Chapter 1: I Found You in the Pouring Rain
Jounouchi's in a bind...will somebody help him out?
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.”
Chapter 2: Dirty Laundry
When teenagers are disappearing,
in your neighborhood,
who you gonna call?
Seto learns a new skill.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Jounouchi opened his eyes.
...Then started to panic.
WHERE THE HELL AM I?
Throwing the covers off of himself, he pushed himself up to a sit and whipped his head from side to side, looking around the room. It took a moment or two, but his hand eventually came to his face as he let out a chuckle.
RIGHT. You’re at Kaiba’s, you dumb ass.
He reached over to the nightstand and grabbed his phone; it read 12:12 p.m.
Better get up and poke around. He’s going to think I’m taking advantage of him.
Kaiba’s house was two things: huge and sterile.
It kind of felt as though you were doing something forbidden, just by walking through it. Sure, Jounouchi was barefoot, still in his nightclothes, and holding yesterday’s laundry under his arm...and obviously, he and Kaiba weren’t exactly butt-buddies...but he couldn’t shake the feeling that, had this been a normal house, he’d feel a bit more comfortable doing so.
He peeked into the dining room, as he had the night before, but this time, there was no Kaiba. A breath of both relief and anxiety fell from his nose; he wasn’t sure if he wanted to find him or not.
Where is he? I wonder if I should text him, or something?
There was the thunder of footsteps coming from an area off of the dining room -- one he hadn’t yet explored -- and they drew closer...and closer...and--
”Jounouchi!” Mokuba had kicked the door open. He only had time to smile before Mokuba flung himself at him, wrapping his arms around his middle in a tight hug.
”Hey! There he is!” Jounouchi snickered, giving the younger one a scrub on the head. “Why're you home? Don't you have school?”
He relinquished his hold on Jounouchi. “Big Brother had me stay home from school today.” Mokuba gave him one of those huge smiles that just makes one’s heart melt. “I wanted to go get you up, but he wouldn’t let me; he said you needed the sleep.”
Grabbing the back of his neck, Jounouchi let out a strained laugh. “It was kind of a rough night; I got caught in the rain, and your brother let me crash here. Sorry for sleeping for so long.”
Mokuba shook his head, grinning even wider. “I was just excited to see you!”
“I’m excited to see you, too, kid.” He laughed. “So, why did Kaiba let you stay home from school? That doesn’t seem very...like him.”
The dark haired boy rolled his eyes. “He’s just being overprotective.”
”I am not just being overprotective.” Seto’s voice entered the room before the rest of him did, using the same door that Mokuba had used. He was dressed casually, as opposed to the way he usually dressed for work.
”Yes, you are.” Mokuba crossed his arms.
Seto narrowed his eyes at his brother, obviously perturbed. “You’re free to formulate any opinion you want about it, but the fact remains that you are not to leave my side unless we’re in the house until further notice.”
”Not on the lawn...not in the garage...but inside the house.”
”And it’s not up for discussion.” Finally, Seto looked at Jounouchi, ignoring his little brother, who threw his head back and made an exasperated sigh. “You’ve finally awoken from your slumber, oh fabled one.”
Jounouchi bared his teeth. “Sorry.” His gaze left Seto in favor of watching Mokuba harumph himself into a chair. “I guess I was a bit more tired than usual.”
Seto gestured at the clothes under his arm. “Laundry, I presume?”
He nodded. “Is that cool?”
Blowing a puff out his nose, Seto raised an eyebrow. “Like I care. I’ll call the maid--”
”Actually, I think that I can handle it; do you think you could just show me where the washing machine is?”
After he let out a bitchy sigh, Seto waved a hand at him, then turned around. “Stop pouting, Mokuba. Go get a snack while I show this one where the machines are.”
Making an adorably petulant pout, Mokuba wordlessly pushed himself off of the chair, then went to a door toward the right to leave the room.
Seto stared at the door his little brother had gone through for a moment, shook his head, then opened the left door. “Come on.”
Blink, blink. “OK.” Jounouchi followed along behind him. They walked in silence for a while, until he decided to break it. “So, you taking the day off today?”
”Working from home.”
“Mokuba seems a bit pissed off, huh?”
”I would’ve never guessed. You’re a regular Sherlock.” Seto’s voice was flat.
Tightening a corner of his mouth, Jounouchi gave Seto’s back an annoyed look.
”He can be pissed off at me all he wants. All I care about is that he’s safe.”
”Is this about the teenagers disappearing thing?”
”Katsuya Jounouchi correct about two out of three inferences? Is the sky falling?”
He rolled his eyes. “Would you stop being a dick to me, Kaiba?”
”Would you stop trying to make small talk with me, Jounouchi?”
Jounouchi scowled. “I’m not making ‘small talk;’ I’m worried about Mokuba, you ass!”
”Is that so?”
”Yes. You may be a dick, but you’re not stupid. If you’re pulling him out of school and willing to let him get that angry with you, there must be something seriously wrong.”
How far away is this laundry room? It feels like we’ve been walking forever.
Seto went quiet for a bit, then let out a sigh. “A thirteen year old went missing last night. He was taken from his bedroom window.”
Jounouchi’s eyes went wide. “You’re serious?”
”Would you allow Mokuba out of your sight after hearing that?”
The blond shook his head. “No way.”
”The cops are idiots in this town, apparently. And there’s no way I’m going to rely on idiots to keep my brother safe.”
”So, you’re just keeping Mokuba on lock-down?”
”I wouldn’t say ‘just.’” They came to a stop, and Seto pressed a button on the wall; it took Jounouchi a moment to realize that it was for an elevator. “I’ve hired six private detectives to investigate for me, but what they’ll find remains to be determined. They could all brick, for all I know.”
Even though what Seto was saying was serious, he couldn’t help but indulge in the covert grin at him using Duel Monsters slang.
The elevator doors opened, and they both stepped on; Seto pressed the button for the basement.
”Well, what happens if they do find something?” Jounouchi shifted his weight.
”We go to the police.” Seto didn’t look at him.
Cocking his head from side to side, Jounouchi pushed his bottom lip up. “Sounds reasonable.” He laughed. “You know what’s kind of funny?”
”Enlighten me.” The elevator doors opened, and they both stepped out, Seto leading him to the right.
”I was thinking--”
Jounouchi rolled his eyes. “I was thinking about this a bit last night; I remembered you mentioning the disappearances in the car, and...well, the first person who came to mind was Yugi.”
”Yeah. With how tiny he is, he really should watch his back.”
”N-no...I mean, yeah, but no, I meant...this mystery -- well, any mystery, really -- is sort of like a puzzle, right? Don’t know anybody better at a puzzle than Yugi.”
Seto slowed to a stop, and Jounouchi almost ran into him; thankfully he caught himself just in time.
”Whoa, there. You OK?”
Seto turned around, the look on his face indicative of the gears turning in his mind. “I think I’m a bit shocked, actually.”
Jounouchi cocked his head. “By...?”
”By the fact that a halfway intelligent concept just glorped its way out of your mouth.” Seto tapped his cheek.
Jounouchi turned his gaze up and to the right at the insult. “...Yeah, THANKS.”
”You’re welcome. Huh.” Seto’s eyes were unfocused. “Yugi Mutou...Yugi fucking Mutou.” Seto looked at him. “Call him for me.”
”No, dip shit; when we get back upstairs. Tell him I want to meet with him, preferably tonight.”
”Uh, sure. OK.”
”Fantastic.” Seto turned back around and started walking once more. “Laundry room’s up here and to the right.”
”It’s been a bit of a trek, hasn’t it?”
Seto pushed a door open on the right hand side, and they both went into the laundry room. “I said you could just call the maid.”
”Nah, it’s fine.” He smiled at the brunette. “I actually like to do laundry.” The blond scanned the room: there were three economy-sized washers, three economy-sized dryers, a shelf with detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, and bleach, and a slop sink.
Once he crossed his arms, Seto leaned back against the wall and gave him a snide grin. “Heh, you--” but that was all he said after an abrupt stop.
Jounouchi opened one of the washing machines, then reached for the detergent. “I what?”
Looking away, Seto shook his head. “Nothing.” He paused to cleared his throat. “So, you really know how to work these things?”
”Yeah.” He measured out some detergent, then poured it into the machine. “If I didn’t, I’d’ve had to go to school wearing dirty clothes. It’s not like my old man did it for me, you know?”
”I figured.” Seto’s tone had softened a bit.
Jounouchi closed the washing machine door, then turned to him. “Want me to show you?”
Those blue eyes went stony for a moment but, to Jounouchi’s surprise, Seto nodded. “Why not?”
Once Seto walked over, keeping his arms crossed, Jounouchi looked up at him. “Ready?”
Seto just nodded.
”So, you put the clothes in...then the detergent--”
”I’m not stupid.”
”Didn’t say you were,” the blond laughed, “but some people have different methods.”
”Well, if this were an upright, you could let it fill with some water first, then add the detergent. And this model? It’s a front loader.”
”This model also has a detergent department--”
”Why not just use that, then?”
”Well, one reason is because some have a defect where the detergent will leak onto the door, and not get on the clothing.”
Seto narrowed his eyes. “You calling my machines lemons, Jounouchi?”
”No.” Jounouchi shook his head. “I was going with the other reason, which is, I just figure for such a small load and such a huge washer--”
”Mine’s bigger than most?”
The blond nodded. “WAY bigger. I’m assuming it’s for big ass blankets or something.”
”Who knows. I ordered what the maid suggested.”
”Well, either way, I guess it just...felt right. To put it directly in, that is. So, then, you close the door, and...you see these nobs?”
”So, since my clothes are dark, I want to put them on...well, what temperature would you suggest?”
Peering at the options, Seto looked highly focused at his guess. “Hot. To kill the bacteria.”
Wobbling his head, Jounouchi averted his gaze, but smiled. “Hot is great for killing bacteria, but it’ll fade the colors on darker clothes. White clothing gets the hot water. So, you want--”
”Cold.” The way Seto said the word was almost desperate, like he needed to be correct at least once during this lesson. “So...that would mean you need to separate your clothes by color?”
”Right! Otherwise, the colors may run, and that’s how you wind up with pink underwear.” He giggled, then set the temperature. “Since we only have darks, we don’t need to separate them. So, then, you just want it on the ‘normal’ cycle,” he set it as such, “then...?”
Seto stepped forward, looking over the buttons, then boldly reached out and pressed the start button.
”You did it!” Jounouchi gave him a little clap. “See? Not too hard.”
A small smile came to Seto’s lips, but once he gave a small head shake, the smile dropped out of his mouth, and he looked at Jounouchi. “Don’t patronize me.”
”Ugh!” Jounouchi rolled his eyes. “I was just telling you that you did great for learning so quickly; don’t bite my head off.”
”Let’s go.” Seto turned toward the door. “I need to eat something, and so do you.”
I know not much happened in this chapter, but it's helped me set up for more to come.
I hope it made you smile when Jounouchi showed Seto how to do laundry; Jounouchi teaching Seto something is just...MM! Haha!