“You missed a spot.”
A voice drawled, languid in the curling of vowels, their wholesome sounds a contrast to the sharpness of the ending consonant as it finished. The owner of the silken voice was Kaiba Seto, owner of Kontrast Creative, one of the top modelling agencies in the world.
Seto lifted a perfectly manicured hand —the daintiness of the motion broken by the unkindness of its purpose—, pressing the pad of his finger into the gloss of his Carpathian elm desk (why would he settle for anything less?), and dragged it just as casually across its polished surface.
“I cleaned that! Ya just put ya finger on it!”
The voice that rebutted the first was heavy with accent, the roll of the adjective almost a growl, serving not only as an indicator of displeasure, but magnified the gruffness of its curt tonal conclusion as well. Its owner was one of KC’s janitors, Jounouchi Katsuya, who might as well be a nobody in the presence of his employer.
Unstirred, the CEO angled his body so that his gaze directly met the man who knelt before him, cloth crumpled in his grip as he paused mid-cleaning of a similarly expensive chair. Seto crossed his legs casually, the length of his coat softly swishing against the furniture, framing the infinity that his limbs seemed to stretch into, almost mesmerising to spectators until the click of his heeled boots sliced through the haze of their admiration.
“Did I dismiss you from your duties yet?”
“Is my desk spotless?”
“Did I not tell you I want every single piece of furniture in my office immaculate?”
“Then why are you there, and not here when there’s a massive smudge on my desk?”
Knowing better than to argue further (because he wasn’t going to cancel on Yugi this weekend again), Katsuya grumbled under his breath as he heaved himself off the carpeted floor, wincing at the pins and needles in his legs as he hurried as much as he could to the other man.
Such an exchange had almost become routine to him, and could almost be a form of banter if it wasn’t always at Katsuya’s expense. On the bright side, at least it broke the monotony of his duties. Today was considered one of the tamer instances — if it wasn’t the desk, it would be the clutter of documents; if it wasn’t the documents, it would be the displacement of Seto’s fountain pen from its stand (what sorta pen needs a bloody stand?!); if it wasn’t the pen, it would be how the items on the desk were not perfectly aligned; if it wasn’t the alignment, it would be the lone drop of water that somehow missed his notice, trickling onto the (apparently hand-woven) carpet; if it wasn’t the water, it would be how he had refilled the wine to just over, or just under, or anything but the exact height where the third ridge of the crystal glass sat.
Katsuya swore his boss must be insane, because only a person this neurotic would be capable of insisting on things like that.
Not even bothering to hide his scowl, he moved around the desk to where Seto’s back faced in attempts to quickly wipe the mark off–
“I can’t see if your dirty paws are touching my desk when you’re behind me. Come over here.”
Katsuya grudgingly trudged over to where Seto was instead, stopping as he awaited the latter to give him access to the desk. After several seconds of his boss remaining as stationary as before —save for the very slow curl on his glossed lips—, Katsuya resigned to how he probably needed to lean over Seto, and the desk to clean the smudge. Bastard.
The janitor bent over, taking extra care to keep a visible distance between his stomach, and his boss’ legs. Arm extending, and hovering over the otherwise very shiny surface of the desk, he wiped at the stain, struggling to maintain his position. Katsuya felt his abs shuddering, and considered skipping his core workouts later if he somehow managed not to fall flat into Seto’s lap.
Katsuya heard what sounded like a purr. He cursed how Seto had the ability to coat everything that escaped his mouth with satin, trying to resist his urge to shiver as he felt goosebumps form on his already sweaty neck. Ya tricks ain’t workin’ on me, ya fox spirit!
Before his abs gave up on him, Katsuya stumbled backwards, panting in absolute relief at the averted disaster. Prick.
“What did you say?”
Scrambling to correct what he thought was a silent gripe —especially under the half-glare his boss shot at him—, Katsuya chuckled nervously before answering.
Well, he tried.
Unconvinced, Seto folded his arms, fingers gracefully resting on the edges of his elbows. He scrutinised the man sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck in front of him, the latter’s eyes looking anywhere but directly at him.
“Rick from accounting? I didn’t know you were such good friends with a sixty-year-old.”
“No, eh, Rick’s a friend from, uh, outside work. Funny dude, ya, real funny.”
“Oh? He sounds wonderful. I’d love to bring both of you out for dinner some time this week. You can consider it a small thanks from me to one of my hardest working employees.”
“No! I mean, eh, thanks, but no thanks. Not that I don’t appreciate it, but uh, Rick’s overseas right now.”
“What a shame. Where’s he at?”
“Eh… Somewhere… Middleish. With... His folks.“
“I’m surprised someone from the American heartlands will visit our city. What is he doing here?”
“Where did you meet him?
“Uh, at where he is, um, workin’ now.”
“Burger World? Where you worked before you got fired?”
“He must be so disappointed. To come all the way from America to Domino, only to find work as a waiter.”
“Heh… I guess…”
“Since I even gave someone like you a chance, let him know that I will be delighted to offer him a job alongside yours.”
“Eh–, I’ll… I’ll tell him, um, when he’s back.”
“Do that. Then I can finally expand my American janitorial team.”
Nodding, Katsuya smiled weakly, wondering how he was going to prolong his imaginary friend’s stay in America until Seto forgot about his lie. He saw his boss return his attention his computer, the glint in the latter’s blue eyes telling Katsuya that perhaps his story wasn’t as completely foolproof as he’d thought. Despite that, he was still mostly out of the waters, so Katsuya exhaled the breath he didn’t realise he was holding, cautiously eyeing the other man as he returned to his duties.
“I suggest you hurry up. The dry cleaners close by five thirty, and I need the outfit before I leave for my dinner at six.”
Cursing internally (and making sure it remained inside his head instead of teetering on his tongue this time), Katsuya acknowledged the request unhappily. He didn’t care if Seto’s secretary cum personal assistant, Kisara, was rushing other errands today. He was paid only as a janitor, so why did he have to deal with bullshit like that too?
He continued his cleaning, making sure to draw the wet strokes from his cloth in various phallic symbols on every item he wiped. Even if his boss noticed what he was doing, the former shouldn’t be offended because Kaiba Seto was indeed the biggest walking dick not only in the building, but also in the entire city of Domino.
If Katsuya didn’t need this job as desperately as he did, he would have thrown his pail of grimy water at Seto, flipped the latter a very aggressive bird, then stomped out of the forsaken building. If only his younger self hadn’t sought solace in gangs, then present him wouldn’t have to put up with that conceited asshole throwing smirks his way every other minute.
“Eh, how do I claim back my transport fare?”
Before he left, Katsuya turned to ask his boss, only remembering when he patted his too empty wallet out of habit.
“Your contract doesn’t say anything about claims. Besides, you’ve half an hour to pick it up, and another half to get back. Get creative.”
“What?! Pickin’ up ya stupid laundry ain’t in my contract too!” (At least that’s what Katsuya hoped, because he barely skimmed its pages before signing it, too worried that he would be rejected when they found out about his sordid past.)
“Cleaning services are listed in your contract.”
“But it ain’t me cleaning ya stinkin’ clothes!”
“Precisely. And because of your incompetence, the least you can do is to pick them up, and deliver them straight to my office."
Although Katsuya was sure that wasn’t what cleaning services meant in his context, he couldn’t do anything but comply when he didn’t possess nearly enough (or any) legal knowledge to dispute its definition in his contract. Maybe I should reread my contract tonight…
Katsuya gathered his cleaning tools, cradling them in his arms (because someone wouldn’t allow him to push his trolley inside) as he turned to leave.
“And whatever way you decide to bring my clothes here, I expect them to be in the exact same state as they were when they left the dry cleaners.”
The spray bottle was looking increasingly like the perfect item to throw at Seto’s head.
“For every wrinkle visible, ten thousand yen will be deducted from your pay.”
Preferring not to aggravate his situation by engaging in a further futile argument with his employer, Katsuya grunted a response, nearly slamming the door as he exited the office. He headed to his supervisor’s office, hoping that the older American had another brilliant plan to save him from his quandary.
To solve Katsuya's conundrum, his supervisor, Sol, offered the help of his long-term partner, Ky, who was also one of KC's most prolific models, and was most notable for his benevolence despite the cutthroat industry. Sure enough, Ky was too sympathetic to refuse despite Sol's extending of assistance to Katsuya on his behalf, knowing that the younger man was the favoured target of Seto's whims. Besides, he had always enjoyed the companionship of the spirited man, and even considered him a friend after Sol had first introduced them.
“Thanks again, Ky! I owe ya!”
A voice shouted from across the street, its owner half stumbling, and half jogging towards an electric blue supercar. The longhaired blond turned around, an elegant hand rested on the roof of his car before calling back, “My pleasure, Katsuya. Just mind your step–”
A brilliant smile, an unexpected trip over the edge of the sidewalk, and a very angry string of curses later, Katsuya stopped by the car, already feeling winded from trying to keep yet another ridiculous outfit of his boss’ off the ground. Despite his carelessness (which wasn’t completely his fault since the ludicrous length of the outfit’s outer coat covered his entire vision), the clothes were thankfully still in as pristine a condition as before. If they were in a state other than perfect, Katsuya would have thrown himself in front of the nearest speeding car, for he knew death would be more merciful than whatever punishment his devil of an employer would inflict on him.
After spending a good five minutes trying to figure out how to fit the outfit inside Ky’s car without covering the windshield, and wrinkling from its placement, both men settled into the seats that look like they were pilfered from an F1 car, ready to depart.
Mindful of his friend’s cargo, Ky drove smoothly. Utilising the sheer power of the car’s engine, and the domineering flashy exterior of his ride, Ky managed to keep mostly in straight lines as he accelerated, and despite his tinted windows, continued to wave a hand in courtesy at the road users who dove out of his path.
Gratefully aware of Ky’s handling of the car, and marvelling at the older man’s skill, Katsuya ran a finger along the textured material of the dashboard, trying to keep his mind from the speedometer as he watched their surroundings zip by.
“Didn’t think ya like fast cars,” Katsuya commented (or rather shouted) over the roar of the engine’s rev, still in awe at how the other blond managed to remain that relaxed when they were hurtling down the street at over two hundred kilometres per hour.
Ky chuckled in response, a hand casually holding the steering wheel as he glided the car around a turn. Katsuya steadied a hand against the roof out of habit, his other hand sandwiching his boss’ laundry to his lap for fear it would slip away. Of course neither him, nor the clothes shifted because Ky had the foresight to reduce his speed. Exhaling in relief, Katsuya relaxed his posture, waiting for his heart rate to normalise before explaining sheepishly.
“Sorry man, ain’t sayin’ ya drivin’s bad,” Katsuya smoothened the imaginary creases on the clothes before continuing, “Just if I didn’t do that in Hiroto’s Nissan last week, I’d have been thrown outta da window!”
“I’m sure Honda is a great driver,” Ky reassured, “He was probably excited to show you the capabilities of his car.”
“There’ll be no one ta show if he’d killed me then!”
“Unlikely if his car has seatbelts right?”
The younger blond slumped into his seat, now very aware of the seatbelt pressing into his shoulder as he acknowledged his friend’s point. Only if Hiroto doesn’t crash inta da wall.
“So, eh, why did ya get this car anyway? Thought a Rolls, or a Bentley would suit ya better.”
“Ah, really? Thank you, Katsuya, that’s quite the compliment,” Ky answered, the small smile he gave the younger man somehow lighting up his already delicate features more. Katsuya was reminded then why his friend was also nicknamed a literal angel in the modelling world, and he concurred because the latter sure glowed like a divine being.
“The truth is that I didn’t want a car to begin with.”
“Eh?!” Katsuya blurted out incredulously, trying not to smack his limbs in the rather cramped interior as he gestured to emphasise his point, ”How did ya go from no car ta this… What’s–its-name…”
“McLaren P1 LM,” Ky replied helpfully.
“Yeah, that. How?? I thought only moneybags would get somethin’ like this!”
“Well, Mr. Kaiba did suggest I get a car instead of taking the subway,” Ky slid a hand down the steering wheel, easily rotating it as he navigated the U-turn that brought them into the business district.
“And he… Wasn’t too fond of my original car suggestions. One day, I came in to Kisara handing me the keys to this. She later told me that my transport allowance had been condensed into the payment for this car, and it should henceforth be my default means of transport during work hours.”
“Wait, that stingy ass bought ya a car?!”
“Technically he didn’t buy me one, he just bought one for me on my behalf. It’s still company owned–”
“And he won't give me change ta take a cab?!”
Ky sighed, knowing his friend would file this away as yet another reason why their boss was treating him unfairly.
“Mr. Kaiba works in very… Unusual ways–“
“Unusual?! Ain’t nothin’ unusual about bein’ a cheap bastard!”
Regretting how he’d allowed the conversation to take such a turn, Ky pulled into the KC building, and steered the car into his personal lot. With the noise of the engines finally gone, Ky tried to calm his rather agitated friend down.
“Mr. Kaiba really isn’t a bad person once you get to know him. He treats his friends rather well–“
“That bastard ain’t got no friends!”
Ignoring Katsuya’s contempt, the older man continued, “I would know, because I consider him one of my friends.”
Silenced by his friend’s defence, Katsuya pursed his lips, a rather unhappy frown still evident on his face.
“Mr. Kaiba–, Seto isn’t as terrible as you think. My guess is that he is doing all that,” Ky shifted his gaze to the clothes on Katsuya’s lap, “To test you.”
Still not buying into Ky’s justification for his boss’ nothing short of utterly appalling way of treating his employees, Katsuya maintained his displeasure as he retorted, “Test?! If cleaning his carpet with fucking tweezers ain’t enough a test, ya can tell him ta shove those same tweezers up his ass!”
“It may be a rather peculiar method, but that’s his way of seeing if you are as dedicated, and hardworking as he wants to believe.”
“This ain’t a one off, Ky! That nutter’s been findin’ new ways ta torture me every damn day!”
“That’s probably him making sure his observations are indeed correct–“
Katsuya groaned frustratedly, moving to gather the bothersome length of his boss’ items before turning back to his friend. Besides wanting to punch the smug look Seto always had off his too pretty face, Katsuya was also incredibly tempted to throw his boss' garish clothes into the trash. Perhaps that would finally teach that man to respect him more.
“I get that maybe he ain’t as shit ta ya as he is ta me. But ya are royalty in the fashion world! Of course he’s gonna treat ya nice.” Katsuya fiddled with the door handle, finally getting the gullwing doors to comply after several increasingly annoyed pushes. “But he’s still a fuckin’ jerk ta anyone who ain’t worth his time. Hell, he even treats Old Man Kobayashi’s dog better than me!”
Not waiting for a reply, Katsuya exited the vehicle, cradling the clothes despite the obvious tension in his arms. “Thanks for da ride, Ky. Wish me luck.”
Ky remained in the driver’s seat, watching as his friend disappeared into the elevator. He knew his boss could be difficult, but if Katsuya was that upset, perhaps he ought to have a few words with Seto about the latter’s unique way of treating his best employees. Because more importantly, it would not be in the CEO’s advantage if Katsuya decided to quit, especially since the feisty blond was the first janitor Seto deemed trustworthy enough to clear his office without Sol’s supervision.