While Jounouchi never quite understood how his relationship status (and much less his sexual orientation) affected his ability to act, he admitted it was an issue that needed to be publicly noted at some point. Lying made him uncomfortable, and he found himself doing it more and more in press interviews of late.
Jounouchi deflected with the usual: he was concentrating on his career (which he was); he was still waiting for the right person to come along (it scared him how sure he sometimes was that he’d already found that person); if he wasn’t the only person there, he’d make some joke about a co-star instead and they would answer in kind. Everyone involved would have a good laugh, and they’d move onto the next question.
Kaiba, on the other hand, didn’t lie—he didn’t have to. He’d just perk one infuriating eyebrow and stared until the question was withdrawn, and it always was. Most people had also learned to stop asking. The move drove Jounouchi up the wall and left him baffled at how easily the media folded in the face of Kaiba Seto.
They had an elaborate six-month plan to test the waters. But it took less than three weeks into said plan before the entire thing was shot to hell. Jounouchi couldn’t remember exactly what set it off. Maybe it was something Kaiba did (more likely it was something he said that pissed off Kaiba).
During lunch break on set, Jounouchi found himself staring down at a nervous delivery boy with an extravagant bouquet of red roses.
Over his shoulder, a female co-star muttered in disbelief, “There must be a hundred roses or something.”
There was only 99 when he counted them later.
Everyone on set stared at him as he flipped open the card attached. The card simply read, “Love, K.” His face was lit red by mortification and blinding rage. He was going to kill Kaiba. Physical evidence of a relationship wasn’t supposed to start surfacing until month four. The set may be closed, but news like this always had a way of getting out. At end of the day, he passed the flowers out to various cast and crew members with bright if flirtatious smiles, but pocketed the card.
He did fire off a text to Kaiba: What are you trying to prove?
Three days later, a four-feet Blue Eyes White Dragon plush animal was delivered by courier to the Kaiba Corporation’s office building in Domino City. Someone saw Kaiba’s administrative assistant sign for it. Rumors soon had it that Kaiba Mokuba was more than happy to confirm it was, in fact, a gift sent to his brother. But he would not reveal who sent it. Kaiba never took the doll home with him, but he didn’t trash it either as it continued to sit in the corner of his private office. The executives that visited the office in the coming days couldn’t help but stare until Kaiba cleared his throat.
A week after that, the front desk of Jounouchi’s apartment building called up with a confounding message: “Sir, I believe you have a gift requiring your signature downstairs.”
The gift wasn’t waiting in the lobby—it was parked outside where a harried man in a suit shoved a clipboard full of papers into Jounouchi’s face. Jounouchi was too busy admiring the glossy chrome paint under the large gift bow over the hood of the car to actually read what he was signing (better make sure he didn’t sign power of attorney over to someone later).
His breath hitched as he recognized the model and make: the Ferrari California. It was sold out well into the next year and out of Jounouchi’s current price range. Except for the ruby trim, the body of the vehicle was almost entirely black (a custom paint job). On top of the plush leather seat inside was the owner’s manual, a certificate of authenticity, and another folded piece of cardstock with perfect, flowing script.
This isn’t a fight you’re going to win.
Jounouchi kept the car—out of spite.
Kaiba, the obscenely rich bastard, could afford it.
The back and forth continued for almost another month. Kaiba kept sending expensive and ostentatious presents, and Jounouchi countered each one with something half-genuinely-heartfelt and half-so-sentimental-it-was-nauseating.
At some point, Mokuba did intervene and sent them both identical emails: “No more animals, you guys, Isono is going to quit at this rate.”
It wasn’t long before the LA tabloids caught onto their game—at least what they could see of Jounouchi’s side. Everyone wanted to know who “K” was. Jounouchi couldn’t fend off the questions about his love life anymore, but he kept his secret close to his heart while smiling.
Kaiba didn’t have to deal with the media on his end—it was the blogosphere that caught wind of the strange slew of gifts being sent to Kaiba’s office. There was nothing more that Jounouchi enjoyed than sitting down at the day of work and reading the internet’s rampant speculation on who “J” could be. But even that quickly lost its entertainment value. The list of possible suspects Kaiba was being romantically linked with was both dauntingly long and depressing.
No one had connected the dots between them specifically.
By then, Jounouchi had not seen or touched Kaiba in person for more than three months.
The last straw was the package he found at his apartment door one late Thursday night. Filming had been running behind schedule lately, and that put everyone including Jounouchi in a foul mood.
The tissue paper crinkled as he brushed them aside, then his fingers brushed against something smooth. It was a leather-bound book with no title—a photo album. Jounouchi recognized Domino Piers in the first photo, but cropped to focus on just Jounouchi and Kaiba. It was taken after they got off the Battle Ship after Battle City ended. The next several pages were filled with similar shots from Duel Monsters tournaments and other Kaiba Corp sponsored events: the glossy high resolution ones were obviously press photos, but others were probably taken by fans and other spectators.
He paused momentarily on certain photos: newspaper clippings of Kaiba punching him upon his initial return to Japan, them together at Mai’s party, them being shuffled into an ambulance after that situation with Jounouchi’s father… The last one in the book was from Jounouchi’s first red carpet premiere. Jounouchi had one arm around his sister, while Kaiba stood stiffly beside him and their hands just barely touching.
I had hoped to find more photos of us together, preferably ones where we hadn’t just escaped life or death situations. Mother always said how important it was to make memories as a couple.
The rest of the book was empty, waiting to be filled (like his heart, no, he did not just think that to himself!). The hollowness would not be denied.
He didn’t need to be on set again until next week. With the album still in hand, he flew into the bedroom and began packing.
More than ten hours ago, Jounouchi had sent a SMS: I’m tired of playing games.
Kaiba stared at the text message and furrowed his brows. Was it a warning? Was Jounouchi mad at him? He hadn’t been able to get in contact with the blond since receiving the message.
He slipped his phone back into his pocket and stirred the cup of coffee in front of him instead. In retrospect, it was a stupid game they were playing—trying to one up each other in a ridiculous contest. Or maybe it was more like a game of Chicken? But Kaiba enjoyed playing it.
They had a plan in place. They were going to do it right. But he had been so annoyed (decidedly not jealous) with Jounouchi for flirting with that one actress who looked far too much like Kujaku Mai: tall, busty, and blond.
Kaiba still didn’t like Kujaku Mai much.
The glass table beneath his coffee momentarily reflected the sun bouncing off metal. Another man slid into the seat across from him without asking—shaggy blond hair and a face obscured by large sunglasses, and sunlight still dancing off the dogtags around his neck.
“Jounouchi,” Kaiba simply greeted.
What are you doing here?
Jounouchi smiled with all pearly whites and bravado. “Admit that I surprised ya.”
In the table’s reflection, Kaiba saw himself unwittingly returning an affectionate grin. He almost stopped himself, but didn’t. The newspaper in his lap was still opened to his latest interview in the Lifestyle section. He considered showing it to Jounouchi; maybe later.
To Kaiba’s amusement, Jounouchi ordered green tea from the waitress. They sat quietly, watching the city’s people go by. Sometimes people stopped and stared back when they recognized Kaiba. Jounouchi’s knee would brush and bump against his once in a while.
“Where are you staying? With Shizuka? A hotel?”
Jounouchi shrugged, “Dunno, I basically came here straight from the airport.”
It was then that Kaiba noticed the duffel bag at the blond’s feet.
“You’re welcome to stay at the mansion.”
Jounouchi stared at him with wide eyes that were barely visible behind his shades. He licked his chapped lips and distracting Kaiba. “But what about the plan? I think people are going to notice.”
Yes, the careful and deliberate long-term schedule they had both agreed upon. They wanted to be responsible; make all the necessary preparations before going public. But this was their lives—their relationship. And neither he nor Jounouchi were people inclined to hide.
“Screw the plan,” Kaiba declared emphatically.
“Fine, but you better not blame me later.” Jounouchi planted both hands on the table and swooped forward, catching Kaiba’s lips before he could protest.
The kiss was chaste yet lingering. Jounouchi’s tongue brushed briefly against his lower lip. When Jounouchi withdrew and returned to Kaiba his peripheral vision, he saw they had acquired an audience. Some gaped with their camera phones held aloft. The pictures and videos were going to be all over the net in a matter of minutes. There would be hell to pay later: indignant publicists, death threats from Malik, angry calls from Jounouchi’s agency, and probably some amount of public backlash.
But that was for later.
Right now, Kaiba’s hands just itched, aching to trace and relearn the contours of Jounouchi’s spine after all this time spent apart.