Well, as much as we all love this story, it must come to a close. This is the final chapter of Changes Made, and I do hope you all enjoy. Once again, thanks to my awesome reviewers- I wish I could name you all, but fanfiction looks down upon that, and I don't want to risk it. Just know who you are and feel loved/ lubbed by this Authoress. (Ooh, breaking out the Sesshomaru-speak!)
And now, for the final time- Onto the chappie!
Chapter Nine: Last Long Walk
Six years later
Fat, angry raindrops burst upon the windshield of the regal Porsche as it sped down the dreary city street. Shielded from the elements inside the car were Seto and Mokuba Kaiba, the former more strict-looking and with slightly longer hair and the later at the peak of puberty, hair gathered into a messy ponytail. Both were dressed in tuxedos of the finest cut and materials, the best money and influence could buy.
Seto drove the expensive machine almost lazily, glaring at the foul conditions outside. He felt exactly as terrible as the weather was, and in some twisted way, was glad it wasn't sunny. The rain reminded him of Jou. That jerk was getting married today, and Seto was supposed to be the best man.
The old ache was back. Seto wished it would leave- he hated vulnerability, especially in himself. Missing Jou wasn't going to help anything. After all, he was the one who had left.
The memories seemed to be farther away than they actually were. It was only six years ago that Seto felt Jou's kiss, for the first and last time. After that, they had been close friends, but never anything more. The immorality of the situation made the pair skirt the issue, coming close but never discussing an actual relationship above that of friends.
Then, as if they had discussed it and made an agreement, Jou and Seto started seeing other people. Jou found Ai, the sweet, country born-and-raised girl the he met through a friend at his cosmetology school. Seto had less luck, going through many women, all fake and greedy as the last. And yet, something still drove him to find a new girl, to try again.
Jou still was his friend, of course. Seto secretly arranged for a community foundation to help Jou's father, and with the help of the dedicated and well-paid service workers, the old man went clean and found a job playing piano in a local jazz nightclub. Jou never actually straight-out asked Seto if the CEO was involved, but he suspected. In return, Seto started getting free haircuts.
Things went along fine, until a business offer came up that Seto couldn't refuse. An international gaming company wanted to make KaibaCorp a permanent fixture in Europe and America. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, or so Seto had thought- So he took Mokuba, and traveled to London, Berlin, New York City and Chicago to oversee the building of four new KaibaCorp research and headquarter facilities.
It took four years, four unbearably long years to finish the projects to Seto's satisfaction. Not only had the buildings been built, but Seto personally oversaw the interview processes for the top fifty positions at all four locations. Then, the promotions, the interviews, and the duels that seemed to have no end followed in a myriad of sleepless nights and stress-filled days.
The final straw came right in the middle of Seto's last stop, Chicago. Jou sent him an email, out of the blue.
hey man, long time no see, no talk. heard that the new places are doing the biz good. im glad, man! i actually have a reason for this- me and ai have decided to get married. my salon's taking off, i got some celebrities now, so we thought it would be a good time to tie the knot. i feel a little bad asking you this, cause the weddings in a month and a half, and id really like you to be best man.
The best man. Jou wanted him- Seto Kaiba- to be the best man in his wedding. His wedding to someone Seto hardly knew.
Seto didn't know whether he ought to be thrilled or if he ought to punch Jou in the stomach. After all of his failed attempts at dating, Seto finally had accepted what had been true all along- he didn't want anyone, he wanted Jou. Who was now asking him to be his best fucking man at his wedding? It was almost too much to handle.
Mokuba, who knew the basic gist of his elder brother's feelings, had advised that Seto politely decline, giving the excuse that his work needed him too much. "Don't do this to yourself," Mokuba had warned. "You'll only hurt yourself if you go see Jou."
The next morning, Seto had his flight booked back for Japan.
So here he was. The rehearsal dinner, the bachelor party, and all the other final man-to-man moments before Jou accepted the ball and chain Seto had purposely missed. His plane came in the night before the wedding, and Seto refused to speak directly to Jou. He replied solely in emails, relying on the impersonality of the Internet to protect his emotions.
And now he was driving to Jou's wedding to some woman. Seto cursed quietly under his breath, and Mokuba looked at him. "Sorry, Big Brother."
"Don't apologize, Mokuba." Seto allowed his voice to soften slightly. "It's not your fault."
"Yes, Big Brother." The dark-haired teen looked sideways at him. "It's not too early to back out. I'm sure Honda can fill in. Or, I think that Ai woman has a brother."
"That's bad manners to not uphold commitments, Mokuba."
"It's worse manners to deck the bride," Mokuba retorted.
"Don't talk back."
"Sorry." Mokuba sat back in his seat, staring silently out at the dull city rushing past. "Why did you two never hook up?"
"Not now, Mokuba." Seto gripped the steering wheel, willing himself not to snap at his little brother.
There. The church loomed out of the gloomy mist, as well as multiple cars. The sidewalks were dotted with umbrellas, well-dressed people hurrying towards the great oaken doors.
Seto screeched into the parking lot, slamming on the breaks so the Porsche went sideways. The car slid to a halt, taking up the better part of two parking spaces. Mokuba, unruffled by the half-suicidal driving skills of his older brother, calmly got out and waited under a strict-looking black umbrella for Seto to exit as well. Together, they entered the rapidly-filling church.
Seto noticed that both the bride and groom's sides of the church were already quite packed. Laughter and happy faces were everywhere around him, and Seto gently pushed Mokuba in the direction of the groom's side. The dark-haired teen started toward a tall, brunette woman that Seto recognized with a start as Anzu. Ducking away from the crowd, Seto found the door that had a small "Groom's Room" sign on the handle. He knocked once, mouth dry.
"Just a sec!"
The familiar voice had changed, but just a little. The cultured, accent-free voice Jou used around the salon had begun to replace Jou's normal, careless tones. Seto felt a pang in his chest.
"Okay, c'mon in!"
Jou looked up from buttoning his cuffs to see the dark shape of Seto in the doorway. His face registered complete surprised joy, and he walked over to fling his arms around the CEO.
Seto returned the hug fiercely, surprised at how glad he was to see Jou, despite the circumstances. The twenty-four year old version of Jou was even more appealing than the teenaged one. The sandy blonde hair had been tamed for the special even, styled neatly. A few rebellious strands still fell in Jou's honey-brown eyes, of which Seto was glad to see hadn't lost their spark. The man stood strong and well-built, as fit as ever, but no longer lanky and awkward.
"Missed you, man." Jou mumbled into Seto's shoulder.
"I missed you as well, Mutt." Seto managed to reply, voice gruff. Jou looked up with a grin, releasing the CEO.
"Now there's one I haven't heard in awhile!" His grin faded a little, and he rubbed his palms on his pant legs nervously. "Whaddyou think? Me, and Ai, getting married?"
"I don't like it." Once the words were out Seto almost clasped a hand to his lips. He hadn't meant to say that aloud.
"What?" Jou took a step back. "You don't like it?"
Might as well keep going, got my foot in my mouth anyways.
"You heard me." Seto swallowed with difficulty. "It's fine you're getting married, just not to Ai."
"What the hell is wrong with Ai?" Jou demanded. Seto wondered for a moment if he was screwing everything up, but brushed the thought away. Too late to stop.
"Not Ai." Seto said softly. "Anyone… Anyone but…"
"Who?" Jou's voice was equally soft.
"Me. I should have never gone away. I should have never let you get away from me. Hell, I should have never let you leave my house after we-"
Jou interrupted, face curiously devoid of emotion. "You're telling me this now?"
"In fifteen minutes, I'm going to walk up that isle, stand and wait for my fiancé to join me, and we're going to get married, and you tell me now that you-"
"That I love you?" Seto broke in, angrily. "Yes, I'm telling you now, because this is what it took to get me to realize just how much I love you. I almost had to lose you, but now I'm here, now I'm telling you. And now it's up to you."
"Up to me?" Jou hissed, looking torn between anger and pain. "I already asked someone to spend their life with me, and you expect me to-"
"I expect nothing but the truth." Seto snapped, the years of board meetings bringing a commanding bite into his tone. "In fifteen minutes, Jounouchi, I will be standing next to you, waiting for you to receive your bride. I will cause you no trouble, and I will act my role." Seto gave a mirthless chuckle. "You should see the best man's speech I had my secretary whip up. I thought she'd be thebest at it- I was hardly in the right frame of mind. It's good; she's quite the romantic."
"After the reception, I'm flying back to Chicago. That is, if you don't want me here." Seto tugged on his lapel, straightening it. "I'll disappear, and you won't have to remember that this conversation ever happened. Your choice."
Jou sat quietly, not meeting Seto's eyes. The CEO turned, and left the room.
The music came to a crescendo, and all eyes turned to the doors. A toddler stumbled onto the white lace carpet, holding a small pillow with two silver rings. A second child followed, flinging flower petals in a picture of perfect serenity. The crowd oohed and ahhed as if on cue.
Then Seto strode forwards, Ai's younger sister on his arm, looking resplendent in a deep wine-colored gown. He had an unreadable expression on his face; he could have been extremely angry or serenely happy. They were followed by Ai's older brother and Serenity, and then Yuugi with Anzu and Honda with one of Ai's friends. And then Jou walked forward, with his fair-haired mother on his arm.
Seto didn't look into the other man's eyes; he was afraid he might forget his promise and make a scene. However, Seto Kaiba didn't make scenes, so he just looked at his shoes.
He could feel Jou's eyes on him, though.
The organist changed thekey, and everyone stood. There in the doorway stood Ai, flanked by her smiling and tearful parents.
Seto saw Jou shift in his peripheral vision.
Ai started forward.
Jou shifted again.
The music swelled.
Everyone in the church did a double take, so no one noticed Seto's.
Jou was panting heavily, looking bewildered and determined all at once. "I'm sorry, Ai, I just- just can't-" Dropping into a mumble, Jou half-turned and darted out of the chapel through a side door.
Seto masked his elated grin, and made motions to Yuugi, Anzu, and Honda, all of whom had started after Jou, to stay put. He turned on his heel and ran after Jou amid the buzz of the congregation.
The blonde hadn't gotten far. Only a corridor and two staircases down away, Jou had pressed his back to the wall, and was sobbing unabashedly. Seto approached him quietly.
"I'll bet you're pleased w'chyself."
Ah. The accent was back.
"I probably jus' broke Ai's heart," Jou roughly passed his palm across his face. "I'm a bastard."
"That makes two of us." Seto said, keeping his voice quiet.
"She always used t'ask if I ever had anyone else, an' I always told her no." Jou was speaking into his hand now, eyes bleak. "So now I left her at t'friggen' alter an' I lied t'her face."
"Seto, shut t'fuck up." Jou didn't even turn to glare at the CEO. "It's all your fuckin' fault."
"You're probably right."
"She'll hate me."
"Everyone will think I'm some kinda fucken' sonofa bitch."
"Maybe not everyone."
Jou did look at him at that. "Okay, everyone but you, Yuug, Honda and Anzu. An' they probably got their doubts."
Seto let his voice grow a little. "What's the point?"
"Damn good thing I think y'might be worth it."
Before Seto could respond, he was pinned to the wall and Jou was drinking his lips in hungrily, pressing himself as close as possible to the other man. Seto, after a split second of shock, returned the favor by allowing Jou's questing tongue to enter his mouth. He wrapped his arms around the smaller man, feeling more at peace than he had in years.
"Why'd y'let me leave that night?" Jou whispered, breath hot on Seto's mouth.
"Why did you let me let you leave?"
"Bastard, putting the blame on somebody else."
Seto smiled, drawing the young man close to him. "Shut up. It's very hard to kiss a person who won't stop babbling."
While the church was in uproar, the bride-to-not-be in tears, and Jou's best friends in complete bewilderment, Jou and Seto found that every once and awhile, changes need to be made.
Yay! Happiness at the end of a story is a good thing! Hope you all enjoyed the story, thanks for those who read, and for those who reviewed.
Yours in fanfiction,
The Authoress, PenPusherM