"So," Jounouchi sighed as he turned around, "do you think this'll turn out to be a disaster?"
Seto huffed a breath of laughter into his coffee cup before taking a sip. "Of course I do."
"Then why are we doing this?" The blonde leaned back, placing his elbows on the counter behind him.
"Maybe we're just not that bright." Leaning back, as well, he rubbed his eyes with his free hand. "My God, I'm tired."
Jou pulled a corner of his mouth taut. "You're always tired."
"You're always pointing that out." He turned to grab the coffee pot.
"Yeah, well...I worry about you."
A small smile made its way onto his lips as he filled his mug. "Maybe that's the reason we're doing this." After replacing the coffee pot, he walked over to Jou, gave him a kiss on the cheek, then continued out of the kitchen.
He heard Jou padding along behind him. "Maybe I shouldn't've invited them to stay with us for the entire summer."
"It's truly a thing of wonder how you think things through after the fact. But I suppose I shouldn't be so astonished." He eased himself onto one of the couches in the living room. "It's not as though it's the first time you've made a stupid decision from beneath an overly confident veneer."
"Ha." The blond plopped down beside him.
He grinned at him. "Not denying it, I see."
Jou shrugged. "Can't deny the truth."
"You can...it's just an incredibly stupid thing to do. So I've learned." He winked at him from behind his raised coffee cup.
Jou dropped his head to laugh. "I guess I'm just second guessing myself. I'm worried you'll feel claustrophobic...that you won't be able to relax."
"It's a ten-thousand square foot house: I'm sure I can find somewhere to hide if I become antisocial." He placed his mug on an end table. "What I don't understand is why you're so uptight. They're your best friends; moreover, they're the friends you did all of that fantastical, crazy bullshit with for years, and you're having anxiety about having them vacation with us for a few months." He switched the cross of his legs. "Care to elaborate?"
Heaving a sigh, he leaned his elbows against his knees, interlocking his long fingers. "What if things aren't the same?" He shook his head. "Yes, I know we work together, we see each other quite a bit, but..." he shrugged, "I'm just scared that something like this might make us realize that we aren't as close as we were in high school. I'm scared things won't be the same."
He smiled at his partner. "They won't be."
Mouth hanging open, brow furrowed, the blond looked at him.
"It's not a bad thing, and it most certainly doesn't mean that you won't get along anymore. People grow; they change and evolve." He pushed his bangs out of his eyes. "Look at you and I. We used to hate each other."
"Yeah, and sometimes, we still do." Jou punctuated the sentence with a cheeky grin.
He blew a short laugh out of his nose. "Stop trying to recapture the past, Katsuya. Work with what you have, as opposed to what you had."
Taking a moment to collect himself, Jou heaved a deep breath, then nodded. "You're right...as usual. I knew there was a reason I keep you around."
"Thankfully, you provide ample opportunity for me to remind you."
He snickered. "You catty bitch." Blond locks tickled his jaw as Jou nestled his face in his neck, kissing and mouthing his skin.
Fingers grasped at those locks, the grip simultaneously gentle and desperate, as the kisses slowed and lingered. Eyes closing, he released a loud breath through his nose; he practically lived for that talented mouth.
The nibbles and licks intensified, and before he knew it, a hand was sliding on his chest...moving downward...downward...downward--
"Do we have time for this?" he whispered.
"Probably not." Jou gave him one more lick before bringing a bent finger to his jaw, guiding him into a kiss.
"Make time tonight, then. It's been too long." This time, he kissed Jou.
"Which is the other reason I was questioning my decision." The blond's hands slid down his shoulders. "I want to mess you up all night long," kiss, "make you scream," kiss, "but it might make them feel uncomfortable. We wouldn't want to be rude, would we?"
"We might," he whispered, his lips moving against Jou's as he spoke. Leaning his forehead against the other's, he just barely traced a line down his partner's cheek.
"Want me to tell them to go away?" Jou whispered.
He let out a small laugh. "A little." After pressing his lips against Jou's one more time, he relinquished his hair. "Go get them first. I need to calm myself a bit before being in polite company."
"Ooh, baby," Jou teased, rising from the couch to go answer the door.
Giving his partner a dismissive wave, he sighed, then brought a hand to his mouth.
Erection, erection, go away; come again another day...
The sound of the door opening echoed throughout the house.
"Hey! You made it!" Jou's voice boomed with excitement.
There was a giggle. "We did! And we love the new house, Jounouchi; it's beautiful!"
He knew that voice: Yugi.
"Seriously; I skipped a curb when I saw it. I was in shock!" a sweet and gently cadenced voice sang.
He knew that voice, too: Ryou.
"You guys..." Jou laughed.
"Thank you for having us," a smooth, sexy voice sounded.
He DEFINITELY recognized that voice.
"Are you kiddin'? You guys are like family, Yami--...I mean Atem!" Jou cleared his throat. "Apparently, I'm incapable of calling you by your--"
Jou was interrupted by a low chuckle. "It's fine. Call me either one."
"Where's Bakura? Did he change his mind about coming? OH! Come in, by the way."
Feet shuffled around as the door closed.
Yugi let out an adorable giggle, while somebody else let out a sigh.
"He's taking a walk." Ryou sounded annoyed.
"A walk right now? Why?"
"Because I told him to. He was aggravating me; I didn't some three-thousand year old slut telling me how to drive."
He couldn't help but laugh at both the comment and the bitchy manner in which it was said; apparently, he wasn't alone, as the rest of them lost it, too.
Wow, Ryou. Kitty has claws.
"SO," Ryou continued, this time in a lighter, happier tone, "where's Mr. Kaiba?"
That's my cue.
He rose from the couch and headed toward the foyer as Jou stumbled across his words.
"Oh, he was...ah...I mean he IS...uh--"
"I was in the middle of an email." He turned the corner to find the four of them standing there, surrounded by luggage. "Sorry about that."
Their faces all lit up as they simultaneously offered him cheerful greetings; it sounded like a jovial, garbled mess, and it made him smile.
"Kaiba," Yugi beamed as he pushed his way over to him, "Ryou and I finished the new game prototype yesterday!"
He could feel his eyes go wide in surprise. "Did you turn it in already?"
The little one nodded. "Yup! The editors were super happy with us. We were ahead of our deadline for once."
"I can't believe you guys made it before the vacation."
"I can't, either." Ryou put a hand on his hip and smiled. "The art for it was a pain."
"But it looked SO good; I know you'll love it, Kaiba!"
"I'll bet he loves that you turned it in early even more," Jou cracked. "You two just moved production up by at LEAST a month. So, did you fix the--"
He looked at the blond. "I thought we weren't going to talk about work at length, Katsuya. You're the one who made the rule."
Jou winced. "Sorry."
"Whoa...I think that that look just cost you at LEAST five-hundred life points, Jounouchi." Yugi grinned.
The blond snickered, tussling the slighter one's hair. "It wouldn't be the first time that's happened, trust me."
"And it won't be the last." He fought a losing battle with a smile. "As much fun as it must be to stand around in our foyer next to your bags after a long trip, we should probably help you get settled."
Giving him a sweet smile, Ryou waved a hand at him. "You go relax. I'm sure the Yugis and I can figure it out. We don't want to be any trouble."
He cocked his head. "It's no trouble at all, but if you insist...just go up the stairs and pick any room you want."
The second he finished his sentence, Yugi grabbed Atem by the wrist with a giggle, then dragged him toward the stairs. "Come on, Yami!"
But Atem tried to put the brakes on. "Yugi, the bags--"
"We'll get them in a minute -- come on, Ryou!"
"Mm!" Ryou grabbed his duffle bag and followed along behind them.
With a happy sigh, Jou crossed his arms and walked over to join him. "It's been a decade since we graduated high school, but we're all still our old selves."
"Except Ryou." He raised an eyebrow at his partner. "He's clearly channeling his sass today."
"Maybe that's what Yugi meant when he mentioned that Ryou's gotten better with," he used air quotation marks, "'managing his yami' and standing up for himself lately. I haven't really noticed a change until today."
"Maybe you just haven't pissed him off yet."
"Yeah, that, too."
Before he knew it, Ryou was quickly making his way down the stairs. "You have such an extravagant place here; thanks, again, for having us." He finally made it to the landing.
"Did you pick rooms?"
"Do you need anything?" Jou chimed in.
Ryou snickered. "We did, and no, we're fine." Stooping down, he heaved one of Yugi's bags onto his shoulder, then picked up Atem's suitcase. "I just came to get these for them."
Both he and his partner stepped forward, but Jou was the first to get the words out: "Let me help you with that."
The white haired man let out a laugh as he shook his head. "Uh-uh; I'm fine. I can get it."
"Ryou," Jou insisted.
"Really, I'm fine!" His sing-song voice was bright as he said the words.
"I insist." Jou grabbed the suitcase, then transferred the duffle bag from Ryou's shoulder to his own.
Sporting an appreciative smile, Ryou gave him a little bow. "Thank you! Now, I can go get the groceries from the car and make us lunch." He turned around, braced the wall, and started slipping into his shoes.
Glancing at his partner, who was lugging the Yugis' bags up the stairs, he shook his head, then returned his gaze to the white haired man. "Ryou, you didn't need to buy anything. This trip? It's on me."
Ryou turned his smiling face back to him. "I really appreciate that, Kaiba, so I'll make us something to show that appreciation."
"Thanks, Ryou, but I don't want you to feel like you HAVE to."
He shook his head. "I WANT to. Be back in a moment."
"OK, then. Tell me if you need any help."
As soon as the door swung closed behind Ryou, he heard a chorus of laughter upstairs.
I'm getting flashbacks of high school just hearing that. I can't believe he was so anxious earlier ...Hm.
The front door swung open. "...--weren't even invented until three centuries after you croaked, Yami. And besides that...you don't even know how to drive." Holding a few bags of groceries, Ryou waddled over the threshold.
"And I could still do it better than you." Bakura followed along behind him, holding grocery bags, as well.
"Please. The only transportation devices you know how to use are attached to your ankles."
"I know how to ride horses, so...wrong again."
Ryou rolled his eyes. "Well, then, the next time I ride a horse, I'll yield to your advice!"
The yami narrowed his eyes. "And when are you planning on doing THAT?"
"EXACTLY." Ryou paused and looked at Seto. "Look who decided to grace us with his presence."
He nodded to the yami. "Bakura; welcome."
Bakura nodded back. "Nice digs."
"Thank you. Make yourself at home."
Just as a grin creeped onto the yami's lips, Ryou's head whipped around, giving him a near-violent warning with his eyes. "Do NOT take that literally." With that, he stomped toward the kitchen.
Bakura followed along behind his hikari. "Jesus, Ryou; who pissed in your Cheerios this morning?"
"I swear to GOD, Yami, you'd better not embarrass me..."
Their voices faded and became indiscernible as they presumably found their way into the kitchen.
My God. They've become a middle-aged married British couple. ...Speaking of couples: what're they up to up there?
Once Seto ascended the stairs, he followed the sounds of his guests' and partner's voices until he discovered which room they'd chosen and peeked inside. Atem lay on his side on the bed, propping his head up with his hand; Jou sat near his feet, and Yugi squatted on the floor, digging through his bag while he spoke.
"...really will be fun to play. Ryou and I are super proud of it." Yugi stood up.
Jou pouted. "Ugh, I want to play it right now! I wish you could've brought a copy with you."
"Me, too, but you know it'd be more trouble than it's worth." Yugi giggled, turned around, then jumped. "Kaiba! You scared the poop out of me! I didn't know you were there."
Jou and Atem smiled at him.
"Sorry. I didn't want to interrupt your conversation."
"How's it going down there? Is everything OK?" Jou asked.
"Other than the seemingly imminent death match between Bakura and Ryou in my kitchen, everything's fine."
Yugi and Atem gave each other a knowing look.
"That's normal for them these days." Atem sat up and put himself in the Reserve Lotus position.
Yugi nodded. "They'll be fine."
"Wait..." Jou looked around the room. "They ARE like you two still, right?"
"What do you mean?" Yugi blinked at him. "Dating?"
The little one nodded. "Mmhmm."
"Could've fooled me." Leaning against the doorframe, Seto crossed his arms. "With the way they were interacting, I figured they'd grown to hate each other."
Eyes unfocused, Yugi sighed in contemplation. "Ryou and Bakura are--...well, they...umm..."
"They have a very unique dynamic," Atem finished for him.
Leaning back on his hands, Jou snorted in laughter. "The same thing could've been said for us at one point, Seto."
He couldn't help but grin. "Can't deny the truth."
Jou winked at him.
"Well, at least the both of you had some redeeming qualities." There was an unmistakeable harshness etched into Atem's face as he spat the sentence at them.
"Yami..." Yugi pleaded in a whisper.
Jou looked at Atem. "You don't like Ryou? When did that happen?"
"It didn't. Ryou's lovely. It's his counterpart with whom I take issue."
Brow furrowed and raised, Yugi wrung his hands. "Yami, you promised me you'd try your best to coexist peacefully with Bakura during this trip..."
Atem's sharp gaze found his other half. "The keyword being 'coexist.' I never promised I'd pretend to like him."
After staring at the ground with the most heartbreaking expression on his face, Yugi eventually nodded.
The response didn't appear to be lost on his yami, whose disposition softened a bit. "Aibou, you know I keep my promises...especially the ones I make to you."
But his words didn't seem to penetrate. The hopelessness and disappointment emanating from the tiny form was too much for Seto. Unable to stop himself, he stepped up next to him and put his hand on his shoulder. "Come with me for a bit. I want to show you around the house."
Tri-coloured hair bounced with a nod of consent.
A quick scan of the room assured him Atem and Jou understood his motives, although Atem's face was longing; Jou patted the yami's thigh in consolation.
He guided the slighter one out of the door, down the hall, and into his bedroom; it wasn't until he closed the door behind him, though, that Yugi seemed to start paying attention.
Big purple eyes blinked up at him. "I thought you were going to show me around the house..."
Placing a hand on either of Yugi's shoulders, he looked down at him. "Don't let them ruin this trip for you. If they want to be foolish and catty, that's their business. You and Ryou've worked hard -- probably too hard -- over the past year, and you both deserve to relax. If those two start to bother you, you just tell me, and I'll take you out to do something special, just the two of us."
Yugi dove forward, wrapping his arms around him tightly; due to the height difference, his arms sat around the top of his hips, which Seto found stupidly endearing. "Thank you..."
Pulling the little one close, he pressed one hand against his back, and cradled his head with the other. "If you want to thank me, do so by having fun while you're here. And if at any point you need somebody to talk to, you know where I am."
There was a nod against his chest. "I promise to try my best. And I appreciate you being there for me."
A warmth coursed through him as he held onto his former rival.
By all intents and purposes, a man in his twenties has no business being this cute.
Giving his hair a loving tussle, he sighed. "Do you feel a bit better now?"
Those purple eyes gazed up at him again. "Mm." He smiled.
He smiled back at him. "Let's go get something to eat."
"OK." After unlatching his arms, Yugi took him by the hand, and led him back to the room to get the others.
They peeked into the bedroom, Yugi still having a solid hold on his hand. A baby panic attack dug its claws into his stomach; the hand-holding, no matter how innocent, might've been violating a boundary for Jou or Atem, but at the same time, he didn't want to let go of him.
"Come on, you two," Yugi giggled, "we're going to get food!"
Jou and Atem blinked at each other, seemingly too stunned with Yugi's mood change to even notice the hand-holding, or too happy to care.
"Right away, Aibou." Atem smiled.