DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains some suggestive language.
DEDICATION: To Cheryl. Thank you for all the inspiration... and monkeys!
Joey lay on top of the tangled silk sheets, still and silent. His face and clothes were sticky and damp with sweat and he was all too aware of the panting figure lying beside him. He felt the bed shudder as the figure shifted position. Joey could feel the other's gaze and knew he was the object of intense study, but he kept his head turned away. How could he ever look anyone in the eyes ever again?
To think it had all started off so innocently...
It was lunchtime at school so Joey and Yugi were having a friendly duel. Joey knew the moment someone moved behind him and started watching the game over his shoulder. He tried to ignore him, but it proved to be impossible. The snort of laughter every time he played a card was just too irritating.
Finally, Joey couldn't take any more. Throwing his cards down in disgust, he stood so suddenly that his chair shot out from under him. He really didn't mean to do anything other than give his tormentor a piece of his mind. But he ended up giving him a concussion instead.
The chair slammed into the watcher hard enough to knock him down. Everyone in the room heard the two loud sounds that accompanied the fall. The first, the crack of a head against the edge of a desk. The second, the heavy thud of an unconscious body landing hard on the floor.
Between them, Joey and Tristan managed to get the boy to the nurse's office, but Joey felt so guilty about the accident that he wasn't willing to leave it at that. When he learned that his victim had gone home, he volunteered to drop his schoolwork off to him that afternoon.
When Joey found the front gate unlocked and the house deserted, he knew right away that something was wrong. He couldn't normally get inside the front door without being glared at and asked his reasons for being there at least twice. Never a believer in minding his own business, Joey decided to find out what was going on. Leaving the school stuff on the hall table, he began to search the house for anything that would explain the emptiness.
He didn't find any sign of life until he came to the upstairs bedrooms and found one with the door partially open. Inside the room, a figure lay on the bed still wearing his school uniform. It looked as though just getting to the bed had taken all of his strength and he'd collapsed before managing to undress.
Joey stood in the doorway for a long moment, taking in the scene and trying to make sense of the jumble of thoughts running through his mind. Oddly, his first thought was that he'd never seen the boy so vulnerable before. His second thought was the realisation of just how pale and still the figure was. It was impossible to tell if he was unconscious or merely sleeping. Joey's third thought, and the one he acted on, was concern about how the boy had been left all alone when he was clearly in no state to be looking after himself. He hadn't even been able to get himself into bed properly!
Knowing from experience how uncomfortable it was to sleep in your shoes, Joey decided to do the boy a favour and pull his boots off for him. His concern grew when, despite several minutes of vigourous tugging as Joey wrestled the stubborn items of footwear into submission, the boy didn't stir. Surely if he was only sleeping, he would have woken up at that?
"Hey. If you're faking it, tell me now or I'm gonna call a doctor." Joey frowned when his words had no effect. Really worried now, he tried to think things through.
"I can't really call your doctor, 'cause I don't know who he is. I could call the hospital, but they've got all those forms and stuff and you'd need to fill them out. Which you can't do if you're unconscious. So I guess I just have to wait until you wake up. Yeah. That's what I'll do." Pleased that he'd come up with an answer, Joey grinned at the boy. His smile slipped as he noticed something.
"I guess I should get you sorted out right now though, huh? I mean, if you keep sleeping like that, you're gonna be pretty uncomfortable when you wake up. You're ticked off most of the time anyway, so it won't change much, but still..." Joey shrugged. "I guess it's the least I can do, since this is kinda my fault and all." He grinned sheepishly.
It took him a few minutes of careful maneuvering and muttered cursing to get the limp form out of the jacket. "Man, why do they make coats with sleeves that tight?" Throwing the offending item over a nearby chair, Joey stood back and studied the figure stretched out before him. His eyes narrowed slightly as he considered what to do next.
Joey winced as the memories of the past half hour or so filled his mind. He'd only been trying to help, but he had to admit that it hadn't looked good when the boy had woken to find himself being undressed. It was only natural that his instinctive reaction had been to fight.
Unfortunately, Joey's instinctive reaction to being kicked was to fight back and, in his surprise, he'd completely forgotten about the boy's injured and weakened state. He'd put too much strength into his response and had ended up losing his balance when his opponent didn't resist as much as expected.
The end result had been one of Joey's klutziest moments. With a startled squawk, he'd ended up falling right on top of the other boy! With Joey trying to get back to his feet and his opponent struggling to get out from under him, their wrestling match had been unavoidable. But then things had changed.
Joey remembered the moment his opponent's strength had given out and how, even then, the stubborn boy had refused to stop fighting. He'd clung to Joey tightly, refusing to let go even though his pain and weakness had made him tremble. When their eyes had met... Joey wondered if he had really seen a glimpse of despair, or if it had just been his imagination. Whatever the answer, one thing was sure. Joey knew he should have stopped the fight as soon as he'd noticed how weak his opponent was. But he hadn't. He hadn't stopped until his opponent had cried out. The thought of how he'd acted sent a flood of shame through him.
"I guess I owe you an apology..." Joey was surprised at how reluctant he was to give one. Sure, he'd been in the wrong, but still... he hadn't been the only one involved. One word of protest from his opponent would have been enough, but not a single word had been spoken.
His train of thought was interrupted by a hand touching his shoulder. Joey blinked in surprise. A rough tug or a punch he could have understood, and resisted, but the oddly tentative touch was too much for his curiosity. He slowly turned his head on the pillow, although his body remained turned away from the figure that was looking steadily at him. "What?"
The next thing Joey knew, his mouth was covered. His eyes widened in shock, then narrowed as he frowned up at the boy leaning over him, one hand over Joey's mouth to stop him from talking.
"Not another word, Wheeler. The last thing I want is an apology. Especially from you."
Joey would have taken it as an insult, if he hadn't seen the discomfort in the cold eyes glaring down at him. He understood. If their positions had been reversed, he probably wouldn't have wanted an apology either. It would have been like admitting that he'd been too weak for it to have been a fair fight.
At Joey's nod of agreement, the hand was removed. For a long moment, the two boys eyed each other warily. As usual, Joey was the one who broke the silence. Also as usual, he said the first thing that popped into his mind.
"How come there's no one else around?"
The question was so unexpected, it was a moment before the other boy regained his composure enough to reply. "Because they kept fussing over me so much that I found them annoying. I told them all to take the rest of the day off." He scowled at Joey's concerned frown. "Oh, don't give me that look. It's not like I'm in need of constant medical attention. It's only a mild concussion. I've had worse."
The slightest of smiles flickered across Joey's face. "Well, you sure sound like yourself, but I'll stick around for a while anyway. Just in case."
His smile vanished as he glanced at the bandage around the boy's forehead. "You know, I really didn't mean to..." His voice trailed off at the warning look he received.
"Don't. I neither need, nor want, any pity. Oh, and one more thing..."
Seto Kaiba leaned over Joey, his sapphire eyes gleaming as they locked with the blonde's wide brown gaze. "If you ever mention a word of this to anyone..."
"Don't worry, I wouldn't dream of it." Joey casually reached up towards Kaiba's face. Kaiba frowned slightly, but didn't flinch. His frown turned into a glare as the hand simply tweaked the collar of Kaiba's school shirt back into place. Joey smirked.
"Besides... who would believe me?"