Painted Sky

      Aloha, mina-san! I realize it's taken me an obscene amount of time to finish this chapter, but there was just something wrong with everything that I was doing. Finally, I decided that the basis of my problem is that I'm trying to spread too little over three chapters when it can easily fit into one chapter – and although this means cutting out the two final chapters, it may be the only way I'll be able to complete this story. So yes, this will be the final chapter of the story. I didn't plan it this way – my original outline had 15 chapters. But the original outline just wasn't working, and so I have decided to consolidate all three chapters into one. A lot of what I had was really useless, and the story actually flows better with just one final chapter because I had been so worried about not giving away too much that I think it may have been the problem with my writing.

      I hope nobody is saddened by the loss of the two chapters… but there wasn't really any substance in them that justified their existence. I thank you for your patience (I know I took way too long with this chapter…) and so let us proceed to the final chapter.

grins Well, this is the last time you'll have to deal with me saying this over and over again. Many thanks to the readers and reviewers, and to the ever-wonderful rayemars-san.

Vulpes, Demon of fuzzy ears - That is a very good question… as soon as you asked it, I had this sudden mental image of Honda running his hand through his hair and ending up with one big cut. Ouch!

Feirdra - I really hope this chapter was worth the wait, considering how long I've made everyone wait. I'm really sorry, but thanks for being patient with me. And for the italics thing… ehehehe, it is supposed to be in italics, but when the thing got transferred to FF.net, it just made the thing disappear. But it was there originally. Really!

The Evil Laugh - There does need to be more people writing this pairing. I'll be so happy. grin But nice to see you back… it's been a while.

DI - No, no, Ryuuji! Cake will make you fat! innocent look I'm glad you liked the story… it's one of my favorites wonders why it isn't on her favorites list then Well, I'm such an idiot so that's probably why. happily munches on the few thousand cookies

MarmaladeGirl - I really thought it was a little less cliffhangy though since… um… because I said so. nods happily Okay, okay, I'm not exactly a good judge of it. But yes, they finally did confess! Took the two nitwits long enough, eh? .

dragonlady 1220 (AKA Liz16 Well, unfortunately I didn't manage 100 pages – I only got to 85 – but I hope it's still good. D I mean, it's still long. And long to write. Gyah. But hopefully this chapter is long enough for you!

Cairnsy - Hey, I like SetoYami! It's one of my favorite couplings – I just don't have much time to write it. Well, for now anyway. innocent look I personally feel very sorry for Honda though, since Ryuuji is such a difficult person to live with.  Although I think Honda is very insulted at the accusation of him messing everything up. Even though it's very true. grin

Alana Hikari-Chan - Unfortunately, we will never be able to meet Ryou's boyfriend… he never had any need to show up except as somebody to mention every once in a while, so he was never developed as much as he could have been.

Tuulikki - D Aww, it's okay. I didn't review all the chapters of your story either! And I'm glad you like Yuriko – she's more difficult of a character for me to deal with then the other ones I made, but I always liked her. She does seem more human than some of my other characters, for an odd reason. Although she is almost inhumanely pragmatic at times.

Bronze Eagle - Aloha! It's been a while! And I was pretty surprised that they confessed too… I'm not even sure if that was what was supposed to happen. Gah, I'm so bad at this. And as for the italics, well, it was supposed to all be in italics. I don't know why it disappeared suddenly. Quite evil, really.

Lady Shriannan Santrea - Yes, very poor Yuriko. Even I felt sorry for her, but in a way, it's actually a lot better for her. I mean, they would never have been very happy with each other, you know? So in a way, this is better for both of them. ;

motivateme129 - blinks at the eyeballs that have been sucked into the computer screen Kyahh? grins Well, wasn't able to get up this chapter soon but hopefully it's still okay.

lilmatchgirl - 4 AM? Wah! You should be asleep then! D I was anyway because I can't survive that long. Although I'll have to for grad night. Such a scary thought!

Lk -  Oh, go ahead and smack them. Maybe it'll make them smarter. D

Anime Girl Sasami - Heh, well, originally I wasn't going to be able to answer everything you wrote about in the review, but now I have nothing better to do than economics anyway, and you're definitely more important than that. P First of all, the apologies. I need to sit around for a while to remember exactly why he feels weak… obviously, my brain has stopped functioning since then. I think it's not only the fact that you're wrong, but you're basically humbling yourself to someone else, you know? And while it is indeed very brave to be able to do that, it also makes you feel a bit stupid that you could have been so wrong. And the worse the situation was, it's kind of like… the more you were wrong. Perhaps? The sarcasm is a mix of mine and Ryuuji's… I mean, there isn't that much personality in the show so you often have to add in a bit of your own quirks and such, or the quirks you see in other people. The breaking dishes reference to Jyounouchi and Mai in a previous chapter was something my own parents do, and it's just these small, teeny tiny things that most people never notice. As for Honda – yes. Glasses. And I think Honda sounds more intelligent then Ryuuji for most of the story, let alone the chapter! P And I'm pretty sure you told me about the cavities in "Pink and Red" (now that was serious sap overload). And did I really call Seto 'her' twice?! Anyhow, the only person you got wrong was the psychotic father who commited suicide. That one was supposed to be Seto, since technically he wasn't pushed out the window. I mean, sure he was driven crazy to his death, but still… he didn't have to die! Right? As for the in love with a spirit, that was actually a reference to Anzu since she originally liked Yami no Yuugi. And Jyounouchi and Mai were part of the dying thing… although I guess they technically didn't die. But they were close! I think, anyway. It's hard for me to tell anymore. I'm such a loser… sheepish grin

Chibi Kitty - Ah! There's another Seto/Ryuuji fanfic called "Anonymity" by Chevira Lowe. That one is really good and it's the one that got me into the coupling. Nek0-chan also has some so you can look at those, and Ninetails-chan has one called "Beautiful Stranger". Those are all lovely, and probably much better than mine.

Ninetails-chan - Well, actually I think Mami slapped him in the face too. Now that I think of it, Seto isn't too lucky when it comes to my OCs. Oh well, he deserves it. And as for the continuiniation, I'm doing the AU thing, remember? An AU for an AU… psh. Oh well! I should work on that someday, shouldn't I? The first part was already up on my lj a while back, although I admit it wasn't any good. D glomp So good to talk to you… I miss you so! ;-; I was hoping to catch you yesterday but I didn't get the oppurtunity sob. Better luck next week though, right? huggle

Painted Sky

      Blind dates were somewhat of an unknown to the small group of friends, mainly due to the fact that none of them had ever been on one. There had never been any need since they had known each other for so long. Yuugi and Anzu, for example, had known each other since Domino High, as she was one of the few people who had been kind to him when he was still considered a bully magnet [1]. Honda had met Shizuka since she was his best friend's sister, and Yami no Bakura and Yami no Yuugi had known each other for a lot longer than either wanted to admit to. Ryuuji himself had known Malik due to the stint of 'that psychopath over there is trying to kill my friends', and besides, their relationship had been more of a fling than anything that could be considered long-term.

      Ryou, who had discovered his romantic prospects outside of the small group, had dated the most. This was after a certain psychotic other who just happened to enjoy popping up at the most inopportune times –something that tended to put dents in relationships – had happily turned his attentions to annoying the pharaoh with his antics, leaving Ryou to a somewhat peace. Even then, most of his boyfriends had been people he had met before, whether that be at work, in the library, at a coffee shop, or whatnot. Nobody had ever offered to set him up in on a blind date, which was just as well because Ryou didn't think he could stand the 'excitement' of such an experience.

      The only person who had come close to a blind date was Jyounouchi. It was, as noted, a close call because he did not actually go on the date. As soon as Mai had found out that Jyounouchi had rather confusedly accepted a proposition – he had been a bit distracted at the time, as he was in the middle of a tournament when a squealing fan girl asked if she could set him up with one of her friends – she had decided that it was time to stop being subtle. So an hour before said friend could come, the blonde had practically kicked down the door of his dorm, grabbed him by the ear, and hauled him out for their first 'date'. It had been a perfectly lovely one too, as long as one ignored the fact that the two spent most of the time bickering at each other. Jyounouchi kept complaining about how Mai had nearly pulled his ear off, and she would retort by grabbing the other ear and yanking rather viciously on it to 'even out the pain'. This would lead to Jyounouchi to complain about how she had nearly pulled that ear off, and she would again reply by pulling the first ear. It was a rather embarrassing situation although neither seemed to notice exactly how embarrassing it was. More importantly, it had resulted in a cycle of ear pulling that continued to this day [2].

      Ryuuji had never put much stock into blind dates. There was probably a reason why they were called 'blind' dates, as there were plenty of other names they could and should be called by. He couldn't think of one at the moment, but he did know that if he was going to go on a date with someone he didn't know, he certainly wouldn't want it to be named after a disability. It was like putting a damper on everything before it could even happen.

      It might have just been him though.

      Still, there was a reason why he was even addressing the topic in the first place, and most of it was because of a certain brown-eyed roommate. And things had been going so well for the past week too. Honda was finally starting to back off a little, although he had forgotten to buy milk even after Ryuuji had reminded him not to forget several times. This had led to a little name calling but luckily it didn't progress beyond that.

      But just when it looked like they were finally going to be settling back to their pre-my-roommate-slept-with-an-arrogant-pain-in-the-ass-CEO-and-all-I-got-was-a-loud-bitching-even-though-it-wasn't-my-fault lives, Honda dropped the bomb by loudly announcing that he had set Ryuuji up on a blind date.

      Which would have been fine, really. Ryuuji was an adaptable person – he didn't need that much time to get ready. Just an hour or so. Maybe two. That would have been enough.

      Unfortunately, Honda had chosen to inform the raven-haired man of this rather important piece of information approximately two seconds after the date had been let into the building. And before Ryuuji could blink, he found himself looking blankly at the wrong side of his front door.

      For some odd reason, this made him very unhappy.

;;

      "You're a dead man the next time I see you! Do you hear me, Honda Hiroto?! Dead!"

      If Honda was actually bothering to listen, he wasn't bothering to reply. This, of course, did not make Ryuuji any happier, although he wasn't very happy most of the time anyway.

      It wasn't that he was worried about what was going to happen. Why should he? He was, after all, a very charming and very gorgeous individual (these were his thoughts, mind, although he was quite convinced that the rest of the world shared such convictions), so it was not like he was going to have any problems dealing with whatever peasant he was being set up with. No, he just would have liked a little more time to get ready, and despite what Honda thought, telling him that there was a date coming to pick him up in approximately two minutes was really not enough time to become more perfect than he already was.

      He hadn't really bothered to think when the doorbell had rung, too busy going over some papers. He'd had a set of earphones on and was quite happily humming along to some J-pop, so he hadn't been able to hear what was being said over the intercom. Which was perfectly fine with him since whoever had come had come to see Honda, and thus it did not concern him.

      So it came as a bit of a surprise when Honda had walked over to him, pulled off his headphones, and said in a complete deadpan, "Your date is coming up now."

      Ryuuji had blinked at him for a moment or two before grabbing the earphones back, "Nice try, Honda. I don't have a date."

      Before he could put them back on, Honda took them away again, "You do now."

      And then, barely giving him time to let out even a squeak of protest – the nerve! – Honda had taken advantage of his shock in order to pull him up, propel him to the wide-open door, shove him outside, and slam it shut before anything could be said or done.

      Back in the present, Ryuuji was still busy – and not to mention graphically – describing exactly what he was going to do the next time he got his hands on his roommate.

      "And then, when I've finished kicking your head around, I'm going to cut your body into little pieces and wrap each one up in a trash bag. And do you know what I'm going to do next? Huh? Do you know? Well, I'm going to drop one piece in every single trash bin from here to Tokyo so that if anybody should ever get the idea that they would want to put you back together, they wouldn't be able to! Especially since I'm going to drop your head and hands into the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean so they can never, never identify you! You'll remain a nameless corpse for the rest of eternity until some intelligent person finally decides that the case will never be solved so they dump your parts into the nearest meat grinder and then–."

      "You watch too much TV [3], Ryuuji."

      The voice was cold, but there was an almost… amused hint to it. Ryuuji, however, was too busy to notice as he nearly jumped out of his skin before spinning around to find himself staring into blue eyes.

      And as his mind finally began to comprehend what was happening, his cheeks began to flush a brilliant shade of red at the fact that Seto had patiently been listening to him threaten his roommate and he quickly backed away as far as he could. Which wasn't very far since the door was right behind him, but he was able to get far enough away so that he could stare at Seto's entire face. He wasn't quite sure why he would want to but that was a different story. And exactly why had the CEO gotten so close to him in the first place? Hadn't the guy ever heard of a personal space bubble?!

      Ryuuji was currently wishing that said bubble had an electric fence and a set of big, rabid guard dogs, although he was actually scared of dogs, especially when they were big and rabid. And if they were going to be in his personal space bubble… well, maybe he could do without them.

      … in order to replace them with bunnies. Pointy-teeth bunnies. With red eyes. Yes, that was exactly what he was going to do.

      Clearing his throat, he attempted to make himself appear as aloof and unconcerned as the person standing before him, although that was pretty difficult to do with his wet hair clinging tenaciously to his shirt. Ryuuji was – quite unfortunately, now that he thought about it – the kind of idiot who let his hair dry rather than using a hair dryer. He had a pretty good reason for it though. Drying hair seemed to be a waste of time when it could just dry on its own, and besides, he'd heard rumors that hair dryers could actually damage his fine, luxurious locks of hair.

      He certainly couldn't have that happening now, could he?

      "I appreciate your concern, Kaiba, but it's really none of your business," he frowned, returning to the subject at hand. Seto's presence was unexpected, and he would have to adapt to it quickly. His eyebrows furrowed slightly as he glanced sharply at the brunettete, expression somewhat confused despite his attempts at being as antisocial [4] as his 'companion' was. "What are you doing here anyway?"

      "Aren't we being polite," Seto drawled dryly as he looked the other man over. "I needed to talk to you about something."

      "Well, whatever it is, make it quick. Despite what you think, I am a very busy person, and I happen to be waiting for someone right now," Ryuuji replied automatically, making sure that he stressed the word 'waiting', as if the person he was waiting for was… say, the supreme ruler of the university instead of the blind date that he hadn't even been aware of until Honda had told him approximately two minutes ago. But never mind any of that previous prejudice he might have had, especially if that person would be able to save him from this horrible situation.

      Unless….

      Try as he might, his mind was currently running rampant with the possibility. A very illogical possibility that he did not… no. No. Honda might be cruel, desperate, and evil, but he wouldn't do something like this to him, would he? He couldn't hate him this much, right?!

      Perhaps he simply didn't want to see what had been staring at him this entire time.

      "No," he said firmly.

      Seto raised an eyebrow as Ryuuji continued.

      "No. I'm not playing this game with you anymore. You're engaged. You can't be having any last minute flings, and even if you could because you happen to be the great and mighty Kaiba Seto, I'm not going to help you. I've had enough of you, and your nasty comments, and your mouth, and your blue eyes, and… and I really don't want to talk about this anymore so could you please just go away?"

      And with that, he turned around with more than a little enthusiasm, only to be thwarted by the tiny fact that the door was still locked and he didn't have any keys to rectify the situation.

      Damn it.

      "You seem to be having some problems."

      Damn Kaiba and his stupid observation skills. Why couldn't he just keep his mouth shut?

      "No I'm not. And even if I did, it's none of your business," Ryuuji snapped. And that would have been the end of the conversation except for the fact that Seto kept giving him the same amused expression, prompting him to continue. "Okay, perhaps I do have a problem. It's you. As in you won't go away. So could you please go away? Why aren't you moving? Are we not noting an attempt at feigned politeness to make somebody go away?"

      "No."

      "What, am I being too subtle?"

      "I'm not that stupid, Ryuuji. Although I admit that your idea of subtle is much better than Jyounouchi's, but he's about as subtle as a brick."

      The mere mention of Jyounouchi's name was rapidly bring back some unpleasant memories – most of which dealt with a certain unhappy homecoming – and Ryuuji had to fight not to show the wince. Not to mention the fact that despite his continued use of Seto's last name, the brunettete was continuing to be a pain and using his first name. It was something that was making him decidedly uncomfortable, but Seto seemed to have no intention of stopping such annoying behavior.

      After all, he wouldn't be so annoying if he did.

      "I would appreciate it if you left, Kaiba," he finally hissed, tone icy. Perhaps that would catch the brunettete's attention, even though he was lying through his teeth.

      Seto cocked his head slightly and looked at the game inventor with a passive expression before asking, "Would you really?"

      He opened his mouth to say 'yes', but something within him balked at giving such a fake answer. Especially since both of them knew what the real reply was, and he didn't want to open himself up to any more mockery, if such a thing was even possible. Knowing Seto it was, and he wasn't about to give the CEO anymore opportunities to torment him.

      "I think he would let you back in if you let me take you out to dinner, you know," Seto finally added, somewhat saving him from complete and utter humiliation.

      Somewhat.

      "And that is precisely the problem. He shouldn't be getting involved in these things, and you shouldn't be listening to him. In fact, I think it might be best if you left so I could quietly return to my plans of killing Honda off so neither of us will need to deal with these distractions anymore, and you should be thanking me for making both our lives a little easier to deal with without having an annoying busybody trying to dictate our actions."

      "I'm not doing this because he asked me to."

      "Well, that's what you think. But he can really be quite sneaky. I should know since I've lived with him for so long, but it's not something that many people realize. Still, it's not your fault for being duped by him. As soon as I get in, I'll make sure to speak to him about it."

      "Before or after you kick his head around?"

      "I don't know. Which one do you suggest?"

      "If he's dead, you won't be able to make him listen."

      "He wouldn't have listened to me anyway, so what would it matter?"

      "As amusing as this is, we aren't getting anywhere."

      "There is a reason for that, you do realize."

      "And what would that be?"

      "I don't know, but if you give me some time, I'm sure I will think of one."

      "Think quickly."

      Ryuuji looked at him skeptically, but did so anyway. "It's not like we have anywhere to go. Technically, we have all the time in the world to keep at each other, and you're not going to deny that are you?"

      Seto couldn't help but pause at that, and he gave Ryuuji an odd look. "No. Why should I?"

      Ryuuji gave him a slow smile, "That's what I thought."

      "Would it kill you to stop being so disagreeable?"

      "Considering who this is coming from, I don't think you're one to talk," was the frank reply before he fixated the brunettete with an annoyed scowl. "And is it just me or is it taking an unreasonable amount of time to get rid of you, considering how you always seemed to claim that I'm somehow infecting you with some disease that is causing you to act completely out of character?"

      Even as the words flew out of his mouth at startling speeds, he wondered why he was being so… intolerant of the brunettete's presence. It was strange – he had spent most of the past week wishing that he would be able to see him, and now that his wish was coming true, he wanted nothing more than to get away. It was like the reality differed so sharply against his imagination, even though he was starting to know better than anyone what to expect when it came to the CEO.

      And what that was was really… nothing. Absolutely nothing.

      Which was, in the end, a vast majority of the problem. He expected to receive nothing, and when Seto finally did try to give something, it threw him off so badly that he wanted nothing more than to escape.

      Well, perhaps not to escape. Just… he wanted to be able to understand Seto. He needed to be able to know what was going to happen, and not have to deal with all this confusion. Some people were stable… understandable. Seto, at a first glance, seemed to be one of those people who would never change no matter how much you tried to make them, but then you started to get to know him. And that's when everything started to crumble.

      It wasn't that he opened up to just anyone. Yuugi had tried to get to know him the best of the small group, but the brunettete had certainly never opened up to him.

      Not like Seto was opening up to him, at least.

      It wasn't that he didn't want to say yes. He just didn't know if he wanted to risk those fragmented pieces of the life he was trying to get back.

      He opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Seto interrupted him.

      "I broke up with Yuriko."

;;

      "Where do you want to go for dinner?"

      There was no hesitation, "KFC [5]."

      Silence.

      "What?"

      "Kentucky Fried Chicken? Don't tell me that you've never been there, Kaiba."

      "I can honestly say that I haven't."

      "Psh. No wonder you're so messed up. You have to try it – it's the very epitome of fast food! Well, actually McDonalds is but I don't really like hamburgers and their chicken is weird…."

      "You're joking."

      "You asked me where I wanted to go."

      "Why would you want to go there?"

      "I was planning on going there when Honda kicked me out, and it would be such a blow to my carefully organized plans if I wasn't able to go there even with you around. Besides, you can't tell me that you never enjoyed such a fine mode of dining? Not to mention cheap and fast. Those words should be in your vocabulary."

      "I can't believe you."

      "I'll remind you again that you're the one who asked me. But since I'm starting to get the impression that you didn't really expect an answer, where have you already decided for us to go?"

      Seto told him.

      "Well then, why didn't you just say so from the start?"

      If he had, then it would have been too easy. But since he didn't think Ryuuji would appreciate an answer like that, he chose to keep his mouth shut.

      The car trip thereafter was silent.

      It wasn't a bad silence, since both were participating in it out of their own free will. Neither had anything to say, but at the same time, neither expected the other person to say anything. But despite the almost strange comfort involved, the silence was still awkward, and every once in a while one would glance over to look at the other. Through pure luck and good timing, their eyes somehow managed never to meet, but an uneasy feeling pervaded through the car as both wallowed in their own thoughts, trying their best not to drown.

      It had not taken Seto very long to convince Ryuuji to go out with him – if that was the right term for it – after the rather unexpected confession. He would have told the raven-haired man about it sooner or later, but he hadn't exactly expected the words to fall out of his lips right then and there. But when it did, and there was no way of reversing it, Seto had just shrugged and used it to his advantage. Adaptation was one of the talents that a CEO had to know, after all, and he had gotten quite good at it.

      Almost to the point that it was surpassing his ability to lie to himself.

;;

      Ryuuji was smirking at him, something Seto pointedly ignored as he confirmed his extremely important reservation at the extremely expensive restaurant. The owner of the extremely expensive restaurant was very pleased that he was there, and so an extremely underpaid individual was sent to take the two to their extremely expensive seat at the back of the extremely expensive restaurant, and not to mention wait on them hand and foot. And the entire time, Ryuuji smirked at him, something that Seto chose to ignore with the usual frown on his face.

      Well, for the most part.

      "Don't tell me that your face has decided to permanently adopt that expression, Ryuuji."

      The raven-haired man was saved the task of coming up with an appropriately witty and downright biting remark when a menu was conveniently shoved in front of his face, preventing him from having to say anything. He did wonder, however, if it was simply good timing or something along the lines of a sign from god for him to keep his mouth shut.

      But since he wasn't a very big believer in the gods or fate or anything of the sort (for while it was nice to have somebody to blame for your problems, the fact that somebody was causing you problems that you couldn't really prevent was a concept which never boded well for him), he set the menu to the side and rested his chin on the palm of his hand as he fixed a long look on his companion.

      Seto didn't even blink.

      "What."

      "I'm trying to figure out what's going on."

      He was too, but at least he had enough self-restraint to keep himself from simply blurting it out. "Figure it out after you order."

      Not exactly the most polite answer ever, but Ryuuji supposed that Seto had a point. After all, who would want to be interrupted in the middle of arguing by a waiter? Best to wait until after ordering in order to maximize time that could be spent trying to annoy each other, although he did have a tiny suspicion that Seto didn't mean for such a thing to happen. Except Seto was just such an annoying person that he could annoy someone without actually meaning to, although most of the time he did intend it.

      "So what should we do until then? Small talk?"

      "Why not?" Seto replied calmly, earning an incredulous look.

      "Have you ever done small talk before?"

      "No." He answered so easily, as if he didn't mind letting the world know what was going on in his brain. Or at least he didn't mind Ryuuji knowing, which was a world of difference.

      In order to block out any confusion he might be feeling, Ryuuji started to talk. Or rather, blabber incoherently.

      "Oh. Well, in case you didn't know, small talk is where you talk about boring, inane, everyday things that normal people like to talk about when they have nothing better to do," Ryuuji said, although a part of him just wanted to shake Seto senseless or at least until an answer popped out of his mouth. Instead though, he cleared his throat before fixing Seto with what he hoped was a very relaxed and unfazed expression. "For example, what did you think of the movie?"

      "What movie?"

      With reactions like that though, Ryuuji was seriously starting to wonder if Seto was even listening to him. Of course, if he was in the brunette's position, he wouldn't be listening, but that was a different story.

      "The one we watched with Yuugi-tachi. The one where we ended up sitting together. The one where we got left behind. The one where you basically sexually assaulted me, in case you're having trouble remembering," the words flew out of his mouth with such ease that it was hard for him to tell exactly how stupid they were.

      Seto raised an eyebrow, "I sexually assaulted you?"

      The skepticism in the CEO's voice made Ryuuji want to stick his tongue out at him, but instead he continued to blabber without any apparent thought to the ill consequences that could come out of it. "Well, Kaiba, when people kiss, they're supposed to be in mutual agreement. If they're not, then it's non-consensual which could practically be constituted as rape!"

      "You really shouldn't trivialize such things, Ryuuji."

      "You shouldn't keep ignoring the question. And how many more times am I going to have to tell you to stop using my first name? We're not that close."

      "There was no question," Seto pointed out calmly before addressing the rest of the rant. "And in my opinion, we are close enough to be on a first name basis."

      "We barely know each other."

      "Do we?"

      Now that was an interesting question. Even though they had only started to get to know each other for the past couple of weeks, Ryuuji felt oddly… close to the brunette. The annoying, opinionated, stubborn brunette who seemed to have a stick permanently up his ass, but as the days had gone by there seemed to be an almost human quality to him. That was a fascinating idea since for most people – Ryuuji included, prior to this – Seto wasn't even human. He was just… there.

      "I don't even know why I bother trying to understand you, Kaiba."

      "Maybe it's because you have too much time on your hands," was the curt reply. Or at least it would have been the reply if they had not been interrupted by the waiter, who should at this point be congratulated for having the best possible timing ever. Instead though, his meek question of whether or not they were ready to order was met by two icy stares, prompting him to look rather squeamish, as if he was worried that both occupants were suddenly going to leap up and eat him. Sort of like a Hannibal Lector thing. Except hopefully he'd be dead. And the fact that he was hoping he was dead happened to make the entire situation even worse than it already was. But anyhow. Moving on.

      Seto somehow managed to swallow the words that were just dying to pop out as he turned his attention back to Ryuuji, who was still eyeing the waiter with an expression that seemed to be saying 'Maybe some fava beans…'.

      "You first."

      That snapped him out of his reverie as he blinked at the brunette, "Why?"

      "You're the guest."

      "I'm a guest now?"

      Seto let out an exasperated sigh and his eye had a definite twitch. It looked like one of those situations that one shouldn't come within a ten mile radius of, but it was already a little too late for that wasn't it?

      "Just order."

      "Fine. I'll have anything with chicken."

      A long silence followed the proclamation, as it took Ryuuji a while to realize that they were both waiting for him to continue. "What?"

      "Would you like to be a little more specific?" One would think that Seto was the waiter, although he would probably be the type to spit in the drinks rather than be polite.

      "Not really. I haven't exactly opened the menu yet since somebody kept talking to me."

      "If you hadn't been so busy staring at me the entire time, than maybe you would have had enough time to read it already," Seto snapped back.

      "I wouldn't have been able to understand any of it anyway. I've never had any Italian food before beyond spaghetti," Ryuuji shrugged slightly at this, ignoring another eye twitch. "Honda doesn't like cheese, so we never bothered to go to places like these. Besides, Kaiba, I'm sure that you're a lot better than me at ordering food anyway, and since you probably know what's good and what's not, why don't you do it?"

      "I don't understand why Honda's eccentricities should have any effect on what you do."

      Ryuuji frowned, putting down the more or less forgotten menu on the table as he gave the CEO an odd look, "Kaiba, if Mokuba didn't like something, would you be eating food that had a lot of that thing in it?"

      "No, but that's a moot point. We're brothers. You and Honda aren't."

      "You don't have to be related to someone to be affected by them." It was Ryuuji's turn to have his voice taken on a positively frosty tone. "That's something which is taking you a while to understand."

      "I could come back later…."

      "You're dependent."

      "Aren't you also?"

      "He's my brother."

      "And Honda is my friend. What's your point?"

      "It's different."

      "Is not."

      "Why?"

      "Because, Kaiba, despite your decidedly shitty childhood, you at least had the knowledge that there was somebody always there for you. Maybe that's why you never needed friends – you always had your brother, and no matter what you did, he would always be there. Always. After kaasan died, we never stayed anywhere long enough for me to bother finding anyone that might make it worth my while to want to stay in this lovely hellhole called life, and tousan wasn't exactly the type of person who you would want to embrace with open arms. He didn't care, he just needed something from me that he couldn't get from anyone else. Maybe that's why I stayed; because some idiotic part of me thought that I would be able to get him to care about me if I managed to do what he wanted. Obviously I didn't or you wouldn't have had your rival anymore, but after that rather botched attempt at stealing Yuugi's Sennen Puzzle, Honda was the first person who actually invited me to go anywhere. Not Yuugi, but Honda. So I'm probably a sap for acting this way, he'll probably puke if he heard me talking about him like this, and you think I'm completely nuts, but that's just how it is. I found in him what you found in your brother, and for that, I think I'd be willing to give up Italian food for the rest of my life. Wouldn't you?"

      He pushed his chair back so that he could stand, still glaring at Seto who had a remarkably calm expression on his face as he simply watched. "I need to use the restroom. Excuse me."

      With that, he walked away with two pairs of eyes watching as he went one way before realizing that it was the wrong direction, causing him to walk right by them again before he finally did manage to find the restroom. There was a moment's silence after his departure before Seto turned to the waiter, who was still blinking and trying to take in the sudden events of the past few minutes.

      But the server was a trained professional, and it did not take him too long to turn back to Seto with a frozen smile on his face, nodding politely as he took down the orders and then went on his way.

      He watched out of the corner of his eye when Seto got up in order to follow Ryuuji, although unlike the raven-haired man, there were no detours this time.

;;

      "I'm an idiot."

      His reflection just blinked back at him dumbly, and he sighed as he once again realized that a one-sided conversation probably wasn't going to win him any points for sanity if someone should suddenly walk in on him. Thus he chose to instead lean down and splash some of the cold water on his face in a desperate attempt to cool his burning cheeks, although he doubted it would work too well. He had, after all, just emerged from what could be termed as a highly embarrassing situation, and it would probably take him several centuries or so to make up for that single moment.

      Still, what he had said was more or less… true. His rather turbulent relationship with his father had led to a variety of strange results after the old man's departure, consequences that were often contradictory. Otogi-san [6] had been a total control freak, although he rarely had to exert his powers through punishment. Every time Ryuuji would start to break away, he'd do something completely normal that would force him back. The constant moving kept him from ever having anyone except his father, creating a dependency that made it easier for him to be swayed by each and every demand – however inane it seemed – that was set upon him. It had taken him a while to realize all of this, and it had already been over by then. After that, he had always promised himself that he would become his own person, unweighted by the wants and needs of someone else.

      For the most part, he had succeeded at that. But then there was Yuugi-tachi, and most importantly, Honda. He doubted that his roommate ever realized it, but there was an almost paranoid reliance that had resulted in some odd decisions on Ryuuji's behalf. He was, of course, cheap. There was no doubt in his mind about it. However, it wasn't because he was cheap that he continued to live with Honda. It would have been relatively easy for him to have found a place of his own after university and any time after that, but it was almost as if despite his need to always be in control of the situation, he couldn't really be in control of his own life without having a safety net. And that's what the brunette had ended up becoming with his steady, reliable personality. He was stability, and he kept Ryuuji from completely going off the deep end, even if the game inventor sometimes joked that he already was crazy.

      Maybe he was though, in a way.

      Damn it.

      "You're not in love with him, are you?"

      He had to grab the sink to keep himself from making a spectacle by falling all over the bathroom floor – which wouldn't be as bad as it could be since the floor was extremely clean, but that was beyond the point. As soon as he managed to find his balance, he whirled around to stare at Seto with what could be deemed a dangerously unstable expression and screamed, "What?!"

      "Honda. You're not in love with him, right?" Seto pressed, with a tone that might have been called desperate if it wasn't for the fact that he was Kaiba Seto. And as had been reiterated many, many times before, Kaiba Seto did not ever need to be desperate, especially when it came to something like this.

      "What kind of question is that?!"

      "I just want to know before I proceed to embarrass myself any further."

      "You're going to embarrass yourself? Now this I have to see."

      "You're not going to see anything if you don't answer the question. Besides, I fully intend on sending a group of heavily-armed and well-trained assassins after you once this is over so that you won't have any ability of spreading what I have to say to you."

      Ryuuji had no doubt that Seto could find a group of heavily-armed and well-trained assassins if he really wanted to. This was the guy, after all, who had hired three killers (four including a guy who had watched too many chainsaw-based horror movies) in order to do payback on Yuugi. But all of that really wasn't very important.

      "Kaiba." Ryuuji's voice was sickingly sweet and oddly high-pitched, his voice rising with every word he spoke. "Kaiba, are you in love with your brother?"

      It didn't take Seto very long to see the point that Ryuuji was trying to make. "I see."

      "Good. Besides," Ryuuji smirked, "just because we're having sex doesn't mean I'm in love with him."

      There was a brief silence before Seto replied simply, "I'm going to ignore that."

      "You go do that."

      "I need to tell you something."

      "You need to tell me a lot of things, actually. You can start with why you broke up with your fiancée, for example."

      My, wasn't he being blunt today? And quite possibly bitter. But only a little bit.

      And as for Seto, the only thing he could think about was that it wasn't quite supposed to be going like this. He had been expecting to calm Ryuuji long enough so that he could figure out a way to explain everything, but instead, he was now stuck in the men's restroom and the only thing he had to say was the things he had been supposed to say for so long… except that he didn't really want to say any of it.

      But Ryuuji was looking at him expectantly, and he didn't really have any excuses or witty one-word comments to throw at the game inventor in order to get him off this topic. Besides, they were going to end up here sooner or later, and it just happened to be sooner than he preferred.

      "I know." Should he go for blunt and straight-forward, or should he wander onto random topics in order to annoy Ryuuji? He knew what the obvious answer was of course, even though it was taking him a while to acknowledge it. After all, Ryuuji did look rather amusing when he was extremely exasperated. "It just wasn't real."

      Ryuuji blinked at him twice, curiosity and suspicion crossing his face as he remained silent, waiting for Seto to continue since he did not really have much to say in response to such a statement.

      "It was like that sky your mother made. I tried to put aside my feelings for something else, but in the end, it wasn't the same and I knew that. It wasn't real, and it could not compare to the real thing. Which was you."

      "Oh." The answer was fairly squeaky, and it was followed by a deafening silence before Ryuuji spoke again. "I don't think kaasan would have appreciated her work being used for your analogy."

      "You mean how everything is open to interpretation, and how it all depends on the way you look at something if it will ever have any meaning to you."

      "Yeah. I guess that means you were actually listening."

      "Did you ever doubt it?"

      "If you were in my place, wouldn't you?"

      Seto looked at him, "Just because I would doesn't mean you would. We're different people, in case you haven't noticed."

      "I know." Ryuuji sounded somewhat annoyed at the implication, but his irritation quickly dissipated at Seto's next words.

      "You're different. I've seen you for so long but I never really was able to understand you. I think that if I had never met you, Yuriko and I would have been satisfied together. There was enough between us that we could be comfortable, but there wasn't anything beyond that. Which was fine with me because at the time, I didn't really need anything beyond that. And then I met you."

      "I don't think 'met' is quite the right word for what happened to us," Ryuuji joked weakly, his mind trying to process everything that was being said to him.

      Seto shrugged a little bit – aka not at all – as he continued, "If I had never gotten to know you, then I never would have wanted anything more than what I already had. And knowing that, I sometimes cannot help but wish that I never did wake up to find you in my bed."

      He ignored Ryuuji's exasperated exclamation. "But it's too late for that because it already happened, and then everything that happened after that just continued to point out that Yuriko and I were never going to be happy with each other. I should have stopped all contact with you when I could have."

      "Well then why didn't you, if I'm such a tragedy to your life?" was the snapped demand. "If you would be so much better off, why did you keep following me everywhere? Were you waiting for me to tell you to leave me alone or something? Because I tried that and obviously it didn't work, so why did you keep doing everything that you did if it would have been so easy for you to just stop?"

      Seto snorted, "I thought you of all people would have figured it out by now."

      "Pretend I haven't, okay?"

      What happened next was something that Ryuuji had daydreamed about many times before. But despite that, he still wasn't prepared for the words that so casually dropped out of Seto's mouth as if it was the most natural thing in the entire universe.

      'It' being proclaiming love.

      "I didn't stop because I love you."

      Ryuuji's mind happily decided to shut down, and he could only sit back in shock and watch as his mouth stuttered, "Wha… what?"

      "You're flamboyant, you're loud, you're annoying, you're lacking in self-control, you're self-delusional, you're the most PMS-y person I know and that includes the time when Mai went crazy because the mutt forgot to buy her a birthday gift, and dare I mention the fact that you are an extremely bad drunk and there should be a law made to keep you forever away from alcohol. And despite all of that, as well as my preference not to be doing this, I still haven't been able to convince myself otherwise," Seto watched for some type of reaction from Ryuuji, but he never got one. That was rather surprising, since one of the faults that he had listed off was 'lacking in self-control', and now the other man was showing a remarkable amount of… well, just that. And since Ryuuji wasn't saying anything, he didn't have any other choice but to just keep talking in order to fill up the empty void of silence. "You asked me in the park why I was doing any of this. I told you that I didn't know, and I'm still not sure. But I don't really care either. I just figure that if I really am making a fool out of myself right now, it's because I love you, and I can only hope you feel the same way for me."

      "That might have been considered remotely romantic if you weren't the one saying it. I'm getting Pride and Prejudice [7] vibes right now. You do realize there is a remarkable similarity between you and Mr. Darcy?" When Seto didn't reply, Ryuuji gave him a crooked smile. "I just had to point that out. I mean, this is starting to sound like a very bad romance novel in which nothing can ever really be resolved. Don't you hate stories like that?"

      Seto couldn't help but flinch slightly at the question. He wasn't quite sure where Ryuuji was hoping to go with it and he doubted if the raven-haired man knew either. Still, he felt obligated to ask. "Do you really think that we're not going to be able to figure this out?"

      "Uh, I'm not really sure. It's strange because I feel the same way for you, except you're stubborn, a prick, a complete and total bastard, and you need to work on your fashion sense which is currently non-existent."

      Seto opened his mouth to object, considering Ryuuji's choice of clothing, but Ryuuji cut him off when he continued.

      "Plus you seem to spend most of your time deliberately trying to piss me off, something that I'm not exactly appreciative of. But I guess it wouldn't be too bad if we tried something. I mean, compared to what we're doing right now, which is trying to piss each other off as much as we can. Well, we're still doing that but it's not really the same if we did it officially, you know?" He was really rambling now, and the words were flying out of his mouth before he could really think them through. That wasn't really good since if there was one thing he prided himself with, it was having brains. His current behavior wasn't exactly exemplifying any of that though. "And then there's the fact that there's a rest of the world to worry about. I mean, the good thing about you and Yuriko is that you can do all the stuff that high-profile couples do like have weddings and babies and all that stuff. Which we can't really do, since you can ask all you want but I'm not going to let myself get impregnated like that California governor did in the movie…. [8]"

      "I don't mind."

      It was hard to tell what he was referring to – the publicity or the fact that Ryuuji was talking about male pregnancy. Both of which were rather disturbing, now that he thought of it.

      Ryuuji laughed softly, "I know you don't mind. I don't mind either. And that is the most important thing, right… what we want and what we think we can do? And I know we both want this and I know we both probably can do this without killing each other too badly, so really there's nothing to hold us back, is there?" His voice was becoming rather desperate and shrill. "And then there's the little things like who's house we're going to live in because Honda and my apartment is really much too small for all three of us, and what about our companies and what they're going to think and then there's… mmph!"

      At the risk at getting yelled at again about rape, Seto had decided to shut Ryuuji up in a way that he knew could work and would not require any physical harm to the raven-haired man.

      But it turned out all right. Because Ryuuji didn't really mind and he had run out of things to say. Not to mention the fact that Seto really was a good kisser.

      It felt right too.

      And in the end, that was the most important thing to both of them.

Commentary:

[1] He probably still was, but now he had the protection of several friends and not to mention a sometimes psychotic pharaoh who liked to mind crush people. This usually puts a dent in the bullying problem, although not all bullies were intelligent to pick up on this fact. However, those people would barely be able to land the first punch before they were suddenly wondering about why they were starting to be chased all around Domino City by a ravenous monster, and why on earth did nobody bother to offer a hand? This usually led to a great deal of confusion for said bully, but that was more or less the point.

[2] Jeez, that sounds like my parents….

[3] You get a cookie (a non-existent one, granted, but it's the thought that counts) if you know where that little scenario came from.

[4] I wrote that and remembered that 'antisocial' doesn't really mean somebody who is not social, as my psychology teacher spent several minutes hammering that into our head (not to mention that schizophrenic doesn't mean split personality, but split from reality in which you hear voices telling you to do things. And there's positive and negative symptoms and all that lovely stuff). What it really means is somebody without a conscience… so then I thought about it and figured that plenty of people think that Seto doesn't have a conscience, so it can still work anyway. grin

[5] In Japan, KFC is supposed to be really popular. I don't know how it works, but when we went, there were about a gazillion KFCs and McDonalds there. Since I personally prefer KFC to McD, I chose that one.

[6] I don't recall if I talked about this before, but here I'm referring to his dad as Otogi-san because I didn't really want to use what he's called in the character guide… which is Mr. Clown. For some odd reason, I didn't really think it was desired to call Ryuuji's dad 'Mr. Clown' during this all-important character angst time.

[7] Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It's a pretty good book – very sarcastic, my favorite – if you ever have time to read it. It was our last book of the school year so I still remember a lot of it, and it helped that we watched the British version and Bridget Jones' Diary soon afterwards. Colin Firth. .

[8] coughs Junior. And no, I don't have an obsession with our lovely governor, despite what you think. Although I would like to ask him why he keeps asking the universities to take these bloody funding cuts.

      And thus we reach the bloody end. Again. At least this time, nobody got kidnapped, ran off to America (for eight years anyway), or were rather rudely whacked in the head with blunt objects (although I admit that the emotional sparring probably wasn't that good for their brain cell count either). But they're both in one piece, and so is my sanity, although at times I thought I would be having fun emotional breakdowns over this story. I'm not sure why, but this story was a bit more difficult than the last two, even though I love this coupling so much more.

      The ending I'm afraid is a bit abrupt, and in my original outline, the two were supposed to wake up all cuddled and happy. But then I thought about it more and frankly, what I'm seeing right now is somebody walking in on the two of them trying to suck each other's faces off. And that somebody (most likely YnBakura or YnYuugi, those bastards) is going to call the tabloids, and those tabloids are going to rush over and take pictures, and then the two will have to run off before they can eat their lasagna. And after they run off, they will argue. A lot. And they will argue so much that there will be no sex until one of them apologizes, and since they're both stubborn twits, there will be no sex for a long time.

      Okay, fine, I admit it. I was just too lazy to let them have sex. Plus the fact that I thought it was too fast, which is pretty hypocritical since this entire story started because the two of them were stupid enough to have sex in the first place. But I thought a kiss – even one that is only being done to shut Ryuuji up, a very noble thing indeed – is more significant than just plain sex. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought that there's too much sex in fanfiction and not enough substance in a relationship. Which in short, makes this entire relationship backwards. ;; But we'll ignore that.

      I had a lot of trouble with this story, as I mentioned before, although sometimes I loved it to pieces. I don't think this is my best work – what my best work is I have no idea – but I'm not unhappy with it either. I think it might have just been the stress of the school year that got to me, so hopefully it's just me being really paranoid again.

      My next plans after this is to try and finish "Oreta Tengoku" (Jyounouchi/Ryuuji and one-sided Seto/Ryuuji) in about a month, and then move on to "The Sick Rose", which is a Seto/YnYuugi. Before anybody tries to smack me, I really do like Seto/YnYuugi and the storyline is a very old one that I would like to finish. Hopefully since it's summer, it will not take me as long as this fic (I swear this fic took me longer than LTOW and "Fairydust" combined… which isn't really good if you think about it --;;), but we'll see when it gets there. I am off to college in last August after all. D To wreak more havoc, mwahahaha! In addition to those projects, I'm working on an AU version of this story where Seto didn't break his engagement and did end up marrying Yuriko. It's called "Differences" and you can find it on my livejournal (unfortunately, you'll have to go to calendar and then May to find an entry that is called 'Differences (1/?). I'm not very organized, as you see.).

      Before I run off, I have so many people to thank, like the people who didn't review this fic so that I wouldn't have to write those annoying long paragraphs to frighten everyone. Just kidding! I really appreciate everyone who bothered to read this story, as well as the ones who reviewed to tell me what they thought of it. I may not have had as many reviews with this story, but some of the feedback I got (you know who you are) was just so amazing, and in the end, that was probably the thing that kept me going the most.

      And of course, this story would not be nearly as good as it is without all the wonderful help I got from rayemars-san. Applaud and worship her, everyone. She makes my stuff readable.

      Much thanks, mina-san.

Pikachumaniac (May 25, 2004)