaiba for a moment before sighing and slumping back onto the bed. "Sure, why not. It's not like things can get much worse for me right now." he said dejectedly. "His name is Frank Johnson."
"Him?" Seto seemed surprised. "He's behind this?"
"You know him?" Joey asked.
"Yes," Seto confirmed, a scowl twisting his features. "Nasty, greasy little man. His brother was one of the Big Five - specifically the one that you dueled against in the virtual world."
"Fuck!" Joey swore. "I knew I recognised the name from somewhere." He looked at Kaiba, "So I guess he's pissed that his brother didn't get to steal my body and took the chance to get some revenge, huh?"
"I would say so, but don't worry, I'll deal with him." Kaiba's features hardened as he thought about the trouble the man had orchestrated. He looked at Joey. "Stay here and get some rest," he instructed. "I'll be back later."
"That's all very well," Joey said, "but I'm going to have to leave. As things stand I can't afford..."
Seto made a gesture, cutting Joey off. "It's all taken care of," he insisted. "Now let me go and deal with Johnson." he spat the name as if it were something dirty, "then I will come back to see you later, OK?" Kaiba may have phrased it as a question, but his tone left no room for argument.
"Fine," Joey conceded. "I'll see you later, I guess."
"Good," Seto said with a grim smile, then he left Joey to rest. He could tell that Joey was being quite wary, but he found that he couldn't really blame him. He had a lot to make up for and the first step was to deal with Johnson.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
About half an hour later, Seto Kaiba pulled up outside the home of Frank Johnson, several other cars containing members of his security pulling up with him. He motioned for some of the black suited men to stay with the cars, indicating that three others were to follow him, then he walked up to the entrance. He rang the doorbell, waited for Johnson's maid to answer the door, then made to push past her with no introductions.
She blocked the way, "I'm sorry sir, but..." she began. Kaiba clicked his fingers and she found a gun pointed at her head. She paled suddenly. "Very good sir," She said shakily, "you may go through. Mr. Johnson is in his study." Kaiba gave her a contemptuous look, then wasted no time in making his way to where Johnson was. He motioned for his bodyguards to stand guard at the door, then walked in without bothering to knock. He fixed Johnson, who was sat behind his desk, with a look that should have frozen him where he sat.
"Well, well, if it isn't Seto Kaiba," the greasy little man drawled. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" He may have appeared to be calm on the outside, but a tell tale drop of sweat rolled down the side of his face.
"Cut the crap, Johnson." Kaiba spat. "You know very well why I am here." He glared at Johnson. "Call your dogs off Joey Wheeler."
"Why should I?" Johnson said petulantly as he stood. "I still haven't been paid for my book."
"And the way you set Joey up, you knew it was more than likely that you wouldn't be," Kaiba sneered. "But that is neither here nor there." He put a small attaché case on the desk. "Here is your payment. Now you have no reason not to call your men off and return Joey's life to him."
"But the inconvenience I've been through..." Johnson attempted to argue, only to be interrupted by an irate Kaiba.
"You will stop making excuses and you will leave Joey alone," he snarled at the now trembling man, "or I will ruin you, just as you have ruined Joey." He narrowed his eyes. "You know I can do it."
Johnson sank back at the venom in Kaiba's tone. "OK, OK, I'll call them off," he said trembling violently.
"Now," Kaiba instructed, crossing his arms as the sweaty man fumbled to pick up the phone then barked instructions down it. Once Kaiba was satisfied, he held out his hand expectantly.
"What is it that you want now?" Johnson snapped querulously.
"The keys to Joey's shop." Kaiba snapped back. Johnson paled once again, then pulled a drawer open and fished out a keyring full of keys.
"His shop and flat keys and his car keys," the greasy man said sullenly.
"Good," Kaiba said with some satisfaction. "But if Joey finds that you've taken or broken anything it will be replaced without argument." His tone left no room for discussion.
"Nobody has been in there," Johnson said, sweating again, "so I can guarantee that everything will be just as Wheeler left it."
"Really?" Kaiba raised an eyebrow. "Why is that?" Johnson mumbled something that Kaiba didn't catch. "Speak up," he snapped, beyond irritated with the man now.
"I said, I was going to have it burned down to make it look like an insurance job," he said sulkily.
Kaiba's eyes narrowed as he loomed menacingly over Johnson's desk. "It is fortunate for you that things never got that far," he growled, then he pulled away. "I'm going to leave now, but if you cross me in any way again I will destroy you and everything you hold dear." Kaiba didn't wait for an answer, but simply strode out, motioning for his security to follow him as he did so. As Kaiba left the building, the man that was holding the gun to the maid's head also left, leaving her pale and trembling and vowing to leave as dealing with this kind of thing was not part of her terms of employment.
Kaiba assigned some of his security staff to watch the area around Joey's shop as he was loath to trust Johnson to keep his word, then he peeled out of the drive. He found that he was eager to get back to the hospital and let Joey know that he was safe as soon as possible.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Johnson stared at the door as Kaiba left. Damn. He really hadn't counted on things turning out this way. How dare Kaiba come and spoil his fun?
He still wanted his revenge on Wheeler for what had happened to his brother, but how was he going to do it now?
He perked up suddenly and gave a sinister laugh. He knew what he had to do. He didn't have to play games, he could just remove Joey from the picture altogether. Maybe he would get lucky and get Kaiba too.
He picked up the phone and dialled a number as he began to put his plan into action. Either way, Wheeler wouldn't even know what had hit him!
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
To start with, Joey slept. He was woken about an hour after Kaiba left, his drip was removed and he was given a light, yet nutritious meal. After that he slept again, but before long there was a change of shift and moves were suddenly afoot to get him discharged.
Joey couldn't bring himself to fight it. He sighed and made to get dressed, ready to be thrown out. He was just pulling his shoes on, when the door opened, revealing Seto Kaiba who looked quite annoyed.
"What are you doing?" Kaiba asked harshly as he took in Joey's state of dress. "I thought I told you to wait until I got back, but here you are about to run out on me." He looked annoyed and upset at the prospect.
Joey sighed and gave Kaiba a long-suffering look. "I wasn't gonna run, but if you're going to jump to conclusions again..." he turned back to his shoes.
"No, I'm sorry," Kaiba said, "but you have to admit..."
"Yeah, I know," Joey cut him off as he sat back up, "it looked like I was about to leave, but it's certainly not by choice."
"What do you mean?" Kaiba had a dangerous glint in his eye.
"I overheard some of the staff talking about discharging me," Joey said. "I was just making sure I was ready for when they came to kick me out."
"That's not right," Kaiba said with annoyance. "When I came in before, the doctor told me that they were going to keep you in overnight for observation."
"Yeah, well, I think there's been a change of shift since then," Joey observed, shaking his head ruefully. "It's no more than I expected anyway."
"I'll get this sorted out," Kaiba said with determination, making to leave, only to be stopped by Joey.
"Kaiba, wait," he said. "It's fine. I don't want to stay here anyway."
"But the doctor said..."
"You know as well as I do that they were only being ultra cautious because you were around," Joey shook his head. "I'm OK, really."
"Fine," Seto said shortly, "come on then."
"Eh, what?" Joey was confused.
"I'll get you out of here and give you a lift," Seto said, walking from the room, clearly expecting Joey to follow him.
"Hang on," Joey said, grabbing his coat and chasing after Kaiba. "Where are you going to take me?"
"You'll see," Kaiba said cryptically, refusing to be drawn any further. He got Joey discharged without further incident and soon had him sat in the passenger seat of his top of the range BMW.
Joey sat almost numbly, unable to enjoy the ride, worried as he was over what was going to happen to him next. He was to be surprised, however, as Kaiba pulled up outside his small bookshop. "Kaiba?" Joey wondered. "What are we doing here?"
Kaiba simply pulled a set of keys out of his pocket, keys that were very familiar to Joey. Shakily, Joey reached out and took them. "How?" he asked.
"I got Johnson to hand them over," Kaiba said with a smirk. He got out of the car, Joey following as he walked to the door of the over-shop flat. "Well?" he prompted.
Joey walked forward and opened the door, ushered Kaiba inside, then closed the door behind him. Then, grim faced and not knowing what to expect, he walked up the stairs. He had been worried that he would find his flat completely trashed, but to his surprise things were exactly as he had left them. "What the hell?" he couldn't help but exclaim.
"What's the matter?" Kaiba asked.
"I thought for sure that greasy git would have turned the flat over or sold everything, but it's exactly as I left it." He looked at Kaiba who was trying to suppress a smirk. "What?" he asked a little defensively.
"Sorry," Kaiba said as he got his mirth truly under control. "You called Johnson a greasy git and I have to say that I find the description quite apt." He turned a little more serious, "As for why your things are all in perfect order, the 'greasy git' was going to torch the place and make it look like an insurance job."
"What?" Joey was instantly on guard. "Is it safe? I mean, could it happen anyway? What about the rest of the shops? I know you said Johnson was going to leave me alone, but..."
"Joey!" Kaiba exclaimed, putting his hand on Joey's arm and stopping his panicked rambling in its tracks. "It's fine. I've got some of my security watching the surrounding area so no-one untoward will get anywhere near. You don't need to worry."
Joey relaxed slightly. "Oh good," he said with some relief. "Thanks Kaiba, I appreciate it." On impulse he reached out and pulled the CEO into a hug.
Kaiba awkwardly put his arms around Joey and hugged him back hesitantly. "You shouldn't thank me," he said lowly. "It's partially my fault you are in this mess anyway." He wrinkled his nose slightly. "Don't take this the wrong way," he said gently, "but maybe you could go... clean up a touch?"
Joey jumped away from the embrace with a hot flush of embarrassment. "Oh, sorry," he said contritely, rubbing at his heavily stubbled chin. "I haven't been able to wash much recently..." he sighed, "but you understand that don't you. Make yourself at home. I won't be long."
"Don't rush on my account," Kaiba said as Joey left the room. Once Joey was safely in the bathroom, Kaiba entered the small kitchen to see if there was anything left that was edible. After a cursory inspection, he came to the conclusion that the only food that was remotely edible was cup ramen and that anything fresh had spoiled in the time that Joey had been... away. He wasted no time in reaching for his cell-phone, first instructing a member of his staff to do some shopping for him and then calling for take out. He knew that Joey hadn't eaten anywhere near properly in the last several days and he couldn't let that carry on.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Half an hour later found Joey freshly shaved and showered, wearing a soft pair of sweat-pants coupled with a T-shirt and dressing gown. He yawned widely as he walked back out to see what Kaiba was up to, only to stop dead at the sight in front of him. The table was set and a simple meal of curry and rice was set out with glasses of sparkling apple juice on the side. "Kaiba, what's going on?" he asked.
"You didn't have anything remotely edible left in the kitchen," Kaiba explained, "at least not of proper nutritional value, so I called for a delivery. It's nothing fancy, but I didn't think your stomach could cope with much more than this right now."
"It looks wonderful, thank you," Joey said gratefully, "and it smells great." He looked at the almost shyly hovering brunet, wondering at his change in demeanour. This was definitely not the Kaiba of old and he wasn't quite sure what to make of it just yet. "Are you going to join me?" he asked courteously.
"Thank you," Kaiba nodded as he sat and began to eat as Joey simply dug in with gusto. Soon Joey was feeling quite full and was nodding, trying to stay awake as exhaustion threatened to overtake him once again. "Go to bed Joey," Kaiba said gently. "You need to rest still, obviously."
"Can't do that," Joey mumbled. "Be rude not to clean up." He got up and made to begin clearing the table, only to stop as Kaiba put a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't worry about it," he insisted. "Just go to bed."
Joey deflated, lacking the strength to argue. "Fine. Thanks Seto," he said, then he gave the brunet a cheeky look. "You going to come and tuck me in?" He laughed as Seto spluttered slightly. "Kidding, Seto," he said, then he yawned expansively. "G'night."
"Goodnight Joey," Seto said almost wistfully.
Joey waved back as he shuffled out of the living room and into his bedroom, flopping heavily into his bed. Kaiba had presented him with quite a conundrum. He'd been as he'd always remembered him a few days ago when he'd delivered the book to his office. He'd even been somewhat normal when they were at the hospital earlier, but since they'd got back to Joey's flat... Joey sighed as he snuggled into his pillow. He was too tired to think about it right now. He'd think about it in the morning when he wasn't so tired...
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Joey sighed and opened his eyes. The sun was well up, light filtering into the room through the closed curtains over the windows. He lay there for a moment as he began to wake fully, then sat up sharply as he remembered the events of the last few days. After a moment he flopped back down, curses on his lips. Kaiba had been right here in his flat last night. He'd been far more gentle than he had ever remembered him being and he hadn't gone ballistic when Joey had used his given name. But Joey had been far too tired to take in what was happening. He sighed heavily as he realised that Kaiba was likely to have gone home, leaving him alone again and he was not likely to find the answer to the conundrum that Kaiba had presented him with the previous evening any time soon.
After a few moments of pondering the might have beens, he pulled himself sluggishly out of bed and towards the bathroom, determined to put it out of his mind for now and attempt to get back to some kind of normality. Soon washed and dressed, he walked into the small living area and stopped dead. There, asleep on his two-seater sofa was none other than Seto Kaiba.
Joey let his eyes rake over the welcome, if somewhat unexpected sight in his living room. Kaiba was just as gorgeous as he remembered. In fact, if anything he had only got more attractive as time had gone by. In sleep he looked innocent, almost angelic and Joey drank deeply of the sight lest he were never able to see it again.
His appreciation didn't last long, however, as Kaiba gave an almost imperceptible shiver. Joey face-palmed. It wasn't all that warm in the flat, the chill of the morning making itself known so Joey quickly left the room, returning a moment later with the thick duvet from his own bed, still slightly warm from where he had lain under it earlier. Carefully, so as not to wake the slumbering brunet, he covered Kaiba with the duvet. He was gratified when the small pinch of discomfort in Kaiba's face smoothed out and he snuggled gratefully into the warmth.
"Mmm, Joey..." Seto murmured as he shifted slightly and Joey's face went flame red as the possible implications of that moan crossed his mind. He quickly adjourned to the kitchen, before he did something that he might later regret.
Once he was assured of his privacy, he took a couple of deep breaths to compose himself, then put the coffee maker on. He knew of old that Kaiba was an even bigger bitch than usual before he'd had his coffee in the mornings.
Once the machine was up and running, he left the flat to go to the bakery next door, run by Mrs. Santana, to let her know that he was back, that everything was fine and so that he could get some breakfast pastries. Kaiba had got him dinner last night so providing breakfast was the least he could do, especially as he had stayed overnight.
Ten minutes later, having assured that old woman that yes, he was fine and it had all been a big misunderstanding, he returned to the flat, noting that Kaiba was still slumbering on the couch. He wasted no time in setting the table and pouring the coffee, knowing that the pungent aroma would have Kaiba awake in no time. He wasn't disappointed as Kaiba wandered in a moment later and Joey handed him the cup he'd made and bade him to sit down. Joey sat down opposite with his own cup and waited for Kaiba to speak.
"Mmm, you make a killer cup of coffee," Kaiba said in appreciation.
"Thanks," Joey blushed at the praise. "Have some breakfast too," he offered. "It's fresh from the bakery next door."
"Thank you," Kaiba said as he took a pastry and bit delicately into it. "Very nice," he said in appreciation. "Compliments to the chef."
"I'll tell Mrs. Santana," Joey smirked. "I'm sure she'll be thrilled to hear that the great Seto Kaiba rates her baking."
"Quite," Seto said with amusement, then the conversation stalled, an awkward silence growing out of nowhere. The two men continued to partake of breakfast in silence, but when they had finished, Joey felt that he had to speak.
"Why are you still here, Kaiba?" he asked, wincing slightly as it came out somewhat more bluntly than he had intended. "I mean... after you got things sorted out and made sure that I was OK, I was sure that you would have gone home. Not that I'm complaining..." Joey looked up at Kaiba and was surprised to see a haunted look in his eyes. "Kaiba?" he prompted gently.
Kaiba's visage suddenly hardened. "It's nothing, Joey," He said harshly.
"No, I don't think it's nothing," Joey pressed, standing as Kaiba made to leave. "It's just us here," he said. "I promise that whatever you have to say, I won't laugh at you."
Kaiba sighed, sat back down heavily and averted his eyes from Joey. "I've been... lonely," he said eventually.
"Lonely?" Joey prodded as it became clear that Kaiba wasn't about to say anything else.
"I... regretted pushing you all away when we were in high school," Kaiba admitted after a moment. "When we graduated, I thought that it would make my life so much easier, that I'd be able to get so much more work done and yes, at first it was very much like that." He sighed. "But soon I found that... I missed everyone. Even Dice boy and Fin Head to some extent," his face screwed up with distaste. "It wasn't the same having meetings with stuffy old men. Then Mokuba... he's grown up a lot in the last couple of years and he doesn't need me as much as he used to..." Seto stopped there, lest he break down any more than he already had. That would have been too embarrassing.
Joey moved around and put his hand on Seto's shoulder in a show of support and understanding. "It must have been hard," he said, "but you know that we would never reject you, don't you?"
"I do know that," Seto said, looking into Joey's eyes. "It was just too hard to swallow my pride. Something that got in the way when you arrived in my office a few days ago. I'm still sorry about that."
"Don't apologise again," Joey said. "I forgive you." He looked deeply into Seto's eyes, then, drawn in, he found himself leaning forwards and capturing Kaiba's lips in a soft kiss. He stayed connected to Kaiba for a moment, relishing in the feeling of finally feeling Kaiba's lips against his own, then, shocked by his own actions, he jumped away as if stung. "Oh shit, I'm sorry," Joey said, unable to look Kaiba in the eyes. He felt like he'd just ruined everything.
Seto got up from his chair and walked over to Joey. "Joey, don't apologise for that." He turned Joey to face him. "Missing your group... well, some of it anyway, was only part of the story." He pulled Joey's face up and looked deeply into his eyes, letting him see his sincerity. "I missed you especially."
"Really?" Joey's eyes widened as he took in what Seto was saying.
"Really," Seto said, leaning forward to kiss Joey again, more firmly this time.
Joey moaned at the feelings that coursed through his entire body and he moved to guide Seto to the couch in the next room, not losing the lip lock the entire way. He pressed Seto to sit down and then straddled him, returning to kiss him deeply. Seto opened his mouth in a silent gasp and Joey took full advantage, pressing his tongue inside. Kaiba tasted of the coffee that he had been drinking earlier and something that was uniquely Kaiba. It was a heady combination and he groaned aloud as he hardened quickly, almost painfully. He tangled his fingers into Kaiba's hair as he continued to dominate the kiss.
Seto wasn't idle either, running his hands up the inside of Joey's t-shirt, feeling the smooth plains of Joey's muscular back. Getting bolder, he moved his hands down to cup Joey's behind, causing the blond to buck forwards in surprise. Seto coloured slightly as he felt Joey's arousal, then flushed more deeply as he felt Joey brush against his own hardness.
"Mmm, Seto..." Joey moaned as he moved from plundering Seto's mouth to suck lightly on his neck. "You have no idea how much I used to fantasise about this kind of thing."
"Used to?" Seto gasped as Joey gave a small nip.
"Yeah. I made myself stop because it hurt to know how much you hated me," Joey murmured as he pulled Seto close.
"I never hated you," Seto said, bringing his arms around Joey to hold him tightly. "I was just a victim of my own insecurities. I'm..."
Joey pulled back and put a finger to Seto's lips. "Please don't apologise," he said. "As long as you're not going to suddenly pull the rug out from under me..." Joey let his own insecurities show.
"No, never again," Seto breathed, then pulled Joey back in for another greedy kiss, letting his passion shine through. The two men remained on the sofa, kissing each other deeply, clothes gradually loosening as the passion grew between them. Things would likely have gone a lot further, but there was a sudden knock on the door. "Damn," Seto said, panting as Joey pulled away.
"Yeah, damn," Joey panted just as harshly. "I'd... better get that," he said as the knock came once again, slightly more insistent this time. "OK, OK, keep your hair on!" Joey exclaimed, straightening himself out as he walked towards the door. He opened it and stopped short. "Yugi?" He was surprised to see his friend who was holding a small package.
"Hey Joey," Yugi said cheerily. "You OK now?"
"Ah, yeah," Joey said, ushering Yugi inside. "I was going to call you later..." he paused as he closed the door. "How did you know I was here anyway?"
"Kaiba called me last night," Yugi explained. "He told me what had happened and that he'd sorted out your problems." He looked at Joey worriedly. "Is everything really OK?"
"Better than OK, Yug'," Joey said as he guided Yugi through into the living area. Once inside, Yugi stopped dead, mouth agape as he took in that Kaiba was sat on Joey's couch and his appearance was quite dishevelled. He looked more closely at Joey, noticing that he was looking a bit rumpled as well.
"Um... did I interrupt something?" Yugi asked, flushing scarlet.
"Uh..." Joey stammered, looking at Seto, clearly not wanting to say something that the brunet would disapprove of.
"It's fine, Yugi," Seto said calmly as he stood and crossed to where Joey was standing. "Things were probably moving a touch fast anyway." He couldn't stop a note of regret leaking into his voice.
"So, you and Joey..." Yugi's eyes flicked between the two men.
"We still need to talk about that," Kaiba said, giving Joey a warm look, "but I'm hopeful."
Joey couldn't help but blush, turning his attention to the package that Yugi held in his hands as a way to change the subject. "What's that you've got there, Yug'?" he asked.
"Oh!" Yugi held out the package for Joey to take. "It's for you."
"OK, thanks Yug'," Joey said, turning to find something to open it with. "What's in it?"
"I don't know," Yugi said, shrugging slightly. At those words, Joey froze, turning to look sharply back at his friend.
"What do you mean, you don't know?" Kaiba asked sharply. "Who is it from then?"
"A guy gave it to me as I was coming here," Yugi explained with a touch of confusion. "He recognised me and said that he was in a rush and didn't have time to deliver it himself so he asked me if I would."
"What did the guy look like?" Joey asked quietly, face pale.
"Around the same height as you," Yugi said to Joey, "probably in his forties, balding and he seemed a bit... greasy." he shuddered slightly at the last part of the description.
Joey and Kaiba exchanged a panicked look before Joey exploded into motion, running towards the rear of the flat, wrenching a window open and throwing the package into the empty lot behind the row of shops as hard as he could. Suddenly he found himself tackled to the floor and held by Kaiba as the package exploded, shattering the windows and showering them both with glass.
"Holy shit!" Joey exclaimed shakily, "that was a close one. Thanks Seto." Seto didn't reply, but pulled Joey in for a deep kiss.
"Joey, Kaiba," Yugi's voice came timidly from outside the door, "are you OK?"
"Yeah, we're fine," Joey said, smiling at Kaiba. He got up as Yugi poked his head through the door, then helped Kaiba to his feet. "I gotta ask, though, what were you thinking, Yug'?"
"I'm sorry," Yugi looked at the floor, "I didn't think that someone would try to kill you."
"You weren't to know," Kaiba said, brushing himself down as the sound of sirens came closer. "I didn't tell you everythingthat had happened after all, but still, you shouldn't be so trusting."
Joey walked over to his clearly distraught friend. "It's OK, Yug'," he said in a tone meant to reassure. "We're all fine, see." He looked over to Seto. "But what about Johnson? He had the police harassing me over the last few days, so he obviously has some kind of influence over them and I'm sure they'll be here in a minute."
"Don't worry about that," Kaiba said with a smirk. "He may have some influence, but I have more. He won't get away with this, I guarantee it." A stony look came over Kaiba's face and both Yugi and Joey could see that he was deadly serious.
"Police! Open up!" A shout came through the front door, accompanied by a loud banging.
"I'd better get that," Joey said with a sigh, still not overly convinced by Kaiba's words. He dutifully answered the door, only for it to fly open forcefully. He found himself shoved unceremoniously to the ground and a gun pressed to his head. "Wait... what have I done?" Joey said in a panicked tone.
The policeman didn't get time to answer as Kaiba made his presence known. "What the hell is going on here?" he demanded, glaring hotly at the police officers.
"Mr. Kaiba," one of them gasped. "You're safe! Please, let us escort you to safety..."
Kaiba ignored the simpering man. "Why do you have Joey pinned down," he snarled. "Let him up. Now."
"I'm sorry sir, I can't do that," the officer said in a not very apologetic tone. "He's under arrest under suspicion of making an explosive device."
"I take it that's because of the explosion a few moments ago?" Kaiba waited for the officer to nod. "That was as a result of a letter bomb that was unwittingly delivered by a friend. So let Joey up. Now," Kaiba ground out, "and get me your commanding officer."
The two officers paled, let Joey up then called on the radio for their commander. Joey shakily walked over to Kaiba who pulled him into a strong embrace, not caring that the officers were watching.
Soon their commanding officer arrived, "Now, what seems to be the problem," he said with false cheer. Such a tactic was intended to put people at ease, but it only irritated Kaiba. The commander's face fell as Kaiba laid into him, not holding back as he outlined all that they had been through and how Joey had been unfairly accused. Yugi came forward to tell his part and the commanding officer clearly looked troubled by what he had heard.
"I see," he said. "Well. I will have to ask you to come to the station to give a statement and for Mr Mutou to officially identify the man who gave him the package."
"Of course, I understand," Kaiba said, knowing that this was part of procedure and attempting to duck out would only damage their cause. "Just let me arrange for the mess to be cleared up, then we will be happy to accompany you." Joey and Yugi didn't look totally convinced, but once Kaiba had made arrangements, they followed him out to the station.
Several hours later and three exhaustive statements given, Yugi, Joey and Kaiba were finished and given leave to go. Kaiba dropped Yugi off at the game shop, then drove Joey back to his small bookshop.
They sat there silently for a few moments before Joey could bring himself to speak. "Do... you want to come up?" he asked. "You don't have to," he added hurriedly, "I'm sure that Mokuba probably wants to know what's going on..."
Seto leaned over and pressed a finger to Joey's lips. "I'll come in. I'll be honest, I was hoping that you would ask," he moved to open the door, facing away from Joey slightly, "but I didn't want to assume..."
"Ah, damn it Seto," Joey said, pulling the taller man back over to him in an awkward hug, "you are always welcome here."
"Thank you Joey," Seto said with genuine warmth.
"Come on, let's go up," Joey said. "I'll make you a cup of hot chocolate." He got out of the car and walked to the door of his flat, Seto close behind, only to run into Mrs Santana.
"It's good to see you, Joey," she said. "Are you sure everything will be OK now? I do worry about you, especially after everything that's happened recently."
"Joey will be fine now," Seto said as he stepped up behind Joey, putting his hand on the blond's shoulder. "I'll make sure of it." He blushed slightly as Joey looked up at him with genuine affection.
"Oh! It's you!" she exclaimed. "The man that came to look for Joey a few days ago!"
"Yes," Seto nodded. "I'm afraid I have to admit that it's partially my fault that Joey ended up in trouble, but I am doing my best to make up for that."
"I already forgave you, Seto," Joey said. "You don't have anything to make up for."
"Seto?" Mrs Santana's eyes widened. "As in Seto Kaiba?"
Seto nodded. "Pleased to make your acquaintance and I must say that your pastries are pretty much to die for." He gave her a rare genuine smile.
"Oh my," she flushed red and turned to Joey. "I like him, Joey."
"Heh, so do I," Joey replied. "See you in the morning, Mrs Santana."
"Goodnight Joey, goodnight Mr. Kaiba," she said. "I'll have some pastries ready for you in the morning." She waved and went inside.
"Hmm," Seto mused as Joey made to unlock the door, "she's assuming quite a lot isn't she? How does she know I'll be here in the morning?"
Joey flushed as he ushered Seto inside and locked the door behind them. He didn't say anything as he was afraid of assuming too much. He had his own hopes though.
Once they were inside, Joey checked that the repairs had been carried out and that there was no glass left on the floor, accompanied by Seto who wanted to make sure that his employees had done things properly. Once satisfied, Joey ushered Seto to make himself comfortable while he went into the kitchen to rustle up a couple of cups of his special hot chocolate. Soon he was back and he settled next to Seto on the small sofa.
"Would you mind if I turned on the TV?" Seto asked
"Uh, sure, I guess," Joey said, taken slightly aback. "Why? What's on?"
"You'll see," Seto said cryptically. He switched on the small set, then sat back with his cup of hot chocolate. He took a sip with a little trepidation, not really being all that fond of the sweet beverage, but as the liquid hit his tongue his eyes lit up in surprise. "This is very good, Joey," he said, "I'm not normally keen on hot chocolate, but..."
"Damn, Seto, you really should have said something," Joey said. "I'd have offered you something else instead."
"But then I wouldn't have got to taste 'Joey's special hot chocolate'," Seto explained. "I remember how Yugi and Tristan used to rave about it at school and I always wanted to try some for myself." He blushed at that admission and turned away.
"Ah Seto, you should know that you only had to ask..." Joey began, but his attention was suddenly drawn to the TV. "Hang on, isn't that..."
"Johnson," Seto said with some satisfaction. They both watched with some degree of relief as the greasy man was shown being escorted between two burly police officers into the station, the newscaster telling of how he had 'allegedly' tried to take the lives of the two top duelists in the world and the man who had once been ranked third.
When the report finished, Joey leaned forward and switched the set off, then turned back to Seto. "Are you sure that he won't just get off?" he asked with a hint of worry.
"He won't," Seto reassured. "As I said earlier, he may have some influence, but I have more and I'm not afraid to use it."
Oh good," Joey said. "If you say so, then I'll believe it. But..." he paused a moment, worried about Seto's possible reaction to his next question. "Why were you so desperate to get hold of that book anyway?" He gave a wry smile. "Johnson seemed to think that there were some great industrial secrets coded into the pages that could make someone extremely rich. That's one of the reasons he gave me for the ultra high price."
Seto laughed. "Oh, no, it's much more mundane than that I'm afraid," he said. "No, I needed to find evidence of some contact that Gozaburo had with my birth family," his face twisted in distaste. "I heard through the grapevine that one of my aunts had applied to get custody of Mokuba."
"What?" Joey was shocked. "But why now? Why leave it so long?"
"I have my suspicions as to why they had to leave it until now," Seto said, "Obviously it would have been more advantageous for them to strike whilst I was still under-age and I know that the main motivation was money. Aunt Nina was always off in pursuit of more wealth and I'm pretty sure that she's behind it, especially as she is the one that took our original inheritance and put us in the orphanage."
"You don't know for sure?" Joey asked. "How come?"
"The authorities," Seto said that word with utter distaste, "have been strangely reticent about the information that they are willing to give me. Normally I would simply hack into their servers and take the information that I require, but I'm sure that they would be expecting me to do that and the stakes are far too high for me to consider taking that risk."
"How does the book come into this?" Joey asked.
"Despite his obvious... instabilities, Gozaburo was a shrewd man," Seto said. "He knew that I had living relatives and he didn't want to take the risk that an outsider could get hold of his company in the event that something were to happen to him. He approached them and got them to sign a contract which took their rights to myself and Mokuba away forever and, of course, a large cheque was involved in this process." He sighed. "When I went to retrieve the relevant documentation to kill the bid dead in the water, I found that it was missing and I could not find any trace of it having ever existed. Then I remembered Gozaburo's autobiography. He made me read that awful book when he first had it published and I clearly remembered that it made reference to that contract. In fact it even had a copy printed inside."
"Why would he put something like that in there?" Joey wondered.
"Who knows why Gozaburo did anything," Seto shrugged. "Anyhow, I knew that he had destroyed most of the books, but there should still have been a copy in the mansion's library. Imagine my dismay when I found that it was missing. That was when I really began to smell a rat."
"You mean that someone had been in and destroyed the evidence?" Joey observed.
"Yes," Seto nodded. "After that discovery, I did a deep background check on all the staff that had access to the places the information was stored and found that several of them had close ties to my birth family and Aunt Nina. The reason that she had to wait so long was because she needed to get people into the right places to destroy all the documents. Of course, I sacked the lot of them as soon as I found out, but the damage had already been done."
"Hang on a minute," Joey said," Surely the judge in charge of any such case would ask Mokuba his opinion on the matter. He'd speak out against them, wouldn't he?"
"Yes, I'm pretty sure he would, but," Seto hung his head a little, "Mokuba is at a... difficult age. I can't guarantee that he wouldn't do something stupid just to upset me."
"Mokuba? Really?" Joey was surprised. "Mind you, he'll be a teenager now, won't he?"
"Yes. I'm pretty sure that he would do the right thing," Seto said, "but, as you know, I like to deal in certainties and neither the Judge or Mokuba are complete certainties at this point. Besides, if I could deal with the problem without bringing it to Mokuba's attention, then so much the better."
"So... why bring the book back if you needed it for evidence?" Joey had to ask.
"I couldn't keep something that I hadn't paid for," Seto explained with a touch of shame. "My advisers told me that you could have started legal proceedings against me and that it could count against me during any proceedings pertaining to Mokuba's custody."
"I would never..." Joey began to protest.
"I know that," Seto replied, cutting him off, "but you would have been well within your rights to do so. Anyhow, we made copies of the relevant pages, filed them with the relevant authorities and that was that. Case closed." He gave an evil grin. "I bet Aunt Nina was beside herself with rage."
"Heh, that's good," Joey said with a touch of satisfaction. "I'm glad to have been able to help. I wouldn't want to see Mokuba taken away from you."
"Thank you Joey," Seto said with gratitude. "Of course, I still owe you the fee for finding the book in the first place." He reached into an inside pocket and pulled out his chequebook and a pen, quickly leaning forwards onto the table and writing it.
"Seto, you don't have to," Joey protested.
"I insist," Seto said, signing the cheque with a flourish. He ripped it out and handed it to Joey, whose eyes widened at the figure written on the paper.
"I can't take this, Seto," Joey said, shaking his head and making to hand the cheque back, "it's too much."
Seto pressed the paper back into Joey's hand. "Please. It would make me happy."
"OK," Joey sighed as he gave in. He couldn't argue with Seto when he looked so... hopeful. He placed the cheque on the table, under a paperweight to stop it from blowing away, then he blushed as his stomach gave an almighty growl.
"Now that's the Joey I know, always hungry," Kaiba said with a smile, glad for the change of subject. "Let's get something into that bottomless pit you call a stomach." He got up and walked into the kitchen, followed by a blushing Joey.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Later, having eaten and cleared away, Joey and Seto sat together on the sofa once again. Joey, despite his best efforts, was nodding off, still not having fully recovered from his recent ordeal.
Seto sighed and stood, causing Joey to blink owlishly up at him. "Come on you're exhausted," Seto said. "you need to go to bed." He held out a hand which Joey took as he got up.
"Yeah, I guess you are right," Joey said sleepily, dropping Seto's hand and walking towards his bedroom. Realising that he wasn't being followed, he looked back at Kaiba who was looking slightly lost as he stood next to the sofa. "Seto," Joey called his attention, "Will you stay with me?" he flushed scarlet. "I don't really want to be alone right now."
"Are you sure?" Seto asked, looking less uncertain now. "Don't you think it might be a bit... soon?" He walked over to Joey and looked deeply into those tired eyes.
"I'm sure," Joey said firmly. "As I see it, we danced around each other during high school and I know I've missed you since we graduated." He paused a moment and cast a shy look up at Seto. "I'm also kind of worried that if I let you go out of that door right now, I'll never see you again."
Seto pulled Joey into a hug. "Silly," he said with a smile. "Now that I know you like me too, there's no way I'm ever letting you go and I'll be happy to stay." He tilted Joey's face up and gave him a kiss. "You go and get ready and I'll be with you in a moment."
"Joey smiled and relaxed, then moved off to get ready for bed. Once Joey was safely in the bathroom, Seto pulled out his cell-phone, barked a few orders into it, then a few minutes later an aide had delivered a packed bag for him, complete with his own toiletries and changes of clothes. Seto called Joey's attention as he wandered out of the bathroom, "Is there enough water for me to take a shower too?" he asked, unable to help giving Joey a warm smile.
"Ah, sure, as long as you don't take too long," Joey replied sleepily.
"Fine, I'll be in soon," Seto said, then he entered the bathroom. Joey wandered off to bed and Seto, soon washed up, joined him a few minutes later. They slumbered together in each other's arms, knowing that there would be a long road ahead of them, but at least now they would have a chance.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
The next morning Joey woke with a start, blinking blearily as he took in the familiar walls of his bedroom in the early morning light. Then he registered the warm body next to him and he relaxed slightly as Seto snuggled into his side, then his eyes widened in shock as he felt something hard pushing against his hip.
"Mmm... Joey..." Seto moaned lightly as he snuggled even closer to Joey's warmth. Then his own eyes snapped open as he realised that he wasn't dreaming, that he really was in bed with Joey. He flushed a deep shade of red as he made to pull away. "Shit, sorry Joey," Seto said. "I didn't mean..."
"It's fine Seto," Joey said, smiling softly. "Come here."
Seto didn't need to be asked twice. He was together with Joey, something he had dreamed of for a long time. He snuggled close gratefully only to flinch again as his hardness pressed against the other man. He made to pull away again, but Joey was ready this time and refused to let him go.
"Seto, it's alright," Joey soothe the skittish brunet, realising that Seto was showing him the vulnerable side that he would never show anyone else, save perhaps Mokuba. "You're not the only one, you know." He rolled over slightly, letting his own covered arousal brush against Seto.
Seto relaxed against Joey then, letting the blond pull him into a close embrace, his breath catching as Joey pulled his face up and claimed his lips in a soft kiss. At the feel of Joey's lips on his own, he sighed happily as he rolled back and pulled Joey over him, making it clear without words just what it was that he wanted from the other man.
"Seto?" Joey pulled up slightly, confused despite Seto's changed demeanour when they were alone. "You..."
"Yes Joey," Seto said, blushing hotly. "One of the other reasons I pushed you away so much."
Joey quieted him with another kiss, dominating the intimate embrace until they both pulled away, panting harshly. "Damn, Seto," Joey said as he buried his face into the other man's neck, "you have no idea how many of my fantasies started out like this."
"Mine too," Seto admitted, voice full of emotion. He pulled Joey more firmly on top of him.
Joey's breath caught at the raw need in Seto's voice, pulling up sharply to look him in the eyes. "Are you sure?" he asked. When Seto simply nodded, Joey kissed him again and palmed Seto's turgid length through his boxers. His cock gave a pulse as Seto let out a needy groan and Joey set about the most pleasurable task of making love to the once icy brunet.
Joey had just moved to pull Seto's boxers down so that he could get close up and personal with that impressive length, mouth already watering at the scent of Seto's arousal, when the phone began to ring.
"Damn it," Seto said, frustration evident in his voice. He looked at Joey quizzically. "Aren't you going to get that?"
"Hell no," Joey said, finally succeeding in pulling Seto's boxers off. "We were disturbed yesterday and I'm not going to be disturbed today." he shrugged as he moved away slightly. "It's most likely just Tristan anyway and I can call him back later." He stood and pulled his own boxers off, then padded around the bed towards the phone, aware of Seto's eyes on him the whole time. "Like what you see?" Joey said, pulling a seductive pose as the phone finally stopped ringing. Seto nodded mutely, not trusting himself to be able to speak. Joey posed for a few moments longer for Seto's benefit, then turned and took the phone off the hook. Joey turned a sultry look on Seto as he climbed back onto the bed. "There, all sorted," he whispered as he moved over Seto with the intent of finally claiming his lover. "Now, where was I..."
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
Tristan Taylor swore as the phone call he was making went unanswered. He'd been all for charging straight over to The Literary Dog when Yugi had filled him in on the events of the past couple of weeks, but Yugi, bearing in mind that he had obviously disturbed Joey and Kaiba the previous day, had persuaded him that it would be a good idea to call first.
"He might be busy," Yugi said uncertainly.
"I agree with Yugi," Tea said from where she was sat next to the spike-haired Duelist. "I know that I can't always make it to the phone when it rings at this time of day."
"Yeah, but you always spend ages in the bathroom." Tristan pointed out, picking up the handset hitting the redial button, ignoring Tea's protests. He looked confused as the call appeared to go straight through without ringing. "Joey?" Tristan said uncertainly as no-one spoke. He could hear some soft moaning and the rustling of the bed covers. He looked over at Yugi and Tea. "Heh, he must have knocked the phone off the hook as the call went through," he rationalised.
Yugi and Tea exchanged a confused look at the unlikelihood of such a thing, but didn't say anything.
Tristan took a deep breath in readiness to shout down the phone in an attempt to wake his friend, when he heard a louder moan come over the line.
"Mmm... Seto..." Joey was heard to gasp. "You are so... mmm..."
Tristan sniggered, then turned more serious. "He's dreaming about that damned Kaiba again," he said with a frown. "It took him long enough to get over that bastard when we left high..."
"Oh, Joey," Kaiba was heard to moan breathily. Tristan paled slightly, jaw going slack.
"What is it, Tristan?" Yugi asked with concern.
When all Tristan could do was stand there, transfixed, mouth open in shock, Tea got up and took the handset from him. She listened in for a moment, then blushed brightly and placed the handset back onto the cradle. "You were right, Yugi. He is busy," she said. "With Kaiba."
"Oh," Yugi said, flushing red at the obvious conclusion.
There was an awkward silence as the friends exchanged looks. They knew that Joey would be annoyed about being overheard but also slightly amused as it wasn't really anyone's fault. However, they could not predict how Kaiba might possibly react. It was the kind of thing that had the potential to cause a massive argument and wreck their fledgling relationship and they all knew that would destroy Joey completely.
"I think it would be for the best," Yugi said after a few moments, "if we never spoke of this again." Tea and Tristan nodded in agreement. Their lips would be sealed.
xo xo xo xo xo xo xo
A/N - Gotta admit, I wavered over posting this here. I've spent an age looking it over for plot holes and inconsistencies (and I did catch a few) which was made harder by it all being in one chapter. I hope I haven't missed any. :P
Thank you for reading.