Seto and Jounouchi
It was cold that night.
Jounouchi pulled his hood up on his jacket, ducked his head, and shoved his hands into his pockets, but it hardly did any good; his backpack was weighing heavy on his shoulders, the rain pelted him mercilessly, and the wind whipped his face raw. Hell, he could hardly even see where he was going.
”Hey.” The shouted word startled him, despite the vague familiarity of the voice. He’d been so brutalized by the weather that he hadn’t even noticed the black town car that had pulled up beside him, following along with his pace.
Squinting, he turned his head to the left and spotted the slender, angular features of a face he knew all too well through the rolled-down backseat window.
”What the hell are you doing?” Seto didn’t even give him a chance to answer his greeting before asking the question.
”I’m walking; what’s it look like?” He sniffled. “Can we talk later? I don’t want to stand around in this rain.”
”No, I mean, what the hell are you doing out here? Don’t you watch the news?”
Once he freed a hand from his pocket, Jounouchi wiped some rain from his face. “No; kinda had a bad night, Kaiba. The news was low on the list of priorities.” The rain and wind was so loud, he could hardly even hear himself.
”You going to Yugi’s?”
”His grandpa’s asleep, so no.”
”Where’re you going, then?”
”I don’t know, alright?” the blond snapped, more out of discomfort than pride. “My old man threw me out.”
”Hey, dumb ass.”
Anger welled up in his chest, but he ignored Seto’s taunt.
”Hey, dumb ass!” the brunette yelled louder.
”What?” he yelled back.
The car came to a stop. “Get in.”
Even though he wanted to (and boy did he want to), there was no way Jounouchi could turn down Seto’s offer; he was miserable and staring down the barrel of staying at a love hotel that night. The moment the door popped open, he widened the entry and hopped in, then slammed the door unrepentantly behind him.
”God, you’re a mess.” Seto slid a bit further away from him. “I’m going to have to get the car detailed because of you.”
He rolled up the window as the car started rolling again. “Yeah, well, I didn’t see anybody putting a gun to your head when you opened the door.” Sighing, he brushed the hood off of his head. “Thanks, by the way.”
”So,” Seto crossed his long, thin legs, “what’d you do to get yourself thrown out?”
Biting the side of his bottom lip, Jounouchi shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Seto raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know?”
Almost as though it were acting of its own accord, his head whipped in the brunette’s direction. “No, Kaiba; I don’t know. The bastard’s a violent drunk who thought hucking beer bottles at his kid was an appropriate greeting. He’s probably fried so many braincells at this point that I doubt he knows his own address, let alone a half-coherent reason as to why he kicked me out so, like I said: I DON’T...KNOW.”
The car went silent, except for the rhythmic tick-tock of a turn signal and the tires slowing on wet pavement.
Jounouchi shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I graduated high school six months ago, and that apartment’s a dump, anyway; I’m not going back.”
”Where’re you going to go, then? Do you even have a plan?”
He looked at the brunette. “I’ll go as far as you’ll take me tonight, then couch surf or stay at roach motels until I get solid income. A part-time job’s not going to cut it anymore. Maybe Yugi’s grandpa needs some help around the shop; who knows.”
”I thought you wanted to go professional.” Seto had his poker face on, and he did it well; Jounouchi couldn’t read him at all.
The blond shrugged. “I do. I’ll just need to work like a donkey, holding down a job and going to tournaments on my time off. I’m not afraid of hard work.”
After a quiet moment or two, Seto dug his phone out of his pocket and tapped away at the screen. “Did you eat yet?”
Blink, blink. “Uhh...” He scratched the back of his head. “No. Not since around three.”
Those cobalt eyes didn’t take their gaze from the screen of the phone.
”So, what’re you doing out so late?”
”I had to finish something at the office.” Tap, tap, tap. “Also, the news was quite intriguing today.”
Jounouchi squinted at him. “Yeah, you mentioned that: what’s going on?”
”People’ve been disappearing around Domino -- all of them are teenagers. The police are advising people not wander the streets after dark or go out alone.” Finally, he lifted his gaze to Jounouchi’s, giving him a look that could send a chill through a Komodo dragon.
Mouth dropping open, the blond stared back at him. “I didn’t kno--”
”No. Apparently, you didn’t because you’d either have to be ignorant to the situation, or some kind of I-think-I’m-invincible dumb ass to go out alone.”
”I’m sure you figured me for the latter.”
All Seto did was smile.
Letting out a sigh, the blond crossed his arms and leaned back in the seat, despite his back pack poking at him; he was freezing. “Sorry to disappoint.”
”You may irritate me to no end, and I’ll admit to rolling in a deep sense of gratification when busting your balls at every chance I get, but that doesn’t mean I think you deserve to disappear.”
Jounouchi gave him the biggest, shit-eating grin he could summon, despite his misery. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
”Hm.” The noise the brunette made sounded almost like a laugh.
Great. My teeth are starting to chatter.
”Are we almost there?”
Shoving his phone back into his pocket, Seto stretched his neck to look out the window. “Looks like we’re about to pull in now.” He looked back at Jounouchi. “Go take a shower once we get in. I’m assuming you have some night clothes to change into.”
He nodded. “I’m not sure if the rain got to them or not, though.”
”If it did, tell me. I don’t need your ass getting sick while you’re here, or I’ll never get rid of you.” The car came to a stop inside of the huge garage, and Seto grabbed the door handle. “Let’s go.”
Jounouchi peeked out into the hallway.
The shower he’d taken was a bit longer than it should’ve been for a guest; it probably seemed as though he were taking advantage of Seto’s hospitality, but the hot water felt almost orgasmic and, he had to admit, it was the fanciest shower he’d ever been in.
Luckily, his night clothes, which had been stuffed toward the bottom of his back pack, hadn’t succumbed to the rain; his duel disk, though, was somewhat damp. He left all of this belongings in the bathroom to dry out, as he didn’t want to swamp whatever room Seto was planning to shove him in for the night.
Looking right, then left, he could find no sign of life, which made him sigh in relief.
The last thing I need is a lecture from Money Bags about taking too long. If he hasn’t been babysitting the door, though, I’m probably in the clear.
Stepping out into the hallway, he slowly padded down the left side, found the staircase back downstairs, then wandered through a tall, window-filled sitting room. The room next to it, though...there were soft sounds coming from it -- somebody was doing something quietly, but he had no clue who or what. Finally, once he traversed the sitting room, he had the opportunity to take a gander into the adjacent room: it was a dining room, and Seto sat in the chair at the head of the table, holding a tablet, presumably reading.
The table had a spread of food on it: not snacks or little things to nibble on, but a proper dinner. Stomach turning in want, he made a little swallow, and was almost as though Seto heard him do it, as he looked up at him as soon as his throat relaxed.
”Your clothes stayed dry, then?” Seto placed the tablet on the table.
He nodded. “Somehow.” A tiny smile came to his lips. “Now, you won’t have to tolerate me wearing yours, huh?”
”Precisely what I was thinking.” The brunette grabbed his fork and knife from the table, placed them in one hand, then shook a cloth napkin out of its fold and set it on his lap. “Are you eating?”
Elation coursed through his veins, though he refused to show it on his face. He was starving. “If you’re offering.”
Seto narrowed his eyes at him in reply, then began serving himself.
Jounouchi took the first seat on the right, making a right-angle of he and Seto; it was where the other plate was set. “You weren’t waiting for me, were you?”
”Shut up.” He poured himself some water from a pitcher.
Blink, blink. “Oh. You were.” The blond started serving himself, as well. “That was polite of you.”
”I’m not a complete animal.” Seto forked some food into his mouth.
A smile came to his lips -- the first genuine one all day. “No. You’re not.”
”You surprise me. I was expecting a fight about that one.”
Despite his ravenous state and the hunger pangs clawing at him stomach, he took a moment to look at the brunette. “What can I say? After what you did for me, you proved yourself right.” His smile grew a bit wider. “Thanks, Kaiba.”
Eyes fixed on his food, Seto pushed some vegetables onto his fork. “Spare me.”
He made a snort that turned into a soft laugh before taking a bite of food. “Is Mokuba asleep?”
”Despite his best efforts. He has school tomorrow.” The brunette sipped his water.
Jounouchi raised an eyebrow. “What, he wanted to stay up, or something?”
”When I went in to check on him, he woke up a bit. I told him you were staying here, and he begged me to let him say ‘hi’ to you; I told him ‘no.’”
A small, breathy laugh pushed out of the blond’s nose as his gaze returned to his plate. “He’s a good kid.” He shoved some food into his mouth.
”Never thought I’d agree with you twice within a twenty-four hour period, but...here we are.”
The blond couldn’t help but snicker; Seto had uttered such a sweet sentiment with such a deadpan expression. “You know, he kind of reminds me of Shizuka.”
”How?” The question sounded more like a statement.
Jounouchi shrugged. “The way they’re both so pure-hearted...empathetic. Sweet.” He took another bite of food. “That’s something we have in common: amazing younger siblings who we want to protect -- who we want nothing but the best for.”
”Only, I wound up far more equipped to make that happen.” That icy, cobalt gaze pierced into him over top of his glass of water.
The comment, however hurtful, was true and, sadly, expected. Tightening a corner of his mouth, Jounouchi nodded, then stabbed some more food onto his fork. “That’s partially true.”
”Oh, is it, now?”
Again, the blond nodded. “You didn’t ‘wind up’ more equipped; you fought and worked your ass off for it. You don’t need to be polite about it: you earned it.”
They both went silent for a moment.
”You’re weirding my shit out, Jounouchi.”
The blond looked at him. “I am?”
”Yes.” Seto placed his glass on the table. “Where did this humble, self-aware emo come from, and where’s the shamelessly inept, delusional annoyance I’m used to?”
”He realized he’s going nowhere.” Sighing, he leaned back in his chair. “I can’t afford college, my grades weren’t good enough for scholarships, so I fucked that up...I’m not good at anything but beating the shit out of people...my dad’s a loser, my mom left me behind...if it weren’t for my sister and my friends, I wouldn’t have a soul in the world to give a shit about me. It’s just,” he dropped his fork to his plate, “become abundantly clear that those who are born at the bottom stay at the bottom: that’s where I am, and that’s where I’m going to stay.” His gaze finally met Seto’s. “I’m a failure.”
”You’re an idiot.”
He raised his eyebrows.
Seto scowled at him. “That shameless delusion you had was what set you apart from the rest of the losers; that’s what gave you your drive to succeed. You think it’s better to roll over and show your belly to the cruelty and unjust nature of society, rather than to eat hardship for breakfast, like you used to -- to never give up and strive for what you want?” He leaned forward. “You aren’t at the bottom: I was at the bottom -- and not that long ago, mind you -- and today, just a few short hours ago, was ordering French food from the back of my town car after picking your ass up off of the street.” Seto huffed. “You want to talk about commonalities between us? The biggest one -- the one I respected the most -- was how you fought like you had nothing to lose when everything was riding on you winning...the fact that your entire life was one big bluff, yet you played like you had a Royal Flush in your hand. And you pick now -- the night you decided to grow a set and permanently remove yourself from the toxicity of your father -- of all times, to wallow in self pity and call yourself a failure?”
The shame in Jounouchi rose so high, he was struggling not to choke on it, and the anger emanating from the brunette was so oppressive, he was certain he could’ve literally taken a handful of it out of the air. “I...”
”You what?” the brunette barked.
After a moment’s hesitation, Jounouchi finally shook his head. “I think I’m just...feeling sorry for myself.”
Seto slammed a fist on the table. “Knock that shit off and pull yourself together, Jounouchi! Jesus CHRIST!”
He cleared his throat; it still tasted like shame. “You’re right.”
But Seto just sat quietly, giving his empty plate a death glare.
The blond squirmed in his chair. “I’m only human. After eighteen years of being told I’m nothing by the people who were supposed to love me, it just...gets tiring, having to pick yourself up again and again; it’s hard to be strong all of the time. I guess I had a moment: I folded. I’m sorry.”
Still staring at his plate, Seto perched the fingertips of one hand on the table top. “I wouldn’t’ve bothered taking you in tonight had I thought you were anything less than the type of person who could spin gold from fecal matter.” His already soft voice became softer...lower. “We may not like each other, but even I can see that you are anything but a waste or a failure.”
He didn’t want it to happen -- he hated that it was going to, but a touched smile curved his lips. There was a prickle of heat in his nose and a burn in his eyes but, nonetheless, he couldn’t help the nature of his reply: “What do you mean, we don’t like each other? We've always gotten along, you know that.”
Biting blue eyes slid in his direction, the threatening scowl remained plastered to Seto’s face...but, after a moment, his lips wore the slightest hint of a smile, and a short breath pushed out of his nose. “Dip shit.”