Insider Trading chapter 3 part 3
Joey woke up, wondered why he was still in bed, remembered what had happened and groaned. He had a lot of work to do in a very short time and he'd wasted quite a bit of it.
Seto stuck his head in the door and announced, "I know what you're thinking and forget it. You needed the sleep just as much as I did. Breakfast in the executive dining room. Then we'll find you a studio near the ... and why by the way aren't you using your studio up here?"
Joey laughed softly at the abrupt change, Seto was very good at that sort of thing and Joey was used to keeping up with him. "Because it isn't set up for that sort of art. I don't own a marker, or a pencil. So it's easier for me to use a different studio, set up for this kind of art. Any empty office down in the B3 level will do. I don't intend to move in, just borrow it long enough to get this job done. Now, feed me, find me a studio or cubby or whatever and let me get to work."
Seto just led the way to breakfast, brunch or lunch, depending on your opinion. Joey shoveled eggs onto his toast, piled bacon on top and added the other piece of toast. He shoved half of the impromptu sandwich into his mouth and chewed vigorously, gulped coffee and walked off with the other half of the sandwich in his hand. Seto shook his head and made a call.
Joey stepped off the elevator licking grease off his fingers. Since he'd just picked up the clothing he'd stripped off before dropping into bed, he looked good, if a bit rumpled. He noticed the eyes following him through the bull pen.
As he approached the main desk the lady sitting there stood. "Hello, Katsuya-sama, this way. I took the liberty of setting up for you. If there's anything you need that's not there, just ask. I also got your first illustration brought there."
Joey just nodded absently, already thinking of what he needed to do to his art. "Thanks. Tea?"
"At once ... um ... and thank you for taking this on at the last minute. I know it's going to be very hard to make the deadline. If there's anything we can do to help, let me know."
Joey took off his coat and hung it on a hook on the wall and shoved the stool to the drafting board. He plopped down on the stool and examined the card affixed to the board. Last night's efforts had it about three quarters done. He leaned back a bit, getting back in the mind set to work.
The next time he looked up, he was done with the inking. He'd made color notes right on the work, in pencil so that it could be erased.
"Oh, goody, you're done with one." Joey nearly hit the woman before he realized that she wasn't a threat. "Sorry, didn't mean to make you jump like that. But ... this is great. And color notes. Um ... I'm Ayami, your color artist. I'm really good, you see. So they thought that it would make things go faster if I colored the line art so you could go on to the next card. That's ok, isn't it?"
Joey looked at her for a moment then nodded. "You can work in here. That way if there's any question, you don't have to run me down. You need anything?"
"No. I'll just go get my box. I like to work flat so the desk over there would be perfect. Ok?"
"Sure, whatever." Joey was already thinking of the next card he needed to draw. He'd realized the minutehe'd seen the specs that he'd just been really lucky on the first card. He'd have to be careful on the next two, as they'd been described rather carefully in the spec sheet. He put another piece of paper on the drafting board and started to sketch.
Ayami eased in the door quietly so as not to startle Joey again. She started to color the card, glancing at the notes to be sure to get the colors right. She interrupted Joey once, to ask what color he wanted something and again to tell him that the borders were standardized so she couldn't follow his notes on it. Joey only glanced up the first time.
He finished the sketch of the second card and started to ink. When he was done with that he turned to Ayami to ask her if she was done with the first work. She was and showed it to him. He liked it very much and told her so. She took the second piece and started out the door.
"Hey! Where are you going? I thought you were going to color here."
Ayami smiled. "We always copy the original line art. I'll just copy this and be right back."
Joey nodded, already turning back to his work.
The next time Joey looked up it was because someone was tapping on the door frame. He was ready to snarl until he realized that it was Seto, with food. His stomach gave a loud growl just as he was ready to greet his lover. Ayami eyed Seto with a slightly dazed look on her face.
"Miss ... Your name please?" Seto gave Ayami a sharp look.
"Ayami-chan. I'm so sorry. It's just that you startled me. You never come down here unless something's wrong. Is something wrong? Can I help?"
Seto glanced at Joey who made the hand sign for 'take it easy' Seto nodded. "Something is wrong, and you're helping fix it. Actually two things are wrong. The second is, I miss my lover. If you'd like, you may prepare yourself a plate and take it into the bull pen to eat."
Ayami-chan gave Seto another, even more dazed look and picked up a plate. She loaded it with a selection of sushi, poured soya in a small dish and bowed herself out the door. Seto smiled at Joey.
"Oh, damn, she took your plate with her." Joey glanced at the open door then turned back to Seto. "I guess I'll just have to feed you off mine." Joey stretched out his foot to kick the door closed.
"Damn, that's too bad. I'll just muddle through somehow."
They both laughed softly. Seto pulled out the desk chair and Joey lowered the stool until they were seated at the same height. Seto picked up a piece of sushi and dipped it in soya with a little wasabi mixed in. He held it over a small dish and guided it to Joey's mouth. Joey opened up and accepted the food with a sigh.
Seto took a bite for himself while Joey was chewing. Then he gave Joey another. It went like that until the sushi was gone. After that Seto gave Joey his own bowl of rice and another set of chopsticks.
"Liar." Joey accused, but without much heat.
"Got me what I wanted, didn't it?" Seto didn't bother to look penitent, he wasn't.
"Suppose so. You better get going. I'm sure you're needed at your office. And I need to finish this, like now. The dead line is looming."
"It's not until tomorrow afternoon."
"Don't care, I'd like to have a little pad, in case something goes wrong. So scoot. I'll see you tonight, sometime. Suki da."
"Suki da. I'll come down to get you if you stay much past midnight."
Seto gathered up the remains of the food and pushed the cart into the bull pen.
Ayami returned and she and Joey went back to work.
They finished at 9:pm with plenty of time to spare. Joey stretched and cracked his back. Ayami rubbed the back of her neck and sighed.
"Well, that's that. Thank goodness. I'm exhausted. I'm going home and die. I swear, I don't know what that idiot was thinking. And who let him get a contract like that anyway. Someone in legal needs a good kick in the rump."
Joey shrugged. "That's oneof the things Seto told me about while we were eating. Seems that guy is the nephew of one of the secretaries. She managed to type the contract herself, instead of using one of the standard ones. She's out the door, as well as the man who didn't read it before having smart guy sign it. Seto's doing a real house cleaning in legal. Things went sideways a little too easily. The board of directors is in for a good reaming too. But you didn't hear that from me. I'm really tired or I'd never have said anything."
Ayami smiled gently. "Said anything about what? I'm too tired to remember some random ramblings. The coloring needs to dry just a bit. I'll leave a note for my boss and be on my way."
Joey nodded. "I'll tell Seto that it's done, just before I fall into bed and die. Good night."
Joey made his way to the penthouse, grumbling about having to take one elevator to the main floor and then get a guard to open the private elevator because he'd forgotten his key card.
"Seto, I'm home. Is there anything quick to eat?"
Seto came out of the kitchen with a container of carry in noodles in his hand. "Just this. I got it from the dining room. There's plenty. They sent up several different kinds. Come on, you look exhausted. I'll pour you some tea."
Joey plopped down on the nearest chair and sighed. "Man, that was something else. I'm bushed. Is there any sesame shrimp?"
"Yes, they know that it's one of your favorites. After you eat, take a shower and get to bed. I'll be along as soon as I clean up."
Joey just stuffed food into his mouth, gulped some tea and went to shower. He fell into the bed and was sleeping almost immediately. Seto followed within minutes.
The next day was interesting forboth of them. The art department sent up to say that the final proofs were ready, so Seto had them brought up to his office. He was admiring them when one of the board members came in.
He'd been told that they had used a new artist in the emergency and wanted to see the art. Seto obliged him and smiled when the man was ecstatic.
"Yes, he's very good. But I'm a bit prejudiced. He's my lover, too. But he really pulled our fat out of the fire. He's one of only three or four people that I know of who could have turned out that quality of art in that short a time. And he's very good at Sumi-e. He wants a career in that. I'm inclined to help him but I'm wondering if I might not prejudice people against him. What do you think?"
Mr. Watanabe examined the two small finished pieces that Seto had hung on his wall. "I think that he's very good. I like these very much. Good balance, great use of color. Not pretentious and the mounts are perfect. Done by Masahito-sama aren't they. He retired, at least I thought he did."
"He did. He came out of retirement to mount Joey's work. ... I'm thinking of having a showing right here in Kaiba Towers. What do you think?"
"I think it's a very good idea. We haven't had a good show in ... I don't remember how long. It would look very good – For Kaiba Corp and Katsuya-san. We should have it right after the launch of the new cards. Let it be known in certain circles what was done and wait three weeks ... that'll give you plenty of time to plan. Then have the show. Put his card designs on display as a lead in."
"Sounds like a perfect plan. You're being very helpful, I can't help but wonder why." Seto just gave the man a level look.
"Because I can see that the young man makes you happy. You deserve to be happy. And you're much easier to get along with. Self serving old goat that I am, I can't help but think that's a good thing. So ... if you need any other help, please let me know."
Seto had to laugh softly. Word was getting around that, when he was in a good mood, things went better. And Seto had to admit that Joey did make him happy.
He started planning Joey's first gallery showing at once.
Seto managed to keep most of the plans secret with the help of Mokuba and the fact that they could hide a lot of the arrangements in the arrangements for the party for the card roll out. Joey was staying away from that, actually fleeing once when someone asked him a question.
The actual night of the unveiling of the mockups was very important to Kaiba Corp. Every distributor in the industry would be there. All the cards were made into four foot by six foot displays and hung in chains of three and four from the ceiling, making it easy to see them all.
Seto and Joey dressed early and got to the huge vestibule of Kaiba Towers well before the party started. Seto wanted to check everything at the last minute and Joey just wanted to be with Seto.
When they got to the vast area they were jumped by the representative of the catering company that usually did their parties. He was upset because someone was trying to get protection money from him and Kaiba Corp security had let one of the men into the room. He was now following the servers around and generally causing trouble.
"And, I'm very sorry, sir. But we just can't work like this. And this is the only place that's ever let one of those Yakuza bums in." He scrubbed his face and went to make sure that some preparation or other was done right.
Joey just shrugged his shoulders and announced that there wouldn't be anymore trouble from the knee-breaker. Seto nodded, "I'll take care of security. Someone is out of a job. Now."
They split up to take care of business
Joey hunted down the yakuza and cornered him.
"You need to leave. Now."
"Look, pal, you have no idea who you're dealing with. Kano don't bow to no one."
"Katsuya Jounouchidoesn't either. An' I got more bones than you. Who's your oyabun? And don't say 'none a' your business', it is. Talk."
Joey leaned into the man's personal space, threatening him physically. He backed up, eyes wide at the name and Joey's physical presence. "Hanami. Hanami is my boss. But you can't bully him. He's tough."
Joey smirked at Kano. "Tough enough to owe me several favors. From the pen. See?"
"Yeah, yeah, I do." Joey backed the man into a small nook and fished in his pocket. "Oh, god, don't kill me. Please don't kill me."
Joey just showed the man his cell phone. "Shut up, got a call to make."Joey dialed his phone and waited while it rang. "Katsuya here. Hanami is making me a little upset. I'd take it as a personal favor if he would leave the Strawberry Company alone. They supply all Kaiba Corp's service. We're having a launch party and some dumb muscle is here causing trouble. I don't appreciate it. See to it." Joey listened as the voice on the other end got shrill. "See that you do. Thank you. Tell Hanami, a debt is paid." Joey hung up just as Kano's phone started to ring.
The yakuza opened his phone and said "moshi-moshi' then listened. The voice coming from the speaker was the same one Joey had heard just a moment earlier. Kano gulped, tried to speak then just gave up, said, "Sorry, boss." in a puzzled tone of voice and hung up.
"Well, it sounds like someone fucked up. Sorry for the trouble. And ... um ... how the hell do you manage that?"
Joey just shrugged. "It helps to be crazy. Get out of here."
The yakuza headed for the door, signs of relief evident in his posture.
Joey went in search of Seto. He wanted to be there for the snark session.
Seto found the head of the security for the party. Roland didn't 'do' parties anymore. He claimed his nerves couldn't take it.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kaiba. The man said he was with the caterer so I let him in. Boss said not to bother him with details like that." The guard hung his head and waited for the sword to fall.
"I see. So ... this man had no clearance, no uniform, no ... anything and you let him in because he said it was OK? Are you insane? Or just stupid? Call your boss and tell him I want him, here ... Now."
The guard got on his walkie and told the Head of Security to get down to the floor immediately. It didn't take him long to show up.
"Hello, how can I help you?"
Seto just asked the man if he liked his job, the man said he did. Then Seto asked him what he was thinking letting a yakuza get into the venue, the man, the Supervisor of the event paled, this was not good. He started to make an excuse then decided that the best idea was to just shut up, take his dressing down and hope he still had a job.
"I'm sorry, sir, I have no excuse. I'm not sure what happened, but I'll be glad to look into it immediately." He never realized how close he'd been to losing his job. His instant acceptance of blame had saved it.
Seto gave the man a cold glare. "See that you do. I will not accept another mistake of this type. Do you understand? And I want whoever was responsible for actually letting that man in, fired, now. Got me?"
"Yes, sir. I'll get right on it. Excuse me." he bowed humbly and scurried off, wiping sweat off his forehead.
Joey laughed softly. "Well, freeze him out. Very nice. I wish I was good at that cold thing. All I ever manage to do is get pissed and start yelling."
"Yes and you waste all your strength in yelling. Just look at them and let them feel your anger. It's all in the eyes. If you yell, they never look at your eyes. Come on, I've got some things to show you."
Joey followed Seto into the service area where he recognized the same bits of this and that, that had been called nibbles at the show he'd attended with Seto. He frowned, this was not going to please Seto at all, they were frozen. He wondered if he should have put an exclamation point after frozen.
Seto answered his question. "Excuse me. These are frozen, I expressly said fresh. Fix it." the coldness of Seto'svoice matched the temperature of the frozen hors d'oeuvres. A server scurried to find the chef.
It didn't take long for the chef to show up. And it didn't take long for him to slink away with his tail between his legs and no job. Seto's remarks were controlled and cut like a knife.
"I remember distinctly telling you that the food was all to be fresh, not frozen. Explanation?"
"No one will know whether it's fresh or frozen. What difference does it make?"
"The difference is that it's not what I'm paying for. Get out!"
"Make me. You can't fire me, I don't work for you."
Seto just glanced at Joey. Joey just grinned at the chef, not a nice one either. The chef paled and scrambled out the door.
"See, you just have to find the expression that works for you." Seto nodded to Joey who changed his grin to the one that gave Seto a warm feeling. "Now, it's..." Seto glanced at his watch, "Twenty-five after. We have about half an hour before the first guests will start arriving, and no chef... damn."
Joey shrugged. "I'll deal. Go, greet. Shoo."
Joey looked around the kitchen and spotted the man he was looking for, just as he was about to call him over the venue supervisor nearly ran in.
"What's going on here? I heard that Kaiba-sama fired the chef? Why?"
Joey pointed to the bags of frozen hors d'oeuvres. "Do they look fresh to you?"
"Um ... no?"
"No is right. Now that man over there can make anything we want. Put him on the kitchen and let's get going."
"But sir, he's a ..." The man lowered his voice. "A criminal. He's been in prison."
"So? So have I. Wanna make somethin' of it? Fine." Joey crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the man until he shook his head muttering, 'no' in a sour tone.
"Didn't think so. Now, we got two ways to go. We can announce that there's no food and have a bad review or we can let Toshi do his thing and have some really good food. He's wasted walking around with a damn tray. So, wadaya wanna do?"
"We'll do it your way and hope it works. So ..." He turned to Toshi and nodded. "Get to work." Toshi hurried into the kitchen and started checking to see what there was that was fresh. Joey nodded and went back into the front.
Seto nodded to him when he joined the reception line.
Joey wasn't too sure how to handle this as he'd never been on the receiving end of one. He stood next to Seto and whispered, "I don't know what the hell to do."
Seto smiled at Joey's expression. "Just stand there, shake hands and bow. Only don't bow to anyone any lower than I do. Some people will barely get a nod of the head. Ok?"
Joey nodded. "Ok. Switch with me, I'm on the wrong side."
Seto shook his head. "No, you're not. The line will run all the way around the room and then into the back section first. You're fine, stop twitching."
Joey just sighed and tried to stop shaking.
Seto settled his features into a slightly bored but interested expression, the one that had driven Joey to distraction for years. Joey only managed not to look scared to death.
Seto greeted each person with calm confidence, shaking hands, bowing, mostly just a slight inclination of the head, then inviting them into the inner rooms to view the card display and have some food and drink. He passed each person on to Joey, who managed to shake hands, bow and not make a fool of himself. He never realized how good he looked in his tailor made tux, shiny Gucci shoes and neat gold studs.
After what seemed like hours Seto announced that anyone later than this would just have to fend for themselves and headed into the nearby display room. Joey followed one step behind and to one side. They entered the room to sudden silence as everyone turned to gaze at them. Someone whispered loudly, "They look like sex on legs!" Seto located the woman and glowered at her so fiercely that she choked on her wine. Joey poked him in the side to keep him moving.
They circulated around the room together, Seto greeting this person and that. Joey listening with interest to the conversation and adding a comment or two of his own.
Joey found that he knew a lot more about things than he though he did. Seto didn't have to coach him at all, something he was proud of and something Seto was amused to see.
"Well, this is going well. Want some wine?"
Joey took the glass and sipped. The white wine was slightly sweet, a wine that Joey enjoyed very much. "Thanks. You remembered."
"Of course. And we have some caviar, I see."
Joey accepted the half quail egg stuffed with caviar that Seto offered. "Hmmm. Not bad. Did you see that woman in the red dress?" Seto grimaced. "What is she thinking?"
"That she's younger than she is. Looks terrible. The dress is too tight and too short, even if she was half the age it'd still look bad. Glad I'm a guy. You can't mess up a tux."
Joey pointed to a short, fat older man in a too tight tuxedo made of some shiny silk brocade. Seto covered his eyes with one hand. "Opened my mouth too soon didn't I?"
They grinned at each other and continued their rounds.
The food was excellent, the wine and champagne best quality and free flowing. Seto sent his compliments to the chef making the host glow. Joey sipped one glass of wine until it was hot then put the three quarter empty glass on a tray and went on empty handed. Seto drank two glasses of champagne over nearly four hours. Neither one of them had the excuse that they were drunk.
"Out of my way!"
Joey turned to glare at the man who'd so rudely interrupted the conversation. "'Scuseme?"
"There's no excuse for trash like you. How you ever got in here, I'll never know. They should have kept you where you belong."
Joey got a dangerous light in his copper eyes. "And where is that?"
"Prison. I know what you are."
Joey raised an eye-brow at his tormentor. "Oh, and how did you know that? Been there yourself?"
"How dare you? I know because my brother sentenced you and I saw the file."
Joey just gave the man a cold stare. "So?The sentence was reversed as unjust since I was defending myself from a beating. Want to show your ass some more?"
The man spluttered incoherently, Joey just turned his shoulder and glanced at Seto. Seto was furiously signaling security to remove the drunk.
The man didn't know when to give up either. "My ass? You little queer, you leave my ass out of this. You're nothing but a gangster, you shouldn't be allowed to associate with good people."
Joey shrugged and said honestly, "If I have connections, it's because I needed them to survive in prison. If you don't like them, stay away from me. Please." Joey started to turn away but the man grabbed his arm and jerked on it. Joey shook him off and tried to turn away again.
"Don't you dare ignore me. You'll ..."
Joey ducked the wild punch and replied with a hard left hook that put the man down and out in a second. He straightened his jacket and nodded to the security men. "Get him out of here." They scurried to obey, the look on Joey's face was fierce enough that they knew better than to argue.
As they hauled the limp man away, Seto motioned to a waiter. "Here, bring me an ice bucket."
"What sort of champagne would you like?"
"None, just the bucket. And plenty of ice."
Meanwhile, the owner of the gallery where Joey was to have his show, was having a fit.
"Katsuya-sama, your hand, you could have damaged your precious hand. What are you thinking?"
"That the ass tried to punch me? Stop fussing, I used my left. A little ice and I'll be fine." Joey turned just in time for Seto to motion for the waiter to put down the champagne bucket on its stand. "Thanks. Needs more water."
The waiter started to go for water but a waitress approached with a pitcher of iced water which she poured into the bucket. Joey nodded his thanks and Seto made note of their names for later.
"Joey, you need to be more careful of your hands now. What if you'd broken a knuckle or finger?"
Joey just snorted. "Not like I haven't done both before. I'll just heal faster, as I can get some medical attention. Now ..." Joey plunged his hand into the bucket, shivering. "Oh, damn! That's cold. Brrrrr!"
He was just beginning to really feel the cold when a voice behind him announced, "Well,I'm glad you had the sense to ice it before it started to swell. Let me take a look. We might have to take you to hospital for x-rays."
Joey didn't recognize the British accented voice but Seto smiled over his shoulder at the man so Joey let him pull his hand out of the bucket. The man introduced himself as he flexed Joey's hand, checking for broken fingers.
"I'm Dr. Halstrom. Orthopedics is my specialty. Hmmm... doesn't seem to be any damage." He poked at Joey's knuckles. "Been broken before. Some of these ... well, no damage done that I can find. Stick it back in that ice to keep the swelling down. And a hot pack later on. If you've got a good masseuse or masseur, get them to massage in some Tiger Balm. Ok, stick that back in the ice."
Joey smiled at the doctor. "Thanks, Doc. I'll do that. Send Seto a bill?"
Dr. Halstrom shook his head. "I volunteered. And, take care of your hands. You'll have arthritis later on if you don't." He turned to go with a smile. A waiter offered him champagne, which he took. He turned around and said, Andfor god's sake, wrap your hands when you work out." then he turned to his friends to continue his conversation.
Joey grinned at Seto. "Remember to remind me to wrap my hands. 'K?"
Seto snorted, Joey always wrapped his hands before working out. And got on him when he forgot.
Seto turned just in time to nearly bump into the same lady who'd had the iced water. "Sorry. I swear, I'm going to make you people wear bells." She just grinned and offered the small tray she carried. "What's this?"
"Acetaminophen. For Katsuya-sama."
Joey took the pills and popped them into his mouth. There was also a glass of water on the tray which Joey used to wash the pills down. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, sir." She walked off smiling. Seto nodded to the host who marked her name in his book. She'd get very good jobs from now on. So would the waiter.
Seto, exhausted by the excitement and long stand in the reception line, announced that he and Joey would be leaving the party early. "Please continue to enjoy yourselves. The bar closes at midnight. Good evening, everyone." He and Joey bowed to the guests and left.
"Man, I don't believe that asshole. Drunk in the first two hours?"
"Well, he was drunk when we threw him out."
Joey shrugged. "I was watching for drunks, he was plastered by hour two."
"Well, I'm sorry you had to punch him. Next time let security take care of it."
"Ok. Next time I'll let the asshole punch me."
Seto rolled his eyes. "Just duck and get out of the way. Now, isn't it time for a hot pack?"
Joey took the ice pack off his hand and flexed his fingers. "Yeah. I'm sure glad you've got that first aid kit. I never saw a bigger one, I don't think."
Seto stuck the hot pack in its padded holder and flexed it to activate the chemicals. "Here. Want something?"
Joey put the pack on his hand and nodded. "Those snacks weren't enough. I'm starving. What do we have?"
Seto opened the refrigerator and examined the shelves. "Well, cold soba noodles in sauce. Some fresh sushi. And ... something with fur on it." Joey snorted and made a face, he was going to get a real dressing down. "And cheese, fruit, and ... that's all."
Joey opted for the soba noodles and some sushi. Seto took sushi and fruit.
They settled in, eating in companionable silence.
Joey finished first. "I'm bushed. I'm going to bed. You coming?"
"In a bit. I have to wind up the party first."
"Ok. Good night."
Seto used the time to work on the arrangements for Joey's gallery showing.
"So, I get a gallery showing.That's nice. Since when does the artist not know until the last minute?" Joey was trying not to smile at Seto, it wasn't working.
"Since the artist is such an ass that he doesn't know his own worth. Now, we have arrangements to finalize. You have decisions to make. Get with it."
Joey laughed, "Ok, ok. What's first?"
Seto led Joey to a small side room which contained a desk, a computer and several chairs. "First we decide on a menu. What snacks, drinks and other refreshments we're going to offer. Then we finalize the display arrangements. I designed them but if you don't like something we still have time to change it."
Joey blinked. "This farce is supposed to happen tomorrow night, and I still mean to get even with you for trying to keep it secret, and we'll have time to come up with a completely different display if I don't like this one?"
"This one is a new design especially for your opening. We have several stock ones you can chose from. They're already made so it won't take long for them to be retrieved from the warehouse and set up."
Joey nodded his understanding. "Ok. That makes sense. I'll look at the display first. Is it all set up?" Seto nodded. He was a bit sullen, he'd thought to have all the arrangements made and present the showing to Joey as a surprise but Matsumoto had contacted Joey about a mounting instead of Seto so the 'gaff was blown' as the saying went. Joey had been amused, thank goodness. Now, however, he was a bit frantic. He had no idea what he was doing and worried about everything. Seto just let him. It kept them from fighting. They were both a great deal more nervous than they wanted to admit.
Joey wandered through the display in amazement. He rarely really looked at his own art after he was done with it. It didn't make much sense as it wasn't mounted. Now, with mounted pieces on every side of him, he realized that this was a great mistake. He looked at his art with new eyes and was surprised to see that he was pretty good, if he did say so himself.
The display took advantage of the huge space that was the grand vestibule of Kaiba Corp. It was curtained off with giant sails of white canvas, separating the necessary entry area from the vast area that was used to display statuary and other art mostly related to Duel Monsters in one way or another.
All that art had been removed to make way for the displays of his paintings. Instead, large flats were set up, making a maze of the area. Each flat had several paintings hung on it, each painting carefully mounted. The paintings were arranged by some rule that Joey didn't understand but he did know that the displays were wonderful. The flats were a plain buff color with a small design and the paintings arranged to show themselves perfectly. Several of his larger works occupied a flat of their own. Joey looked at every flat, every picture, and was pleased. He also noticed that several of the flats in the rear of the area had only one or two pieces on them. He wondered about that but decided that the arranger knew what he or she was doing. He decided to go into the back to see about the refreshments.
He continued to check the display on his way into the back area of the vestibule. There was a kitchen there expressly to take care of cocktail parties and business meetings held there. Joey expected it to be cramped and hot, he was pleasantly surprised to see that it was neither. It was large, airy and cool. There were several tables set up near the exit where trays were already set up ready for the food. Glasses and other things also sat on a table.
Joey continued on into the kitchen proper, which was deserted but he heard voices farther back in the office area. He stopped to listen and was glad he had.
"Well, we start out with the good champagne and switch to the generic half way through the night. And start circulation of the nibbles as soon as the first round of champagne is gone. Keep the artist supplied with champagne and nibbles, we don't need a fit of artistic temper. And ..." Joey stuck his head in the door. "Hello, how may I help you? We're a bit occupied but I can send for someone to help you find your way."
Joey shook his head. "I'm not lost. I'm the artist. And I'm about to have a real fit of artistic temper and you don't really want that." Joey moved into the room and pulled out a comfortable chair. "It's my show and Seto said that I could change any of the arrangements I didn't like." The caterer and his lieutenant both nodded. "Fine. No alcohol.I hate drunks and won't have them at my show. If they want to get drunk they can go to a bar. And ditch the nibbles. Both the term and those frozen horrors are an insult. Sushi. Fresh, best ingredients, freshly made. And green tea or sparkling water to drink. Understand?"
They both nodded although the lieutenant tried to object, Joey ran him over. "No. I'm not fooling. You want to see a fit, show me alcohol of any kind being served. They came to see my art, not stuff themselves with fatty, soggy, heavy foods and guzzle champagne until they can't see straight. You don't like my decisions, talk to Seto. If he doesn't back me up, he's sleeping on the couch. Excuse me. I want to talk to the servers myself." Joey stood up then made a quick decision that was to make the show. "And I want all the servers in traditional clothing. I'm a traditional artist after all."
The two men looked at each other then started changing arrangements quickly. This was going to be very different and either make or break the company, they were going to be sure it made it.
Joey spoke to the only available servers, the head waiter and the bar mistress. They were both very open to Joey's suggestions and nodded their agreement, silently grateful for one night where they wouldn't have to deal with a drunk.
Seto greeted Joey with a hug and a smile. "Did you like the display?"
"Yeah, very nice indeed, but you're going to get a call from the caterer or I miss my guess."
Seto gave Joey a curious look but just as he was about to ask a question his phone began to ring. He pulled it from his pocket and announced, "Kaiba." He listened to the voice on the other end and then just said, "If that's what he wants, make sure the tea is hot, the water cold and the sushi fresh. Use real china. Those little, differently shaped sauce dishes are perfect. Plenty of disposable chopsticks and wasabi and soya in flat saucers. I'll be wearing traditional clothing myself. Anything else?" Evidentlythere wasn't as Seto hung up with a nod. "This is going to be fun. Got anything to wear?"
Joey just shrugged. "I can wear ... um ... nothing particularly appropriate. I'll have to go shopping. And Mo is going to kill me."
"No he won't. We'll go to a shop I know of that has the most outrageously priced antique stuff. Perfect condition." Seto smiled at the thought of buying Joey some of the beautiful brocade garments. "We better hurry though. They'll have to be cleaned so that doesn't give us much time."
"Let's get on the road then. I have an idea what I want, if I can find it. It'll be expensive."
"I don't care. I'm buying myself something special too."
They hurried toward the door as Seto placed a call that would have a car right at the door. Joey thanked his ancestors that they didn't live in Tokyo proper. The traffic would have been killer at this time of day.
The driver was careful but managed to get them to their objective in about thirty minutes.
They entered the shop and immediately started to browse through the displayed garments. The displays were different from what most shops had. The garments were hung in the old Japanese way by rods thrust through the sleeves. Some hung from the ceiling and others were hung on the walls, still others depended from racks.
Seto looked through one rack and finally found something suitable. One of the problems shopping here was that the owner refused to sell anyone garments that were outside their station. He wouldn't sell a person whose family had been merchants for centuries the garb of a samurai for instance. So Seto had to settle for the garments of a merchant, although they were from an era where merchants had indulged in outrageously expensive and extravagant clothing.
Joey found what he wanted almost immediately. The garb of a samurai at home. The robes were flowing, with subdued but lovely colors and emblazoned with a family crest, one that Seto had never seen before. He sighed at the thought of disappointing Joey, the owner would never sell the clothing to Joey.
After setting the garments on the counter, Joey returned to the racks and found another set of robes. These were from one of the early eras where merchants wore dignified, richly embroidered robes, several layers of them. He smiled, Seto was going to pay for these with pleasure.
"Did you find what you want?" Joey nodded. "I can't find a thing. Anything I like, isn't in my class. Anything in my class is ... garish. I'll probably wind up wearing modern kimono."
Joey just smiled. "I think I found something you'll like. I know I found what I wanted."
Seto just eyed the piles of cloth with a bland expression. "He won't let you buy those."
Joey recognized the expression for what it was, an attempt to keep from betraying his emotions.
"Yes, he will. I'm samurai, you're merchant. Where's the problem?"
"Proving that you're samurai for one."
Joey just produced some papers from his inside pocket. "Here, family name, crest and lineage back 15 generations."
Seto took the papers and glanced over them. "Well, hell. Color me shocked."
"Rather kiss you but that can wait."
The owner came from behind the counter to talk to Seto and Joey. Joey showed him the papers and was told that the family whose crest was on the clothing had sold this particular outfit several years ago.
Joey fingered the cloth a little sadly. "Yes, I know. The father fell into drink and the son had no power. I'm buying back a bit of my heritage. Look at the mon."
The old man did so and sighed. "Good, good. I'm glad, so glad that I'll cut the price by 10."
Seto started to say something then stilled himself. If the man wanted to have the honor of returning something to Joey, let him. Seto took out his credit card and handed it to the man. He took it, wrote up the charge and wrapped their purchases without comment.
The final arrangements were made, checked and approved by the morning. Seto attended to business in a distracted manor. Joey alternately paced his office and sat at his desk worrying. Mokuba silently laughed at both of them. He'd managed to keep out of their way most of the time. He really didn't want to hear his brother ... doing that. He shuddered then laughed at himself admitting that he was glad to have duties of his own that kept him busy.
Mokuba knew that Seto was happy with Joey and he was happy for that. He was growing up and moving into his own life. He and Seto would always have a special bond but they couldn't live in each other's pockets forever. Mokuba was glad to begin his own life now that Seto was settled to his satisfaction.
Now all he had to do was get out of the way and let them love each other. He smiled and settled at his desk.
Seto looked at himself in the mirror. The robes fit him well, easy adjustments with an obi had made sure of that. They were all silk, embroidered with different things. He'd chosen a simple arrangement, only three layers, so he was comfortable. He wondered what Joey looked like.
While Seto was fidgeting, Joey was wondering if he'd lost his mind. The robes were old, family treasures recovered by luck but they were in excellent shape with the family mon, or crest, on the back, both breasts and both sleeves. The color suited Joey perfectly, being shades of bronze and brown, patterned in cream and darker brown. Joey straightened his lapels for the last time and went to find Seto.
"Come on, quit primping. We better get down there and make sure someone hasn't spiked the tea or something."
Seto turned to gaze at Joey and smiled at what he saw. Joey looked every bit the lordly samurai, tall, proud, elegant and in control of himself and his surroundings. "Ok, I'm done primping. Let's go."
So they entered the elevator and descended to the mezzanine to make a grand entrance down the main stair case and into the vestibule. Joey wondered at the fact that there were any stairs at all. Seto just smirked and said, "You have to have stairs to make a grand entrance. Coming out of an elevator just isn't the same. Hold your head up." Joey held his head up, descended the stairs with dignity and grace, kimono flaring. Seto followed one step behind, it was Joey's show after all.
The entire crowd looked up to see two of the most gorgeous men in Japan come down the stairs and plunge into them like swimmers into the ocean.
Seto hung back to watch as Joey made a small welcoming address, greeting the people and telling them a bit about himself and his art.
Of course some reporter had to ask 'that' question. "I understand you were in prison with Kaiba-san, could you tell us a bit about that?"
"I was sent to prison for smacking my old man. He was trying to stab me at the time but the judge didn't seem interested. Seto and I have known each other for years, I'm ranked in the top ten all time Duel Monster card players and we've enjoyed a rivalry for quite some time. When I realized who my new cellie was, I was ... interested. We worked things out and watched each others backs. Seto got the sentence reversed, now I'm here. Any other questions?" his expression said there'd better not be, there weren't. He went on to invite people to eat, drink and enjoy the art and the evening. A few murmurs followed him into the display area but most were just idle speculation and a bit of envy.
People started to walk into the display and conversation picked up to a soft babble. The arrangement of the display kept noise to a minimum as well as allowing for small groups to gather at intersections. And gather they did, gossiping, drinking tea and eating sushi. And complaining, at least some of them were.
"There's no champagne, scotch, whisky or anything, not even wine. What's the deal?"
Joey walked up behind the complainer and announced. "The deal is, you've come to see my art or you've come to get drunk. If you want to see art, you're welcome, if you want to get drunk, get your own booze." The man gave Joey a slightly shamefaced look and shut up.
Joey watched as a waiter came close with a tray of hot cups of rather expensive green tea. He took a cup and nodded to the waiter, a sip told him he'd chosen well. The tea was a relief from the oppressive sourness of champagne. Joey knew that from now on the people who came to his showings would be interested in art, not stuffing themselves and getting drunk. He glanced around for Seto and found him in a small group of people standing by a small podium containing catalogues and a small biographical brochure. He walked over to see what they were looking so intent about.
Mokuba was frowning slightly when Joey walked up. He glanced at Joey and nodded in greeting then went back to his conversation with the gallery owner who was Joey's other sponsor.
"Well, if they want to I don't see any reason not to go ahead and sell. We'll just tell them they can't take delivery until the show is over on Sunday night. We'll put a 'sold to' sign under the piece to make sure it doesn't get sold twice. Ok, Seto?"
Seto just shrugged. "Not my decision to make. Ask Joey."
Joey just blinked, he was already selling work? "Well, it sounds like a good idea to me. Just make sure that the calligraphy is nice. And not some preprinted form. Please?"
Mokuba just glanced at Mr. Toshida who nodded. They walked away, heads together.
Joey touched Seto on the shoulder. "This is really nice. And I noticed that you had a certain pushy reporter removed. Thank you. I was so embarrassed, I thought I'd pass out."
Seto gripped Joey's hand. "I'm sorry. I should have had them screened at the door. Next time I will. But I was really proud of the way you handled it. And even I didn't know that you were embarrassed. You did great. Now ... go ... mingle. Shoo!"
Joey wandered around accepting congratulations and compliments. He overheard someone compliment the food and praise Joey and Seto for not falling into fashionable laziness. Joey smiled to himself at that and accepted a small, leaf shaped plate with a bit of sushi on it. It was fresh tuna with a dab of wasabi on it. He smiled at the waiter and told him, "Verygood. Please tell the catering staff that they're doing an excellent job."
The opening continued long into the night, only closing finally because the catering staff was dropping in their tracks and Seto almost threw the last of the attendees out on their ears. Joey was drooping visibly and Seto felt like his robes weighed a ton. He turned at the sound of nearly silent footsteps.
"Joey, you look like I feel. Ready to go up?"
Joey nodded. "Yeah, and we do this all over tomorrow?"
Seto smiled but shook his head. "No, tomorrow we just open the doors and let people wander through. There'll be a desk over there by the door for people to get catalogues and make a purchase. And speaking of which ... you've sold almost half of what we have here. Very impressive. Congratulations."
Joey just stared at him in speechless amazement. Finally he closed his mouth then said, "Oh,um ... wow."
Seto took pity on him and led him up to bed.
They undressed and hung their kimono on the stands to air for the night.
Joey stretched, naked and unashamed. "I'm so tired I hurt all over."
"I feel like I could sleep for a week. All the preparations, and trying to hide them, you ass, have worn me out."
Joey crawled into their bed without finding any pyjamas. "I'm sleeping until I wake up on my own. Anyone, or anything, wakes me up, I'm smashing it, them, him. Whatever."
"Ok" Seto turned off the lights and crawled in beside Joey, naked too, and they both fellasleep in seconds.
They slept heavily all night and Joey woke first. He patted Seto on the shoulder and waited while he blinked himself awake, sort of.
"Wake up, sleepyhead. Need you awake and aware for this."
Seto rubbed his eyes and grumbled, "I'm awake. What?" Joey latched onto one nipple and sucked. "Oh, fuck. Joey!"
Joey snickered softly, sending tingles from Seto'snipple to his groin. Joey continued his attack on Seto while Seto alternately groaned and whimpered. When Seto started to open his legs for Joey, Joey stopped him.
"Not this time. You're on top, if you want."
Seto moved to look at Joey, he'd been so adamant about being on top that Seto had never even considered it.
"I want, I want. But ... why now? Why not before?"
Joey sighed. "I'm a great big chicken. I've never bottomed before and, in prison, it just wasn't on the program. Bottoms don't run gangs. Period. So I couldn't let you. We'd have been in deep shit. And now ... well, it took me this long to work up the nerve. You're not mad, are you?"
Seto snorted. "I'd resigned myself to being uke forever. But ... I'd like this. Kiss?"
Joey smiled at Seto and kissed him then he let Seto take over.
Seto wasn't quite sure what to do first so he just kept on kissing Joey until Joey started to frot against his leg. Joey whimpered softly and Seto took this as his cue to increase the contact by reaching down and grasping Joey. Joey hardened even farther and moaned loudly.
"Oh, my god. Seto! Please. I ... just..."
Seto shut Joey up with a kiss and whispered, "I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. If I hurt you, you have to tell me at once. All I want to do is give you pleasure."
Joey laughed softly. "Seto, I'm not a shrinking virgin, just do it. I'll be fine."
Seto nipped at Joey's chest making him laugh again. "I'll do no such thing. I have a great deal more finesse than to just 'shove it in.' Idiot."
Joey moved to allow Seto easier access to his body and settled in for a long session.
And what a session it was. Seto licked, sucked, nipped and stroked every inch of Joey's body. By the time he was ready to actually breach his opening Joey was nearly incoherent. Seto smiled around a mouth full of moaning lover.
Joey nearly threw the lube at Seto. "Ready? I'm dyin' here. Do something, or I'll ... mmmfff." Seto kissed Joey to shut him up. It worked like a charm.
It didn't take Seto long to lubricate his fingers and slide one into Joey. Joey accepted the intrusion by moving onto his back and lifting his legs, catching them behind the knees to hold himself open. Seto looked him in the eyes and was pleased to see love and trust there. He moved his finger around and watched as Joey's eyes rolled up in his head, he'd found Joey's 'flower'.
Joey groaned and writhed, but kept his position. Seto easily slipped two fingers into Joey then three.
"You ok? I'm not hurting you?"
"You're killin' me. Get on with it." Seto had to grin slightly at this.
"Face-to-face or dog."
Joey blinked trying to make his mind work. "Face-to-face."
Seto settled over Joey, stroking lube onto himself then easing into Joey carefully. He sighed and started to thrust. Joey lifted his hips to meet Seto and they both whimpered.
"Oh, damn, Joey, this is the most incredible ..."
"Joey just grumbled, "Shut up and move, dammit."
So Seto moved. It didn't take long for them to reach completion and they came together then collapsed into a sweaty, slick heap.
"Should get up and wash."
Seto just batted at him with one hand and pulled the sheets up with the other.
Joey mumbled, "We're going to regret this later this morning." and rolled up in his share of the covers.
The next waking was greeted with groans of disgust as they had to peal the covers way from their bodies. Showers took care of the mess and they swore never to go to sleep without cleaning up again.
Seto stepped out of the small hallway from the vestibule to the main room of the restaurant. He was meeting Joey for lunch. The newest show was going well and they were taking time from their various business pursuits to celebrate. He paused behind the 'Wait to Be Seated' sign and glanced around the room.
The mater d' hurried over to seat Seto, gathering menus and dithering.
"Damn it, man, just find me a table. Katsuya-kun will be here in a few minutes and we don't need a mob. The two of us attract too much attention together."
Seto settled into the chair the man pulled out for him and opened the menu, he couldn't help but over hear the conversation from the table behind him.
"Who's that? He's really cute."
"Don't really know. I think he's some big wig in the computer game business, or maybe that card guy." Seto couldn't help a soft snort.
"Card? I don't know. But I do know he's that new traditional artist ... what's his name? Never mind. They're lovers. And what a couple. Makes me just sick. I ... all the good ones are queer. Sucks, that's what."
Seto nearly choked on his tea. He was glad to see Joey cutting his way through the crowded room.
He flopped into his chair and sighed. "They're getting worse by the day, I swear. If I see one more photographer aiming a camera my way, I'm going to punch 'im."
Seto sipped his tea waiting for Joey to quit grumbling. "No you're not. You're going to have security. I'll have Roland assign you someone. No arguments."
"Ok, ok. I've been expecting this for weeks." Joey grinned.
"Yeah, and resisting for just as long. I'm not taking any more arguments out of you."
Joey waved a hand. "Ok, I said ... I could use some cheering up after that. What were you grinning at when I walked up?"
Seto laughed. "I seem to have been reduced to the status of your lover. I overheard them..." Seto poked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the three women. "Saying that I'm 'some card guy. And the lover of that great traditional painter.' not that I object, you understand. My ego is quite strong enough to deal. But ..." Seto didn't get any father, Joey had hysterics, laughing until his eyes watered. Seto had to laugh too.
"Seems that we're a real pair."
Joey gave Seto an indignant but affectionate look. "Of course we are. Have been since you let me help you. And myself. We're partners. Right?"
A Ko is like a ward. Most big cities are divided up into political divisions of some sort or other. Tokyo's are called Ko.
Suki da - I like you very much. (I love you. Japanese people don't usually say ai shiteru. That's more for manga and soap operas)