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Jou glanced sideways at Seto, "Weed? Are you serious?"

"Yes." Straight faced, the brunet handed him the map. "It's on the way to your hard rock candy mountain."

"Big Rock Candy Mountain." Jou corrected. "It's an old hobo song from the nineteen twenties."

"Hmm. You have very eclectic knowledge Jounouchi. I'm impressed." He meant it, but he was teasing too. Big Rock Candy Mountain? Big or hard, of the two Seto would take hard. "I prefer it hard. Big can be painful." He mock winced.

Jou gave him a laughing look. "Are you complaining?"

The new-to-sex brunet gave him a bland look that didn't hide the teasing look in his blue eyes. "Did it sound like a complaint? You're not that big."

"Hmmm big enough to make you scream like a girl." Seto wasn't the only one who could tease.

"I wouldn't know. I've never made a girl scream." The ex-CEO admitted primly.

Instead of continuing to tease Jou fell silent for a few minutes, then said softly, "Seto, about where we're going. I want to tell you something. Do you remember when I told you about my history? About Eliza and Raymond being together?"

"You're going to say they are at the Natural Beauty Settlement aren't you?" Seto asked neutrally.

"Yeah, they are. I didn't think it would matter but now, I think it does. Seto, I was with them for five days, that's all. They were a couple when I met them, I ended up with them thanks to a purple crystal lollipop. By the time the fog lifted from the herbs in that sucker we had been lovers for almost four days. I didn't object or think they took advantage because I was very attracted to them both and wouldn't have minded either, although both was kind of odd. I'm not indiscriminate, you know that, but they were - are - as close to a one night stand as I've ever come." Jou shrugged slightly. "I don't want to be with them and I won't be. I just wanted to be upfront about it."

"Then why are we going there. It's not just for candy is it?"

"It's going to sound weird to you, but I've had a feeling there was something important there for a long time. Something I left undone. It was one of the places Oli suggested I go, to help me understand myself better and since I'm honoring Oli with this trip, it seems right I stop there." The blond shrugged slightly. "It's very earth and nature centric with people in communal living, but they have some very traditional values. Which is why it always confused me that Raymond and Eliza included me in their relationship. It isn't the way of the people there."

Seto have him a sidelong look. "You are very attractive. Maybe they had a fantasy about a hot blond stranger."

"That's what I've always told myself but if that's the case why do I feel like it's not finished?" Jou shrugged and turned his gaze back to the road. "If you don't want to go I understand and you can choose someplace else."

Seto was silent for so long Jou thought he might not have heard the question. Just as he was about to repeat himself the brunet sighed and seemed to curl in on himself. "Before I tell you how I feel about that, I think I need to tell you my history. I'm not like you, I can't reel off their names and say where they are. I could tell you their first names, or what they introduced themselves as, but I don't know where they are now." He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. "I didn't 'pay for it' like Mokuba said, it wasn't that cold, but I never cared enough to go back a second time. Where you've never had a one night stand, that's all I've ever had, only a handful of them. I've slept, no wait, not slept, had sex with two women and three men. I've topped the men each time. It wasn't that I didn't want to try bottom, it was that I didn't want them inside my body. The women were not... You said you lusted after Mai like a dog. I've never lusted after any woman like that, and only one man. You."

The information hit Jou like a punch in the gut. Slowly, carefully he pulled the car over and turned the car off. "Seto." The poleaxed blond whispered. "If I didn't love you so much right now I could touch the clouds, I'd kick your damn ass." he turned and snatched the cringing man close. "Jeeze, you provoked me, pushed me into taking you without any kind of prep or romance. Damn it! Your first time! I should have made love to you for hours instead of shoving it in because I was pissed and you were pushy." The blond head dropped onto Seto's shoulder. "I could have hurt you, you idiot. I've been taking you constantly since. You aren't used to it and you have to be raw. I haven't seen any bleeding but it can't be far off. Idiot, I want to love you but I don't want to hurt you."

Seto nestled close and hummed contentedly into his lover's chest. "You're the idiot. I ached for you you to be inside me, had to feel your heartbeat with mine. I needed that closeness. I didn't need hours of foreplay to draw out my torture, I needed to be as close to you as possible because you were the only thing that could ease my emptiness. You're the only person I've ever known that could. I will need you beyond life and death."

Jou tightened his hold around his love. "Aw hell Seto, when you say stuff like that I want to hug you until your eyes pop and shake you 'til your teeth rattle. I'm only human and you are driving me nuts. I know you need me, I know you care for me, and I know you enjoy being my lover, but when you say stuff like that, and when you talk about us being life partners and having a future, it fucking hurts because I know you are going to fly free as soon as you're healed. I know damn good and well you are not ready to love me yet and you may never be. I'm a vagabond, a bard, and I got no place in your world."

There was another protracted silence, then surprisingly Seto chuckled and leaned back to meet Jou's amber-gold gaze. "You are still an idiot. I've been giving you too much credit. Katsuya, I've loved you for years and if Mokuba hadn't interfered I would have chained you to my side instead of flying away and leaving you stuck at an airport. No matter how messed up my head might be right now, my heart is sure of you. That has been a constant since we were in school together. We do have a future together, and currently you, Scapegoat, Kit and my camera are my world. If or when it expands, it will include you or I will not belong there either. Now, shut up and drive. We are going to get your damn candy - but you don't get any purple crystal lollipops."

Jou couldn't resist dropping a quick kiss on the freckles that had appeared on Seto's nose. "What if I share it with you in our camper?"

Blue eyes regarded him thoughtfully. "Only if you change your mind about me topping because if not forget it. I love sex with you, but you are right, I am very sore." The thoughtful look deepened to a probing stare. "Going to tell me why you don't want to bottom?"

"Tonight when we camp outside Weed, I'll uhm... I'll show you." Jou temporized. "We are almost to Shasta Lake. We'll take a break there then head over to McArthur-Burney Falls. We can spend the night there and then go hiking on Mount Shasta tomorrow."

"All right." Seto settled back in his seat. "So, have you ever been to Weed? Or the Falls? Mount Shasta?"

"Never, but I've always wanted to go. Good choices, Seto." Jou chuckled and nodded. "Music Maestro."

"I pick every time. You pick." Seto was still insecure about choices and definitely didn't want to give Jou any more reason to wonder about his mental strength by admitting to not knowing anything.

Jou gave him an evil grin. "All right, but you'll be sorry. I'm in the mood for music to shake your ass to and your cute ass is sore." The grin lightened to a playful ogle. "I've always liked the way you move. I'd love to see you dance."

Seto handed him the CD case and dared him "Do your worst." Seto didn't elaborate that he'd never felt like dancing, never understood why people behaved like idiots because of drum beats and guitar strums.

"Hah, if you like Weird Al you are sure gonna like some of the other stuff stuff I've got." Jou flipped through the carrier, pausing now and again. He'd only picked a handful of selections when he reached to ones marked 'friends.' There was a noticeably longer pause and he pulled out a disk that was strangely alone in it's multi-pocket page. It wasn't labelled with a list of friends like the others were, instead it was simply labelled 'More.' Slowly he drew it out and lifted intense golden eyes to Seto. "I think this one first. It's yours after all." He grinned crookedly and loaded the CD player.

"Mine? But I..."

"It's not full. I add to it every year, just one or two songs. They are songs that reminded me of you. They are recorded chronologically and the disk is still open. I started this CD after my first Hobo, before I saw you again at the tournament where you told me not to talk to you."

Seto didn't quite know what to say, so he reached out and gently ruffled the windblown blond hair. It would have to be enough because he truly didn't have the words.

Jou hit the button and a low, tender melody began to play. A woman's voice half-sang, half-spoke. "Maybe I hang around here..." It was pretty, breathy and sweet, and not anything Seto would have expected. The woman sang it simply - love - "I honestly love you..." For some reason the low key delivery and almost shy notes added depth to the repetitive, heartfelt confession. "I love you... I honestly love you." The concern in the song, the lack of selfishness or for more than the acknowledgement, "I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable..." Showed the same caring and beautiful selflessness that Seto had experienced first hand. The sweet simple song pierced him to the core and an ache unfolded in his chest as he realized this was what Jou felt for him, had shown him time and again. (Video link

The song ended and a hard beat jumped in. It was more like what Seto had expected, but it definitely conveyed Katsuya's feelings, the woman's voice firm, angry, but with an undercurrent of pain as she sang about hardening her heart, of turning and leaving, walking away. It was obviously right after the tournament where he'd told Jou not to speak to him. The pain and anger added to the ache deep in his chest. If only he'd known what his pride was costing him. If he had known, so much misery could have been avoided. (Video link

The song ended with a great riff, and a discordant note started immediately. Seto couldn't place the song or the music, it sounded almost amateur, but it portrayed the anger and self-castigation Jou felt, obviously there was something Seto didn't know, some attempt at contact or something because the song asked repeatedly "What am I fighting For?" It had a strong beat and stronger tone of fire and fight, something he'd always associated with Jounouchi. Although he was disturbed by it, Seto was also slightly cheered. His lover had been fighting back, not moping and pining. It reminded him of their confrontations back in school. (Video Link

After that song the tone changed from angry or sad to resigned, wistful, or full of hope even while conveying a sense of melancholy. The pain in his chest receding, Seto listened with not only his ears, but his heart, regret for the pain and bone deep happiness warring for control in him. He hated that he'd caused Jou pain, hated it with every breath he took, but at the same time that pain, the evidence of it, gave him joy because Seto knew he mattered enough to actually hurt Jou, that he was real, someone, not just a promise, a business automaton or a walking wallet, but someone worth knowing and loving to Jou. That gave him emotional pleasure as intense as the sexual pleasure Jou gave his body.

In one of the few spontaneously affectionate moves he had ever made, Seto reached down and hesitantly laid his hand on Katsuya's thigh, trying to convey just how much the music and Jou's love meant to him. His lover must have understood because without hesitation Jou's rough hand covered his and held on the entire drive to Shasta Lake.

Seto stared around the artificial lake wide, appreciative eyes. He hadn't expected the lake to be so large and blue. The mountains as a backdrop were incredible. His heart skipped a beat at the thought of trying to capture the lush beauty on film. "Jou it's beautiful..." He breathed softly. "I need my camera from the trunk."

The blond chuckled ruefully. "It's in the back seat under the blanket. Somehow I knew you'd be wanting ready access to it." He grinned sideways at the brunet as he instantly unbuckled his belt and dove over the back of the seat. "You could wait for me to park." He teased lightly.

A low grunt answered him as Seto turned and slid back into his seat clutching his prize. "Good thing we stopped this morning for film. It was on the floor behind your seat." The brunet sounded a lot more pleased than Jou would have thought possible. Much to Jou's amusement, the singular focus of the winery returned even before he parked the car. The vehicle had barely stopped rolling when Seto was out and striding away, looking at the lake through his camera's eye.

Jou chuckled and leashed the pups, following his driven love at a leisurely pace. The rugged, rocky shoreline, white tipped waves on deep blue, and lush green plants and trees were spectacular and Jou didn't blame Seto in the slightest for wanting to capture it. For himself, he was content just to amble along behind the sexy brunet enjoying the lake almost as much as he enjoyed the way his lover began to wake to the beauty of living for himself - flying free.

As happy as he was to follow in his lover's wake, the pups had other ideas and Jou found himself towed off towards the rocky shoreline as the pups played tag with the waves and each other. There were a few tense moments when other dogs came around because Kit was not a social animal and cringed around other dogs, but Jou managed to put a stop to it before there was too much trouble.

He expected the foxy little sheltie to be aggressive, but it was actually the black-haired termagant masquerading as a ball of fluff that was over the top. Any time another animal came anywhere near Kit, Scapegoat would lose his mind, barking and snarling like an enraged black powder puff. Figures Kaiba's poof of a dog had more attitude than the Great Dane Scapegoat ran off for sniffing Kit's tail.

Jou didn't know it, but he and the pups had an adoring audience. Seto loved the way the sunlight bronzed his lover's skin and sparkled in his golden hair. Scapegoat's energy and protective instincts were a challenge to capture in just the right way, and even Kit, with her red hair and mix of timidness and wildness was engaging. Seto wanted to capture it all exactly the way he saw it in his mind's eye.

The blond and the pups were oblivious to their audience and continued to explore. After a particularly hard fought battle with a piece of driftwood, both pups flopped down in the shade closely followed by their master. Jou glanced over when Seto dropped down next to him a few minutes later. "Hey, you finished already?"

"Smart ass, I know very well it's been almost four hours. I'm out of film." The erstwhile photographer grumped.

"I dont' care how long it's been Seto. We don't have a schedule. If we make it to Weed in a week and spend that time here, it won't matter to me." The blond shrugged slightly. "Want me to go back to the car and get some more film?" He offered.

"There isn't any more in the car. I brought it all with me." Seto admitted, slightly sheepish. "I need to buy more."

That surprised Jou. "Already? I thought you bought six rolls."

"I did and there are thirty-six to a roll, but it took me awhile to figure out the shutter button. The camera takes up to ten shots per second. I had it set to maximum speed." A hint of embarrassment came through with the admission.

"Oh. As long as you got some great shots, I guess it's okay. Good thing you're using your credit cards. That stuff is expensive." Jou sighed and stared out over the lake, leaning slightly against Seto's shoulder. "It's gorgeous here. I have a national parks permit and a fishing license for all California parks. Want to camp here tonight, head to the falls tomorrow? I'll catch some fish and we can hang out."

When Seto hesitated, looking around them doubtfully, Jou gave him a small grin. "Not right here. There is a campground normally costs ten bucks. No electricity, but a place to camp on the lake. But with my annual pass for national parks it won't cost a penny."

"In the camper? We won't have to sleep outside?" That was something Seto never wanted to have to repeat. Yes he'd been in the car, but the oppressive darkness and wild shadows had been traumatic to his already fragile psyche.

That tickled Jou's funny bone and he nudged Seto with his him. "Afraid of the bogeyman in the dark?" He teased.

Seto's reaction wasn't what the blond was expecting. Instead of a light teasing remark back Seto recoiled violently, stood and scooped Scapegoat into his arms, snapping that he was going to the car, he wanted more film. Jou blinked and rose to follow, restraining Kit as she tried to bound after the retreating pair.

Seto sat rigidly in the front seat, horribly aware of exactly how revealing his retreat had been. He trusted Jou not to make fun of him, he had learned enough about Jou's caring heart to know that, but would his love look down on him? See him as weaker than he already did?

Jou boosted Kit into the car and waited for her to scramble into the back seat before sliding into the driver's seat. "Want to buy me lunch? I feel like a burger and you're the man with the credit cards."

"You're breaking your rules?" Seto was startled out of his defensive posture.

"Rules are made to be broken. I feel like cow, you have the means. There is an outdoor cafe here. You can buy me cow and I'll think of some way to earn it."

Seto hiked an eyebrow. "So you want to earn an advance on a salary you haven't got a job for yet?"

"Yep." Jou gave him a reckless grin. "Now you know why I don't carry credit cards and earn as I go. I'd never make it if I had access to my ready cash."

"No will power?" Seto taunted as he relaxed into his seat.

"None at all." Jou cut his eyes towards the brunet with him before turning to watch the road as he drove toward the cafe. "You've always been strong that way. I've always admired that about you, your strength of purpose, no matter how scary or bad shit got. You never lost sight of your goal. There were times when you had to be sweating bullets, like on the island when you stepped out on that parapet. You stayed calm and cool. I'd have been shaking so hard I'd have probably fallen off the side from the vibration." It wasn't subtle, but Jou wasn't going for subtle. He wanted Seto to know that no matter what was going on, he was in his corner. Seto needed to understand that he never needed to be defensive around Jou, simply because Jou would fight for him, not against him.

When Seto started to fold his arms against his chest, Jou caught his hand mid-motion. "I'm not asking what set you off 'cause you will tell me if you want me to know, but do us both a favor? If I upset you, don't walk away and close me out. If you can't talk about it just find something else to do with your mouth - like distract me with a kiss."

For an instant Jou thought Seto would pull away from his touch, but warmth flooded him when the brunet relaxed his arm, sliding it down to twine their fingers. The brunet smiled slightly. "You are much smarter than I remember."

"Not really. I just find you easier to read. Suki da." Jou dropped into Japanese almost without thought. English was a hard learned skill, one he used as much as possible, but at this moment, the words from home seemed to fit.

Seto gave him a rare smile, "Aishiteru."

Jou found himself turning bright red. It was such a rare, formal word, but and he knew that Seto hadn't used it lightly. "Ah..." He gave his lover a very shy smile and shook his hair back. "I love you too." He cleared his throat and started the car. "You're buying me cow and you're getting film."

"Sounds like a plan. I even know how you'll earn your meat." Seto deliberately kept his tone innocent.

"Oh? Ya got something in mind?" Jou's tone was the exact opposite.

"You're going to model for me. I want to work on the different lenses." A small laugh escaped the brunet when the car swerved slightly. "Eyes on the road. Oh and we need to get some healing creams. These blisters are almost as painful as my ass. Both inhibit our sex life."

Jou quirked an eyebrow but limited himself to a simple "Okay."

His casual acceptance reminded Seto. "Don't think I've forgotten about your promise to 'show' me." Blue eyes turned to study the blond's profile. "I'm curious about what you will show me. Why don't you tell me about it so it's not a huge shock. Besides if you tell me about it, maybe you won't have to show me."

Jou gave a ghost of a smile and decided to just say it flat out. It's not like it was something he could ever change. "Remember I was in a gang? When I left, they brought me back. Yugi and the tachi rescued me, but not before some damage was done. Hirutani, the leader, was wicked with a knife and into torture. He wasn't gay, but he liked dishing out humiliation. I had sixteen internal sutures and forty external stitches, where he marked my ass his." The faint smile faded to a hard line. "I almost killed three of them before they brought in another four to hold me down. In the end I threw Hirutani off a building. So yeah, his mark, even if I can't see it, is a reminder of him. I killed him after all. I shouldn't ever forget." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "The scars make it difficult to... I have to eat a lot of fiber for the plumbing to work. I've been following the doctor's orders since it happened and have only had a couple times when I've had pain."

"He damaged your nerves? Your prostate?" Seto tilted his head slightly, contemplating everything he knew in relation to anatomy and diet. He ignored the unimportant confession of murder, after all Jou didn't care about Seto's own peccadillo.

"Nah, not really. Just it's not as flexible, it doesn't stretch as much as normal. The scar tissue doesn't give. According to the doctor, I can rip open, develop a fissure if I eat too much cheese and dairy." Jou wasn't sure exactly why, but he found this actually more embarrassing than almost anything in his life. "I watch it, so I have never ripped and bled."

"I still want to see." Seto leaned back in his seat and faced the front. "I thought I'd seen every inch of you, but I don't remember seeing anything like that. I'm going to have to investigate you top to bottom and everywhere in between to make sure I didn't miss anything else."

Jou chuckled, but it was more of an invitation than humor. "I think I'd like that."

"Mmm... " Before Seto could go further down the road towards verbal seduction, Kit yelped and Scapegoat whined pitifully. The brunet master turned immediately to his little charge. "What's up, pup?" He deadpanned, as if he actually expected the little pom pom to answer him.

For the first time since Kit joined them, the little black dog left the feral dog alone in the back seat, leaping into the front and scampering up to rest on Seto's shoulder, whining and whimpering in obvious complaints. "Huh. What do you expect? She is a bitch after all."

Jou glanced over and snickered. "He really looks like he understands you."

"He should know the word bitch - I used it enough for him to understand the negative aspect." When the blond just snorted Seto elaborated. "Average dogs can learn over one hundred and sixty-five words. I told you he was smarter than average. He knows over two hundred. With the addition of bitch, I'd say two hundred and ten. He may be a genius in dog terms."

Jou rolled his eyes slightly. "How the hell do you know that? Did you hook him to a machine or something and monitor his brain waves?"

"Nothing that sophisticated. I just noticed the words he responds to and made a list. I'll have to add that one and a few others."

"Yeah? Hmm two hundred and ten? What's the weirdest word? I think 'no' would be the most common."

"Weirdest?" Seto had to think about that for a moment. "Dragon." On cue his little Scapegoat lifted his head and growled into the sky.

"Kaiba, I got news for you, if your pup didn't do that when you said 'dragon' I wouldn't believe he was your dog."

"Hmm, you're right. Weirdest..." More thought, longer. "Damn Mickey." That set Scapegoat off, he leaped to his feet, standing on Seto's chest and shoulder and started barking furiously. "He picked that up while I was taking over Disney. It was a challenging time."

"Damn Mi... You cursed out Mickey Mouse?" Jou was completely scandalized. Kaiba cursing out make believe mice? The devil had repented, hell was empty because all sinners were transferred to heaven, and the restored angel Lucifer was giving away ice cream on the boardwalk in Malibu.

"You don't want to know what Scapegoat did to the dozen or so stuffed versions of the wretched mouse I was using as Dammit Dolls." Then Seto chuckled. "Or maybe you do."

"Ah, does it involve... wait no no... I will not go there. You defiled Mickey Mouse."

Straight faced Seto nodded, "Daily."

"That's... That's... un-American!" Jou was completely aghast. "You trained your dog to do unmentionable things to him."

"I'm Japanese." The brunet couldn't help laughing when Jou sputtered at that. "I didn't train him. He did it all on his own based on my tones and attitude. He's not a puppet, he thinks for himself. That's the true mark of intelligence."

Jou finally managed to control his sputters. "Darn it. I should have known." He took a deep breath and let it out in a huff. Casually, carefully, the blond probed. "You went through a lot of film."

"Mmmhmm, I've always liked taking pictures." A rusty sounding laugh rumbled from Seto. "I've taken pictures on and off for years. Even in school. I took pictures of all of you back then. Do you really think I was reading all the time? Even I don't like Nietzsche or Machiavelli that much."

"Really? Ah man I bet you got some great shots from back then." Jou laughed and shook his hair back, enjoying the breeze. "You have to share. When we get through with our hobo you're going to have to bring some to my place. Honda and Otogi will get a kick."

"Honda and Otogi." Seto repeated neutrally.

"Yeah, I have an apartment in their house in Malibu. They got married a few years back. You were too busy to attend the wedding, but Mokuba brought your gift and card. They're on the road a lot so I watch the house for them. It gives me a quiet place to write and I get to hang with friends when I want company."

"I was not too busy." Seto corrected. "I was not invited. Mokuba went, but he didn't want to because I was not wanted."

Jou felt his hackles raise. Mokuba had a lot to answer for. "I helped Otogi with the invitations. I saw your invitation, Seto. You were invited separately from Mokuba because nobody knew what was going on in your personal life and they wanted you to bring someone with you. It was a time for couples. It was sent in the same envelope because we were sure Mokuba would convince you to come."

Seto froze, even his breath stopping, as he remembered the pain of that time. He'd always thought, in some way, that he was still part of that group. Okay he'd rejected their overtures, but they had still persisted. The deliberate exclusion of him from the wedding of Otogi and Honda had cut him to the bone. "Are... are you sure?" His breathing started again, but only because he was growing light headed.

"Yeah I'm sure." Jou bit his lip. "I... I wanted to talk to you and even put a note in asking you to please come."

"Oh god." Mokuba's betrayal was almost too much to handle. Unconsciously his hand fisted in Scapegoat's thick pelt. A yelping cry brought Seto to his senses. Instantly he released his painful grip on the small creature. "Shit."

"I see now you didn't get the message. I was pissed, but I got over it. You heard the songs. You know I did."

"You might have." Seto rasped softly, his voice barely above a whisper. "But I don't think I ever will." The blue eyes filled with tears and even Seto didn't know if they were anger or pain. "Do you know what it would have meant to me, back then? In the time since? I've been so..." He broke off and dashed his hand across his eyes. "Never mind."

"Uh uh." Jou pulled into a scenic overlook and turned to look at the brunet. "Not going to let you write yourself off like that. You've been so - what? If you don't tell me, I'll start guessing, and I'm a pretty good guesser."

Seto remained silent and Jou settled back into his seat. "Okay so, you've liked me all along and your brother knew that and fucked it up. You've never reached out to anyone before, have you? So let me see, you've been so - lonely? Cold? Isolated? Hurting?" When Seto jerked in his seat, Jou nodded. "All of the above? How about something else too, missing me?"

"Jerk. Stop." The words were an admission, a demand, but it wasn't for Jou to stop, not really. It was a plea for understanding, absolution, for the weakness of being human.

"Let’s go with this then. Angry? Frustrated? Lost?" Jou's eyes narrowed at the stiffening of his lover's shoulders. "I can stop any time, you simply need to tell me what you were so - " More stubborn silence so Jou continued. He wasn't being reckless or cruel to simply be a jerk. Seto was ready to wake up, it was time for Kaiba Seto to stop hiding. "You were suicidal, you wanted a way out. Hopeless? Helpless?"

Jou barely dodged the fist that flew at him from across the car. He caught it and yanked Seto across the console. "You were betrayed, manipulated and owned too. What's more is you know it, deep inside, because you're too fucking smart not to see that he's been pulling shit all along. You might not have known about what he did to me - to us - but you know other things. You can hide from it but you knew. That's what drove you to that beach, the final straw. You damn well gave him everything and the little shit betrayed you."

Seto pulled his arm from Jou's grasp and scooped Scapegoat up, burying his face in the thick coat of black hair. There were long moments broken only by the panting of both dogs. At length, Seto said softly. "It's too hot for Scapegoat. All this hair keeps getting tangled and it takes forever to get rid of the mess. I think it's best if I get it cut."

"Sometimes cutting things away clean is the best way to sort out tangles and snares." Jou agreed quietly.

"I'm going to buy a prepaid phone like yours." The brunet announced as Jou got the car back on the road. "I need to deal with a few things. I think..." His steady voice lowered and trembled slightly with uncertainty. "What do you think? Will it bother you?"

"Nah, I kinda kidnapped you remember? You're like the fourth richest guy on the planet, with more things going on than I can imagine. I'll tell you if something bugs me. Seto, you've got stuff. Just remember when I'm writing or doing a book tour I got stuff too. I'm not your brother, trying to control everything you do. I'm your partner, your lover." The blond hesitated a second. "Just don't let your stuff or Mokuba take over okay? Remember you are on vacation? And... And don't... If it gets to you and you start having problems I'm going to let you make your choice but if I think it's wrong I'll argue for you to take a step back and if it gets bad I'm going to throw that phone away too okay? Not to control you but to... love you." Jou smiles slightly. "I just got you and I sure ain't going to lose you now."

Seto turned and caught his gaze. "You saved me, you're responsible for me. You couldn't get rid of me with a stick of dynamite. You're stuck with me." The brunet felt his own face crease with happiness when his lover's face practically glowed with joy. Lips still smiling, Seto leaned forward and pressed their smiling mouths together lightly and dropped his head onto Jou's shoulder. "Cow and film. Drive on. Don't forget cream stuff.

Instead of putting his hands back on the wheel, Jou reached up and buried one hand in Seto's hair, nestling him closer while the other smoothed across Seto's thigh. "In a minute. Stay close and look out at the lake. It's beautiful and you just made me happier than I've been in a very long time. Suki da."

Seto dropped a light kiss on the pulse point in Jou's neck and snuggled even closer, tilting his head to gaze out at the lake. It was beautiful, and at the back of his mind was an itch to capture that beauty on film, but it was dim and faded when compared to the need to simply lean into his love and enjoy the warmth of the sun and the closeness of his lover.

The good feeling lasted until the end of their alfresco lunch when the waitress returned to the table without Seto's credit card, and with an embarrassed expression asked Seto and Jou to come to the manager's office. "Ah, we have the dogs." Jou gave Seto a curious look.

The server smiled nervously. "One of the busboys will watch them. They will be fine. Please, follow me." After a young man sat at the table holding the leashes, Jou and Seto followed the young woman.

The manager was waiting in a small cramped offices. His expression was equally embarrassed. "I'm sorry to trouble you both, but there was a problem with the credit card. It was declined and a request came through to take the card and have you contact your corporate office."

Jou reached for his wallet. "I'll get the tab. Seto you don't have to..." Jou turned to talk to Seto only to gasp slightly. Part of him was happy, another part sad.

The soft-eyed lover was gone. In his place was the icy-eyed CEO that the world knew. "You will not. The credit card is issued in my name and is privately paid for. It has no limit and has a balance of less than a hundred dollars. May I borrow your telephone please?" Although it was phrased as a polite question, there was no doubt it was a demand.

"Of course." The man scrambled out from behind his desk, obviously cowed by Seto's switch into bad ass CEO mode.

Seto dialed a number he obviously knew by heart, however instead of greeting Mokuba or even asking for his brother, Seto's clipped tones said "Jamie, it's Seto Kaiba." There was a pause, obviously a hello and some kind of question because the brunet's tones softened to more cordial notes. "I'm fine. Or I was until I tried to use my credit card only to be told it was declined and was to be removed from my possession. As your bank issues it, I thought you could help me clear up this misunderstanding. I don't mind holding for a few minutes." Seto reached down and pressed the speaker button so the manager and Jou could hear the rather boring hold music. After about ten seconds a recorded voice announced "Thank you for holding, we at JP Chase want you to know your call is important to us and we are working to serve you as quickly as possible. Please continue to hold."

The manager nodded slightly. "If I may ask, who is Jamie? Your account manager?"

"You could say that he manages all accounts. He is James Dimen, CEO of JP Chase." Seto lifted a brow when the man choked. "Did you read the name on the card? Do you know who I am?"

"Ah, yes, no, not really? Kai?"

"Kaiba." Seto drew himself up proudly. "Seto Kaiba."

The manager actually paled and wilted. He would have probably hit the floor if Jou hadn't caught him and guided him back to his chair. "Nah, don't worry. You're just doing your job. Seto appreciates that. Don't you Seto?" Jou chivvied the brunet into alleviating the manager's incipient panic attack.

Obligingly Seto nodded. "Of course I do." Before he could elaborate there was a click, the hold music ended, and a low masculine voice asked "Seto you still there?"

"Yes Jamie. What did you find out?"

"First, let me assure you that all cards have been released. If the vendor would re-run the charge, there will be absolutely no issues. There was an annotation in the account about a call from your brother, he says that you had mislaid your wallet and although there was no theft involved, if the cards were used before you told him the wallet was found, you should be asked to call in to let him know. He didn't want the cards active if you didn't find your wallet."

"Jamie, he's not a signer on my accounts. He was removed several months ago. Make sure that is annotated please. I'm grateful for his concern but he is an adult as am I. He has no say in my finances. I will discuss this with him as well of course."

"Hmm sounds like your brother is having separation issues. You're on your first vacation ever right? Aishira mentioned it to my wife. You know you've started a trend? Giving rescued exotics as gifts."

"They need good homes." Seto accorded. "Thank you Jamie. I have to go now. Vacation is calling."

"My pleasure. If you have any more trouble, don't hesitate to call." The man sounded distinctly cheerful.

"I won't. Thank you again." Seto disconnected and hung up the speaker line. "Please re-run the charge."

The manager came back, beaming with a relieved smile. Seto thanked him for his competency and after adding a nice tip, hooked his arm around Jou's waist and towed him from the restaurant. They picked up the leashes and strolled back to the car.

"Let's set up camp and go into town. I want to see if Scapegoat can get a walk-in appointment at a groomer and I really need that phone."

"Wanna talk about it?" Jou asked quietly.

Seto shrugged. "No point."

"Didn't think so but I had to ask. Call me a sensitive modern lover."

"You're just in a good mood now that your inner carnivore has been sated." Seto teased the blond.

Jou just grunted in response. He could have very easily have said that Seto had eaten meat too, but somehow, Jou knew that the predator in Seto was waking up and preparing to have a feast.

While Scapegoat and Kit were being groomed Seto and Jou roamed around the touristy city of Redding. Jou picked up a few t-shirts and Seto picked up a full dozen more plus more sandals and shorts. None of them expensive or designer, but he effectively quadrupled their shared wardrobe. They stopped at the local pharmacy to pick up the lotion and applied it in the bathroom - Seto applying his privately although Jou offered to help. The next stop was an electronics store and Seto, after carefully examining each cell phone, chose the one Jou had secretly picked out for him the moment they entered the store. It wasn't because it was the latest and greatest, although Seto would have said that was why he chose it, nope, Jou thought his sexy love would pick it because of the silvery white case and blue flames. It just screamed blue eyes attack. When Seto bought it, and a pay by the minutes plan - then loaded the plan with ten thousand minutes - Jou just snickered and rolled his eyes. Film was much harder to find, and only after over an hour of dedicated searching did they find thirty-five millimeter type. Digital was taking over it seemed.

They picked up the noticeably smaller and cooler dogs from the groomers and wandered back to the car. The sun was just beginning to set when they reached their camper. "Don't you have a phone call to make Seto?" Jou prompted.

"It'll wait until tomorrow. East coast is a few hours ahead. I don't like to deal with lackeys so I'll wait until the morning."

"Lackeys? I thought you were going to call Mokuba." Jou's confusion showed plainly on his face.

"I'm calling my bank and a few other places. Mokuba isn't going to be allowed to mess with my finances or personal life again." Seto declared firmly.

"So no Mokuba?"

"Katsuya, he messed with my credit cards today. Remember I used them early this morning to buy film. I spoke to him yesterday. I refused to tell him where I was, refused to come home, refused his every demand. This was his revenge, or maybe a way to bring me to heel. I don't know which, but I do know he expects a reaction from me, anger or something. That's why he demanded I call corporate. It's a manipulation. If I call him, he gets what he wants. I'm simply going to make sure to limit what he can do in the future and avoid his schemes. If I don't respond he can't play his games." The blue eyes were glaring at the lake. "I won't let him 'own' me any longer. It takes two to play. I'm opting out of the game."

That brought Jou's narrowed gaze to Seto's calm face. "You said that too calmly. No way in hell you are that calm. He's been your center since I've known you, probably before. Are you going to tell me?"

Seto slowly shook his head from side to side. "Katsuya, when I didn't fall in line with his wishes about Rebecca he withdrew from me, completely stepped back. We haven't spoken in months except for business. I was pissed because I thought he had broken your heart and tossed you away. I was cruel to Rebecca but I won't apologize to him for it. His deception caused it. I... You said that I knew, and maybe I did - If I didn't I do now. Katsuya, he loves me, I know he does, but on his terms. For so long that was enough, but when even that much was taken it was... The realization that I had done it all for him, but that he didn't have that same devotion, was devastating. I... " Seto knelt and stroked his hands over Scapegoat's shorn coat. "I was empty."

"Tapped out more like." Jou knelt beside him and dropped his hands on top of Seto's. "I'm not going to argue with you about him Seto. You know him better, but I'm going to give you my opinion. I don't think he loves you like a brother should. He's jealous, possessive and manipulative. That's not normal Seto, it's really not. I love Shizuka with all my heart, but I want her to be happy. Sure I might feel jealous of time spent with other people if I want to hang, but I sure as hell wouldn't sabotage her relationships and I wouldn't do shit to cause her trouble if she didn't do what I wanted her to do. Most of all Seto - and this is the biggie - She knows I am always in her corner. No matter how mad we get at each other or how much we fight - I am there for her if she needs me. Where has he been Seto? When you needed him? Was he helping you? Fuck no, he was hurting you worse, and more, I'll bet he knew, that he kept tabs on you. The little shit was turning the screws and punishing you. Too bad you can't check it. I bet you'd find out a lot."

Seto felt like he'd been punched in the gut. "You... What you're suggesting... Do you even know?"

"Seto, I'm less than a semester away from my degree in clinical psychology. I know the fancy words, but I don't need them to tell you what I see because you already know most of this, you're wearing blinders out of habit. It's easier that way, I know. But it doesn't help you. You need to know what you're up against because you have an existing need for him, one you are evolving through, but he knows about that need and is fostering it. When you step away he tries to draw you back. It is vicious Seto and he will hurt you any way he can."

"I wondered how you knew so much." Seto tilted his head and smiled slightly up at his lover. "We really do have to get to know each other better. What school did you get your undergraduate's in? Where are you attending now?"

"Yeah but we have our lives. I mostly attend online classes UCLA. They are top rated for my degree." Jou smiled slightly. "I had a great role model of being the best so I decided I was going to be the best."

"Hnn..." Seto nodded slightly. "Tell me about Oli."

"A lot to tell." Jou grinned slightly but his eyes darkened with a touch of grief. "He was the last living of his tribe of Miwok. His people are extinct now. It always made him sad."

"He didn't have children?"

"Nah. His soul mate died when they were just kids. He couldn't bring himself to be with anyone else. He always called me the child of his heart and soul." Wistfully, Katsuya gave a small half smile. "I've wished he were my bio father many times."

"What about your biological father? Do you see him? Talk to him?"

"Not in a couple years. I went back to Domino to visit Shizuka and stopped to see the old man. I swear he hadn't moved since I left. He was in the exact same position, sitting on the chair drinking a beer. I walked in and he kinda looked up and asked if I brought the food. When I said I didn't have any food he threw his beer bottle at me so I walked out. Haven't been back or anything since."

"You knew he'd be that way." Seto gave him a steady look. If Jou wasn't going to let Seto hide behind self-deception, then Seto wasn't going to let Jou hide either.

For the first time, Jou moved away from Seto. He stood and turned to gaze out over the lake."Yeah, I did. I hoped not, but I knew he would be. It's weird though, because the whole reason I got into the psychology kick is because of him. I wanted to know what made him tick, why he was an alcoholic."

"What did you discover?" Seto already knew of course, but he wondered if Jou's insights went just as deep into himself as they did into others.

"That sometimes, most times, there is no true reason, just an excuse. That the person is just a selfish dick. That people are people, some are weak and some are not."

"You aren't saying it's a disease but a choice?"

"Yeah. It's why I'll never have the license. In the end, it's a choice to pick up that bottle. It's not like liquor is sitting on every surface. You have to seek it out and pick it up. Weakness sure, disease? Something that happens and can't be controlled? Hell no."

"Sounds like unresolved baggage."

"Whole set of luggage, but I call it like I see it. Cancer is a disease, AIDS, is a disease. Alcoholism is a conscious choice."

"So if I confessed to alcoholism you would...?"

"Kick your ass into next week, tie you to my bed until your body was purged of it, then keep you so busy you wouldn't have time to drink." A wicked smile crossed Jou's face. "There are natural herbs I'd sneak into your food that react badly to alcohol. After you power puke for a month you will not touch the shit. I promise. Are you confessing?"

Seto shuddered at the mental image. "No. I like some wines and an occasional scotch and cigar but only socially. I dislike the 'trashed' feeling and don't touch hard liquor."

"Hmm... Why don't I start our campfire while you try to catch a fish or two for dinner. I'll be down to help you in a minute."

"Catch a fish, with what? My bare hands?"

"Yeah." The blond deadpanned. "Really, haven't you been curious about the stuff in the back of the car? There's a tackle box and that long bag has a couple of fishing poles. You ever fish?"

"I don't stick my nose into your business. No I haven't fished before unless you count our second day, when we were camping and the fish were stunned by the soap. Never had time."

"Okay just FYI, if it was private I'd tell you. Feel free to poke around. Ask about anything you don't recognize. The first thing to do is we both gather wood for a fire, then I'll go over the basics, then we'll work on catching dinner." Jou grinned at Seto's stoic expression. "C'mon, I promise you're going to like it. Nothing beats eating a meal you caught and cooked for yourself." When the expression didn't lighten Jou mock frowned. "I guess you can eat an MRE while I eat trout. Up to you of course."

"If you catch anything, you mean." Seto's remote expression faded into a small, teasing smile. "If we don't catch anything, it'll be up to you to feed me. I fed you lunch."

"Deal." A matching smile tilted the blond's expressive lips. "I'll set-up the poles while you get firewood."

"Deal." Seto nodded agreeably. He wasn't very interested in fishing, or fishing poles, but he had a new fondness for fire. He knew his little 'journey' had been a combination of peyote and other hallucinogenic plants, but the memory of the fire people was vivid, vital, and as real as anything he'd ever experienced. "Katsuya, that first night. The peyote... did you have any weird hallucinations?" He asked softly as he gathered twigs near the car where Jou was rummaging in the trunk. It was strange he hadn't thought of asking before.

"Hallucinations? Nah. I did have a spirit journey, just as you did, but I didn't hallucinate." Jou didn't glance up from his hunt for fishing supplies in the trunk.

"Isn't it the same thing?" Seto asked rhetorically.

"Nope. Not that you'll believe me. I saw you on your journey. You don't have a spirit form yet, you're a gorgeous light, bright as any sun. You were flying with your guides, the Heron and the Snow Goose."

"You saw me?" That was just a little too much for the pragmatic CEO to believe.

"Mmmhmm how else do I know about the Heron, the Snow Goose and the river of tears?"

"I told you about it?" Seto was sure he hadn't though, but the alternative was completely unacceptable.

"You didn't. I watched you from my own place, on my own journey." Jou found everything he needed and pulled it from the compartment. With a dull thud he closed the trunk. "Why don't you finish getting the firewood and then we'll talk about my first hobo vacation, about Oli, and my meeting with my guides."

Seto didn't reply and Jou chuckled slightly. "Believe it or not, I was as skeptical as you. I'll tell you all about it, but first lets get our lines wet and our fire started."

Seto was finished collecting firewood before Jou was satisfied with the setup of the poles. When the tall brunet gave Jou a questioning look the blond smiled slightly. "It's harder than it looks because I have to wind the line around the reel. If I'm not careful the line will tangle." As the reel spun in his competent hold, Jou inclined his head slightly. "Light the fire - I noticed you bought a lighter today. I didn't know you smoked."

"I don't smoke." Seto hastened to tell his lover. "Aishira, one of my top executives and friends, collects lighters from new places. I pick one up for him whenever I go out of town."

"Nice hobby. Shizuka likes to collect teaspoons. I get them from every place I go too." Genuine curiosity peeked out of the amber-gold eyes. "Do you collect anything?"

"I have an art collection if that's what you mean. But useless trinkets because of some compulsive desire for a particular image? No."

"Damn, that shoots down one theory." Jou mumbled.

"Theory?" Seto quirked an eyebrow as he watched the pile of sticks catch flame.

"I always had a pet theory, dream, whatever, that you had a secret collection of blue-eyes stuffed dragons on your bed." Jou admitted with a rueful laugh.

"Stuffed animals?" The brunet CEO actually snorted at that.

"Yeah. I liked to think you had a tender side that you hid under all the ice. The thought of you with stuffed animals made me go all soft just thinking about. Of course the dream of doing you on top of them was enough to make me hard again." The hentai blond confessed outrageously.

That got another snort from Seto. "And you were outraged when I told you Scapegoat did horrible things to Mickey Mouse. You wanted sex on top of stuffed animals. Perv."

"Proud of it." Satisfied that the reels were spinning easily and the line was set up with the correct weights and hooks, Jou set the poles aside and picked up his bag of bait.

Seto saw him pick up the bag and shook his head. "No thank you. I'll wait for dinner."

"Good thing." Jou grinned at him cheekily. "This is the bait."

"Katsuya, I think you pulled out the wrong bag. Those are marshmallows. Even I know that they are for humans, not fish." The fishing-novice said quietly.

"These are for people normally, but fish love 'em too. Trout especially. That's why I put sinkers on the line. They float and the sinkers pull them down so the fish can get to them." Deftly Jou tied the sweet treat on the hooks.

"They work?" Doubt was clear in the deep voice.

"Yup, and we don't have to deal with smelly bait or catching frogs." The blond flashed a smile. "And they're good for a snack if you get hungry."

"You're the expert." Seto acceded but his tone was doubtful. His tone was enough for tease a spurt of laughter out of his lover.

"Yep. Grab a blanket to sit on and grab the pups from the camper." Jou's laughter faded to a small smile. "I feel like a blanket under the stars."

Sounded reasonable, even romantic so Seto went and grabbed a blanket from the camper. When he got back Jou had already cast one line and was holding the other pole. "This one is yours. You want to learn to throw the line or you just want to watch it."

"Honestly?" Seto gave him a direct look. "I don't like fish enough to want to learn to catch them. I don't see the 'sport' in sport fishing and there is plenty available at the market or restaurants."

"Fair enough. You okay with this or you want to do something else for dinner?" Jou nodded agreeably.

When Seto hesitated, Jou gave held his gaze steadily. "Your choice. I'm going to catch my dinner from the lake. Remember what I said? I'm your partner. I don't want to force you into anything."

"You won't be disappointed?"

"Maybe a little, but that's my hangup not yours. I don't want you doing stuff just for me. If you want to do it then yeah, if you don't - don't."

"I thought partners did stuff the other person wanted to do. Compromise?" Seto tilted his head slightly. "Isn't sports one of those things? Am I being selfish if I say no?"

"Some do and some don't. I'd rather we find stuff to do together that we both like. It can be selfish, but you've never been selfish a day in your life. I think a little will go a long way. If it gets too bad I'll tell you." The blond held out the pole. "Wanna learn to fish or not?"

"Not really. I watched the fishermen in Japan on their boats, and I've watched the people in Florida fishing on the pier, boats and even bridges. I never had the urge to do the same." Seto confessed, his tone slightly tentative.

"Good enough. Next time say something before I set the pole up." Jou set the fishing pole aside and took a few corners from the folded blanket. "Let's spread this out."

The settled together comfortably. Not quite touching, but not far apart either. The pups curled together at one end while he and Seto sat at the end near the lake.

Jou held his pole in his hands and Seto leaned back on his arms and gazed up at the stars. After a few moments of silence broken only by the waves and the wind, Seto asked, "Tell me about the marshmallows."

Jou knew it wasn't just a request for information about his choice of bait, but a request for his story. "Have to go back a ways for that, back to a few weeks before the airport. See, I heard you were going to be judging that tournament so I was all up for going. Mai wasn't keen. She wanted to go visit her family in London. We argued about it, and in the end she dumped me, telling me to run after my master like a good little mutt."

Seto shifted slightly, but didn't say a word so Jou continued. "You know how that came out. I did so bad I ended up stranded. I ain't blaming you - just saying what happened so don't get all stiff like that okay?" The blond admonished his lover gently. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me." Jou settled settled more comfortably. "I walked out of that airport without a clue, not even the money to make a call or buy a soda. Hitchhiking is illegal on that road so I took my backpack and walked on. I could have called collect, I could have contacted friends if I really wanted to, but I was so angry, so disillusioned, so fucking hurt, that I just wanted to get away." A wry smile crossed his lips. "Part of it was stupid selfishness too. I wanted you to wonder what happened to me, wanted you to maybe feel guilty. I know you didn't know and you probably would have never checked, but if you did, I wanted you to be aware even if it was just for a minute."

"Jou if you had..."

"Hush, I know that now, but it's good I didn't then. Seto, I wasn't in a good place then. I got out on the road and the first day I met a truck driver who took me in. He was my dad's age and had been on the road since he was a kid with his dad. I felt safer with him than I had ever felt with my own dad. He was the kindest man I'd ever met. Gentle. I can't explain it well but he was always caring, not just about me, but about everything and everyone. We talked about the news, other truckers, and even the animals and the environment. He listened to the radio a lot and knew tons about the world even if he never ventured far from his truck cab. For all the bad news, he was sensitive. He would cry at some news stories and laugh at others I stayed with him for almost a week but..."


"No, his name is Wayne Stewart. He was gay Seto, and sending me signals like crazy. I didn't know until he got beer brave and tried to kiss me. It was just a kiss, not even a grope. Wayne wasn't like that, wasn't trying to force anything. I treated him so badly. Instead of letting him down nicely and just gently pushing him away, I lost it. I unloaded on him, hitting to hurt, calling him horrible names, things I wanted to say to myself, to Mai, to you. I jumped out of the truck as if he were a rapist murderer and ran away. I've looked for him, everywhere I go, but I haven't found him." Regret tinged his voice. "I want to apologize to him." He cleared his voice. "Oli was at the truck stop. He saw what happened and followed me. Not to help me, but to read me the riot act. In his eyes I had used Wayne, led him on, and when it came to pay up I didn't follow through. Oli had a very strict code of ethics, and even stricter code of morals. Nothing wrong with selling a commodity, but you give value for what you're given. That was one of his sayings." Remembrance had him wincing. "He also had very hard fists, harder than my dad's. I needed a good punch in the head."

"I take he gave it to you?" Seto murmured softly.

"Yeah. When I stopped seeing little stars dancing around my head I let fly with him as well. I was still pissed and ready for a battle. I don't know what I said, but partway through my hate filled tirade he lowered his fists and just stood with his head tilted to one side and a weird ass smile on his face. He waited for me to wind down, to wipe the tears off my cheeks, and then he said something that completely baffled me." Jou took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "He called me the blindest eagle he'd ever met."

“Eagle?” Seto asked sharply.

“We’ll get there. I’ll tell it my way so you understand how I came to see it.” Jou put off the question. “He offered to explain, said he hated to see animals in pain.” The blond shifted slightly and spun the reel. “I still don’t know why I did it, but when he said I could follow along with him on his spirit journey I did.”

“You went with a stranger who attacked you?” Seto was completely aghast.

“Nah, I followed him; literally walked in his footsteps sometimes. He completely ignored me for a few days, then one night he built a large fire and threw flowers on the flames. I saw the people of fire dancing for the first time. He didn’t put peyote on the fire, or anything powerful, just stuff to relax his mind – and mine. He began to sing, not to me but to the fire people. I didn’t recognize the language or the song but I knew he was singing to the flame people. I moved next to his fire and found myself humming along. Don’t laugh.” Jou nudged the snickering brunet with his shoulder. “It’s not funny.”

“I’ve heard you sing. You probably scared those poor flame people.” Seto teased and nudged back, not moving away, but leaning against Jou’s strong shoulder. “I saw them, the night of the peyote, the flame people. Some looked familiar to me.”

“They should. I know humans believe that when we die we go to hell, but I think that’s bull. I think we take on new forms, to experience new things. Of course we recognize and even still feel for the others we know, no matter what form they are in.” Jou sighed and leaned into Seto as well. “After that Oli and I travelled together, at first we were just companions, then student and teacher, then like father and son. I told you that his people, the Miwok were extinct and it saddened him, so he adopted me as a Miwok and taught me all he knew, all he remembered. I have a whole oral history spanning thousands of years that I’m writing. I took notes, books full of notes. Not just on the history, but he showed me places sacred to his people, showed me hidden cache’s of tools and remnants of the people that lived here not so long ago. He made me promise that when the time was right, I would go public so his people were not forgotten. That was the bargain we made – I will keep it.”

“Hmm I wondered what you did with your time. People have mentioned books but you don’t write all the time do you?” Such a quiet job did not suit what he knew of his energetic lover.

“I attend online classes in psychology, and I am a holistic healer, alternative medical practitioner of Ayurveda in addition to writing.” When his love looked at him with starlit blue eyes Jou nodded slightly. “It is a medical practice using hygiene, exercise, natural foods and exercise to keep the mind, body and spirit in balance.”

“New age?” Seto couldn’t keep the hint of scorn out of his tone.

“Very old, ancient in fact, about three hundred BC. It is Krishna based, although I do not practice the religious component. I believe every man has a path to walk and there are as many different paths as there are people. The important thing is to find the right path. There are eight components of the healer, Kāya-chikitsā is for general medicine and cures of diseases affecting the body, Kaumāra-bhṛtya is the treatment of children, Śhalya-chikitsā is surgery - which I do not practice beyond removing splinters or ingrown toenails. It's not legal in the U.S and I send people I think need surgery to a western doctor. I don't practice Sālākya-tantra either. It is to cure of diseases of the eye or ear etc. by sharp instruments, for the same reason. Bhūta-vidyā is treatment of mental diseases supposed to be produced by demoniacal influence and I do some treatment there, but if there is anything that I think is a genuine threat to the patient or other people I send them to a western doctor or call the cops. I gotta say, when you wanted to become cat chow I was determined to take you to a psychiatrist. If you hadn't snapped out of it, your ass would be inpatient somewhere." When Seto only nestled closer instead of protesting, Jou continued his explanation. "Agada-tantra is antidotes and toxicology, Rasayana-tantra is elixirs, and Vājīkaraṇa-tantra are aphrodisiacs." Jou didn't need to see Seto's expression to guess his response. "I don't expect you to believe the same as me. Just respect my choices." He shrugged slightly. "Besides, like I said, I am not really into the worship so much as the practical aspects of balancing all parts of your existence to be healthy."

Jou didn't quite know what to expect, but having his pole shoved out of his lap and Seto crawl on top of him, clinging tight was unexpected to say the least. Not that Jou minded exactly, but what bothered him was the way his lover was shaking. "Seto? Are you all right?"

"Fire went out." Jou could barely hear the strained whisper.

"Ah yeah it did. Must have... Oh!" He broke off as a tremor wracked through Seto's slim body. "Okay fire went out. Let's get it started again." Jou would have moved away, but the clinging brunet in his arms wouldn't let him budge. After about a second, and three more tremors, Jou tightened his hold and rolled his lover onto his back, coming down on top of Seto like a blanket. He could see the wide eyes, so beautiful in the moonlight, practically rolling with fear as more tremors shook Seto. "Close your eyes, Seto." When he hesitated, Jou ordered sharply. "Close them."

The moonlit orbs shut tightly. "Good, now listen to me and do exactly as I say. Do not fight me on this, just do what I say - trust me to keep you safe." Jou ignored the clinging arms and pulled away. He could see the panic in Seto's expression despite the limited moon and starlight. "Stay right there Seto. Do not move an inch. I want you to stay perfectly still and I want you to count for me. Count your breaths. Count to a hundred and I'll be back. Only when you reach one hundred. Start at one. Go. You will be fine until then. Remember count to a hundred. Count out loud okay? I want to hear it. Count and breathe, Seto. Let me hear you."

"One." It was a mere thread of sound, but it allowed Jou to let out his breath and start to move, gathering kindling and large logs that were scattered around. Something about the fire going out had precipitated a near meltdown. If Seto need a fire he'd get the biggest Jou could make with what was around him. He didn't go further than five metres from Seto. No way in hell. If Seto panicked and bolted, he could end up in the lake. At breath eighty, Jou started the kindling, and at ninety was adding the larger logs. At one hundred, he was wrapping Seto in his arms. "Okay, I'm going to turn you a bit then I want you to open your eyes okay? Seto, okay?"


"I'm back just like I promised. Now open your eyes. I'm right here for you, you know that. Open your eyes. Let me see them sexy blues." Jou coaxed. Seto only scrunched his eyes tighter.

"Damn it Seto open your eyes or I'm gonna... gonna... make you cook the fish. Open 'em. You'll see, the fire people weren't gone at all, just resting. C'mon."

Seto gathered himself, Jou literally saw the strength of will his lover pulled from deep inside, and opened his eyes wide only to close them again as the bright light of the bonfire Jou created. They popped open again almost immediately though. "Let's move the blanket closer to the fire." Jou dashed back and grabbed it, dislodging the pups from their corner.

Seto didn't protest, didn't say a word, just stood and waited, his eyes never leaving the glowing warmth. He sank down, once the blanket was moved, gripping Jou's arm and pulling him down into a graceless, strangely natural heap. Jou didn't protest, just held onto his lover and watched the fire with patient eyes. He barely noticed when Scapegoat and Kit joined them, piling into their tangled bodies like they were a litter of puppies.

At some point the tremors shaking Seto's body stopped, as did the desperate clinging. They were replaced by a boneless sprawl and deep even breathing of exhaustion. Jou didn't move an inch. He continued to stare at the fire and silently ask the fire people for advice and guidance. He wasn't surprised by the hummingbird that greeted him with the sunrise, but he was surprised to see a great blue heron wading placidly in the shallows of the lake just a few metres from them.

He'd seen it before, flying with Seto's spirit light, but Jou honestly didn't expect Seto's animal guides to be present in this realm for some time, if ever. The elegant bird turned and gazed at him critically, seeming to weigh him on some inner scale, then with an abrupt, harsh, loud 'rokrok' the bird launched skyward and disappeared in just a few seconds.

The bird must have woke Seto, because the tall brunet uncurled his body and stretched, sighing before snuggling back into Jou's warmth. "Mmm..." Then memory filtered in and he bolted upright, eyes wide with chagrin and panic.

"'Bout time you woke up, sleeping beauty." Jou teased and stretched his cramped, aching body.

"Katsuya I..." But Jou's warm, good morning kiss cut him off.

"Uh uh. It's too early in the morning for confessions of the rich and infamous. Let's get cleaned up and dressed, then we'll pack up. MREs for breakfast."

"But I..." Seto broke off when he saw the warmth shining in his lover's golden eyes. "I'll pack up while you get the MREs ready." A whimper at his feet brought his gaze down to Scapegoat and Kit. "I'll feed them too."

"M'kay." Jou nodded agreeably. "Let's hit it."

Seto was surprised when Jou didn't pitch in to help but instead sat quietly at the fire warming water for the MREs. Seto had offered but it wasn't like his boyfriend to sit and leave the work to him. Maybe Katsuya was angry? Disgusted? Upset? Maybe he was disillusioned that the 'Kaiba Seto' was weak and afraid of the dark? Maybe... Maybe he didn't love him any more? That wasn't right, he knew it wasn't, but something had driven Jou away.

He worked automatically as his mind spun out possibilities for Katsuya's silence and lack of assistance. The reason for it didn't occur to him until he literally stepped on it. As it squished under his foot, Seto recognized it immediately. Jou's bag of 'bait.' The marshmallows didn't fare well under his size twelve, but from what he could tell the bag was almost completely full. Did that mean Jou had gotten lucky on that first cast? That was unlikely, but he didn't use any other bait. Jou hadn't fished past the first cast? Had he ruined Jou's fishing with his panic attack?

Admittedly Seto didn't remember much of what Jou said past mentioning an eagle and his own panic attack. It had brought to mind the golden eagle in Seto's dream but before Jou could explain, Seto had seen flashes of movement in the bushes, heard sounds he knew in his head, but the instinctive part of him had panicked because while his head was reasonable, his flight or fight response was not. He'd crept closer and closer to Jou until a particularly loud sound had driven him to Jou's lap in a panicked frenzy. Seto didn't remember much after that except counting - counting? Why had he been counting? Then the brilliance of the fire and Jou's arms holding him tight.

He was about to use the discovery as a way to break the unusual silence between them when a flash of blue-grey at the edge of the water caught his eye. It was a heron feather, and floating on the water. Next to it, just sticking up out of the water was what looked like a handle - a slightly familiar handle. Jou's fishing pole was in the water? Jou wasn't careless. How had it ended up there? And why hadn't his love retrieved it? He was about to call out and ask when Jou's voice reached him. "Seto, get over here and feed your dog. He still won't take a bite from me."

"Be right there." The brunet, still holding the waterlogged fishing rod, finished cleaning up the area exactly as Jou had shown him and hurriedly put everything in it's place except the pole. Jou was leaning against the camper holding the bowl of food when Seto reached him. "Trade. You take your fishing pole and I'll take care of the pups."

"I've already given them their water. I'll break down the pole, but I'll put it in the back window of the car. I want the wood to dry out." He smiled slightly. "You're driving but I want the top up. MRE's are ready when you are." With a simple nod, Jou turned away. Seto frowned after him but turned to feed the pups. Whatever was wrong they could talk about in the car. That's when it hit him. Katsuya said that he was driving, but... that... "Katsuya wait." He started to call, only to swallow it back. If his love was angry, disappointed, disgusted, whatever, would he really trust Seto with his car? The short answer was no.

Gaining confidence in the fact that nothing was wrong, and if there was it would be resolved, Seto closed the door so the pups couldn't get out and picked his way across the rocky ground to join the blond in breakfast. He was surprised - and grateful - to find Jou had made them each two MREs. Seto found he was more than a little hungry. Lunch yesterday was a long time ago.

Jou ate quickly and silently, excused himself and hurried into the woods. Seto finished his own meal and followed, in a slightly different direction. He had to urinate, but he'd wait until civilization to do more. When he finished his 'business' he found Jou and the pups in the car, the keys already in the ignition, Jou flipping through the CD collection and loading disks one at a time. Seto slid in and buckled up. "Falls?"

"Yeah that's fine. It's a hour and a half to get there. If I'm not awake and you want to wander around taking pictures, go ahead, just don't leave the paths." Jou sighed and leaned across to kiss the brunet's cheek. "Night babe." With a flick of the switch Jou's seat reclined and the blond was out like a light.

Instead of putting the car in gear, Seto stared down at the blond. Blue eyes narrowed as they saw for the first time the dark shadows that ringed Jou's eyes and the slightly pinched look that didn't fade even though he was fast asleep. From the look of things Seto's lover was exhausted.

Why would he be... Then the memory of the 'bait' and the pole floating in the water, and their significance hit hm. With absolute certainty Seto knew that Jou had abandoned the fishing without a second thought to handle the panic attack that had gripped Seto. More, Jou had held him all night, probably only moving long enough to keep the fire burning. Jou hadn't fished, eaten, or slept to take care of Seto. All of the doubt Seto felt earlier fell away. Jou still loved him, loved him past the point of common sense and self-preservation. Seto would have to take care not to forget or doubt it ever again. Noticing the slight goose flesh on Jou's arms, Seto put the top up and slipped the butter smooth transmission in gear.

Two hours later, Seto pulled into the parking lot at the Falls Memorial park, and looked around curiously. It was similar to Shasta Lake in that it was green and foresty, but there were also cabins and a gift store, more importantly there were people everywhere. Families, couples, and even a tour bus filled the area. He found that he didn't mind that at all, not after the isolation of the last little while. He didn't want to necessarily go out and mingle, but he didn't mind the anonymous bustle. A few of the more interesting people would actually make good photo studies.

A body assessment told him his physical needs were pressing, Seto decided to take care of business first thing. With a quick order to Scapegoat to 'watch' which would make the dog go into a barking frenzy if anyone came close to the car, and hopefully wake Katsuya, Seto climbed out of the car, stretched, and sauntered confidently into the gift shop and public restrooms.

He was washing his hands while absently thinking about renting a cabin when he caught sight of himself in the mirror. At first he didn't recognize the sun kissed, cutely freckled, wind tousled young man with mahogany hair streaked with bright red where the sun had lightened the color. When he did, rather than turn away from his reflection, as he had many times in the past, he studied himself, trying to see what Katsuya saw, the 'work of art', the 'beauty.' At first he really couldn't see it, but when he met his own baffled gaze in the mirror he realized that his eyes were bright, soft, and warm. Not the gaze he was used to seeing, and that warmth and softness were... they made him... made his eyes actually pretty. The hated freckles weren't bad at all, in fact they were cute and took years off his looks. Now that he didn't have to worry about being a badass, the freckles were... well cute. His skin, sun-kissed color aside, was smooth and didn't look bad at all. So maybe Jou was right, he was attractive. Certainly more now than before, at least in Seto's opinion. Not a work of art, but... "I'd do me." Seto mumbled aloud

His own voice startled him, and without drying his hands, he hurried out of the bathroom. After a quick check on his still slumbering love, Seto hurried over to the camping and rental office. He was disappointed to find they only had rental cabins with bunk beds, but shrugged philosophically and went with it. They could put the mattresses together on the floor if they had to.

Another quick check on his sleeping lover and attentive guard dogs, Seto went to the large general store. He was happy to find not only more lotion for his almost gone 'intimate' pain and scabbed blisters, but an air mattress and a couple big fluffy pillows. Jou would sleep comfortably for as long as he wanted. Groceries, real healthy groceries, with simple recipes, lined a few aisles and without hesitation, he picked up a few meals. He couldn't mess up something as simple as organic bean soup - he even remembered the bean-o - and boxed whole wheat macaroni and cheese was entirely do-able.

With Jou still snoring lightly beside him, he drove to the cabin and quietly unloaded the car. He used the small, foot operated pump to blow up the air mattress and then covered it with a blanket from the camper. He smoothed the pillows into place, then put the bean soup on to simmer on low. The package said to cover with water and simmer low, the meal would take five to six hours. As exhausted as Jou was, that would be just about right, but to be safe, Seto set the timer on the stove.

Satisfied with his prep, he went out and caught the pups, throwing them in the second room of the cabin while he hopefully got Jou inside without waking him too much. He needn't have worried. Jou didn't stir when Seto opened the car door, and didn't do more than murmur a protest when the brunet hoisted him upright and half carried, half dragged the blond into the cabin.

Jou sank on onto the carefully prepared pallet with a low murmur and sprawled limply, sinking into the queen-sized air mattress. He looked comfortable and Seto smiled slightly at the picture he made. It was almost perfect, but Jou's clothes, obviously binding in their twisted state ruined it. With only his lover's comfort in mind, Seto virtuously stripped the blond of every stitch. Jou must have enjoyed the freedom because he stretched and rolled over to his belly spreading his arms and legs wide. Seto, all thoughts noble and pure, eyed the exposed back, tracing the strong line of Jou's spine where it ended in a tantalizing cleft.

The burns on Jou's back were worse than Seto's. He didn't need to see his own back to know that. Most of his blisters were scabs and there was very little actually pain involved, just tightness. But Jou's back still oozed slightly where scabs hadn't formed yet, and the skin around the wounds were red and swollen. With only concern for his lover, not a single hentai thought, Seto grabbed the healing lotion, applying it with feather-light strokes.

Jou flinched slightly under Seto’s careful ministrations, but Seto after a quick check, he didn't see any sign of Jou waking. The lotion was absorbed greedily into Jou's skin, and even as Seto watched, the redness started to fade. Not ready to stop touching Jou, Seto slid his hands further south, smoothing the lotion over the lightly tanned ass cheeks of his sleeping lover. That area could have been burned too, at least that's what Seto piously told himself. And since he was down there, maybe he should just check out the scars that Jou seemed so apprehensive about. That way if they were too bad Seto could control his reactions so they didn't hurt his lover.

With warm, lotion slick hands, he bent Jou's leg up slightly and looked at the slightly parted cheeks. “Hmmm nothing visible.” Seto mumbled softly to himself. Unconsciously he leaned forward to get a closer look, but when he still couldn't glimpse a scar, he gently pressed one muscular bun aside. Nothing - no wait, there was a very faint set of lines bisecting part of the pink-brown pucker. He leaned in closer, his warm breath washing over the exposed flesh as he tried to identify the symbol. Maybe Kanji, but it was so faint, so difficult to see, he couldn't really tell. With the barest touch he traced over the almost invisible lines watching the tiny marks shiver and flex with the muscular stimulation he gave. No real difference, he'd have to explore further to see if there was something inside but so far... he rubbed more lotion on his finger and pressed at the opening only to freeze when Jou mumbled and shifted uncomfortably.

What the hell was he doing? He'd practically molested Jou in his sleep. What kind of lover was he? What kind of man was he? Wasn't it rape if there was no knowledge? What the hell? Thoroughly disgusted with himself, he threw himself off the bed and stalked to the second room where the dogs were. He ignored their sleepy growls and snapped their leashes on their collars. After loading his camera, he dragged the dogs off to take pictures. Maybe the untainted beauty of the falls would wash away his perverted, disgusting impulses.

Katsuya watched through slitted eyes as his lover stalk off with the pups dragging behind him. He had been aware of Seto's care since the antiseptic cream had touched his back. The stuff stung for half a second before soothing and he'd jolted awake. Seto's hands had been so curious, so tender, that Jou had held himself still and let Seto have his way. It blew Jou away to realized just how much Seto wanted to care for him. He was completely turned on by the way the touch had changed from curious and soothing to warm exploration. Jou had actually started to protest when Seto bolted away. At first confusion kept Jou silent, but at the angry expression on Seto's face, Jou realized why Seto had run.

He sighed and shook his head as he realized exactly what was going through the brunet's head. Seto was so naive about some basic relationship interactions and it was obvious that he didn't know that lovers woke each other with sex and play all the time. It was a joy and privilege to watch Seto as he learned and opened up.

Jou was glad the brunet hadn't gone further with his exploration, though, because he was genuinely exhausted and where Seto had been headed was not a place they should go unrested. One weight was off his mind, though. Seto didn't find his scars a turn off. The light touches had been warm and loving as they traced the disfigurement, and Jou would have had to be blind and deaf not to notice Seto's suddenly accelerated breathing and the erection the brunet had sported when he bolted from the mattress. Images danced in his mind's eye that made his own body react pleasurably.

When Seto got back they were going to have a great time. Jou'd never made love on an air mattress but it struck him as just right for some very fun trampoline action. He closed his golden eyes again and nestled his own erection into the warm sheets beneath him. Seto's breath on his balls and ass was something he absolutely loved. Maybe he could finally convince the brunet to go for a sixty nine. With a low growl, Jou smashed his pillow down and cleared his thoughts, forcing both his mind and body to relax and sleep.

A low beeping brought him back from the realms of morpheus. After a few moments he located it as the alarm on the stove. A pot was on low simmering, and now that he was fully awake to appreciate it, whatever was cooking smelled delicious. The time displayed on the oven clock made him sit up and glance around. He'd been asleep probably five or six hours, so where was Seto? From the look of things his lover had been a busy man. Their things were piled next to the door, Jou's clothes were laid out carefully on top of the pile, the air mattress, pillows and cabin spoke for themselves. Now to find the busy little bee and reward him with some honey.

He schlepped to the pile of stuff and grabbed his shorts, sliding them on commando. A quick peek out the window and he knew where his sexy lover was - sitting on the stairs to the cabin absently petting the dogs. The rigid posture, despite the casual seat told Jou a lot more about Seto's frame of mind than the neatly arranged belongings. His love was upset and although Jou thought he knew why, he would take it casual until he was sure.

He scooped up a large bowl of the meal Seto prepared and grabbed a spoon. He would kill two birds with one stone - fuel and reassurance. He knew Seto heard the door open by the way the brunet's shoulders got even more rigid, but the stubborn man didn't even glance over his shoulder. "Mnyam... Good morning Baby." Jou mumbled as he sat down beside his love. Spying the camera slung around the other man's neck he nuzzled into Seto's side. "Get some good pictures?"

Guilty blue eyes stared at him from an adorably freckled face. "I think they're okay. Katsuya..."

"Hmm thanks for letting me sleep. I know you wanted to jump me, but I was too tired. It wouldn't have been much fun." Jou slurped a bite of bean soup. "Mmm... have you eaten? This stuff is really good. You get to cook from now on." He joked, then sobered. "My scars didn't turn you off. I saw how hard you were. Kinda thought you'd try to drill me right then, but you got more control than me I guess." Another bite. "Thanks for that, and thanks for taking care of my back. It feels much better, even if it stung at first, I'm glad you put that stuff on."

Guilty blue eyes widened in surprise then narrowed. "You were awake." He didn't ask.

"Yeah, that stuff you used on my back stings. You didn't know?" Jou gave him a hentai grin. "Perv. Taking advantage of me when I'm snoozing." The guilt was back in an instant, but Jou was ready for it because he added "Glad to know I'm not the only one. You know how many times I've groped you when you were asleep? You usually wake up, but not always."

"You grope me? When I am asleep?" Seto didn't know whether to be amused or outraged. What he distinctly wasn't was violated.

"You like it." Jou took another bite, making yum-yum sounds.

"If I'm asleep how could I possibly like it." The ever logical man argued.

"Your dick gets hard, just like mine did this afternoon." When Seto's lips dropped open in surprise, Jou shoved a spoonful of food into his mouth. "Eat, you're going to need the energy."

"I think I should be mad." Seto reflected after swallowing. "Or something."

"Why? It's not like I'm forcing you. If you showed you didn't want my touch by moving away or if you woke up and said no I'd be okay with it. Like today, I wanted you to touch me, so I let you. If I had a problem with it, I would have said something." He took several large bites.

"Sleeping? Could you?" He knew he was over analyzing, but Seto couldn't help it. Sometimes his mind just latched onto something and didn't let go.

Jou chuckled. "I don't think I'll ever sleep deep enough naturally to not notice someone playing with my ass Seto. Doubt you would too." The blond handed him the empty bowl. "I'm going to shower. Why don't you come in and get yourself some food. If you're lucky I might give you a floor show to go with your meal." When his lover didn't move, Jou reached over and traced a few of the new freckles on Seto's cheeks. "Don't worry about it. I'll let you know if you ever step out of line. I want you to touch me, kiss me, hell just about anything you can think of. Still worried about bottom, but you can convince me to try - if you like my floor show." With that carrot dangling, Jou stood up and stretched, ruffled Seto's wind blown hair, and sauntered into the cabin, his ass provocatively swaying - deliberately.

Seto watched him go with a slow smile dawning on his face. He snatched up the leashes to the dogs and half dragged the sleepy pups into the cabin. To ensure privacy he tossed them in the second room and just as he was refilling the bowl with fragrant soup he heard the shower kick on.

He expected to finish and join Jou in the shower, but he was barely through half the bowl when the shower cut off, and his droplet studded, golden skinned lover sauntered into the room naked as the day he was born.. A wicked grin crossed the blond's face. "Ready for the show?"

Seto put down his spoon and licked his lips. "Depends. Is it interactive?"

"Not the first act. After that it's up to the audience." Jou smirked. "So enjoy your meal."

He picked up his spoon again. "I'm used to the best entertainment." A brunet brow lifted haughtily. "I demand it."

"Mmmhmm." Jou settled one leg on the bed and the other on the floor, spreading his thighs for a view of his dark blond thatch of hair, sac, and mildly interested cock. Seeing the blue gaze focus right where he wanted it, he reached down and cupped his balls, rolling and fondling gently. His other hand lifted to stroke along his chest, teasing at his nipples lightly. He ignored the tingles of pleasure running through him to ask, "Tell me about the scars. I've never seen them."

"Obviously." Seto's eyes were avid as they took in every move of Jou's hands as they caressed and fondled. "I could barely see them and I couldn't make out any kanji. Your sphincter is intact and seems to be normal, although I didn't get a chance to test it." He took a bite before offering. "I'll explore later if you let me."

"Count on it." Jou's hand slipped below his ball sac and pressed upwards. "I love external massage here, can't get enough." As if to prove his words, his half hard cock stretched and grew to full erection. "I can come just by pressing here in circles.” The hand teasing his nipples dropped to circle the base of his arousal, circling and stroking firmly. "Ah, feels so good." Golden eyes closed in pleasure and he let out a slightly breathless moan.

Seto's spoon hit the bowl with a clatter. "Act two?" His pants were too tight, his heart hammering, and his breath becoming shallower. Jou was incredibly hot with his head falling back in ecstasy, exposing his throat submissively, even as his hands stroked and squeezed to give more pleasure.

"Not yet." Jou's voice was thin and taut. "Seto, do you want to know what I'm thinking right now?"

"That you want me to end my meal with cream for dessert?" Seto offered hoarsely. He nearly moaned when Jou let out a low whine and bucked into his stroking hands.

"Fuck yeah, oh god. No no... " Jou visibly fought for control. "I'm thinking of how hot your dick will feel inside me, how tight and full I'll be. I want that so badly I can feel my ass clenching and relaxing, like it would if you were really there."

"God, Jou don't - you might not be able to..." Seto grasped for sanity even as he rose from his chair and took two steps towards the blond writhing on the bed shedding his clothes as he went. He wanted to make love to Jou so badly he thought he would explode, but he knew he had to take it slow, had to be very careful, and if it wasn't possible, reassure Jou that it didn't matter.

"Thought about it while you were - oh man I'm going to cum if I don't stop - taking care of me. I trust you not to hurt me." With a low growl Jou yanked his hands away and threw himself back on the air mattress. "Come here Seto, let me have your mouth. Time for your dessert."

Seto gazed at him with stark yearning. "You are incredible, not just hot and sexy as hell, but your heart is so... so... open." He had never seen such frank desire or open love and trust.

"To you, always. Seto... Not to be too pushy but I'm going to blow with or without you. Come here please." Jou was outright begging, his body rocking urgently as his thighs tensed, obviously on the edge, teetering between agony and ecstasy.

Heart melting from the love and trust that Katsuya gave him, body surging with the passion that was never far away, Seto knelt on the mattress and reached for his lover's hot, cum-slicked cock. "Without me?" He murmured as he tightened his grip, slowing the impending climax. "I think not."

When the blond whimpered and thrashed in his grip, he relented to bend and swirl his tongue around the head of Jou's cock, enjoying the musky, salty flavor of Jou's cum and the slick heat under his caressing touch. "Mmm..." He hummed his approval of the taste and Jou's soft cry. Wanting to hear and taste more, he rimmed the glans with his tongue before sucking the entire bulbous head into his mouth, using just the edge of his teeth to stimulate as he sucked and tongued the sensitive underside.

Instantly the shaft and head swelled, and despite his tight hold, the flow of silky fluid increased. Seto knew he didn't have the experience to take Jou deep, so instead he closed his lips tighter and flicked the tip of his tongue into and around the very sensitive slit at the same time freeing his restrictive hold on the base of Jou's cock. Instantly Jou's body shot jets of cum into his mouth, giving Seto his creamy dessert.

As gorgeous as he found Jou lost in passion, the relaxed, blissful look on the other man's face was far more beautiful. It was infinitely satisfying to know he had given his love that kind of joy. While his lover came down, Seto went to retrieve the bottle of lubricating hand lotion he'd picked up.

When he turned back to the mattress Jou was leaning on one elbow watching him from dark golden eyes. "Hmmm, smart." His gaze flicked to the bottle. "And caring. Suki da." A tiny smile edges his lips. "How the hell did you get so good at blowjobs? I thought you only had a few one nighters. I can't see you doing that for a one nighter."

"I haven't ever wanted to, but I do know what I like." He shrugged uncomfortably. "Do you really want to hear how other people went down on me?"

"Sure." Jou grinned when Seto's stride faltered. "Not right now, but sometime, because sure as hell I'm going to suck you off so well you forget all about them. I need to know the competition." The smile faded as his eyes skimmed down Seto's body. "You've lost interest. Want me to..."

Ruefully, Seto shook his head. "Like hell. Look at the mattress. I made a huge mess."

Jou glanced down at the large puddle. "Oh, you get off sucking dick? Huh, I think we can make a deal."

"Idiot. I get off seeing you cum because of what I do. The act is secondary." Seto snapped. "Must you be so crude?"

Jou laughed and swung himself up in a sitting position. "Seto, we have sex. Sex is crude just by the act itself. Have you ever heard of polite sex? It's wet, hot, sloppy, and if it's done right, it will make even the strongest man beg and a virgin sound like a whore. It's what it is."

Seto didn't know how to respond to that. He looked away, feeling strangely hollow and ashamed. How could he explain to the pleasure-loving blond on the bed that his sexual encounters before him had been polite and pleasant, not hot, wet or sloppy. He and his partners had copulated, politely looking away or burying their faces in the pillows, completing the act in silence and withdrawing immediately. Leaving without any kind of embarrassing declarations or promises to further the empty awkwardness.

Jou's heart cracked slightly at the melancholy expression on Seto's face. A quick rewind of what he'd said made his breath catch. Had Seto's experience actually been polite? How the hell did one fuck politely? Say please and thanks? If that was what Seto knew then no wonder he was restrained when they had sex. He probably thought he would be 'rude' if he got too wild. Huh! It was time for the sexy brunet to gain a much broader perspective. "Yo, you're too far away. Get over here and make me hot and sticky. I want to scream your name at least twice." A sly glint lit his eyes. "I'm gonna make you scream my name twice that."

"You want to make this a contest? A game?" Seto didn't know whether to be amused or insulted, but he did know he could feel his dormant competitive spirit - and his cock - stirring at the challenge.

The playful blond bounced on the bed. "Got a mattress that is made for fun and games thanks to you. I trust you not to hurt me, and if it don't work we'll figure it out. So yeah... Let’s play while we love Seto. Only rules are love and respect - the messier the better."

Seto grinned and dove to the mattress, bouncing both of them wildly. "Be prepared to lose!" He mocked, echoing his old dueling days.

Jouncing around on the springy air mattress, Jou laughed wickedly, "Lose? Kaiba, even if I lose I win. It's win-win for both of us."


That struck the brunet as strangely poignant. He'd never encountered a true win-win situation. In his world it was cut-throat, kill or be killed, take no prisoners. A person either won or they died. In all the experiences in his life, the boardrooms, the political maneuvers, the deals, he had never found a truly win-win situation until now, on an air mattress in a cabin, loving a hedonistic blond whose sole aim seemed to be to simply love him. Definitely win-win. Warm, joyful laughter bubbled up and he rolled over to pin the wriggling blond beneath him. "Let’s play." He rasped as his lover welcomed him with clinging arms and legs. The next intelligible words heard in the room were simultaneous shouts of their respective names... Repeated several times.

Katsuya was in that state between sleep and waking where he knew he was asleep, but was aware of the world around him. He could hear Seto talking to someone, feel the warm, sleepy, well-loved feeling in his body, but at the same time, the heaviness of sleep blanketed his mind. Strangely, his friend the hummingbird flitted into view. The tiny bird was darting to and fro in agitation, and Jou tried to focus on what his little friend was trying to tell him. As he focused on the messenger he became aware of a black cloud forming in the distance, lightning and power shooting from the swirling vortex that looked like a giant funnel cloud. Even as he watched it, terror gripping his throat, it swelled, taking on more power, spinning towards him on a collision course. With a jolt he brought himself out of his dream state. Something was very wrong.

"Seto." He gasped as he sat up.

The brunet turned and blinked at him, surprised by his urgent tone. "What's wrong? Are you in pain?" Instant concern replaced the surprise.

"Pain? No, I'm good. Great! Uhm... what's going on? I thought you sounded upset on the phone just now." Jou knew his lover wasn't ready to accept spirit guides and spirit journeys yet, that he may never be, so he kept it simple.

"More irritated than upset. I called Jamie to make sure my information remained private. Just a precaution, or so I thought. My secretary called to get a listing of my purchases in the last twenty-four hours. She is on my access list - was. I called to speak to her and she informed me she now is working for Mokuba. He flew out at three this morning. He is due to land in Redding in half an hour."

"Redding is an hour away. He'll be here in less than two hours." Jou closed his eyes and sighed. "You want to stay and wait for him?"

"I told him no and I was on vacation. I want to be long gone when he gets here. I removed everyone but me from my lists. Mokuba will not be able to track us." Blue eyes asked the question before he said a word. "Do you mind if we leave?"

Jou was up and moving before the words left his lips. "Hell no. We need to shower - PTA Seto. Then we'll clear out. Haul your cute ass."

"PTA? Do I want to know?" He did, if for no other reason than to know what his lover was saying to him.

"Pits, tool, ass. Just the basics, babe. We gotta fly. I don't want him anywhere near either of us right now." On more than one level. Seto had yet to break the stranglehold of the chains Mokuba bound him with. The chains would never disappear, but Seto had to learn to not let them choke him. He was learning, but Mokuba was a master at manipulating Seto and if the little shit got his mitts on Seto before his lover had learned how to see through the brat, all the healing Seto had done would have been for nothing.

"Tool?" Amused, the brunet strolled into the bathroom. "What kind of tool?" He stepped into the narrow shower stall and turned the knobs.

Jou squeezed in behind him, sharing the scant drizzle of water. "Hammer drill." The blond grinned. "'Cause you know how to hammer and drill."

"Does that make you an O-ring lube injector? 'Cause you..." His words were cut off when Jou shoved his face into the shower spray. Chuckling to himself as Jou started to wash both of them, Seto put Mokuba out of his mind and relaxed into his love's touch. Messy, rude sex games were definitely win-win. Even when they discovered their airbed was considerably flatter, thanks to a blown out seam in one of the tubes that made it up, he considered it all part of a winning deal.


Mokuba drove up to the cabin his brother had rented twenty-four hours before. He didn't see any sign of his brother or Jounouchi, but figured they had probably gone to the store. The door was unlocked and he barrelled in like he was a swat team securing a building only to stop his forward rush and look around blankly. Empty. The cabin was empty. Or almost. On the stove was a pot of leftover soup. Next to it was a note addressed to him in his brother's distinctive hand.


Go home! I don't want you following me any more. You are ruining my vacation. If you do not leave me alone I will take drastic action. You are not my parent, you are not my spouse, you are my brother. I love you but you are getting on my nerves. For the last time leave me alone! I am warning you. It is the only warning I will give.

Enjoy the soup. It is delicious.

Jillian Clark sighed and stepped into the open doorway. "I told you he would leave if he knew you were coming. Mokuba when are you going to get it through your head, your brother needs to do this, and he knows that. I understand what you are feeling and why you are acting irrationally, but by now you have to see this is futile. You aren't saving him, you are trying to save yourself."

"Shut the hell up." The black-haired man snarled at the woman who had forced her way onto this trip. He had no other defense against her too accurate words but to attack. The letter wasn't random, it wasn't done under duress. If it had been Seto would have used the code they had worked out years before. His brother meant what he had written. Pain blossomed in Mokuba's chest and raged hazed his vision. His brother wanted to be left alone, had left to avoid a meeting. Scalding tears of hurt and anger filled his eyes. "Just shut the hell up." He whispered as the tears fell. "You don't know jack shit."

She tilted her head to one side and asked "Are the tears real or is it another manipulation. I lean toward manipulation, but since I'm immune and there is nobody here for you to try to control they could be real."

"Shut up!" He yelled. "If you don't shut up I swear I'll leave you here."

"Yeah, real punishment there Kaiba. I have my credit cards and I will enjoy a few days vacation." She hesitated for a moment. "Mokuba, there are two bunks here, it's pretty and quiet. Why don't we stay a few days. It might do you some good to get away." Seeing the instant denial she added a lure she was sure he wouldn't refuse. "Your brother might come back, after all he optioned to rent the cabin for a week. If he thinks you've left he might come back." It was brutal, but it was also a great hook. She added another. "Besides he may not have left the park at all. He may be waiting for you to leave, watching right now." Not that she believed it. Seto Kaiba and his lover were long gone and she couldn't be more relieved.

Looking very young and hopeful, her patient gave her a genuinely pathetic look. "Do you think so?"

Hell no, but if it helped Mokuba's brother fixation, she'd play along. "It's possible. You know your brother best, but I think he might bluff."

Slowly the black-haired man nodded. "Yeah he would. He probably expects me to leave, to just do as he says. Well if he can run off on vacation then I can take a few days and wait for him to return."

She nodded agreeably as she mentally wished the elder Kaiba a nice long trip. The thought crossed her mind that she would have to send Seto Kaiba a bill for running interference. The Kaiba brothers were hard work. A person could spend a lifetime and never figure them out completely. "I'll get my bag. You'll need to go to the store and get some stuff for yourself since you didn't pack anything."

Mokuba gave her a cold look and stalked off. He decided to burn some energy walking to the store and set off down the path grumbling under his breath about women, brothers, and troublemaking dumb blonds. At the store he grabbed a few of the least obnoxious, touristy shorts and t-shirts, then snatched up a pair of overpriced leather sandals. At the checkout he reached for his wallet only to close his eyes in chagrin. It wasn't in his pants, it wasn't anywhere this side of the continent. He'd left it sitting on his nightstand.

Embarrassed and infuriated, blaming Seto and Jounouchi for his predicament, he gave the clerk a haughty look. "Excuse me, I've forgotten my wallet."

Jillian chuckled from behind him. "Good thing I'm here then." She handed the clerk her credit card. "I'm sure you're good for it, aren't you Kaiba?"

"Of course I..." He broke off when the clerk interrupted. "Kaiba? Are you related to the guy who was here earlier?"

"My brother is Seto Kaiba. He was staying in the cabin down the road. He left, but since he paid for it we decided to use it." Mokuba challenged the woman directly.

"Not at all. When he and his friend left they stopped in and told me you might be coming. I just wanted you to pass along the information about the popped air mattress. It is covered by warranty and the company would like to send a replacement. I'll have them send it to the address on the credit card verification if that is okay?" She explained in the 'happy to serve you, even though you are an asshole' voice that all customer service people perfected early in their careers.

"Popped air mattress?" Mokuba gasped, his face turning puce.

Jillian completely ignored the apoplectic man and answered. "That will be fine. Mokuba grab your bag and let's go back to the cabin.

When he didn't so much as flicker an eyelash, she picked up the sack in one hand and roughly grabbed Mokuba with the other. "Come on!" She snapped harshly, dragging him out of the store before he could have a meltdown in such a public place.


The only thing Seto found interesting enough to photograph in Weed, California was the arched sign proudly announcing the city of Weed. It was possible his enthusiasm for the town had died when he realized they were only nine miles from the cabin where Mokuba would be arriving within the hour. He wasn't curious enough about the town to mark it as a potential place to visit in the future though. He was too intent on getting as far away from his brother as possible.


"NBS Rocks, the settlement is about thirty minutes outside of Alturas, up three ninety five." Jou explained when he saw Seto squinting at the map. "Don't look for roads or cities because there aren't any. Alturas is the closest, but I wouldn't call it a city. There are less than three thousand people there."

"So about three hours east from Mount Shasta?" Seto looked at the map again, amazed at the long stretches of land that were completely empty of development. In Japan land was at a premium. Americans did not appreciate how very lucky they were to have such space. "Do you think he will track us there?"

"Nah, I will pay for stuff using cash if we need it, and NBS is a commune so there isn't any stores there. Everything is shared. They go into town about once a month for stuff they need, but they have their own food supply and they use wind and solar energy for power."

Jou's tone wasn't as admiring as Seto expected and he couldn't help remarking, "You don't sound too enthusiastic. It sounds like a utopian way of life."

"I suppose." The blond admitted quietly. "But remember what I told you? About the purple crystal lollipop? Four days in a fog, and the last day... well there was something off but I can't figure it out. Raymond wasn't really around that last day, but I know that we were all together for the other days. I don't know why Oli was insistent I go back. Now it's like an itch in my brain."

"The obvious question is, could Liza have gotten pregnant?" Seto questioned softly.

"She already was pregnant, at least according to them she was over a month along, and she was taking the herbs and stuff to help with the baby so no." Jou shifted uncomfortably. "Besides I used some of their 'natural' condoms, even in my haze I remember that. NBS markets candy flavored condoms and are tested at almost one hundred percent effective, so I don't think that's the issue."

"I know you've been checked, but I have to ask, healthwise? STD's?"

"You know I'm clean. I wouldn't have touched you if I wasn't. I always use protection, except with you, and I always have a physical before my hobo."

"Wasn't an accusation, just a check. Did you leave anything there? Was there anything in your book about them that they could object to?"

"Nah, but..." Suddenly Jou smiled. "But, Oli brought me there and he told me that it was a sacred place before they settled there. Maybe I'm worrying about it too much. Maybe Oli wants me to visit the sacred place."

"I thought he showed you several places like that."

"Yeah and no. See, there are sacred places, places of ritual and worship, but then there are places that are... Places of Creation, places of the Spirit Brothers. It is very different. They are the places where the gods crossover, where they mingle with their creations - man and animal. NBS is one of the Places of Creation."

"Not going to talk about magic. You know my feelings..."

That made Jou laugh. "Gods, you really do stand your ground. C'mon Seto, you believe, I know you do. You slip up enough. Tell me the truth about what you know, think, believe. Let me see inside."

Seto grinned at the infectious laughter of his lover. "Someday, when you're old enough." He teased. "Right now I want to hear the song about highway to hell. It seems apropos doesn't it?"

"AC/DC. Should be right in front of the rock section. Load the CD's baby." It was all Jou could do to stifle another chuckle at the snarky blue eyes that flicked him a glance, probably at the endearment.

The disks loaded, Seto checked on the sleeping Kit and Scapegoat in the back seat, then lay back, resting as the music blasted around him. To pay him back for the 'baby' and because he wanted contact with his lover, he rested his hand comfortably over the flap of Jou's zipper, squeezing lightly in time to the thumping beat. After the first wild swerve, Jou drove like the proverbial bat out of hell. Seto was satisfied - and if the speed of the car was anything to go by, the three hour drive would take less than two hours. That should be enough time for Jou to have healed... a roadside quicky was just what Doctor Seto ordered before seeing Jou's ex lovers.

Didn't happen quite that way, but close enough to fill Seto's prescription. As they curled up in the back seat, the dogs having been moved to the front seat, Seto nestled his face into Jou's heaving chest. "Hmmm... So tell me about this place. Commune gives mental images of hippies and flower children running around in faded tie-dye and preaching free love."

That made a chuckled rumble up from the chest under his cheek. "Probably was at one time, but now it's more modern, very hip and chic. Most of the people have online jobs, there is a satellite uplink, in fact I think they rent from your satellite. There are commodities traders, stockbrokers, online teachers, some doctors who make a living charging people thirty bucks a pop for people to ask their medical question. Plus NBS Rocks. That candy is making a killing. There is no individual wealth, it is all funnelled back into the community. The school is top of the line with all new computers, playground equipment, and a library of actual books as well as an online exchange system. There are plumbers and electricians, builders and carpenters, even heavy equipment operators. Everyone is treated equally, and everyone gets the same exact benefits and rights. There is no upper, lower, middle class. There is simply people."

The concept was great - in concept - but Seto would have to see it to believe it. "And they are green too. Utopia. Who governs or distributes?"

"There is a council of elected individuals. Three hundred people live at NBS, and there are ten council members. One for every thirty people."

"Racial or religious tension?" Get that many people together and there was going to be issues. "Politics?" He tried to lever up to right his clothes only to be brought back against the golden chest.

"Not tolerated. I don't know the particulars; I was only there for five days and four of them I was drug hazed, but I do know that the people police their own." Jou gave him a tight squeeze. "Let's go. Your questions are better asked at the source. I don't know a whole lot, and what I know is fogged by purple crystal persuasion."

Seto nodded and straightened his clothes to near decency as he climbed out of the car, buttoned and zipped, then tossed his black-eyed, shorn pup back in the rear of the car. Jou, after a moment did the same. "You keep mentioning the purple crystal. Do you feel... You said you didn't feel they took advantage, that you were attracted but I hear something else... What... ?"

"Thought I was better at hiding it. Either that or you are getting good at reading stuff I don't want to mention." He huffed out a breath as he put the car in gear. "I would have been okay with it and I thought they knew that, but they still gave me that sucker. I don't understand why. I'm going to ask though. Why use a roofie if I was willing?"

"Power? Control? You say your memories are cloudy from that time. Maybe there was something they wanted you to forget?" Seto said thoughtfully.

"Don't know but I'm going to ask." Jou smiled and threaded their fingers together. "I love it when you get hot enough to jump me on the side of the road, and I want you to do it any time you get the urge, but I... are you worried about meeting them?" Before Seto could get defensive, Jou hurried into speech. "Not complaining, you know that I love you. I just want to make sure you're not feeling insecure about me. If it bothers you we can drive right by and wave. Whatever I need to see there isn't as important as you sitting next to me."

Seto gave him a direct look. "I was." A smug look, reminiscent of the look Jou remembered from high school crossed the cutely freckled face. "I doubt both of them working together made you scream as loud as I did five minutes ago. No I'm not insecure. I'm curious too now." And although he didn't say it, he was also angry on his love's behalf. Drugging someone, even a willing someone, was wrong, not just because of morals and ethics, but they had no way of knowing if there was any kind of physical danger. They were wrong all the way. Seto wasn't being jealous or insecure, he was being protective and if he got the chance he would tell them what he thought of them endangering his love.

Jou blinked at the suddenly ferocious look on Seto's face. "Seto..." He began worriedly only to break off. If his lover wanted to be protective then he wouldn't complain. Instead he leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on the almost snarling lips. "Suki da."

Seto smiled and leaned into the loving touch. "Suki da."

Jou turned back to the steering wheel and Seto let his head fall on Jou's shoulder. He didn't bother with music, he was too caught up in the arid beauty around him and the golden warmth next to him. Content and happy, he dozed lightly. Loving Katsuya was a physically draining job. He'd take riding beside Jou over riding behind his desk at KC any minute of the day.

While Seto dozed on his shoulder, Jou kept his eyes peeled for the 'New Pine Creek' sign. The turn to NBS Rocks was just a few yards past the sign and the road didn't have a sign, or at least it hadn't. Roadsigns started popping up every mile advertising that NBS Rocks was just a few miles ahead.

The bright, colorful pictures of various candies were tempting, and would have been more so if they hadn't eaten on the run earlier. The signs weren't the only changes. The turn to the settlement was clearly marked, and instead of a dusty track disappearing over a hill, a paved road led you to a large wooden building clearly marked NBS Rocks. Discreet signs directed customers to the Rocks Cafe, Rocks Gift and Visitor Center, and of course Rocks Restrooms.

"Huh." Jou frowned slightly. This wasn't at all what he remembered.

"Problem?" Seto mumbled drowsily, not opening his eyes.

"This wasn't here last time." He explained as Seto sat up and looked around.

"Looks like they're cashing in on their popularity. It's something any savvy business man would do." He wasn't disturbed or impressed. It was just good business. "Let's go to the visitor center. They should be able to get in touch with people you know, or who knew Oli."

Jou nodded and parked the car in the half-full parking lot. "Yeah I guess."

The visitor center was the two thousand thirteen version of hippy chic. Tie-dye clothes and homespun goods shared the space with boxes of smartly packaged candies, with various woodworking and other handicrafts displayed in artfully casual groupings. Products ranged from soaps infused with flower petals to bottles of dried herbs to help with everything from allergies to zygomycosis.

Seto examined the offerings carefully while Jou waited in the two person line to speak to the clerk. He didn't have to wonder if the woman behind the small counter recognized his love because there was a screech that scared the birds away and the small older woman flew around the counter to hug Jou in a squeeze that Seto swore made Jou's bones crack loud enough for the departing birds to hear.

His blond was laughing and returning the hug with equal fervor. After a minute of greetings,where Seto drifted closer to the pair, Jou turned, breaking her hold and caught his hand. "Calla, this is , Seto. Seto this is Calla, one of the founding members of the Natural Beauty Settlement."

"Calla, for the lily?" Seto smiled at the petite woman with bright green eyes and steel grey hair. "A pleasure to meet Jounou - Joey's friends. He's told me a lot about the Natural Beauty Settlement."

"You slipped. You're an old friend of Joey's if you call him by his given name instead of his nom de plume. If such young men could be called old that is." She grinned and shrewd green eyes assessed them, making the connections between their hearts. "Yes Calla for lily. It is a pleasure to meet Joey's better half."

"Hey!" The blond in question protested. "Better half? How do you know he's better? I could be his better half."

The grin broadened. "You are. Both halves strengthen the other. While you are here you must let us throw you a party to celebrate your marriage."

"Ah, we aren't officially married yet." Jou explained as he gave Seto an embarrassed, startled, look.

"Official? Who cares about official? That will take happen when you go." She waved her hand broadly. "We'll have a ceremony and party for you here. I'll take care of everything if you will allow it? You are staying for a few days aren't you? Give us enough time to plan."

Jou was completely at a loss for words. Deep inside the yearning to be tied to Seto forever was almost as strong as the need for his next heartbeat, but no way was he going to say that, to guilt Seto into making that kind of commitment. Seto said they were together forever, but they had only been back together for such a short amount of time, and Seto hadn't been mentally stable much of that time. It wouldn't be right.

Seto had no such doubts. He nodded and smiled. "Nothing in heaven or earth would make us happier. Of course we will stay, if it isn't too inconvenient? I didn't notice a hotel and we don't want to put you out."

"We have a spare cabin for friends, and it is perfect for a honeymoon. Please be our guests for a few days, enjoy the settlement, enjoy the party, and let us start you off in your married life. It will be an honor." Calla's eyes were warm and sincere. "Joey's books put us on the map, his time with us is treasured by everyone. Please let us honor you both."

Jou, his heart beating a joyful, rapid tattoo in his chest, nodded. Right or not, Seto seemed completely confident. He would trust his lover. "Of course, and we are truly honored." His voice had the barest of cracks, but it was enough to bring Seto's questioning gaze up to him. He met the vulnerable gaze with all the love he felt. "Oh hell yeah. Let's do this. Suki da- No - Aishiteru, Kaiba Seto. Will you share a honeymoon with me?" Jou asked in the traditional Japanese way, with an indirect question. Not that he feared rejection, but it just seemed right to fall back on the traditions of their homeland.

Seto, his breath caught in his chest, examined his lover's face. He hadn't thought Jou would object, but things were so new between them that even though it was a symbolic joining rather than the legal joining, it was a huge leap into the unknown, but one that he wanted to make with every fiber of his being. He gusted out a sigh of relief as he saw the joy blazing from Jou's golden eyes. Jou wasn't upset or in any way repulsed by the idea. Seto could see that in the way his love's eyes blazed incandescently. If anything he looked like he would burst into tears of happiness.

Seto had no way of knowing that his own eyes beamed with matching happiness and he didn't notice his own lashes grew damp with tears of love and joy. "I can't think of anything that would make me happier than to share a honeymoon, and the rest of my life, with you." He smiled and nuzzled his lips into Jou's cheek, enjoying the bristly beard that Jou hadn't had the chance to shave.

Calla bustled off. "I'll call down and have Raymond come escort you to the settlement. We had some trouble about a year ago. Young people came into the residential area and caused damage so we have the settlement fenced off with alarms and security required for entry. It goes against the grain for a lot of people but after the attack it was decided to keep things as safe as possible. Jealousy of our success has been a trial for us." The older woman paused and glanced over her shoulder. "Do you remember Raymond? You stayed with him and Eliza a few days."

"Yes I remember." Jou smiled. "Sort of anyway. That purple lollipop Eliza gave me packed a punch."

"Purple?" Calla froze, her gaze sharpening. "We don't make a purple."

"Well, she did say it was a new flavor. Maybe she decided it packed too much of a punch. It made the first four days I stayed with them a blur. I barely remember that time, and the last day is like looking through a telescope." Jou admitted, his own eyes becoming somber.

"I see. Was it an infusion? With flowers and herbs maybe? That was a line we were considering at that time." The words were very carefully spaced, as if hiding some underlying meaning.

"Maybe. Don't really remember. Just remember it being purple and crystal clear, but with yellow and red flower petals, and a few seeds in it. The stick was like a tightly rolled leaf, dried, but really stiff. like a twig. I think there were seeds in it but I'm not sure." He described the vivid memory as accurately as possible.

"Well it's definitely a failed experiment. We know that our market demographic would not enjoy their candy on a twig." Calla gave a light laugh that sounded forced to Jou and Seto. She waved them towards a corner of the store. "Joey your book is over there." She gave him a wistful look. "If you wanted to sign the copies we have..." She hinted.

Jou chuckled ruefully and nodded. "I'll borrow one of your pens off the counter." He hooked his arm through Seto’s and led him first to the counter, then back to the rack of prominently displayed books dominating a corner shelf.

While Jou began autographing the books, Seto counted five different volumes, all bearing the title 'Hot Wheels and Cool Country Roads' by Joey Wheeler. Each of the volumes had different cover art and a discreetly placed number, starting with one and going through five. There were even a gift box sets of all five in hardback and paperback. "Joey Wheeler... I haven't ever read your books. Maybe I should buy a set. I can read while you drive." He gave the blond a look out of the corner of his eye. "Gets boring sitting there all day."

"I'll give you one of the leather sets my agent gave me as 'heirlooms' to pass down when we get home so don't waste your money on the good stuff. Go with the paperbacks. The gift set is the best deal." He didn't look up from where he was signing. If he had he would have seen Seto's wide-eyed look and convulsive swallow. When the brunet didn't respond Jou glanced up to meet the soft gaze. "What?"

"Heirloom? For children... our children? Grandchildren?" Seto didn't try to hide the husky wobble in his voice. He had wanted children so badly, loved being a parent, but it wasn't something he had ever considered possible.

"Of course." Jou smiled warmly. "We are going to adopt a whole baseball team, just so you can drive me crazy spoiling them."

"Nine? We are adopting nine children?" That might be a little much, but Seto was game to try.

"Yeah, why not? We - I do mean we - can afford them and my writing allows me plenty of time. You don't know what you want to do yet, but I'm sure you'll make time for what's important." He grinned, his cheeks bright red. "I've always wanted a huge family Seto. I know that it's not really popular or 'green' or even fiscally sound, but I want... I want to raise kids around me like flowers. We have the love and we have the money. Why don't we?"

Seto gave him a smiling look. "Lets start with one or two and go from there? I'm not saying no. In fact I'm all for our own baseball team. I just want to take it easy. Let's find us first, so we have a good foundation to grow our flowers in okay?"

"Well I didn't mean anytime soon. Couple years. Right now I just want to practice making babies." He gave a small flirty wink.

Seto wagged his eyebrows meaningfully. "Me too. I..."

A low voice from behind them interrupted. "Before this gets any more intimate, I should say I'm here."

They turned to look at the slim, brown haired, blue eyed man standing behind them. "Ah... Raymond." Jou murmured. "It's good to see you again." For a moment discomfort was written clearly on the blond's open face, then it wiped away and he turned to Seto. "Seto Kaiba, this is Raymond Walters. I've told you all about him."

Seto eyed the brunet in front of him carefully. Raymond was shorter and decidedly less muscular, with fine features that just missed being delicate. Tight jeans faithfully outlined a nice butt and package and a loose plaid shirt covered what looked to be a slim chest and waist. "Yes, a pleasure to meet you." He said politely as he extended his hand in the normal American handshake.

Raymond gave him a rueful smile. "He told you about our lost weekend. Don't be like that, it was a long time ago and even though we have fond memories of that time, we don't want to repeat it. Eliza and I are respectable, responsible parents of two four year olds now." The smaller man shook Seto's hand warmly. "We are grateful for the memories, but that's all."

Seto didn't bother with more than a noncommittal grunt. There was something niggling at him about Raymond, but he just couldn't quite place it. "Twins?" He asked at the same time Jou burst out "Twins! That's great."

"A boy and a girl." Raymond beamed proudly. "We named the girl Kwanita, in Zuni it means God is gracious. Our son is Whakan. It means 'sacred' in the Sioux language. They take after their mother with golden hair and green-gold eyes."

"They sound gorgeous. I can't wait to meet them." Jou said sincerely.

Seto smiled at his lover's enthusiasm. It was obvious Jou loved children. Word of their arrival must have spread because people were walking up the path to greet them and it became even more obvious as they strolled along the path toward their proposed honeymoon cabin. The Natural Beauty Settlement seemed to have children of all ages, from toddlers to teens, roaming around.

Some greeted Jou like he was an old friend, some who were too young to remember his visit, bounded up to him talking a mile a minute, like he was someone they knew would come and had just been waiting for him to show up, and some, the youngest, simply seemed drawn to him because the other children were there. To his surprise, as soon as Jou introduced him, the children included Seto in their enthusiastic chatter.

They made it to the cabin, although it took much longer than Seto anticipated because of the group of adults and children clamoring to meet and speak to them. As discreetly as possible Seto moved from the center of the hoard to sit on the steps of the cabin. He wasn't anti-social, but he wasn't the most comfortable with large groups of people all yammering at him at once. Put him in front of an audience and he was pure showman, but this was not the same. He was relieved when people took the hint and left him alone. Or so he thought.

Raymond sat down next to him, smiling slightly. "You are exactly as I expected." He said softly. "He talked a lot about you when he was here before."

When Seto didn't say anything the other brunet went on like he had. "You're jealous. You don't need to be. I think the only reason he touched me at all was because of our resemblance. When we were intimate, it was your name he whispered, although I'm not sure he remembers that."

"I'm not jealous. I never had to drug him or trick him to make love with me." Seto turned and pinned the other man with a hard glare. "What the hell was that about? Why did you drug him? He told me he would have been willing without the drugs and that you knew it." He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. "So why do it? Why mess with his head like that? Why take away his choice and his memories? What did you want to hide?"

"The effects of herbs on people can be unpredictable, especially if they've already ingested other potent chemicals. We didn't know that Joey had taken part on a peyote ceremony the day before. We only meant to bump his sex drive. My wife and I were emotionally charged with the pregnancy hormones and needed a vigorous lover. Our herbs mixed with what was already in his system. That's all there was to it, nothing sinister or a hidden agenda." Raymond explained quietly. "If we had known he thought that way - felt that way - we would have explained long ago."

"He says you took off after your 'lost weekend.'" Seto challenged.

"I did. I needed time alone to assess what I'd learned about myself. I... I had never been with a man until then. I enjoyed every moment of it and wouldn't trade the experience for anything, but I learned that penetration, of a man inside my body, was something that I simply couldn't tolerate ever again. I just... the invasion was too much for my psyche." The candid response caught Seto by surprise.

"He's a great lover, you enjoyed him but you don't want...?"

"I don't. Penetration is too subjugating for me, and while I enjoyed it that one time, I never want to do it again." Raymond was completely positive about it. "I will stick to my first preference - women - specifically my gorgeous blonde wife." At the doubtful look on Seto's face, Raymond added "I once ate at a restaurant that served baby ducks, with their feathers and beaks boiled in their eggs just before hatching. I ate it, because my wife wanted to try it. The taste wasn't bad, but I never want to eat it again and just the memory makes me heave. That's how I feel about sex with a man. Okay?"

"Hnnn..." Seto studied him carefully, from his short crop of chestnut hair to his boot-clad feet. "Fine. I'll explain it to him so there is no more question of what happened or why."

"Thank you, Seto." The other man murmured. "So, I know about you from Joey's stories of that time, although he was rather angry with you and I'm sure you have changed from the person in his memories or he wouldn't be with you, why don't you tell me about yourself. You raised your brother didn't you?"

"Yes." Seto acknowledged briefly. There was no way he was going to discuss anything personal with this man. There was something about him that was jangling along the base of his spine like some kind of early warning system, but for once his acute senses failed to tell him exactly what was wrong.

"How old were you, twelve? Thirteen?"

"I was fifteen when I gained full custody of Mokuba." Even that seemed like too much information.

"Ah the hardship of that must have been incredible. He's an adult now isn't he?" Raymond didn't wait for Seto's answer. "You must be glad to be an empty-nester. I believe I heard you saying you wanted to adopt. Were you serious about that or were you humoring Joey?" A tiny smiled cured his lips as he looked across to watch the blond tickling a little boy. "He's a natural parent."

"I don't lie to him about anything, except maybe if his pants make his ass look flat." For a second humor flickered to life at the memory of that conversation. "I certainly wouldn't humor him about something as important as children." He hesitated for a moment, then just to make things perfectly clear to the man, he said "I want Jounouchi Katsuya, Joey Wheeler, with every bit of me, and if that means wanting children, I want children. There is nothing I wouldn't do for him - nothing." He didn't mean it to sound like a warning, but for some reason it did. "In this case though, I want children, lots of children. He wants nine and I think that might be just enough, although fewer might be better, depending on the children. Some need more parenting than others."

"I believe you mean that." Raymond nodded, a single dip of his head. "I feel the same for my Eliza. She wants children, she gets children. She wants the moon, I will build a spaceship. If she walked into a burning building I'd follow without hesitation." The bright eyes were sincere and steady with his absolute conviction.Whatever was setting off Seto's alarms, there was no denying the absolute devotion the man had to his wife.

"Then we understand each other." Seto accorded. "As long as you know my husband is off limits, I will refrain from murdering you." He said it with complete sincerity.

Raymond nodded. "We do indeed. Your possessive violence is certainly a surprise in such a sophisticated man. You wear your modern man well, but your caveman is very close to the surface. It is an interesting combination. Your genetic imprinting must be very unique. You would be a great breeder, if you were so inclined."

"I am not." Seto snapped. He didn't care to talk about that kind of non-sequitur information. As long as they had an agreement. They stay the hell away from Jou and he would refrain from ripping them apart if they got too close or too familiar.

A tiny smirk on the other man's face caught Seto by surprise. Before he could pursue what was amusing Raymond, Jou collapsed on the stairs next to him, dropping his head onto his shoulder. "Save me. The kids think I'm some kind of tree they must climb."

Seto looked at the boy and girl impatiently trying to pull Jou back up. "Kwanita and Whakan?" When they nodded, Seto smiled at them. "You really think he's a tree?"

"He's taller than mom and dad!" The blond girl explained.

"Huh... Well..." He rose slowly and held out his arms. "I'm his better half and I'm much taller. I think I make a better tree."

Whakan tilted his head to the side as his hazel-green eyes studied Seto carefully. "Not that much, but a little. You sure you don't mind Mister Kaiba?" The words were polite, but the glance the boy shared with his twin sister was hauntingly familiar in its mischievous, wicked, playful look. For an instant Seto could swear he was looking at a clone of the young Jounouchi Katsuya. Then the boy laughed almost girlishly and the image faded.

"I don't. Not only will it give Jou a break. He looks all done in doesn't he? But it will get me in practice for our children. I'm told we're having nine of them. I don't think I will have an issue but I need to practice so I can take some of Jou's slack." He sent Jou a teasing look.

Jou gave him a laughing look. "Oh please climb him like a tree. He needs someone to sit on his head. It's getting too big." Almost before he finished speaking, the mighty oak was felled by a hoard of children. Jou laughed aloud at the sight, something he could never have imagined seeing. A movement from the corner of his eye brought his gaze around. Raymond was busy snapping pictures with his digital phone. "I have to have some copies of those. If I give you my email will you send them to me?"

"Of course." Raymond smiled slightly. "I was happy to hear that you had arrived. I volunteered to come up right away. Your arrival, this time as last time, is when we need our friends around us." He waved at his look. "Not like that. That incident is long past and never to be repeated. No, we will celebrate our new joy while you are celebrating your husband. It just seems like it's fated for your happiness to join with ours. That's all."

That surprised Jou, but he disguised it as best he could. In his mind his time with Eliza and Raymond was almost surreal and had no real significance in his life, yet Raymond was acting as if it were world altering and destiny. "Ah yeah." He sort of mumbled as he rose to his feet. "I'm going to rescue Seto - or the kids - because I swear I never would have guessed Seto knew how to play tickle monster games but he hasn't learned to let kids win yet." With a laugh and a whoop he left the other brunet on the porch as he went to rescue Seto - or the kids.

That scene set the stage for the rest of their stay. Jou reacquainted himself with the members of the community, introduced Seto, and met all the new additions. Not just the children, but the people who had been drawn by the lifestyle and the popularity of the candies.

Seto was impressed by the practical side of the settlement. It was completely green, with renewable energy sources and waste management that was second to none. There was very little plastic in the settlement, nothing not biodegradable. Even things that were normally made of plastic were adapted with different materials. What plastic that was unavoidable was recycled in very innovative ways.

The quiet acceptance and warmth was like a balm to Seto. There was nobody 'awed' by him or trying to suck up to him. If anything he was secondary to Jou - a person of almost superstar status in the commune. Seto was perfectly content with that role. He kept a wary eye on Raymond and Eliza, and although his alarms still jangled when he saw them, he couldn't find fault with their behavior. Not once did they do or say anything out of line. Their children were great and they made Seto's heart yearn for the future, for the time he and Jou would share children. They were bright as the sun and as mischievous as kittens. Seto was going to miss them when they left.

Their 'joining party' was loud, happy, and more than a little raunchy. They got gifts that ranged from Ben Wa balls to a multi-colored, fruit-flavored, pleasure-enhancing condom bouquet.

They spent their 'wedding night' trying out various colors and flavors before deciding they liked au natural best. The next morning they woke with warm smiles and even warmer hearts.

They were grateful and happy, but the both knew it was time to move on. If they didn't leave soon, they probably would never want to leave, and as great as the Settlement was, there was a great big country out there calling their names. They ignored the wreck of their cabin to go speak to Calla.

Calla walked them back to their cabin chatting about the party and about the parties of the past. They all stopped in surprise to see Raymond and Eliza leaving the cabin. "What...?" Seto started to ask only for the small busty blond to interrupt by holding out a small bucket and the natural trash can liners. "We came to clean up and make the bed." Eliza explained, smiling warmly. "You are typical guys. Messy! Don't worry it's all clean." She grinned naughtily. "Which one of you used the red condom? It's my own creation and I want to know how the warming lotion and enhanced arousal herbs worked."

Seto didn't really care for the woman who had been Jou's lover, but he wasn't sure if it was jealousy or something else. There was just something flighty, flakey about her. He could never imagine her as a parent. Seto coughed and his cheeks turned pink. "I used the red. It worked... it was fine."

"Great. I'm thinking of patenting the mixture. Did you use the green Joey? Did you enjoy it?" When the blond man nodded she grinned and with a happy look she hooked her arm through Raymond's and led him away. "I'll call you guys if I need a testimonial."

Jou gave him a perplexed look. "Why didn't you tell them you used them all. You were their market research."

"They might have been hurt if they thought you didn't use one." Seto prevaricated. He didn't want them to know any more than they had to. They set his teeth on edge and he didn't trust them for an inch. He had enjoyed their company - marginally - and he adored their children, but he simply couldn't bring himself to like them. He attributed his aversion to knowing they were Jou's lovers during a time when the pain and emptiness in his own life was scorching him like a desert sun.

"Hmm." Jou was too perceptive to have missed his dislike of them but he didn't answer. If Jou was honest with himself there had been something strange in the air a few times when he'd been with them. It hadn't been sexual or even some kind of weird memory thing. It had been strain and something they had been at pains to hide. "Let’s make sure we're all packed and go get the dogs from Kwanita and Whakan. The pups are going to miss this place as much as we are."

Which was true. Scapegoat and Kit had been ecstatic during their stay. For some reason Kit did not mind the children and even greeted them with licks and happy chuffs. The pups were welcomed, petted, and completely adored. Strangely there were few 'pets.' Most of the animals at the Settlement were useful, be it as food sources or transport.

Calla grinned and pulled out a stack of books. "Sign these before you go? We're going to run an internet special. You don't do book signings often so we are going to advertise these heavily."

Seto rolled his eyes. "I'll load the car and get the pups. You sign."

"Thanks Seto." Jou gave him a vaguely apologetic look that the brunet waved away.

"Wait - wait. Sign one of these too. I want one with both of your signatures. Makes it more personal." She held out one of already signed books to Seto along with a pen.

After a quick look at Jou, Seto took the pen and scrawled his signature next to Jou's. With a quick wave he started loading the car. They were on the road in just under fifteen minutes. Neither noticed Calla wave after them as they turned on the road or her rueful, exasperated expression that turned to wry amusement as she stroked the book Seto had signed.

They were well on the way, with Seto having chosen Las Vegas as their next destination before the brunet questioned, "You disappeared, leaving me to watch the kids. How did we get volunteered for daycare duty? And why did you bail on me" The brunet head shook. "Never mind, I had a great time. I like kids. Nobody saw you leave, so I assume you went to the sacred place that Oli wanted you to visit."

"I did. It wasn't touched. Oli drew some symbols in the earth that I could still make out. They hadn't been disturbed. It was like a time capsule. I could swear Oli had just left there." Jou frowned and sighed. "But..."

"But what?" Seto gave him a curious look.

"I still feel uneasy. I expected it to be a great relief and it wasn't. I feel like there is something I'm missing there." The frown deepened. "I kept seeing Oli's hummingbird. This morning I swear I saw a snow goose and a heron on our way back to the cabin."

Seto didn't tell Jou that he had seen them too and it had cemented his desire to get out of NBS Rocks quickly. He wasn't superstitious but he had to admit to more than coincidence when it came to seeing those birds. "I wish I could help, but... The only vibe I got that was off was about Ray and Eliza. If Whakan didn't look like a blond version of Raymond I'd think they were yours. Kwanita and Whakan are very like you Katsuya."

"Yeah, but it could just be that they are kids. You always used to say I was immature. The thought did cross my mind too though. Except you're right - they are twins and Whakan is definitely Raymond's child."

"So something else then. It'll come to you and then we'll go back." Seto soothed.

"Yeah, I'd love to see the kids again. I can take or leave Raymond and Eliza. Didn't they seem creepy? Lurking about, watching us? I don’t remember them being like that." Jou cleared his throat. "So Las Vegas huh? Vegas Baby..." He broke into a very bad imitation of Elvis, singing Viva Las Vegas (Youtube link )

Seto tolerated it for about two seconds - about one and a half out of sheer love - before interrupting to explain. "I don't trust Mokuba not to try to track us and I don't like living poor. I don't want to be dependent on you and I've worked all of my life, I want to play. So, we are going to Las Vegas. I am going to borrow some of your cash as a stake and make us more cash than we will be able to use on a dozen trips."

"Kaiba, you may be a genius and you may know games, but Vegas bankrupts people like you." Jou cautioned.

"There is a reason Seto Kaiba is banned from High Roller rooms in Vegas. I went through a phase where I wanted to try other card games. Poker and blackjack are no challenge. I nearly broke the bank at the Mirage." A wicked grin crossed his face. "I doubt anyone would recognize me and I'll stick to low stakes tables. Less than five thousand. If I do that across three casinos and fifteen tables winning at the ten to one we will have two hundred and fifty thousand dollars by the end of the first night. We will go again the next, for another five hundred thousand, then we will take in a show." A sidelong look. "I've heard Zoomanity is quite... interesting. Cirque Du Soliel."

"Sounds good. Then before we leave, we can catch a sky show. I've always wanted to see the Elvis Impersonators, maybe see the flying Elvis's." Jou grinned at the thought. "Think of all the rhinestone glittering in the air."

Seto chuckled and leaned back to check on his pup. "Hmmm Jou, have you noticed Scapegoat is cringing from Kit? And he has a scratch on his nose."

"Did you notice she went into heat? She went out again a day later. I'm glad he's cringing, it means she probably nutted him for trying to ride her." Jou came back surprisingly.

"I didn't notice. That explains it though. Only a day? I thought it lasted longer, besides, isn't she too young?"

"First season, and it was short. Don't worry daddy, your baby isn't going to make you grandpa yet."

"Or in the future." Seto turned to glare at both pups. "Fixed, both of them, at the earliest opportunity. Can you imagine how hideous the pups would be?"

"Half snob-pom and half wild-sheltie? Adorable not hideous. Fluffy balls of orange and black. Maybe even calico."

"I believe they are called 'Poshie', now that I think on it." Seto admitted grudgingly.

"Poshie! Seto those pups are adorable. Almost as cute as the Papillon." Jou enthused. He was a sucker for cute and fluffy. Shoot him.

Seto actually snorted. "Papillon. Buttenfly dogs? Ridiculous balls of fluff."

"Says the owner of the ultimate ball of fluff." Jou snipped right back.

Surprisingly Seto chuckled. "Well that is true. And I wouldn't trade him for anything." For the first time in days he snapped his fingers and Scapegoat, true to his training, scrambled into the front seat and crawled up on Seto's shoulder. "Hey boy. Sorry about the blue balls." Seto stroked the shorn hair gently.

Scapegoat whimpered like he completely understood what Seto had said and dropped down onto the familiar broad shoulder, making little whining noises that sounded to both Jou and Seto as if the pup was telling them all about it. An occasional yip from the back seat reinforced that impression.

When the pup quieted, Seto sighed and settled into his seat. "Almost eleven hours of driving. That's non-stop. We could stop for a night in Reno, it's about four hours. I can get my stake there."

"Sounds good to me. I'm kind of low on reserves anyway and need to pick up a job. You go play Reno High Roller, I'll go sweep floors or something." Jou nodded agreeably. After a moment he reached down and took Seto's hand. "Tell me about your parents, your real parents, not that asshat who adopted you."

"I... What do you want to know?" Seto wasn't sure what to say or where to begin.

"Start with your birth name and go from there. Your parents named you Seto didn't they? There has to be a story behind it and I'm sure they shared." He encouraged his lover. Now that Seto was healing, it was time to bring up the things that had damaged him so badly. It was always best to start at the beginning.

Slowly, haltingly, Seto began to speak, memories he had long since put away coming to his mind easily, and as Jou asked, left his lips to form pictures and share emotions Seto barely recognized as his own until they burst out.

Several times he caught himself on the verge of laughter, anger, and even tears, as the memories poured through him and from him. His words gave the feelings power and strength, freeing the emotions he had bottled for so long. When they threatened to overwhelm him and drag him down, to steal his ability to think and reason, Jou guided him back with simple words, touches, and even sometimes a small jog of the steering wheel to remind him of the here and now.

He was completely amazed when he saw the Reno city limits sign. "I've been talking for four hours?"

"We, but yeah. I think you had a lot to talk about, and before you apologize or whatever, I asked because I wanted to know. I love you, you know that. But, you gotta know you are a giant mystery wrapped in an enigma, stored in a puzzle box. I want to hear about everything so I can see the real you, the one that I fell in love with even though I only saw him a couple times. I want the you that's sexy with freckles and waffles in the morning, and I want the you that's powerful and in control, wearing a suit and ready to take on the world. It's all part of you and I want to know it all."

"You'll get bored if I don't maintain some mystery." Seto was elated, and terrified to his toes. Nobody had ever wanted to know so much about him.

"Hell no. Bored? Kaiba Seto, I am going have my life to get to know you and I don't think I'll know even half by the time I cock up my toes. So expect me to bug you in the afterlife and the next dozen lives." Jou let his eyes cut to his passenger. "Did I just scare the fuck out of you?"

"Hell no. Scared? Jounouchi Katsuya," Seto mimicked. "I'm going to do the same to you so it's fair. Only the next dozen lives? I will have to come up with something else then to keep you interested."

Jou grinned. "Let's find an RV park. We probably won't spend the night but I want the camper safe. If we're lucky there will be some retired old lady who 'loves' dogs and will watch the pups for us. If not, well... We will manage."

"Yes, we will." Seto agreed, reaching up to stroke Scapegoat before putting him in the back seat to curl with Kit.

They lucked out. The first RV park they pulled into was reasonably priced, well lit and maintained, and had a 'pet yard' that the man operating the office watched from his window. While Jou dealt with the registration, the man, 'Mick' by his name tag, snapped his fingers and leaned forward suddenly. "I know you guys."

"Uh..." Jou really didn't want to deal with fans. "Well..."

"You're the Half Moon Bay heroes. You rescued all them people at the RV park down in Half Moon Bay when some kids caught it on fire right?" He grinned at them. "You know we're a franchised chain right? Our franchise has issued you guys free passes for any of our campgrounds. Let me call and get you the information and cards faxed over."

"Ah well that's..." Jou started to demur only to have Seto interrupt.

"Fantastic. Thank you so much for telling us." The freckled brunet smiled slightly. "It will help our budget out a lot."

"Nah, thank you! Those poor people were going to be barbecue if not for you. Stupid kids. I heard that one is going up for two years and the other was supposed to go to some ranch out in the middle of nowhere to help out a family member in a bad way. The judge allowed that as long as the boy stayed on the ranch under the eye of his uncle." The older man grumbled "Better than he deserved, but maybe it'll make men of them."

Seto couldn't agree more but he could tell by the tense set of Jou's shoulders it wasn't a topic he wanted to discuss. "As long as nobody got seriously hurt." Seto murmured.

"Right, well you guys are in the only shaded space left, lot seven. When you're ready to go out, just drop the pups here. I got food and water for them if they need it. If it's after the office closes I live in the blue camper at lot one. I have a nice fenced yard and my wife has a couple of poodles." He laughed gleefully. "Wait til I tell her you guys are here. She'll probably want to meet you. I hope you don't mind if she feeds you some peach pie?"

"We'd be honored to meet her as well." Seto grinned back. "I love peach pie." The brunet leaned forward as if confiding a great secret. "I always get it with three scoops of vanilla ice cream."

"Never tried it that way, but I'll give it a shot. One scoop though." The manager laughed and patted his round belly. "Gotta watch my girlish figure."

Jou and Seto both chuckled at that. "We'll look forward to it." Jou said easily. "For now we have to get the camper set, then I'm going to find some work and Seto's going to tour the sites. You know anyone looking for daily help?"

"Well, down on the strip they are always looking for people to do everything from serve drinks to hold signs on the sidewalk. If you just ask at a couple places I'm sure you will be okay. But you might want to leave that fancy car here because there are some desperate people out there. Take a taxi, or walk. It's only about five blocks."

"We'll walk. Thanks for the tip." Jou hooked his arm through Seto's and tugged him back to the car.

"Hmmm... You are not happy with me." Seto hazarded.

"I'm not." Jou agreed tightly. "I don't want people to know who I - we - are. They will treat us like celebrities and I don't want that. I like hanging with the real people behind the ones who try to meet us." His anger was practically rolling off him in waves.

Seto flinched and chewed his lips, drawing blood as he gazed unseeing out the windshield. "I know that. I do... I just... I thought how much easier it would be if I had a larger stake." He rasped. "I'm sorry Katsuya... I'm really sorry I... Did I ruin... I ruined your trip? Your book?"

Jounouchi wanted to slap himself for his own stupidity. Seto was still working towards normal, his emotions completely bare and open for the first time. He was vulnerable in the way of a small child, and after the rollercoaster of the ride his memories took him on during the drive down here, his love was too raw to deal with anger, anyone's anger, much less the misdirected anger of the one person he trusted. He continued to call himself all kinds of stupid and insensitive as he watched a small drop of blood slip from the corner of Seto's lip.

With a sigh Jou leaned over and caught that tiny droplet on his tongue, tracing it back to the source. "You don't have the power to ruin my trip or my book. Only I have that power. I'm the one who should be sorry. I got angrier than I should have. I have a headache from the sun. I should have put the top up when it started. It's not your fault Seto. It was a good call, not just because of your stake, but because we now have dog-sitters." Nuzzling into Seto's crop of streaky red-brown hair he whispered "Forgive me for being a prick?"

His heart gave a painful lurch as Seto turned and burrowed into his arms like a small child seeking comfort. He figured that was the only answer he was going to get for a while. With one arm keeping Seto close to his heart, he carefully maneuvered the car and camper into their parking spot. After parking the car and killing the engine he sat quietly and held his wounded love, mentally kicking his own ass for several minutes before switching to mentally beating the living daylights out of Mokuba, before switching back to kicking his own ass.

An hour later they were all set up and ready to go to town. Mick smiled and led them to the pen. "I'll put out food and water. If you guys aren't home by closing I'll take them to my place. Me and the missus go to bed about ten. If you're not back by then you can pick them up tomorrow morning."

"I'll have to come back at least once." Seto smiled slightly. "The little black dog is trained to eat only from my hand. He's already had breakfast but he would miss his dinner. I will be back to make sure he eats. Thank you for watching them." Nowhere was a sign of the man who had clung and whimpered in Jou's arms. Seto Kaiba was back in control, at least on the surface. That would have to do for now.

"Oh yeah? I guess travelling around like you do it's safer that way." Mick nodded. "Hey, I have some tokens from the Bonanza. They are for customers here. Just five dollar chips, and you get two each."

"Bonanza?" Seto asked, tilting his head slightly.

"Yeah, most games are reasonable, seventy-five cents to a dollar, on up to five dollars. Slots and video poker mostly, but some real tables too. Sometimes they have a twenty-five hundred dollar event but not this week."

"Sounds perfect for our limited budget." The genius brunet was already calculating the number of wins he would have to make to move up to a slightly higher paying establishment. He took the tokens and went out to pet Scapegoat one more time.

Jou smiled and leaned on the desk. "I know it's gonna sound strange, but could you not tell anyone about us? I mean besides your wife. It's kind of important. We want to keep a low profile after all that happened in Half Moon Bay. You may have noticed, my partner is..."

"Shy? Yeah kind of. I mean he's friendly, but you can see he's not comfortable with people. Dunno why he would be so gun-shy but I get it. My wife is the same way. Sometimes it's hard to get her to leave the house just to go to the store. She says there are too many people."

If it worked, then Jou would go with it. "Thank you. I'm glad you understand."

Mick nodded. "Gotta take care of our special ones. They may not be like everyone else, but that makes them rare and precious. You have fun looking for a job. You don't find something let me know, I'm sure I can call an old friend or something and get the skinny on who needs a strong back."

"Thanks again." The door opened and Seto strolled in. "You ready?"

"Yes I am." Seto jangled the tokens in his pocket. "I'm going to come back with a hundred times this."

Mick laughed at the overconfidence of youth. "You do that son. Just remember us if you strike it rich."

"Definitely." Seto cheered and let Jou lead him out the door.

The strip was literally five blocks from their campground. The Bonanza two blocks further up. Jou noted a few help wanted signs as he walked Seto to the casino and steakhouse. "You sure those tokens are enough? I have..."

"It will be plenty. Katsuya, trust me on this. If I lose it all I will simply find a job and earn enough to try again. Don't worry, I'm good."

"I know you're good. It's just that these kind of places are very deceptive and they..."

"I know what they are Katsuya. I'll be fine." Seto gave him a warm, sweet, kiss right out on the sidewalk, in front of everyone. It shut Jou up as nothing else could. "Now go to work."

Jou decided to stick close, just down the block, from the Bonanza. That way if Seto needed another stake Jou was nearby. Unfortunately the help wanted signs he'd spied just a couple moments before were gone. With a frown he turned and went up the other side. He was eight blocks away from the Bonanza when he got lucky.

The Bassett was a small place, very old fashioned, quaint almost. There were a dozen tables on the first floor, and a curved wooden staircase led to a second floor where two heavy wooden tables dominated the area. Hardwood floors and discreet lamps provided the ambiance of a bygone era, and the bar, with its bartender wearing a derby hat, white shirt and suspenders, added to look. The servers wore white crinolines and black skirts that stopped exactly at their knees and their white lace shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons, black stockings and low, lace-up boots completed the total look of a retro gentleman's club.

They needed a bar-back for the evening, one who could carry a keg of beer or ale up from the basement and take a turn busing tables as needed. His uniform would be provided, but had to be returned at the end of his shift. He would make eight dollars an hour and get to keep all tips. It sounded perfect to Jou and he accepted without hesitation. The manager gave him a dubious look, then gestured for him to follow. He was going to start as soon as he could get into a decent fitting uniform.


Seto watched Jou walk down the block and smiled slightly. His love so obviously was worried about him. There was no real need. Nothing here could or would disturb Seto. Jou obviously didn't realize that it was Seto's reaction to Jou's anger, not general upset from too much drama that had set him off earlier. Seto wasn't going to enlighten him either. Instead he was going to show Jou that Seto Kaiba was only weak with him, could only be weak with him.

The Bonanza was a haven for truth in advertising. Touristy, western themed and gambling. Seto doubted anyone but the owners had ever actually made bonanza, but that was going to change. He didn't make the mistake of sitting at the first table in the room. There were eight tables in all and he made a point of checking each one out. The four poker tables he rule out almost immediately. There were too many wannabe poker kings that bet outrageously on nothing. Seto wanted to play the hand, not 'all in' stupidly. He wasn't like Yugi, putting his faith in the fickle heart of the cards.

After assessing the play and players, as well as the dealer, Seto chose a blackjack table in the back of the room. Less noise and distraction, more serious, thoughtful play, and most importantly, the dealer looked tired and close to the end of his shift. Tired workers were sloppy workers.

His first bets were cautious, getting a feel for the table and the cards, running the numbers through his brain. To his surprise it actually took work to focus. Not much, but enough for him to know that rigid insular training he'd always used could fade without constant practice. It was actually a relief to know his 'trained' focus could relax that much. He still had the skill, it just wasn't automatic.

When he was sure he could run even with the table his bets were less cautious. His first hundred won he felt a rush akin to when he won a major contract. When he lost half of it on a reckless bet, he almost felt as bad as when he lost to Yugi. It reminded him of his strategy and to run the numbers no matter how good he thought his hand was. It was the only reminder he needed. His pile of tokens rose steadily from the initial four - twenty dollars - to over a hundred.

He knew that card games didn't have IRS reporting laws, so he didn't worry about paperwork from that end, but he didn't want to make too big a pile at one time because some reporter might make it a story and that was something Seto wanted to avoid. Not only did he want to alert any of the casinos that Seto Kaiba was on the premises but he also didn't want his name to appear in any online database or news source. He knew his brother very well, and Mokuba was likely to be searching for him through every available resource. Regretfully, he cashed out at a winning streak of five hundred dollars and after receiving five crisp one hundred dollar bills and four five dollar bills, left the Bonanza. There was a place just up the street, the Eldorado. Hopefully it would be as profitable as the Bonanza.

More tables, more people, more serious players, and an intriguing game called Pai Gow and Pai Gow Poker. After several minutes of watching the game, Seto decided to buy, mentally frowning at the thirty dollar buy in that forced him to use one of his crisp hundreds, but he resolved to make his winnings proportional, so instead of five hundred profit he would cash out at seven-fifty. The game was slow and more of strategy than of luck, and it was based on dominoes, something he had excelled at during his 'experimentation' phase.

A young Japanese man, perhaps twenty two, was dealing the game. With each hand he would say something like 'come on' in heavily accented English. At least that is what the Americans around Seto seemed to think. Seto knew the truth. The dealer wasn't saying 'come on' he was saying 'kamo' meaning sitting duck or sucker. Occasionally the man would say what sounded like heavily accented 'come on and get it.' In reality he was saying 'kamonegi', meaning 'here comes a sucker just begging to lose his money.' It amused Seto, and at the same time sparked the desired to put the upstart in his place. He was an employee of the Eldorado and as such should treat guests with respect.

He was tempted to speak to the man in their native language, but decided to hold that information until later. With a small, cool, smile he set out to teach the man a lesson. Half a dozen hands later the other players started dropping out. Three hands later, Seto and the dealer were the only people playing on the table, although several interested people watched their game. Another two hands and the lack of customer service came out in force when the dealer lost yet again and snarled "Korinaiyatsu."

Seto didn't allow himself to grin at the breach. He had been called a lot worse than a jerk. He doubled his bet again and the dealer froze. "House limit is five thousand. I need to call the manager."

"Do so." Seto allowed. Technically he had only bet twenty-five hundred, but because it was a double down, the house would have to pay five thousand if they lost. The twenty-five hundred was from the seven of eleven hands he'd won.

A signal from the dealer and a small, bustling Japanese man wearing more gold bling than a rap singer hurried to the table. The dealer explained in rapid fire Japanese that contained more curse words and insults to Seto than any of explanation. The manager gave Seto a cursory glance, looked at the cards in the dealer's hands, and gave a curt nod. Seto wasn't worried about what the dealer had. He had been dealt the wild card and an ace of hearts. The table cards were a flop of jack, queen, and ten of hearts. The turn and river were a pair of nines. They didn't worry him in the slightest. He had a royal flush, completely unbeatable. Even four of a kind wouldn't beat it. His second hand was two pair, jack and queen.

The manager himself placed the chips in the center of the table. "We accept your wager." He smiled slightly. "Shall we see?" As Seto expected the dealer's first hand held a pair of nines, giving him four of a kind, and his second hand held a queen, giving him a pair.

Seto allowed his lips to curve in a smirk that felt like an old friend. "Good - but expected." With a dramatic flourish that was famous around the world, he flipped his own cards displaying the royal flush. While the audience and manager were gasping in shock, he flipped his two pair. "And that is also expected. My win I believe." Seto stated cooly.

While the dealer cursed virulently the manager shoved the chips across the table. "Sir, you have broken the floor limits. I must ask you to move to the high roller's room."

Seto stood and scooped up the chips. With a scant bow he said in fluent Japanese. "No thank you. I will find a new game to play, one where the dealers do not insult customers." He smirked and flipped the cards in a fancy, flourishing move. "One that has skilled players as well. This was no challenge." Without another look at either of them, he walked to the cashier's cage. He now had five thousand, five hundred, and twenty dollars. That was plenty for a stake in Las Vegas. Cheerful, he strolled back to the campground. He had to feed Scapegoat and then he would see about making one of the packaged meals from the cabin.

Mick wasn't at the office, so Seto walked down to his camper. Coughing slightly, he knocked on the door. Mick chuckled. "Lost your stake? Well don't worry about it. Come on in. You weren't kidding when you said that dog of yours wouldn't eat a bite. The missus has been trying to get him to eat for almost an hour." He stepped back and gestured Seto into the camper.

"I hope he wasn't too much trouble." Seto was greeted by a happy yip and the scrabbling of claws on tile. He bent to pet the pup. “I’ll feed him."

The woman seated on the couch stood slowly, her slim hand reaching for the white cane next to her. "No trouble at all. He's quite a scamp. Scapegoat is an interesting name. Your Kit girl is a shy thing, hiding under the stairs and growling at anyone who comes close." The woman held out her free hand. "I'm Marie, Mick’s wife."

"A pleasure to meet you ma'am. Please sit back down. I'll take the dogs and we'll get them out of your hair." He said softly as he shook the unexpectedly strong hand.

"You don't have to go so soon. We don't get many people visiting." She smiled in his direction, remarkably accurate despite the obviously sightless eyes. She sank back into her seat, setting her cane within easy reach and folding her hands neatly on her lap.

"Thank you for the invitation. My husband and I will stop by and visit when he gets home. I want to make him a nice meal." Seto explained, watching both Mick and his wife for signs of discomfort at the open announcement of their relationship. While he watched he absently gave Scapegoat the signal to eat. The pup dove headfirst into the dry kibble.

The fading smile widened at the sound of Scapegoat crunching his food. "Oh going to make your hubby a good meal then? Well you boys come down for some peach pie for dessert."

"We'd be happy to if it isn't too late." Seto agreed warmly, a tiny curl of relief in his belly. It hadn't been difficult, claiming Jou as his husband. "Kit is under the stairs? I'll just go get her." He said it with more confidence than he felt. His relationship with the wild thing was shaky at best and he was positive he would probably end up bleeding from this encounter.

"I'll help you." Mick offered. "She is all fangs and claws. For a while there I thought she was a wild cat."

"That's more accurate than you know." The brunet chuckled. "Let's go get her." He turned back to the woman staring silently at the wall. "Ma'am, would you mind holding Scapegoat for a while longer?"

"Of course not." She wrapped her arms around the pup he carefully placed on her lap. "He's a good boy. My poodles are such lazy old things, they are sound asleep in their room." She chuckled slightly. "Spoiled babies, but I love them very much. I used to style their hair with ribbons and bows and paint their nails. They were gorgeous. Perhaps you will meet them tomorrow."

"Ah...It will be my pleasure." Seto cleared his throat. "Out the back?"

Mick led him out the back door and across the attached patio. "Under here." He didn't need to say anything though, Kit's rumbling growls told him where the little bitch had curled up.

Seto knelt down and crawled behind the steps. "Kit, Come!" He tried calling her firmly. All he got was a deeper snarling growl.

"Temperamental little thing." Mick observed. "Try talking to her nice. Women like sweet words. Most don't like being ordered around."

"She's a wildcat and she's jealous of me with Scapegoat." Seto mumbled.

"My wife used to love it when I called her that and sometimes jealousy can make for some fun times. Not much fun these days." The older man said sadly. "Now...when I call her my wildcat it makes her cry."

It wasn't Seto's way to get involved with other people's lives, but something about the proud, squared shoulders and straight back of the woman touched him. She had looked so brave, and so sad. "She's blind. Was there an accident?"

"She has Keratoconus. It's rare and genetic for her. It's not... Usually people don't go blind from it, and people who can afford it can get cornea transplants to restore vision, but... but our insurance company refused to pay for it because it's not life threatening and we can't afford the fifty thousand dollars on our own. It isn't covered by another company because it is pre-existing." Anger and hopelessness filled Mick's normally jovial voice, then he coughed and turned to the problem at hand - retrieving Kit. "I got a fishing net that might work."

Seto backed out from under the stairs. "Mick, I've changed my mind. Would you mind watching the pups for tonight? I need to talk to Jou..."

"You going to try gambling again? Thought you lost your stake." Mick said dubiously.

"I don't have the Bonanza tokens any longer but I will be all right." Seto reassured. "I'll see you in the morning. Please tell your lady we'll stop by for peach pie for breakfast."

Seto was horrified to see the man reach into his wallet and pull out a few faded bills. "Mick, you..."

"Take these and play them for me will you? Win or lose, play them. They are my birthday money. I don't want anything but for Marie to get better. So, anything you win will go towards my wildcat's surgery." The old man smiled winsomely. "Who knows? Even if we don't get enough for the surgery, we might get enough to put in a few of the devices they say she needs so she can get around better."

Seto took the bills, nodding slowly. "Yes. I will play them for you. Thank you." Mick showed him around the trailer and back to the sidewalk. As Seto walked back up the strip he reflected that this might be a better way. He had been going to talk to Jou about using his cards to pay for the surgery or maybe arranging some kind of endowment, but this way, Seto could do it with the stake given by Mick, and since there was no IRS reporting of table games, he didn't have to worry about taxes.

He started his quest at the Vagabond Casino, buying in at a five dollar table using the old bills Mick had given him. An hour later he cashed out with ten thousand in hundred dollar bills. Next on his list was the Silver Legacy. His first few hands he lost almost five hundred, then he caught on to the shuffler routine and forty minutes later he left eight thousand up. He didn't leave because he wanted to. The manager asked him to leave after he refused to go to the high roller's tables.

Two more casinos passed in a blur to Seto. He was completely focused on the goal and the games. He was up to forty thousand, all in hundred dollar bills carried in a hastily purchased 'man-purse.' He really didn't care if it looked gay - he was gay. No way was he letting his winnings out of his sight. He chose his final casino - The Bassett - because of the old world quaintness of it. After the hype and glitz of the previous casinos, something quieter was just what he wanted.

It was more crowded than he expected, but he found the tables to be exactly the type he wanted to play at. Seto bought in and settled down to reach his goal.

Jou found the job was much more than simple running for the bar and bussing. He was moved from one station to another, acting as bar-back, busboy, relief bartender, short order cook, dishwasher, and even server. He had just finished loading the dishwasher and was going to pull a few bottles of champagne from the wine cellar when the bartender grabbed his shoulder. "Joey, could you go over to table six and get the guy to order something? On the house. He is a hot player and the manager wants to distract him. None of the girls were able to get his attention, and since he's carrying a purse, the boss thinks a cute guy might be more to his taste."

"Distract him? Look, I didn't hire on to be a rent-boy." Joey snapped.

"No, no. Just get him to drink something, maybe smile at him and make him forget the cards for a minute. That's all." The bartender soothed.

"I'll go over and offer food and drink, that's all. If he gets grabby like that chick you sent me to serve earlier, I'll 'distract' him with my fist, then I'll do the same to you and the manager. I've told you guys I'm married." Joey snapped and stalked off.

About halfway to the table he caught sight of the very familiar tumbled auburn streaked, chestnut hair. A wicked grin crossed his mobile features as he wheeled around to the kitchen. Fresh peach pie and three scoops of vanilla ice cream. It wouldn't distract Seto, Joey knew that, but it might amuse him.

With newly acquired skill, Jou assessed the pile of money in front of Seto, his brows lifting in surprise and admiration. Close to six thousand. Not bad at all. He was about six feet away from his lover and closing fast when Seto stiffened and swiveled his head around to fix an intent blue gaze on him. With a big rolicking grin Jou held out the tray, offering the plate. "Dessert?"

Seto gave him a small nod. "Put it on the table please." Critically he eyed the uniform. "You need more color. Black and white are too stark."

Jou nodded and took the hint. He turned and strolled back to the bartender. "I'm done. I'll change and take my pay."

"Night's not done yet." The bartender protested as he signalled to the manager to come over.

The manager, a man just about Jou's age hurried across the room. "What?"

"Mark, Joey says he is done. Wants his pay and is going to leave." The bartender whined.

Mark sighed and shook his head slightly. "Go back behind the bar." When the other man left, the manager turned and gave Jou a small, rueful look. "We asked too much. I'm sorry to see you go. I was going to offer you a permanent job." The carrot was dangled uselessly.

"Nah, it wasn't too bad. Just that my better half wants me to come home. I have to go."

Mark frowned. "I didn't see you talking to anyone, and I have been watching. Joey, are you really married? I mean... Would you like to go out after the club closes?"

"My husband would probably kill you - and tie me to the bed for a week. I'll just change and take my pay." Joey grinned to show there was no hard feelings.

That was true on his part, but Mark's face lost it's engaging expression. "I can't pay you if you don't stay 'til closing." He hesitated for a moment. "Why don't you come to the back office and we'll discuss it. Maybe find a way for you to earn the rest."

Jou gaped at the man, unable to believe what he had just heard. "Dude, did you just suggest that I fuck or blow you to get the money I've already earned?"

Mark's face became sly, then suddenly went blank. Jou felt the presence behind him at the same time. "Uh oh." He mumbled under his breath as he spun to find himself practically in his husband's arms.

Seto's gaze was frozen fire. "Did I understand what I just heard? This man just suggested you perform sexually to receive your wages?"

Before Jou could say a word, Mark rushed into speech. "Please, do not misunderstand. Joey and I are lovers, have been for years. I was just... just flirting with my boyfriend. I apologize, it was completely unprofessional and I..."

"Shut... up..." Seto rasped, he was astounded at the gall of the man, to dare to claim what was his, to claim his husband. Rage, pure clean rage bubbled up in the brunet, threatening to erupt from him in an explosion that would leave devastation for miles. He dropped into Japanese without conscious thought. "Katsuya go change clothes. How much does he owe you?"

"Eh, he's holding my tips Seto. So I don't really know. But wage was eight an hour and it's just over four hours." Jou was staring at the barely contained emotion with apprehension. Seto had a lot of rage and whoever it was directed at wasn't likely to walk away unscathed. Mark was in a serious world of shit and didn't even know. Jou knew he should intervene, talk Seto down, but damn it the jerk deserved to be flattened. He turned and spared a pitying glance at the manager, who was staring at them blankly, obviously not understanding their words. The guy was too stupid to realize they were together. There wasn't even a glimmer of understanding. Yeah, the idiot needed a stomping. With a nod he stepped away. "I'm going to change. My husband..." He waved to Seto. "Will take my wages and tips."

Seto glared at the pathetic man as the color leached from his face. "Do you want to repeat your lies? Or will you grovel like the worthless creature you are?"

Marks lips worked soundlessly several times before he spoke again. "He didn't finish his shift, he doesn't get a penny."

A smirk that sent chills down the spines of the few people who observed it, crossed Seto's face. "I thought you would say that. My husband's good name is priceless to me. Bankrupting your bank will be a down payment. You will want to call the owners. They will need to be here." Without another word at the stricken man, Seto strode back to the table.

Jou, dressed in his shorts, t-shirt and sandals, sighed and shook his head when, after a quick check, he located Seto back at the table. Mark pounced on him before he went three steps. "Why didn't you say he was your husband?" He accused harshly.

"Why would I? It's none ya. What the hell did you say to piss him off? He's so hard you can bounce quarters off him." The blond caught his breath slightly. "You did apologize didn't you? Gave him my money?"

"I told him what I told you. You don't finish your shift, you don't get paid." The idiot actually sounded proud of that.

"Shit. You don't cheat Seto Kaiba. Have you lost your mind?" Jou breathed, genuinely scared for the man. Seto wasn't all that sane to begin with and add in lies, cheating and insults. This guy was lucky not to be a burned heap of coal.

"Seto... Kaiba...?" Mark the Manager looked like he was about to faint. "It can't be." The man whimpered.

Jou nearly moaned at his own stupidity. Not just because they were keeping a low profile, but because now that the man knew, Seto had no reason to pull his punches. Without a word he rushed to his husband's side.

Seto glanced up at his nearly frantic husband. "Hey, you okay?"

Jou bent down and whispered in his husband's ear. "Ah, I fucked up Seto. We need to get out of here fast. I told him who you were."

Instead of leaving, or even looking put out, Seto laughed that dark laugh that killed puppies and dropped birds from the skies. "Good, let him know who he fucked with, let him anticipate his loss, crush all his hope and leave him in despair. I might forgive the insult at that."

Grinning like a demented demon, Seto pulled out all of the winnings from the Bassett and his original five thousand. Waving his hand with all of his old drama, he ordered, "Deal." Jou, after a terrified second, began to grin too. He loved every part of Seto, even the insane demon that enjoyed crushing people - as long as the people weren't Jou's friends.

This time Seto didn't try to hide his skill or his brilliance. To Jou he shone brighter than any glitter or lights on the Reno strip. His eyes blazed with intensity, his expression could have been carved in ice, and his hands moved quickly, but with a dramatic flare that anyone familiar with duel monsters of the past would recognize instantly. Seto Kaiba was playing with all the drive he had ever shown because for the first time in longer than he could remember, he was playing with his heart.

Without Yugi there to put a stop to his destructive tendencies - and with his lover cheering him on beside him - Seto systematically broke the bank of the 'Bassett.' He didn't win every hand and there were a few where the odds were against him and he bluffed, but in the end, the owners, who had been called by the bartender when Mark refused to, were forced to close the casino. When they tried to force him to move to the high roller's table he had flatly refused, and challenged them to a personal wager. The bank at the Bassett versus ten percent of Seto's personal stock in Kaiba Corporation. Their greed did them in, just as the brilliant CEO expected and he walked away with a personal voucher plus all the cash on the floor stuffed into three old backpacks found in the storage room. After they loaded up, they went to the office, leaving the pandemonium of the arriving press and gawkers behind. Jou, familiar with the layout, led Seto down to the cellar, out a delivery side door, and onto the street. A quick glance showed the gathering crowd of people still trying to get into the Bassett.

Jou sighed and chuckled. "Remind me not to piss you off."

"Noted, although I told you many times when we were young and it never bothered you then." The blue eyes slid sideways. "Mad at me? Mokuba will come you know."

"Yeah but we will be gone. Just to be safe I think you should avoid gambling in Vegas. Let's just take in some shows and stuff." The blond yawned and stretched. “It's only ten. Want to go somewhere else? Maybe find a locker or something for these backpacks?"

"Hmm why don't we go talk to Mick and get on the road? We slipped out but I'm sure there are reporters or criminals looking for us; probably both by now." Seto looked around, his eyes scanning for threat. They were carrying almost half a million in cash and a voucher for twice that much. He had specifically asked that his name be left off the voucher. He didn't need the money but he was sure he would find someone who did.

"You up for a drive tonight? Not tired?" Jou asked, his eyes roving over his tall lover with open concern.

"I have more energy now than I've had in years. I'm... I feel like I'm flying. Katsuya... If you're tired I'll drive. I just... We need to leave. I'm not ready to face Mokuba yet. I'm still working things out in my head and my heart." Seto admitted.

"Then I'll trust you to do what's best." Jou smiled crookedly. "Let's go. You're right, I can practically feel Mokuba breathing down our necks."

Keeping watch for people following them, they hurried back to the campground. Mick and Marie were sitting on their front step, Scapegoat, Kit and two very frilly looking poodles decked out in ribbons and lace played in front of them. "Hey, it's us." Seto greeted, more for Marie than Mick. "Joey meet Marie, Mick's wife. Marie this is my husband, Joey Wheeler."

Joey took in the distinctive white cane with a knowing, compassionate glance. "Pleasure to meet you. Thank you for caring for the dogs." He greeted gently.

"They were no trouble once Kit settled down. She's not a normal dog is she?" Marie nodded to where the dogs played. "She purrs, kind of like a cat, or tries to."

"She was raised by a cat, so she kinda acts like that." Jou explained.

"Joey, could you hand Mick your backpack please?" Seto asked as he slipped out of his own and handed over the packs he carried to the older man.

The older man laughed and shook his head. "What's all this?"

"Your winnings." Seto said quietly. "Your stake hit lucky and these are your winnings."

"What?" Mick paled as he opened one of the backpacks filled with cash. "But how? What?"

"The Bassett - I broke the bank tonight. That is from the money you staked me. I used some assets of my own for the final coup. I have that settlement tucked away. I suggest you might want to put it in the bank or something. There is four hundred ninety three thousand dollars."

"But... But... I can't take this! The Bassett? I heard some high roller... You? But... I can't take this." Mick sputtered, but his eyes were shining with hope.

"You certainly will." Seto folded his arms across his chest. "You asked me to play the money and give you the winnings, there they are. I am an honest man."

"But... But..."

"But nothing." Marie interrupted. "Thank you. I... There are no words, but we are grateful." Tears were filling her eyes.

"No gratitude needed. Don't you dare cry or it will be for nothing. Wildcats are rare and shouldn't cry." With a nod, Seto turned and snagged a gaping Jou by the arm. "We'll get our pups. You will want to hit a few ATM's I think."

"ATM's nothing. My brother manages a branch of our bank. I'll call him and tell him the Bassett high roller wants to make a deposit. He'll be there with bells on. I can't wait for him to see all this cash." Mick sounded shell shocked, but pleased.

"Enjoy. Let me know what's going on with Marie. I put my contact information in the blue backpack. I'll send flowers when she goes into surgery."

Jou, both dogs in his arms, nodded. "We're going now Mick. Like Seto said, let us know okay?"

"Yeah..." The older man lugged the backpacks into his RV, Mick didn't watch them leave. He was too busy holding his sobbing wildcat, mopping up her tears of joy and gratitude.

Jou managed to pull together his scattered wits enough to take the leash Seto handed him, and by the time they made it back to the camper, he was back in control of his faculties. He worked in silence for a few moments, breaking down the camp they had set up only a few hours before. He tossed Seto the keys and slid into the passenger seat. They were on the road before he broke the silence between them. "Gonna tell me about it?"

"I won my stake, came back to get the pups, met Marie, Mick's wildcat, and she reminded me of you and your sister. She needs surgery and there is no money for it. I... He thought I lost my stake and offered me his birthday money to play, said just to give him the winnings." Seto swallowed audibly. "Fuck Katsuya, he was... She was... I know I can't save everyone but they were both so damn..." He broke off, hunting for a word that conveyed his perception.

He didn't need to say a word. Jou's hand dropped to the struggling brunet's thigh as his blond head nestled against Seto's shoulder. "I got it." Jou's voice was husky with emotion. "Know you don't want to hear it, but you're fucking wonderful!"

"Jou, I..."

"No arguments, damn it. I'm too tired to tell you what a fantastic, hot fabulous, gorgeous... Just shut it and drive. Go down three ninety five toward Mason. It's about an hour out. Mason has a rest stop with toilets and RV parking. Stopped there once with Oli. Nobody will look for us that close to Reno and we can both get some rest." Without another word, Jou turned his face into Seto's arm and closed his eyes.

He didn't move so much as an eyelash until the car slowed to turn into the rest area. "Park on the side nearest the lights, but back in so that we can leave in a hurry if we have to. This place has cameras so it is as safe as we can get."

"We're going to set up the camper?" Seto asked dubiously.

"Nope, we're getting cozy in here. The dogs are fed and watered. We'll grab some snacks from the vending machines and hit the bathrooms. It gets cold in the desert at night, in case you didn't notice. We'll grab the sleeping bag from the trunk and sleep in the car. Backed in, the lights will put us in shadow and the tinting on the window will do the rest. We'll lock the doors, set the car alarm, and cover up. We'll be fine or we'll run over anyone who fucks with us."

"Don't we have to pay to park here?"

"I have passes because I never know where I'm going to end up. It's about ten dollars a state and I do all forty eight so it's an expense, but it's better than ending up in an unsafe area because of some paper pusher who went home early with flu." Jou's tone said it had happened more than once, so Seto decided he wouldn't ask.

"So snacks and bathroom? I need both. I'm starved." Seto confessed.

"Super brain takes super energy I guess. You didn't eat your peach pie?" Jou clicked his tongue in mock reproof.

"Saw the way the guy looked at you before he followed you. Decided I didn't like him ogling my husband that way and I wanted to see you plant your fist in his face."

"Instead you bankrupted his place." Another click of the tongue this time shaking his blond head.

"He pissed me off a little when he lied to me." The blue-eyed dragon master made the understatement of the century with a completely straight face.

"Huh. I'd have never guessed." Jou deadpanned. "So snacks it is. Nearest restaurant is Yerington. There won't be anything open this time of night. I did stock up on MRE's when we left the cabin. They are in the trunk so if you're that hungry we can do MRE's. I can light a fire on the barbecue pit by the tree over there," He pointed to what looked like an ancient backyard barbecue grill stuck on a pole in the ground, "and heat the water." Jou honestly didn't expect Seto to agree. So far on this trip Seto had acted selfless, with very few signs of the selfish bastard Jou had learned to love despite himself and his sexual confusion.

He actually jumped and laughed when Seto, instead of the expected demur, nodded and agreed "Make three for me." At Jou's laugh Seto shot him a rueful glance. "Please?"

Jou nodded and climbed out of the car, "Pop the trunk. I'll get the fire started and get the MRE's, you get the dogs and check out the snacks."

"Sounds like a plan." Seto scooped up the leashes - dogs still attached - and tugged the wriggly, waggly, pups out into the yellowish light of the almost empty RV parking lot.

He chose not to go to visitor's bathroom and vending center without Jou, deciding it was best if they stuck together, so instead he sat at the rickety picnic table and watched as his love built a small fire.

Jou didn't seem put out by the change of plans, if anything he seemed almost radiant. Seto could swear he saw Jou swaying in place with the rhythm of the fire people as they sprang to life. The brunet didn't quite know when he stopped thinking of fire as a simple chemical reaction, but instead gave it a life and personalities, but he wasn't going to change his mind about it. Each dancing flame was unique and full of life. He was amazed he ever thought of it any other way. As the sparks haloed his lover, Seto couldn't keep back the comment. "You're glowing."

"Every day, sometimes more than once a day, you find some way to make me one of the happiest men alive." Jou admitted in a soft voice.

"What... Oh the money for Mick and Marie?" Seto shrugged. "It wasn't that difficult."

Jou waved his hand as if shooing away a fly. "Nah, not that. You don't even know what just happened. That makes me even happier. Seto... I... I won't explain except to say that you will eat every mouthful of this meal if I have to shove it down your throat."

Seto blinked at that. "You're happy but you say that like you're angry."

"Nah. Ah okay I will explain. You know I'm beat but you demanded a meal without apologizing or worrying about that. You put yourself and your needs first. Seto... I could just hug the stuffing out of you right now."

Seto blinked and tilted his head to the side as he considered what Jou said, not just the words, but what they meant as well. "You want me to be a selfish ass?"

"I want you to care about yourself Seto. Not because you love me, not because I love you, but because you value yourself as much as your loved ones - me, Mokuba, your friends. You're not quite there, but you are reaching for it and that's half the battle won."

Seto didn't know what to say to that so instead he knelt down to pet Scapegoat. He was surprised when both pups crawled up onto him. "Hmm... She likes me all of a sudden?"

"Hormones. She's responding to the alpha male." Jou's smile flashed in the darkness. "It's natural for females to gravitate to the alpha. They want strong babies."

"That is disturbing you know." Seto put both pups down and glowered at the grinning blond. The sound of a vehicle into the rest stop had them both spinning around.

As it rounded the curve it looked like a spaceship landing. Blindingly bright lights studded the tops and sides of the massive RV, flooding the entire parking area with enough candle watts to rival the daylight. Jou and Seto automatically stepped back into the remaining shade of the trees as the behemoth parked across three RV spaces."

As one, Seto and Jou eased towards their car, only to freeze in horror as four more behemoths followed by a dozen satellite vehicles circled around their suddenly insignificant looking car and camper. They shared a look of determination, linked hands, squared their shoulders and met the bright lights head on.

The first monster vehicle's door flew open and a tall man with wildly frizzy rainbow hair and white face makeup stepped down. "Hey sorry to block you in. We needed a rest and didn't think anyone would be here." He laughed and shook his head. "I'll radio the guys to move so you can get out."

"Ah... uhm? No hurry we're staying the night." Jou coughed and guessed. "Circus? You guys are on your way to Vegas?"

"Yeah. We were performing in Reno and lost our audience. The cops and the gaming commission are tearing Reno apart for a pair of con artists who broke the bank at some casino... The Foxtrot? Something." The clown shrugged. "Cops were looking everywhere for them and our audience didn't like being rousted so they left. We shut down and got an early start to our next gig."

"Con artists?" Seto stiffened and snarled.

"Well they aren't saying that, just that they want to talk to them, not that they conned anyone. They were saying someone broke the bank and didn't get any kind of income paperwork, just took the money and left. Then we heard the owner was saying that the guy who did it had his wife work for them as a waitress. Something like that. Nobody knows who they are and since the money wasn't marked or anything whoever it was got away clean." The clown laughed again. "Good on them I say."

"Yeah." Jou agreed. "They really don't know any names?"

"The manager said something about some rich guy, but nobody believed him, I mean why would he bother? Besides he's doesn't have a wife. It's all just stupid but since we didn't have to refund anything it's just an early night for us. So, you got a fire going, we'll get the others fired up and start dinner. We got plenty of dogs and burgers. Join us, as an apology for blocking you guys in?"

Seto gripped Jou's hand tight for a moment, then nodded. "Burgers and dogs sound great. We were just making MRE's."

"Hey cool. I'm Dave, clown, ringmaster and lead driver. Oh you have pups. Uh... keep them away from the three trucks in the back. We have our animals in there and even though we know our babies won't hurt anyone or anything on purpose, accidents happen."

"Animals? What kind?" Jou eased further out of the lights and back to the table.

"We have a lion, a couple zebras, some Lippizaners, an elephant, monkeys and a few others. Stay away from the monkeys, they are nasty when they are tired." Before he could say more, they were converged on by what seemed like a hundred people.

Introductions were informal, Joey and Kai met the entire troupe, some still in makeup, some looking very ordinary. Outside of a few grumbles, there were no further mentions of the con artists or the 'Foxtrot.' Instead there were conversations about everything from tight ropes to ripped tights.

Joey was enthralled, his exhaustion forgotten, as he listened to their stories, asked questions and simply soaked up their culture. In all of his travels it had never occurred to him to travel with a circus or some other vagabond troupe. Now it seemed like a great idea for his next book.

Seto devoured three huge burgers, the best he had ever tasted, as well as two ears of corn on the cob dripping with 'real' butter, and just for the experience, a corn dog. It was all entirely too delicious, and very soon he found himself leaning heavily against the rapt Jou, nodding into the blond's shoulder.

He was vaguely aware of Jou leading him to the car and tucking him into the seat, then just a few minutes later, of being led to the familiar blanket covered floor of their camper. Scapegoat and Kit snuggled into his back, and he gripped his pillow to his chest, curling up and falling into a food induced stupor that dropped him straight into a dreamless sleep.

Seto woke to the rumble of engines and the sound of someone pounding on the door to the camper. After a quick check at the strangely familiar-unfamiliar man outside he called. "Who is it?"

"Dave, Clown with the circus. Joey wanted me to wake him for breakfast and breakdown. I'll see you guys in a few minutes. We're on the road in half an hour." The unpainted clown turned and hurried back to where his troupe were starting the barbecues.

Seto turned to wake his sleeping love only to chuckle at the sight in front of him. Jou, hair sticking up at all angles, was sitting up rubbing his eyes like an adorable child. "You'll make me feel like a child molester if you keep looking like that."

Golden eyes popped wide, then slitted with mischief and interest. "Feel like getting freaky with me this morning Kaiba?"

The very interested brunet chuckled as he knelt next to his lover. "Define freaky. I was thinking of fucking you into the carpet."

"That will cover it." Jou's naughty grin peeked out. "Too bad it will have to wait. We have to join everyone, chow down and get on the road."

"Why?" Seto didn't like the sound of that. It was almost as if there was something he didn't know.

"Oh well Dave offered to let us hang with him for a few days, work as ticket takers and booth attendants. He also mentioned something about an act they might have to replace that we might help with. Don't know the particulars though." When Seto would have protested Jou shook his head cutting him off. "Seto we have to figure out what the hell happened in Reno and we have to do it without tipping off your brother, the gaming commission, or the cops. Nobody would look for us - or you - here with all of these people, and we can wear costumes and nobody will care. C'mon, you built some of the world's largest entertainment companies. Are you saying you can't run a booth?"

"What about our plan for a hotel and some shows?" The brunet asked wistfully.

"Still doable, just not until you get the gaming commission off your back. Seto the hotels and casinos have to work closely with the commission, so the hotels are probably watching for you - us. If we tried to check in to one we would likely be shown to a room and while we are unpacking the cops and gaming commision would be on their way to pay us an unwelcome visit. This way we travel anonymously while you straighten the mess out."

It was a reasonable, even good plan, if they were going to continue on their vacation. If he walked in and announced he was Seto Kaiba and demanded the mess be cleared up with all the clout of his position behind him, he would not be able to travel anonymously for a very long time. "Fine." He sighed and stood up, then reached down and yanked his smart-ass blond to stand. "Let’s get going." He patted his stomach. "I wonder if they will have any burgers for breakfast."

Jou dozed in the passenger seat - again - while Seto hummed along happily with Weird Al's Yoda. Kit was curled up on Jou's neck and Scapegoat was perched on Seto's shoulder making an occasional rumble-yip that sounded a lot like Yoda' in time with the music when it struck Seto that he should probably listen to the radio to see if there were any details about what had happened at the Bassett.

He only listened to a few minutes of some kind of twangy music before the news came on. He waited through the national news, not caring about the stock market or overseas posturing, and drummed his fingers impatiently through the commercials until the local news came over the airwaves. He had expected perhaps a mention, but not the immediate lead story.

The announcer seemed to relish suspense, but eventually Seto got the whole story. A person, possibly two people, claiming to be Seto Kaiba and his 'husband' broke the bank of the 'Bassett' a locally owned casino in Reno. They left with an undesignated personal voucher, which seemed to be the basis for the entire investigation because the IRS and the gaming commission need to know who is to pay the taxes on the income. There was no proof that Seto Kaiba had been in Reno, and no proof that Seto Kaiba was married to the mysterious 'Joey.'

After urging the two men to contact the Gaming Commission or the police at a specially set up number, the radio newsman moved on to another story, but it was enough information for Seto to reach for his phone.

"NGC Tipline, could you hold please?" A harried voice answered on the third ring.

"This is Seto Kaiba. You want to speak to me?" He ignored the request to hold. Why should he? They asked him to call and his time was valuable. Seto Kaiba did not hold.

"Yeah right. You're the third Seto Kaiba to call in a minute. Hold on and I'll send you through to ..."

"I will not hold - I do not hold for stupidity. I assume there is a question that you will ask, perhaps from Aishira, Matashi, or my brother Mokuba. Ask it or I hang up. I will not call back, my lawyers will."

The man snapped, "Fine, what is your dog's name and breed?"

"Scapegoat is black pomeranian, a gift from my friends Aishira and Matashi." Seto said calmly, but inside he was more than ready to hang up.

"Holy shit, it's you - You're him! I mean... Wait a moment, I won't put you on hold, but wait a moment please." Seto wasn't really inclined to, but the grovelling tone and shock in the other man's voice mollified him just enough to let the man have a few minutes to contact his supervisors. In the background he could hear the panicking operator yelling 'It's him, Seto Kaiba - he answered the question. I got him on the line..." A deep voice growled something and for an instant he flashed into hold, for less than a second, then the deep voice greeted, "Mister Kaiba, this is Ted Mannis with the Nevada Gaming Commission. Thank you for calling."

"You wanted to speak to me?" Ice cubes would have been warmer than Seto's tone.

"Yes. Were you... You heard the story on the radio, I guess. Were you at the Bassett in Reno last night?" The man asked, after clearing his throat nervously.

"Yes I was. I broke their bank and took their voucher. I didn't want it in my name because I plan on donating it to a worthy cause. I will have my lawyers contact you all with the pertinent information. I had every intention of reporting the income - I pay my taxes. I believe I have until I file my taxes, do I not?" He said briskly.

"Yes, yes of course you do. Now that the issue of who has been resolved, there is one other issue. The manager, Mark Sutter, says that you had a partner who infiltrated the casino and you worked as a team, that you cheated. That is a criminal charge. Would you like to come in to the police and address it?"

"No I would not. I have not been charged, and if you review the security tapes then speak to the bartender, the owners and the other staff there, my companion got a temporary position at the casino as a walk-in. My companion is the writer 'Joey Wheeler' and he writes books about his experiences as a transient person crossing the country. Mark, the Manager, refused to pay him, sexually harassed him and insulted him for wanting to leave prior to his shift end. It made me angry and I decided to own the place. I value my friend's good name."

"I see. That explains it of course. Let me have your number and I'll call you back after I speak to the police."

"I don't think so. I'll call you in an hour. Good bye." He disconnected the call and tossed the phone on the dash with a disgusted snort.

"You handled that well." Jou mumbled softly. "You didn't threaten to kill anyone and you answered clearly, without too much detail."

"Thanks, but I can handle them in my sleep." He smiled slightly at the mussed blond. "How was your nap?"

Jou yawned and stretched. "Not long enough. I think I’m sleeping too much."

"I think you're sleeping just right. I never get tired of your sleeping face." Seto admitted with a tiny smile. “I think I might just have to get a few pictures of it.”

"Huh..." Embarrassed silence, then Jou blurted "You called me your companion and friend! I was demoted from husband?" There was a world of hurt that he couldn't hide in his voice.

Seto went rigid for an instant before reaching across and pulling Jou across the console against his side, pressing his lover's head against his chest. "No! But that type of bureaucrat looks for all the 'i's' dotted and the 't's crossed.' We don't have a legal wedding license. If I called you my husband without it he would doubt everything I say."

"Oh." Jou nuzzled into the strong chest under his cheek. "Sorry, I had an insecure moment."

"You're allowed - one. The rest are mine." Seto teased.

Jou bent and sucked lightly on the sensitive cord of Seto's neck, leaving a light pink mark. "Huh. Greedy. I insist on two with the option of more." He licked the mark, savoring the taste of Seto, and slid back into his seat.

"I'm open for negotiation." Blue eyes flicked his way. "If you wanted to... negotiate now I'm sure I wouldn't mind a little persuasion." His tone was cool, but the suggestive overtones were more than adequate for Jou to get the message.

Wicked amusement and something very like curiosity blazed in Jou's golden eyes. "Really? Who knew you were an exhibitionist?"

"Top's up. The mammoth RV's are ahead of us and nobody else will see in." Seto refuted calmly. "But I've always been curious about... well... and I..." Color flooded the sun-kissed brunet's cheeks making his freckles stand out as he sputtered then retrenched. "You don't have to do..." He broke off to hiss out a sharp breath when Jou bent across the console and lowered the waistband of the shorts and underwear Seto was wearing, baring the tender, vulnerable flesh beneath. Greedy lips sucked and massaged, coaxing it to increasing hardness.

Seto didn't argue. It was one of his most ardent curiosities, besides there is never a bad blow job, at least he had never experienced one. Not that he had... His train of thought was derailed when Jou reached down to fondle and stroke the sensitive place below his sac, bringing more pleasure with each touch.

Seto was elated, enthralled and completely in lust. He understood the appeal of a road head immediately. There was nothing like guiding a three thousand pound rocket down the road at seventy miles an hour while his lover tried to suck the cum out of his stick shift. It was rude, it was crude, it was extremely dangerous, but it felt marvellous and Seto loved every hair raising, breath stealing moment of it.

Even later, when they were at camp and one of the circus people, the one who had driven behind them, mentioned his erratic driving pattern, Seto couldn't find any part of him that regretted the experience, and he knew he would try to get Jou to repeat it as often as possible, maybe he’d even return the favor.

Because of Jou's teasing ways, Seto had been late calling Ted Mannis back, but he couldn't find it in him to regret that either. Jou was driving, having switched places with a relaxed, bleary-eyed Seto. They had pulled over and Seto simply crawled into the passenger seat, not really caring if Jou moved or not. They could cuddle for a while. To his mild disappointment Jou had slid out of the seat and jogged around to the driver's side. The blond tossed the phone into Seto’s lap. "Call before sleep."

"Not been an hour." Seto mumbled in protest.

"Huh. It takes you an hour to cum twice Seto. It's been an hour. Call." Jou got back on the road, taking up the tail end of the caravan of circus vehicles. "I'm just gonna sit here and relax. Don't expect me to talk too much. My tongue and jaws hurt... Next time only one for you."

Seto was too thrilled with the idea of next time to do more than nod dumbly and hit redial on the phone. That promise was enough to make him consider buying a classic car with a bench seat. His call was answered on the second ring by Ted Mannis himself. Seto assumed they were routing his number directly to the man. He was mildly impressed by their use of technology. They were actually using something from the last twenty years. "This is Kaiba." He said as briskly as possible. It wasn't quite as crisp as he would have liked and he made a mental note to limit blow jobs when he had to deal with governments and cops. When the man on the other end sputtered, sounding incredibly nervous, Seto reversed that. Why should he limit them? They obviously didn't affect his efficacy. "Mister Mannis?"

"Yes, yes, I apologize. I was drinking some water and it went down the wrong way. Mister Kaiba, Detective Mascorelli is here. He is with the Reno police. I have you on speaker so he can hear you."

"Nice of you to call Mister Kaiba." The man sounded polite so Seto returned the courtesy.

"Yes it was as I am on vacation and this is a major interruption. You have reviewed the security tapes and you have questioned the other people at the casino. Why do you feel I need to speak to you?"

"We are still reviewing the tapes at this time but the investigation would go a lot faster if you and your... companion... came in to talk to us." Seto ignored the emphasis on the word companion. It didn't matter what the man thought.

"Not happening. We are on vacation and I refuse to let your bureaucratic slowness interrupt it." Seto was not going to pander to idiots.

"We can do this easy or hard Mister Kaiba. I suggest you go easy and come in for questioning."

"This conversation is over. My law firm will contact you about scheduling an appointment for my statement after our vacation. Unless and until you press charges don't bother me again." With a stifled snarl he ended the conversation and called his law firm.

A very bright sounding young woman's voice answered on the third ring. "This is Kaiba. Put me through to Fisker."

"Ah, one moment please." It was closer to forty seconds before his attorney's smooth tones came over the phone.

"Seto, what have you been up to? I've been reading all about your adventures. Did you really break the bank of some dog casino?"

"Yes, I did. The Bassett. I'm on vacation and don't want to deal with this. The police here and the gaming commission are being very uncooperative. They actually expect me to interrupt my vacation to come in for questioning. If they bothered to do their jobs, review the security footage and interview the other people there they would know that their charges are ridiculous and would require a simple statement. I believe they are 'fishing' for a trophy. Can you deal with it? No charges just threats so far. Detective Mascorelli and Ted Mannis from the Gaming Commission. I believe they are out of Vegas and that is where I'm going to be."

"I'll call them. I can put them off for about a week, then you might have to give a statement, depending on how much they have discovered on the other aspects of their investigation. Don't leave the state Seto. You have to stay there to take care of this. I'll fly out tomorrow and meet with them." Seto's criminal defense attorney - a person didn't get where Seto was without needing one - observed half humorously, "Good thing I am licensed in Nevada."

"I'm sure you will charge for it. Do you need to meet with me or can you take a statement now?"

"My admin just made the reservations. I'll be in Vegas by noon tomorrow. Why don't I meet you? What hotel are you staying at?"

"No hotel. I'm travelling with Joey Wheeler doing research for his work. He is the second party mentioned as my partner in crime. I'll call you about twelve fifteen and tell you where to come."

"Oh! The Joey Wheeler? The bestselling author?" Then, "Are you on his trip? Can I expect to see you in print? I'll bring along a release as well."

That was something Seto hadn't even considered. "Thank you. See you tomorrow." He hung up and turned to his love. "Are you going to put me in your book?"

Jou didn't hesitate a second. "Only if it fits and only if you sign a release."

"Huh. Smart. I'll sign a release if you agree to let me read it first and refuse it if I don't like it."

"No problem." Jou smiled sunnily. "The cops stepped in it didn't they?"

"Tried to threaten me." The CEO told him placidly.

"Over their heads and sinking fast in shit. They didn't step, they dove in head first." Jou said cheerfully. "Music?"

"Music." Seto agreed. Both of them laughing at Seto's choice - AC/DC's Problem Child. (Link


Setup of the circus was more complicated and labor intensive than Seto expected but he found he enjoyed it. The highlight of it was watching the big top go up. There was something genuinely inspiring about watching the center pole go up on a big top.

As the sun set, so did Seto's enthusiasm. He was tired, achy and ready to take a break. He was also fed up with listening to this one couple argue about everything from light position to lint. Even though they were married, had been married for years, Seto didn't give them another month together. There was too much animosity and anger. He found their company draining, and he was glad to escape from them. They had disappeared during his break and he hadn't sought them out again.

Jou on the other hand was as bright and energetic as he ever had been. The blond head seemed to be everywhere, involved in everything, talking to everyone. There was a kind of energy that seemed to draw people to him, draw them in and make them want to share his space and take him into their confidence.

He didn't envy his love that talent. Seto knew if he exerted himself he could be charming, but it wasn't his natural state, or at least what he considered his natural state, although Jou seemed to find him charming no matter what he was feeling, even when he was an admittedly bad tempered ass. Seto admitted, if only to himself, that it was a great relief not to have to put on a mask.

Ruefully he looked down at the black mask clasped in his hand. At least it wasn’t a mask over his true self. A 'Lone Ranger' mask was something else entirely. Seto couldn't believe he actually let himself be talked into performing at the circus, but somehow he had found himself agreeing to doing a sharpshooting performance in costume as the legendary American folk hero 'The Lone Ranger.' Jou was going to do a knife throwing performance as his trusty sidekick, Tonto. Who ever heard of a blond Native American? It was absolutely ridiculous, but at the same time, it sounded like a lot of fun. Besides, Jou had given very good reasons for it.

The first reason had been simple. Disguise. Nobody would recognize either of them from the pictures the newspapers had run; especially with the campy black wig Jou would be wearing. The second was equally simple although not as self-serving. The sharpshooting and knife throwing act were a husband and wife team that Seto had worked with all day. They had been fighting fiercely and Seto could see why neither trusted the other to perform safely.

Since Jou had mentioned he was great with knives, and subsequently proven it by putting on a show that still left Seto feeling slightly breathless with admiration, Seto had felt obliged to admit that he was well trained in guns of all types. He had actually enjoyed showing all of them, especially his lover, just how good he was with a firearm. There was something powerful about handling something that was literally a finger pull away from death. He thrilled with arousal caused by the power as each target shattered from his skilled shots.

When he'd laid the gun down it had taken a lot of self control not to stalk over to Jou and drag him off to their camper. Now, looking between his lover and the mask, Seto grinned inwardly and decided he had been patient enough.. The urgency had faded, but not the desire. Tired and achy he may be, but he knew, thanks to a scouting mission, of a very comfortable place that could take care of his pains, even if he was more tired afterwards.

The hidden grin peeked out as he put the mask on and tied it behind his head. With a grimace at the way it blocked his peripheral vision, he strolled over to where his love was chatting with a couple of scantily clad trapeze artists.

The women must have seen something in his expression because they giggled and exchanged wistful looks before excusing themselves. Seto gave Jou a mock serious look. "Stick 'em up."

"Uh... " Jou's eyed him, golden gaze lingering on the bulge that only his lover should notice in the loose, comfortable costume pants that resembled chaps over long underwear. "Looks like you've already got something up."

Using his finger and thumb as a pretend gun he jabbed the blond lightly in the ribs. "Come quietly and you won't get hurt."

"Huh, well, I've never cum quietly with you, and I don't think I'll start now." Amusement and lust swirled in the bright eyes. "So, where we going?"

"Shouldn't you be more worried about what I'm going to do to you?" Seto gave him a cold stare.

"Nah, I already know. You're going to have your wicked way with me. You are a bad man so I expect you to be very wicked." The blond pouted slightly. "If you're not I'll be disappointed."

Seto gave his best villain laugh - and damn it was good enough to send shivers down Jou's spine - and prodded Jou in the direction he wanted them to go. Golden eyes widened slightly as he realized that they were headed away from the circus and all the campers, across the bustling field.

"Uh, Seto..."

"Shut it, Miss Kitty or I'll have to gag you."

"But..." When he would have lagged, Seto prodded him again with his 'gun.'

"I'll hog tie you if you don't get moving." Thoughtfully the brunet pursed his lips. "Hog tied and gagged, now that has some possibilities."

"Oh..." Jou bit his lip and chuckled. He didn't say another word when Seto guided him to a small copse of trees and maneuvered him between several branches to an unexpected clearing with several low growing, thick branches. "Wh... How... Seto how did you find this place?" If Jou didn't know they were only a few hundred yards from the circus he would think they were alone in a forest somewhere. Everything around them was completely obscured, even sound was muffled and distant.

Seto gave another low, villainous cackle. "Every bad guy needs a hideout." The 'gun' changed back into a hand that yanked him close enough for Seto to catch his lips in a deep hot kiss, plunging his tongue deep as the warm lips parted in welcome. Greedy fingers dove under Jou's shirt, stroking and caressing upwards to stop and pinch his tightening nipples with a touch that bordered on painful before sliding around to cup the taut cheeks of Jou's ass. After a few appreciative squeezes, Seto delved into the crease, seeking and finding the small puckered opening. His touch was light but insistent as he pressed against the tight ring.

"Hmmm in a hurry? Seto we don't have any lu... Oh." Jou blinked as his love's free hand delved into one of the many pockets on the costume pants the brunet was wearing and pulled out a small bottle of lube. "Boy scout?"

"Bad man is not a boy scout. I just like to be prepared... And I want you to be prepared."

"Bad men don't care about..." Jou hissed and jumped, breaking off his teasing as Seto's now lubed finger pushed past the resistance of his ring. "In a hurry?" He squeaked again.

"Have things to do... banks to rob, trains to hold up. The usual." Seto worked his one finger in and out slowly, then with increasing speed. "Fuck Katsuya, I've been aching for hours. Do you mind I..."

Jou arched his ass back onto the finger that was fucking him and nuzzled into Seto's neck, widening his stance and relaxing his body the best he could. "A sidekick's gotta do what a sidekick's gotta do." With deliberate eroticism he sank his teeth into the delicate skin covering the pulse pounding in Seto's neck. "I've been aching too, I just thought we would wait until tonight."

"Crime waits for no man." Seto rasped as he sank a second finger deep in Jou's tight channel. "Jou, turn and lean on the branch. I have to get inside you now or I am going to lose it. You are so hot and tight I could cum just from the feel of you on my fingers and the memory of my dick inside that."

Jou whined slightly but obligingly stepped back and turned to lean forward on the branch just a step away. To his delight and relief Seto's fingers didn't stop their pleasurable dance inside him. "Mmm..."

"Bend a little lower, fold your arms on the branch and lift your ass higher." Seto instructed, eyes taking in the gorgeous sight of his lover bent low, ass high in the air, with Seto's two fingers moving in and out the way his cock was begging to do.

Seto slicked some of the lube onto his cock, and using the fingers buried deep in Katsuya, guided himself home, deliberately dragging his fingertips across Jou's prostate to lessen the shock and pain of his abrupt entry and the stretching of the tight opening to accommodate not only his cock but his two fingers too.

The distraction must have worked because Jou didn't flinch at all, instead he gave a keening cry and arched back forcefully as if to bring the retreating digits back inside his hole. Seto would have laughed villainously again, but his own pleasure stole his voice as his breath left him in a hard whoosh.

After that harsh exhalation and cry, the only sounds in the clearing was the hard slap-thud of flesh meeting flesh and guttural sounds that had meaning only to the two men making them. When Jou reached his peak, his voice was little more than a whisper, a soundless scream of pleasure that Seto felt in every cell in his body. It triggered his own release, and with a long, low moan, buried himself as far as he could inside Jou and shot his seed even deeper, painting the walls of Jou's tunnel with his cream.

The branch supported both of them as they slowly recovered. It was Jou who brought them back down with a laugh. "The Lone Ranger rides again." He teased.

"Hmmm I don't think he ever rode Tonto. Poor bastard." Seto teased back.

"Dunno about that. The Lone Ranger had chicks throwing themselves at him all the time. He always went and slept in a sleeping bag on the ground with Tonto rather than their soft beds. I wouldn't give up a soft bed for a sleeping bag if I wasn't getting laid in the deal." Jou chuckled tiredly. "Get off me Kemosabe, I need to pull my pants up. Don't suppose you remembered tissues did you? You blew a huge load and I don't want it visibly leaking."

Seto carefully disengaged their bodies, staring down at the puckered, reddened hole with the faint crisscrossing of white scars. Jou was right, a small trickle of cum was dribbling out. An unexpected hunger arrowed through him. When Jou would have straightened, Seto pushed him back down. "Hey what Oh my god..." Jou's words were choked off as Seto's tongue brushed over him, laving up the line of cum, following it back up to it's source and delving deep to find the rest.

Jou came twice more from the stimulation, both physical and emotional before he called a halt to what was probably the most intimate thing he had ever experienced. Seto wanted to continue pleasing Jou forever, wanted to always taste the mingling of their bodies. It never crossed his mind to censure what he was doing because there was no wrong between them, nothing unclean. It was them, just them. When Jou collapsed to the ground, losing his hold on the branch and his ability to stand, Seto reluctantly ended his ministrations and sank down to curl around his lover, nuzzling into the sweat damp blond hair murmuring his love and devotion.

"God Seto, I have never..." Jou broke off his raspy confession to choke back an unexpected sob. "You are so loving, I can feel your emotions inside me like I feel the beating of my heart."

"Mmm..." Seto continued to scatter light kisses on Jou's hair. "That is where I want to be, part of you."

Jou was the writer who made his living with prose, but in that moment he was completely without words to tell his lover how he felt, instead he forced his limp arms to coil loosely around the tall body cradled against him. "Aishiteru." It was a formal, unused word, something most Japanese people did not use, but somehow it fit the moment.

Seto strengthened his hold and pressed his lips tightly into the messy blond hair. Exhausted and content they drifted off into a light doze, lulled by the sighing of the desert wind through the leaves of the trees.


Mokuba Kaiba lasted all of two days at Mount Shasta before remembering that Aishira and Matashi were in California tending to some animal Seto had given them. In the two days he'd spent in the cabin with the psychologist, Mokuba had come to realize that no matter what Seto had said on the phone, Seto would never have left him. What Jillian had said on their quiet walks was true - they were brothers and nothing would ever sever that bond. Jounouchi was forcing his brother to act this way, either brainwashing or some kind of mystical crap, but Seto and Mokuba were bonded - brothers by blood. His brother would expect rescue no matter what he was forced to say or do.

Without compunction he left Jillian sleeping in her bunk, used her phone to call for transport since his was dead and he had no charger, and was gone from the cabin before she woke to an empty cabin.

Jillian looked around, not really expecting him to have left because he had not taken his clothes, but after a few minutes she checked her cell phone and after redialing the number, cursed enough to turn the air blue, then, after a few minutes sitting on the steps enjoying the company of a hummingbird, decided to stay for the rest of the week. The cabin was paid for and she needed a vacation. Trying to help a Kaiba was hard work, especially one that didn't want to be helped. The previous night she had thought they had made a breakthrough, that Mokuba was finally beginning to see that his attachment to his brother was beyond the bounds of simple brotherhood, but now she could see by his abandoning of her and what she had been trying to say that it hadn't been a breakthrough, but probably a regression. Maybe she should reconsider helping Mokuba Kaiba. An attractive ranger-uniformed woman with dancing eyes and an interesting sway to her body joined her on the steps.


Mokuba was at the penthouse in Los Angeles within four hours of calling. He had watched the sun rise from a seat in the small jet his security team had hired for an exorbitant fee. Money well spent in his opinion. His cell phone was fully charged, his wallet and credit cards on a same day delivery jet, and what was more important, he had full access to the Kaiba Corp bank of computers. His calls to Seto's banks and credit card companies had yielded only the knowledge that Seto had been forced to call them and remove all access to the information. Damn Jounouchi! How dare he force Seto to do that? How dare he come between them like that? The asshole blond might have a cute ass, but there was no way his ass was more important to Seto than Mokuba was and no matter what Jou did, in the end Mokuba would have his brother back. Everyone was wrong, Seto was in trouble, not avoiding him... No way would Mokuba ever accept that his brother would prefer some idiot over his own flesh and blood.

After a frustrating few minutes of programming the software Seto had in place to track people he considered 'of interest' Mokuba had the computers running searches, both legal and illegal, on his brother and the blond piece of trash keeping them apart.

He didn't bother to sit and watch as the computers did their work, he turned immediately to arranging for staff to monitor the computers twenty-four seven. When he had transferred the appropriate people from the local office, he called his friends.

Aishira answered on the second ring. "Hello?"

"Aishira, it's me. I'm at the L.A. penthouse. Where are you? The office? You're not staying here?" The younger Kaiba didn't bother with a greeting.

"Matashi and I are staying at an place a mile from the veterinary center. Currently we are feeding our pretty girl her breakfast." There was a distinct crunching sound and the phone line went silent.

Mokuba tried to call back only to have his call go directly to voicemail. Impatiently he disconnected without leaving a message and his phone buzzed as the screen lit up with Matashi's name. "Mokuba, our Chibi-ichi doesn't like her breakfast interrupted, sorry about that."

"Aishira dropped his phone in the kibble?" Mokuba snapped before recalling himself. "Sorry Matashi, I'm jet lagged and stressed." Before the older man could respond, the young Kaiba forced a cheerful tone. "Not your fault. So when do I get to meet your 'Little-one?'

"She has to rest after she eats, but we will be back to exercise her later. If the vet caring for her says it's all right you may join us. We are excited that we get to take her home with us for a bit and she may not be up to company right away."

Mokuba heard the reluctance in Matashi's voice and decided to end the conversation before the other man could retract his invitation. "Great, I'll call you about eleven and get the directions. I'm going to catch a nap. Talk to you later Matashi! Give Aishira a hug for me!" True to his word, after a long hot shower and a meal delivered from his favorite L.A. restaurant, Mokuba checked the computerized results, then went to take a nap.

Despite his intention to wake up before lunch and mend fences with Aishira and Matashi, Mokuba slept right through his alarm, sleeping well into the early evening. He woke slowly, reaching automatically across his bed for the warm body he was used to laying next to him. When his hand met cool sheets he sighed and opened his eyes as he felt the loss of his fiancee, Rebecca, again.

With a huff he rolled off the bed, catching sight of the clock as he rose to his feet. "Ah shit." He grumbled. He reached for his phone only to find the battery dead once again. He slid it into the charging cradle on the bedside table and picked up the house phone, dialing Matashi's number from memory instead of speed dial.

Matashi answered immediately. "Mokuba, your phone isn't picking up. Are you alright?"

"Yes, my battery died. I'm sorry I overslept and didn't get a chance to meet your Little One." He translated the animals' name to English when he apologized.

"That's fine. The vet wasn't supportive of you visiting yet, perhaps next week. She is still too unstable to get too excited and she is moving to our place, it might just be too stressful." The other man gave Mokuba the perfect out. He really wasn't interested in seeing some 'rescued' wild cat, even if Seto was the one to rescue it.

He grabbed the out with both hands. "I'll look forward to meeting the Little One in a week then. Where do you want to meet for dinner? Or is Aishira cooking?"

"I'm sorry Mokuba, if you had called us of course we would meet you for dinner, but Aishira and I have rented a secluded beach house and are going to spend a few days there with our Little One. As I said, the vet does not want her overexcited and relocating her will be stressful enough."

Disconcerted, Mokuba could only say "Oh." Then added "So you're not going to be in the offices this week?"

"I emailed you a few days ago. I thought my email is why you came out to California. There are some urgent issues that must be dealt with, and only by one of the principal stock owners - you or your brother. Read my email."

"Uh, aren't you interested in why I'm here if I didn't get your email?"

"No. I already know. You haven't given up on chasing Seto down on his vacation. We don't want anything to do with it. I suggest you focus on the company and leave your brother alone. Mokuba, for his sake and yours. Leave him alone." Matasha advised coldly.

"He is not on vacation. Jounouchi kidnapped him, tricked him or something. My brother wouldn't just leave me like that." Mokuba protested angrily.

"He did leave just like that. From what we found at his house he was planning it to be permanent too. I'm glad he's with Jounouchi and I wish them the best. Mokuba for god's sake, stop being an idiot. Do you even hear yourself? You are worse than an obsessed stalker." Exasperation and anger made the other man's voice harsh.

"You are wrong. Why can't you see that Seto would never leave me, never go on 'vacation?" Mokuba drew a calming breath. "Never mind. It's obvious you don't care about what's really going on. I'll handle the issues at the office. You take whatever time you need to deal with your Little One. Perhaps you can take the opportunity to look for new positions while you are on vacation." With a snarl he slammed the phone down on the cradle.

He spent that evening eating comfort food ordered from a local japanese restaurant and setting up the four workstations for the twelve aides he'd requested, developing routines and easy to follow instructions for monitoring and mining for information on Seto. At the same time Jou and Seto were enjoying their first night in the 'honeymoon' cabin at NBS Rocks, Mokuba went back to bed satisfied that he would soon save his brother from the kidnapping blond.

While Seto and Jou were enjoying their honeymoon, Mokuba trained his crew personally and handled the emergency that Matashi and Aishira had needed his help with. He was vaguely surprised and hurt when the other men didn't come to him offering apologies and help with Seto, but he pushed it aside, determined to rescue his brother. No matter what anyone said, Seto and him were at team, and there was no way Seto left him. He absolutely refused to believe it.

The night they celebrated their joining at a party that ended in decimating a condom bouquet, Mokuba decided that he had given Matashi and Aishira enough time to reconsider and analyze the truth. He would go and ask for any ideas or possible input about what else could be done to rescue his brother.

Their 'secluded beach rental' was easy to find, because they had left the information with the office. Mokuba borrowed one of the company cars and after checking the GPS, stopped to pick up a few bottles of the wine he knew Aishira was partial to. He was timing his arrival to coincide with dinner on purpose. He loved Aishira's cooking.

His first sight of the property was a shock. Secluded was one way to put it. Isolated and inviolate was another. There was a ten foot high stone fence all around what appeared to be several acres of prime beach front and wild mountain property. He knew his friends were private, but this place reminded him of a modern fortress, complete with a gate with electronic entrance.

He drove into an obvious visitor's parking slot and got out to ring the buzzer. Ashira's voice answered immediately. "Yes?"

"Aishira! It's Mokie. Open up, I want to apologize and I brought wine." The younger Kaiba was at his most charming.

There was a pause, then Matashi's voice came over the speaker. "Mokuba now is not a good time. Come back tomorrow please."

Mokuba barely controlled his shock at the snub. Swallowing back his anger, he responded "C'mon, I'm sorry for what I said. I was just worried about Seto. You can understand that? You know I didn't mean it. Let me come up and give you the wine at least. It's Aishira's favorite - Kayagatake, two thousand eight."

There was another pause, then Aishira, sounding torn, replied, "It really is a bad time Mokuba. I... I will meet you at the door but you cannot come in. We are entertaining and another guest would be awkward."

"Entertaining?" Outrage and betrayal welled up. They were having a dinner party and didn't invite him? Since when was he just a guest and a social liability?

"Yes. We are celebrating that we were able to bring home our Chibi-ichi." There was an electronic hum and the gates opened slowly. "Drive up and I'll meet you at the stairs."

Mokuba tamped down his feelings of hurt and anger and did as he was asked. Aishira was standing at the base of a sweeping staircase dressed in a colorful blue and white Kimono, obviously dressy, but casual too. He knew enough about his old friend to know that they were probably entertaining close friends, not associates. That meant Mokuba probably knew whoever was visiting.

He couldn't imagine who they would entertain that would not want to see him. He handed his friend the bottles and was driving away before he realized who might be there - Seto. In fact, that was the only thing that made sense. Seto and Jou were at Matashi and Aishira's. After all they would be the ones who would celebrate the release of the animal they had given to the couple. He was passing through the gate when he suddenly swerved to the side, jumped out and dashed through the shrinking opening. At a dead run he raced up to the house, stopping only when he reached the stairs.

Holding his breath, he tried the knob and to his great relief, it turned easily under his hand. Aishira hadn't locked it. Quiet as a mouse, he slipped inside and shut the door behind him. Head tilted, he listened for sounds to lead him to his brother.

Low murmurs, words indistinct, drew him down the hall to a set of doors left slightly open. Eagerly he peered through the slit, hoping to see his brother. Instead he saw Matashi pouring a glass of something rich and golden and handing it to someone just out of sight. Curious and anxious he tilted and leaned slightly to get a better view. He was so caught up in trying to see the unidentified person that he didn't hear the nearly soundless pad of feet behind him and was completely oblivious to the golden eyes staring at him with inhuman intensity.

Mokuba's first clue that he had been discovered was when something large and heavy hit him shoulder height, knocking him through the doors and pinning him to the floor. When Mokuba's swirling eyes cleared he froze as his first sight was of a grimacing maw of some kind of giant cat.

Instinctively he swung out to strike the cat only to find his arms caught and held firm. "What the hell?"

Aishira was holding his struggling hands tightly. "Don't you dare hit my Chibi-ichi. You're the one trespassing not her."

"Ch..Chibi? Th...This is your... Your..."

"Our baby. Right." Aishira smiled with pure love at the cat. "Come to Mommy, baby." He released Mokuba's hands to hold out his arms to the mountain lion. "You're shaking. Poor baby, did bad old Mokuba scare you?"

Mokuba flinched as the cat dug in and launched itself into Airshira's arms. Aishira had to be stronger than Mokie had ever given him credit for because the other man caught the cat as if it weighed nothing, and draped it over his shoulder like a silken scarf.

Cautiously, testing all his body parts, Mokuba sat up. "That's not a cat."

"Yes, it is a cat, a mountain lion true, but definitely a feline." Matashi snapped. "What the hell are you doing here? Get out."

"Matashi I..." Seeing the cat was busily playing with Aishira's hair, Mokuba straightened. "I know Seto is here. I want to speak to him."

"Seto is not here." For once the other man looked perplexed. "What gave you that idea?"

"You said your guests would... I could tell you didn't want me here because of your guests. I thought... well Seto is the only... well not Seto, but Jounouchi is the only one I could think of that wouldn't want to see me." The black-haired Kaiba looked around the room his eyes fixing on the other guests. "Oh."

"Mokuba." Yugi greeted softly. Rebecca simply inclined her head. Honda and Otogi deliberately turned their heads away, watching the cat as it slipped off Aishira and padded across to bat at the curtains.

"So you see Mokuba, not everything revolves around you and your obsessive compulsive desire for your brother." Rebecca stood and paced to the end of the room, standing beside the window where the lion was playing with the drapes.

"Shit, it is not an obsessive compulsive whatever. What the fuck is with you all? Don't you understand that Seto has been kidnapped?" Mokuba growled, frustrated.

"He hasn't." Yugi refuted quietly. "For some reason you refuse to see that he is with Jounouchi by his own will, that he has chosen to leave, whether permanent or not is up to him, but it was his choice Mokuba."

Mokuba wanted to scream, to yell, to do something to make them understand. Seto would not abandon him, not ever. Seto would die for him, didn't they know that? Why didn't they understand? "There is no proof, nothing, and I saw the recording of Jounouchi pulling him into the car."

"Seto himself told you didn't he? When we asked Jillian to speak with you, she told us about a conversation you had with him, one she overheard. Why won't you believe him?" Aishira asked softly, but with a note of pain in his voice that had the 'baby' lifting her head and looking at Mokuba with distinct menace, as if in recognition of Mokuba being the source of his 'momma's' pain.

"He was forced, I know he was." Desperate to convince them, he tried to find something anything. "Look there hasn't been any more recordings or pictures has there? There has to be a reason for that."

Yugi sighed and shook his head. "I don't know if this is going to hurt or help you, but there are pictures. Mokuba, Joey Wheeler gets tons of emails a day. He asked me take care of his inbox, sort them, put them into different sub-folders. He received an email from someone named Raymond that had photos of Seto and Jou taken a couple days ago. I... I will show you." The smaller man pulled out his smartphone and in a few minutes had pulled up the images.

Seto Kaiba filled the screen, playing with children, chasing children, rolling around wrestling, laughing in a way that nobody had ever seen before. Then there were pictures of him and Jou standing shoulder to shoulder limned in the sunset, sitting on a broad timbered wooden fence kissing, and the last picture was of Seto sprawled in a hammock, two children nestled against him as sound asleep as he was, and Jou standing next to the hammock staring down at them with an expression of absolute adoration. Nobody in their right mind could look at that expression and ever think that Jounouchi Katsuya could ever harm Kaiba Seto.

"He's not kidnapped Mokuba." Yugi said gently.

Mokuba watched the images, emotions boiling up from deep inside. Rage, jealousy, hatred, envy all coiled through him. How dare he? How dare that... that... loser dog do such a thing? "Brainwashed... Seto has been brainwashed. That is what I see. Either that or drugged out of his mind. He would never roll in the dirt with children. He barely tolerates them, never wants to be around them." It wasn't exactly true, but it was what he had always presumed.

What Mokuba didn't take into account was that because Seto had been forced to become an adult early and his growing years had been stunted by abuse and loss, Seto envied children and being around them hurt him, which is why he had avoided them. Mokuba didn't realize that by playing with children, accepting them, that Seto was growing past his pain and loss. Matashi and Aishira, who had spent the time since Seto had left talking to professionals about their dear friend, knew what it meant and were happy for Seto, for his growth and healing, and they were grateful to their souls that Jounouchi Katsuya was with their friend.

"Mokuba that isn't true." Aishira shook his head to emphasize his point. "He loves children. He couldn't have made the worlds biggest and best theme parks if he didn't. We've been talking to someone about him, about why he left and..."

"You what?" He screamed. Betrayal from someone he considered a friend brought all of Mokuba's emotions to a head. "You discussed my brother with someone knowing how private he is? You..." Impulsively he lifted his hand and took a step towards the other man only to tumble and fall when a tawny gold flash pinned him to the ground again, this time the mouth was opened wide, large white teeth resting against the skin of his neck. Terror froze him in place as much as the cat's weight.

Matashi sighed. "Ah yeah, need to warn you about that. Mokuba, Chibi-ichi doesn't like violence or anger and reacts badly." Carefully the other man approached. "Come to Daddy, baby. It's fine now, Mommy is safe."

There was a pause when Mokuba could feel the massive jaws flex and the teeth dug into his skin, then carefully the cat released his neck and stepped off his chest, hurtling herself into Matashi's arms.

Mokuba, wary but still infuriated, turned to let fly only to find himself grabbed by the arm by Honda. "Time to go now Kaiba. Just to let you know - never return to my and Otogi's home. You will never be welcome. You just accused our best friend of brainwashing and drugs, not to mention kidnapping. We react badly to that. The cat let you off easy. Show up on my doorstep again and you will hope Chibi-ichi is there." The tall brunet opened the door and tossed him out, accidentally sending him flying down the stairs. "Thanks for the wine."

It was only as Mokuba drove away that he realized that Honda had called him Kaiba, not Mokuba. For some reason that hurt almost as much as the shallow, stinging holes in his skin. Unconsciously he stroked his hands over the small beads of dried blood. Blood was thicker than water, it meant more than anything. He should have known that they wouldn't understand that. The pictures alarmed Mokuba more than they reassured him. The man in those pictures had his brother's face, but he was not Mokuba's brother. Didn't they see how wrong they were? Why couldn't they understand that Seto wasn't like that with anyone but Mokuba? Seto wouldn't take up with guttersnipes and Jounouchi's illegitimate bastards if he were in his right mind. Why couldn't they understand that Seto wouldn't behave that way unless forced or controlled in some way. Mokuba knew he was the only bright spot in Seto's life, the only one that Seto ever allowed in. Why couldn't anyone else see that? Not for a millisecond did Mokuba consider that he was wrong.

The first thing Mokuba did when he got back to the penthouse was order dinner, and while he waited, hacked Joey Wheeler's email account. He wanted to see the original email and get all the header and routing information. He would track down the source and find out where Seto was being held.

As he tucked into his dinner he dove into the hacked email of Joey Wheeler. He went straight to the emails with attachments, looking for the pictures that had shown his brother so clearly under the influence of something or someone. He didn't want to see his brother's weird looks and behavior again, he was looking for clues to location. He also wanted to decode the header and find the sender's location.

He actually didn't have to do more than open the email. A familiar logo on the email sent Mokuba to the NBS Rocks website where he read the bio of Raymond, the sender of the pictures, as one of the founders of the company. The site also detailed the NBS Settlement, the communal living, and there were several pictures of the living compound that were the same as in Seto's pictures. Before he was half finished with his meal he was on the phone arranging for a flight to the airport nearest the NBS Rocks compound.

He found that the nearest airstrip was two hours away from the commune and there was no shuttle, and the car rental office was located in town and closed about the same time he would be arriving. They did not offer after hours pickup or delivery so he wouldn't have a vehicle waiting. Disgusted he tried to think of a way to get to NBS Rocks and like a bolt of pure luck, his phone buzzed and Jillian's name appeared on the screen. If she had stayed, she could meet him there with her car. It was perfect.

"Jillian." He greeted warmly. "I was just thinking about you. Are you enjoying your vacation?"

"It's wonderful, thank you for giving me my privacy." The cop-psychologist's voice was coolly ironic.

"Are you still there? Or are you..."

"I am in Weed staying at a hotel. I want to know if you were going to accept my help or are you going to continually ditch me. I don't - won't waste my time on you if you're going to run off. I've had another offer."

A map of the area flashed through his mind and triumph surged through him. Yes, it was perfect. "Jillian I'm sorry, I just didn't feel safe there. It was too wild. I... I'll fly out tonight and meet you at... let me check for an airport. I think there is one in Weed or a few miles outside the village. I'll call you back with my arrival time." True to his recent behavior he hung up before she could protest.

Ten minutes later he was on the way out the door, pushing his empty food cart in front of him. The car was waiting to take him to the helicopter pad where the bird was warming up for their two hour flight. He would arrive just after eleven and he called the psychologist to let her know.

She answered cautiously. "Hello?"

"I'll be at the Weed airport in just about two hours. I'll see you then." Without allowing her to say another word, he hung up.

Jillian glared down at her phone, tempted to smash the stupid thing, and wondered again why she was bothering to try to help the youngest Kaiba brother. Yes she had agreed to talk to him, but enough was too much. She wasn't into torture or bashing her head into brick walls so why she even considered meeting Mokuba was beyond her. For a mental health professional sometimes her motivations were as clear as mud to her.

She was still angry about him leaving the cabin even though she had enjoyed her stay immensely. The jerk had been so inconsiderate and completely self-centered. Now he was expecting her to drop everything and run to the airport and pick him up. With a frown she looked over at the sexy park ranger she had been keeping company with since the day Mokuba had ditched her. They had rented this room because they wanted some privacy. Disgusted, she turned off the phone and tossed it onto the unused queen bed. It was time to clear the waters. Mokuba Kaiba was on his own for a ride from the airport. If it was convenient to her, she might help him out tomorrow. For now, other things were more important.

"Problem?" The black-haired woman asked Jillian from where she relaxed, totally nude on the other bed. A pizza box with half a pizza and a few beer bottles on the bed next to her.

"Nah, just work stuff." Jillian smiled and shook her head, "What was that you were saying about flowers being aphrodisiacs?"

Ranger Cavanagh grinned lasciviously. "Come here. I'll explain in detail."

Jillian laughed softly and swayed over to the bed, phone, airport and Mokuba Kaiba deliberately pushed far into the back of her mind.

Mokuba was surprised, but not concerned, when Jillian didn't meet him. He waited ten minutes before he called her, frowning when her phone went directly to voicemail. Another few minutes and the two more calls, both with same result. His chartered copter had taken off leaving him alone in the tiny terminal except for a cranky looking old woman who eyed him with distrust as she swept and mopped the floor.

After forty minutes he figured Jillian was lost, or a lost cause, and approached the woman who was putting away her cleaning supplies. "Excuse me ma'am." He greeted softly. "My ride seems to have gotten lost. Can you tell me where I may hire a cab or rent a car? I can't seem to find a number listed on the internet."

"No car rental at this airport. Hertz is in town and is closed for the night. Cab stopped running half an hour ago." She said prosaically.

"Oh." Mokuba blinked at that news. "I don't suppose you would give me a ride would you? I'd be happy to pay you."

"I really don't have space for a passenger..."

"A hundred dollars? I don't care about the seat or space, I just need a car ride into town."

"Not going to town. I live about two miles from here. Town's another five miles." She coughed slightly. "I can't take you to town. It's not a car. I have have a ninety six..."

"Okay then, how about I rent your... buy your vehicle from you? Two thousand dollars cash." He was glad he had taken the wad of cash from the safe, having learned his lesson about having something spare just in case. He had counted it and been surprised to find almost seven thousand in hundreds.

"Two thousand? But it's my..."

"Your only transport. I understand. All right, I'll pay four thousand." Probably some rusted out heap but Mokuba was desperate.

The old woman sighed and nodded. "Fine you want it that bad you can have it for four thousand, but you pay now and you take it and go. I don't want to hear another thing about it." She glared. "You are a rude young man. You need to learn not to interrupt people and treat your elders with respect."

All Mokuba heard was the agreement to sell the vehicle and the the rest was blah blah. He opened his wallet and pulled out the wad of hundreds, peeling off the four thousand, counting it twice, before handing it to her. "The keys and some kind of bill of sale?"

"Don't need a bill of sale. Here's the key." She tucked the cash into her blouse, obviously in her bra and pulled out a single key. "It's chained up outside. The lock sticks a little so work with it okay?" Without a word to him she turned and scurried away.

Frowning, Mokuba went outside to look at the vehicle that didn't need a key. There were no cars in the parking lot and the only thing with wheels in sight was a dilapidated old ten speed bicycle chained to a post near the doors. The padlock gleamed with almost preternatural shine in the haze of the airport lights. "No way." He rasped as he walked over and slowly fitted the lone key into the lock. It fit easily and when it turned with just a little sticking, he knew that it was true. He had just paid four thousand dollars for a bike that belonged in the junk heap.

Infuriated at being taken for a fool, he spun around and stalked back to the terminal, determined to confront the con artist old bat. He grabbed the door and pulled hard enough that the lock that had just been engaged shook the frame of the door. Snarling, he shook the door again, more violently, and the glass cracked. From inside the terminal an alarm began to wail.

Three minutes later - really where did they come from? - two security guards dropped on him like a bomb, pinning him to the ground roughly and laying a taser alongside his neck, daring him to 'breathe wrong.'

Mokuba was smart enough to shut up for once. He didn't breathe wrong or say a single word. He didn't even curse when the thieving con artist janitor hobbled out and asked 'John' to give her a ride home. She'd given her bike to charity. Yeah right, the charity of the gullible rube.

He explained he had been trying to get back inside the building to ask for directions to town when he had been startled and frightened by strange noises and pulled too hard. Of course he wasn't a terrorist, of course he would pay for the damages, and of course he was sorry.

Because it was an unprecedented event, and because he had access to his own aircraft, he was deemed a flight risk until it was all sorted out and he was a guest in their local jail for the night. The sheriff and judge would deal with him in the morning. The upside was that he had a ride to town and a bed to sleep in. The down side was that Mokuba looked really bad in orange. He couldn't believe they actually made him change into a jumpsuit for a single night's stay. When he protested the cop on duty said it kept people in the shared cells from fighting over clothes, and since Mokuba's clothes were particularly nice, there was sure to be a fight.

Mokuba bit back the obvious solution of a private cell. He didn't think that the cop would appreciate his input and he didn't want to stay longer than he had to because he opened his mouth when he should have stayed quiet.

He was sorry he hadn't made the suggestion when he was led to a small room with a commode, four metal bunks attached to the wall, and three men sprawled out on three of the bunks. The fourth bunk seemed to be in use as a storage shelf.

He was reaching for the first box to empty the bunk when an angry voice snarled, 'Don't touch my shit."

"Uh..." Mokuba looked down at the man on the bunk below his. "My bunk. If it's yours, move it. I want to sleep."

"Sleep on the fucking floor. I'm not moving a damn thing. Don't touch my shit or I'll kick your ass."

Mokuba would would like to see the asshat try. He wasn't going to let some jailhouse loser fuck with him. Determination hardening him to readiness of attack he reached for the box again. Before he could touch it a weathered hand gripped his. "Don't. You are dense and your blindness is a major cause of pain."

Mokuba swung around to face the person gripping his hand. His breath left him in a relieved whoosh. "What the hell? Who are you and why are you interfering?"

"That man is not to be 'messed' with, Child. He has killed others for less. You dying at this time would cause great harm. Come sit with me by the window and we'll keep each other company." The old man smiled slightly, showing surprisingly white, strong teeth.

"Window?" Mokuba looked around and saw a barred window he'd somehow missed before. "I see it now. I wonder why it's there. Aren't they afraid of contact with the outside?"

"Nothing out that window will interfere here - except me of course." The old man laughed as he led Mokuba away from the bunks. "I am is Licicint. You are called?"

"Mokuba Kaiba. Your name is.. Lee see sint." The younger man repeated doubtfully.

"It is who I am, chosen at my creation." A small smile lifted the lines of the old man's face. "As was yours I believe. Tell me, does it have a meaning?"

"It means wooden horse." Mokuba admitted quietly.

"Ah what a troublesome name. Your choices are so diverse with such a name. Are you a wooden horse for joy, like a child's toy brings happiness, or are you a wooden horse like the famed Trojan Horse, bringing destruction and death to those who care for you? Outwardly a gift but inwardly empty of all save betrayal."

"What the hell?" Mokuba yelped and started to back away, only to be caught by the weathered hand again.

"I am not the one who gave the name to you, nor am I the one who decides what you do with it. Settle down and tell me about yourself. Do you have family?"

Reluctantly Mokuba settled back against the wall. Above him he could hear the sounds of birds chirping outside the window and it relaxed him enough to admit. "I have an older brother, Seto."

"Seto Kaiba." Licicint mumbled thoughtfully. "It has a meaning too. Do you know what it is?"

"I... uhm... Seahorse. It means seahorse." He was uncomfortable discussing his brother with this man.

"What a great name. Patience, generosity, intelligence, and the future growth into a creature of great power. Tell me, does your brother live up to his name?"

"He raised me when our parents died." Mokuba said almost defiantly.

"Yes, of course he would. A male seahorse is a natural parent, carrying the young. Is he lonely with you not with him? Seahorses are solitary creatures, allowing only specific people around them. Some have been known to die rather than suffer the company of a creature they can't abide."

"He... I... We haven't spoken in a while but I'm trying to catch up to him so we can be together like we should be." The admission was difficult, and Mokuba wanted to call the words back as soon as he said them.

"Catch up to him? Has he left you? If he has maybe he has decided you do not need a parent and has decided to let the current carry him along on adventures." The old man paused as if expecting an answer. When there was none, he said quietly "Seahorses do not migrate much, they move too slowly. However they do wrap around their homes and anchor deeply. If their homes migrate, the seahorse will move with them. You know this? Has your brother perhaps found his home?"

"I am his home." Mokuba snarled violently.

"He wouldn't have left you if you were. You were his child and he left when you no longer needed a parent. That is typical of seahorses. Many are prey to their own currents and are dragged out to sea, never seen again."

Rage spiralled through Mokuba. How dare this man presume anything about him or his brother. "You don't know me and you don't know Seto. He would never leave me! He would never anchor with Jounouchi! You don't know a damn thing."

The old man sat back and folded his hand in his lap. "Of course I don't. I was simply discussing names. My name means hummingbird in my language. Hummingbirds are messengers and sometimes I find myself the bearer of unwelcome news." The old man glanced up at the window and sighed. "I will leave you alone now. Please think on what I said. If... If you look for me again, empty wooden horse, I will come to guide you."

A snarling sigh from behind him brought Mokuba's gaze to the sleeping man on the nearest bunk. When he turned back, the old man was gone. When he glanced up at the window he blinked in shock. There was only smooth stone walls.

He jumped and yelped, and a hard thud brought him full upright. Mokuba glanced around, taking in his position on the top bunk, the boxes on the floor, and the rousing men in the room. "What..."

"You okay?" The growling, threatening man from the bottom bunk grumbled.

"Uh yeah. Ah, about your stuff."

"No worries. I told you to move it didn't I? Didn't know we was getting another drunk or I'da moved it m'self." The man, not the hulking lump he remembered from the night before, but a young man with bleary eyes and peach-fuzzed face eyed him. "Don't get many newbs in here, but I guess it's because you're obviously fresh and nobody in here is going to mess with you." With a shrug the young man shuffled to the toilet and whipped out his dick, releasing a stream of urine that Mokuba could smell from across the room.

"Ah okay. So... uhm... what happened to the other guy, Licicint?"

"What other guy? Only four in this room. Me, you, and them." He pointed to the men sliding out of their bunks. "I'm Gabe, the guy on top with the red hair is Louis, and the bald guy on bottom with the tats is Dave. We're the three musketeers. Got stuck in here for ninety days for a bar fight. What did you get stuck with?"

"I broke a window at the airport." Mokuba bit his lip, hating to admit it.

"Shit man, why would you do that? It's federal. Besides there’s no money in it. Place is broke and going under faster than a torpedo."

"It was an accident. I was trying to get back in to get directions. There was a... sound. It startled me and I pulled too hard on the door."

"Huh. Well still destruction of fed property. Gonna be some serious fine there. Hope you got rich friends." Louis remarked as he stood in front of the commode, opened his fly and relieved his bladder.

"Ah, well I... I will call my - a - lawyer and ask him to handle it." Mokuba mumbled, averting his gaze from the urinating man. "So when do you guys get out?"

"Today or tomorrow. Depends on when the judge signs the papers for release. Guy's being a dick because I don't do family politics." Dave sighed in relief as his bladder drained in a golden stream in the commode. "See Judge Ramons is my uncle. He took in me and my sister when my dad took off a few years back. He fed us and clothed us and all that shit, never let us forget it either. All I ever heard was about how worthless my dad was. I ain't saying he was great, but he was my dad and I didn't want to hear it. I took off and moved in with Louis and Gabe when I was eighteen. Been two years and the ass still calls me an ingrate."

"Your sister?"

"She's stuck so far up his ass she's only fourteen and talking about college. Want's to be a lawyer and judge, just like him."

"What about your mom?" Mokuba didn't want to know, not really, but he didn't want to think about his straining bladder and the unflushed toilet just a few yards away.

"What about her? She took off after Donna was born and never looked back." Dave waved, "Piss dude. We can only flush a few times because of water restrictions. We like to save our flushes after we dump."

"Oh didn't know." Mokuba straightened his shoulders and crossed to the toilet. He pretended he was back in school, in the communal bathrooms there, rather than a jail cell with strange men. The image helped release his straining bladder, to his great relief.

He washed his hands in tepid water with bar soap, something none of his cell mates did. "So, breakfast? Is that why we are up now?"

"Always up at the buttcrack of dawn. What's your name?"

"Oh yeah, sorry. I'm Mok... Mokie. Nice to meet you. So why are we up at the buttcrack of dawn?"

"Make the bunks, then they check on us, make sure we didn't escape. Then shower, breakfast, and legal shit. Hopefully we will get out today. Longest they can keep us is one more day." Gabe tilted his head in consideration. "You, they could probably call the feds on and keep you until the fed judge deals with you. How big was the window you broke? Cost more than a thou to fix?"

"Couple hundred max. The glass wasn't even tempered or bullet proof." Mokuba knew security and glass very well.

"That's good. The most they can hold you is a year then." Dave shrugged. "What do you think Gabe? Louis?" Dave knew a lot about it obviously. Either from practical experience or from being in the company of a judge was anyone's guess. Mokuba didn't want to ask.

"Depends on if he's got a record I guess." Gabe studied him carefully. "Got any kind of record?"

"Of course not, unless you count a few speeding tickets?" Mokuba was doubly glad that some of his exploits had been cleaned up by his brother.

"Probably just have to pay for the damage. Not like you're some kind of foreigner or something. If you were from another country there could be a pro... What's wrong?" Louis gave him a worried look. "You just went white as a sheet."

"I'm Japanese. My brother said I should become a citizen but I hadn't decided yet. I... Uhm... But the U.S. and Japan are allies, right?"

Dave frowned and slowly shook his head. "Dude you are fucked. My uncle, the judge, hates Japs. Seriously, his dad was on the Arizona. Body was left on the ship."

"But I had nothing to do with that." Mokuba protested.

"Don't matter a damn. He considers all Japs cowards, dishonest and sneaky. Might help that you don't really look Jap, but when he finds out you're in deep shit. Blames them for his dad's death and he won't believe a word you say. When you get a chance call your lawyer and have him move it to fed court or you will get the max, in as hard a time as you can get. Believe me on this. Call a freaking lawyer and get the hell as far from here as possible."

Mokuba nodded, his heart missing a beat as he realized that he really could be stuck in this jail for a while. "Show me how to make the bunk please? I don't think I know how." Louis chuckled and crossed to give him a lesson on bunk making.

After breakfast Mokuba requested his phone to make a call and was told to use the guard's office phone. After explaining that he needed a phone number from his phone, the guard grudgingly asked what number.

"It's unlisted. I need to call my friends. They will get a lawyer for me." Mokuba explained tightly.

"Well then it looks like you are going to have to call someone else." The man said indifferently.

Mokuba racked his brain, finally coming up with what he hoped was Jillian's number. Showing more confidence than he felt he dialed the number. Jillian’s low voice answered on the third ring. "Hello?" Her voice was tentative and vaguely curious.

"Jillian!" Mokuba breathed a sigh of relief. Sure he was still pissed at the bitch for leaving him stranded - this was all her fault - but right now he needed her to get him out of this.

"Kaiba. Didn't you get the message last night? I am not at your beck and call."

"Jillian, I'm sorry, I really am. I need your help. I... I had a problem at the airport last night and now I'm in jail. Can you.. Will you come help me with this? Please?" He hated to grovel, his brother had always said for him to stand tall, but his brother had also always done what had to be done, even if it meant swallowing his pride.

"Jail? What did you do now? Insult the pilot? Threaten the stewardess? Fart at the ticket counter?" She sounded more exasperated than concerned.

"I pulled too hard on the door and cracked the glass. Only thing is, I'm still a Japanese citizen and according to the people here the judge isn't going to like that, something about some Arizona thing killing his dad. Please Jillian, I won't ever ask you for anything again, but please, just come and help me with this."

Jillian's first thought was 'is he serious?' Then, 'he's calling the death of hundreds aboard the Arizona and attack on Pearl Harbor a 'thing'? What the hell did they teach these kids in Japan?' His desperation tugged at her though and she set aside her outrage and disgust. "I'll see what I can do." Ignoring his attempts at gratitude she disconnected the call.

He didn't see Jillian, or anyone remotely friendly, for several hours. He did meet the judge and the sheriff. Neither were inclined to simply let him pay for the glass and let him go without pressing charges. They all but called him a liar about why he had accidentally broken the glass. It was a lie, but his reasons hadn't been terroristic as they implied. In the end they decided to wait for a federal investigator to be dispatched, and a federal judge to look at the evidence. Until then Mokuba would be a guest of their jail.

Mokuba protested of course, but it did no good. The only concession he received was a second orange jumpsuit. When he got back to his cell he found the other three there as well. "Thought you guys would be out of here."

"Nah. Snafu in paperwork. Missing a something or other. Could take as long as a week." Dave stared down at his hands. "I hate the fucker. He did it on purpose to keep us in here longer."

"He's a shithead." Mokuba agreed. "He was all for me paying for the glass until he saw on my paperwork I am Japanese. Then he insisted on a terrorist check and federals to handle it. They said it could take as long as a month."

"Man they are really shafting you." Louis sighed. "Too bad you don't know somebody local."

"I called someone I thought would help. She is a federal cop, and she is in town. She blew me off." That actually hurt. Jillian had said she would do something and she'd abandoned him, just like... just like his brother.

They were in their cell waiting dinner when a guard walked in, leading Jillian. Mokuba leapt to his feet eagerly, expecting the guard to open the cell. Instead the man stepped back and motioned for her to step forward. "Jillian, thank you! What took so long?"

"Oh you're welcome, although you are going to owe me big time for this Kaiba. First, there are no charges against you. You are being held on 'suspected terrorism.' Because you are not a citizen you don't have our rights. They can hold you indefinitely. However, I have contacted several people about this - it is just a cracked window - and I have the federal prosecutor, federal marshal, Homeland Security as well as a lawyer specializing in this kind of harassment looking into this. They will arrive tonight. Tomorrow your local yokels will be answering to them all for this. It isn't smart to use terrorism to disguise bigotry and harassment. Also, did you give your clothes, watch and smartphone to the deputy at the desk as a gift? He had them all. Claimed they were confiscated in a terrorist raid."

"I did not. No way in hell would I give them the sweat off my..." He broke off when she coughed slightly. "No I didn't give them anything of mine."

"Didn't think so. You're a selfish prick and it would never occur to you to... " She broke off shaking her head. "Never mind. It's enough to know they stole from you." She turned to the man standing behind her. "I've said what I wanted to. Please escort me back to the desk. I'll have a word about the 'gifts' this man took."

"Wait. Fisker, Robert Fisker out of New York handles stuff like this for Seto. Give him a call please?" Mokuba said desperately as she turned away.

"I'll look him up, but I've done all I can for you right now."

"Wait, there's more I need you to check on." The younger Kaiba said impulsively.

“I am going to make a few more calls. I don't..."

"No, not for me. Them. They were sentenced to ninety days for a bar fight. They were due out today but there is a missing paper or something. Can you see... I mean..." Mokuba faltered to a stop at the strange look that crossed Jillian's face.

"I'll look into it Mokuba." She glanced around at the boys in the cell. "No promises." With a brusque nod she turned and strode away.

Mokie turned to his cellmates expecting something, a comment or maybe some kind of gratitude, instead he was met with stares of recognition and something very like glee. "What?"

"She called you Kaiba. Mokie Kaiba, Mokuba Kaiba. Spoiled brat baby brother to the one and only Seto Kaiba. No wonder you weren't worried, you had a fed on tap." Gabe said softly.

"Must be nice to be that rich." Dave whistled softly. "So where is your famous big brother. He'd probably burn this place to the ground to get you out."

"Ah... uhm... I... You know my brother?" It was dumb, but it was the only thing he could come up with.

"Know him? Fuck no. My dad worked for Disneyland before he took over though. Quit before then. Didn't want to live in southern Callie any more. Dad kept up, and after he took off I did too, kinda hoping my dad went back there." Dave shrugged. "When KC took over Disney I laughed until I cried. They were jerks to work for."

"Human resources are an issue we've been working on." Mokuba admitted modestly.

"Yeah, I'm sure. So what's it like having someone like Seto Kaiba for your brother? You guys close or is he a dick to you?"

"I don't know what you mean, someone like Seto? Seto is great, he is always there for me, always has my back, we do everything together." Or used to. Mokuba realised that it was no longer true, and it was all his fault.

"He's a genius right? Gotta be hard to live with. Didn't I hear you got engaged? How is he with that? How is your fiancee with you two being so close? My girl used to get pissed when I hung too much with Louis and Gabe."

"He's a genius, and he can be mean about it." Mokuba didn't hesitate to admit that. Everyone knew Seto could be difficult. "My fiancee, Rebecca and I broke up because she was jealous of my relationship with Seto. She didn't understand how close we are, how much we need each other."

"Dude, that sounds weird. I mean, you don't break up with your girl because of your brother." Dave frowned. "I mean your brother would have got over it right?"

Gabe shook his head, interrupting. "No you don't. I mean sure if it's just a fling yeah, bros before hos, but a fiancee? That's like forever shit." He shook his head again. "Bet she would be here now. Question is, where the hell is your genius brother?"

Mokuba didn't have an answer, not one he could explain in any way they would understand. Instead of trying to formulate an answer they could accept he turned to the wall and imagined he was looking out a window watching a hummingbird dance among flowers.


Seto adjusted his mask and his six shooters, making sure that the hammers on his guns were not cocked and the locking straps were snug. He didn't want someone to accidentally, or deliberately, pull one of the guns and get hurt. It would be two hours before his next show, his third, and there was just enough time to grab a heavenly burger and meet with his lawyer.

Robert Fisker was waiting exactly where Seto had texted him to wait, on the small bench next to the burger stand. The 'Lone Ranger' didn't wait in the small line for his lunch, instead he went to the back and knocked on the door. One of the acrobats, now out of costume, opened the door and grinned at him. "Two burgers, catsup and mustard and tomatoes coming right up. You just missed Tonto. He's talking to Gagne at the Monkey cage."

He'd just left Jou by the foul tempered, worse smelling monkeys. "Thanks."

She pulled her head back in and returned in just a few seconds holding out two wrapped burgers. "Enjoy."

He smiled slightly and nodded. How could he help but enjoy what had become his favorite food. Spurs jingling he went around the vending booth and sat down next to the woefully out of place lawyer. "Fisker, you need to relax. This is the circus, not the circuit court."

Astonishment covered the man's face. Seto was more than mildly amused, he laughed outright. The man was a lawyer with one of the best poker faces ever, and here he was gaping like a child - at the circus.

"Kaiba?" Robert gasped after finding his voice, if not his poker face.

"You were expecting someone else?" Seto asked, taking a big bite of his burger.

"No, no of course not." The lawyer rapidly regained his composure. "It is unexpected to find you here, in such an outrageous costume."

"Stay a couple hours you can watch me perform." Another bite woofed down. "So did you contact them?"

"Yes, and as expected, they are stonewalling, demanding an interview with you and your companion." Shrewd eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "I'll arrange for a meeting, but I should hear everything from you and your friend first."

"There isn't a lot to tell. I was working my way up the strip winning a stake to play with in Vegas when I went into the Bassett. My companion is my old school koohai, Jounouchi Katsuya. He is a duelist of some renown. He beat me not long ago. He goes by the name of Joey Wheeler in the States and is quite famous for his books. He takes odd jobs as he travels around the country meeting new people and having grand adventures. He was working at the Bassett as part of his research. The manager, Mark, refused to give him his pay and sexually harassed him, then lied to me about it. Simple as that. He pissed me off so I broke the bank. The owners were there at the time, and Katsuya was hovering over my shoulder. There was no cheating or any kind of underhanded play."

"I believe you, but maybe I could talk to..." Robert broke off as a man with braided black hair and buckskin shirt and pants, completely with fringe and knee high moccasins, leaned over the back of the bench and took a bite from one of Seto's burgers. "Ah... Tonto?"

"Joey Wheeler, AKA Tonto." The man said through a mouthful of burger and bun. "Got tired of monkeys. You want to talk to me?"

Seto sighed and handed the remains of his first burger blindly over his head. "Eat."

Robert goggled at them both as, instead of taking the proffered food, Joey caught Seto's hand and brought it up to his mouth, using the 'Lone Ranger's' hand to feed himself. "Ah, uhm. Nice to meet you Mister Wheeler. I've read all your books."

"Mmm.. fanks." Another bite from Seto's hand muffled the words.

"Robert, pop your eyes back into your head, it's starting to scare the children." Seto ordered placidly, his one hand still held up, feeding 'Tonto' while the other hand maneuvered the wrapper off a second burger. "The reason that the manager has been spewing about wives and husbands et al, is because Joey and I are together, we are married heart and soul, even if we don't have the paper to prove it yet. That will change as soon as we get around to it. We addressed each other as husband in his presence." Still completely calm and in control, despite the fact that Joey was now licking the traces of burger from his relaxed hand, Seto took a large bite of his second burger. "Is that going to be a problem?"

Robert looked around the circus desperately. This was too surreal. Seto Kaiba dressed as some nineteen fifties singing cowboy? Breaking banks at casinos because of insults to... his husband? Who happened to be dressed as a singing cowboy sidekick? What the hell? Had he fallen into an alternate dimension? Had his plane crashed and this was hell or some coma induced dream? "Kaiba... I am having trouble believing this situation. Perhaps..."

"What is to believe? We are on vacation, currently travelling with the circus. I am part of the entertainment industry and many innovations can be found here." Seto's voice, which had been casual and amused, came out in brisk, cold tones that Robert was used to. "There was a shortage of an act and since Joey and I had the skills we filled in."

Now that made sense. Research for his business definitely made sense. However, "You and Joey Wheeler are a couple? You want to marry?"

"Yes. Not so odd, most people marry. Why are you shocked?" Joey leaned down and instead of stealing a bite of burger, stole a quick kiss on the high cheekbone just under the black mask.

"It's just that..." The lawyer sighed and shook his head. "Just that it's well known that Seto doesn't date or have a steady relationship. He's considered asexual by most of the people who know him."

Joey's lips curved into a smirk. "Guess they don't know him well, 'cause there ain't nothing 'asexual' about him. Hottest lover in the known - and unknown - universe. Trust me on that, though 'cause he's all mine."

Seto smirked and said courteously, "Thanks Jounouchi. I'll put it on my resume."

"Don't mention it." Definite teasing lit the brown eyes. "But you don't need no resume for that, you got a several lifetime gig lined up, remember that." Another kiss on the cheek under the mask. "Now let's stop fucking with his head and get down to business."

Robert blinked at the distinct pout that curved Seto Kaiba's - Seto Kaiba's - lower lip. "No fair. I was enjoying his eyes bulging out of his sockets."

"You were messing with my head?"

"Couldn't resist. You looked so shocked and I have found that I enjoy shocking people." Seto was completely unapologetic. "But what we said was true. Now that you know the facts, can you handle it?"

"Of course." Robert wanted to huff and snarl, but the relaxed smile and blue eyes that sparkled at him from behind the mask made him hesitate. Seto Kaiba had never been happy, to the best of his knowledge, he'd never even been photographed laughing. Was it such a bad thing for the man to tease a little? If his client was happy dressed as the Lone Ranger, travelling around the country with Tonto, was it bad? He didn't know, but the sparkle said no. Besides everyone knew that rich, unworldly people ran afoul of the law frequently. This new Kaiba would be a repeat customer. Not a bad thing at all. "I did receive a voicemail from a federal agent regarding Mokuba. I haven't returned the call yet, but did you want me to handle that as well?"

"Is he alright?" The question was almost automatic.

"Got into some trouble up in some place called Weed. Something about a broken window. I'll go talk to the gaming commission and cops for you then fly down and get information on what's going on. You want an update?"

Seto hesitated, lowering his burger to his lap. The hand that had been feeding Tonto was now gripping the other man's hand tight. "I..."

Jou leaned forward and nuzzled into the top of Seto's head. "Keep him informed but don't let Mokuba know. Mokuba's having some issues with accepting responsibility as an adult and..."

"Katsuya..." Blue eyes turned to look up at his lover. "Are you... Is it...Okay?" Uncertainty and a kind of soft sadness made the lawyer blink in as much shock as he'd felt earlier. Seto Kaiba uncertain? Sad? Asking for another's permission? The world was going to end any second.

"Seto, he's your brother and you love him. It's not healthy for you to ignore who you are, who you have always been, simply because you are trying to grow. Keep tabs, give him support, but don't let him know. That way he can't take advantage." The golden eyes that blazed down at Seto were lit with love, warmth and acceptance.

The lawyer watching them swallowed down a lump of envy. He had never seen that much caring in his life, and the aching void just seeing it caused was enough to make him want to cry. Seto Kaiba was definitely changing, but if that kind of love and devotion was supporting him, Robert had no doubt that it was definitely the best thing for his client.

"Robert, please handle it and keep me informed, but do not let Mokuba know I know or agreed, also don't let him know that you've seen me. Weed is a little too close for comfort. Be sure to send his portion of the bill to him. I don't pay his bills any longer." Seto lifted the burger and took a big bite, all uncertainty gone from his face.

"Of course." Robert grinned slightly. "I'll call you, if you'll give me your number?"

"Only if you do not give it to anyone - I mean anyone - else." Seto gave him a direct look.

"Of course. Client confidentiality. I'll call you when I have something to tell you." With a nod to the buckskin-clad Tonto behind Seto he stood and turned back towards where he had parked his rental. As he walked away he could hear Seto grousing about another burger and Joey Wheeler's response about Seto eating as much as he did. The last thing he heard of the conversation was his client's challenging "So?" He was happy for Seto Kaiba and Joey Wheeler.

Seto grumbled enough that Jou went and got another two burgers and then flopped down next to his lover. "So, you think teasing your lawyer is fun?"

"Robert Fisker is a lot like I used to be. He... He needs shaking up. I enjoyed it a lot, and I hope he... I hope he did too." Seto unwrapped his burger and took a big bite, humming his approval.

"Yeah, I'd say both of you enjoyed that." Jou snarked and bit into his own unwrapped sandwich. "He's pretty hot. You weren't ever interested?"

Seto blinked and turned startled eyes on his disguised blond. "What? Are you jealous or..." Realization filled him. "Jerk." But laughter sparkled again in the blue eyes.

"You like teasing him, I like teasing you. Seems like a fair trade." Jou grinned mischievously.

"I don't want to repeat myself, but... Jerk." Seto mock pouted as he finished his burger.

Jou laughed to himself as he shifted to lean against Seto's shoulder. "Suki desu."

Seto grunted and swallowed, mumbling softly "Suki." Katsuya's happy laughter rocked them both on the tiny bench.

When Seto's voracious appetite for burgers was satisfied, Jou nudged him to his feet. "Time to go visit Annabelle. She isn't performing today because the vet said she could deliver any time. I have to go spell Rolf for a bit. Come hang with me?"

Seto sighed and patted his belly. "Now I know why you fed me. You wanted to bribe me to hang out with you while you babysat Annabelle. That animal is grumpy Katsuya. That makes her dangerous."

"You would be grumpy too if you were preggers for twenty two months. Sheesh, and she is overdue by three days. How would you feel if you were carrying around over two hundred pounds in your belly?"

"Depends on how much fun I had getting pregnant." Seto quipped outrageously as his long legs started walking towards the elephant's trailer.

"Figures you'd say that when you're safe from getting knocked up." Jou teased back.

"I'm more than willing to let you try to get me pregnant." More silly outrageousness, but it made them both chuckle.

"I'm more than willing to try... Oh Seto! Look, the vet's van is here." Jou's voice rose a couple octaves. "Rolf said that he would only come again when she was in active labor."

"Guess he doesn't need us to spell him then." Seto turned away from the trailer.

"What? Aw, c'mon, how often do you see an elephant being born?" Jou touched his arm lightly.

"About as often as I want to - which is never." Seto curled his lip slightly. "Normal sized mammal birth is messy, smelly, and completely disgusting. An elephant birth is that on a mammoth scale. I've been to several 'births' of our attraction animals and always end up wearing some kind of birth related fluid or slime. I'll pass."

"What are the odds? She wasn't even in labor a few hours ago, but okay." Jou gave him a questioning look. "Do me a favor though? Let's check the status and you go give Dave an update?"

"I suppose." Seto agreed grudgingly. He didn't want anything to do with birthing baby elephants or the slime-fluid hazard.

"Thanks." Jou threaded their arms together, turning the tall brunet around at the same time. "I can't wait. They are going to have a contest the night the baby is born. One of the kids in the audience is going to name it."

"Sounds like a good PR gimmick. Should be lots of fun and bring in some revenue." Seto observed casually.

"Yeah, definitely." Jou came to a dead stop as a thought occurred to him. "Seto, what are we going to name our kids. I mean I know adopted might mean they already have first names, but are they going to be Kaiba, Jounouchi, or Wheeler?"

"Hmm...I have a better question. Which of us is going to take the other's name?" Seto asked straight faced.

Golden eyes widened in shock before narrowing, "Oh you are messing with me."

"Not at all." Seto countered smoothly. "But I have a suggestion."

Jou eyed him with suspicion. "I'm sure. Let's hear it."

Seto was tempted to tease his love more but decided to go with an honest response. This was obviously very important to Katsuya. "We keep our names and hyphenate for the kids. Kaiba-Jounouchi, Or Jounouchi-Kaiba. We'll flip a coin when the time comes. Fair?"

"How 'bout we duel for it?" Jou bargained.

"Forget it. You would lose." Seto shook his head. "Flip a coin is at least even odds."

"Did you forget I beat you not too long ago?" The bewigged blond reminded smartly.

"Idiot, it was my goodbye gift to you. You know I..." He broke off when he found himself squeezed in a tight hold. "What... Katsuya what's wrong?" He could feel the sudden trembling that shook the other man’s body.

All of the rigidly controlled emotions swirled through Jou, cracking through his hard won calm. He knew he should be angry at Seto for throwing the match, hell he probably would be some time in the future, but right now fear, panic, and a storm of other emotions were uppermost. "Shit Seto, I know and you know, and you know I know, but damn it when you say it like that, when I think about how close you were to... How close we came to almost missing this. It scares the hell out of me."

Seto cradled his shaking lover close, rubbing his slightly hamburger-greasy hands on the chamois of the fringed buckskin costume. "I'm sorry. You've almost never shown me any kind of upset so I thought... I didn't think it would bother you if I talked about it."

Jou burrowed into Seto's chest, obviously seeking comfort and trying to hide from the question. Seto wouldn't allow that any more than Jou allowed him to hide away. He pushed Jou's head back and forced the golden gaze to meet his.

When Jou saw that his lover wasn't going to let him evade, he sighed and closed his eyes tight enough to bring the tears he had hidden all along to the surface. "I'm upset about you almost offing yourself. Hurting for you, pissed at Mokuba, and scared half out of my mind you'll change your mind about sticking around." Jou confessed for the first time. "But you don't need that kind of emotional crap on you, especially not from me, so I just... I live in the moment."

Seto groaned and pulled him back into the curve of his body. "Katsuya, I'm not going to change my mind. Not in this lifetime or the next dozen. The only thing that could take me back to that dark place is if you died. If you left me I'd hunt you down, so you running away wouldn't do it. You are as essential to me as my heart. I know you don't think that's healthy or normal, but that is who I am - I need purpose and direction. Without you I am... nothing. I need you to need me. When you die I will stay long enough to see to my responsibilities, then I will walk in front of the nearest bus. If our children still need a parent I will do what I must until they are able to care for themselves, then I will join you. You may not want it, but there it is. I love you - You are my everything."

Katsuya gripped him convulsively, nearly crying with his mixed emotions. They stayed locked together for several moments before he cleared his throat and stepped back. "You can't take that back, not ever. God as sick as it sounds, you have made me the happiest man, even though I know it's wrong, part of me likes knowing I'm your everything. I mean... I know ... but it doesn't feel... aww fuck me."

"Every day of our lives, but not right now." Seto gave him a steady smile, his eyes bright and clear. "Right now you have to watch some elephant cow give birth and I have to bring a circus clown the news of the new arrival."

"Annabelle. Right." Jou gave him a wobbly smile. "Let’s go Seto." He threaded their fingers together and held on tightly to his lover's hand.

Jou poked his head through the door not wanting to come fully inside if it upset the laboring cow. He needn't have worried. The new mama was busily wiping down her newborn babe. "Ooh... Seto come look."

Seto warily stepped in behind Jou with a vague idea that the baby had been born by the gentle cooing of his love. Seeing the cow placidly wiping down the calf with her trunk, he stepped further into the huge trailer. "Oh, a boy. He's ador..." Seto broke off as the busy mama shook off her trunk, splatting him with the remnants of birth and... ick. "able..." He finished weakly as he backed out of the trailer. Jou, who had somehow managed to stay clean, followed hot on his heels.

"Seto, I know its... Okay I don't know but I understand. Look on the bright side. You were right!" Jou tried to put on a cheerful face, but it faltered in the wake of Seto's dust churning strides and rigid posture. "Think how cute he is?" Jou tried desperately to find something positive to cool Seto's ire as he trotted after the long-legged brunet. Damn his sexy baby could move.

That froze Seto in his tracks. Slowly, with clockwork like precision, laser blue eyes turned to bore holes into Jou's brain. "Have I ever cared about cute?"

"Ah.. Yes?" Jou said hopefully. He winced when the laser blue gaze turned arctic and swung away, and the Lone Ranger strode off with more speed than if he were riding Silver.

Trailing behind like the Tonto he resembled, Jou gave up trying to calm the brunet. When Seto stopped at their camper and ducked inside, Jou decided to give his lover some space and go update Dave. He was sure Dave would not want anyone to spell Rolf other than people who were very familiar with the new mama. Anyone else was likely to become paste.

After a round of congratulations and the discreet procurement of a new costume for Seto, Jou went back to their camper hoping to find his guy in a better frame of mind. What he found was a stark naked brunet ruthlessly wiping every inch of his body he could reach with lemon scented wet wipes. "Eh... I think you got it all." Jou murmured tentatively, taking in the reddened expanse of skin.

"I can still smell it." Seto snarled as he wiped again at his chest.

"Hang on." Jou took a wet wipe and rubbed it over Seto's face, then took another and held it to his nose. "Blow! Hard!"

Seto blew although because Jou said so or because he wanted to express his feelings was anyone's guess. "Now wipe your face again while I put this costume in a plastic bag." Jou shoved the fouled clothes in the plastic bag and tied it tight, sticking it outside for good measure. Then he did the same with the soiled wet wipes. "Okay? Now sniff."

Fine nostrils flared as Seto took a deep breath. Grudgingly he nodded. "Now I smell like lemons."

A distinctly hentai grin crossed Jou's face. "In writing circles, especially fanfiction, lemons are graphic sexual scenes. I'd say you smell like you look - walking sex."

"Sometimes I forget you are a writer." A tinge of color washed up Seto's cheeks. "Do you write fanfiction?"

"I do sometimes, when characters move me. Spock and Kirk from Star Trek are great for some homoerotic stuff. I write under a pseudonym so people don't know it's me though. I only do it for fun, when I need a break from writing about my travels." Jou admitted casually.

"Really? What's your pseudonym. I'll have to look it up. I enjoy Star Trek. I've always thought Kirk and Spock had a thing for each other." Seto gave him a sideways look. "That a clean costume?" He gestured to the bag Jou had dropped on the floor.

"Yeah. I write my stuff using the name Marta Droxine." Jou scooped up the bag. "Get dressed, because walking sex is too tempting and we don't have time for making you a lemon cream pie. We have a show to do in just over an hour."

"You think I'd let you? I need to shower in the worst way. I do not feel clean but going into town and renting a room is out of the question and I do not want to speak to any of those people."

"Wow, you are in a snit. I never knew you to be that way. It's not their fault you got splatted." Jou saw the mutinous set of his lips and sighed. "Babe, you know that the wipes are anti-microbial, anti-biotic, cleansing and kills ninety-nine point nine percent of all possible nasties? You know that you are probably cleaner now than you have ever been in your life?"

"I didn't say I wasn't clean, I said I didn't feel clean. I want a shower." Petulance was rampant in Seto's voice and expression.

Katsuya rocked back on his heels a bit assessing his love. This really wasn't like the brunet at all. Seto would normally treat the incident as beneath notice. So if it wasn't the 'ick' then what could it be? He didn't have to think hard to figure it out. "Ah hell, this isn't about being splatted, that's just an excuse to vent. You are worried out of your mind aren't you?"

Seto's hard eyes dropped to the floor, guilt and shame curving his shoulders down in a defeated slump. "I'm sorry Katsuya. I can't help it."

With a sigh, Jou shook his head. "You are falling into old habits. Get it through your head you don't have to hide from me. Seto, it would be unnatural if you weren't worried. The man you raised is in jail. You are used to being his savior and you still have parental feelings for him, you always will. I don't expect you to not have those feelings." Jou tugged at the braids on his wig, wishing he could tug on his own hair. "I only expect you to be honest and share them with me if you can."

Still looking at the floor, Seto nodded. "Katsuya I'm worried about Mokuba." He whispered softly.

Jou tugged Seto into his arms, cradling him tenderly. "I know you are Baby. I'm here for you, but if... If you need more, if you need to see him to relieve your mind we might be able to work something out." His mind was spinning with ideas, but he wouldn't do anything unless Seto said so.

"I... Maybe? I need to think about it." He gripped Jou convulsively. "But not... Not alone?"

Jou wanted to laugh at the absurdity of that. No way in hell. Instead he cradled his lover and nuzzled into Seto's neck, whispering. "Not a chance." Then he nipped lightly at the sensitive skin, then nipped harder. "Hope you don't mind, but I'm suddenly craving a double helping of lemon cream."

"Better make it fast - It takes an hour for me to cum twice, remember." A little off balance by the switch, Seto shivered at the nips, then blinked as Jou slowly sank to his knees, biting and licking as he went. When the wickedly hot mouth found his cock, Seto closed his eyes and let his lover distract and soothe him in one of the best diversionary tactics he'd ever had the honor of receiving.

Seto learned a valuable lesson. Blowjobs relax him like nothing else on earth could, except sex with the orally talented blond. His eyes were sharp, his hands steady, and he was completely confident as he went through his sharpshooting routine. Even Jou's antics, hamming it up for the crowd or poking fun at him didn't rattle him.

He presumed giving blowjobs relaxed his lover just as much because when it came to Jou's knife throwing routine, his love was just as steady and confident. Seto wasn't surprised to find that the skills Jou displayed were an equal match to his own shooting skills. It made sense that Jou was just as lethal, albeit differently. As he held out a colorful balloon for Jou to hit with the knife, Seto couldn't help but think of the old saying, never bring a knife to a gunfight. Well in their case, if there was a fight, they would fight together. They carried both knives and guns so they had all bases covered.

There was something compelling and fascinating about Katsuya when he threw a knife. Seto couldn't quite put a finger on what it was that drew him in, but whatever it was, as soon as Jou started his solo and audience part of the act, Seto raced back to their camper as fast as his long legs could carry him to grab his camera and film. He wanted to take pictures and capture the mysterious 'it.'. Not just of Katsuya, but of Scapegoat and Kit. They were surprising little hammy additions to the circus as they scampered around the outside of the rings. They didn't actually appear in any of the acts, neither were trained for that, but Scapegoat preened and posed for the audience in his huge ruffly white trimmed blue collar and red painted nose and Kit stood watch over him like an overprotective mama, her eyes filled with an atypical intelligence that Seto attributed to the cat in her. It was hilarious to watch. He was determined to capture it all. He wondered briefly if Katsuya would be interested in the pictures for his book, made a mental note to mention it, then put it away because when he got back to the big top Katsuya grinned and hollered "Kemosabe! Get over here and help me out. I need someone to hold another balloon. This time on top of your head like an apple."

Seto froze in fake shock, then shaking his head vehemently, pretended to turn around and leave, just for laughs. In a flash a circus clown and the ringmaster and head clown, Dave, were blocking his path. Of course he was only faking, he trusted Jou absolutely, but it was good to play it up for laughs sometimes.

On impulse he gave Scapegoat a small signal the dog instantly recognized and went into a frenzy of barking, adding to the general melee. Every time he tried to leave he sent the little dog the signal so it seemed like Scapegoat was trying to tell him to stay as well. Needless to say the audience, Jou, and Scapegoat loved it. Kit, not so much although the half-cat pup did add to the comedy with unique growling chuffs that Seto was positive no other dog on the planet had ever made.

During that performance Seto learned that the part of being the figurehead of Kaiba Corp that he hated most, being the 'star' and 'center' could actually be fun. He rewarded Jou for the gift of that knowledge with more lemony-cream later that night. They slept curled together with the dogs sprawled at their feet, both too happy and satisfied to give a single thought to anything but being close and enjoying feeling each other's heartbeats.


Mokuba lay awake all night waiting for his brother to storm the building and free him. Seto had to know by now what was happening to him and Mokuba knew that his big brother would never leave him to rot in some prison. He watched the door with painful intensity, sure that any second his savior would appear. His eyes didn't close until the first rays of dawn were touching the eastern sky.

He'd showered and eaten breakfast before being led to a small visitor's area where Jillian appeared again. He could tell she had news so he didn't bother with a greeting. "What's going on?"

She gave him a wry look. "Good morning to you too, Mokuba. Your lawyer arrived late last night. He must have taken the first flight out when he got my call."

"Of course he did." Mokuba's chin tilted arrogantly. "I am Kaiba."

"Hate to burst your bubble, ego-boy, you might be a Kaiba but you are not the Kaiba. Your brother is still the headliner. You are strictly second page material." The cop informed him coolly. Before he could question what she meant she continued with her briefing. "There is a hearing today for the locals to present their evidence to the federal investigator. Your lawyer arranged it at about six this morning. You are required to attend, with your lawyer present. I'm not sure where he is at the moment but he should be here any time. You are only allowed one visitor at a time so I will not be able to stay when he comes." She gave him a bright look. "Do you have any questions?"

"Yes, when will my brother be able to see me? I know they are probably stopping him from coming in to see me."

"Your brother? Has he contacted you then? Or maybe sent you a message? They are not restricting your visitors but I can ask."

"No, but I know him. He would never leave me alone when I need him."

"Shit." She actually swore at him. "Mokuba, your brother is... He has issues of his own right now. If he didn't contact you, then I doubt he's here." When he would have argued she shook her head sharply. "I'm not going to go into it right now, I am going to check on the visitor restrictions though because I find it odd that they would not restrict visitors on a potential terrorist." She turned and left without another word.

Mokuba was led back to his cell where he found his cell mates busily packing their things. "Hey you guys are getting out?"

"Yeah, your friend pulled some magical fed shit and the missing whatever was suddenly found. We're out." Dave hesitated for a second, sharing a brief glance with his compadres. "Mokie, if you ever feel like just chilling, maybe seeing how the broke half lives, you're welcome to hang with us. You did us a large and we owe you. Besides, you're pretty decent when you forget to be a prick."

"Ah thanks." Mokuba didn't quite know how to take the backhanded compliment or the invitation. "I'll... uhm... can you give me your numbers and whatever? Never know."

"Yeah, we put all that info on a note. We left it on your bunk." Dave shrugged slightly. "Didn't know if you were going to be back in time." He nodded briefly. "Nice to meet you Mokie. Thanks again."

The sentiment was echoed by everyone else, then the three men trooped out, led by a uniformed, armed, officer. With nothing else to do, Mokuba sat on his bed and read the note. A simple 'Thanks, call if you ever want to hang.' and a list of numbers was all it said, but it made Mokuba smile. The smile faltered and died as he realized that small note was more than his brother, the brother who had always promised they would be together, that he would always be there when Mokuba needed him, that small note was more than Seto had done.

Tears of rage and betrayal burned the back of his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. If he cried it would be admitting Seto wasn't coming. He would never accept that, could never believe that. Just the thought was enough for blackness to spiral through Mokuba and defiantly he pushed it back. Seto would come.

He held the thought, believing with all his heart, that when the guard came back to escort him to the visitors' room that Seto would be waiting there for him. His heart cracked and sank to his ankles as he recognized the criminal attorney his brother kept on retainer. "Hello." He greeted the man somberly. He didn't bother to hide his acute disappointment.

"Hello Mister Kaiba. Your friend, Special Agent Jillian Clark contacted me. We haven't met, my name is Robert Fisker." The lawyer, an attractive man in his early thirties with thick wavy brown hair and intense hazel green eyes held out a strong, well manicured hand. "A pleasure to meet you."

A tingle of attraction caught Mokuba by surprise as he automatically held out his hand in response. Automatically he fell into 'charming flirt' mode. Orange jumpsuit notwithstanding, Mokuba knew he was good looking and had appeal. Robert Fisker set off his gaydar too. He hadn't been wrong yet. "It's great to meet you too, Robert. My brother has talked about you." Which was entirely true. Not much, but some. He gave the man his most engaging smile as he deliberately held the man's hand just a little too long, discreetly conveying his interest and attraction.

To his surprise the attorney released his hand after the shake and gave him a cool look. "Mister Kaiba, would you like me to call another person to represent you?"

"No, no of course not." What the hell was that about? His little flirt? Or was it standard to offer to get another lawyer?

"All right then. Although we've never met, I have had the pleasure of serving as your brother's attorney and am confident I can represent you well in this case. However as you are my client, I have to insist on a measure of formality. Please do not call me by my given name. Mister Fisker works well." The more green than hazel eyes caught his gaze and held it steadily, making his point of 'business only' very clear. "I've reviewed the police reports of what happened as well as the video surveillance. Why don't you start from the beginning, Mister Kaiba?"
Ego chafing at the second rebuff in his entire life, Mokuba let everything he felt show. "The beginning! The beginning?! It all started when that... that... bonkotsu, that mediocre bastard kidnapped Seto."

"Your brother was kidnapped? When was this? And isn't that kind of a role reversal? Weren't you the one who usually was kidnapped?" His lawyer asked astutely, showing an intimate knowledge of the Kaiba family workings.

"Weeks ago, by Jounouchi Katsuya, or Joey Wheeler as they call him now." Mokuba didn't bother to respond to the rest of the statement. What could he say to the truth?

"I recall something about him being in an accident just before he went on vacation. Are you saying he isn't on vacation? That he has been kidnapped?" Not by a flicker of an eyelash did Robert betray his doubt or confusion. If the emotion that Joey Wheeler showed Seto Kaiba was what kidnappers gave to their victims, Robert was sure that a lot of the lonely people in the known world would volunteer to be kidnapped. He personally would volunteer to be the first.

"That's what the police believe, and our friends, so they refuse to help me free him but I don't believe it. Seto would never leave me like that, never refuse to speak to me. If that bastard wasn't controlling and restraining him in some way then my brother would be here now." Mokuba snarled in frustration.

"I see." Robert nodded, privately thinking that Seto Kaiba and Joey Wheeler had understated Mokuba's issues. "How does this kidnapping become the cause of you destroying federal property?"

"I found information on where my brother was being held. Some loser, dropout commune called NBS Rocks. I flew out right away to rescue him. I told Jillian to meet me at the airport, but she... She never showed up. I bought the old biddy's bike, the old lady who mops floors at the airport, and when I got outside I realized I didn't know the way to town, so I went to go back inside but it was locked. She must have locked it when I walked out. There was a noise and it startled me. I pulled too hard on the door and the glass cracked. That is all there is to it." Mokuba told his story just like he'd rehearsed, just like he'd told it to the judge and the police in the past.

Robert frowned at the smooth, practiced delivery. It was obviously practiced. Didn't the boy - and he was a boy emotionally if not physically - know that only liars had to practice like that? It was a dead giveaway that he was not telling the whole truth. "Now tell me what really happened." He said flatly.

"What? That is what really happened." Mokuba glared and folded his arms defensively.

"It's not. I can tell you are lying. If I can see it you can bet so can they and the other investigator and judge who will be attending the hearing in about ten minutes. Tell me the truth." Robert's voice held the crack of a whip.

Mokuba glared and shook his head. "That is the truth."

"Lying to your lawyer is one sure way to go to jail. I can't defend you if I don't know what I'm fighting against." He tried to explain.

"That's all there is." The younger Kaiba maintained.

Shrewd hazel eyes weighed him for several seconds. "Fine. I'll see you in the courtroom." With a brisk nod he turned and left Mokuba gaping after him.

The officer nudged him back to his cell, offering the first bit of kindness he'd received from anyone official there. "Clean up and straighten your hair. You want to look neat and presentable. This kind of stuff is based a lot on how you look." Without another word the officer turned and left him.

Jillian, Mister Fisker, and a strange person were waiting in the same courtroom he'd been in the day before. The way the stranger stood just a little too close to Jillian had Mokuba's eyes widening in realization.

"Mokuba." Jillian greeted. "This is my friend, Ranger Cavanagh. She is going to testify that you did call me on the night in question. The federal investigator is on his way. He was taking pictures at the airport. The Federal Judge will attend via remote video."

Mokuba nodded briefly, holding his anger in check. He needed Jillian and her... Ranger Cavanagh at the moment. He would tell them what he thought later. "You have met my attorney? Robert Fisker?"

"I was just introducing myself." Robert said smoothly. "It is a pleasure to meet you both." He smiled warmly at Jillian. "Thank you for calling me."

"My pleasure." Jillian gave the lawyer a charming smile that made Mokuba blink slightly, although it didn't do anything to cool his anger.

"I haven't reviewed the evidence in depth. Do you know anything about the witness they are calling?" Robert asked.

"Witness?" Mokuba frowned. "Only person who was out there was the old lady who sold me her bike. She was cleaning the floors."

"Her name is Elizabeth Ramons, and she is the sister of Judge Ramons. She volunteers at the airport three nights a week." Ranger Cavanagh said coolly. "She is also a famous 'green' activist who helped found several earth conservation organizations."

Mokuba shook his head automatically, but stopped abruptly when the woman herself walked into the room. The drab cleaning clothes were replaced with a flowing cotton dress and leather sandals. The grizzled hair that had been pulled back in an unkempt tail now flowed smoothly in a silver and grey skein over her shoulders. She looked the same, yet completely different. He could believe this woman was the sister of a judge. "That's her."

"She says you were trying to get back in to the airport, not to get directions or because a noise startled you, but because you were in a temper when you realized you paid four thousand dollars for her ratty bike. She says she tried to warn you and you refused to listen and seemed to have an unstable temper. She locked the doors and shut down because you were a rude young man and she was afraid you would turn violent." Jillian relayed as if discussing the weather. "It doesn't really weigh in on the terrorist charges, but it does go to motive, honesty, and character. Given that testimony, their keeping you locked up is understandable." She shared a glance with the ranger who was obviously trying to stifle laughter. "Did you really pay four grand for a beat up old bike?"

"I thought it was a car at the time. I needed a ride into town since the person I called blew me off to explore wild bush." Mokuba's eyes were sleet grey as they cut into her, damning her for being the cause of all this.

Jillian tilted her head slightly. "I don't recall ever agreeing to pick you up, not that you asked. I was busy. As you are learning, assumptions are hazardous."

"Besides, the car rental place was still open when you landed. Why didn't you rent a car?" Ranger Cavanagh asked curiously, although mocking laughter still danced in her eyes.

"It closed while I was waiting for my ride. They don't do pickup or delivery after they close, besides they are in town, not at the airport. If I had known I didn't have a ride I would have called them and arranged for something." Mokuba gritted.

Robert coughed slightly. "Blame doesn't help, nor does your attitude. When we go in there I want you to stay quiet and try to appear to be mild and humble. You need to convince them you are not violent. Given the way you are glaring and snarling that is going to be difficult. You should have told me earlier you were having a temper tantrum when you broke the door. I would have been able to setup some kind of testimony about your good qualities, called a few of your friends - presuming you still have some - but as it is, the only testimony we have is that of these two ladies, who you have just abused. They cannot testify to your even temper and lack of violence. Abuse is not just physical, as you have clearly demonstrated. Let's go sit down." He nodded briskly to Jillian and the ranger. "Thank you."

He was polite, but completely immoveable in a way that Mokuba had never encountered before. Even his brother, who was well known as being completely focused - wasn't as solid. Mokuba had always known how to get around his brother and most people if he were being honest, but this man, the lawyer, was a completely different breed, one Mokuba found he couldn't read. Fear of the unknown touched Mokuba for the first time in years. He obeyed without a protest and did his absolute best to look humble and mild.

Given his luck of late Mokuba expected to be thrown in jail for a year, and several times the judge was on the verge of issuing just such a verdict, but Robert Fisker proved he was worth his fee because he skillfully worked the judge into a corner using the judge's own words. In the end the judge, completely boxed in, countered that if Mokuba was so trustworthy, then Robert Fisker could take full responsibility. Their county was poor and wasn't going to go bankrupt supplying monitoring equipment and personnel to keep up with him.

It was over the top and the judge clearly expected the attorney to turn it down, but to everyone's surprise he agreed easily. So in the end, Mokuba was not held, but he wasn't free either. Robert Fisker had complete physical custody in the absence of a court appointed guardian. As the jurisdiction was federal they didn't have to stay in California, but they had to stay together.

Mokuba changed into his own clothes and retrieved his belongings while his new 'guardian' handled whatever paperwork he had to deal with. There must have been a mountain because Mokuba was washed, dressed, seated in an uncomfortable chair in the courthouse hall and pressing the numbers for his 'research' team when a woman saying his name and giggling caught his attention. Frowning, he watched as the petite, grey-haired woman laughed again, handed the girl behind the clerk's counter some money and bustled away.

Barely holding on to his flaring temper, Mokuba stalked to the desk. "I'm Kaiba. Do you want to expl..."

The girl laughed. "Oh you are so impatient! I just got the paperwork. It has to be filed first. Leave me your address and I'll send you a copy."

"I thought my lawyer was dealing with it all." Mokuba said through tight lips. Okay maybe the old woman had worked for the court.

"No need for a lawyer for your wedding license, even if it is kind of rare around here for two guys to get married it still happens. Calla was so excited to deliver it."


"The lady who married you and your husband? She just left?" Her smile faltered and slid away. "I thought you said your name was Seto Kaiba. Surely you remember the lady who presided over your wedding ceremony." She waved a very official looking document, California seal plainly visible on the bottom.

"My name is Kaiba - Mokuba Kaiba. I... I heard my name and I thought... Seto Kaiba is my brother! He is not married. Who the hell do you think he married?" Mokuba snarled.

The girl behind the counter stiffened and stepped back, clutching the paper to her protectively. "I'm sorry Sir, I can't discuss any documents with you until they are entered into public record."

Rage and panic swirling through him, he leaned over the counter, practically climbing after the girl. "Let me see that you stupid bitch. My brother is not...Eiiyeee.... what the hell?" Mokuba found himself dragged painfully back across the counter by his hair. Furious and ready to swing, he spun to face his attacker only to freeze. Robert Fisker stared at him with cool eyes that dared him to say another word. Something in the look turned his knees to water and stopped his anger.

"I apologize, miss." Robert smiled charmingly at the clerk. "He's had a rough few days. This was not the way he needed to find out his brother was married to Joey Wheeler. Please forgive him."

She nodded but stayed well back. "Yeah, got that. Man, he needs some anger management therapy." With a quick nod she scurried away.

Robert grabbed Mokuba's arm and dragged the black-haired young man out to the rental car. "Jillian and her friend are back at their hotel." He snapped curtly. "Buckle up, our flight leaves in fifty minutes. We have to be back in Vegas by four."

"Vegas? Good idea. I'll have my plane meet me there and then I'll be out of your hair." The younger Kaiba said casually.

Just as casually Robert explained, "You are with me until this is settled. I signed for you and I will bear your sentence if you take off. Forget it."

"You can't sto..." The sudden blow to his mouth had him yelping and spitting blood. "What the fuck?" He burbled through the split lip.

"Let’s get something straight. I won't go to jail for you, I won't lie for you, I won't ruin my life for a worthless piece of crap like you." The lawyer said dispassionately.

"Nobody asked you..." Another backhand and more blood flowed.

"Shut it. I was going to wait, explain it back in New York, but now will be better because it will stop you from doing something worse than you've already done." With the car dead center of the lane and holding steady on the speed limit, the lawyer explained, "You hit on me earlier. Props for being perceptive. Nobody has ever suspected or known unless I've told them. Don't get excited, I'm not going to fuck you. Spoiled brats have no appeal for me." A small, cold smile touched his lips. "Let me guess, you like sex with a little kink, maybe handcuffs, but always with keys or buttons. Role play, but no real emotion. That isn't what I like. I outgrew that before I hit fourteen."

"You like it rough?"

A low silky laugh that sent shivers down Mokuba's spine came from Robert's lips. "Rough? Only if my sub wants it that way." At Mokuba's small start, the laugh came again. "I'm into control, everything from the food you eat to the breath you take. My choice, my way. No arguments, no deviations. If you break my rules you are punished."

"Th... That's..."

"I'm a master with a taste for sadism. I don't have 'lovers' or boyfriends. I own my men. I enjoy giving pain, I enjoy punishing those who deserve it, and my slaves enjoy it as much as I do. So no, I won't fuck you, I won't even touch you - unless you deserve punishment." Anticipation lit his expression. "I'm sure you're going to need a lot of punishment." Broad shoulders shrugged under the well tailored silk suit. "If you are hiding a slave under that spoiled brat shithead attitude, I might find something attractive enough about you to fuck you."

Mokuba barely had an inkling of what the man was saying. He had never been into that side of things. One thing he did know though. "No way in hell am I turning into some kind of sadist's blow up doll. I'll tell my brother and he'll..."

Genuine humor filled the laughter that cut Mokuba off. "Oh hell, is that all you know?" More chuckles. "Mokuba Kaiba, you created this mess, you should handle it like a man. Grow up and take your punishment. Your brother is happily, deliriously in love. He is on his honeymoon and doesn't want you around. Why don't you think for once?"

When Mokuba would have argued Robert shook his head. "Your pursuit of them is over because I will not allow it."

"I'll leave. Fuck it, I'll go back to that podunk town and spend my time behind bars." Mokuba answered, ignoring what the other man said.

"Welcome to, but don't think your brother will rescue you. Also that podunk town is the least of it. You are a non-citizen suspected of terrorism. You will likely be sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba." Robert pulled over to the shoulder of the road. "Make your decision. I take you back and they arrange for transport to Guantanamo Bay to enjoy the interrogation of the American government and the company of suspected and known Jihadists, or you come with me. If you choose the latter, you will obey me in everything. If I say be quiet, you won't make a sound, if I say stand naked in the snow, you stand naked in the snow. I will tell you who to see, who to talk to, what to eat, what to wear. You will have no choice in anything. If I dress you in a blue dress with crinoline, you will press it if it crumples. Do you understand?"

"Freaky bastard." Mokuba swore. The smack to his lips was a reminder as fresh blood flowed.

"I want one word. Guantanamo or Master. Anything else and I'll punish you." To Mokuba the man sounded like he would enjoy it too much.

He folded his split, bleeding lips closed and for the first time since Seto disappeared, actually used the reasoning his brother had taught him. Guantanamo... There was no way to escape, no hope. Also if he went there he could be there for years. Out of sight out of mind for the U.S. Government and if Seto truly didn't care, then relying on him for rescue was futile. New York... no matter what abuses Robert Fisker dealt him, there was hope, people he knew, friends, places he could hide until he could find a way to shed Fisker as his lawyer and guardian. He drew a deep, calming breath and said slowly, clearly. "Master."

As if Mokuba hadn't just given himself over to be his slave, Robert carefully pulled the car back on the road and continued to the airport. Instead of checking in right away, the lawyer led them to the bathroom and carefully wiped the blood from Mokuba's lips. When Mokuba tried to pull away, the icy eyes pinned him in place. "When there is discipline, there is care as well. I care for what is mine." With a brisk nod, he turned and strode to the exit. "We have to hurry. I can't miss this appointment."

The plane ride was mercifully brief, as was the small trip to the hotel. Mokuba barely had time to rinse out his foul tasting mouth before his 'master' ushered him from the room and into another rental car. "Gaki, from this moment until I say, you will not say a word, not make a single sound. No matter what you see or hear, not a single sound. If you do the consequences will be very painful." Robert gave his new slave an oblique glance. "I won't go easy on you. You have had it too easy for too long. Nod if you understand."

Mokuba nodded mutely. When he got permission to speak again he would ask about the man's fluency in Japanese because his intonation of that single word had been perfect. Staying quiet shouldn't be an issue. He had been trained to hold his tongue - and his composure - since the orphanage. A simple business meeting between lawyers would be no trouble at all.

With his recent experience he wasn't surprised to find himself walking beside his 'master' in a hallway at a large police station. They were met by a Ted Mannis and a Detective Mascorelli. They showed them both into a small room with a table and four chairs.

Again, Robert Fisker showed he was worth every penny he charged. He didn't say a word, simply waited for them to begin. Ted Mannis broke first. "Thank you for coming on such short notice. You have to be exhausted from your trips."

"I am fine. You said in your message you have reviewed the recordings?" Robert prompted.

The detective gave him a quelling look. "This is a private proceeding. Who is he?" A rude finger pointed towards Mokuba.

"He is my trainee and of no concern to you. He will not say a word and his discretion is without question." Bland and blunt, if not quite honest. Although, when Mokuba thought about it, it really was very honest.

"Fine." The cop glared for a moment then sighed. "All of the staff, the owners, and even the security footage back what your client says happened. We have stopped all broadcasts and we would like to offer our apologies for any inconvenience this incident may have caused."

"I see. Is there anything I need to have them sign?" Robert got straight to the point.

"Them? You represent both Mister Wheeler and Mister Kaiba?" The detective clarified, startled when the 'trainee' jumped and cursed.

"Yes." The lawyer acted as if the black-haired young man was invisible.

"All right, we didn't know that." Ted mumbled and made a quick note. "No that is all. We had hoped you would bring them with you so we could apologize in person."

"Forward a written apology to my office, I will see to it that they get it." The lawyer rose to his feet. "If there is nothing else there are other things I must attend to."

"No, nothing." The two men hesitated, then the detective sighed and shook his head in disgust. "We are supposed to ask if we need to have our city attorneys contact you."

"I will let you know my client's stance on litigation regarding libel and defamation in addition to harassment and general incompetence, when we have had a chance to meet and discuss it." With a cool, barely civil nod, Robert turned on his heel and left the room. The entire meeting had taken less than eight minutes.

Mokuba barely contained himself until they reached the car. As soon as they were on the road he shrieked "You bastard! You've seen my brother. I demand you take me to him. Now! Take me to him now! You know..." This time the blow was low in his solar plexus, driving the air from his lungs and stealing his voice.

"I did not give you permission to speak, Gaki." In clear contrast to Mokuba's shrill, heated screaming, Robert's voice was low, cool, and smooth as silk. Trying catch his breath, Mokuba could only glare as his lips worked soundlessly. He was still wheezing when they walked into the hotel room.

Robert ignored him and his rasping breath, completely confident in exactly what he'd done to the other man and its physical effects. Anatomy and physiology weren't necessary for his legal practice but it was definitely handy with his personal choices, as were psychology and massage therapy. Aside from feeling breathless he knew for a fact that the other man had suffered no permanent injury.

Without a look at his slave he opened his flip phone and dialed Kaiba's number. "Mister Kaiba, this is Fisker. The gaming commission and the police department offer their sincere apologies for any inconvenience. Also they would like to know your intentions regarding litigation. I suggest if you want to pursue that angle you contact another attorney. I am strictly criminal. Civil cases are..." He went silent for a moment, glaring hard as Mokuba scrambled up and raced towards him, obviously intent on snatching the phone. When the 'slave' was just a step away, Robert deliberately lifted his knee and kicked him in the gut with just enough force to send the other man tumbling across the carpet. "I see, in that case Mister Kaiba I'll head back to New York." Another silence, one Mokuba was too busy writhing on the floor holding his belly to notice, then, "Yes, I have nothing further to do here, all matters have been resolved to my satisfaction. Goodbye Mister Kaiba." Robert deliberately kept his tone and words businesslike and formal during the entire conversation. He didn't want Mokuba Kaiba to know that there was any kind of friendship, even distant friendship, between him and Seto.

Mokuba staggered to his feet again, forcing his voice out in a choked staccato. "Take me to my brother, now."

Robert tilted his head slightly as if considering the request. In reality he was actually impressed by his new 'slave's' unexpected recovery. A spark of interest flared. There was more strength in the Gaki than he'd thought. "You were told to be silent. You know you will be punished, but you broke the rules again. Attacking me for the phone was another, more serious, infraction."

"I want my brother. I don't care about your stupid punishment or rules. You don't own me." Mokuba yelled rashly.

"But I do. By your own words, I am your master." Robert sighed as if hard put upon. "And now you've earned a severe punishment, one I'm not sure you are ready to stand for." He sighed again. "Fine, I will take you to see your brother, if you take your punishment like a man. One complaint, one sound, and you will not see him."

"Anything." Mokuba agreed without really caring. All he could see was that he would finally get to be with Seto again. He could put up with anything for that.

"Remember that." Robert reached out and took Mokuba's wrists in his hands, skilled fingers finding the nerve points in the bony hollows. Instantly his slave dropped to his knees, paralyzed by the pain. "We have just enough time."


Seto grinned at his lover. "Problems solved. So we can do tonight's shows, then head to a hotel in the morning. I still want a shower, a real shower. The girls were nice to let us borrow their R.V. but I want unlimited hot water. Maybe a hot tub to soak in."

"Your rich boy ways are coming out." Jou grinned. "But I gotta admit, it sounds great. I've been thinking about that shower we shared and some things I want to try with you and bubbles."

."Bubbles are slippery in the shower." Seto pointed out dryly as he watched the blond hair disappear beneath the tacky black braided wig. "That thing does not suit you."

"That's okay Baby, I'll make sure you land in the right spot." The blond snorted. "I think I look hot with braids."

"So grow your hair long. I'll even braid it for you. The color is all wrong. I like your golden hair; it matches your eyes."

Laughter sparkled in the golden eyes as he moved close enough to help lace the shirt of Seto's costume. "I'm going to miss these clothes. I know you find them cheesey but you look hot. I like these laces, kind of like unwrapping a great present, and the pants are almost as sexy as that apron you wore at the Kite and the Heron." A lecherous look filled the tawny gaze. "Have to get some for role play. Cops and robbers or cowboys and indians?"

"No distractions!" Seto admonished as his blue eyes matched Jou's sparkling look. "I need to shoot straight and when you get all flirty I can't walk straight much less shoot. Let's go get burgers. I'm starving."

"Again?" Jou teased. "We have to get their recipe for burgers." The blond hesitated. "Don't forget your camera."

He picked it up and looped it over his shoulder. "I've asked. They laugh at me." Seto mock pouted. "I even threatened to buy the circus and they laughed harder."

"I would have too. Seto, they don't know who you are. Don't worry I'll get the recipe for you." Jou grinned and winked. "I'll make them for you." Jou ruffled his hair and went to the door. "Mask on Lone Ranger. The customers are arriving so we have to stay in costume."

"I know." Seto followed. "Burgers are calling my name, so lead or get out of the way Katsuya." But he didn't rush ahead, instead he threaded his arm through his love's and strolled along towards the food trailer, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the busy circus around him.

They watched from the prep area outside the bigtop, Seto still munching his fourth burger and Jou sharpening his knife as the circus performers went through their routines. Seto found he enjoyed the spectacle, but he also respected the technical expertise and hard work they all put into their acts. He found himself holding his breath as the acrobats went through their new routine, the one that had sent three of them crashing into the net just a few hours before. It went off smoothly, and nobody would ever guess the troupe argued about performing the new stunt right up until the moment they walked out into the ring.

Seto let his eyes rove over the audience, reading the customers with a practiced eye. He was surprised to see his lawyer threading his way through the crowd towards the performer's area. He shoved the last bite of burger into his mouth and said softly, "Katsuya, Fisker is here."

"Huh. Let's go see what he wants." The wig-wearing blond carefully placed the sharpened knife in its sheath.

Seto nodded and led the way, meeting the other man at the back entrance of the performance prep area. "Didn't expect to see you." The brunet greeted coolly.

"Change of plans. Your brother is in my physical custody. He will remain so until he is cleared of all charges. He wanted to see you before we left." A slow cruel smile touched the lawyers lips. "I haven't told him anything about you or performing, I agreed to let him see you. He will not speak to you, nor do I expect you to speak to him."

"I see." Seto frowned deeply. "He really messed up this time didn't he?"

"Suspected of terrorism. He attempted to break into an airport because he was angry and wanted to take it out on a little old lady. She happens to be a judge's sister."

"He has a corporation to run. It is based in Florida. He..."

"He will handle it from an office in New York. I will not let Kaiba Corporation suffer." Robert promised.

"He is agreeable? I..." Seto broke off and sent Jou a hunted look.

"It was either my custodial guardianship or Guantanamo Bay. He chose to stay with me, although he is already saying that you will 'save' him. He may call you or try to contact you with wild stories to bring you riding to the rescue. He's already claiming abuse." A mirthless laugh escaped. "See for yourself. He said he will 'tell his brother' that I abused him. If you look for yourself, he's seated in the blue section under the clown balloon light, you'll see that he hasn't a mark on him." The lawyer coughed slightly. "Do you want to speak to him?"

Seto looked up to the area as suggested. His brother, wearing a tight wife beater, mid-thigh biker shorts, and a pair of flip flops sat rigidly on the bench, eyes frantically scanning around him. Robert was correct, the bright white light highlighted his brother's skin very well. Any dark mark would have been clearly visible. He also didn't appear 'hurt' instead looked furious and on the verge of a tantrum. "I... No. He looks fine. I trust you to take good care of him." Relief brightened Seto's smile. "Thank you."

"My pleasure." There was a hint of something hidden in that, but when Seto's eyes cut to him questioningly, the lawyer gave him a bland look.

"I would like to..." Seto shook his head and sighed, turning to look at his lover in mute appeal.

"Why don't you..." Jou thought for a moment then said "Be right back." Braids flapping behind him, he raced back to the performer's tent.

Seto gave Robert a wry smile. "He has great ideas."

"You're a lucky man. He's completely devoted to you." For an instant envy showed clearly in the other man's eyes.

Seto didn't mind the look. Once upon a time he would have envied Jou's love too. "I know." Blue eyes appraised him. "I've never seen you wearing casual clothes. I would have never guessed you had a tattoo." He let his eyes linger on the edge of the tattoo he could just see. "What is it? It looks like flames and clouds?"

"It is birds, a pair. A Great Blue Heron and a Snow Goose. They are flying in clouds over a lake of flame." He smiled slightly. "I met someone once while stuck at a truck stop during a freak storm. He and I chatted and he drew that for me. Told me that it was my future and I wasn't to ever forget. I got drunk one night and got it tattooed. I've never regretted it."

The niggling doubt and concern hovering over Seto faded away. "I'm considering a tattoo. Something... for Katsuya and I. Perhaps a mountain lion."

"I won't ask." Robert smiled as 'Tonto,' braids flying, ran up to them holding what looked like an antique camera.

"Seto..." Katsuya huffed and wheezed a bit. "Have Mokuba take pictures of us." He handed his love the camera.

"Great idea." Seto smiled warmly at his lover. "Good thing you reminded me to bring the camera." He handed the camera to Robert. "It's pretty simple. Have him read the guide. It's in the front flap." It was surprisingly hard to release the the strap but he managed it. "Drop it off at the hamburger stand near the arcade after the show. They will make sure it gets to me."

"Will do." Robert nodded and turned away. Seto watched with steady blue eyes as the lawyer made his way back to the bigtop. As a unit, Jou and Seto turned and went back to the performer's area. He watched them for a few minutes, impressed by the way his brother seemed to be minding his manners. Normally Mokuba would have been all over the place, demanding everything from childish balloons to all the food and drinks that were being offered. Instead, he sat quietly, eyes scanning the area, trying very hard to blend in with the crowd. When Robert bent down and whispered something and handed Mokuba the camera, Mokuba smiled brightly and nodded eagerly, then took the camera and pulled out the user's guide without a single protest. So much for the abuse Mokuba was claiming. Mokuba would never smile so brightly if he were being abused.

When their cue came, Seto entered first, Scapegoat at his heels. Smiling broadly, he introduced himself as the Lone Ranger, and the mutt at his side was Tonto. A scolding bark from Scapegoat brought his gaze down to the little dog. "Oh sorry, this is Scapegoat, my other sidekick. Tonto get out here. Stop playing with your hair."

Tonto, sexier than Jay Silverheels ever thought of being, sauntered out, buckskin fringe dancing around his thighs. "Keep your mask on. These braids are killers."

This was new to their act, but it was something they both agreed on. They much preferred the laughter to the gasping awe and fear of some of the audience. "Why don't you go hold a target. I want to shoot something." Seto made his voice deliberately cranky and suggestive.

Jou did a double take and shook his head. "You speak with forked tongue." He deadpanned.

"I'll hold your targets if you hold mine?" Was the playful bargain.

"If I live that long?" Jou responded smartly.

"Just go hold the targets." Exasperation shaded every syllable.

"You first." Jou countered.

"You're making me angry." Seto mock glared as he spouted the overused line. "You won't like me when I'm angry."

"I don't like you now." Was the smart-ass response.

"Then why the heck do you follow me around?"

"Safest place to be is behind someone who shoots guns." Tonto pointed out logically.

"Not really. I can shoot behind my back." Seto bragged.

Jou did an exaggerated double take. "No way."

"Hold my targets and I'll show you." He repeated the bargain.

For a moment 'Tonto' pretended to consider, then he looked around at the audience, then down at Scapegoat. "So, would you trust him?"

A signal from Seto and the little dog went into a barking frenzy. Jou listened for a moment and sighed. "Dog speaks with forked tongue - or I don't speak dog." As if to defend Scapegoat's honor Kit bounded out and joined the melee. In reality the trapeze artist who had been holding the half-wild cat-dog set her gratefully on the ground. With a disgusted sigh Jou looked around at the audience again. "Well should I trust him?"

A roar, shouts, whistles, and laughter filled the tent. Needless to say, Jou trusted him. It was one of the best shows of the night and the ringmaster knew it. After the show was over and the crowds were filing out, some to play arcade games, some to visit the animals or grab food and some to head home, he called Seto over to him. "Kai, Joey, are you guys busy?"

"We have to go pick up my camera from friends who took pictures in the audience." Seto said as he reluctantly turned back to Dave. "They are going to leave it at the food cart." Jou followed, Scapegoat and Kit trotting happily beside him on their leashes.

"It will be fine there." Dave, clown makeup in place but wig missing, gave them a smiling look. "You guys did great. The new stuff was perfect for your dynamic. I was hoping you would travel with us for a while. Tim and Erin have split up for good. They both took off this afternoon. Erin with some biker guy and Tim... Tim got on a bus for his home town."

Jou blinked and started to shake his head only to stop. He couldn't make decisions like this without consulting his husband. Besides, fate had been guiding them all along. This was a blatant, too blatant almost, attempt. Without caring about manners he asked in Japanese. "Seto, do you want to travel with them for a while?"

Seto wasn't surprised that the quarrelling couple had split. They hadn't lasted the month he'd given them. He didn't hesitate. "No. I have enjoyed this, and maybe we can do it again, but for now I'm ready to spend some time in a luxury suite, relax and enjoy a few shows, then, as navigator, I thought we'd go to Cheyenne and check out the rodeo. After that... I want to take in a Tiger's baseball game. I have a friend on the team."

"Detroit? Who is your friend?" Jou blinked at that.

"No, not the Detroit Tigers. The Mitchell Tigers. Small town in the panhandle of Nebraska." Seto explained.

Jou nodded and switched back to English. "I'm sorry Dave, tonight was our last show. We're going to enjoy Vegas for a while, then head out towards Cheyenne, and then further east to Nebraska. Probably head to the faces, then down to Louisiana. I'm craving warm beignets and real Cajun jambalaya." He didn't show the pure joy he was feeling. Seto Kaiba had just shown his returning strength of will and purpose. It cemented what Jou already knew. His love was healing and growing stronger and didn't feel the need to hide any longer.

Dave nodded. "I figured. You two are gypsies. I get that but I thought I'd offer anyway. I'll give you my card and if you ever want to join us again, just give me a call."

Seto shook his head. "Not gypsies - Hobos. This is our Hobo vacation."

"Gypsy, hobo, wanderer, traveller. All mean the same thing to me. You're welcome anytime. Go get your camera and stop by in a little while. I'll have your wages then." The ringmaster smiled and waved them on their way.

Seto was genuinely surprised to find that his camera wasn't at the expected food cart. Jou was watching him with a quiet, patient expression that Seto had come to realize meant that his lover was restraining himself. "Tell me."

"He's got something of yours, something you want. He's not going to give it up without a fight. I wouldn't be surprised if he found some way to try to force a confrontation with you." Katsuya explained softly.

Seto closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. He didn't want to confront his brother, didn't want to feel all the pain that seeing the person he'd loved so dearly, the one he'd given everything to, only to have them walk away, he didn't want to... Slowly he released the breath he'd taken and squared his shoulders. Mokuba was his brother and he loved him, but his brother was no longer the center of his heart and soul. It would hurt, probably hurt like hell, but he wasn't alone. Katsuya would stand by his side. "Let him. I'll tell him what he needs to hear."

Concerned golden eyes weighed his words and expression carefully before the concern faded and warm approval took its place. "I believe you will. I'll be with you every step of the way."

"I know. Let's go get my camera. I think I'll find him instead of letting him find me." Taking 'Tonto's' hand. Seto walked around the side of the food vending cart.

Mokuba stood a few yards away looking around frantically, clutching the camera like it was a lifeline. Seto didn't hesitate, simply walked over and plucked the camera out of his hands. "Thank you Mokuba." They were the first words he'd spoken to his brother in months.

"S...Seto?" Wild blue-grey eyes bulged. "That's... you? Oh thank god Seto!" The black haired young man flung himself into his brother's arms and burst into tears just as he had as a young child.

Seto allowed it for a moment, then gently pushed his brother back. "Yes. I was performing here. Surely you recognized Scapegoat." At the sound of his name the little dog gave a small bark. He made no move to greet Mokuba.

"Your dog? You cut his hair so it took me a minute." Mokuba admitted, then seemed to realize that Seto was really there. "Seto you... are you okay? I know Jounouchi kidnapped you and everyone's been saying such horrible things. I wanted to rescue you but I couldn't seem to catch up with you."

"I didn't want you to." Seto admitted softly. "Mokuba, you're an adult, you have your own life. When I realized that, I decided... I didn't have a reason to live. I was going to..." He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I was going to end my life because I had nothing to live for. I need a reason, a purpose. Katsuya didn't 'kidnap' me Mokuba. He saw that I was lost and he found me." Another slow deep breath in and out and Katsuya squeezed his hand tightly.

"No, Seto! I need you! I'll always need you to be with me. You don't need him, you don't! I am your reason - we've always been together."

"Listen to me Mokuba. That is how I felt, but it's not any longer. You know I've always wanted Katsuya. I know what made you lie about your involvement with him and it made me realize just what I'd given up for you. I won't do that ever again. I love you, but you are not my life's purpose any longer. From now on, Katsuya and our family, the children we are adopting, our puppies, our adventures, they will be my life." He returned the tight grip of his husband and stepped further away from his brother. "What you feel isn't natural or healthy. When you can accept the role of brother, second to my husband and family, find me."

"Seto, please..." Mokuba begged, tears falling from his wounded eyes. "I need you."

With a sigh, the tall brunet stepped forward and hugged him tight, then stepped back to Jou's side before the younger man could grab tight enough to hold. "No, you don't, but you don't know that, not yet. Mokuba, you're not my scapegoat any longer - I don't need one and nor do you."

Ruffling the black hair affectionately, he nodded to Robert, who had walked up silently behind Mokuba. "Take care of him Robert. I'm trusting you to help him grow to become a better man."

Smooth hands settled on Mokuba's shoulders, skilled fingers finding the pressure points with ease and pressing lightly, reminding the younger Kaiba of the punishment he'd endured earlier and a promise of the punishment he'd receive for running off and for talking to his brother without permission. "Don't worry Seto. I've got him now. You enjoy your honeymoon. I'll teach him what he needs to know." The lawyer didn't worry about Mokuba crying out. The young Kaiba was still sensitive from earlier and the pressure he was applying was enough to make breathing difficult and talking impossible.

Seto nodded and smiled, ruffling his brother's hair again. "Enjoy your time with Robert. He's a good man."

Katsuya, eyes fixed on the fingers resting on Mokuba's shoulders, nodded to the lawyer in acknowledgement and said softly. "Yeah Mokuba, I'm sure Robert will teach you a lot. He's used to pressure and... seems to have a deft touch." With a cold look of satisfaction that told Mokuba and Robert that Jou knew and approved of what was going on, he allowed his husband to pull him towards their camper. In his mind the little asshat got what he deserved for the torture and abuse Seto had received at his hands. Mokuba had driven his lover to the brink of suicide and that was something Katsuya was sure he'd have a lot of trouble forgiving. A little physical and mental manipulation at the hands of someone as subtly skilled as the lawyer was very mild justice. Maybe by the time they met again Mokuba would have learned and Jou would have forgiven. Time would tell. Speaking of time...

With an inviting look at his husband he picked up his pace. If they hurried they might be able to break camp and get a nice hotel room. Jou was suddenly craving lobster and champagne with chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. They were on their honeymoon after all. Maybe some warmed chocolate sauces and chilled whipped cream for other kinds of dipping.


Katsuya checked the rucksack one last time before placing it carefully in the trunk of his bright red Lexus LF-A convertible. Seto had tried to get him to trade the four year old car in on a newer model, but it was something he flatly refused to do. The car was well maintained and stored in Seto's garage, besides it had sentimental value. It was where he'd first picked up Seto on that life changing day. Five years later, they were still going strong and enjoying every second of their lives.

Seto did eventually go back to Kaiba Corp on a limited, very limited, basis. His passions for photography and Katsuya had led him into publishing his own books. The first was a companion piece to Katsuya's book, written from the experiences of that first hobo vacation. After the critical and popular acclaim of that book, Seto had dove head first into learning everything he could about photography and publishing. His next book had been 'Flying High with the Jet Set.'

Where Joey Wheeler's books were about real people and down home, honest experiences of average people, Seto's books almost entirely of images from exotic, expensive and just plain fancy places around the world. They travelled the summer for Katsuya's books and January through May for Seto's. They settled in spending the holidays quietly together, writing from mid-August until the new year.

It was a good life and they were blissfully happy. The only shadow on their bright lives was Seto's brother Mokuba. Mokuba had changed almost beyond recognition. He'd become focused, responsible, driven, much like Seto had been in the past. He had avoided Seto during his year long stay with Robert. It had taken that long to get the young man clear of the charges.

After the charges were cleared, Mokuba had returned to Florida and moved into Seto's mansion. By that time Seto and Jou were living in a large fenced home just across from Aishira and Matashi. They had been so caught up in their lives that they hadn't noticed at first, but it had dawned on them that something catastrophic had happened to the youngest Kaiba. Since the realization, two plus years, they had all tried - Seto, Jou, Matashi and Aishira - to reach him only to be turned away.

Katsuya knew Seto was growing more and more worried for the withdrawn young man his brother had become. Only Seto's promise to Jou had coaxed his sexy husband to leave Mokuba. With a quick glance up the stairs to make sure his husband was occupied with getting the pups settled with the sitter - because no way were they taking half a dozen six week old Poshie puppies on a road trip - Jou dialed his best friend's number.

It was picked up on the first ring. "Hey Yugi."

"Joey! Are you guys on the road yet?" Yugi had never returned to Japan, preferring to sell the store and stay in the states near his friends. He had embraced his new country and new culture with all the fervor of a true convert, even calling his old friends by their American names.

"Almost. Are you... Are you sure you can do this? That you want to do this?"

"I'll be fine Joey. I can do this, you've trained me well. Are you sure you want me to do this?" Yugi said softly.

"I knew what Fisker was doing and I didn't step in. I even thought the little shit deserved it at the time, but what I've seen since Mokuba's been back is... I think it was taken too far. I can't help him because I am not his biggest fan. I can't separate what he did to Seto from what's happening to him now. He needs someone and it can't be me or Seto. You still love him, so you care enough to..."

"I know Joey. I understand. You say it went too far, but do you mean physically or something else?"

"I think Fisker broke him, made him care, then tossed him away. Mokuba is like a ship whose anchor has been cut free, simply staying on the course that was set for him. I'm hoping you can anchor him." Jou admitted quietly.

"I'll do my best." Yugi promised. "I'll be there in a few hours. Enjoy your trip." The line went dead and slowly he pocketed his phone, trying to think of something he could do to help Yugi.

"Answer the intercom." A voice broke through his abstraction.

"What?" Katsuya glanced up the stairs at his husband.

"The intercom is buzzing. Answer it." Seto lazily descended the stairs.

Jou nodded and pressed the button. "Yes?" He wasn't expecting anyone and anyone important knew they were leaving this morning.

"This is Wheeler-Kaiba residence." A brisk voice stated coolly.

"Yes, this is. How may I help you?" Eyebrows lifting in surprise he shared a glance with his husband.

"We are here to see Seto Kaiba and Joey Wheeler. Open the gates and door." The brisk voice was imperious, as if a royal were addressing a commoner.

'We?' Seto mouthed as he pushed the button to turn on the camera at the front gate. Three children stood holding hands in front of the gate. Two blond children, a boy and a girl, of about eight flanked a tiny brunette girl who couldn't be more than four. It was the little girl who tiptoed up and pushed the button, speaking clearly, "Open the door now. My brother has to pee. If you don't he will piss on your gate."

The threat didn't move them one inch. Then Katsuya gasped as the boy turned his head slightly and squinted at the camera. "Whakan? Kwanita?"

"Joey!" The blond boy smiled. "You recognized us. Can I come in and go to the bathroom? Our dad left a letter for you we have to deliver."

"Oh, okay come on in." Jou hit the button and unlocked the gate and door. Grabbing Seto's hand he dragged his equally baffled husband out onto the stoop. The three children hurried up the drive, cutting across the green lush lawn to reach the house. "Where's the bathroom?" Whakan asked urgently.

"Through the door, straight down the hall, third door on the left. The door is open so you'll see it." Seto rattled off automatically. Whakan bolted into the house leaving the door open wide behind him.

"Ah, Kwanita, good to see you again." Jou grinned at the blonde girl and looked at the little brunette, his breath leaving in a whoosh as he met the sparkling blue gaze that was a dead ringer for his husband's, as was the delicate features and smattering of freckles across her nose. "We haven't met. You are?"

"My name is Akane - Akane Kaiba." She dropped the words like a bomb.

"Uh..." Seto and Jou exchanged a look. "Your mother and father are..."

"My mother is Eliza Walters, her spouse is Raychelle Walters. You donated the seed to grow me. Just as Joey Wheeler donated the seed to grow Whakan and Kwanita. I have a letter that explains it all." She reached under her t-shirt and pulled out a pristine white envelope, handing it to them with the air of someone delivering a great present.

Seto wasn't surprised to see his hand shaking as he took the letter. He slit open the envelope and a single sheet of paper fell into his hand. He had a very bad feeling about this. Too late he remembered the odd feeling Raymond gave him, like there was something off, something he was missing.

"Dear Seto and Joey,

Surprise! That is unfair, I suppose, but life is unfair. Eliza and I have had many surprises, so now it is your turn. You will of course have the genetic tests performed, but I will explain briefly. My Eliza wanted children and I wanted to try heterosexual sex. Joey came at just the right time. Imagine my shock when I found myself pregnant. I've taken testosterone for years and only stopped for a few months because I agreed to try, I had assumed I was sterile. Whakan is my child, Kwanita is Eliza's child. They are not twins, but they were conceived the same night, born on the same day, to the same biological father, within the same hour.

When you both visited us, it truly was fated because Eliza wanted another child. I can deny her nothing, but we knew that you would not agree to 'donating.' We wanted another golden-haired child and used the donation from the green condom. They were coated with a motility enhancing preservative that allowed us to store the semen until Eliza was fertile.

Another surprise when Akane was born a clone of Seto Kaiba. Because I said I was interested in your breeder possibilities, Eliza was convinced I used the contents of the red condom. That is why Akane has her name. Akane for brilliant red.

Our final surprise came just a few months ago. Eliza developed a cold, or so we thought. Turns out she had something else entirely. She was buried four days ago. If you remember our conversation Seto, you now understand why the children are with you. I instructed Akane to wait an hour before approaching your gate. By now I am with my precious Eliza.

Enjoy our gifts to you. Their birth certificates are on file at the same courthouse your marriage license is filed. You and Joey are both listed as their fathers so there will be no legal issues.


Raychelle Raymond Walters."

Whakan dashed back out onto the deck asking, "So are they cool with being our dads? Akane? What did they say?"

The little girl gave them a scorching look. "Nothing. I think they are going to faint. Whakan, Kwanita, step back. They'll crush you if they land on you."

Katsuya, who had been reading over his shoulder, dropped his head down, burrowing into Seto's neck mumbling something unintelligible.

"What?" Seto asked in a voice that quaked at the enormity of what he'd just read. He didn't address Whakan's questions. He needed to discuss this with his husband, his lawyer and he needed to call the cops.

"I said we're gonna need an RV." The blond straightened and stepped back then waved at the kids. "Follow me guys. Scapegoat and Kit are gonna love seeing you again. They have kids too."

Seto gaped after his partner as the children followed like ducklings. Joey was not normally so unreliable. They had to call the police and report the children and Ray. What if Ray changed his - her - mind? This couldn't just be let go. An RV? They were going to need a fleet of lawyers to figure this mess out. Birth Certificates? Marriage license? What the hell? Was Ray deranged? They had both discussed marriage and were planning a massive wedding after this trip. There was no way they were ready for kids yet.

A movement from the front lawn caught his eye. A heron with a hummingbird perched on it's crest eyed him critically for a moment before alighting into the sky. He'd seen them both enough to know this was destiny knocking. With a resigned sigh, Seto stepped into his home, a smile picking up the corners of his mouth at the shrieks of laughter coming from upstairs. A baseball team. This was Fate’s way of saying it was time to get started. Ready or not...

First he had to be practical since his love wasn't, but later though... Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, Seto accepted the expansion of the focus in his life with eagerness. Life was great and only going to get better. He couldn't wait, but for now he had a legal mess to sort out and children to get to know. His youngest daughter was much too adult. He was going to have to teach her how to play and he knew just the game to start her on. He had a feeling she'd enjoy his old blue-eyed dragon friends.