By Alecto Perdita
Track 14 - Aria
Posted: October 26, 2010
Email: alecto . perdita (at) gmail . com
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh is the intellectual property of Takahashi Kazuki, and is being used in this fanfiction for fan purposes only. All situations, opinions and characters not belonging to Takahashi Kazuki are the intellectual property of Alecto Perdita.
From behind the curtain, I surveyed the crowd gathered around the makeshift stage erected in the center of the park downtown. With almost 500 pre-registrations online, the turn-out for the second Battle City tournament was twice the size as the previous. Besides me, Mokuba fussed with his earpiece as he shifted back and forth on his feet.
"Relax, Mokuba. Everything will work out. I've reviewed your plan and you've prepared for every eventuality that you could have." I said.
"Except every time we hold a Duel Monsters tournament, something always goes wrong and our stock prices take a plummet." Mokuba glared at a spot on the floor as he spoke.
I swore then that I was going to shave Yugi bald if anything went wrong that time. It brought a small smile to his face. Though I can't say I entirely approved of the way Mokuba's smile widened with the noisy arrival of the aforementioned teen and his groupies. There was nothing more I could really do. It seemed like Yugi and company were going to remain a permanent fixture in Mokuba's and my life.
"You guys made it!" Mokuba was practically bouncing on his feet.
"Thank you for inviting us to the opening ceremony, Mokuba-kun." Yugi was polite as ever.
"Of course! You guys were in the top eight last year. You gotta be in the opening."
"And I'm going to beat you this year, Kaiba!" Jounouchi pointed a finger in my direction.
I smirked, "In your dreams, bonkotsu."
"It's too bad Malik-kun, Isis-san, and Rishid-san couldn't make it this year." Yugi got a few stares for his words.
Those three cheating bastards were just lucky I didn't blacklist them all in the pro circuit.
Anzu checked her wristwatch. "It's almost time. I hope Shizuka-chan finds her way here alright."
The usual spot at Jounouchi's side was empty.
"Where is she?" I asked.
Jounouchi furrowed his brows."She invited the new girl in her class to tag along in the tournament. Shizuka thought it'd be a good way to get to know the city."
Yugi and his friends conversed excitedly for the next few minutes; Anzu made several attempts to include me, but gave up after the third glare. Jounouchi stared enviously at several of the cards Yugi and Yami had recently incorporated into their decks. From the sound of things, it seemed that both were going to duel and take turns trading off after each duel. I wondered if it would be petty of me to disqualify him right there.
I had a feeling Mokuba wouldn't let me do that.
"Sorry to keep you waiting!" Shizuka dropped into a low bow as soon as she arrived. Her shoulders heaved as she tried to catch her breath.
Honda and Otogi's faces immediately lit up before making a beeline toward the younger girl. I barely suppressed the roll of my eyes as Jounouchi leap into the fray.
"Onii-chan! Please don't embarrass me!"
The other girl that had arrived with Shizuka hung back silently. She wore the uniform of Shizuka's middle school. There wasn't anything in particular that stood out at first. This was back when I couldn't be bothered to learn the names of the group's second string.
Ignoring the others' antics, Mokuba walked up to the girl and smiled, "Hi, I'm Kaiba Mokuba. I hope you'll enjoy today's festivities."
She bowed in a storm of long ice blue hair. "My name is Ryuujin Kisara. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
I'm not sure if it was the name or the voice, but the others froze in that instance. Yugi and Anzu stared openly in shock, while Honda kept looking wildly between the girl and myself. Jounouchi was the most subdued of all, watching me with a set of tight jaws.
"Is something wrong, Yugi-kun?" Bakura asked.
Yugi looked between Mokuba, Shizuka, Otogi, and Bakura- the people who had not taken any part in Yami's world of memories. Perhaps he was just taking pity on the increasingly nervous Kisara. "It's nothing, right Anzu?"
"Uh, right..." She answered after a few seconds of awkward silence.
Honda whipped around and pointed at me. "But Kaiba, isn't that-"
"No," I snapped.
The rest of them flooded forward to greet her and move past the awkward moment. I only half listened as Shizuka introduced her as a transfer student from Kyoto. I was all too aware of Jounouchi creeping ever closer to my side.
Jounouchi almost seemed unhappy. He nudged my arm gently. "Aren't you going to say hello?"
I snorted, "Why should I care?"
"Because she's that girl with the Blue Eyes White Dragon!" He mumbled urgently before looking around suspiciously.
"I highly doubt that she's the same person. Wasn't all that supposed to have happened 3000 years ago?" I took another moment to study her. She did appear the mirror image of the girl with Priest Seth, if she had cleaned up and was better fed.
I don't think I was still fully ready to accept the magical nature everything that had happened. Unfortunately the appearance of my the reincarnation of my lover(?) from a supposed past life wasn't on the list of contingencies that Mokuba and he had planned for this time.
"She gave her life for you."
"Kisara gave her life for my so-called past life. I am not Priest Seth, I am my own person," I snarled.
Frankly, I had been disgusted by what I saw of the priest- someone that was so weak to let both his friends and loved ones die.
Jounouchi continued to glare at me and I couldn't understand why. No matter what my supposed connection to this girl may have been in a past life, it had nothing to do with who we were now. I did not know her. It was insulting to assume either of us would just automatically fall into the roles of star-crossed lovers. And Jounouchi's dogged insistence of the fact made the situation all the more sour.
"And this is my brother, Kaiba Seto."
I was caught off-guard when my brother led the girl to me. She bowed again, dropping quickly to hide her flushed face and sparkling eyes behind a curtain of hair.
The blush across her face deepened as she spoke. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Kaiba-san."
I took one last look between her and Jounouchi before marching out past the curtains. I'd rather take my chances with the Duel Monsters fanboys than this developing tragedy.
Within minutes, the rooftop was flooded with police; all of whom had their guns trained on Sophie as they stormed onto the scene.
"Hands up in the air and drop the weapon!"
Sophie slowly lowered the gun and placed it down. As she brought her hands back into the air to comply with the officer's instructions, two of them grabbed and pinned her against the wall next to the roof access. From behind them, two EMS workers raced to the dying man's side.
"Can your injuries wait until we stabilize this one?" One of them pointed at Jounouchi.
He nodded numbly; his head felt like a leaden weight bobbing around. He didn't know who he should have been more concerned for: Sophie or Kaiba.
"Radio a second ambulance," the other EMT snapped. "We're going to have our hands full with this one before we can get to him and the other one downstairs."
His head swam and his breath came short at the mention of a third injured person. "Wait, is Kaiba okay?"
They ignored his question to continue working on Tanaka. "He's lost a lot of blood and he's crashing!"
A officer was quick to steer him away from the scene. Jounouchi turned his attention back to Sophie. Her hands were cuffed and the officer patting her down drew a sheathed butterfly knife from inside her boots. Even with the dim lighting, he could make out the angry red bruises wrapped around her neck.
"Wait, are you arresting her?" Just shouting made Jounouchi's head spin some more (1).
"Sir, she was in possession of the fired weapon. It's for your safety."
"She saved me!"
Beyond the police tape, Malik appeared under the eaves of the roof access. When an officer stepped in front and blocked the Egyptian from the scene, the two began arguing loudly.
"She saved my life." He barely contained his anger as he gritted his teeth.
"It's okay, Katsuya. I'll even say I'm glad I shot the son of a bitch." Sophie's words were barely audible over the clamor of the crime scene. "Malik will take good care of you in the meantime."
Malik shot her a bewildered expression from where he stood.
Sophie smiled weakly as the police led her away. Not sure how he managed to muster the strength, he pushed past and grabbed onto the shoulder of the officer leading her away. "Let her go," he growled.
"Sir, if you don't stop now, I will arrest you for obstructing justice." A officer held him back.
"Justice my ass." Jounouchi screamed and immediately winced as another jolt of pain shot through his chest.
"Katsuya, I'll be fine." She insisted just before her head vanished heading down the stairs.
As the second set of EMT workers rushed in, Tanaka was carried away in a gurney. He was hooked up to all manners of tubes and was deathly white. Jounouchi lost sight of them when he was surrounded by the new crew.
"Where does it hurt, Katsuya-san?"
Jounouchi wished it was all just a nightmare- he was ready to wake up.
The detective- Jounouchi thought his name was Uetake or something, he wasn't really listening at first- flipped the notepad in his hand closed and bowed. "Thank you for your time, Jounouchi-san. I hope you will make a speedy recovery. The police will be in contact with you at a later time."
Jounouchi sat up straighter in the hospital bed. "Wait, what about my manager?"
The detective straightened his tie as he stood. He glanced nervously out of the corner of his eyes to Malik hovering in the doorway. "Chang-san will remain in our custody for at least another 48 hours. What happens next will be determined by the results of our investigation."
Jounouchi cursed when the detective quickly ducked out of the room. He glared down at the IV in his arm- the doctor had said something about making sure he wasn't malnourished. He had half the mind to just rip it right out.
Malik strolled across the room, hanging up on another call coming through on his cellphone. Jounouchi had lost count of how many times the phone had rang in the last few minutes. And each time, he was tempted to pick the glass off his bedside and throw it at a wall. It seemed that the world was becoming increasing chaotic and spinning out of control. It was maddening. Who knew what was happening to his father, Sophie, or Kaiba?
"Malik, I can't stay here," he gestured to the hospital around him. "I have to go help Sophie."
The Egyptian shook his head. "Jounouchi, this is the safest place right now. There are reporters waiting to jump you as soon as you leave this hospital. Do your people a favor and give them a chance to do damage control."
"But what about Kaiba and Sophie?"
"Kaiba's fine. He only sprained his wrist on the fall. And you running around when you should be resting isn't going to help Ms. Chang get released any faster."
A coil of tension in his guts relaxed with the news of Kaiba. Malik wasn't the type to lie right? But PR was all about telling bold-faced white lies. "I can't just sit here." Jounouchi gritted his teeth. His current inability to do anything for the people he cared about was slowly driving him up the walls.
"You're going to do just that," Kaiba announced suddenly from the doorway.
"Kaiba!" he exclaimed.
The brunet man marched into the room, followed by two identical looking bodyguards. Did the man have a cloning facility devoted to just spitting them out? Kaiba's coat was dusty and torn in places. Jounouchi caught the bandage peeking out from under the right-handed sleeve. He came to a stop in front of Jounouchi's bed and crossed his arms over his chest. "They're here to make sure that you stay put."
The initial relief he had felt faded quickly into indignation. "You're not the boss of me, Kaiba."
"Jounouchi, for once, let the people that value your well-being take care of you," Kaiba sighed. There was a hint of tiredness and annoyance creeping into his voice.
It was then that Jounouchi noticed the slump in both men's shoulders and the dark shadows under their eyes. Had they lost sleep on his behalf? What about his mother and sister?
"What happened to my old man?" He asked.
Malik looked away and Jounouchi suspected he already knew the answer. Kaiba just narrowed his eyes and spat, "He died in route to the hospital."
Exhaustion was setting in once again and for once, Jounouchi just let the fight drain from him.
Painkillers, Jounouchi decided, were one of mankind's greater inventions. When he woke up a few hours later just as the sun's first rays broke over the horizon, he felt remarkably better. A nurse must have removed the IV drip in his sleep. He flexed his arm and sat up in bed.
One of Kaiba's suited goons detached himself from the doorway and bowed.
"Where's the other one?" He asked.
"He's doing a patrol of the entire ward, Jounouchi-sama," replied the bodyguard.
The unfamiliar form of address made Jounouchi's skin craw.
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
"First, drop the -sama and could you get me some food? I'm starving." And Jounouchi's stomach grumbled on cue.
Kaiba shoved his cellphone back into the pocket of his coat. He had made the mistake of going down to the cafeteria for coffee. By the time he spotted the table full of weary reporters and photographers, it was too late.
"Are you sure you're alright, Seto-sama?" The bodyguard at his side asked.
"I'm fine, Kira. But thank you stepping in." He glared down as the phone in his pocket gave another buzz.
"I figured it was that or a handful of wrongful death suits on our hands in the morning."
It was always hard to tell if Kira was serious or deadpan sarcastic.
"I want the security detail doubled asap. See if either Shizuka or her mother need an escort to come see Jounouchi." He glanced up at a clock on a wall reading about six-thirty AM.
Kira reached out and pointed down a hallway they passed. "Isn't that Jounouchi-san?"
Kaiba craned his neck back to see the person his bodyguard was pointing at. The mop of messy blond hair definitely belonged to Jounouchi. The man had his back turned to them as he peered around the next corner. He sighed and signaled for Kira to go ahead."Go save Hino from whatever wild goose chase Jounouchi sent him on."
The bodyguard gave a stiff bow before marching away. Kaiba started quickly down the hall toward Jounouchi, determined to get there before the blond could get caught by reporters or orderlies. As he closed on the other man, Jounouchi didn't even sense his approach. Through the slit in the back of Jounouchi's hospital gown, Kaiba could see the shapely curve of his buttocks.
"You're not going to get very far in that." Kaiba's words caused Jounouchi to jump.
"Jesus fucking Christ, don't you make any sound when you walk?" Jounouchi snapped in return. "And hey, I had a plan. I was going to borrow a change of clothes from some doctor or resident."
"And they typically keep their belonging in lockers."
"I can break into lockers, I think."
Mindful of Jounouchi's injuries, Kaiba took the other's hand and tugged gently. "Come on, you need to get back to your room. The hospital is still crawling with the paparazzi. I will have them lock you in the damn room if you refuse to cooperate like a good patient."
"Ugh, I hate hospitals. Can't I at least go back to the hotel?" Jounouchi groaned.
He reached out and poked Jounouchi's torso. "You have two broken ribs. You're not going anywhere until the doctor clears you."
"And you fell off the roof of the building! Shouldn't you be the one in a hospital bed?"
"It was just five stories. I'll have some trouble typing for a few weeks, nothing more." Kaiba held his hands up and flexed a few fingers. They were stiff and the gash across the palm of his left hand was probably going to pose the bigger issue. Still, he figured this would only cut into his usual productivity by about 30 percent.
Jounouchi's face went a livid red, but Kaiba couldn't be sure from what. Had the situation been something entirely different, the transition would have been even amusing to watch. "You could have died! What if your shareholders blame me? I do not want to have to deal with psychos like the Big Five again. Or Mokuba? God, he would have skinned me alive."
"Your concern is touching-"
"As if I care what happens to your scrawny ass."
"Really? Because I swore everyone within a mile radius must have heard you scream my name."
The red was definitely from outrage. But as the blond drew back a fist, Kaiba was starting to realize that maybe he had gone too far in testing Jounouchi's patience. He reached out and grabbed the wrist firmly- his head already filled with the scolding of various friends and family for giving in to such childish impulses. The touch seemed to only infuriate Jounouchi more and the added resistance was like a slap in Kaiba's face. He really didn't know how to deal with the blond sometimes- the bull-headness and the recklessness. He had half the mind to just knock him out here, as it looked like the only way he was ever going to get Jounouchi to comply.
"Dear God, will you two jackasses get out of the way?" As they stood struggling in the middle of the hallway, an irate Anzu seated in a wheelchair was pushed up by a bemused Yugi.
Jounouchi just stared at the pair with his jaw agape and asked, "What are you two doing here? Don't tell me you're here to check up on me too."
Anzu gave a sudden sweet smile before pointing to her belly. "Jounouchi, I really am glad you're safe and sound. But the world doesn't revolve around you. Now if you just get out of the way, I can finally get this thing out of me!"
Jounouchi's eyes grew wide as saucers. "Really? Right now?"
"Yes, right now, Jounouchi. And if you don't move, your cracked ribs are going to be the least of your problems." Her smile was holding, but just barely.
Yugi quickly weaved around his wife in the wheelchair and embraced Jounouchi. "My other self and I are really glad you're okay. We were all so worried about you." As he pulled away from the hug, a sly smile overtook his face before continuing, "Kaiba even pulled out the Millennium Items for you."
"Yami," Kaiba growled in warning.
The pompous smirk slipped away when Yugi returned in control and to being the beaming expectant father behind the wheelchair. "I'm sorry that Anzu and I have to get going. We'll send out pictures of the baby as soon as we can."
Kaiba pulled the frozen Jounouchi out of the way and down onto a bench against the wall. Anzu thanked him as she and Yugi sped past. Though unexpected, he was glad the encounter had taken place. Even if only momentarily, Jounouchi seemed to have forgotten all about the paparazzi, his father, or the troubles with his manager. The blond stared down the hallway where his two friends had gone with a large and silly grin.
"Oh my God, Yugi and Anzu are really having a kid!" Jounouchi laughed with a sparkle in the eye.
At six in the morning, the halls were still mostly empty and the light coming through the window at the end of the hall cast everything in a golden glow. It was insanely picturesque and for the first time in two days, Kaiba felt at peace with the world. It was...nice to see Jounouchi smile again. He scooted over on the bench until he was sitting right next to Jounouchi. He could feel the warmth of the other body brush against his. The phone in his pocket gave a buzz with yet another incoming call. Kaiba ignored it and reached into his other coat pocket.
"Here, you probably want this back." He offered Jounouchi the cellphone with the Black Eyes Red Dragon charm.
"How'd you find it?" Jounouchi grabbed the phone and began scrolling through the messages on the cracked screen.
"We found it in the taxi cab. We had hoped it would lead us to you."
Jounouchi rested the phone in his lap and ran a finger across the crack on the screen. The bright display currently showed the firsts in a long string of missed calls. "You were really worried, weren't you?"
Jounouchi's accusation made Kaiba's fingers itch; he wanted something to distract him from the increasingly awkward conversation and the growing stiffness in his fingers. "Everyone was, especially your sister and Sophia."
"I can't understand what Sophie was thinking. Why would she bring a gun?" Jounouchi looked up to meet his gaze.
"She was probably trying to protect you like everyone else."
"I don't need anyone to protect me. I've always managed."
Kaiba laughed bitterly. "Really? The last time you said that Mai took your soul. The time before that, Malik nearly killed you. And the time before that, your father stabbed you. When are you going to learn that stubbornness is not necessarily a beneficial trait to survival? Is it so bad to have other people care about you?"
Jounouchi remained silent. After a few moments of silence, Kaiba took the other man's hand with great reluctance. Jounouchi jumped and a startled expression came over his face. He stared at their intertwined hands like a deer caught in the headlights.
Kaiba continued, "Shizuka has already hired a defense attorney on Chang's behalf, one of the best in the country. Malik is going to keep one ear on the police. Your agency has released a statement on your behalf and they're probably flying someone out here to meet up with you. Your mother will be back in the city within the hour." He began to wonder when he became the central communication hub for all things Jounouchi Katsuya.
Jounouchi continued to stare at their hands like it was some puzzle to be solved. He ran his fingertips over the bandage wrapped around Kaiba's hand. Kaiba could barely feel the touch through the gauze.
"So just stay put for once and focus on getting better again. Neither Chang nor I put our necks out on the line to see you hurt yourself again. It's..." The feeling of hypocrisy steadily creeping up on him made the next words difficult to voice.
"Selfish?" Jounouchi supplied with the smallest hint of a smile.
Kaiba nodded mutely.
"That's not going to be easy, it's just not in my nature. I'm probably going to be grumpy and irritable again in a few hours."
Kaiba had to wonder where this well of patience came from. "I'm sure Yugi and Anzu will have a baby to show off by then."
Jounouchi shuddered as he breathed a sudden and loud sigh of relief. "Thanks for coming to get me, Kaiba."
He remained silent and returned the squeeze of the blond's hand.
After an hour of sitting in Jounouchi's hospital room, Kaiba stood without speaking and left. Jounouchi couldn't help but feel disappointed when Kaiba didn't return. When he asked the two bodyguards that remained outside his door, they reported that the CEO had gone to work. He watched TV for the next two hours, while doing his utmost to avoid any news or entertainment programs. A doctor checked in on him twice and a nurse left breakfast with the bodyguards around nine.
"I should ask someone to bring me a laptop." He muttered as he replied to emails on his cellphone's small keypad.
By around ten o'clock, he was starting to genuinely feel a little bit better. His mood was further bolstered by visit from Shizuka and his mother- even his mother's henpecking didn't bother him as much as usual.
"Has everyone else stopped by?" She asked as she took one of his hands.
He thought back to the moment he shared with Kaiba earlier. "Yeah, Kaiba was here earlier and Malik and Bakura were here last night. I saw Yugi and Anzu when they came into this morning for the baby."
He was actually glad none of his friends and family were making a bigger deal of things. His mother bent over the bed and gave him a hug that was tight, but not too tight. Jounouchi hadn't seen his mother look that somber since his last unfortunate encounter with his father. He grabbed one of her hands as she pulled away and squeezed. "It's not your fault."
"I know that. But there's a part of me that still thinks that. And as much as I might want to have wished I never knew that monster, I wouldn't have the two of you either."
At the mention of Tanaka, Shizuka lowered her gaze. "But I was the one that-"
He cut his sister off before she could finish. He didn't want to watch his mother and sister play the blame game with each other. "I heard everything from Malik yesterday. He would have done this whether or not you acknowledged him; it's not your fault. It's nobody's fault."
"When can you check out of the hospital?" His mother was quick to change the subject.
He shifted to relieve the pressure of the wrappings around his torso. "The doctor recommends that I stay put for another day or two. Although I wouldn't be surprised if Kaiba tried to 'convince' me to stay longer."
"You could stay with Hiroto and me." Shizuka offered with a bright smile.
"I've seen your apartment, you don't really have enough room to put me up."
Not to mention, he would feel completely awkward and like a third wheel all the time.
"You could come home with me then. I'll have the room now that your sister is moving back out." Michi gave Shizuka a pointed look.
"Uh, thanks, Kaa-san, I'll think about it." But the truth was that the idea was even more horrifying than being Shizuka and Honda's third wheel.
His mother frowned. "You're not going back to America right away?"
"Nah, I talked with my agency. They agreed it would probably be better for me to recover here before returning to work. I need to see Sophie through all this. Kaiba said you already had an attorney lined up?"
"Rebecca and I were both at the station when they brought her in. I overheard some of the officers saying she used her only call to contact your agency to let them know what was happening." Shizuka dug into her purse and handed him a business card.
"Jesus Christ, she chooses the worst time to develop work ethics," he muttered in disbelief.
"I asked Kaiba-san to recommend an attorney and he referred me to one of the lawyers his company retains. I'm not really sure what happened from there."
As Jounouchi stared at the name on the card, he couldn't help but recall his last dealings with a KaibaCorp lawyer. He just hoped not all of Kaiba's lawyers were as crazy or as conniving as Oka had been.
Kaiba wasn't sure if he was glad for the company or not when he returned to the hospital later that evening. Rebecca, Mokuba, and he stopped by Anzu's room on their way to Jounouchi's. Rebecca rushed straight from the door to the other woman's bedside to coo over the baby tucked in her arms. Yugi stood up and walked over to greet them.
"Oh, she's adorable!" Rebecca squealed in English before clasping a hand over her mouth at the baby's cry.
"Congratulations, Yugi." Mokuba offered a hand to the former Duel King.
"Thanks, Mokuba." Yugi shifted his weight to peer around Mokuba at Kaiba standing near the door. "I went to see Jounouchi earlier. Thank you for going after him, Kaiba-kun."
Yugi's gentle and shining smile continued to unnerve him much as it did when they were teenagers. Kaiba gave a non-committal grunt instead. But the briefest of a thoughtful expression suggested that either Yugi or Yami would have something more to say. He stepped around his brother and the other man as they engaged in idle conversation.
Anzu passed the newborn to Rebecca, who cooed at the baby cradled in her arms. Anzu smiled cheekily at him- probably because she already knew the answer to her next question.
"Would you like to hold her, Kaiba-kun?" she asked.
Kaiba didn't really have much interest in children, especially the ones yet to grasp the ability of speech. He shook his head. "No thank you, Rebecca is having far too much fun poking your first-born to death."
Rebecca just rolled her eyes and resumed tickling the baby softly. "Come on, let's leave this old grumpy man alone." She walked away to join Mokuba and Yugi chatting at the other end of the room.
Kaiba looked the other woman up and down. Even though he had been one of the first alerted to the mother and baby's good health, it was good to see it in person. He would be lying if he didn't admit to being glad that Anzu had delivered her child safely. He just wasn't going to say it out loud.
Instead he said, "Motherhood suits you, Mazaki."
She sighed slightly at the use of her maiden name. "Not a fan of children?"
"Not unless they add to my company's bottom line."
"Not going to be a problem. Between Yugi and Yami, she'll be Duel Queen by the time she's five."
"I'm sure Rebecca and Jounouchi would love to help with that."
"Speaking of Jounouchi," she scowled suddenly. "Would you please try and talk some sense into him? He can't just go back to the hotel after he's released from the hospital. He's already turned down staying with Shizuka-chan or his mother. He told Yugi he'd think about it when we offered him a place, but you and I both know that's a lie. Two broken ribs are not light injuries and he needs to get lots of rest, and there should be someone there in case of complications."
Kaiba frowned. While this turn of events wasn't particularly unexpected, he had hoped their talk this morning knocked some sense into Jounouchi. "He's being stubborn again."
"He wouldn't be Jounouchi, if he wasn't."
Yugi returned to his initial position besides Anzu. The couple smiled at each other and simultaneously leaned in for a kiss. Yugi beamed brighter when he drew away with one hand still firmly grasping Anzu's.
"Have you guys already decided on a name?" Mokuba joined Rebecca in her poking of the baby and elicited an immediate squeal.
"Mutou Manami, or Mana-chan." Anzu proclaimed as her head drooped against Yugi's shoulder. The husband and wife shared another look.
"Oh, Mana-chan, I am going to spoil you rotten. Just you wait." Mokuba declared.
Another timely squeal filled the room.
Kaiba took the opportunity to slip away as Yugi and Yami began to bicker about the events around Anzu's delivery. The stares he drew as he strolled through the hallways were both expected and inevitable. He quickened his pace to reach Jounouchi's eighth story room, where Kira and Hino were still standing guard at the door.
"Seto-sama." Both bodyguards bowed in unison as he approached.
"Has there been any trouble?" Kaiba scanned the halls for more reporters incognito.
"Jounouchi-sama has had several visitors, all within the permission group you specified. He is currently meeting with Otonashi-san regarding the legal consul of his manager." Hino reported.
"Good." He walked past the two and into the room unannounced.
The grave expression on Jounouchi's face was unlike anything Kaiba had ever seen on the other man. Otonashi sat rod straight in the chair facing the bed with her leather briefcase resting in her lap.
When she began to get up from her seat, he held up a hand and shook his head. "No need, Otonashi. Just continue what you were doing."
She stood regardless and bowed. "I was just about to take my leave, Seto-sama," she returned to addressing Jounouchi. "They will continue to hold Chang-san until the prosecutor announces the charges. But I do suggest holding a press conference sooner, rather than later. It will be your one chance to sway public opinion before charges. I must be on my way, but I will keep in contact if my client has more messages to pass onto you."
Before Otonashi left, she stopped before him and bowed again. "Seto-sama."
The room became silent after Otonashi shut the door behind her. He crossed his arms over his chest and studied Jounouchi for a few moments. He noted that the other man looked a lot better after rest and a few meals. It helped that Jounouchi wasn't constantly frowning or growling at every opportunity.
"Uh, so what's up, Kaiba?"
"Mokuba and Rebecca wanted to see the baby."
"Oh." Jounouchi's mood deflated.
Kaiba's gaze fell on the large bouquet of flowers sitting on the windowsill. "From your fans?" He strolled over, his fingers brushing against the soft petals as he plucked out the card. He ignored the message within in favor of the signature lining the bottom of the card.
"Mai sent it, actually; a get-well-soon present, I guess."
There was a long stretch of silence as he stared at Kujaku Mai's signature and Jounouchi at his back. Kaiba tossed the card back into the pile of flowers and earned a bit of a glare when it slipped to the ground. "So what are your plans from here on?"
"Sophie and I will ride this out like we always do. And I think I owe you dinner."
Kaiba felt tension roll off his shoulders in waves. The promise of banter and the sparkle of life in Jounouchi's eyes both took the edge off his day and put him on edge. "I doubt that will go unnoticed by the paparazzi."
The blond man rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Kaiba? Your goons outside are a bigger red flag. What's wrong with two friends having dinner together?"
He marched over to Jounouchi's bedside and looked down into the man's eyes. "And friends rescue each other from life-or-death situations?"
"With us? Yeah!" Jounouchi burst out in laughter and mirth. "Sometimes I think that's all we do!"
"Jounouchi, you need to go somewhere safe when they discharge you."
The blond man's mood deflated again. "So did Anzu send you up to bug me about that? How can I stay with any of them in good conscience? The reporters trying to get around the hotel were bad enough, but to put everyone else through that? Shizuka and Honda are just starting to get better. Yugi and Anzu are going to be busy enough handling Mana-chan. You tell me who I should be burdening myself on, Kaiba."
"I have a place where you can stay while you recover."
Jounouchi sat up straighter and glared suspiciously at him. "It's not your place, is it?"
The very thought made Kaiba's blood run even colder than usual. "Of course not," he snapped. "I was referring to one of the corporate apartments, like the one I let Rebecca throw the baby shower at."
"You've done enough, Kaiba."
"I'm not giving it to you for free. It's a short-term lease until you recover. The security is good, so you shouldn't be disturbed." When Jounouchi failed to look convinced, Kaiba added, "If you agree to it, you can leave the hospital whenever you want."
They both knew that would be far sooner than Kaiba or anyone else would have preferred.
"You won't interfere?" Jounouchi remained wary.
"Fine, but don't you try and get the doctor to screw me out of this."
As Jounouchi's shoulders slumped in defeat, Kaiba's chest swelled with smug satisfaction.
The next day, Jounouchi's lunch was accompanied by a portfolio from the Kaiba Corporation. Inside was the paperwork with the short-term lease to the apartment Kaiba mentioned. He skimmed the terms briefly and penned his signature onto the paper.
You win this round, Kaiba. Jounouchi thought to himself as he handed the folder back to the bodyguard.
When the doctor came in to check on him after lunch, he started the paperwork for his release.
Jounouchi gave a start when the doorbell rang. Claudia and he looked up from the papers spread across the coffee table to look at the front door. He rose and went to get it with some trepidation.
"Kaiba!" He stared at the business man standing in the doorway.
Without even a greeting, Kaiba stepped into the apartment and shoved a large paper shopping bag into Jounouchi's arm. Jounouchi caught it despite his surprise and the scent of takeout from the bag immediately made his stomach rumble. Kaiba shed his loafers at the door and deposited his suit jacket on the coat rack next to the door, before making his way to the living room. After a few seconds of staring stunned at the empty doorway, Jounouchi shook his head to clear it. He juggled the bag in one hand and closed the door.
In the living room, Kaiba ignored Claudia and was instead watching the evening entertainment news they had running in the background as they worked. Jounouchi put the food down on the corner of the coffee table that was clear.
"Is that Seto Kaiba?" Claudia jerked her head in the direction of the silent man.
"The one and only," grumbled Jounouchi in English.
She stood and strolled over to where Kaiba was lounging on the couch. With a bright smile on her face, she extended a hand forward as she spoke, "Hi, I'm Claudia Bennett, a senior representative with the New Horizons Talent Agency. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mister Kaiba."
Kaiba looked the woman up and down. He inclined his head to address Jounouchi in Japanese, "Chang's replacement?"
Jounouchi made the conscious effort to reply in English, knowing Kaiba damn well understood and trying not to offend Claudia. "Claudia specializes in crisis management and was kind enough to fly out here as soon as she heard about the situation."
"Hmm," was all Kaiba said in reply before turning his attention back to the TV.
Claudia retreated from the CEO and returned to where she was seated before. She began shoving papers back into her briefcase. "I see he's as charming as rumors say. I better be getting back to my hotel then. We'll work out the rest of this tomorrow, Joey."
Jounouchi walked her to the door where he bid her a good night. When she left, it felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Leave it to Kaiba to somehow get him out of an uncomfortable situation with rudeness. He went back to the living room, crossed his arms over his chest, and glared at his unexpected guest. "You could have called ahead."
Kaiba smirked. "Was I interrupting something important?"
Jounouchi threw himself down on the couch next to Kaiba and didn't bother to mask his childish satisfaction with Kaiba's annoyance. "I guess you could say that. They had Claudia fly out here as soon as they heard. Apparently, I've just moved up on the 'priority list' for the agency." Just making the air quotes with his hands filled him with disgust.
"You should know there's no such thing as bad press in your line of work."
"Excuse me for thinking it's a bit sleazy to profit off my father's death and the arrest of one of my best friends. I bet you're having a field day with this, getting to be the knight in shining armor. I bet your stock prices even went up."
"They did, highest price we've had all quarter."
Jounouchi threw his hands up in the air in defeat. "Screw you, Kaiba."
"Maybe after dinner."
Jounouchi's jaw dropped. He must have been hallucinating or maybe it had something to do with his pain medication. When Kaiba turned to face Jounouchi fully with his self-satisfied smirk, Jounouchi could feel the heat rushing toward his face. This had to be outrage, he insisted to himself. And on a better day, he would have had an equally unexpected retort. Just not today...
He stood abruptly, grabbed the bag of takeout, and walked over to the kitchen island instead. It took a few minutes of rummaging through the cupboards to find both plates and silverware. Meanwhile, the news continued to play in the background, and Jounouchi half-listened as they finished up a story about some drama actor he wasn't quite familiar with. He pulled out the contents of the bag and sniffed each box carefully. Jounouchi hesitantly asked, "Thai food?"
An affirmative grunt came from the Kaiba still planted on the couch.
The next story that came up was about the press conference Jounouchi held earlier that day. He immediately focused his attention on the pad thai he was plating as his earlier words filled the apartment: "I would like to thank my family, friends, and fans for all the support they've given over the last few days. My family and I regret the unfortunate passing of my father, Jounouchi Tanaka, but we throw our full support behind my manager, Sophia Chang. Sophia made a difficult choice and did what she did to save my life. For that, I am eternally grateful for everything she has done for me. I would not be standing before you here today if not for Sophia. We hope that the prosecutor will also recognize that fact."
The sofa groaned slightly when Kaiba stood and came over. He went straight for the third cabinet on the right for a bottle of red wine. He looked thoughtfully at Jounouchi, before putting the bottle back and pulling two cans of green tea from the refrigerator.
"What? Bored of me already?" Jounouchi asked.
"I saw the live stream earlier."
Jounouchi ignored the shiver running down his spine at the realization that Kaiba was paying attention to him. They resettled next to each other on the sofa once they put the food and drinks on the coffee table.
Clips of his earlier press conference continued to play on the television: "Sources have indicated that Kaiba Seto-san has been heavily involved with your rescue, Joey-san. Do you have any comments about that?" one reporter asked.
Jounouchi and his sister shared a glance with each other on screen. They had both expected this question to come up.
Shizuka smiled; it was sweet, utterly disarming, and just what the situation called for. "My brother's friends were all instrumental to helping us find him in time; we wouldn't have been able to do that without any of them. Kaiba-san is no different and has been a dear friend of the family for years. We don't know how to thank him for helping us so in our hour of need."
Jounouchi piqued in good humor, "Besides who else knows more about attempts on his life than Kaiba Seto."
The show then cut to several commentators with their opinions, before Kaiba reached for the remote to mute the program. Jounouchi couldn't help but snicker when he noticed the annoyance furrowed across Kaiba's brow. "What?" Jounouchi asked before shoving a mouthful of noodles. "Too flippant, you think?"
"I give it a three out of five, probably would have gone over better with the American media."
"At least I wasn't hanging out of a helicopter."
"I don't do that anymore...much..."
Jounouchi hid his snicker behind a can of tea. He managed to take a few more bites of his food before Kaiba spoke again.
"I hadn't asked before, but how are you feeling?"
Jounouchi shrugged slightly. "I've been sore all day, but the pain medication's been helping. Other than running from reporters, I haven't done much all day. You weren't kidding when you said security was good here."
"I'm more concerned with what happened with your father." Kaiba caught and held Jounouchi's gaze.
"I don't know. How'd you feel when your adoptive father trapped you in a virtual reality hell and tried to steal your body? My old man just wanted to off me, yours wanted to be you. Now that was creepy as fuck." Jounouchi waved a stick of chicken satay for emphasis.
"I haven't had a father since I was nine. He's gone for good now. And I don't ever have to worry about him again."
"But you're a better person than that, I know. You wish it hadn't ended like this."
Jounouchi tightened his grip around the can. "How could I? There's another media circus going up around me, Sophie's in jail, and my chest hurts like hell."
"At least the world is safe from underground cults, evil soul-sucking serpent gods, and body-hijacking tomb robbers."
Kaiba's deadpan delivery caught Jounouchi off-guard, causing Jounouchi to chortle expectantly. "I never thought I'd see the day where you'd actually cheer me up."
The smirk on Kaiba's face softened into an almost smile. Jounouchi had to turn his head aside to hide the smile crawling across his own lips. Several minutes later, a text message came from Otonashi saying Sophie was not going to be charged with murder, manslaughter, and any other felony starting with the letter "m." Jounouchi gave a loud whoop and threw his arms around Kaiba in celebration.
...To Be Continued...
(1) As far as I could find in my research, there are no citations like the American Miranda rights/warnings given at time of arrest in Japan. Suspects do have the right to remain silent, as guaranteed by Article 38 of the Japanese Constitution.
Don't I feel stupid thinking this chapter would be easier to write? Boy was I wrong. This chapter proved a hundred times harder to write than the previous one. Winding down from the big action climax is difficult! But here it is.
To be honest, I'm probably seriously fudging the average timeline of the criminal procedure in Japan; although a partial reason as to why this particular case is moving faster will be provided next chapter. Upon arrest, suspects can be held up to ten days after arrest and the commencement of an investigation. If you've read some of my other fic involving the Japanese legal process (and I do have a number of those...), you might remember that the public prosecutor heads the criminal investigation and can exercise discretionary power of whether or not a suspect is brought to indictment/charges are pressed.
I'm seriously hoping that I can tie this story up by next chapter and then there'll be an epilogue.
Thank you to everyone that's reading, and especially if you've commented. I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter!