Title: Eight Point Star
Pairing: S/J, someday maybe
Warnings: Written on sleep deprivation and coffee. Some graphic flashback imagery, but nothing approaching last chapter. May offend some, depress others. But it gets better.
Disclaimers: I own nothing but an incomplete set of Metal Gear action figures and an evil peanut butter cookie named Kevin, who decline to appear. No penguins were harmed in the making of this chapter.
Seto Kaiba was unsure of how to proceed today. He'd seen Jonouchi unmasked, and it disturbed him a little. Could he really act as usual? But of course, the puppy didn't know. So if he acted oddly, Jou may suspect something was up. But if he…. Gah, it was just too much. He'd simply avoid the boy, after all, nobody could suspect what wasn't said.
Jonouchi wouldn't have noticed today, anyhow. Even with Honda's calming influence, he couldn't seem to keep his mind on track today. It kept falling back on depressing memories he'd tried hard to repress. He did not even notice that Seto Kaiba had thus far failed to insult him today. If he had been paying attention, he may even have thought he was being avoided. Which, indeed, he was. But he was deep in a memory…
:: Soon after the attempted strangulation, his dad had sobered up, and had come to Jou in the middle of the night. It was dark in the room, just past 2am, when he knocked at the door. Tears tracking down his face, he beckoned Joey close and told him the history of his family, the story of his lineage::
When I was ten, I used to listen when my grandmother told me stories of our family. I never understood how important they were until I realized that you were growing up without a history. There is so much of our family that you don't know. The older man sighed, gazing into his coffee cup as if it held answer to why life was so hard, the stories of his grandmother, of his very soul. He sighed again, and continued. "Your grandmother was the first of our family to be born in America. She was the daughter of Jonouchi Hachi. He'd been thrown from his life in Japan, and later came to America, seeking a better life. In America, he was employed by a white plantation owner, and met a young Navajo woman named Hok'ee, a maid held no better than a slave. They had a child, a girl they called Jonouchi Gaagii. She never knew her mother."
He sipped from the cold coffee, so deep in thought, he didn't notice it was cold
"Her father raised her the best he could, taught her the words her mother had taught him, her name which meant 'Abandoned', and the child's own, 'Raven', the name they hoped would carry her from poverty. He taught her of her heritage, the Japanese and the Navajo. And he taught her self worth, gave her the will to fight. She never forgave him that, not as long as she lived. However long I live, however much I drown my memory in alcohol and depression, if I forget my own name, I will never forget the sight of her leaving the shed, blood splashing from the tops of her boots, her dress soaked in it. Her husband was a cruel man. She was a half breed, and he never let her forget it. She called him 'Matchitehew', an Algonquin word she learned from another woman. He never knew what it meant, and hated her using those 'heathen' words anyway. He'd get so mad, he'd take her to the shed with a switch, and whip her till her boots filled with her blood. "
His dad paused a moment, and Jou took advantage to ask a tentative question, not wanting to break the spell. "Did she ever tell you what it meant?" His dad laughed, a bitter, cold laugh, used by the defeated or the insane.
"Yes, and it's just as well he didn't know. It meant 'He has an evil heart'. Never forget, Katsu. That man, that Matchitehew, he was your great grandfather. That man had a story, too, and it's only sad that those two wound up together. Matchitehew, whose name I was never heard, told me his story one night, when he got piss-ass drunk. why he drove his son away, why he never loved me. His own father had abandoned him at the age of seven. His younger brother was five. They lived on an tiny island, so small that it wasn't even on map, little better than an overgrown sandbar. On this tiny spit of land, in a rickety old shack. It was cut off from the mainland, to get there you had to use a boat, and if his dad was out drinking, as he usually was, they were stuck on that piece of dirt. Once, his dad was gone longer than usual. His mother was old and she'd been frail in youth, childbearing and ill-treatment had only made it worse. She died one night, in her rocking chair. He and his brother lived for three days, with their dead mother as company, sitting in her rocking chair before the empty fireplace." A tear made it's way over his father's cheek as his voice dropped to a whisper. "Do you know what that bastard said, when he saw those little boys, hungry and crying at the feet of their dead mother? "
Jonouchi shook his head, horrified, but curious. He leaned closer, unconsciously spilling cold coffee on his bedspread.
"He said, 'Oh, your mother's dead. Get out of here now, I ain't gonna keep ya.' After that, they spent two years in a hollow tree, those two small boys. Then someone noticed them and took them in. His younger brother was never as strong as he was. Perhaps because their mother wasn't. And it wasn't too long after that, less than a decade later, that he held his brothers in his arms. And with the last breath of his brother, he his heart hardened worse than a diamond. Katsu, that gives him no excuse for what he did to Gaagii, but it shows you why he did. After Matchitehew died, turned mean. Never could abide anyone but me, and news came to me when she was in trouble. She never really got over having me around, I don't think. I know she called her son Tomi Biligaana, a Japanese name meaning Red with a Navajo meaning White. It was intended to be ironic, I think. He was chased off before he was 15, and married a young English woman who never wanted kids. I was given to an old woman when I was only 4 months old. Esther raised me up, but she was too old to be having kids. Her husband, John, beat her, and I tried to stop him as best I could. I trained until I was strong enough, but one day, I came home and she was on the floor, bleeding. I lost control, I never liked to use much force on John, he was old, and I didn't want to hurt him, just keep him from hurting her. But I came in and saw her on the floor, and him over her, and I kicked him in the chest, hard as I could. I never noticed the cellar door was open, I swear. He fell down the stairs, and hit the woodstove."
He paused, his hands trembled as he shook, tears were in his voice.
"After that, Esther was sent to a hospital, and from there to an asylum for the elderly. John was sent to a doctor, and I went with him. My mother came for me, and asked John, she said, 'John, did Kyle do this?' She always called me Kyle, never Kiyoshi. That had been my dad's name for me, and she never agreed, she didn't want a dirty little heathen. It's no wonder my dad left her. She asked him, she said 'Did Kyle do this? If he did, I'll see he pays.' He looked straight at me as he said 'No, Rosa. I fell down the stairs.' I never knew why he did that, if he wanted to protect me that one last time, or if he wanted to torture me with the knowledge that because of me, his last words were a lie. Guess there's no way to know now. At this point I'd mostly been living with Esther or my grandmother, and Mother saw no reason to take me now. She left me with Gaagii, and I've rarely seen her since. When I was 16, I went out for a walk from that house and never came back. There was nothing I could do to help Gaagii, and I wanted to meet my father. I knew his name was Jonouchi Kisho; he had changed his name when his father threw him out, taking his grandmother's surname and a Japanese name of his own. When I did finally meet him, he was in a bar in Arkansas, drowning his sorrow in alcohol. That was one thing he taught me, he taught me to drink. Between his drinking lessons and PawPaw's meanness, and Mothers coldness, I got a lot of lessons, didn't I?" He gave a short laugh, ironic and twisted, a laugh that's used where there's nothing funny around. Jonouchi felt a shiver crawl up his spine." I spent another three years with him, fishing and drinking and diving for mussel shells. After that, I went back up toward Indiana, and found out Esther had died. So had Matchitehew, and Gaagii had gone off somewhere. Mother was still there, living with a man who'd bend over backward for her. She had a new son, Jeremy, who was everything I wasn't. Loving, polite, a total kiss ass. And spoiled as the day is long. While I was there, his gerbil had a litter. In 3 days time, they'd all mysteriously died. I don't know if it was his baby-hating mother who broke their necks, or if he was a sadistic little punk even then, or maybe his drug-addicted brother, but it happened. I talked to my sister, your aunt Lucy. She introduced me to her friend, and we got along well. She was in a bad situation at home, a sick mom, four younger sisters, and a dad as cold and uncaring as my mom. I married that girl, and two years later, we had you, Katsu. The first good thing I did in my life."
At this, Kyoshi started to cry, and Jou put his arms around his dad, and let him cry all the tears he'd been holding since the day he was born.
A line from a song occurred to him.
The faces of the dying
seem to smile
The faces of those being born seem so sad
Jonouchi Katsuya cried along with the older man
A voice shook him from his reverie
"Jonouchi! Jonouchi Katsuya! Wake up, young man! Have you been listening to anything I've said?"
"Sorry, Sensei. My mind wandered." Jou replied wearily.
"Don't let it happen again. Your mind is far too small to be out on its own. Can you name me the seventh century prince rumored to have cursed the city of Nagaoka?"
Jonouchi paled. "Hachi?"
The teacher sighed. "No. Kaiba, can you answer the question?"
Kaiba smirked, and stood "Prince Sawara, Sensei. Exiled in the year 794, I believe, having been suspected of conspiring in his brother's murder, he has the distinction of being the only Emperor elected after having been dead five years. After the plague of misfortunes upon the newly built capital of Nagaoka, Sawara was elected Emperor Sudo, and the capitol was moved to Heian Kyo, ten miles to the north."
Kaiba sat back down, worry creasing his brow. Jonouchi seemed awfully listless today, staring out the window with eyes like pools of darkness. It was so odd to see Jonouchi so depressed, but Kaiba could not stop a chill running down his spine. And none of his friends had noticed, other than maybe Honda, who kept glancing back with a concerned look. Kaiba noted this, and returned to his own Jou-watching. Discreetly, of course.
After class, Kaiba decided to eat his lunch outside. No chance he'd run across Jonouchi there, since he was known to take lunch with his followers. He had some things he had to do on his computer. He was seeking out a certain song he'd loved since he was very young, and thought he might like to learn to play. He seated himself under a large tree in the schoolyard, sat his lunch beside him, opened his laptop, and went to work. He let the clicking of his keys lull him into a sort of daydream.
:: He'd gone with Gozaburo on a trip to America when he was 12 years old. He'd still been very new to the business world, unused to schooled reactions and stiff formality. He'd gone exploring while Gozaburo was asleep in the room, and when he met a group of young men at the hotel's restaurant, he'd been intrigued. on a second look, they were in fact older, maybe in their 40's, but the looks in their eyes, the smiles, made them seem never to have grown up. They dressed oddly, in black t-shirts and ripped jeansvests with patches. They all drank heavily, laughing and having a good time. Only one forwent alcohol, a man with dark hair and makeup. Instead he sipped from a can of Pepsi, laughing at his friends drunken antics. Spotting the young boy watching, he smiled and took out a guitar. When he began to tune it, the young Kaiba let his curiosity take over. He peered closely, and asked, "How do you play that?"
The man laughed, and one of his friends asked "What's a little dude like you doing out so late, in the middle of Milwaukee no less?"
Kaiba considered his answer, and decided to try misdirection "It should be 'Me-Lay-Wa-Kay'. It's an old Algonquin word meaning 'The Good Land'. I've never been here before, my adoptive father brought me on business."
The young man who has addressed him smiled. "Hey, that's kinda cool. I've been here a lot, and never knew that!" The man with the guitar spoke, for the first time- "I'm a regular visitor here, but Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers began visiting here in the late 16th century"
Kaiba added eagerly "Yes, bringing their diseases and social injustices along with them"
The man smiled, and added "after enslaving the natives and taking their land, they went on to elect three socialist mayors"
Kaiba came closer, liking this man. He asked, "Do you have a name?"
The guitar player extended a hand, his smile making him look about 19 "You may call me Vincent. And you?"
Seto smiled, and hesitated a moment. "K-Kaiba. Kaiba Seto." They shook, and Vincent continued to strum his guitar. Softly, he plucked out a few notes, singing a beautiful, sad song
And I'm a runner
But you knew that
When you lay down
I'm a picture
Of ugly stories
I'm a killer
And I'm a clown
Step into the street by sundown
Step into your last goodbye
You're a target just by living
Twenty dollars will make you die
I wear lace
And I wear black leather
My hands are lightning upon my gun
My shots are clean
And my shots are final
My shots are deadly
And when it's done
You're as stiff as my smoking barrel
You're as dead as a desert night
You're a notch
And I'm a legend
You're at peace
And I must hide
Tell me where the hell I'm going
Let my bones fall in the dust
Can't you hear that ghost that's calling
As my Colt begins to rust
In the dust
I'm a killer
I'm a clown
I'm a priest
That's gone to town
Kaiba stood by, entranced. After awhile the older man, still strumming, took his hand and positioned him, moving his small hands over the strings. Softly he sang in the little boy's ear, repeating the soft words in a way that etched them directly on his young heart.
He knew he'd never forget that song.
After the second repetition, a shadow darkened the doorway. Gozaburo, his eyes flashing cold fire, anger at the boy who'd dared sneak away. Vincent had stiffened, stood, and walked to the older man, the fires of hell smoldering in his. Gozaburo berated both man and boy icily, slicing away layers with a knife of ice. Vincent replied hotly, attacking the man who'd left a child unattended in the city, letting him prowl around a place like this. In the end, Gozaburo had snatched Kaiba's arm, dragging him back to the room Vincent watched, never forgetting the dark eyes that looked at him, pleading but without hope. And Kaiba had looked back, sorry to take the sparkle from the eyes of the man with the amazing voice, and the gentle manner.
He never forgot that song. Even now, at 19, he was searching for it again.
While Kaiba sought out a song from his past, Jonouchi was having serious doubts about his future.
"Honda, what in the nine hells is this? I swear it's looking at me." Jou asked poking the strangly purple wiggling thing on his lunch tray
Honda sweatdropped "It's edible. I think. Just eat it; it's good for you! Maybe get you out of this funk you've been in today."
Jou made a face and poked at a green blob on his plate. He knew Honda meant well, but food poisoning simply wasn't on his agenda. However, a look at Honda's face, and he figured it was worth it. Sighing, he picked a piece up on his fork and bit it.
Bleh! Nasty, spiced, spinachy. But after a moment, he got used to it. Even kinda liked it. He ate a little more so Honda would be satisfied, tried the purply Jello stuff with the grapes, and excused himself to the restroom.
Walking outside, he sighed. Trust Honda to be concerned enough about you to feed you turnip greens. He shook his head. /Just because it's American, and I'm American, doesn't mean I've eaten it. Or that I'll like it. But it is high in iron. That's a good thing./ He walked on, nibbling a peanut butter cookie he'd snatched from the cafeteria on his way out. He was looking up into the branches of a tree, and realized why it's a bad idea to walk while daydreaming. The ground rushed up to meet him.
Kaiba could not have been more surprised than at having Jonouchi trip over his feet. However, he managed not to show it, arching an eyebrow and remarking coldly "Alone, puppy? No minions today?"
Jonouchi snarled back, "Heh, at least I don't have to pay people to follow me"
Kaiba was surprised; the boy had made a decent attempt at a comeback. He was preparing to deliver a retort when another foot collided with his, and another body went sprawling over the one already across his legs. As Honda collapsed ungracefully across his friend, the coffee he had been drinking flipped out of control.
Kaiba watched, in fascinated horror, as the cup spun in midair. He tried to look stoic, as usual, but inside, all he wanted to do was burst out laughing. He repeated a mantra in his head- 'You will not laugh. You will not laugh' He watched the coffee land on Jou's head – 'You Will Not Laugh'
Honda leaned up and looked at Jou's highly moistened face "HA! You look like a muddy puppy!" –
'The Big 5. Dead Puppies. Flat Tea. You Will Not Laugh'
Jou looked at him, death in his eyes. "Laugh and I will brandish the Wooden Spoon of Justice in your general direction while hurling vague insults and unusually painful sounding threats."
Kaiba carefully schooled his expression, and extricated his legs from the pile of limbs. "Please excuse me," he said, without emotion, walking to the corner of the school. There he did something he had not done in a long time. He collapsed with laughter.
Honda and Jou simply looked at each other. Then Honda saw something. "Hey, he left his laptop! Let's poke it!"
Jou sweatdropped, then joined his friend looking at the screen. "Hey! He's looking up Alice Cooper lyrics!"
Around the corner, a shadow fell across Seto Kaiba's face.
"Big Brother, what are you doing?" A light happy voice sounded close by his ear.
"Having a nervous breakdown. You?" Seto turned and smiled at his little brother.
Mokuba sighed. "Nothing in particular. Big brother, go home and get some sleep. I'll call you a driver, you wait out front.
"Will do, little brother."
Honda and Jou were looking through Kaiba's MP3s with growing fascination, when they too were covered in shadow.
"Excuse me, but that's private property you're perusing." A young voice stated firmly.
Honda and Jou sweatdropped. Then Honda turned and smiled at the young man, "Just coming to return it, Mokuba"
Mokuba smiled "Ok, then. I'll do it for you."
Kaiba was in the car and on the way home before realizing he'd left his laptop. He worried a little, but he knew his brother would get it, yet how long had those oafs been looking at it? What might they have seen? He watched out the window, thinking.
Something caught his eye, and he called "Driver! Stop here!"
When he got home, the light on the answering machine was blinking- he hit it as he walked to the table, putting his packages down and heading for the refrigerator.
* Beep *Hello Mr. Kaiba, this is the League of Questionable Charities, asking your assistance…
Kaiba hit the delete button on his way past, and stopped to listen, gnawing a cheese stick
* Beep * Hello, Mr. Kaiba, this is the Speedy Pizzeria, we regret to inform you that as a recent delivery of Hawaiian Pizza, you may have received a pizza with tainted ingredients. It has come to our attention that a recent shipment of Canadian bacon was permeated with a cleaning solution. We regret any inconvenience, and will be shipping a book of replacement coupons as well as a refund for your trouble. Please rest assured that we will take every precaution against a reoccurrence, and we hope you will continue to be a Valued Customer.
Kaiba groaned. Just his luck.
* Beep * Hello, Mr. Kaiba, this is the Sennen Institute for the Highly Intelligent and Occasionally Criminally Insane we have a…
Kaiba hit the button, gathered his packages, and walked to the bedroom.
Jonouchi was confused, but intrigued by what he'd read on Kaiba's laptop. He'd never given the guy credit for much depth, but he had good musical taste. Maybe he should take a second look. Heh, at least it'd given him something else to think about. If slightly damp, coffee scented hair. At least he didn't smell like orange juice anymore.
Kaiba was fiddling with a tuning knob, plucking out a few notes, when he realized it was about time for Mokuba to get home. Before he could make a move, though, a voice said, in a slightly exasperated but mostly amused manner, "Don't get up. Dinner's taken care of"
Mokuba walked over and sat on the bed, with a sigh. "Like this, big brother." He placed his small hands over Seto's larger ones, moving his fingers into position, and replaying the tune expertly.
Kaiba's eyes widened "That works much better, doesn't it? Where did you learn to play?"
Mokuba sighed. "I've been in guitar 2 years now, Big Brother."
Kaiba grumbled, "I play the piano, this should be easy"
Mokuba smiled. "They use the same notes, but it's a very different instrument, Seto. I'll teach you, if you like"
Kaiba grumbled good-naturedly, and smiled "Yeah. I'd like that, Mokuba"