Warnings: shonen-ai/slash, male/male relationship; sexual themes; Jounouchi/Kaiba
Preliminary notes: This was inspired by another LJ Community challenge; this time the kicker was there could be no spoken dialogue. This is a bit of a change-up for me because I consider myself a dialogue-driven writer. And the whole tone and mode is very experimental as well. Anyway, here we go.
No Questions Asked
Kaiba knew that the time was approaching midnight, the temperature near freezing and that a certain someone was waiting for him outside, exposed to both the night and the cold.
He settled back in his chair, taking his time.
Although he knew that it was impossible to do so, Kaiba imagined that he only needed to spin around and peer down through the glassed wall of his office and he'd see him, waiting impatiently on the corner, shifting his weight from one foot then another in a vain attempt to stay warm in spite of the unseasonably cold weather. He lacked a proper winter coat and his sneakers -- of which he was unusually proud -- boasted holes and worn-through creases which made them of little value.
And his gloves might have kept his calloused fingers warm had he not cut out the tips as to not impede his ability to smoke by setting the woolen material on fire with his lazily flicked ashes.
Kaiba easily pulled the image to mind: the lean frame huddled with the green jacket pulled tightly over his chest by one hand while the other held the faintly glowing cigarette, fingers half-cupped around the slim papered stick to save its cherry from extinguishment at the hands of the biting wind. The unflattering, jaundiced glow of the streetlights would play off the paler streaks in his blond hair while the temperature would have certainly nipped at his skin until the tips of his ears were pinked with cold.
Yes, Kaiba was aware that Jounouchi was freezing his ass off while he waited for him in the shadows near the entrance of the Kaiba Corporation building --
And he didn't especially care.
Indolent as he sat in the warmth of his climate-controlled office, Kaiba's moderated actions had long since ceased being methodical. He was taking deliberate pains to waste time, loitering over business compositions long composed, re-reading reports he'd already memorized, all the while knowing -- reveling in the knowledge -- that Jounouchi waited in the cold, dark night for him to emerge from the lofty, steel-hemmed building with only his hole-ridden gloves and his Marlboro cancer sticks to keep him warm.
It was malicious.
It was cruel.
It was all about power.
A battle of wills between two stubborn, strong-willed combatants. Even now, as he himself lingered, Kaiba was not certain of whether he'd win the latest round of his on-going war with Jounouchi. Actually, the young businessman wasn't even certain of what could be considered winning in their strange entanglements. Did he win when he made Jounouchi wait hours for him to make his appearance downstairs? Or had those times simply been draws and only when he'd angered the other young man into to storming into the building and demanding his attention could Kaiba claim complete victory?
While victory seemed elusive, he knew precisely when he had been forced to admit defeat -- some two nights on which Jounouchi had left the premises without ever seeing him, leaving in his stead a handful of stubbed cigarette butts and the burnt scent of tobacco smoke on the air.
Twice he'd lost when all he needed for victory -- a draw? -- was to walk outside and choose not to force the mutt to wait any longer than necessary. Still, Kaiba preferred to flirt with defeat and play the odds on whether Jounouchi would remain at his vigil on the darkened city street. He liked knowing that there was such a strange kind of loyalty between them that the blond would stay for those hours as he'd been told, silently seething over every moment after seven o'clock which he wasted in waiting but so rarely deciding to be defiant and actually leave.
He was -- so ironically -- like a giant, powerful dog who bristled at its master's aberrant behavior but was so bridled by the control exercised over him that he never contemplated mutiny. Kaiba likened him to pale-coated mastiff, heavy and protective and foreboding while simultaneously being shy and gentle and friendly -- a confusing mix of attributes, both in humans and dogs. But despite his naturally genial nature, Kaiba also knew that Jounouchi had his limits. He knew that there would be a point to which the blond could be pushed before his fiery temper was ignited and someone would suffer the brunt of those volatile emotions.
That was the point where Kaiba wanted him -- he liked Jounouchi at his most aggressive, most feral. It had long been his goal in his encounters with him: the reason for the taunts, the digs, the jibes, and even the strange waiting games which he used to toy with him.
Kaiba didn't want kindness. He didn't particularly want facilitation. If those had been his desires, he could have found more amiable and more willing partners for the activities in which he indulged with Jounouchi. No, he had chosen the loud-mouthed smart-ass for a very specific reason.
He wanted it to be hard.
In more ways than one.
He'd looked it up in a volume of psychological dysfunction once and then he'd turned to the dictionary for a more concise meaning. Masochism, Kaiba had learned, was defined most loosely as a taste for suffering and most narrowly as a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation especially by a love object. Although he'd never been one to enjoy humiliation in any aspect of life and he never used the word love in connection to anyone who was not his brother, he found himself falling neatly within the range of the word's accepted denotations.
It had never bothered him that he had so readily identified himself with psychological dysfunction. By his own estimation, he figured that his distinctive mental workings would probably find him labeled dysfunctional by a variety of different ways and disorders. As long as remained neither a danger to himself and -- most importantly -- to Mokuba, his seemingly-fragile mental health remained conveniently unimportant.
What Kaiba had sought in a lover wasn't something gentle or tender; something of that nature would have seemed too much like pity or mockery for him to welcome it. So he had chosen to crave something physical, aggressive and edged in brutality -- not that he lacked them from his life otherwise. Kaiba had always considered himself both aggressive and brutal, particularly in terms of his harsh professional demeanor. Mercy and sympathy were insignificant in the business world, and it had taken little time for him to realize that.
Kaiba also realized that he had spent most of his life vying for control, clawing desperately to hold the power to dictate instead of being the one being dictated. He'd acted as Mokuba's de facto father and the CEO of a major corporation before most boys his age were even thinking about careers. He'd been burdened with intellect and the thirsty ambition to do something great with his brilliance. And he had gained that hard-won control, along with the responsibilities and pressures which came with them.
Kaiba easily admitted that he enjoyed being in control; he liked being able to manipulate those around him into dong exactly as he bid. He understood that with such power came with unfortunate consequences such as the blood-thirsty enemies which kept him always wary of an attack. While he didn't like that aspect of his standing, he accepted it. But as much as he liked to be in control, sometimes even the great Kaiba Seto could be overburdened.
And sometimes, he craved to have that tightly-wound control shattered -- but only in the most regulated circumstances possible, where the loss of that superiority remained more illusion than fact.
It had been that need to experience submission without actually losing control which had led him to Jounouchi and the secretive meetings and assignations, the power games and furtive double entendre which laced their public arguments. Even with Kaiba's impressive vocabulary, he found it difficult to find a suitable term with which to label Jounouchi. Lovers was such an ubiquitous term and one which was too leaden with tender emotions to apply to their situation.
If there was anything illicit in their relationship, it was tender emotions. In Kaiba's estimation, their interaction centered on mutual release of pent-up frustrations. Anything more than that would have made it -- complicated.
He had enough complications in other aspects of his life.
He glanced at the clock once again and when he realized how much time had actually passed, he felt pulse quicken every so slightly. By waiting so long, Kaiba hadn't flirted with defeat; he'd taunted it and belittled it to the point where it was a rabid monster out for blood.
Not stopping to analyze his decision, he snatched up his briefcase and raced out of the office.
After all, Kaiba Seto could never allow himself to lose.
The cold winter air was a shock to his active system and Kaiba couldn't suppress the hiss of surprise he released as he stepped out of the Kaiba Corporation Building and into the deserted lot which surrounded it. His eyes quickly scanned his surroundings: the yellow-white glow of the streetlamps, the dark clump of trees artfully arranged by the overpriced landscaping firm, his black limousine waiting patiently to carry him home. Everything was as still and as quiet and as cold as one would expect them to be on an uneventful winter's night.
He saw no huddled Jounouchi, no soft red glow from a lit cigarette. Not even a stray butt littering the sidewalk underneath the lights of the humming streetlamps.
A muscle in Kaiba's jaw tensed as he clenched his teeth and his grip tightened on his briefcase handle. Other than those minimal signs of reaction, nothing passed over his face which would be construed as response.
With his usual sharp-edged grace, Kaiba strode towards his waiting limousine, never sparing another glance to his surroundings, not giving whatever night creatures which may have been lurking the satisfaction of it.
Admitting defeat to one's self was difficult enough without an audience.
He'd almost reached the limousine, ready to tap against the tinted glass to alert his dozing chauffeur to his presence, when something colorful fluttered at the edge of his peripheral vision, something bright against the drab darkness and bare trees.
Kaiba paused and waited.
From the shadows cast by the expertly landscaped foliage, Jounouchi appeared. His hands were obviously free of the habitual cigarette because they were stuffed into his jeans pockets, his elbows tucked closely to his body as if to hold to him as much warmth as possible. His dark eyes tangled with Kaiba's and he opened his mouth as if to speak, but quickly shut it again, aware that his teeth were chattering from the cold. With his usually emotive face frozen into a harshly blank mask, Jounouchi shuffled over to where Kaiba stood waiting for something to happen.
As the minutes lengthened with neither man varying from their frozen stances, Kaiba's impatience bubbled to the surface, after so many hours of keeping it at bay while he loitered in his office. This time it was he who opened his mouth, planning to make some cruelly effective comment about a dog's loyalty or cold noses.
But -- once again -- the words died in its speaker's throat before it was ever allowed to reach the surface because Kaiba bit back whatever taunt he'd fashioned when he saw Jounouchi remove one of his half-gloved hands from his pocket.
He watched in morbid fascination as rough, reddened fingers reached across the icy distance which separated him from Jounouchi to ghost across the pale skin of his face, starting at the nose and lightly traveling down over the rounded jut of his cheekbone. As his fingers danced over Kaiba's skin, the cold whisper solidified into a warm touch, Jounouchi's hand flattening to lay against as much skin as possible, no longer simply a touch but something more tender.
Kaiba was surprised by the heat the simple action flooded into his system. He similarly taken awares by how easily he allowed the tenseness in his muscles to wash out of him at the careful caress, at how easily he leaned into the calloused palm after he'd told himself that this kind of tenderness was the last thing he wanted from Jounouchi.
But, in that moment, having been given exactly what he thought he didn't want, he looked into Jounouchi's brown eyes -- honest eyes, kind eyes -- and he realized that there was nothing more central to Jounouchi's fundamental nature than that kindness and honesty he saw in his those dark depths. He finally understood that no matter how much of his personality was temper and bluster, the man who stood with him after having waited for hours in the freezing air was not cruel and could never be truly cruel.
Not like Kaiba knew himself to be capable.
And he'd known that about Jounouchi from the beginning. Deep inside, he'd always known that Jounouchi could never be all those things he'd thought he'd wanted. Although he wasn't stupid, Jounouchi was far from mysterious. He was the epitome of an open book.
And Kaiba laughed bitterly at himself, his breath escaping his lips in visible puffs as he pulled away from his companion. Jounouchi regarded him with a quizzical look, head tilted ever so slightly in a visible representation of his confusion. The dark-haired young man felt his shuddering breaths being torn from his chest by the cold but he was oblivious to the sting of it because his mind was moving at a furious pace, processing the influx of new data he'd acquired by accident on that chilly night.
Despite all his own plans, machinations and carefully-controlled submission, Kaiba had never noticed -- never conceived -- that, sometime during those tangled months, it had all become in vain.
There were emotions between them. Beneath his own apparent inability to care, something strong lurked, a web of possessiveness and attraction and dozen other emotions that he wasn't willing to name. One of them was definitely affection. And another of them might have been deeper and more lasting than even that.
In black and white terms, a simple implication came to Kaiba's mind --
Things were complicated.
And he was no longer in control.
It was ironic, he noted to himself, how he'd sidestepped his own agenda only to have it come to fruition in spite of himself.
For better or worse, Kaiba knew that he relinquished control to Jounouchi in a way he'd never wanted.
Snapping out of his epiphany at the sight of the growing concern on Jounouchi's face, Kaiba seized the opportunity and pressed his almost-numb lips against Jounouchi's, silencing any questions that the blond might have been ready to ask. For all his inner realization, he could not yet put it into words to express them. He'd have to rely on action and hope for the best.
Not to be outdone, Jounouchi quickly gained control of the kiss and both were dimly aware of how swiftly body heat could thaw someone's chilled flesh. He smiled against Kaiba's lips.
Jounouchi had known the truth.
He'd given Kaiba frenzy -- not brutality, as Kaiba had misnamed it -- when he'd understood that it was all the other could accept. So unused to emotions outside of pride, anger and the unwavering love for his brother,
Kaiba had mistakenly identified so many of the emotions he'd shared with Jounouchi, even when the latter recognized them correctly. Aggression instead of passion, brutality and frenzy, anger for impatience; he'd misread them all. And, most importantly, he'd seen himself chasing the illusion of submission when what he'd wanted was surrender, to give himself over to someone in a way he never had before -- with trust and faith and without the fear that was so obviously lurking beneath the surface.
It was that knowledge -- an innate, bone-deep conviction -- that had kept Jounouchi patient over the months of cat-and-mouse, through the difficulties and the cutting words. When it was something as important as this, he had learned to trust faith and his goddess Luck.
And it hadn't been in vain -- for Jounouchi. He'd seen it in Kaiba's cold blue eyes when he'd touched him as he'd always wanted that night. Jounouchi recognized the spark, the realization, and the conclusion.
He was in control.
Luckily for his companion, Jounouchi was fundamentally kind and tenderness came much more easily to him than cruelty ever had.
And as Kaiba felt gentle but capable hands rest on his shoulders and insistent lips move with his, he couldn't stop himself from wondering if maybe -- somewhere deep within his subconscious -- he hadn't been searching for tenderness after all.
Author's notes: This is certainly different for me. I'm not sure how well I did with this. As I said earlier, I work in dialogue and I tend toward melodramatic preachiness when I don't have any. However, this fanfic proves three things:
1. I really like the idea of smoker!Jounouchi.
2. I tend to set stories in the seasons which I reflect its theme. (Yes, there are themes in my writing, damnit!)
3. I'm obsessed with cheekbones, I think. Or at least, Kaiba's. They seem to star in all three of my Joukai fan fics to date.
That's all, folks. As always, I humbly ask that you review. You aren't required to do so, but it's a nice thing when you do.