Word Count: 15000
Genre: Drama, Romance, Shounen-ai/Yaoi
Pairings: Kaiba Seto/Jyonouchi Katsuya, minor Bakura/Yuugi, and mentions of Honda/Anzu
Summary: Life is never static and ever-changing. So what happens when a completely unexpected change occurs in the lives of the Yuugi-tachi? Only time will tell, and time is running out.
Warnings: Language, minor angst, and sex. Not necessarily in that order.
By the time he realized something was wrong, it was too late to do anything.
His head was pounding. This headache was one of the worse he had had yet, feeling almost as if someone was trying to claw their way out of his head via his eye sockets. For the most part over the counter drugs -- Excedrin, Advil, and Motrin -- helped to ease the pain, but when he was in class during an attack, it was like his own little slice of hell.
He bit back a pained whimper -- any sign of weakness could always be exploited -- and instead rested his head in his hands. The teacher was still talking, but he could not even begin to comprehend her words. All it was to him at the moment was background noise, something to try and focus on to pull himself away from the throbbing behind his eyes.
Hurts hurts hurts was the only comprehensive thought in his mind at the moment, and his classmates were slowly starting to notice his unusual behaviour.
"Sensei?" Yuugi interrupted, raising his hand while shooting his best friend a worried look. "I think maybe Jyonouchi-kun needs to go to the nurse's office."
The teacher frowned slightly before turning her attention to the blond teen. He was currently slouched at his desk; his eyes were closed and his face was carefully blank. She had seen students fake illness many times during her stint at Domino High -- she had even called Jyonouchi out on a "sudden" bug or two -- but this time it looked like the boy was in real pain.
At the sound of his name, the blond lifted his head slightly and tried to look at the teacher. His vision went blurry for a moment and he blinked in a futile attempt to clear it. The headache -- migraine? -- only seemed to intensify as he tried to bring the world back into focus so he gave up, letting his gaze fall on the blur that he thought might be the instructor.
"Do you need assistance to the nurse's office?" she asked, obviously displeased with the break in her lesson. Jyonouchi blinked at her silently, taking a moment to register the question before slowly shaking his head.
"No, sensei," he replied quietly. "I think I can make it there on my own." He ignored the concerned looks from his friends -- mostly because his vision was still a bit fuzzy although it had cleared a miniscule amount -- and stowed his books back in the desk before picking up his schoolbag. Without sparing even a sidelong glance to his curious classmates, Jyonouchi stood and left the room.
Please let me get there without falling, he pleaded silently to whichever deity might be listening. I've gotten there before with my eyes closed. Just let me get there this time, too.
The warning signs were all clear, but only if one knew what to look for.
He crossed his arms and sent the man seated at the computer console an annoyed glare. "Tell me you have good news."
"If by good news you mean that we know what happened to the holographic power grids then yes, I have good news," the head researcher replied dryly. Most other people would be cowering when faced with one of Kaiba Seto's infamous glares, but he had been part of the research team ever since the teenager had shifted Kaiba Corporation's focus to game technology. He was well acquainted with Kaiba's moods; this one was just mild annoyance.
"What have you found?" the brunet asked, stance relaxing marginally.
"From what information we have managed to gather, the main generator somehow overheated," the man began, pulling up a model of the grids in question. "The grid was fully functional for the first duel of the Battle City finals, but the core began overheating during the second duel of the semi-finals. At that point the generator blew. Fortunately the technicians on hand were able to rework the grid and get it working again before any further duels took place."
Kaiba nodded slowly, recalling to himself that there was a brief lull between a few of the duels during the semi-finals. "So there's no chance that there could ever be a repeat of this incident?" he asked. "If we plan to incorporate the holographic stadium tech into the KaibaLand arenas, I want to be one hundred percent positive that some kid will not be knocked off his feet because of a malfunction."
"We have tested the new grid extensively," the scientist confirmed. "If the generator even comes close to overheating, the hologrid will shut down immediately."
Kaiba nodded again. "Thankfully we caught the problem, and no one was in the stadium when the malfunction occurred."
The scientist paused for a moment before turning to look at his employer. "I thought you knew. There were two duelists on the field when the generator blew."
At this news the teenager stiffened. Although his expression remained neutral, almost aloof, he had begun to mentally go through a short list of which duelists had battled after the first round. Rashid Ishtar, Jyonouchi Katsuya, Kujaku Mai, Malik Ishtar, Isis Ishtar, himself....
"Who?" he demanded quietly, already removing himself and the Ishtar sister from the list; he had had an odd experience during the duel but nothing untoward, and Isis had appeared to be fine.
The research scientist pulled up the dueling statistics. "Rashid Ishtar and Jyonouchi Katsuya. Ishtar was just outside the main scope of the power surge; as for Jyonouchi, let me check..." he trailed off, tapping a few keys and pulling up a diagram of where each duelist was at the moment the malfunction occurred. "Oh dear. This can't be good."
On the outside, Kaiba was the very picture of calm. Internally, however, he was (to put it mildly) freaking out.
Oh no, this could wind up being an international incident. Unless he is not talking about Ishtar... damn. Safe on that front at least, but Jyonouchi... true, he's not well-off, but he does have sense when it comes to money. He'll definitely sue. For a lot. Shit shit shit, how am I going to handle that? Another KaibaLand? No more here in Japan. Euro KaibaLand's a flop -- maybe America? That might work... two on either coast already, though, maybe in the Midwest... Vegas? Hmm, people can drop off their kids and hit the casinos....
"What did you find?" he asked aloud.
The scientist pulled up the schematics for the generator grid at the moment it malfunctioned, overlaying an 'aerial' view of the arena at the same instant. "It appears that Jyonouchi was directly over the generator when it blew."
"...excuse me, sir?"
"Were the duelists examined by the medical crash team?"
The man gave Kaiba an odd look before turning back to the monitor. "Ishtar was examined immediately afterward; Jyonouchi regained consciousness prior to the end of the duel and refused treatment."
The brunet found himself glaring again. "They had him -- unconscious -- on a table for nearly two hours, and no examination was conducted?"
"According to the lab report made at the time, the med staff was more focused on keeping his heart beating and his lungs working," another research assistant cut in. "When he regained consciousness, he basically told the staff to -- and I quote -- fuck off then left."
Kaiba nodded slowly to himself, chewing the inside of his lip thoughtfully. "Well, then," he said after a moment, "should there be any negative repercussions as a result of his refusal to receive treatment, we can simply write it off as genetic predisposition."
Kaiba flinched, but only slightly. "Mokuba, how long have you been standing there?"
The younger brother only needed to say two words: "KaibaLand Vegas."
"Don't you think a medical examination should be done before you start panicking, niisama?" the boy interrupted. "Jyonouchi could be just fine, you know."
Kaiba was about to agree with that assessment when the memory of the older teenager leaving class ill just two days previously crossed his mind. And before that, he had seen Jyonouchi dry-swallowing aspirin between second and third block on Monday nearly a week earlier.
"Maybe," he said aloud, but he definitely felt -- no, knew -- something was wrong. He pulled out his phone and called the first number in the directory.
"Isono. I have a job for you."
Had it been found sooner, it might have been treatable.
He knew that it was getting worse, that he really should see a doctor, but that would mean doing three things he definitely did not want to do: getting enough money saved up for the visit, telling his friends that something was wrong with him, and telling his father the same. And although Jyonouchi Hiroshi might have a few vices, he was not a stupid man; he had to know that his son was lying when he said that the migraine medication was being stolen by either mice or very tidy burglars.
The blond teen sighed mentally even as he waved a goodbye to Honda and Anzu. The couple had recently started dating and set aside every Friday evening as "us time." It was highly unlikely that either of them would be seen again until school the next day. All that Jyonouchi had to worry about now was pretending that his head wasn't killing him for another ten minutes until parting company with Yuugi and Bakura (who had seemed a bit 'off' since Egypt, but considering all that had happened in the past year, it was not that surprising).
"Hey, Yuugi-kun, isn't that one of Kaiba-kun's people?"
Jyonouchi turned to blink at Bakura, or at least the vaguely fuzzy shape that his voice was coming from. His vision went blurred again and he felt his headache getting worse, but there was no way in hell he was going to show that anything was wrong.
"I don't think so," Yuugi replied, unknowingly saving his best friend from playing the dumb blond card. "The only reason Kaiba-kun would send out one of his bodyguards is if Mokuba-kun had been kidnapped." He paused for a moment before adding, "Again."
"Well," Bakura said, sounding almost as if he had taken offense to Yuugi's argument, "whoever he is, he's heading right for us."
Isono could hear the teens' conversation as he approached from the parked limousine. The smallest of the three -- Mutou Yuugi, he reminded himself once again -- watched him curiously, while the white-haired boy seemed to be on the verge of glaring. Jyonouchi, however, appeared to be looking past or even through him... or perhaps he really couldn't see him clearly...?
He wasn't paid to be curious or make speculations, however; he had an assignment and there was no way he was going back without finishing it.
"Please excuse the interruption," Isono said once he had reached them, giving a slight bow, "but you need to come with me to Kaiba Corp."
"Good luck with that. I'll see you guys later."
Bakura snickered and shook his head, a faint trace of amusement in his eyes. "I think he was talking to you, Bl--Jyonouchi-kun."
The blond turned slightly to give the other teen a curious look. For a second there, Bakura had almost sounded like the other Bakura. He shook that thought off, settling on a displeased expression as he looked back to where Isono was standing.
"How about no," Jyonouchi said, tone clearly expressing exactly how much he hated that idea.
"This really isn't up for discussion," the man replied, frowning at the now-glaring blond. "I am under Kaiba-sama's instructions, and those are to accompany you to Kaiba Corp."
"Well, tell Kaiba he can kiss my ass."
"Or, you can tell him that yourself." Before any of the teenagers could say anything, Isono had caught Jyonouchi, tossed him over his shoulder, and was starting back towards the limousine. For a moment all was fairly quiet, but that didn't last for long.
"Hey!" Jyonouchi fairly shrieked, squirming and pounding at the man's back. "Put me down right now! This is kidnapping!"
"It's not really kidnapping if there's not the potential for a rooftop duel!" Yuugi whipped around and gave Bakura a long, searching look. The white-haired boy blinked back at him: "What?"
"I think it might be time for you to switch to decaf, Bakura-kun."
"Hello! Still being taken somewhere against my will here!" Jyonouchi cut in, ending with a slight yelp as he was literally dropped into the limousine.
Isono muttered, "I really don't get paid enough for this," before turning to face Yuugi and Bakura. "Perhaps you should come along as well."
Bakura frowned slightly. "Won't Seto-kun object?" he queried.
The man made a dismissive gesture. "Kaiba-sama's orders were to find Jyonouchi and take him to Kaiba Corp. He never said that it only had to be Jyonouchi that I brought back."
"Well..." Yuugi said, trailing off as he considered his limited options. On one hand, he could just leave his best friend in a situation beyond his control, go home, and talk to Jyonouchi in the morning to find out what had happened. On the other, he could go along with the other teenager and possibly act as damage control should an inevitable argument break out between Jyonouchi and Kaiba. Loyalty to his friend won out over self-preservation.
"I'm coming with you."
Bakura sighed and nodded. "I'm coming, too. I have nothing else to do this evening. But, um, why didn't Jyonouchi-kun just try to sneak off while you were talking to us?"
Isono smirked. "Child safety locks on the doors."
But a prior injury caused the new damage to become irreparable, and in fact worsened the existing condition.
"For the record, I really hate you."
Note to self: Give Isono another raise, Kaiba thought before looking up from his computer and giving Jyonouchi a steady -- glare? no -- look.
"Duly noted," he replied dryly, saving his file before sitting back. "I do hope that you didn't give Isono too much trouble."
"Weren't you going to tell Seto-kun something, B--Jyonouchi-kun?" Bakura cut in before the blond could snap off a reply. Yuugi groaned softly and dropped his head into his hands; he wasn't surprised that his friend had latched onto that thought but now wasn't really the time to mention it...!
"Yes, Bakura," Jyonouchi said, "I was getting to that." He turned his dark look back to Kaiba before speaking again. "What Bakura is apparently eagerly awaiting is my telling you to feel free to kiss my ass, but I'll forgo that for the moment so you can tell me just why the hell you had me kidnapped."
Kaiba felt an amused smirk cross his lips. "It's only kidnapping if someone benefits, bonkotsu. I have nothing to gain." Aside from answers, and far too much to lose, he added mentally; judging from Jyonouchi's thunderous expression, his reply wasn't acceptable.
"Fuck you. That doesn't answer my question at all, you bastard."
The brunet mentally sighed as he straightened in his seat. "It was brought to my attention that a few entrants were injured during the Battle City tournament. Most were examined. You were not."
"So you kidnapped Jyonouchi for a physical?" Bakura asked incredulously. "That means no chance of a rooftop duel, doesn't it?"
Kaiba narrowed his eyes at the comment; as distracted as he was, the 'humour' wasn't exactly appreciated. "No," he ground out, "there will be no duels today."
Jyonouchi, oddly enough, looked worried. "So why the sudden concern?" he asked, arms crossed over his chest in a silent back off command. "That was months ago."
The question drew Kaiba from his quiet contemplation of Bakura (who was now avidly examining everything of value in the office), and he turned his gaze back to the blond. "Protocol," he said simply.
"Good answer," Bakura chimed in, eyes fixed on a Renoir on the wall. "Why don't you cite insurance costs too, make it a real party?"
"Bakura-kun," Yuugi sighed in exasperation, "you really do need to switch to decaf."
"I'm given the results first."
All eyes turned to Jyonouchi, whose own gaze was locked on Kaiba. The brunet blinked in surprise at the abrupt request.
"Pardon me?" he asked.
"I get the results before anyone else, Kaiba, you included," the blond repeated. "Promise me that much and I'll submit to the damned physical."
Blue eyes narrowed. It was on the tip of his tongue to say no, and he nearly started to say it until he actually looked Jyonouchi in the eye. For once, the blond was deathly serious, and Kaiba somehow knew that if he refused the other boy's request that Jyonouchi would walk out the door without a backward glance. The memories of the other leaving class and popping pain medication flickered through his mind again; if the blond left now, his questions might never be answered.
When he was told, he was not surprised; in all honesty he had merely been hoping for a little more time. But he had known it was inevitable.
"Kaiba-sama? We have the medical results you requested."
Kaiba turned slightly to face the head of his medical team, Yuugi and Bakura moving closer to listen in as well. "What did you find?"
The doctor sighed and shook his head, instantly setting his employer on edge. "For the most part, Jyonouchi-san is a healthy teenager. A little underweight for his height, perhaps, but otherwise fine. The main cause for concern is his eyes."
"Wh-what's wrong with Jyonouchi-kun's eyes?" Yuugi asked with a worried frown. "He hasn't said anything to me about something being wrong."
"Is that the reason bonko--Jyonouchi's been taking aspirin like they're candy?" Kaiba fairly demanded before the doctor could reply. Two sets of startled eyes immediately locked on him.
"Are you sure, Seto-kun?" Bakura asked, his tone somewhat sharp. "Jyonouchi-kun isn't the sort to abuse drugs. At least, I don't think he is."
Before Kaiba could reply the doctor spoke up again: "Jyonouchi-san mentioned that he's been suffering from migraines and blurred vision for nearly three months now. He admitted to using over the counter drugs to ease the pain but said they really aren't helping too much anymore." He paused for a moment then added, "Oddly enough, he wasn't surprised by the prognosis. If anything, I would say he'd been expecting it."
"Expecting what?" Kaiba's tone was ice cold, demanding. He found himself oddly concerned over the blond... and where the hell was Jyonouchi, anyway?
Dead silence met the doctor's words. For a moment Kaiba wondered if it was because the other two didn't understand what that meant, but when he glanced over both Jyonouchi's friends appeared to be in shock. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before speaking again.
"How long?" he asked quietly.
"Approximately six to eight months, at this point," came the reply. "The damage is irreversible."
Kaiba's protest was cut off by Yuugi. "How could Jyonouchi-kun lose his sight that fast, doctor? It makes no sense."
The physician glanced at Kaiba briefly, waiting for permission to continue. At the brunet's short nod he spoke: "I asked that question as well. Jyonouchi-san said that he had had an... encounter some months back that initially damaged his eyes. The prognosis at that time was slow degeneration of his sight and full blindness within the next ten years. The accident at Battle City rapidly sped up that progress."
The brief silence was broken by a low growl followed by the snarled words, "Fucking Hirutani." Surprisingly enough to all those present, this came from none other than Mutou Yuugi. The teenager's eyes were narrowed in a rage directed at the man who was not there.
"Hirutani," the boy repeated, shaking his head slightly in disgust. "He's a bad memory from before you came to Domino, Bakura-kun. The very last time we had to... deal with him, the bastard threw shards of glass at Jyonouchi-kun. I knew that it had temporarily blinded Jyonouchi-kun, but he still managed to hold his own against Hirutani."
Kaiba's eyes widened slightly; he remembered that name from somewhere.... "Hirutani Kisho?" he asked. "Seventeen, gang ties, found dead at a warehouse as the apparent victim of a fall, no further investigation done on the matter due to his criminal record?"
Yuugi's smile was grim. "Which is the reason why it was the last time we had to worry about him. He forgot about the glass after throwing it and stepped on the pieces; Jyonouchi-kun heard him coming and dodged."
"How long was Jyonouchi-kun blinded?" Bakura asked with a small frown. His tone was both mildly curious and more than a touch concerned.
"He was out of school for about a week," Kaiba answered before Yuugi could reply. "I remember because of all the whining he did over the amount of makeup work he had to cover upon his return."
Yuugi laughed, although the sound was somewhat bitter. "That's how he always is," he said quietly, "covering up what he feels by acting like the class clown or just another dumb blond. He thinks that I don't see it, that no one really notices it, but I do." His expression grew a bit sadder as he added, "Just like Jyonouchi-kun to keep something like this a secret."
"Where is he now?" Kaiba asked, turning towards the physician once again. When a full minute passed with no answer, he snapped out, "Well?"
"...he, er, left, Kaiba-sama."
This time the silence -- and Kaiba's private (for the moment) fuming -- was broken by quiet laughter. The CEO shot a withering glare at Bakura, who could not seem to contain his amusement.
"So what you're telling me... is that a half-blind kid... gave security the slip?" the white-haired teen managed to get out in between chuckles. For a brief moment, Kaiba Set seriously contemplated strangling the boy with his bare hands.
And the doctor was shaking his head. "No. After we gave him the results, Jyonouchi-san thanked us and said he needed to go home immediately. Security escorted him as far as the lobby... then he simply walked out the door."
"Mutou," the brunet said in a quiet, almost dangerous tone, "where does bonkotsu live?"
Jyonouchi Katsuya closed the door behind him and leaned on it heavily, letting out a tired sigh. He had suspected, deep in the back of his mind, the very thing that had been confirmed only half an hour before, but had hoped that he was wrong.
Which meant by now Kaiba, Bakura, and Yuugi knew that he was going blind. That still left the rest of his friends to tell--
"Katsuya? That you, kiddo?"
--as well as his father.
I am so not ready to do this, the teen thought with a purely mental sigh as he straightened up. Aloud he called, "Who else would it be, Dad? Unless you have a girlfriend you haven't told me about...."
"Smart ass," Jyonouchi Hiroshi countered as he stepped out of the kitchen and leaned on the doorframe. He gave his son a long look, which Katsuya attempted to return with an innocent smile. "Remind me again, what time does school let out for the day?"
"Five?" the teenager replied, not sure of just where, exactly, this conversation was heading.
"And it takes you how long to walk home?"
"About forty-five minutes, give or take a few."
"So, young man, explain to me why you are just arriving home at seven in the evening," Jyonouchi-san said, the words sounding almost (but not quite) like a question.
The reply came out before Katsuya actually thought about what he was saying: "Sorry, Dad. I got a little kidnapped."
The next thing he knew, his father had hold of one of his arms and was checking him over for any marks. "It wasn't that damned gang you used to run around with, was it? You don't seem to be bleeding, that's a good sign; take off your shirt, they might have left some bruises on you."
"Dad, stop that!" the blond insisted, pushing lightly at his father. "Nothing like that happened. But, um...."
Jyonouchi-san frowned slightly. "Katsuya."
The teenager sighed softly. "Got a few minutes before you need to get ready for work? I, ah, have something that I need to tell you. It's important."
The older man nodded, concern apparent in his own brown eyes. "Yeah," he said softly. "Let's go sit in the living room; then you can tell me, okay?"
They had no sooner started in that direction when there came a brisk knock at the door. Katsuya glanced at his father, who waved him on even as he headed to see who it might be. Generally, people did not visit the Jyonouchis in their home -- all of Hiroshi's former friends were patronizing the bars by now, his current friends knew that he worked nights, and Katsuya did not invite people over as a personal rule held over from when things were a bit... rough for the family of two. And although things were much better these days, some old habits died harder than others.
Jyonouchi-san shook off those thoughts and opened the door, blinking at the teenager on the other side. A quick glance told him that the kid was a student at his son's school, which was strange in and of itself; surely Katsuya would have mentioned it to him if he had someone coming over for any reason, especially since it just did not happen.
"Could you come back later?" Jyonouchi-san asked, not even opening the door the whole way. "We're in the middle of a family discussion, so Katsuya really can't talk right now." Without waiting for a reply he simply closed the door and started for the living room once more.
"Who was that at the door?" Katsuya asked, sitting on the arm of the couch and toying with one of those Duel Monster cards of his -- Jyonouchi-san thought it might be some sort of dragon, from what little he could see of the artwork. He started to reply when there came another knock, this one somewhat more hesitant than the last.
"Some kid from your school," he said with a slight roll of his eyes, "and apparently just as stubborn as he is tall."
"Tall?" Katsuya repeated slowly; there was no goddamned way...! "Brown hair? Trench coat?"
"Yes on all counts," his father replied. "I take it you know him?"
"Damn it, it's Kaiba."
Jyonouchi-san frowned, ignoring the third knock. "Watch your language, kiddo," he scolded. "And are you sure? He didn't look like Kaiba-san to me."
"Dad, he doesn't exactly wear a three-piece suit to school!"
Meanwhile on the other side of the door, Kaiba frowned to himself and wondered if he should try knocking again. The man who had answered had to be bonkotsu's father -- they had the same colour eyes and the man's reddish blond hair was a match to Shizuka's -- but he'd seemed familiar beyond that. And furthermore, Kaiba wasn't sure if he should be insulted or amused at having a door (basically) slammed in his face. That was not exactly something that happened to him, after all.
He had just decided to try one more time and raised his hand to knock when the door swung wide open. Jyonouchi-san stood on the other side with one hand on the knob, giving Kaiba a searching look. Just past the man, Katsuya was leaning on the archway leading into the living room, eyes closed and looking for all the world that he would like it just fine if the floor were to open up and suck him down. The brunet turned his attention back to the older man just in time to see recognition flicker in his eyes, followed by curiosity and embarrassment.
"Sorry, Kaiba-san," the man said to him politely before glancing back over his shoulder and remarking, "You were right, he looks completely different when he's not in a suit or those weird-looking trench coats."
"Gee, Dad, say it a little louder; I honestly don't think they heard you downstairs," Katsuya muttered under his breath. His father shot him a look that clearly said yes, but I heard that before turning back to a fairly confused Kaiba.
"Ah, understandable," the brunet replied, giving Jyonouchi-san a cursory look. "Do I know you from somewhere?"
"Oh, for god's sake, Kaiba, do you even look at the paychecks before you sign them? Dad works in your damned building."
"Jyonouchi Katsuya. What the hell have I told you about the language?" the blond's father countered immediately. "And you shouldn't be rude. It's not like the Kaiba Corp building is small, you know."
Ah-ha, Kaiba thought, finally making the connection on where he had seen the elder Jyonouchi before. He's part of the overnight security staff. I didn't recognize him in street clothes... and he really does not look old enough to have teenagers.
Katsuya snorted lightly in reply to his father's words, drawing Kaiba back out of his thoughts. "Hell yeah, I know that. I just spent over an hour there mostly against my will!"
Suddenly Kaiba found himself on the receiving end of a harsh, paternal glare; for a split second he wondered if he looked even half as threatening when he turned similar glares onto his business rivals before Jyonouchi-san even said a word: "Really, now? Do tell."
"Nothing was done without your consent, bonkotsu," the brunet snapped out before realizing that the use of that particular pet--erm, nickname might not be in his best interest. The thought was quickly confirmed when Jyonouchi-san quirked an eyebrow and smirked at him.
"Well, that clears up one thing, at least," the man drawled, "but I still want to know what 'a little kidnapped' consists of and just how Kaiba Corp may have been involved."
Instinct and years of dealing with self-important businessmen said to tell the man that it was classified information; what actually came out was not what he had intended to say: "I prefer Bakura's definition of kidnapping, and a routine physical is hardly sinister."
Jyonouchi-san frowned. "A physical?"
"Just a precaution," Kaiba replied, continuing on the vein that he had inadvertently begun. "I had assumed you were aware of the fact that bonk--your son was injured during the Battle City tournament a few months ago. It's policy to fully ensure that no long-term damage occurred as a result."
The older man turned towards his son, who was openly staring at Kaiba in something akin to shock. "Katsuya, would this in any way tie into your week-long absence from school some time ago?"
Katsuya tore his gaze away from Kaiba and nodded slightly. "Yes."
"Six to eight." And now apparently the Jyonouchis were speaking in some code only they could comprehend. Kaiba wondered idly when they would switch back to plain Japanese so he could have some idea of what was being discussed.
"Years?" The older of the pair sounded calm, even if his tone was a bit strained. When the younger shook his head no, a thread of panic did enter his voice: "Weeks?!"
"Dad!" Ah, and there was that fire he had come to associate with Jyonouchi Katsuya. Were this any other situation -- and the participants speaking so that he could actually follow the conversation -- Kaiba would expect the blond to issue a challenge with his next breath.
Jyonouchi-can calmed somewhat at that, even if he did look a bit pensive, or perhaps thoughtful. "Hmm. I need a raise."
For a moment Kaiba wondered what the hell kind of thing was that to say to one's child; then he realized that the last part was directed towards him. He gave the man a long look before finally replying. "Excuse me?"
"I need a raise," Jyonouchi-san repeated. "My pay now is split between the rent on this place, half of the monthly bills, tuition to Domino High, and on classes to help Katsuya learn to live without sight. My son's part-time job covers the remainder of the bills and any personal expenses he has. In a very short amount of time, Katsuya will not be able to help out and I will be carrying the full load. So, logic dictates that I either need a raise or a second job."
"Like hell," Katsuya cut in. "You don't sleep near enough as it is, Dad! If I have to I'll... I don't know, sell pencils or something at the bus station. If she was still around--"
"We will find a way to manage." It was said in a clear do not argue with me on this tone, and Katsuya fell abruptly silent in spite of his obvious displeasure. Kaiba could only assume that they were referring to the absentee mother, followed by the recollection of just why Katsuya had entered the Duelist Kingdom tournament in the first place. What kind of mother could take money from her son to benefit her daughter then completely disregard the former?
The CEO clicked his tongue in disgust that such individuals existed as he pulled out his PDA. The conversation -- or, rather, strained argument, as both Jyonouchis were talking about the woman without actually mentioning her name -- faded into background noise as he worked through his calculations. If what Jyonouchi-san said was true in regards to the family's living expenses, his current wages were far too low. Perhaps if he raised it by about five thousand yen... per hour... but then he would be making more than his peers....
"I still think you should have kept a portion of the money for yourself, Katsuya," Jyonouchi-san was saying when Kaiba tuned back into the world around him.
"That money was always intended to go to Shizu-chan," Katsuya replied quickly. "The surgery was successful, and what little was left I put into a savings account for Shizuka. The old hag doesn't even know that there was money left over."
"You realize that you are talking about your mother." Oddly enough, in spite of the scolding words, Jyonouchi-san's tone was one of amusement with a thread of pride mixed in.
"You realize that I really don't give a sh--"
"Here." The word was followed by Kaiba passing his PDA to the oldest male in the room, fully aware of the fact that he had cut off what Katsuya had been about to say. A small part of him noted that the interruption appeared to have been timed just to keep the blond from being scolded about his language again, but that was merely a coincidence; surely he did not care one way or the other if Katsuya got into trouble.
Jyonouchi-can frowned to himself as he looked over the figures. "Not to say that you made a mistake, Kaiba-san, but isn't ten thousand yen per hour a supervisor's salary?"
"It is," Kaiba replied even as he ignored the odd look Katsuya was giving him. "You have valid reasons for needing the pay, you're obviously competent in your job if Isono saw fit to hire you on the security staff, and I have been looking to replace Ichijoji for a while now as it is."
The man raised an eyebrow slightly. "So you know that all the man does every night is watch the Game Show Network and answer every question wrong?"
Kaiba blinked. "Actually, I didn't know that. He just annoys me in the bimonthly supervisor meetings and complains about how Isono runs security."
Jyonouchi-san seemed to accept the answer. "So, when exactly do I start my new position?"
"I can make a few calls and have everything taken care of before you start your shift this evening."
"Speaking of work," Katsuya cut in, having been quietly watching for the past several minutes, "it's already seven-thirty, Dad."
"Fuck!" Jyonouchi-san swore before vanishing down the short hallway leading to the bedrooms and bathroom. Kaiba blinked slowly before shaking his head.
"I think I just found out where you got your... impressive vocabulary, bonkotsu," he remarked dryly. To his surprise the blond smothered a laugh, shoulders shaking slightly as he contained his mirth.
"And yet he continues to blame The Bitch," Katsuya replied with a shrug after a moment. His expression abruptly turned more serious, and he glanced down at the floor before speaking again. "Um, thanks, I guess. For giving my dad that promotion and all."
Kaiba found himself looking a bit more closely at the other boy. The odd thread of concern he had felt earlier was still there, but now it was accompanied by a trill of contentment for helping Katsuya's family in even such a small way. The feeling confused him, and Kaiba did not like being confused, especially by his own reactions to situations.
"It was the logical course of action." Immediately the brunet wanted to kick himself. "I mean, considering the circumstances and that my company's technology is at least partially to blame--"
Two long fingers pressed to his lips, stopping the flow of words; Katsuya grinned softly and shook his head. "Kaiba Seto at a loss for words and babbling. No one would ever believe it if I told them." He dropped his hand, crossing his arms as he walked towards the kitchen. "It's okay, Kaiba, really. It was going to happen in a few years anyway; I've had a little bit of time to get used to the idea."
Kaiba frowned slightly at that, but before he could start to reply Jyonouchi-san returned, now more recognizable to him as a Kaiba Corp employee despite the fact that he was still rushing around the small apartment. "Damn it, I haven't even started on anything for you to eat tonight, so just call for take-out. Kaiba-san, have you eaten yet today?"
Rather than reply, the older man shook his head. "Katsuya, order two pizzas and do not let this guy leave until he has eaten at least two slices."
By this point Katsuya and Kaiba were both staring at Jyonouchi-san. "Um, Dad, are you going to make it a habit to adopt all my friends? Because if you are, I'm going to need to warn Honda that he's grounded till he's thirty."
"If they don't appear capable of taking proper care of themselves, I will. Besides," Jyonouchi-san added with a shrug, "Mokuba-san cheats at Poker and maybe getting a meal into his brother will clear the list of favours that I owe him."
Kaiba blinked. "That explains why half the security staff has been out to the house lately. And, I have no wish to impose--"
"You're here. You are going to eat. I insist."
"I don't like pizza."
"Have you ever even tried it?" When the brunet took a second too long to reply, Jyonouchi-san nodded sharply. "I thought not. Katsuya, order one of those plain and remember what I told you. Kaiba-san, you should call Mokuba-san and let him know where you are."
Kaiba heaved a purely mental sigh, conceding this round to the older man. "Very well. I will call him after I take care of the business calls." He took a moment before adding a quiet, "Thank you for dinner."
"Don't worry about it," the man said, pouring himself out a travel mug of coffee before moving back over to where Katsuya had picked up the phone. He gave his son a fond look and ruffled the teen's hair. "Behave yourself, Katsuya. And don't forget to do your homework, got it?"
"Bye, Dad," the blond replied with a small grin. "Go defend Kaiba Corp from the people stupid enough to attempt a walk-in take over or whatever."
"Smart ass." Jyonouchi-san gave his son a quick one-armed hug then he was heading out the door. Kaiba watched him go, something in him almost hurting. He could barely remember them, but at that moment he found himself wondering if his parents would act anything like bonkotsu's father.
"It's going to take about forty-five minutes for the pizza to get here," Katsuya said from behind him, pulling him from his thoughts. "So... think you could help me out a little with the English homework while we're waiting?"
Kaiba shrugged absently, feeling... something in him almost jolt when the blond gave him a warm smile before going to grab his books. It took him a few moments more to realize that bonkotsu had called him a friend.
He felt oddly warm, and somehow content, for the remainder of the night.
If he had suspected that anyone would figure it out, he would not have pegged it being the teenager currently giving him what he had long ago dubbed the Pharaoh Glare. It was... unusual to see it bestowed upon him by violet eyes, but it looked as if gaming skills were not the only thing Mutou Yuugi had picked up from constant contact with Atemu for over a year.
Still, he was going to make the attempt to continue with his masquerade for as long as possible. "I didn't think that you would come to see me off, Yuugi-kun," he said, schooling his expression into a gentle smile. "That was very kind of you."
Yuugi's glare didn't let up. "Just drop it."
What the--?! He blinked in surprise, and the confusion in his voice was in no way faked: "Drop what, Yuugi-kun?"
"And you did it again. Did you know that you twitch every time you say '-kun'? Plus, you've just recently started calling Kaiba-kun by his given name and you nearly called Jyonouchi-kun 'blondie' or something five times this week." Yuugi paused to take a breath before delivery the final blow: "No one blames you, you know."
"Blame? What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about Bakura Ryou-kun. No one blames you for anything it did," the teen paused for a moment before concluding with, "touzoku-kun."
Bakura opened his mouth to reply, but found he could not; he had no idea how to respond. Glancing around quickly, he grabbed Yuugi's arm and pulled the other boy outside the airport's passenger terminal. He was somewhat surprised that the teen went willingly -- hell, Yuugi pushed the door open for them to walk through. He didn't even realize he was cursing under his breath until Yuugi started laughing softly.
"When did you figure it out?" Bakura asked, just stopping himself from adding 'mini-pharaoh' to the end.
"I started piecing everything together last month," Yuugi replied. "When Kaiba-kun, um, 'requested' that Jyonouchi-kun have that examination and we found out about his vision loss. You slipped up a couple of times during the evening. Not a whole lot, really, but just enough to make me curious."
"Fuck," the older 'teen' complained. "I should have cut and run then instead of waiting."
"No." Bakura turned to stare at Yuugi, but the other was speaking before he could respond: "I told you already, no one blames you. Honda-kun and Anzu still think that you're Ryou-kun, Kaiba-kun is distracted with trying to 'fix' Jyonouchi-kun, and Jyonouchi-kun is focused on his sessions; but when they find out, I know that they'll feel the same as I do about it."
Bakura was honestly speechless for a moment. "Somehow I doubt that. You do remember the Memory RPG, correct?"
"That wasn't you. At least Jyonouchi-kun and Kaiba-kun know that." Yuugi snickered before adding, "Even if it takes them both a little while to understand other things. Come home with me."
The once-thief king blinked in confusion. "Whoa, back up there for a minute. What do you mean about Seto and Blondie? And was that last part a come-on?!"
"Please do not tell me that you, of all people, haven't noticed how much time those two have been spending together lately?" Yuugi asked, completely ignoring the last part of Bakura's question. "Kaiba-kun goes over to Jyonouchi-kun's apartment every Wednesday evening. Apparently he told Mokuba-kun that it's only to help Jyonouchi-kun with his English assignments and check up on his progress, but somehow I don't think that's the real reason."
"Huh," Bakura mused quietly, "I thought it was strange when Seto moved his seat in class to be next to Blondie. But, to play the devil's advocate here for a moment, maybe he only did that to keep an eye on Blondie during lessons." It felt pretty damn good, not speaking in yadonushi's speech patterns for a little while. He could easily get used to it again.
"Oh, he's been keeping an eye on Jyonouchi-kun, all right. Kind of like how Honda-kun always keeps one eye on Anzu and I keep my eye on you," Yuugi said, smirking a little.
Bakura quirked an eyebrow. "Now, this is an intriguing development," he drawled. "It might be worth my time to stick around for a little while, see what happens. I might as well trade in this plane ticket instead of flying to America like I had initially planned on doing."
Yuugi smiled. "That sounds like a good plan to me, touzoku-kun."
"So," Bakura asked idly as they headed back inside together, "are your grandfather and mother at home?"
"No, that is not acceptable."
Katsuya frowned to himself, fingers running lightly over the page as he tried not to listen in on Se--Kaiba's conversation. Nearly two months had gone by since his impending blindness was confirmed -- and Honda was still a little annoyed that he had been one of the last to find out, even if he was being supportive over all -- and Kaiba still showed no signed of accepting that outcome. Every Wednesday it was the exact same thing: go to school, head home, have Kaiba stop by to help with the English assignment for that week, Kaiba receive a phone call reiterating that Katsuya's condition was irreversible, Kaiba argue for a while before hanging up and returning to the room... repeat ad nauseam.
He was very close to breaking that damned cell phone. Or asking Bakura to hide it; true, the thief still freaked him out on occasion, but at least the other agreed with him that Kaiba 'losing' his phone would not necessarily be a bad thing.
Shaking his head, Katsuya closed his Braille reader and rested his head on his arms. His vision was horribly blurred any more, so much so that it hurt to try focusing for more than a few minutes. The only real relief he got was when he closed his eyes, which he took the opportunity to do now.
"Then find someone who is willing to try harder," Kaiba was nearly snarling at whomever had the misfortune to be at the other end of the line. "I can't honestly believe that no one--"
"Seto. Let it drop."
Kaiba snapped his mouth shut and glanced over at the table. Katsuya was not even looking at him, head pillowed on his arms and his eyes closed. The brunet frowned to himself before speaking into the phone again: "Just find someone and keep me notified. And I do not care how much it costs."
Katsuya waited until the other hung up to speak: "You're wasting your time and money, rich boy. Every doctor in Japan will tell you the same thing."
"Then I'll contact doctors in Europe and American," Kaiba countered. "What about that operation that your sister had? Surely that's an option."
The blond shook his head. "Two totally different scenarios, Seto: genetic predisposition versus outside forces. The glass did enough damage to become permanent before Battle City; there is no 'fixing' my eyes at this point."
"How is that fair?"
Kaiba scowled. He hated how complacent the blond was being over this entire thing. The Jyonouchi Katsuya he knew and (liked?) was accustomed to would have complained and fought the outcome tooth and nail. This new version did not seem to have any fight left in him... and that bothered him for some reason. "How can you just accept this?"
"It's not like I just rolled over and said 'oh well, whatever' when the doctors first told me," came the reply. "I thought everything would be just fine once the last of the glass was removed, but I was informed otherwise. The only reason I was out of school for a full week is because Dad wanted second and third and fourth opinions before he accepted the whole thing. It took me another month to realize there was nothing to do but learn how to live with it."
Kaiba was silent for a long stretch of time. When he was finally able to find his voice, he said, "Doesn't it bother you, knowing that in just a few months you won't be able to do some of the things you love?"
"Honestly? Sometimes it pisses me off," Katsuya said candidly. "Sometimes I get so mad that I could just hit something. But that still does not change a damned thing." He paused for a moment to sit up once more, popping his neck before turning his eyes towards the other teen. "And there is nothing that you can do about it, either."
"I can't accept that."
"It was already too late to do anything months ago. The headaches are getting worse and--" Katsuya cut himself off abruptly, looking down at his hands as if they held all the answers to all the questions ever given voice.
"And what?" When he received to response, Kaiba moved to kneel beside the chair and rest one hand on the blond's arm. "And what, Jyonouchi?"
Katsuya refused to look up. "It's not important," he finally replied. "Just... troublesome."
"Tell me." It sounded like a command, and Kaiba mentally winced at his own voice. Almost as an afterthought, he repeated himself: "Tell me, please."
The silence was uncomfortable. Both teenagers silently wondered why Kaiba continued to push the issue; only one had the faintest idea of the answer. After what seemed like hours but was only minutes, Katsuya spoke.
"I can't really see anything clearly now." His voice was quiet and low, as if he was afraid to speak of his problems aloud. "Everything is blurred. Up close, far away... doesn't matter. It all looks the same to me anymore. Sometimes, it all goes out; then all I see is black."
"Oh. I--" Kaiba started, but was unable to continue. He honestly had no earthly idea what the right response was in this type of situation. Oddly enough, he felt a very strong urge to comfort the other boy.
Katsuya shook his head as if to clear his thoughts before offering a faint smile. "Hey, don't worry so much, Seto. It will only give you grey hairs," he said, a faint teasing note in his voice; it was obvious to the brunet that the serious part of the evening was over and done with.
"Three." At the blond's utterly confused expression, Kaiba clarified, "You have called me by my given name three times in the past half hour." It felt... wrong to call the other bonkotsu at the moment; for once (for some time now...?) it did not truly fit the other boy.
Katsuya blinked then flushed slightly in embarrassment at his mistake. "Oh, god, I am so sorry--"
"So," Kaiba interrupted smoothly, "it's only fitting that I get to call you by your given name as well. Katsuya."
The flushed look remained even as a devious gleam appeared in the other's eyes. "Thank you so much for reminding me what my name is. What would I ever do without you? Seto."
Kaiba -- Seto smirked and shook his head. "Your father was right; you really are a smart ass at times."
"Seriously, if they don't figure it out on their own -- and soon -- I am personally going to lock them in a closet!"
For about a minute no one said a word; then Anzu decided to point out what was glaringly obvious to her: "Hiroto-kun, the whole problem is that they are already in the closet. We need them to come out -- Yuugi, if you could...?"
"Of course," the teen in question replied even as he reached over to smack a laughing Bakura on the back of his head. "Be nice, touzoku-kun."
"Fucking ow," the eldest of the quartet currently sitting around in Yuugi's bedroom complained. "That hurt."
"It wasn't supposed to tickle. And Anzu's right," Yuugi said with a sigh. "The only people who don't seem to realize that Kaiba-kun and Jyonouchi-kun like each other--"
"--are Kaiba and Jyonouchi," Honda concluded. "Of course. And you accused me of taking ages to figure it out," he noted to his girlfriend with a playful glare.
Anzu had no qualms about reaching over to smack him lightly. "You did take forever, Hiroto-kun. I was nearly ready to resort to stripping to get your attention."
"Am I being a pervert if I point out that I, personally, would have enjoyed seeing that?" Bakura asked Yuugi quietly to avoid being smacked by the girl.
"Not really; I wouldn't have minded that too much myself."
"If you two are done perving on my Anzu," Honda cut in, "could we get back to the issue at hand? That being, how are we supposed to make the two most stubborn people in Domino High School admit that they would gladly hop into bed with each other? Seriously, they have been on a first-name basis for over a month now and still nothing!"
Bakura's expression shifted from semi-guilty at having been caught red-handed to contemplative and more than a little calculating. Yuugi found himself wondering if that was what his boyfriend had looked like when planning robberies back in his time; he had to admit (to himself at least) that it turned him on a little. "Touzoku-kun? You look like you thought of something," he said instead.
The thief turned a smirk to his friends. "I honestly can't believe we all forgot that we have two excellent weapons at our disposal in this whole thing. And neither Seto nor Blondie has a real defense against them!"
"What's that, Bakura-kun?" Anzu asked, curiosity and mild disbelief colouring her words. Bakura's smirk widened.
"Kaiba Mokuba and Jyonouchi Hiroshi."
Yuugi and Anzu blinked at the unfamiliar name, although Honda looked less than convinced. "I don't know," he said, tugging at his sleeve. "Jyonouchi's dad isn't the best people."
The white-haired teen laughed softly. "Have you ever actually talked to the man?" At the silence he received in reply his smirk turned into a grin. "I haven't either, but I did a bit of... research on the man once Yuugi was done convincing me to stay in town. Turns out Daddy Jyonouchi has been clean and sober for almost a year now and has been working on the security team at everyone's favourite game developer for almost as long."
Anzu actually giggled. "If we talk to Mokuba, then he might talk to Jyonouchi-san for us. And if Bakura-kun's right, everything will fall into place without the four of having to do anything but play the role of supportive friends."
"You live for stuff like this," Honda remarked with a fond look, "don't you, Anko?"
"You should have seen her go in junior high," Yuugi said seriously. "The only matchmaker in school who was not directly involved in actual matchmaking."
"Hey, it still worked well enough to get you two together, didn't it?"
Neither Bakura nor Yuugi knew how to reply, although they gave one another mildly confused looks. Anzu simply smiled innocently.
Seto nearly choked on his coffee. When he stopped coughing, he gave Mokuba a confused and somewhat startled look. For his part, the younger boy merely looked back at him with huge, innocent eyes. "What was that again?" he asked.
"Are you going to your boyfriend's place tonight?" Mokuba repeated, this time sounding somewhat... well, pouty. "It's not Wednesday, I know, but you went over there last night so...."
The brunet found himself wondering how his little brother had come to this kind of conclusion. "Mokuba, I don't have a boyfriend," he said, sounding much calmer than he actually felt. Katsuya was a friend, yes, and he was male, so the logic was almost sound....
Mokuba frowned, looking confused. "But you always go to see Jyonouchi-kun," he protested. "You didn't even like him two months ago, niisama, but now you go to see him every week. And you are going twice this week, aren't you? Since tomorrow is Wednesday and you always go on Wednesday. You are a creature of habit, niisama."
"Katsuya is a friend," Seto found himself saying with a frown of his own. "He is not my boyfriend."
"You call him 'Katsuya'?" And Mokuba suddenly sounded five times more cheerful. "He doesn't even let Yuugi call him that, and Yuugi is his best friend."
Is this really a conversation I want to be having this morning? the brunet found himself thinking, realizing that the answer was a resounding no. "Go get your bag," he said, refusing to reply to his brother's statement. "We're running ten minutes behind and we are both going to wind up late if we don't go now."
"All right, niisama," the younger boy replied in a tone that said he was not about to let this topic die easily. Seto was almost sure he heard his brother humming something that sounded like that childish sitting-in-a-tree song as he went.
Fifteen minutes later, he stepped out of his car and waved to the driver before turning to walk into the school. Mokuba truly had not dropped the conversation, asking dozens of questions in the ten minute ride to the middle school. Seto managed to avoid answering any of them, but now they were stuck in his head and he had no way of avoiding them now.
And, as luck would have it (when had his luck all turned bad, anyway? That was what he would really like to know), the first person he saw that morning was Katsuya; the blond had recently gotten into the habit of arriving to school at least half an hour before everyone else so as to avoid colliding with anyone inadvertently. It was a new habit that was working well for him, except when the teachers would get on him about not having one assignment or another complete. That was part of why he had accompanied the other teen home the previous day, to make sure that he wouldn't forget another assignment.
Or so Seto had been telling himself ever since Mokuba asked that question of him at breakfast. Rather than dwell on it, he slipped into his seat and turned to look at his friend. "Good morning."
"More like fucking weird morning," Katsuya grumbled, glancing at Seto and giving him a small smile. "I know Dad means well, but I think I might have to start sneaking sleeping pills into his coffee or something. The man is obviously not getting enough rest."
Seto's curiosity was peaked. "Why?" he asked. "Was he acting odd this morning?"
"Odd is an understatement. I manage to get up on time -- and don't you dare give me that look, you saw for yourself a couple months ago that I sleep like the dead -- and eat with him, and in the middle of breakfast he asks me point-blank if he needs to go buy," and here the blond flushed a very attractive shade of red, "um, condoms or anything else for me."
The brunet stared hard at the other teen, silently willing him to say that he was just joking, or that his father had been joking. When no reply came he cleared his throat uneasily. "Why" -- and damn it, no, Kaiba Seto did not squeak so that sound did not come from him -- "why would he ask you something like that?"
"Hell if I know." The answer came back so quickly that Seto had to wonder if his friend was telling a little white lie. "Okay, so maybe I have half a clue... but I really, really want to know what gave him the idea in the first place."
Seto nodded slightly; that was a more truthful reply. "If it makes you feel any better, Mokuba was asking... odd questions this morning himself." He briefly thought about elaborating, but in all honesty he was not entirely sure that he wanted Katsuya to know that his little brother had blithely referred to the blond as his boyfriend.
"I really do not want to know," Katsuya muttered even as he pulled his math book out of his desk. "If my dad spent the morning asking about my non-existent sex life, I doubt I want to even think about what your little brother might have been asking you." He paused and glanced over at one of the empty desks with a slight frown before adding, "I wonder if Anzu's up to something again."
Seto frowned as well. "What do you mean?"
"Hey, don't get me wrong; she's a good friend and all, and she keeps Honda out of trouble, but Anzu likes to... get involved in her friends' business." He smirked slightly as he continued, "She doesn't even make it obvious. Hell, listening and giving minor advice was all she had to do to push Yuugi and Bakura together."
"I thought Mutou caught him at the airport and talked him into staying, that things developed from there."
"Oh, but that's the beauty and the hell of it. She will never even let you know that she's meddling."
Seto bit back a reply as a few other early students trickled into the classroom, taking a moment to categorize the new information he had received. Apparently everyone underestimated Mazaki Anzu when it came to the happiness of her closest friends. He wondered to himself for a moment how she had managed to talk Mokuba into acting like more of a brat than usual... and came to the realization of where (or rather, from whom) Jyonouchi-san had gotten his information.
"We need to talk," he finally said just loud enough for Katsuya to hear him, giving a brief sidelong glance towards the other. Seto caught the small nod before his friend turned to voice a greeting to the rest of the group entering the room. He turned his own attention to his laptop, trying in vain to focus on the work before him and not on the conversation... although he nearly laughed when Mazaki asked how Katsuya's day was going so far.
After what felt like the longest morning in the history of Domino High, lunch time finally arrived. Katsuya waved off his best friends as he stood, softening what might appear to be a rejection with a warm smile.
"I need to go over the bio notes with Seto before class and make sure I didn't miss anything," he offered by way of explanation (and it was not a lie per se, just a slight stretching of the truth). "Maybe if we finish before lunch break is over, we can meet up with you guys in the courtyard."
Anzu looked oddly pleased. "I hope it goes well, then," was all she said, however, before proceeding to drag Honda towards the door. Yuugi and Bakura exchanged a quick look before following her, giving a wave "good-bye" over their shoulders as they went. Katsuya did not have time to wonder about the unusual behaviour as his other friends chose that moment to make his presence known.
"Will the roof be all right?" Seto asked, shooting a look around at the students who had opted to remain in the classroom for lunch. Their conversation was not exactly something that needed to be kept a secret, but it was of a fairly personal nature; he would rather have a bit of privacy for it.
Katsuya was quick to agree: "Sounds good. After you." When Seto moved past him, he effortlessly caught the other boy's elbow and fell into step next to him. As his vision had deteriorated further, Katsuya found himself implementing his training into everyday activities. And while he was still able to make out colours and shapes in well-lit areas, the halls and stairways of the school were rather difficult to manage on his own; hence allowing Seto to casually guide their path to the roof.
He breathed a soft sigh of relief when they reached their destination and turned a soft smile to Seto. "So, what's on your mind?" he asked.
Seto forcibly reminded himself to breathe (although it was Katsuya's fault that he had forgotten to in the first place; damn that smile of his...). "I think Mazaki talked to Mokuba," he said. "I mean, my brother is unusually observant for a twelve year old, but he generally does not mention my personal life."
To his amazement, Katsuya's face reddened a bit. "Which means that Mokuba probably talked to Dad. He has been on me for a couple months now about, um..." he trailed off momentarily, fingers toying with the hem of his uniform jacket. "That is, Dad thinks you are my... that we are... uh, dating. Or something, at least that's what I guess from the breakfast thing this morning."
"Mokuba called you my boyfriend." It was out before he could think of all the reasons not to mention it to Katsuya, and Seto felt his face heat up. "And asked me if I was going to see you tonight."
"Oh." It was a short answer, but there was no doubt that it spoke volumes. The silence stretched for several endless minutes, not terribly comfortable as it felt almost... charged, electric. It was broken when they both spoke as one:
"Do you--" "Would it--"
Katsuya snickered, relaxing from the tense, nervous stance he had been in only moments before. "You first," he said as he leaned against the fence.
"Okay," Seto replied, feeling his own tension drain away some. He took a deep breath before asking, "Would you like to have dinner with me this evening?"
"Like a date?" Katsuya asked; almost immediately he added, "Well, of course that's what you meant. Even though I don't think you have ever been on a date, not that you don't date or can't get a date--"
"Does the babble mean 'yes'?"
"Jackass." He was still a bit flustered even thinking about that talk he had had with his father that morning (and god knew he never wanted a repeat of that!) and Seto's request made him feel more so. Granted, that probably had a lot to do with the not-so-mild crush he had slowly developed on the other teenager these past couple of months -- and speaking of, Seto was still waiting for an answer. "What time are you picking me up?"
A genuine yet somewhat shy smile crossed Seto's lips. "Seven-thirty. That should give you time to change into something decent." Before the blond had the chance to protest that his clothes were just fine, Seto leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on the corner of his mouth. "Button down would be preferable; it's a formal restaurant," he added before stepping away, turning back towards the door to the roof.
Katsuya blinked, unconsciously raising one hand to his lips. In all honesty, he had always thought that he would be the one to pursue another person (and hadn't he done so for a while with Mai, although she had no more interest in him than as a surrogate brother?) and be the one to steal kisses; it worked that way in his mind even when he replaced the girl part of the equation with a guy. Even when he learned his eyesight was failing, he had never faltered in the thought that he would still be able to play the role he had scripted for himself.
But now Seto had thrown that off track; he found he did not mind that the brunet had just unknowingly stolen his first kiss.
"--still in there somewhere?"
The blond startled slightly and turned to look at where the other's voice had come from. "What?" he asked, kicking himself for getting lost in his head for even a brief moment.
Seto grinned and shook his head. "I asked if you had gotten lost or if you were still somewhere inside your mind," he repeated, feeling oddly pleased at having set Katsuya off balance for a moment. "Besides, weren't you saying something to Mazaki about joining them if our 'study session' didn't run too late?"
It took Katsuya a moment to remember that he had made that promise. "Yeah, so we should head back down and meet them before they think we killed each other up here."
For a moment the brunet thought he had heard that wrong. "'We'?"
"'We'," Katsuya confirmed with a brief nod. "They are not just my friends, you know," he added as he caught Seto's elbow once again. The taller teen scowled a bit, ignoring the faint pink hue he just knew had to be gracing his cheeks at that moment.
"Since when are they my friends?" he fairly demanded; his mood lightened a bit more when he glanced over and saw the mirth in Katsuya's eyes.
"Duelist Kingdom. Yuugi went and added a couple Kaibas to his collection. If he gets the full set, he will be able to trade us all in for a toaster oven," the blond said in a serious tone. Seto stared at him for a moment before shaking his head.
"Sometimes I wonder about you."
"And other times you know that I'm weird."
"You are not weird," Seto immediately countered before he could stop himself; he could almost feel the heat rising once more in his face, but the warm smile Katsuya gave him made it worthwhile.
"And you are sweet," came the easy reply.
It was a minor miracle that he was able to resume his indifferent mask by the time they met up with the others.
"If you're going to be late, call me at work so I don't worry."
"I know, Dad."
"And make sure you take some money of your own, just in case something happens."
"I know, Dad."
"I can run to the drugstore on the corner before I head into work and pick up some condoms if--"
Jyonouchi-san snickered mentally. It had only been about a month since his son had started officially dating Seto (and he said 'officially' because he was of the opinion that the weekly visits and study sessions were round-about dates whether his son or employer ever owned up to it or not) but it was still so much fun to tease the kid. If he was honest with himself, the teasing was a way to make up for how horrible a father he had been for so long. He knew that he had improved by leaps and bounds over the past year, but the guilt still wore on him from time to time; these brief moments of father-son time gave Jyonouchi-san the opportunity to catch up on all he had missed out on.
"Sorry, kiddo," he said affectionately, wrapping one arm around his son in a loose hug. "But seriously, you need to think about it. As much as I love you and your sister, things might have been a lot different if I had thought more on safe sex when I was your age."
"Dad, when you were my age, dinosaurs roamed the earth," Katsuya sniped back, grinning and ducking the playful swat that came his way. "But, yeah, I know what you are saying. I just really do not think it's going to be an issue. We've only been dating for a little while."
"Your mother and I went on a grand total of three dates before we slept together," the older man said seriously. "And we were married about three months after that, with you coming along five months later and a month premature to boot."
Katsuya quirked an eyebrow; granted, he wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer but he could do the math to figure out just how close to his birth his parents' former anniversary was, so this was not exactly news to him. "So, basically, you're giving me permission to have sex?"
"No, what I'm saying is that I know young people plus hormones plus lack of parental supervision equals temptation."
"Dad..." the blond sighed, "really, you don't have to worry so much. I can swear to you right now, I have absolutely no plans to jump my boyfriend tonight." He was not exactly quick to promise that he had no intention of jumping the other teenager at some future point in time, but he honestly was not expecting more out of the evening than a quiet dinner and possibly a walk or some such thing afterward. That was how all their dates had played out thus far (even if last Saturday a good portion of their walk was spent seated on a park bench and making out...).
Jyonouchi-san finally gave a slight nod. "Okay, but if any of those plans change, call me so I don't worry when I get home in the morning," he said seriously. "Especially with what the doctor said at your last checkup--"
"I know." The words were spoken softly, but there was no hint of worry or sorrow in the tone. Just a quiet acceptance, as there had been since the day the last piece of glass was removed from his damaged eyes. It made Jyonouchi-san proud, in a way; his child had seen how harsh and unfair life could be yet he still faced it head on.
"I have got to get going now," Jyonouchi-san said, giving his son a quick hug. "Bye, Katsuya. I'll see you in the morning. Have fun and don't get in any trouble."
Katsuya rolled his eyes. "I'm dating Kaiba Seto. Somehow I doubt troublemaking is on the agenda."
Even so, bits and pieces of his father's advice kept drifting through the blond's mind even after Seto had picked him up for their date. It made the time go by a bit faster while he had been waiting, but he wanted to give his boyfriend his undivided attention... not terribly easy to do with so many thoughts vying for one's attention.
"Is something on your mind, Katsuya?" Seto asked quietly as he noted the vaguely distant look in his loved one's eyes. He also noted with some worry that said eyes were taking longer and longer to focus lately; he took a quick moment to mentally review the timeline that his own people had given him. They had said that the deterioration would likely take about six to eight months, and only four months had passed since then.
At the question, Katsuya turned his eyes towards Seto and smiled softly. "Just thinking about some things my dad was telling me before he went in this evening." After a moment of consideration he added, "And about what my doctor said on Thursday."
For a moment, the brunet felt an odd twinge of fear; not fear for himself, but fear for the other boy. He reigned in his initial response, which was to demand to know what had Katsuya so lost in his mind, and took a sip of his water before speaking. "That was the four o'clock appointment, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," Katsuya replied with a nod. "Same as always, but he had to reevaluate the timeline." The blond worried with his napkin, glancing off to one side as he gathered his thoughts and tried to come up with the best way of phrasing the news. "If the deterioration continues as it has been the past couple of months, I will be completely blind by the end of next week."
"Oh. Katsuya..." Seto said quietly. "I am so sorry."
"Why?" At the brunet's stunned silence, his smile grew a bit gentler. "Seto, I have been mentally and physically preparing for this eventuality for the past year. Battle City sped things up, true; but since the moment I accepted that this was going to happen, I've been ready. I just have one regret about it happening so soon."
"Oh? What's that?"
"That I didn't get to know you like this sooner. I never really got to see your smile."
Seto found himself smiling a bit in spite of himself. Trust his boyfriend to say something that expressed everything he could possibly be feeling in just a few choice words. "There are other ways to see," he said, reaching across the table to take Katsuya's hand.
"I know a few," the blond replied, squeezing the other's hand lightly. "Where there's a will, there's a way, right?"
"Yes," Seto said softly, amazed at how strong this boy he loved really was. "One can always find a way."
Although he dearly loved his brother, Seto was very thankful at the moment that Mokuba had decided (for whatever reason) to spend the night with Yuugi. It served the dual purpose of annoying Bakura and keeping the youngest Kaiba from walking in on anything.
Which at the moment would be his older brother kissing his boyfriend breathless on the living room couch.
Katsuya sighed into the kiss, raking his fingers through Seto's hair even while shifting one leg to rest across the other boy's. Seto responded with a slight growl and wrapped his arms more securely around the blond's waist, pulling him tightly to his chest. They broke apart for a moment to catch their breath, yet did not move more than a few inches apart before coming back for more.
"Seto," the blond murmured against his boyfriend's lips, "maybe we should stop."
"Yeah," Seto agreed even as he licked Katsuya's bottom lip. "It is getting pretty late."
"Yeah." Neither made a move to break the kiss, instead pressing impossibly closer to one another. "My dad will get worried."
"Yeah." This time, the word was punctuated with another long, slow kiss.
"We probably shouldn't do this here."
"I agree," Seto said, finally breaking from their embrace. He stood and quickly pulled Katsuya to his feet, drawing the shorter teen towards the stairs.
It took them a while to reach the bedroom, as they stopped every few feet to exchange kisses and caresses, Katsuya seemingly unable to resist petting his boyfriend's skin. When they finally made it there, Seto was quick to lock the door behind them. He caught Katsuya in his arms and carried him to the bed, settling them on their sides in the middle before resuming his exploration of the other's mouth once again. He could taste the faintest lingering traces of the coffee and chocolate mousse they had shared for dessert before returning to the mansion on Katsuya, and he growled low in his throat before breaking the kiss to bite lightly at the blond's neck.
Katsuya whimpered slightly and tangled the fingers of one hand in brown hair, the other hand sliding down to rest possessively at the small of his lover's back. He shifted his legs so that one knee pressed lightly to the other's groin, shivering slightly at the hardness he felt. The hand in Seto's hair slipped to the back of the boy's neck, tracing the kanji for the blond's name over and over.
The brunet shifted his attention from Katsuya's neck back to his mouth, kissing him fiercely before pulling away to remove his shirt. The blond made a soft sound of approval as he reached out and ran his fingertips over firm muscle and bare skin.
"Nice," he purred, sitting up to begin peeling off his own clothes. Neither was really patient enough to prolong this, to play out a long seduction when they were both eager for more. It was not long at all before they were stripped bare and laid out on the bed once more, legs entwined and arms wrapped securely around one another. After several more languid kisses, Seto freed one arm to reach for the nightstand and the drawer he had secreted several condoms and a few vials of body oil; he hadn't planned on taking Katsuya to bed anytime soon but had deemed it best to prepare for such an eventuality.
"I love you," Seto murmured against his lover's skin, pressing soothing kisses to damp skin as he carefully prepared them both. The blond laced his fingers behind the other's back and bit his lip as they shifted and melded together as one, burying his face against the brunet's neck until his trembling subsided. Seto pressed another soft kiss to Katsuya's neck before asking softly, "Are you okay?"
"Mm," was the voiceless reply; after another moment he shifted his hips slightly and leaned back on the bed, one hand moving to grasp his lover's. He raised the other hand to rest lightly on Seto's lips before shifting to cup his cheek. "I love you, too."
Their lips met in another deep kiss as they moved together, arms and legs and bodies entangled. Moans were muffled against skin, fingernails bit and marked unblemished flesh, and in the dark hours of the night, for a few moments, one plus one was one.
Afterwards, still panting softly beneath his lover, Katsuya moved lightly trembling fingers to Seto's face. He delicately skimmed across eyes and nose and lips, unable to resist lifting his head to press a warm kiss to them before letting his touch move to cheeks and chin and ending at the back of his boyfriend's neck.
Seto opened his eyes. "What was that for, love?" he asked quietly. The answering smile warmed him even before the answer left him even more in love with the blond.
"I just wanted to take a moment to see you, Seto. You really are beautiful when you smile."
Sunlight was spilling into the room when Seto finally dragged himself to wakefulness. It was a daunting task, especially given that he had made love with his boyfriend once more before falling asleep and how warm Katsuya felt in his arms as he began to awaken. A small smile crossed his lips and he dropped a soft kiss to the still-sleeping blond's cheek before slipping out of bed. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was close to ten, and he was very happy that today was Sunday.
And Katsuya called his father before we went to sleep last night, he mused to himself as he slipped into a pair of sleep pants and a robe. We should have time for a shower -- a nice, long shower -- before he has to go home.
The smell of coffee was the first thing he noted upon making it the first floor, and a faint frown tugged at Seto's mouth. He wasn't expecting Mokuba to be home until sometime in the afternoon, and if the cook had shown up on her day off he was going to have a long talk with her about taking some time off every now and then (the woman was convinced that neither he nor Mokuba could function without her around... apparently one burnt omelet meant that one had no cooking skills).
Before he could even look to verify just who was in his kitchen, a familiar voice spoke up: "I really don't think Niisama will like it much if you blow up the toaster, Bakura-kun."
Seto managed to bite back a groan as he stepped into the room; not only was Mokuba home early but he had brought Mutou and the thief along with him. "Step away from the toaster and get out."
"Good morning to you, too, sunshine," Bakura drawled, although he did drop the fork he had apparently been about to attack the aforementioned appliance with and cross the room to where Yuugi was leaning on the counter. "Did you have a good evening?"
Seto didn't miss that Yuugi smacked his boyfriend in the stomach. "What the hell are you doing in my house?"
"I invited them to stay for breakfast, Niisama," Mokuba piped up, smiling brightly.
"Hm. Well, it is now ten o'clock and I don't see any pancakes," the brunet drawled. "They can leave any time now. In fact, I would like them to leave sooner rather than later."
"We were just cleaning up, Kaiba-kun," Yuugi said cheerfully, elbowing Bakura when the other started to say something. "No harm done to the kitchen or anything."
"And we wanted to talk to Blondie and see how his night went," the thief added once his boyfriend stopped talking. "Is he awake yet?"
"I took Katsuya home at eleven," Seto lied automatically; it really wasn't anyone's business but his and Katsuya's (and, okay, Jyonouchi-san's) where the pair of them had spent the night or how they had spent a good portion of it.
"Bullshit," Yuugi replied.
"I called last night at eleven," Mokuba added, almost (but not quite) sounding guilty. "Mariko-san mentioned that you had gone to bed but you didn't go there alone."
The brunet honestly considered trying to lie again, at least until he heard the muffled snickering from the hallway. Instead of the denial he opted to mutter, "I hate you all," before leaning back out into the hall. Sure enough, Katsuya had made his way down the stairs and was leaning against the wall, looking idly amused and more than a little tempting in a pair of Seto's pajama pants.
"I think that we're busted," the blond said, laughter in his voice as he moved the last few feet between them and wrapped his arms securely around Seto's waist. He rested his head against his boyfriend's shoulder and breathed in the scent of soap, shampoo, and sweat; Katsuya admitted to himself that he could very quickly become accustomed to that particular mixture of smells.
"Only because my baby brother is nosy," Seto drawled, returning the embrace before guiding the shorter teen into the kitchen. "If you're going to continue to take up space in my kitchen, Bakura, make yourself useful."
"I am not your maid," the white-haired man complained, although he did pour out two mugs of coffee and carry them to the table. Yuugi rolled his eyes and took a seat, giving his friends a long look before smirking; the look was eerily similar to Bakura's and left both Kaiba brothers of the opinion that he had obviously spent a bit too much time with the thief.
"Good morning, Jyonouchi-kun," Yuugi greeted. "Nice pants."
"Thank you," Katsuya said sweetly; his hand moved hesitantly in search of his mug and Seto moved it to where he could catch hold of the handle. "They are rather comfy," he added before taking a sip of his coffee.
Mokuba exchanged a worried look with his friends; not a one of them had missed the blond's actions. He cleared his throat slightly and looked to his brother for an answer: "So your date went well last night?" It was not the question he really meant to ask, but he hoped that Seto would hear it in his tone.
Seto gently tightened his hold on Katsuya's waist, silently asking permission to share their dinner conversation; the blond made a sound of consent and dropped a brief kiss to his boyfriend's cheek. "Actually, it started off on a low note, but the evening turned around during dinner...."
There were few people in the world that could actually sneak up on him these days: Bakura, Otogi the one time, and Isono (but that was only because the man could be scarily quiet when he wanted to be). Seto had once been able to slip up behind him without notice, but that was before.
Katsuya smiled and tipped his head back for a kiss when he caught the faint scent of his boyfriend's shampoo and soap. "Hey," he greeted, carefully marking his place before closing the history book in his lap. "I thought you were leaving early for a meeting."
"I was," Seto admitted, secretly pleased that his lover was able to know he was close by even without his sight. "I barely got outside when the investors called to reschedule it to next week. Apparently Yamamoto's wife went into labour early."
"Congratulate him for me when you have the meeting." Katsuya shifted the book to his desk and turned in his seat, eyes turning towards where he knew Seto was standing. "So, do you have the afternoon free now?" he asked. The brunet smiled and took the blond's hand.
"The rest of the afternoon, this evening, and tonight are open," he replied. "Was there anything special you wanted to do with all this sudden free time, Katsuya?"
"Oh, I don't know," the blond said, standing and wrapping one arm lazily around Seto's waist. "Dinner, a walk in the park, and maybe back to your place for dessert sound like a plan?"
Seto smirked and gave his blond another kiss. "Every time we do that, you spend the night," he pointed out quietly, ignoring the whispers and giggles from some of their classmates; it was lunch break, after all, thus it was well within reason for him to show affection to his boyfriend.
Katsuya's smirk easily matched his own. "Would you really want it any other way?" he asked in a tone that was not exactly innocent.
Seto rested his forehead lightly against Katsuya's, peering into his sightless eyes as he thought back on the past six months. In such a short amount of time he had bore witness to some of the harshest punishments life could throw at a person, and was blown away time and again by how gracefully, how graciously, the boy wrapped in his arms had faced it. If there was ever a poster child for inner strength and beauty, it was Jyonouchi Katsuya.
"No, my love," he said softly, brushing his lips lightly over Katsuya's. "I doubt that I would change even a moment of this for all the riches of the world."
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