A/N: Heh, so like, this is the first time in a millennia where I've actually written chapters multiple times in different fics under a time span of one day. I've got the inspiration, so why not use it while I still have it? Also, concerning the fact that in IIDA, Seto and Jou are married and intimate while in this fic...they're not, that's gonna be tough on me.
BTW: I'm sure everyone knows that Jou will eventually move into the lesson of kissing, (Cue fangirl screeching), which will be very hot and yummy, though I bet Jou will like it more than Kaiba will, but who knows? Sorry, but that won't be until another two chapters: this one and the next one. I know, I'm pulling your chain, but that was how I organized the fic from the beginning so you can wag your imaginary tails in anticipation until then.
Step 3: Listening Gets the Girl!
Before you wonder vaguely, Seto was too nervous to do the things that he and Jou did with Freya over the course of a few days. He felt that it was too casual. Too intimate.
Then again, that would be admitting that Jou was more intimate with him than his intended woman would be and Seto Kaiba will have none of that floating around his head.
The thought of him and Jou together---hilarious.
It wasn't the issue of being both guys, hell, Yugi's is narcissist with his past self. It couldn't get more freakier than that.
But the fact remained that he allowed Jou to become intimate in touching his person. No doubt the dog's geek squad would go brimming with tears at how the underdog managed to keep the big bad CEO wolf under his thumb was almost sickening. He crudely concerned that maybe there's something in the water that made him weak in the mutt's presence.
Because he enjoyed the warm touch of the rude Katsuya Jounouchi, the soft whispers that the blond would utter into his ear if he thought that Seto was too preoccupied with something else than to listen to his half-baked ideas and the fact that he fell under the spell of comfort with Jou's lean, but soft body snuggled against his.
Something was up with him and he didn't like it one bit.
Despite the fact that all of these conflicting problems with his third-rate rival was only Jou trying to help him win the girl, there was an underlying tone to it, as if Jou enjoyed being in his presence from time to time.
He remembered how Jou's eyes lit up in the restaurant when he enlisted aid from him, as if some sort of whimsical dream was burning alive again. He never studied that gaze then, but it seemed to be more prominent whenever they met up for a lesson.
No. He didn't think he was in love with Jou. That would be irresponsible. He had never experienced love outside family and so could it not be the fact that he enjoyed being with Jou because he was the first who initiated loving contact with him? It was a plausible explanation.
Even as he carefully initiated contact with Freya by gently touching her hand the way that Jou did, he wondered how he can discern his growing attachment to the blond and his nonexistent one with his intended.
Seto sat with Jou in the couch, once again starting another lesson in becoming a suitable lover to Freya. Jou seemed a bit thoughtful and quiet over the last few minutes, which was uncharacteristic of him.
"Pray tell, are you going to start the damn lesson or are you just winging it as we go on?" Kaiba muttered in annoyance at the lack of an answer. Jou was quiet once again, too quiet.
The CEO decided to clutch straws. "Are you still shocked over our last lesson? I'm not the one who initiated the snuggling, mutt, remember that." He felt heat rise in his cheeks when Jou gave him a subtle wink and a knowing grin.
"What the hell was that?" Seto tried to gain what bit of dignity he had left. He wasn't a goddamn girl for Kami sake! "Stop giving me mixed signals!"
"Jeez, chill Kaiba," Jou finally answered at last, sitting back and his grin dimmed a bit. "You're not fun anymore! Don't tell me you took it seriously!"
"I didn't!" Kaiba snarled back. "Why should I? You're far from my type."
Jou merely shrugged, though his demeanor seemed more resigned than usual. "If you think that I was too clingy, sorry. I was imagining you as my ex-girlfriend."
"..." This unsettled Kaiba, maybe even a bit more depressed at the fact that he substituted him for whatever chick he had last. He was almost sure that Jou's blatant show of affection was of his own accord.
The conversation ended on a depressing note like that. Neither of them wanted to vocally claim that they enjoyed the contact from a few days ago. Maybe more Seto than Jou.
"Let's put that behind us and move on, ne?" Jou piped up cheerfully, but even Kaiba could tell that it was forced. "On to step three! Listening Gets the Girl!"
Jou playfully patted the annoyed CEO on his mahogany head. "We're going to quickly work on your conversation skills! Now I know that you're the super silent type, so we're not going to work on listening as much as your speaking. We're going to have a meaningful conversation!"
Kaiba fixed his hair right. "What do you mean, 'meaningful'?"
The blond scratched his head. "Well, you know. Talk about our lives because it's a sense that you are willing to integrate your life with your girlfriend and want to get to know her better. Now, you've got to listen up. There are a couple things you need to be wary of while you start these conversations. Number one, talk about her hobbies and things that accentuate her character---"
"Another big word, mutt?" Kaiba smirked. "I'd better watch out or you might suck the intelligence out of me."
Jou mock-glared. "Yeah, yeah. As if I'd suck anything out of you anytime soon."
The blond might not have acknowledged the double innuendo, but Kaiba did. He turned away out of sheer embarrassment and the fact that he was now blushing like mad. Something a Kaiba should never do. "Just hurry the hell up with your stipulations or get out of my room!"
"Yeah, that's what she said," Jou taunted and then returned to their lesson. "Anyway, before I was RUDELY interrupted...Number two, talk about her family, where she lived, school, etc. Women like to talk so let them and if they start to bore you, just quietly nod every seven seconds while you daydream. That way, they'll think you're listening. Number three, do not press on about matters that put pressure on her. She'll think you're nosy. And number four, integrate her talk with yours. Compare similar memories you both have to prove that you went through the same thing with her."
"I'm assuming that you want to share your life's shitty problems with me?" Kaiba rose an eyebrow, unperturbed that they would have to talk about each other's lives. Since every lesson has been with the both of them interacting, Seto could've sworn that Jou was using this excuse to get closer to him.
He didn't mind, though. But he'd never admit it out loud.
"Duh, do you have a brain? Who else you gonna do it with? Your butler?" Kaiba cringed at the idea of snuggling with his sixty-something year old butler.
Silence returned to the lit room and Kaiba wondered if Jou was going to take the initiative with this damned conversation, until it became apparent that Jou wanted Kaiba to start.
Growling down his throat he looked Jou squarely in the eye. "So, where'd you get that scar?" He hadn't meant that to become the head topic of the conversation, but he couldn't help seeing the marred groove going down the side of the blond's neck. He had especially seen it with their scandalous snuggle-fest before and couldn't help but become curious of it.
As if automatic, Jou's face became sober-like and he put his hand near his neck as if trying to remember where he got it. "Some thugs were after my sister when we were young. I attacked the sick bastards but got the brunt of one of their switchblades. The doctor was relieved because the cut was so close to the main artery, I could've died from excessive bleeding." He then shrugged. "That was when my mother used that event against my dad and I. She really wanted to take Shizuka away from me. Thought me and dad were bad influences on her, but it was only because she had a lover on the side and wanted to be with him."
Seto could sympathize. He'd do anything for his brother, even take the knife for him. That was when he remembered something. "I've had a similar experience."
When Jou blinked in confusion, Kaiba resolved to lift up his dress shirt to show him. Jou watched with wide eyes when Seto lifted the shirt enough to expose his taut stomach with a burn the shape of 'KC' on the left of his abdomen.
"What the hell?" Jou leaned forward to take a closer look at it. It was fairly old from the looks of it, you could only tell from the fact that the burn was a color lighter than the rest of Seto's skin and you can see some of the marred skin damage due to the scorch.
Kaiba almost felt irritated to recall the memory. "Gozaburo wanted sell Mokuba to his business partners in order to gain their trust and companies. I wouldn't let him and pushed Mokuba away before he got branded. The poker hit me instead and I compromised him with a challenge. If he gave me a portion of his stocks to Kaiba Corp, I could make a hundred times the amount by the end of the year to prove my worth as his successor, therefore preventing Mokuba from selling himself. He agreed and I obtained the amount in one day."
Jou whistled. Talk about ruthless. "Can I touch it?" It seemed almost embarrassing to ask, but he felt the instinctual need to make it go away.
He was met with a raised eyebrow from Kaiba but he gave him a slow nod and Jou tentatively touched the too smooth burn with a brush of his fingers.
Seto flinched a bit at the touch. He'd never had it touched before, not even himself. It was too degrading to try. He felt almost lightheaded when Jou traced it as if the blond was trying to melt the taint away from it. It became nearly unbearable and Seto felt some sort of animalistic need to pull Jou toward him and lick the blond's knife scar. It felt appropriate to do so in his train of thinking and almost did it too until Jou pulled back, satisfied with his curiosity.
The brunet felt ashamed and berated himself with such thinking. This was the mutt he was thinking about!
"Aside from Gozaburo, do you remember your real parents?" Seto was glad for Jou's change in subject.
"A little," Kaiba admitted. "Mokuba doesn't though. Mother died giving birth to him and Father died in a car accident a couple years later. Our relatives used up the inheritance and dropped us off in a orphanage when they had no use for us. Mokuba looks a lot like Mother, her hairstyle and demeanor. But his dark hair and eyes came from Father because he was full Japanese. He met Mother in America while on a business trip. She was a drifter singer in a cafe." Kaiba proceeded to lift a picture from his wallet and dutifully handed it to Jou.
Jou saw three people happily standing with each other in the old picture, one of them a child who looked like Seto. The child looked around five years old and was cheerily in his father's arm who had dark hair and eyes. The man's other arm was around the shoulders of a benign looking woman who indeed had Mokuba's hairstyle but the hair color was mahogany like Seto's and cerulean blue eyes which Seto had also inherited. She was cradling her stomach, which was obviously large and well into pregnancy.
"They look happy." That was all Jou had to say, though his tone was whimsical with sympathy. No doubt that things went downhill after this picture and he stared almost imploringly at the five year old Seto as if trying to interpret to a mere image that he should keep his carefree smile always. He knew that Kaiba could never smile like that again, not the way his life turned out to be. His eyes began to well up and he returned the picture silently. "Sorry."
"It's not as if it was your fault that reality hits people differently," Seto answered gruffly as he returned it back into his wallet. "You've had far worse than me, I'm sure." It was true, at least his parents genuinely loved him and Mokuba despite the little time they had in the living. Jou's parents were still living and they both hated Jou just because he lived. Maybe even Shizuka too if Jou's mother is just using her to get back at Jou and his father.
Both Seto and Jou came to the realization that their family life was as opposite as could be, but led to the same heartbreak.
Jou only shrugged. "I think it's pretty normal for me. I thought it was always normal for the parents to hate their kid."
"That's ridiculous," Seto testified evenly. "What the hell did you do to make them hate you?"
"I don't know. I think Mom being pregnant with me at the time forced the two to marry, maybe. There are lots of clues that I picked up about Mom being engaged to some wealthy guy and she had a one-night stand with Dad. Her fiance dumped her after finding out and she had to settle with Dad who was a drunken, pot-smoking, irresponsible adult. And I think Dad hated her because she kept putting out or something like that. That, or she kept degrading him no matter how hard he tried to provide for his family. And I'm not even sure if Shizuka is my biological sister or half, considering she looks nothing like Dad and barely like Mom." Jou poured out his insecurities to Seto like an open book. He never planned to go that deep into his life.
He could see Seto watching him with undivided attention, far from being unconcerned by his rivals woes. "Do you think that that's the reason why you try so hard to beat Yugi and I?"
"Part of it, maybe," Jou proceeded to stretch the part of his neck that was growing a kink. "I'm sick and tired of being called worthless, you know?" He sat back and looked up, unwilling to meet eyes with the CEO. "I just keep telling myself that someday, people would look back and say, 'Look at Katsuya Jounouchi now. He's not in drugs or gangs or in jail as we thought he'd be down the line', ya know? I want to be worthy to someone, even if it does sound cheesy."
It wasn't really. Seto realized that he never knew this other side of Jou. Behind the happy-go-lucky smile and intense attitude was only merely a defense mechanism to emotional abuse. There are few who are gifted enough to walk away from self destruction and he had to admit it. Jou was one of those kind of people.
"I...think you've made it this far without fail," Kaiba said quietly, looking away out of sheer embarrassment. "You give yourself too little credit."
That was when Jou smiled which was oddly enough strange. The smile seemed to be of relief and was glowing much brighter than all his other smiles in the past. Like a great burden was off his chest at last.
It was a beautiful smile, even from another man's point of view this was true. It was a smile deep inside, he'd been waiting to see from the blond. Something he was unconsciously waiting for all this time.
"So..." Jou's smile dimmed a bit, which disappointed Seto for some reason. "What do you like to do, aside from being a mean person?"
"Ha. Ha." Seto answered back blandly. "You're a comedian. I'm only mean when I have to."
Jou rolled his eyes. "And that's everyday...?"
"Must you be stupid?" Kaiba glared. "As a matter of fact, I have hobbies too."
"Alright, let's hear them," Jou leaned forward, head on his hands in interest. "And you can't say reading or stupid junk like that. I've heard of them already. Something that would make me go, 'Holy Crap'."
Kaiba's glare never wavered, but then settled into a grim facade. "..."
Jou held his hand to his ear as if he couldn't hear anything. "What was that? Your mumbling, sonny!"
"...I can dance."
The blond then sat back. "Well, that was boring. Anybody can wave their bodies around stupidly and call it a dance."
"Stupid, I can do themed dances," Kaiba growled indignantly. "I'm good at Salsa."
"No shit? Like Tango and the Macarena? Come on, tell me the truth!" Jou denied this claim with the shaking of his head. "Dude, I heard you've gotta have personality to those kind of dances and you're kinda lacking in that department."
Kaiba threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. "Son of a...!" He then abruptly stood up and strode to a surprised Jou. He grabbed the blond's arm roughly to his feet and pulled him from the couch.
"Hey, Kaiba! I was joking, okay! Don't have a cow, I was joking!" Jou pleaded, afraid that Kaiba was planning on kicking his ass or worse---firing him.
"Shut up, mutt," Seto muttered as he righted Jou as straight as possible and proceeded to grab Jou's right hand with his left and used his free hand to set Jou's other free hand on his shoulder then rested this arm around the freaked out blond's waist.
"What the hell, dude?!" Jou shrieked as he was literally swept off his feet with Kaiba's demanding, but elegantly fluent dancing. At one point did their pelvis' crushed during a rather tricky maneuver which caused Jou to blush profusely.
At the end of this dance, Seto climaxed with a dip, causing Jou to nearly fall backwards in surprise. Seto promptly dropped the stricken Jou on the couch and sat on the other end, rather embarrassed at the brunt of what he just did.
It was after a few minutes that Jou regained a sense of self and blinked at the annoyed CEO.
Jou excitedly moved closer to the irate brunet with shoulders shaking with laughter. "You weren't joking! That was cool! Totally made me evaluate your judge of character!"
"Shut up," Kaiba muttered without remorse. Though he felt rather pleased at the compliment.
Another silence swept by as they both tried to gather up what little dignity they had left. Seto broke the silence with an uttered word. "Well?"
Jou blinked. "Well what?"
"I just embarrassed the shit out of me with my dancing! The least you can do is give me an equally disturbing hobby to compensate!" Kaiba snarled without any malice in it's undertones.
"Oh." The blond rubbed the back of his neck as if trying to think of something and then grinned. "Do you really want to know?"
"Absolutely." No holds barred.
He watched in a startled state as Jou proceeded to take his tie that was lounging with his jacket on the side of the couch and proceeded to tie his hands with it.
After a minute or two, Jou finished and raised his tied hands above his head, which had illicit the narrowing eyes of the CEO.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Jou only grinned at him in a truly lecherous way. "Do you know bondage?"
Kaiba promptly left the room. He now understood the saying of 'Don't ask, don't tell'.
Seto lounged thoughtfully on his bed, his thoughts immersed so deeply he refused to work, which was a rare occurance. He took in the earlier evening's conversation and decided that things were going a little off plan. He was getting to know Jou too much. So much, that now it's affecting him both personal and on a business level.
He understood, though, of Jou's disposition. He was a man who backed up anybody he was loyal too, only in the process of doing it, he's sacrificing himself in the end. It was almost tragic, really. A rare personality only to be shunned by everyone around him to only be left in the background. No climax in his life to look forward to.
At least, in his case, he had worked himself to the point of no return and had gotten what he wanted out of it. Jou was a hair short of any personal gain so far in his life. Seto now realized of how wistful it must be to be in the mutt's shoes.
Jou was that type of person. That little ounce of hope that was locked in Pandora's box as the world was shrouded in darkness, being refused to save the world with its blinding power. He was the pedestal of undiluted greatness: to bring those up but never himself.
Jou didn't know it, but there are many people who relied on his personal strength. He was Yugi's shield, Shizuka's protector, his friends' middle ground. To him, he was...
...what was he to Seto Kaiba?
He remembered taking one glance at Jou during dinnertime. He returned the glance with a telltale smirk that spoke of rivalry and playfulness. A stark contrast to Seto's blunt nature. But, in the end, it was something to look forward to everyday. He would force Seto Kaiba out of his shell of solitude and taunt him to do something more out there; open his eyes to new sensations whether he wanted to or not.
Yes, Jou was his fire. A beautiful yet spiteful personality that was comforting to just watch but to come too close would burn you badly. It was a perfect comparison. Jou was like fire, something you couldn't tame or bend to your will by force. You have to coax it, gain it's trust and trust it in return as it slowly consumes you in it's intense heat.
Seto was ice and Jou was fire. Therefore, it was concluded that their personalities were too radical, too opposite to merge together as one. Jou could only consume him, destroying him along a path of flames. And Seto would only trap him within the confines of the frozen tundra that was slowly eradicating his soul, dampening that tantalizing fire until it was only a spark of it's former self.
At least, that was what Seto wanted to believe. This growing attachment to the blond could only be interpreted as an insatiable need of companionship, to have something absolutely forbidden in his arms and admitting victory yet also defeat at the same time. It wasn't love because he couldn't understand love.
Maybe he never would. Everything was for the sake of compliance with others, not for himself. If he had it his way, he'd never be with anybody. Only immerse himself with his machines, his passion resonating with them: none.
And yet, somewhere, he was begging. Begging for something to spark within him. Waiting for an impossible influence to break this self-loathing chain and free him.
Was there anyone in the world that can do it? No. There was no one in this world that could.
He never realized that he never saw Jou as something materialized in this world. In his eyes, Jou was an ethereal spirit inside a body housed by hate of this world. Was it enough to break the cycle?
This train of thought went on for hours and Seto knew that if he couldn't get any sleep now, he'd regret it the next day so he forced himself to sleep. The only conclusion he could come up with was to follow the plan as always. Ignore that nagging feeling when he was in the blond's presence and hope that Freya would be enough to cover it all up.
It was futile, to a normal person's eyes. But then again, Seto was never normal.
A/N: This is what you get when you listen to the Final Fantasy Advent Children soundtrack while writing.
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