S: Well, I've been promising this to you for… how many months now? (tries to calculate and loses count) A lot, I imagine. This is the Seto/Jou sequence that's missing from the end of Lives to Live. I'm posting it separately because it doesn't fit with the main flow of the story, and it's just more fun as a stand-alone. Even if you haven't read L2L, this will make sense for the most part, but simply to plug, I must recommend reading that as well. Yeah, I'm done now.
Warnings: Mild language, vaguely implied child abuse, shonen-ai of course.
DISCLAIMER: No, I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. I'm just playing with it a little. Or a lot…
Dedications: For Wiked Witch, Twisted Mistress Kelly, and Zira Thirteen, because you all wanted it, and for Nikki, because you said you needed it. Several months ago, but…. Well, it's me. Love you all!
WANTS AND NEEDS
He wasn't even sure why he was doing this.
Oh, sure, it sounded like a great idea at the time. "It'll be perfect," Mokuba had said. "You can talk to Seto for a while, no pressure. And I'll even give you money for your own lunch."
Joey had politely declined the last, but it was, indirectly, Mokuba's fault that he was now pacing the inside of the spacious elevator hauling him to the upper levels of the KaibaCorp office. The take-out bags banged against his knees every time he turned.
The bag in his left hand held Kaiba's salad, an absurd conglomeration of unrecognizable leafy vegetables with unpronounceable names, liberally infused with grilled chicken (very healthy, Joey supposed…) and an astonishing amount of (very UNhealthy) feta cheese. All of that was mixed up via standing order by a top-notch restaurant on the far end of town, the kind of place you couldn't get into without a fortune in the bank and a Beamer at the curb.
Joey's bank account was very close to overdrawn, and he had ridden his Suzuki street bike to the restaurant, but evidently Mokuba had called ahead, because no-one had given him so much as a dirty look.
Still, he'd been forced to wait an hour while the kitchen staff all went into various stages of heart failure, because some shipment of something hadn't arrived from somewhere, and the über-expensive Russian parsley hadn't arrived in time to make Kaiba-sama's very specific salad dressing, so they'd been forced to use local parsley instead. Oh, the horror.
The bag in Joey's right hand, by contrast, held Ramen. Good, simple local stuff, plenty cheap, and with no unpronounceable ingredients or imported whatever. Just noodles and broth and normal vegetables and fishcakes and miso.
The elevator dinged pleasantly and Joey pulled himself out of both his thoughts and the mirrored interior, into the immaculately decorated front office, stopping a moment to stare. It wasn't until the secretary, ensconced behind a cherrywood desk the size of a Dueling arena, gave a polite cough that Joey remembered he wasn't here simply to admire the décor.
But how did you get a potted fern to grow ten feet tall, anyway?
The secretary, oblivious to Joey's vegetation contemplation, waved him towards the doors of Kaiba's inner office with a polite nod, and Joey went in without knocking.
The door opened quietly enough, but the bags rustled when Joey pushed it closed again. Kaiba, firmly entrenched behind a desk even larger than his secretary's, began speaking without even looking up.
"I specifically said no interup- Wheeler?"
"Yep." Toeing off his shoes at the door, Joey padded to Kaiba's desk in his socks. "I brought lunch."
"You brought… what?"
"Lunch, Kaiba. It's something us human beings do at this time a' day. I don't know 'bout you, since you're obviously some kind of alien robot, but I'd hate to think I went and picked up this fancy-ass salad for nothing."
Kaiba just stared at him, utterly bewildered, and Joey had to hide a chuckle when he noticed the slim half-frame reading glasses perched on Seto's nose. So, the perfect alien robot had a flaw after all? Although, Joey had to admit, those glasses looked damn sexy on him…
Kaiba, meanwhile, finally managed to regain the use of his tongue long enough to sputter, "Wheeler, how did you get in here?"
"Through the door," Joey replied, pointing helpfully. Kaiba made a disgusted noise, but was prevented from further comment when Joey lightly plopped the salad container down in front of him.
"They didn't send a fork or nothin'," Joey added absently as he pulled up a chair for himself and set his own container on the edge of the desk. "You got anything like that?"
It was rather entertaining, Joey reflected, seeing the great Seto Kaiba at a loss for words. Particularly so many times in so few minutes. Finally, the CEO managed to stop doing his marvelous impression of a dumbfounded waxwork, and bent sideways to dig into a desk drawer, re-emerging with two pairs of disposable chopsticks.
"Thanks," Joey said, genuinely surprised when Kaiba handed him the second set. Distracted by the oddly polite gesture, he had pulled the lid off his Ramen and was aimlessly stirring it when he realized Kaiba had just asked him a question.
Kaiba's expression was one generally reserved for clueless drunks and utter dunces. "I said, 'is that Miso ramen?'"
"Oh. Yeah, it is." The noodles were directed around the container twice more before something clicked in Joey's mind. "How'd you know that? Can't see you knowin' ramen that well."
For half an instant, Joey saw a war of emotions pass behind Kaiba's eyes. Anger, frustration, and something that, on anyone else, he would have taken for regret.
"Actually, I used to be very fond of ramen," Seto replied, once his eyes had dimmed back to their normal blankness. Joey blinked at him in surprise, belatedly wondering exactly when Kaiba had taken his glasses off. "But ramen is a poor man's food. It's not something to be eaten by the powerful."
Something in Kaiba's tone made Joey recoil a little – there was a demon in those memories, something sharp and ugly. Abruptly, Joey recalled some of the rumors he'd heard about Kaiba's adoptive father, and hastily cast around for a change of subject.
And once again, Kaiba was rendered speechless. "What?"
"I said," Joey grinned, echoing Kaiba's earlier words but not his tone, "that I'll trade you. A rich man can eat like a poor man any time he likes."
"It's a matter of image," Kaiba countered, but his voice was flat, reciting lines. There was an ugly set to his shoulders now, a nervous one.
"You've got more money than God, an' everyone knows it," Joey shot back, watching the other warily. "If ya want to spend some of it on Ramen, that's entirely up to you."
When Kaiba remained still, Joey spoke again, this time in a quieter, more thoughtful tone. "You know, Damus told me something the other day."
Kaiba exhaled slowly, and began taking the lid off his salad, either ignoring Joey or waiting for him to continue. Joey picked the latter, and went on.
"Image isn't about how other people see you. It's about how you see yourself."
Kaiba stopped short, his first bite of expensive salad halfway to his mouth. Slowly, thoughtfully, he set the chopsticks and their burden back in the dish, and silently slid the whole thing across the desk to Joey.
Joey exchanged his good, simple ramen for the expensive, ridiculous salad, grinning the whole while.
Much to his surprise, Joey discovered that he liked unpronounceable vegetables and feta cheese. And though Seto was silent while he ate, the relaxation of his shoulders and the spark in his eyes said enough.
"By the way," Joey added as he cleaned up some time later, "ya look really good in those glasses."
Some of the tension flickered back though Seto's shoulders. "You noticed them."
"Yeh." Joey dropped the lunch containers into the trash and straightened. "That a problem?"
Kaiba had his head down, his attention focused on the papers in front of him. "I don't like having them."
Joey frowned a little, eyeing the set of the CEO's back, the sudden hardness on the visible part of his face. "No, that ain't right. Ya don't like needin' them. Ya don't like relyin' on things, or people, 'cause you're afraid they're gonna let you down. Ya like bein' needed, not doin' the needing."
Kaiba raised his head, eyes icy, a dangerous expression toying with his mouth. "Been reading self-help books again, mutt?"
"More like Elf-help," Joey countered, not rising to the bait. "Turns out Celtos is a crack psychologist. And so what? I'm still right."
The glare intensified. Joey changed tactics. "It's just… ya want stuff, and ya need stuff. Like ya always need food, but just now ya wanted ramen, and you were lucky. But even you need friends, even though you're a frigid bastard an' ya probably want to be left alone."
Kaiba mulled over that for a while, ignoring Joey utterly, his eyes focused on the ceiling somewhere over the office door, hands idly ruffling through the stack of reports in front of him. Just as Joey was about to give up and crawl away, he spoke.
"I'd always thought you were an idiot, Wheeler."
"Yeh, well, maybe I wanted ya to think that. An' now I need ya to think different."
When Kaiba continued staring at the ceiling and declined to answer, Joey pushed the garbage can back into its little cubby and turned to leave.
Three steps from the door, he turned on his heel and looked back. "Yeh?"
"Would you…. ah…" Seto frowned, glared at the ceiling, then at his hands, still shuffling papers. "Would you like to go out to lunch next Saturday?"
It was Joey's turn to be rendered speechless. "Are you… askin' me out on a date?"
"Just answer the question, Wheeler!"
Joey's smile nearly split his face. "I'd love to."
"Good," Kaiba replied shortly, bending his head back over his paperwork. "I'll call you."
As he slipped out of the room, Joey's grin widened a little when he saw the glasses once again perched on Seto's nose.