Author's intro: This is not my usual meet-and-get-together Jou x Kaiba. This time around, I was wondering about how Kaiba and Jou would interact one day, in an established relationship, when they were both a little more mature. I hope the result is something still reasonably in-character, and I'd love some feedback on whether or not I succeeded at that. But for me... If this pairing found their equilibrium, I think one day it could be something not too far from this. Admittedly, I do think this about the closest they'd ever get to fluff, though. I hope you like it, anyway.
Initially inspired by the Gaga song (yes, lame of me, I know). If you want to know the song I had in mind at the end of this fic, it's "Slow Life," by Grizzly Bear feat. Victoria Legrand.
Dance in the Dark
Seto x Jounouchi
Jounouchi was standing a few feet inside the doorway of the study. "Kaiba," he said.
Seto didn't look up from his computer. He was writing an email. "Mm?"
"I want to go out."
"That's nice," he replied. "Have fun."
Seto sighed. Oh, great. He knew that tone. It sounded wheedling, almost whiney, but that was just a ruse. What that tone really meant was I'm-not-going-to-shut-up-until-I-get-my-way-or-you-go-insane,-whichever-comes-first.
He cocked one eyebrow, still refusing to look away from the screen. "Yes?"
"That's not what I meant."
He made Jounouchi wait while finished the last line of his email to Watanabe, the HR director for his commercial banking department. When he hit 'send,' Kaiba looked up.
Jounouchi was standing in front of him, shoulders slumped, hands shoved in his pockets. He was wearing a pair of black army boots, the laces mostly untied. Tucked into these was a pair of loose, flimsy black pants which billowed out. They looked almost like harem pants. On his top half, Jou wore a fitted, low-cut black singlet top that showed off some of the tanned smoothness of his chest. A cream and black chequered shirt was undone over top, and completing the outfit was the grey leather jacket that Kaiba had given him for his birthday two months ago.
It should have looked silly, but instead it just looked a bit classic punk-rock.
Damn it. Dressed like that, whatever it was he wanted, Jounouchi was definitely getting his way.
No need to let him know that just yet, though.
"I meant, I want us to go out together. You know... I want you to go out with me," Jou persisted.
Kaiba cleared his throat, somehow managing to it sound like he was irritated, rather than like he wanted to molest Jounouchi on the spot. "Why?" he asked.
"Because!" Jou brushed a hand through his hair, which had been slightly pushed back from his face with gel. "It's Friday night, that's why! People go out on Friday nights. They go out and have fun. Fun, you know? Perhaps you've heard of it? At the very least, they get a dvd and some popcorn and bunker down on the couch. They don't sit around doing... What are you doing?"
Kaiba glanced back at his screen. "I just emailed Watanabe with some changes to the contract for his department's new loan analyst."
Jou grinned. "Oh... So you're not just ruining your own Friday night... You're ruining Watanabe's too. I bet the poor schmuck just crawled in his front door, exhausted from the overtime he already put in tonight, and any second now he's going to get a phone alert that means he has to go back to his office again and make those changes."
"I didn't ask him to do it tonight."
Jou rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on. You might not have told him to spend his Friday night working on it, but there's no way you don't already know he will."
"Well," Kaiba said mildly, "That's his choice then, isn't it? I can't help it if my staff are workaholics."
Jounouchi snorted. "Takes one to know one." He walked further into the room and sat on the edge of Kaiba's desk. "Come on, Kaiba. Normal couples go out on Friday night. They have dates."
Kaiba just smirked. "So you want me to take you on a date?"
"Yup. It'll be fun." Jou leaned in provocatively. "And besides... You already know I'm an awfully easy date. I can practically guarantee the night will end with you getting lucky." He wiggled his eyebrows comically.
Kaiba just gave another smirk – which for him, was as good as a laugh. And Jounouchi knew it, too. Double damn.
"I'm going to take that as a yes. Go get changed." Jou started to walk towards the door of the study. "I'll go ring Awayase and see if he can drive the Batmobile when he's had his dinner."
"I can drive," Kaiba called after him. He also wondered when Jounouchi was going to get over the fact that he'd bought the same lamborghini seen in the last Batman movie. Coincidence. Really. Bruce Wayne... Seto Kaiba... Hardly any similarities.
From the doorway, Jou threw an exasperated look over his shoulder. "No, you can't. If you drive you can't drink. And we're drinking!"
Kaiba waited for Jounouchi to leave before he let his smirk creep back onto his lips. He checked one last email, turned off the computer screen and went to see what he could find to wear.
A few minutes later he was standing in his ridiculously large wardrobe, staring at its also admittedly oversize mirror. He was tempted to merely change into a different suit, just to be perverse. But the delight of annoying Jounouchi was outweighed by the knowledge that in a matter of hours, there'd be photographs of whatever he wore circulating in public. He was guaranteed to end up on one of those stupid gossip websites that his PR manager was always harping on about, and which he had never once looked at.
Kaiba sighed. Well, a celebrity billionaire and his boyfriend hitting the town together was pretty gossip-worthy. Especially if he was the billionaire in question, it seemed. Stupid media couldn't seem to get enough of any evidence that Seto Kaiba had a life outside of KaibaCorp and DuelMonsters.
Anyway, he had a reputation to uphold.
Kaiba pulled on some skin-tight black pants and a black t shirt. He grabbed a belt with a silver buckle, and put on some boots Mokuba had given him a few months ago.
At least Mokuba would be pleased he was finally wearing them out, somewhere. They were flat – so flat they were practically sole-less – and made of black leather so soft it almost didn't feel like leather at all. They were similar to about five other pairs of black boots that he owned, except this pair was totally plain – nary a buckle in sight – making the softness of the leather even more inviting to touch, and it was by far the tallest pair of boots he owned. These boots came halfway up his thighs. And like the pants underneath, they were practically skin-tight.
He grabbed a coat – a royal blue military cut that was tight around his shoulders and hips, then flared out. It was almost conservative for a Seto Kaiba jacket... which meant that the sleeves also flared out around the wrists, with a three rings of silver buttons around the cuff of each one. Silver buttons also ran up the front, and studded the epaulettes. Even better, the rich blue colour brought out his eyes.
Jou was waiting downstairs for him.
Okay, so maybe Kaiba didn't really give a shit about the paparazzi. Dressing up was worth that look on Jounouchi's face.
"You look..." the blonde managed to stammer. "Um... Where did you get those boots?"
"Mokuba bought them for me on his last trip to the US."
Jounouchi recovered. "That was forever ago! You gotta get out more."
And that was how, that Friday night, they wound up sitting in the VIP section at Ageha. By one am the waterside club was packed, and foreign dj was spinning a lot of English-language pop music on the dance floor. Coloured lights swirled across the large room.
Jounouchi leaned in from the chair opposite. "Let's dance."
"You know I can't."
Jou rolled his eyes. "I bet that's not true. Have you ever even tried to dance to music like this?"
"You also know that's not what I mean."
It was hard to make himself heard over the music. Not only that, but all the bodies seemed to absorb sound. Kaiba leaned in a little closer.
"I don't dance," he repeated.
"Ah, see..." Jou said. " 'Don't' is different to 'can't'."
Kaiba took a sip of his overpriced Yamazaki whisky (served on the rocks, just the way he liked it). "Fine. I can dance. To be specific, I can waltz. That's all. Ballroom dancing. Several years of torturous lessons to round out my so-called 'upbringing.' I do not dance in bars and you know it."
Jounouchi leaned back in his chair and looked away – looked towards the dance floor – but he didn't press the point. He pursed his lips, obviously making an effort not to say anything else, and Kaiba tried not to think about how that made them look even more soft and inviting – not in public, and not when they were on the edge of having an argument. Also in public.
Kaiba suppressed a sigh. They'd been through this before. Kaiba didn't want to be caught looking like an idiot in public, and Jonouchi thought he was being overly paranoid since he'd spent half his teenage years flying private helicopters into children's card game tournaments, while dressed like an extra from a bondage porno, and that didn't seem to do his reputation any harm.
The counter argument was that an egotistical teenager with a fetish for buckles was vastly different from being caught out in a nightclub, acting like one of those horrendous American celebrities who were constantly being sent to rehab and ruining their own careers. Point in case, that one horrible time he'd been goaded into singing karaoke, KaibaCorp's stocks had slipped slightly the next day. It was a convincing argument.
Besides. Kaiba didn't want to dance. He had no idea how to dance to this kind of music – nor any desire to learn how. It was just stupid. America could keep its whiney blonde pop singers, as far as he was concerned. And that huge crowd of drunken, clumsy, loud strangers could keep the dance floor. The whole idea of joining them down there made him feel uncomfortable, and irritated, and a slightly itchy feeling that he might have said was embarrassment, if true embarrassment (and not annoyance, outrage, or indignation) was an emotion Seto Kaiba ever actually experienced.
Not Jounouchi though. He was looking down at the dance floor, where those supposedly normal people were dancing, apparently without a care in the world. His foot was tapping.
Jounouchi looked back at Kaiba. "Well, if you can't, I can," he said. "I'm going down there."
Kaiba exhaled. That was one way to avoid arguing about it. "Okay."
Almost imperceptibly, Jounouchi leaned forward in his chair. Then he pulled a face, stood up, and walked away.
The movement had been so slight that anyone watching wouldn't have picked up on it – but they didn't know Jounouchi as well as he did. He knew that if they hadn't been in public, Jounouchi would have leaned in to kiss him before walking off.
Kaiba didn't know whether he was more irritated about the fact it shouldn't bother either of them whether they were in public or not – that it shouldn't have to be a big deal if he, or anyone else, did want to kiss their lover – or the fact that he'd just missed out on the kiss he'd wanted.
He watched as Jounouchi pushed his way down, onto the dance floor. At first, as Jou left the cordoned VIP section, the other clubbers gave him some space but as soon as he hit the main floor, it was chaos.
Frustratingly sexy chaos, in Jou's case. Kaiba couldn't take his eyes off him. Hopeless as Kaiba was at dancing, Jounouchi was as good. That was the thing – Jounouchi knew how to let himself go, how to stop worrying about everything else going on around him, and just be in the moment, just move to the rhythm of a song.
After he had been dancing alone for a few minutes, a petite girl with hair bleached an attractive light brown approached him. She touched him on the arm, apparently shy, and looked down at her shoes. Jounouchi just winked at her, grabbed her by the elbows, and drew her in closer. There was nothing particularly intimate about the embrace – Jounouchi was being careful not to touch her inappropriately. Yet somehow, after a few beats, they danced together like they'd known each other for years.
Kaiba looked down as his whisky. If it were anyone else – anyone else on the planet – who had pulled a stunt like that, he'd have been furious. He'd assume that the other person had done it just to piss him off, to hit a nerve, to make him jealous. But watching Jounouchi, he couldn't work up those emotions. It just wasn't in Jounouchi's nature to behave with that kind of agenda. Jounouchi was all-out-frontal-assault kind of person; vindictiveness didn't come easily to him.
No, Kaiba knew that the only reason Jou was dancing with that girl was because he was too kind to reject her without even one dance when he was going to keep dancing right in front of her anyway. He didn't care much for social niceties – neither did Kaiba, for that matter. He'd somehow failed to recognise the similarity between them, those years ago Jounouchi's when bluntness had just plain infuriated him. But if Jounouchi didn't care much for pointless politeness, he didn't have a mean bone in his body, either. Quick and cold rejection wasn't his style. He would never leave someone just standing there if they wanted to dance with him.
Kaiba gritted his teeth.
Hadn't he just done that?
Kaiba took a gulp of his whiskey.
Oh well. It wasn't like Kaiba's issues were a surprise; Jounouchi could take it or leave it. And for reasons that he still never quite fully understood, Jou always opted to take it.
A few more drinks and, Kaiba knew, he would feel better. The unfortunate fact was that Seto Kaiba was a happy drunk. A very, very happy one.
Probably all part of Jounouchi's evil plan.
It was several hours before the two of them stumbled their way back into the Kaiba mansion. And it was stumbling. It was stumbling and... giggling.
At some point they were in the kitchen. Jounouchi was trying to make scrambled eggs, though it was a few hours too early for breakfast. The only light was from the stove top and the fridge, which Jounouchi had left hanging open, insisting that if they turned on more lights the whole house would wake up.
It seemed to make sense at the time.
Except somehow there were eggs all over the floor and then Jounouchi slipped in them. And down he went. A plate flew out of his hands and smashed against the fridge.
Kaiba jumped in surprise, and dropped the saucepan he'd been reaching for. It hit the expensive marble countertop with an amazingly loud clang, and then rolled off the counter onto the equally expensive china tiles, making another series of loud, metallic booms.
"Ow! My ass!"
Jounouchi was laughing, so Kaiba knew he was fine.
Kaiba tried not to laugh but the sight of Jounouchi trying to stand up but sliding in eggs was too funny.
Then Jounouchi kicked him in the knee, which hurt like a son of a bitch, and Kaiba went down. Right on top of Jou.
A minute or so later the lights came on over their heads.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" exclaimed a voice from the door. Mokuba was standing there in his pyjamas, an indignant expression on his face. His hair was sideways from sleep.
Kaiba and Jounouchi just laughed again.
"What the hell are you two doing?"
"Making eggs," Jounouchi replied – at the same time as Kaiba said, "Making out."
Mokuba rolled his eyes. "You two do know that you have your own room for that, right? You don't have do it at four am in the kitchen, when everyone is trying to sleep."
"Wait, we can make scrambled eggs in our room...?" Jounouchi joked somewhat feebly. "Is that allowed?"
Mokuba sighed loudly, but Kaiba suspected it was to cover a grin of his own. Kaiba was pretty sure that Mokuba was secretly pleased on the rare occasion that this – well, this in particular had never happened before, but something like this – happened. That was, on the rare occasion he actually caught Seto looking happy. The Kaiba mansion had been a lot more mellow since Jou had been around, and even more so since he'd officially moved in not too long ago. It was a change Mokuba seemed to approve of heartily – four am kitchen-smashing aside.
"Look," Seto said. For some reason, it was really, really important to point it out just then. "I'm wearing my new boots."
Mokuba rolled his eyes again. "First, they were new about seven months ago. Nice to see you're finally appreciating them. Second, you're appreciating them by covering them in egg. Raw egg."
"Hey, Mokuba..." Jounouchi interrupted.
"Nice jim-jams. Do the girls at school know that you wear Astroboy to bed? I bet teenage girls really dig a guy with a great big robot."
Kaiba laughed. Hysterically.
Mokuba glared. "Oh, whatever," he said. "I'm going back to sleep. If you two chuckleheads can manage not to smash the building down around me, that is."
Jounouchi seemed to be trying to make a parting shot at Mokuba, but he was finding "chuckleheads" way, way too funny. He was just laughing again and repeating the word.
And then they made it up to the bedroom.
"Okay," Jounouchi said, as soon as he'd pushed Kaiba inside and shut the door. He'd managed to put on a serious expression, though his lips were still curled upwards slightly with repressed amusement. "Now it's dance time."
"Uh huh. You're going to teach me to waltz."
Kaiba rolled his eyes.
"Why not? Are you afraid..." Jounouchi dissolved into giggles. "Are you afraid you'll wind up with egg on your face?"
Kaiba's hand flew up to his hair. Which had sticky, drying egg in it. "I should shower."
"You can do that after we dance. I'm going to put some music on. And when I'm done, you better have your waltzing pants on."
Kaiba snorted. "And to think, you usually want me to take my pants off."
"That's next on the agenda. First, dancing. Second, showering. Then... Well, actually, if you like, we can combine points two and three. It'll be a huge increase in productivity. I know how fond you are of those."
He tried not to laugh. "I'd be leading. Which means you can only learn the girl's part."
"If you think a little thing like that will get you out of this, you're so wrong. No more excuses. You're dancing. With me. That's it."
Oh no. That tone – the tone – twice in one night. Unfair. Just who was supposed to be holding the leash, here?
Kaiba watched Jounouchi try to hook his iPod up to the extensive speaker system. Usually it didn't pose a problem, but tonight Jounouchi seemed to be having some difficulty getting the right jack in the right hole, and controlling the touch screen.
Finally, Jou managed to get something to play.
"What the hell is that?"
It was something Western and dreamy, a voice – a little androgynous, maybe a man or a woman – singing over plucking guitar strings. It sounded faraway and sad, but had a strong rhythm.
"It's not exactly Johann Strauss."
"Well, it'll have do to," Jounouchi said tartly. He grabbed Kaiba's hand and dragged him into the middle of the floor space.
"Fine," Kaiba said, giving in, finally. "Stand like this."
He yanked Jounouchi in closer, taking Jounouchi's right hand in his left one. "Hand and arm go here, elbows bent like this."
"Your other arm goes like – this," Kaiba demonstrated on Jounouchi, touching his shoulder lightly. Jou mirrored the gesture, placing his left hand on Kaiba's right shoulder.
Kaiba stared down into Jounouchi's eyes. Both of them were tall – Jou was only an inch or two shorter than he was.
Kaiba reached his right arm around Jounouchi's waist, drawing him in still closer. He let his hand rest gently, almost on the small of Jounouchi's back, just a little to the side.
There was nothing really inappropriate about the embrace – after all, it was the standard one. But suddenly it felt intimate. He felt Jounouchi exhale softly.
"Do you know the beat?"
Jounouchi just shook his head again, apparently as distracted by their proximity as Kaiba was.
"We move on ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three."
"Just follow my feet."
Kaiba spun Jounouchi suddenly, and was surprised for a few moments when the blonde kept up... And then all of a sudden their feet tangled and they almost fell. Kaiba managed to catch Jounouchi before they completely lost their balance.
Jounouchi was laughing again. Kaiba was glaring.
They started again.
More laughter. Less falling down.
After a few relatively successful measures, Kaiba began to push Jounouchi a little faster. He really could keep up surprisingly well. Though Jounouchi was clumsy as all hell on a day-to-day basis, he had a natural feel for rhythm when it came to this kind of movement.
For a minute or two, they actually danced, Jounouchi laughing as Kaiba pushed or whirled him unexpectedly, and Kaiba starting to take enjoyment out of twisting Jounouchi around on a whim. Jou kept chanting ONE-two-three like they were magic words, though his counting was off from his giggling. Kaiba did his best to look like he wasn't having fun, but it was hard.
Then the song began to wind down.
After a moment or two, as the music had slowed, so did they, Jounouchi's giggles dying off. Soon they'd stopped dancing, really – they were standing, still in the closed posture of the Viennese waltz but their arms more relaxed, the two of them more or less swaying to the music. Kaiba enjoyed how pliant Jounouchi felt in his arms at that moment. He especially enjoyed it because he knew it was a lie. Jounouchi might be every bit as open-hearted as Kaiba was close-mouthed, but he wasn't pliant at all. He was a stubborn ass.
He was surprisingly complex.
Jounouchi had dropped his head onto Kaiba's shoulder, face almost buried in the curve of his neck.
The song stopped. They stood there in the silence.
And then Jounouchi mumbled. "See?" he said. "I knew you could dance, Seto."
Kaiba felt his grip on Jounouchi tighten involuntarily, and he fought desperately against his own emotions, fought against the urge to crush Jounouchi tightly against him.
Kaiba had no idea how he did it: even after everything, Jounouchi almost never used his first name, but he seemed to save it up for the moment when it would have the most impact, sound the most intimate. When it would throw Kaiba entirely. When Kaiba would understand what it was that he really meant to say.
It was too much. This was more than he had ever hoped – or even considered he would hope – to feel for someone else. Let alone this particular someone else. It was infuriating. It was maddening.
He couldn't just let go and let loose, just stop caring what others thought – stop caring about work, about his reputation, about the press, about his own ego. Those things were a part of who he was. They were what had allowed him to survive.
And somehow, Jounouchi knew that. Somehow he was okay with it. Somehow he knew exactly when and how to remind Kaiba that it was okay to be all those things, and to be human, as well – even if only with him.
Kaiba had managed not to seize Jou any tighter to him, but he was still standing there, still holding him close.
He had the feeling there was something else here that he would never let go of, no matter what.
Kaiba dropped his head to rest on top of Jounouchi's.
"I love you, too," he said.