Title: Naked Truth
Pairing (s): Seto x Jounouchi
Spoilers: End of series
Disclaimer: I do not own or profit from Yu-gi-oh!
Summary: After being left behind by the rest of his friends as they go off to college all over the world, Jounouchi Katsuya finds that forging a friendship with Kaiba Seto isn't such an impossible task. But as their friendship deepens and both teens realize an attraction for each other, will they be pulled apart by someone who wants the blond teen all for himself?
Jounouchi Katsuya drummed his fingers on top of the glass display case that doubled as a counter in the Kami Game Shop. It was mid-September, and now that school was in session, the late mornings and afternoons were all but dead until classes let out for the day.
He sighed, absently paging through one of the gaming magazines that Sugoroku sold at the store, while wondering what his friends were doing at that exact moment in time. Anzu, who'd gone off to America on a dance scholarship would more than likely be asleep. Yuugi would probably be studying after a long day at a dig in the Valley of the Kings, or entertaining his Grandpa, who'd only been able to wait two weeks before visiting his young charge, and Honda was probably just returning home from a marathon pub-crawl. His parents had shipped him off to Great Britain in the hopes that, away from his friends, he'd knuckle down and study hard. Yeah, right, Jounouchi snorted. If the barrage of emails and IM conversations they'd engaged in was any indication, Honda was having the time of his life out from under his parents' collective thumb. Jounouchi was beset with a fit of envy over his best friends' good fortune-which had taken them far beyond the city limits that he was stuck in-that slowly dissipated into the diffuse sense of loneliness that had enveloped him since he'd seen Yuugi off at the airport. He knew that in the end, he only had himself to blame. He could have worked diligently to improve his grades and secure a scholarship somewhere, anywhere away from the confines of Domino and his alcohol-dependent father, but he'd squandered that opportunity in favor of dueling tournaments, hanging out with his friends, and helping Yuugi untangle the mysteries of the Millennium Puzzle. He felt a pang of remorse for being envious of his diminutive friend; his feelings of abandonment paled in comparison to Yuugi's, who'd left his other self behind when they'd returned from their adventures in Egypt.
As the late afternoon slid into early evening, Jounouchi began to straighten up the shelves and put things back in order before closing for the night. The afternoon had been incredibly slow; he'd only had three customers, and had spent most of his alone time reading some of the adult manga titles that Grandpa stocked. He knew he should relish these quiet weeks before all the new gaming titles were released; he'd seen the promotional sheets from Kaiba Corp and Industrial Illusions, and it looked like this holiday shopping season was going to be a busier time than usual at the Game Shop, he'd counted no less than five must-have titles between the two competitors. He had his back to the door and was just replacing one of the novels he'd been perusing on the high shelf behind the counter where Grandpa kept them safely out of reach, when he heard the bell tinkle on the front door to the shop. Great, he thought dejectedly, five minutes to closing and a customer shows up. He imagined it would be some parent, desperate to find a game for their kid, completely at a loss as to what its name was, or what its objective was. Not that knowing the objective would be much help as the market was flooded with titles that were knock-offs of each other. So much for an early dinner and hours of aimless channel surfing before working up the courage to pop in one of Grandpa's porn DVDs, he thought. Up to this point, he'd been convinced that Sugoroku had somehow rigged his stash, and would know that his erstwhile employee and house sitter had been snooping and had found them if they were removed from the secret hiding place.
"Jounouchi? Is that you?" He turned around and stared at the stranger who'd just walked into the store. It took him a moment to recognize Kaiba Mokuba, and he was certain his mouth gaped dumbly for a few moments before he broke into a wide grin.
"Mokuba?" He asked, astonished. The young teen who stood in front of him barely resembled the boy he'd last seen just a few months ago at Yuugi's graduation party. Mokuba must have grown nearly fifteen centimeters over the summer; he was now within a couple of centimeters of his own height. The childish roundness of his face had thinned into angular planes, and he'd become every bit as handsome as his older brother, Seto. Jounouchi remembered that he'd heard that the younger Kaiba sibling had spent the summer abroad in the US. As he stood there looking at the younger sibling, Jounouchi was reminded too that even though Kaiba Seto had remained behind in Japan to commandeer his company, the blond not seen hide nor hair of his classmate since graduation. Not that they'd had any reason to cross paths or keep in touch, he thought bleakly. "If you're looking for Yuugi, he's-"
"No," Mokuba said quickly, smiling brightly. "I was looking for you! I came here to see if Yuugi knew how to get a hold of you."
Flattered that his young friend had sought him out, Jounouchi's grin broadened into a full-fledged smile and the funk that he'd been in lifted somewhat. "Well, ya found me."
"Jounouchi, where is everyone? When I got back from vacation, this place was like a ghost town." The black-haired youth remarked, pulling up a stool opposite the counter from Jounouchi.
"Hold on a minute, let me put the closed sign up. Can you stay for a while?" Jounouchi called over his shoulder.
"Yeah," Mokuba replied, then added wistfully, "I've got no place to be."
"Your brother's just as busy as he always was?" Jounouchi nodded sympathetically.
"Yeah, I thought now that he was done with school ... things would be different, y'know?"
Jounouchi came around the counter and sat back down. "Yeah," he shrugged, "But didja really expect them to be? Half the time he was supposed ta be at school he was at the office, an' you've seen the release schedule?"
Mokuba nodded. "Yeah, I guess though when the gang was here, it wasn't so ..."
"You mean you're lonely too?"
Jounouchi shrugged. "Who wouldn't be? I spent every day of the last four years hanging with those guys. Hey, I've got an idea, how 'bout I make you something ta eat, we can catch up, and then we can play some games after. I'm staying here until Grandpa gets back from Egypt."
While he fixed them both dinner, Jounouchi filled Mokuba in on the latest news of the gang, and Mokuba regaled the blond with his summer exploits stateside. After they finished eating, Mokuba crammed through his homework assignments while Jounouchi tidied up, and then the two teens spent the evening snacking and playing various titles. When they tired of gaming, Jounouchi could see that the younger teen wasn't ready to call it a night, and he being happy for the company, was reluctant for it to end as well, even though he could feel the tiredness from spending the day bored and alone creeping up on him. "You want to watch a movie?"
"Go pick something out, and I'll grab us some snacks." Jounouchi said, ambling into the kitchen. He threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave, and as it cooked, heard the other boy loading the DVD player. He came back in to see the opening credits of 'Saw.' "A horror flick?" He shuddered visibly.
"What's the matter, are you scared?" The black-haired teen teased. "I'll protect you," he said, wrapping his arm around Jounouchi's shoulders and pulling him close.
"I'm not scared, I-I was ... just in the mood for a little comedy." Jounouchi replied, extricating himself from the embrace. He placed the popcorn and two sodas on the coffee table and then sat down on the futon. "Besides, I don't think your brother would like it if I let you watch an R movie-"
"We've watched it together, Jounouchi. He even told me how all the special effects were made." Mokuba explained patiently, as he plopped down next to the older teen.
"Kinda takes the mystery out of it, though, don't it? Why don'tcha pick out something funny ... like 'Scary Movie?'" He asked hopefully. Despite his swagger, he detested horror films.
"C'mon Jou, it's not that bad. I never took you to be a scaredy cat." The raven-haired youth smirked.
"Then bring it on," the blond said with a little more conviction, rising to the challenge. "We'll see who's covering their eyes by the end-"
"Oh, I've seen this movie like eight times already."
"Great," Jounouchi sighed, and grabbed a handful of popcorn. He turned to the screen, and pretty soon both teens were silently watching the movie.
Despite secretly being terrified at the prospect of viewing the thriller, Jounouchi soon found it hard to keep his eyes open, and gradually his body leaned against his young friend. He fought against sleep valiantly until his eyes fluttered closed and he drifted into a fitful slumber. Mokuba, sensing the older teen's weight shift against him, nestled closer to Jounouchi, and pulled a nearby throw over each of them, and, finding it hard to keep his own eyes open, he soon joined the older teen.
The next thing Jounouchi knew, he was being awakened roughly. "Oh shit, Jou! I have to get home, Seto is going to kill me!" Mokuba cried out in a panic, pushing Jounouchi's head off of his shoulder and jumping to his feet. "We both fell asleep and it's close to midnight! I have to call my driver!" Mokuba reached for his cell while the older teen collected his thoughts and stared at the other for a few seconds. Kaiba must have him on some kind of a curfew, he decided.
"I'll give you a ride, Mokie. Gramps lent me his car while he's away, and it'll be faster if I just drive you home."
"Thanks, Jounouchi! Are you sure it's okay?"
"Yeah, I'll even take the heat from your brother," he added with more bravado than he felt.
"You're the best! But, he'll probably just be relieved that I wasn't kidnapped or something." Mokuba replied, laughing nervously.
"D'ya want to call him first? Let him know you're on your way?" The blond asked, grabbing the car keys.
"Nah. If I'm lucky he probably hasn't even missed me yet. He's been beta-testing into the early morning hours every night this week."
"Alright, well let's get ya home before you turn into a pumpkin." Jounouchi ruffled the other boy's hair.
"It was really fun hanging out with you tonight, Jounouchi." Mokuba commented on the ride home.
Jounouchi smiled. "Yeah it was. It's been kind of lonely this summer without you."
"You mean that? You missed me?" Mokuba asked, doubtfully.
Jounouchi thought about it a moment. "Yeah, we did. You're fun ta have around, kiddo."
"I'm not a kid anymore," Mokuba replied, pouting.
Jounouchi glanced over at his young friend. "You're right," he agreed, momentarily dazed by the similarity between Mokuba's profile and his brother's. It reminded the blond how different his young friend was from the last time they'd been together. "So how is school going?"
Mokuba shrugged. "It's alright, but I don't have any friends there. You guys were my only friends."
"None at all?" Jounouchi asked incredulously, but then thinking about it, he realized that the only times he'd ever seen Mokuba had been when he was hanging out with them or with Seto. "It must be hard making new friends in your position." He'd never seen the kid hanging out at the mall or arcades with anyone his age either.
"What do you mean by that?" Mokuba asked suspiciously.
"Well, ya never know why they want to be your friends. Is it the money, or because they'll be in the know when Kaiba Corp issues a game, or get a good slot in a tournament."
"You guys were never like that. You wanted just to be our friends, and even though my brother denies it, I think he knew that too."
Jounouchi eased the car up to the estate gates. "Okay, I guess this is the end of the road, Mokie." He didn't want to think about what Kaiba Seto thought about him or Yuugi or the rest of the gang. The brunet had always been rather upfront about that.
"Just press that button, and let me talk," Mokuba directed Jounouchi's attention to a post that rose to window level on the driver's side.
After he pressed the button, an electronic voice demanded 'Name please.'
"Kaiba Mokuba." The gates swung open, allowing the car to pass. "Voice recognition," Mokuba answered Jounouchi's unspoken question as the blond inched the car up the lighted drive.
Jounouchi noticed the front door to the mansion swinging wide as he pulled up to the house, and Kaiba Seto stormed out calling, "Mokuba, where the hell-" He stopped in his tracks when he recognized Jounouchi at the wheel of the car. "Hello, Jounouchi," he said stiffly, his eyes boring through the blond. Jounouchi stared at the brunet in shock, even in the dim light he could see deep rings under Kaiba's eyes; Mokuba hadn't been exaggerating when he'd said that Kaiba had been working nearly around the clock.
"Kaiba." Jounouchi nodded, before his unabashed staring crossed into rudeness. "Mokuba stopped by the Game Shop-"
Ignoring the blond, Kaiba turned to his brother. "You should know enough to call me and let me know-"
"I didn't think you'd miss me." Mokuba said defiantly as he exited the car.
Kaiba rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. "Stop acting so childishly. You know that I'm under a lot of pressure to keep to the release schedule. I can't be worrying-"
"About me." Mokuba continued. "So I got out of your hair. You should be happy I wasn't around pestering you."
"Mokuba," Kaiba's voice softened. "Things will get better after the holidays."
"No they won't Seto! They never do, there's always something else, some new project to test."
"Mokie," Jounouchi interrupted, "You know your brother has your best interests at heart." He couldn't believe that he was defending Kaiba, but he understood the older teen's sense of responsibility to his sibling included keeping Kaiba Corp on the cutting edge.
"I can't believe you're taking his side!" The young teen exclaimed. He ran toward the open front door, but Jounouchi was out of the car in a shot and easily overtook him. "Mokuba, wait!" Jounouchi said, grabbing the teen's arm. "It's not about taking sides. I'm an older brother too! Don'tcha see, everything he does is for you-"
"Stop it! All I want is for him to spend some time with me!" Tears welled in Mokuba's eyes. "Let me go!" He added, struggling against the blond's grip, and Jounouchi sensed the teen was embarrassed by his emotional outburst.
"Not before you agree to come by the Game Shop again. Soon." Jounouchi cajoled. He smiled at the teen's astonished expression. "I meant it, I had fun tonight. And maybe we could keep each other company," he glanced over at Kaiba as if seeking approval, "Until your brother has some more spare time."
"You wouldn't mind that?" Kaiba asked, much to the blond's surprise.
"No, I wouldn't. I was just saying to Mokie that I had fun hanging with him tonight," he answered, once again focusing on the younger teen.
Mokuba's response was instantaneous. He wrapped his arms around the slender teen and hugged him tightly. "You mean it?"
"Yes," Jounouchi gasped. "Now can ya let me go? I can't breathe."
"Oh, sorry, Jounouchi!" Mokuba stepped away. "So I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Jounouchi grinned. "You know where ta find me."
"Good night, Jounouchi! Good night Seto!" The teen called over his shoulder as he ran inside.
"Mokuba, we still need to ... talk about this." Kaiba mumbled, knowing that his brother was already out of hearing range.
Jounouchi stood there awkwardly for a few moments, before deciding to leave. As he brushed by Kaiba, he mumbled, "G'night," but was stopped in his tracks when the brunet teen grabbed his arm.
"Are you okay with him hanging around?" The brunet asked quietly.
Surprised at the tentative tone in the normally confident voice, Jounouchi response was equally soft. "Yeah, it's kinda nice having him around."
"You'll let me know if he becomes a nuisance?" Kaiba's eyes locked with Jounouchi's and the blond felt as if he were a deer caught in the headlights. He nodded his head slowly. "Goodnight, Jounouchi. Safe home." The brunet said, letting go of the blond. Jounouchi watched the taller teen disappear into the house. He stood there for a few moments, a puzzled expression knitting his brow, before climbing back into the car.
"Goodnight, Kaiba." He said belatedly.
As he drove back to the Game Shop, he pondered the fact that Kaiba had actually been ... not exactly nice, but ... civil. That was the word that could best describe the first exchange with the brunet in the blond's memory that hadn't ended with one or the other hurling insults or fists.