Disclaimer: Hiss! Not mine! Hiss!
AN: Developed as part of a drabble (100 word fic) giveaway on LiveJournal, though this one is markedly longer than the drabble it was intended to be. The prompt given was: YGO: Kaiba and a random (or not so random) kitten.
A Cat May Look at a King
© Scribbler, June 2007.
Seto had long since developed a means of existing on a diet of coffee and determination rather than food. The upshot of this was a life of catnaps that interrupted his working day. He'd therefore designed his office with a small anteroom, in which was a couch on which he never dreamed. This allowed him to keep going beyond normal working hours, which suited him. He liked the Kaiba Corp. building at night, when everyone had gone home. The lack of human contact allowed him to cut swathes through his paperwork, and Mokuba understood that he needed to work. He always said he did.
Not being with Mokuba was his only regret, and even then Seto never characterised it as such. Regrets were for the feeble-minded. While his devotion to his brother was undeniable, he hadn't let sentiment soften his mind.
Which was why his reaction to the kitten was startling.
It sat in the corridor outside his office. When he opened the door, empty mug in hand, it made no attempt to flee. Instead it met his gaze, as though it had been waiting for him to emerge.
For a long moment they stared, unblinking, at each other. Though he showed no outward sign, Seto was perplexed as to how anything could have found its way up to the fourteenth floor of a closed building. The exits were all regulated by thumb-prints and retinal scans, and he had a direct security feed to his office. A gnat couldn't break in without him knowing.
And yet here was this … thing.
The kitten, despite its size, wasn't fluffy, or cute, or any other such adjective. Kuribohs were cute. Baby booties were cute. Pretty much all things designed to turn Seto's stomach were cute. This ragged bag of bones did nothing of the sort; ergo, it wasn't cute. Instead it was ugly in a knock-kneed, saucer-eyed way. One ear was missing, its coat was patchy with baldness, and it sat on a mangled, corkscrew tail.
And yet it didn't look cowed at this tall two-legger looming over it. Neither did it attempt to wangle passage into the warm room beyond. It just sat there, staring, as if assessing him against criteria known only to itself.
A lesser person may have been unnerved by this. Seto just stared back.
When two and a half minutes had passed this way, he finally frowned and moved towards the kitten. It was probably crawling with fleas and infecting the plush claret carpets.
The kitten didn't move, but it didn't blithely accept his attempts to throw it out, either. The fur on its neck rose, but it made no noise. The warning was entirely silent: Don't even think about touching me.
He noticed the angry red welts around the kitten's neck, as though someone had tried to choke it. He also noticed the way it kept its legs and spine straight to meet his gaze. It was entirely too intelligent a gaze for any animal, much less one so young.
This staring contest lasting only sixty-three seconds.
Seto didn't glance up and down the corridor to make sure nobody was there. That would've implied doubt, and he already knew the last worker had cleared off hours ago. Besides which, if terrorists were using pathetic small animals as decoys then their standards had sunk to an all-time low that a lone businessman could handle – especially if that lone businessman was Seto Kaiba.
He stepped aside. "You might as well come in."
He realised how ridiculous he sounded as soon as he heard his own voice, the only noise other than clicking keys in many hours.
The kitten got up and stalked past him, as though irritated it had taken this long for him to accept the inevitable. It didn't make straight for the radiator, or curl up in the wastepaper basket, but hooked its paws into the handles and dragged itself onto the filing cabinet, where it plunked down on his Duel Disk and began washing its face.
Seto narrowed his eyes.
The kitten kept on washing.
He paused only a moment longer. "If you shit on that I'll toss you out the window."
When he left it shot him a look that hit a nerve, triggering a memory he couldn't quite place in context. He drank his coffee black, but it seemed appropriate to bring the cream back with him and watch as the kitten strolled over and drank its fill like it had always been meant for the high life.
It was bedraggled, orphaned and ugly, but somehow it fitted in with the décor perfectly.
When Reika Tokuma came in the next morning she wasn't surprised to find Mr. Kaiba still there. As his longest-running secretary at four months and fourteen days, it wasn't the first-all-nighter shed seen him pull, nor would it be the last.
What was odd was the Siamese kitten asleep on top of his computer.
Reika had three cats of her own at home, but on her salary she'd never been able to afford a pedigree like a Siamese. This one, however, was nothing like the regal creatures she'd pored over in books and breeding magazines. Its bones stuck out all over, and it had a face like a fist covered in fur. That alone would have made her pause, but seeing it in the office of Seto Kaiba, Mr. Hard Hearted Obsessive Duellist Extraordinaire, left her shell-shocked. She'd always imagined the only small furry creatures Seto Kaiba came into contact with were those caught under his limousine wheels.
Mr. Kaiba gave her exactly three seconds to explain herself before snapping, "It's a cat, Miss Tokuma. Have you never seen one before?"
"Uh, n-no. I mean yes, Mr. Kaiba."
"Then leave the morning mail and get out. You have work to do and I'm not paying you to gawk at things you've already seen."
She did as she was told, trying not to be unnerved by the matching pairs of slitted blue eyes that followed her every move. The kitten had only pretended to be asleep. It was actually very alert, and flicked an ear in her direction as she was reprimanded.
Although a cat lover, Reika took an instant dislike, of the kind she hadn't felt since an exorbitant salary led her to accept this job in spite of its famously difficult director.
She was glad, she thought as she closed the door behind her, that he hadn't been stroking the damn thing. This place was already weird enough to work for, without the boss turning into a Bond villain.
AN: The title is actually an English proverb. It denotes an insolent remark of insubordination, meaning, "I am as good as you", or "Are you too mighty to be spoken to or looked at?" 'You may wear stars and ribbons, and I may be dressed in hodden grey, but a man's a man for a' that' (Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894).