ashes doesn't own Yu-Gi-Oh.

- notes -
This was my "Happy Valentine's Day!" fic. :) I like it. And of course it turned out to be Kaiba & Jou -- these two need to go away and get out of my head, lol; I have other stories that need work. ^^

You could say this idea comes from a variety of influences: the many discussions I've had about generic versus brand names (this is actually a fun debate if you have it with the right people); the song "Lover I Don't Have to Love"; and the fact that I used to be part of several groups that talked hardcore about how PR likes to cover it up when their big stars are gay. It was actually a lot of fun to write. ^^

BTW, there's one italics scene that's a flashback; I think it's pretty obvious though.

Life is full of imitations: imitation sugar, imitation butter, imitation flowers... the list could go on for days. When you're short on money, you get used to the fakes – it's really not so bad. Actually, a lot of thing a preferable as an imitation: it can be cheaper and usually better.

Lovers don't count as one of those things.

I shouldn't have expected any better – I mean, who am I? Right, Jounouchi Katsuya. A loser. I'm a kid from a dirty apartment with a dirty father, living a dirty life. Sure, I'm a hot dirty kid, but when it comes right down to it, important guys don't pick people like me to be by their side, and certainly not in public, not just for looks. Nope, we're whores, hidden in closets and under desks and backseats of cars. If we're lucky, we get paid. I don't; I'm stupid enough to enjoy it all for free, much as the guy pisses me off...

So why am I still in his bed? He made it very clear that he doesn't want me seen within 200 feet of anything that records images, and yet I'm still naked between his sheets, moping. To think of it, where had I gotten this delusion that we had been anything special about us? He certainly never expressed any sort of love, and I had no reason for loving him... I just did. Then again, they say that people who get abused as children seek out abusive lovers – that might have had something to do with it; there was plenty of verbal abuse in my past, and that was the kind that Kaiba was the best as dolling out.

That didn't explain why I got so damn sentimental about the whole situation: boys and girl and PR. I decided that the one thing I hate more than anything is PR – it took the public eye to show me something I didn't want to see...

He was on TV; I could've turned it on, and he would be on the news. It was some big press conference, something related to Kaiba Corp... In all honesty, I always tuned him out when he started talking about work. I didn't give a damn about Kaiba Corp, no matter how much he loved it. I rather liked him; I imagine I'd like him if he were poor as me. Fuck, I'd probably like him better.

I swore to myself and rolled over, reaching for the remote control that I knew was on the nightstand. I bet he put it there on purpose, because he knew I wouldn't be able to resist watching. He liked to fuck with me: like when he's not pounding me into the bed, he's gotta be messing with my head or something. Once I threatened to leave, and he said that he'd put one of those invisible dog fences outside his bedroom door. I ended up staying, just because I didn't know if he had been serious or not.

We both knew that I wasn't leaving anyway, even without the threat of the fence. When I stopped coming to the house, it wouldn't be my choice; it would be his. I was just along for the ride... and what a ride it was! I mean... damn. For such a cold guy, Kaiba is like a fucking sex god – I don't know how that works out. Maybe he practices. Not that I want to think about the where's and who's of that practice.

I turned onto the TV, not surprised that it's on the right channel – like I said, he knew. He was talking, going on and on in that tone he always had when he talked about something new from Kaiba Corp – like nothing greater has ever existed. And there she is, sitting in the background – the pretty young girl he keeps around as an assistant, a scapegoat for the media.

I don't stare at her; instead, I notice something so small, it shouldn't have stuck out at me.

Kaiba had changed his tie.


"Image, Jounouchi," he sighed in exasperation, doing up his shirt and staring critically at himself in the mirror. "It's all about image."

"Yeah," I replied sarcastically, stretched out on the pillows. "Sure – image. I guess the media wouldn't like 'Kaiba Seto fucks a dirty punk for fun', huh?"

"No, they'd love it," he replied derisively. "They'd eat up every second of it, beat it to death. On the other hand, she's perfectly normal and not particularly extraordinary; after a few strategically-done snap shots they're done with her, and the topic of my love-life leaves the news."

I rolled on my side to look at him critically. "That tie is awful," I said softly. He looked down at it, then over to me.

"I like it. Be good while I'm gone."


What I had really wanted to say was "You didn't have to kiss her." But of course, if I had said that, he would have replied that if he hadn't, then no one would believe that he was really in a relationship with her – and then he would've wanted to know why I was whining about him kissing someone else.

And then I might have said something like, "Because you never even kiss me."

There are plenty of pictures, really pretty ones in cheesy tabloids, of Kaiba and this girl; there's even one of Kaiba smiling. He's got an arm wrapped around her shoulder and he's at an angle where he wouldn't have seen the camera, even though he was the one who set up the whole situation. I should have laughed; anyone who believed THAT snapshot was genuine was a gullible idiot and deserved to be lied to.

But when I should have been laughing, I felt more than a little betrayed. Sure, a couple months of fucking didn't exactly demand any exclusivity, but I had kind of expected it. There was a disgustingly desperate part of me that wondered why he couldn't really be like that: why he couldn't smile at me once, or hold me without wanting to get my pants off, or kiss me – god forbid. He could kiss any part of my body except my lips, like they were taboo or something. But no, this girl – one he described as terribly dull and more trouble than she was worth, the real imitation lover! – he could kiss her like it was nothing, just for the sake of keeping the media hounds at bay.

And if he could kiss an imitation lover, that made me something much lower.

All I could do was watch the TV as he reached the end of his speech, as the girl walked up beside him, grasped his hand, and it happened again.

Fuckin' hurrah for life's little imitations.


He returned after three hours; he looked pissed off. I had gotten dressed and was sprawled out in one of the armchairs that decorated his room. "So," I said casually, "exactly how far would you carry this façade to make the media happy?" He stopped in his tracks, and the glare he threw me could have scared the devil himself.

"Pardon?" he asked, his voice dangerously low. Yep, he was in a downright awful mood; I wonder what happened after I turned off the TV.

"Would you fuck her?" I continued, feigning interest. "Hell, bring her here some time, we could – "

"Enough," he snapped, stomping over the closet and yanking his shirt over his head. "I don't know what game you're playing at, Jounouchi, but you can stop right there – I'm not in the mood to play with you." He was out of his formal clothes, into pajamas – it was getting late, after all.

"Fine; I'll see you around." I jumped up from my seat – hell, I was already wearing my shoes. That earned me another glare.

"And where do you think you're going?"

"Out," I replied calmly. "I'm thinking about causing some general mayhem, hitting a bar, and picking some one up – after all, I've got an image to keep up too, you know."

I wasn't even out the door before he had my back against the wall, looming over me threateningly. "There are two things even you should know," he growled. "That I don't tolerate disrespect, and I don't share."

Perfect. If nothing else, I could thank him for being predictable. "Then why do I?" I challenged.

He arched an eyebrow. "Oh, are you implying that I treat you badly?"

"Horribly," I amended. He smirked and leaned down to nip at my ear lobe.

"You didn't complain this morning."

I shoved him back, crossing my arms over my chest and glaring at him. "This isn't about sex, so keep it in your fucking pants for a minute, okay? I'm talking about you, me, this whole fucking illusion of a relationship – I didn't hop in your bed to be the goddamn skeleton in your closet!"

"You're kidding," he said flatly, yawning. "Is THIS what you've got your panties in a bunch over?" He came towards me again, and I could only glare. How was he so dispassionate – why couldn't I make him blink?

"I..." I wanted to scream that I hated him, over and over until it hit a nerve, just in the vain hope of seeing if it hurt, just for a second – even though I knew there'd never be one. So I did the next best thing; I lunged forward to kiss him.

I'd love to tell myself that I did it to fuck with his comfort levels, but I know that I did it because I was jealous. He was frozen for a second, but when my tongue brushed over his lips, he violently shoved me away – on my back, on the bed. In an instant his body covered mine, and his lips claimed the flesh at my neck – of course, he didn't kiss me. I don't know why I had hoped, why I had tried.

"You're an idiot," he said heatedly – there was anger in his voice, but something else: something different, something deeper... maybe almost sad. "You're the dumbest person I know. Yes, you are my skeleton in the closet. You're my blackmail, my deep dirty secret."

Jeez, way to boost a guy's confidence, jackass.

"And I give you that power," he continued lowly, lips tasting and teasing at the juncture of my shoulder and neck. "I don't just give it to you, but I trust you with it, so bear your fucking burdens in silence and accept what you've got."

I blinked, sought for a reply, and then blinked again. What was I supposed to say to that? He had told me something I never realized, he had just admitted something that I knew killed him: I had power, and I had it over him. That... Hell, in Kaiba's world, that had to be like love. Maybe it was deeper – I knew Kaiba. He valued power more than anything, so it had to be just like love.

I couldn't ask anything more from him.

I closed my eyes and sighed. "Thanks," I breathed, afraid to say it too loud. To my shock, he actually kissed me – seriously kissed me, and if it never happened again, it was worth it to taste him.

"Get undressed," he demanded softly. "You're not going anywhere."

He was right – I wasn't.

Life is full of imitations, and quite frankly, I couldn't be bothered to think about them, because there was only really one important thing to know about all those imitations that seemed to haunt me.

Kaiba wasn't one of them.