Work Header

from laundry to a laundered reputation

Chapter Text

“Didn’t think you’d make it,” Seto admitted honestly as he watched the janitor place his dry-cleaned clothes neatly on his desk. “I’m almost impressed.”

Fuck off.

Seto removed the plastic that encased his clothes, inspecting every inch of his items for even the slightest winkle. Satisfied, but mostly disappointed, he pondered if he should send clothes made from less enduring materials to the dry cleaners in the future.

“Did I pass ya test?”

Arching a flawlessly pencilled eyebrow, Seto smirked at the challenge in his employee’s voice.

“Is that what you view your duties as, tests?”

Seto undid the buttons of his elaborate coat deftly, not bothering to look at the still fuming janitor as he continued.

“Since you view the tasks I’ve given you as such, the least I can do is to accept your wishes. I’ll even grade you for each of your performances.” He gave his Van Cleef watch a glance before moving on to undo the clasps of his coat’s multiple buckles. “You arrived with barely ten minutes to spare. I consider that a mediocre result at best. You get a B minus.”

“Ya can take ya grade, and f–“

“Correction, C plus for talking back to me.”

Seto placed his coat next to the other pieces of his outfit, checking if they were the best possible combination for his dinner. No longer requiring the other man’s assistance, Seto was ready to dismiss the former’s offending presence from his office.

“I expect a substantial improvement in your performance, because that grade is nothing short of horrific.“

“For your next test,” the CEO gestured to an elaborate statue of a silver dragon that sat on his desk, one of the many that broke the monotony of his otherwise plain room. It was definitely pure silver (or something more expensive, Katsuya couldn’t tell), with what the blond thought were sapphires inlaid as its eyes gleaming under the room’s light.

“I want this, and the rest of my decorative dragons cleaned, and polished before tomorrow. Don’t you dare stop until they shine brighter than Ky Kiske’s hair.”

“Tomorrow? But tomorrow’s Sat–“

“Listen with your ears, not with your mouth. I want it done by tomorrow. Saturday.”

As upset as he was that his Friday night was stolen by his boss, Katsuya was still rather relieved at how doable the request was. If he started soon, he might even be home in time to catch the drama he’d been following. Before he could thank the heavens for this rare respite, his boss’ now rose coloured lips curled slowly into an evil smile. Of course it ain’t that easy. It’s Crazy Kaiba we’re talkin’ about.

“One more thing. You’re only permitted to use cotton buds for cleaning. If, and you know I will, I catch you using anything else, you can bid whatever little professional credibility you’ve left goodbye.”

Katsuya glowered at the new information, incredulous at the audacity of the latter’s demand. If he were ten years younger, when he was still a prominent member of Hirutani’s gang, he would personally see to it that the rich boy would be all shades of purples and blues by now. As much as he’d love to show Seto his idea of a perfect grade through a right hook, his maturity told him this wasn’t a fight he could win. With the weight of his family’s debt on his shoulders, and the cost of Shizuka’s follow up treatments for her vision, Katsuya couldn’t afford to lose his job. Family always came first, even if it meant playing right into the sadistic tendencies of his boss.

So, the janitor ignored the lump of ire in his throat, and gritted his teeth. Keeping his balled fists pressed tightly to his sides, he replied tersely, “As you wish, sir.”

Surprised at the ease of the other man’s compliance, Seto swallowed the insult that tethered at the tip of his tongue, finding himself speechless for the first time in a long while. After regaining his composure, the CEO decided that the caprice of someone he couldn’t care less for was unworthy of additional attention. So, he shrugged it off in favour of preparing for his much more important dinner, but not before delivering a final warning.

“If there is so much as a scratch on any of them, you can look forward to forfeiting your pay for the rest of the year. Even though that would be short-changing myself, I’m magnanimous enough to let the remaining amount slide.”

On second thought, Katsuya considered if jail time was worth hurling one of those gaudy statues at his boss’ inflated head.

Before he could decide, Seto waved a hand his way in dismissal. Katsuya swore he could almost feel the knives from his boss’ icy stare as they focused on him, unwavering until the door separated them once more. The fuck’s wrong with him?!

Resigning himself to not being able to return home that night, Katsuya plodded to Sol’s office again, hoping his supervisor would be able to cheer him up. (Or feed him. Katsuya had no preference for either since the final outcome was still the same.) Instead, he was met with an office dark, and silent, its resident long gone.

Wondering if his day could get any more miserable, Katsuya reluctantly retrieved his cleaning tools, spending over half an hour running around the storage trying to figure out where Sol had stashed the cotton buds. Although it was no surprise that the other American didn’t pick up his phone, or answer the barrage of texts he had sent (because whenever Sol was with Ky, nothing could tear the former's attention away from his partner), it was still rather infuriating when his day had been nothing short of dreadful.

Even crankier than before, Katsuya grabbed his archaic, but somehow still functional music player, and shoved it into his pocket. Although his boss insisted on a task that preposterous, at least his absence meant he could distract himself with music.

Katsuya walked past a departing Kisara as he was mid dragged himself back to Seto’s office. The secretary greeted him, her sympathetic tone somewhat comforting. He smiled back half-heartedly, thankful that unlike his heartless boss, Kisara was still human.

More curiously, Katsuya was surprised that Kisara wasn’t attending the dinner with his boss. Graceful with an otherworldly beauty that could more than hold its own against Seto's, she was always his choice as a partner for events, which had led Katsuya to speculate that the two were dating. Not that he knew for sure, which was impossible given how his tight lipped boss would never bring up anything that wasn’t related to the business when at work. So, Katsuya had to settle by extrapolating from the various gossip columns that plastered photos of his employer all over the Internet, most of which included Kisara by Seto’s side. Even though Katsuya had never personally seen them go out, or even leave the building together on regular days, the only logical deduction to him was that they were an item, or at least had something between them.

Letting that thought occupy him, Katsuya fumbled for his pass, trying to find a way to balance the little mountain of cleaning equipment he was barely holding on to. If he ended up being fired by Seto the following week for not polishing his statues perfectly, Katsuya consoled himself that at least he could consider a job as an acrobat in a circus somewhere.

Barely managing to scan his pass, Katsuya clumsily pressed down the door handle with his elbow, using his back to push open the door, and skirting through the gap the moment its width allowed him to.

Before he could set his equipment down, Katsuya noticed a movement in the corner of his eye. Whipping his head around, the blond found himself face-to-face with Seto, so close that he could feel the heat of the other’s breath his face. Barely managing to yelp in surprise, Katsuya stumbled backwards inelegantly, the abruptness of his motion causing a good chunk of the items he was cradling to escape onto the floor (and thankfully miss hitting Seto).

“How nice of you to finally drop in,” Seto commented amusedly as he watched a packet of cotton buds roll to a stop against his boot (dessert boot in suede, and white, because how could he not be a forerunner in the season’s latest trend?). “And here I thought you’d given up.”

“Wh–, why are ya still here?! Thought ya had a dinner ta attend!” Katsuya pushed a palm against his chest, grateful the nasty shock didn’t give him a heart attack.

In spite of how most of his cotton bud packets were now lying on the floor, Katsuya’s first thought was somehow occupied by how Seto smelt not of brimstone, and sulphur like most demons, but of cedar with the barest hint of citric undertones. Its earthy body reminded Katsuya of the trees in the misted memory of a forest he’d visited as a child, their trunks stretching tall and strong into the heavens, stately, and magnificent. But the tang of citrus infused within was almost rebellious, like a flock of sunbirds gaily chasing the spots of light beneath the canopy, their voices enlivening the austere silence with a refreshing vitality.

Katsuya couldn’t help but think how apt a scent it was for his boss.

“I do. Ever heard of the being fashionably late?”

Musings interrupted, Katsuya released his disdain for the man in front of him back into his blood. It had been over an hour since he‘d rushed Seto’s clothes over, and seeing his boss idling in front of him only intensified the prickles of indignation that bit at his neck. If the brunet still had time to pace about (or whatever else it was he did) now, why couldn’t he had given Katsuya a little more leeway instead of forcing him to call in a desperate favour from Sol, which in turn cost him another favour with Ky? Moreover, he had to suffer through a ride in a much too loud and uncomfortably fast car, and nearly tripped no less than a hundred times, all just to meet what he’d thought was an urgent deadline. He really is a Class A dickbag.

Reining in his gripe, Katsuya swallowed its unvoiced syllabus, and opted to divert his attention to picking up the packets that were scattered across the floor. Deciding not to give his employer the gratification of giving what looked like multiple incredibly polite bows each time he bent down to retrieve the packets, Katsuya descended into a half squat as far away as he physically could from Seto. He then pointedly ignored how the latter was still observing him, and proceeded to pick up the stray packets.

“You missed one.”

Katsuya knew Seto was referring to the one packet that still remained by the latter’s foot, the same one that he was deliberately avoiding. The janitor had hoped that by feigning ignorance, it would prompt his employer to kick it over or something. It didn’t even matter if his boss kicked it right at his head, because anything was better than almost touching that accursed man. After several more seconds of immobility, and hearing Seto’s increasingly impatient taps against the leather of his coat, Katsuya finally relented. He gingerly knelt down, supporting himself on his knees before leaning as far as he could, stretching his fingers just enough to touch the packet.

As he retrieved the item, Katsuya heard a soft cough from Seto. The sound made the former instinctively raise his head, looking up almost in concern at his employee. The blond squinted against the glare of the mini spotlights that dotted the ceiling, the same ones he was sure served no purpose other than to highlight the contours of Seto’s already razor sharp features.

He saw how the CEO covered his mouth with the back of his hand, wrist in a gentle arc, and fingers poised with an elegance that Katsuya didn’t know was physically possible when stifling a cough. Fluttering shut from the motion, the length of Seto’s dark lashes fanned onto the fairness of his skin, and Katsuya could just barely make out a hint of eye shadow —luxurious purple, and shimmering silver— dusting their lids. Relaxing into newfound comfort, eyes now open, but gazed unfocused, brilliant cobalt glimmered under the shadows of their hoods, strangely captivating in their partial obscurity. Seto remained, his head still slightly turned, exposing the length of his neck where light pooled on. Katsuya felt his breath hitch at the sight, from the magnetism of an action that unobtrusive, feeling his own fingers tingle under hard plastic, wondering if Seto’s skin was indeed the cream and milk as rumours claimed.

Recovering, Seto placed his other hand almost daintily on the crest of his hip, slightly leaning his weight on the same side as he did. It didn’t matter if the action was a latent memory from his catwalk days (when the versatility of his androgynous features netted him places in both women's, and men's fashion shows), or if it was the need from his narcissistic tendency to remind Katsuya that he was, and still is one of the highest paid, and most sought after models in the industry. Because for once, Katsuya didn’t gag at what he saw as his boss’ completely conspicuous, and totally unnecessary display of vanity. Instead, he almost allowed his jaw to slacken at the ethereal presence Seto exuded, only remembering to clamp his mouth shut when he saw the other man redirect his attention back to him.

Katsuya might even call him beautiful.

After the opportunity to really look at his boss, as much as Katsuya hated to admit, there were very good reasons why Seto found so much success in the industry. With how the brunet had struck jackpot in the genetic lottery, it was no surprise that he shot to superstardom in as short a timeframe as he did. It was impossible not to with a willowy frame that not only suited, but wore all clothes, from the minimalist, to the avant garde. That, coupled with how the harshness of his edges were tempered by their graceful slenderness, Seto looked every bit as refined as his heritage. With all that going for him, Katsuya couldn’t even really blame the other man for wanting ceiling spotlights installed just to enhance his already stunning features even more dramatically.

There was this inherent pull in the way Seto looked: the way light seemed to gift him their luminescence, until his fair skin glowed with the intensity of their collective whole; the way shadows collected under the knifelike edges of his cheekbones, as though shirking from his resplendence; the way his strikingly blue eyes enraptured all from under the cover of soft chestnut, holding until all that remained was the memory of the same vivid blue; the way one’s eyes would fall past the descent of his nose, embracing the temporary reprieve after, only to find themselves captive once more between the pointed crests of his razor thin lips; the way he was all precise lines and distinct angles, deceptively tame in their smoothness, but unforgiving in their severity.

“This is a good look for you.”

“Eh?” Katsuya peered at his employer from under his bangs confusedly, finally snapping out of his thoughts that were of the totally-not-admiring-how-good-his-boss-looked nature.

“On your knees, staring adoringly at me.”

“I– , I ain’t starin’ adoringly at ya! I just wanted ta see if ya were dyin’ yet, ya egoistic prick!” Katsuya sputtered, affronted at the blatantly false accusation. He immediately manoeuvred into a squat before quickly snatching up the stray packet, all the while trying to ignore the burning in the tips of his ears, and in his cheeks. Knew he ain’t human! It was two seconds! No normal person woulda noticed that!

“Unfortunately not,” Seto replied easily, arms once more crossed tightly across his chest, the multiple belts on the sleeves of his coat crinkling as he did. “Given your ghastly eating habits, it’s more likely that you will drop dead before I do.”

“Unlike ya, I ain’t gonna just eat rabbit food! And I work out!”

“As do I, but I prefer not to clog my body with processed food, and chemicals.”

Katsuya stared disbelievingly at his employer, wondering how the latter’s twig-like arms could even hold a dumbbell without snapping. Or perhaps commanding someone else to work out is enough to suffice for the rich.

“In case you are somehow unaware, vegetables are an essential food group. Is the lack of it in your diet why you always look so constipated?”

Now feeling the rest of his face heat up, Katsuya retaliated hotly, “Constipated?! Ya face is constipated!”

“Well, your posture certainly suggests so. Then again, I wouldn’t expect someone of your status to understand what decorum is.”

Truly amazed at his boss’ ability to find new buttons of his to push, Katsuya leapt back onto his feet, still clenching the cotton buds packet as he faced his tormentor. What good was a body that divine, if all it housed was a soul that wretched?

“Okay, ya win! Now can ya stop pickin’ on me?!"

Before Seto could retort how easily submissive his employee was, the latter continued, voice loud, and the warm brown of his eyes strained with something beyond plain exasperation.

“Ya know I can’t afford ta lose this job, but enough’s enough! Can ya please get da fuck off my back, and let me work in peace?!”

Taken aback, but not completely surprised by Katsuya’s outburst, Seto decided that perhaps he had enough fun with the blond for the day. The way the former’s hands trembled with restraint, and the tension in the bite of his jaw were foreign in their intensity, and a tiny part of Seto almost wanted to apologise. Instead, his pride prevailed, the sliver of remorse consumed by the umbrage from his employee’s lack of respect. Regardless of the derision his remarks had elicited in the latter, as the person who paid said offender’s wages, nothing could allow him to tolerate such outright insolence.

“Watch your language, Jounouchi. One more time, and you’re fired.”

With that, Seto snatched his clutch, car keys tight in the grip of his other hand as he thundered out of his office, making sure to slam the door hard enough to make the other man visibly flinch.

Katsuya placed the packet —now thoroughly crumpled, and soaked from his abuse— back into its pile, fingers still rattling from the resonance of his boss’ anger.

Well, at least he got the peace he'd asked for.