Till Death Do Us Part
Epilogue Part 1 (Jounouchi)
Rapid, incessant clicking pulled Katsuya out of a dreamless sleep and he halfway opened one eye to investigate the disturbance. He caught the blurry sight of his roommate sitting up in bed, busily typing on the laptop that was precariously balanced on his knees. A smile grew on Katsuya's lips and his eyelid dropped down again as he began to wriggle over to the other bed that was up against his own. There, he continued to move until he was able to curl himself around the other man. Pressing his face into the other's hip, he let out a contented noise and began to drowse again. The noisy typing only halted for as long as it took for the other to tug the blanket over Katsuya's shoulder and run quick, soothing fingers once through his tangled hair.
It had been a week and a half since Katsuya had come out of the coma and regained consciousness. He'd spent most of the following days sleeping, eating or doing light physical therapy to regain his strength. Never before had he felt so weak and exhausted. It was hard to believe that the entire time he'd been roaming the city in search of his friends, he had actually been lying in a hospital bed with them right there at his side. He still wasn't sure that he'd quite managed to wrap his head around that one. Fortunately, though, Kaiba was there when Katsuya had come to. Kaiba had been the one to explain everything and convince Katsuya that Yugi and the others were really and truly there, not just more figments of his imagination.
"Are you hungry? Lunch will be arriving soon, and I believe they're increasing your portion size today."
Katsuya wasn't sure what he mumbled in response to Kaiba's question. It didn't matter if he was hungry or not, they would guilt him into finishing everything on his plate for the much needed nutrition. Apparently he'd lost a lot of weight; Kaiba said he looked like a skeleton and that it was creepy. Not that Kaiba was much better – but then again, he'd always been a bit on the too-thin side. Katsuya grinned and snuggled against the warm body.
Kaiba had been conscious for a week longer than Katsuya and was further along in his recovery. Although he had been given the go ahead by the doctors to return home where his private doctor could continue to care for him, he'd surprised everyone by choosing to remain in the hospital, sharing a room and practically a bed with Katsuya. For that, Katsuya was thankful. He was terrified at the thought of having to sleep alone at night in the darkened room, sure that he would be pulled back into the frighteningly realistic hallucinations he'd experienced in the "other place". He knew those fears were unreasonable and would fade with time, but for now he was relieved that Kaiba hadn't abandoned him at the first opportunity.
As long as they were together, nothing could hurt them. After everything, that belief was firmly cemented in his mind.
The door to their hospital room creaked open and a nurse entered with their breakfasts. She didn't comment on the fact that, once again, Katsuya was in the wrong bed, but set their trays down with a smile, and left after verifying that no problems or complaints had developed overnight. Katsuya raised his head to peek at the food and saw that they had indeed given him more than the day before – not much, but enough to make him groan at the thought of forcing it all down.
"Since when did you, the renowned glutton, grumble at the sight of food?"
Katsuya gave Kaiba a dirty look and began to drag himself into a sitting position next to the other man. "Since m'stomach shrunk to a quarter of its original size," he said with a petulant frown, pulling the tray closer. He eyed the bowl of miso soup, the second bowl of fresh cut fruit, and the plate of buttered toast and cooked fish. It wasn't really that much – quite a bit less than he would have had for breakfast under normal circumstances – but he'd quickly learned after waking up just how much smaller his stomach had gotten. He picked up the pair of wooden chopsticks from the tray and dug them into the soft white rice. Although he hadn't felt hungry, the first bite jumpstarted his appetite and the rest of the food disappeared quite quickly.
"Hey, Seto," Katsuya said, half-heartedly picking at a few crumbs.
What did 'I like you' mean?
"Hn." A few minutes of key-tapping, and then, "I'll return to the mansion tomorrow."
Katsuya's head shot up at that. Wide-eyed, he stared at the apparently unaffected brunet. "What? Really? I, um, thought Mokuba was taking care of things all right."
Without lifting his eyes from the computer screen, Kaiba explained, "I am the CEO of Kaiba Corp., not Mokuba. It is my duty to ensure that reconstruction of the building is on schedule and that the usual tasks are continuing smoothly despite the temporary relocation."
"Oh… right." Biting his lip, Katsuya looked down at the food tray. Of course Kaiba couldn't stick around forever. He was the head of a company and had more important things to do than have Katsuya cling to him day in and day out. Katsuya sighed and shoved the tray table away so that he could crawl back to his own bed. He covered his legs with the sheet and stared up at the ceiling, contemplating whether or not he would be able to close his eyes after Kaiba was gone. It had taken him an entire day just to be able to blink without initiating a panic attack – going to sleep at night was even worse because of the lingering fear that he would slip back into a coma and wake up alone in the darkness.
The other bed creaked and then a cool hand slipped around Katsuya's wrist, fingers landing on his pulse. He wondered why Kaiba still felt the need to do that, but the brunet refused to explain it to him. He turned his head and met the other's gaze, wishing he could become lost in those ocean-blue eyes forever.
Kaiba was frowning, however. "Are you… okay?"
"Uh, yeah. Fine," Katsuya lied.
"I'll come back in the evening. You won't have to sleep alone."
"Huh? Wh-who said I was worried about that?" The other man's observational skills always astounded Katsuya. He didn't want to be in the way, however, or holding Kaiba back from whatever needed to be done. "Nah, don't worry 'bout it. I'll be fine."
"And in a few more days, you should be able to join me," Kaiba went on as though he hadn't heard Katsuya.
It took a moment to process that statement. "Um, what? Join you where?"
"My home. I would like you to stay for awhile with me and my brother, if you are willing."
"What!" Katsuya yelped, staring at the man as though he'd grown an extra head. "I can't stay with you!"
"Why not? There's more than enough space."
"That, no, that's not what I…" Katsuya spluttered. Then Kaiba's words really hit home. "So I'd go home with you? To your mansion? Like… like rent a room for a bit?"
The look Kaiba gave him made him feel stupider than he'd ever felt in his life. "No, not 'rent a room,' idiot; you'd be there as my guest. Seeing as you can't seem to stay off of my bed for long here in the hospital, you can stay in my room at home. That is… unless you'd prefer your own? There are certainly plenty available."
Katsuya almost squealed in happiness, almost threw himself into Kaiba's arms in pure glee, but found he could do neither as the burst of joy drained away at a sudden thought. Did Kaiba even know what it meant to share a room, a bed, with another person that wasn't family?
That's it. It's pity. He knows I'm having trouble sleeping and feels it's his duty to keep me with him after I made him promise... We have become friends, but I doubt he'll ever see it as more than that.
"I… I'll think about it."
Kaiba gave him a long, unreadable look after that response. But all he said was, "Fine," in a clipped tone before letting go of Katsuya's wrist and sitting up. The computer noises soon filled the room again and Katsuya got the feeling that he had somehow hurt Kaiba's feelings.
He huffed and tugged the blanket over his head. The idea of moving in with Kaiba made him more than a bit giddy, but he was afraid that he might be expecting more out of it than the other man was. He knew he was gay and attracted to Kaiba and that, although the brunet's personality could use some work, they seemed to be getting along quite well after their harrowing adventure together. But did Kaiba feel the same way or had he merely stopped seeing Katsuya as an annoyance?
'I'm sorry. I like you.'
"Dammit," Katsuya growled, hating the confusion and uncertainty that Kaiba's words had caused. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to put it out of his mind for awhile. There was no rush to make a decision yet. It could all wait to be sorted out when he was feeling better.
Grateful for the distraction, Katsuya flung the blankets off his face and shot a welcoming grin at the doorway. "Yug'! Hey! Come on in."
Yugi smiled and walked over to Katsuya's bed. "Hi Jounouchi-kun. Hello Kaiba-kun."
Kaiba didn't even glance up or give any other any indication that he had heard the greeting. With a roll of his eyes, Katsuya said, "Don't worry 'bout him. He's in a mood." Which appeared to be his fault, but he didn't feel it was necessary to point fingers. "What's up?"
"I just thought I'd drop by to see how you're doing before I open up the shop for the day," Yugi said, perching himself on the edge of Katsuya's bed.
"I just saw you last night, Yug'. Not much has changed since then!"
Aside from Kaiba asking me to sleep over with him.
With a laugh, Yugi nodded in agreement. "Oh, right. Well, is there anything you want me to bring when I visit later today? Some new cards are supposed to arrive that I think you'll find interesting."
It was nice to sit there and chat with Yugi, who never failed to cheer him up. Not long ago, he'd thought he would never get another chance to see his friend's bright smile or listen to him expertly ramble on about Duel Monsters. To have come so close to losing everything that was dear to him made Katsuya all the more grateful that he had survived. He reached out to take hold of Yugi's arm and pulled the shorter man against him. Wrapping his arms around Yugi, Katsuya leaned down to rest his forehead against Yugi's shoulder, taking comfort in their closeness. Yugi responded by adjusting his position to lean into Katsuya, and continued to talk as though there was nothing strange about another grown man hugging him. They stayed like that until Yugi was forced to part for the game shop, which left Katsuya with a lonely feeling and a silent, grumpy Kaiba to deal with.
It was his second day alone in the hospital, while Kaiba was off doing whatever it was he needed to do to help his company pick up the pieces from the damage the earthquake had done. The nurse had just left with the empty lunch tray and Katsuya was lying on his back with his hands tucked behind his head and his gaze fixed on the ceiling. The daytime shows on the small television, which he'd flipped through a bit earlier, hadn't been interesting in the least, with only quiz shows and dramas aimed at lonely housewives, and he didn't feel up to reading the novel that Yugi had brought him yesterday. The room felt too quiet without the noises of Kaiba on his laptop or his deep voice occasionally deigning to answer Katsuya's attempts at conversation. Now all that broke the silence was the footsteps or low voices of people passing by his door, but even that was infrequent enough to give the feeling that he was isolated from the rest of the world.
He continued to stare upwards, his eyes half open but unseeing, while he focused on breathing slowly and steadily. The panic attacks, four in all so far – three yesterday and one that morning – had thankfully been easy to keep a secret from everyone. The humiliation of others knowing would have been too much to bear. It wasn't the silence itself, exactly, that scared him, but the way it reminded him of the 'coma-place' where all of the people in Domino had vanished and left him to face darkness and nightmares. When he couldn't hear other people in the hallway outside, he couldn't help but fear that somehow he had slipped away into that place again.
Don't think about it. You're out of there and safe now. There are people everywhere and your friends will be visiting you later and everything is fine.
Twenty minutes had gone by without a sound and suddenly nothing he told himself was convincing. He sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The air was becoming thick again, causing his chest to tighten and lungs to ache. Gasping, Katsuya almost fell off the bed, but just managed to stay on his feet as he stumbled over to the window. He fumbled with the latch, cursing breathlessly until it unlocked and let him slide the frame up. A cool, refreshing breeze came in through the open space and Katsuya immediately stuck his head out to feel it more fully. He took deep lungfuls of fresh air while glancing desperately around until his eyes locked onto a mother and child walking across the parking lot. They were holding hands and the young girl was pointing at something in front of them. Katsuya stared at them, the proof that he was still in the real world, until they turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
With a weary sigh, Katsuya kneeled and rested his chin on the window sill. Breathing was easier now, at least, and his heart had slowed to a more comfortable pace, but he didn't feel up to lying back down in the too-silent room. More people passed by – some heading to their parked cars, others just arriving – and he watched it all with hungry eyes. He didn't know how long he knelt there for, but after some time a noise from behind alerted him to another's presence in the room.
Katsuya jerked away from the sill and tried to turn, only to find his legs had fallen asleep. He landed on his butt on the tiled floor and sat there rubbing at his legs while grinning sheepishly up at Mokuba, who somehow looked both concerned and amused at the same time.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. Jus' gimme a sec." When the pins and needles faded from his calves, Katsuya crawled over to the bed and up onto it. He flopped onto his back and patted the mattress next to him. "Have a seat! I didn't expect to see you here this early. What about school?"
"Half day. There was nothing else to do, so I decided to see if you wanted some company," Mokuba explained, sitting down next to Katsuya. "What were you doing?"
"Nothin'. Just looking at the clouds."
"That bored, huh?"
Katsuya laughed and nodded. "Gods, yes. So bored. Who'd have thought I'd actually miss your brother being stuck all day in here with me." After he said that, he noticed Mokuba giving him a considering look and frowned. "What?"
"You and my brother grew pretty close while you were… away, didn't you?"
Katsuya blinked at the sudden change in topic and felt his cheeks heat a bit. "Um, guess so. Why?"
The smaller boy shifted to lie down on his side and propped his head up with one hand to face Katsuya. He seemed to be studying Katsuya's face with an intensity that reminded Katsuya that, emotionally, Mokuba was vastly more mature than other kids his age. Mokuba answered, "He's never invited someone to stay over before. At least, not since he was mind-crushed by Yugi's Yami."
"He… he told you about inviting me?"
"Of course," Mokuba said, an implied 'd'uh' in his tone. "Since I'm living there, too."
"But… Wait. Hold on. I'm the first he's asked to…? What about…" Friends? Family? No, this was Kaiba Kaiba they were talking about – the rich CEO whose only concerns were Kaiba Corp and his brother. He was too proud and arrogant to form close attachments with anybody who might be open to a friendship, as Yugi and the others had learned time and time again, and, as far as Katsuya was aware, Kaiba had no family beyond Mokuba. "Er… girls?"
"Girls? Really?" Mokuba snorted a laugh of amusement.
"What's so funny about that? Surely he's had a girlfriend or two in his life? Or a fling at the very least?"
The smile faded from the teen's face. "I've never seen him show that kind of interest in anybody and the few attempts I made to set him up failed miserably."
That was… sad. Katsuya couldn't imagine not having his friends there to support him or going out on a date once in a while, even if only to have a bit of fun and break the monotony of everyday life. No wonder Kaiba was so socially inept around Yugi and the gang.
"He tends to see most people as a threat," Mokuba continued, his voice wavering a little. "It's Gozaburo who taught him that the world is filled with enemies and to show any emotional attachment to others is a weakness that will allow them to destroy him. Because of that complete bastard, Seto can't see the strength that comes with friendship, and I can't help but worry that… that…"
"That what?" Katsuya asked softly. He watched the turmoil grow in Mokuba's expression and couldn't help but be disturbed by what he was hearing. He'd never really thought about why Kaiba was the way he was and hadn't considered the idea that before Gozaburo, Kaiba might have been a normal kid.
"I won't always be here for him. One day I'll go away to university or get married and move out and then my brother will be all alone in his big, empty mansion."
Katsuya wondered if Kaiba had any idea how much his younger brother cared for and worried about him. "Maybe you don't give your brother enough credit," he suggested, "I mean, he got along alright without you while we were… uh, you know, in a coma. Okay, I guess technically you were around, but it felt like you weren't and he didn't self-destruct or anything."
"Right! Because you were with him," Mokuba said, perking up.
"You seem to be the exception to the rule. He's been practically obsessed with you since high school and now he's invited you here—"
"Wait, back up." Katsuya pushed himself up to sit cross-legged on the bed. "What do you mean by obsessed?"
"I mean," Mokuba said, sitting up as well so that they were face-to-face again, "that aside from people he's planning to annihilate, he has never paid as much attention to anyone as he has to you."
"He hated my guts in high school!"
"No, he teased you, albeit in his own twisted, socially-stunted way. If he'd hated you, he'd have destroyed your life as soon as possible, and if he'd had no interest in you, he'd have pretended you didn't exist. I mean, I thought you were just another guy who had pissed him off too, at first, but then I noticed how your name started to pop up in at least one conversation we had every single day. It'd always be something you'd done that he'd supposedly taken offence to, and yet he never attempted to truly hurt you."
"He did plenty of crap to me!" Katsuya sputtered, not able to believe the nonsense the kid was trying to push on him. "The fights and… and the non-stop putting me down, and the duels."
Mokuba made a face like he thought Katsuya was being intentionally stupid. "Jounouchi, like I said, he was teasing you. If he'd really wanted to, he could have got you kicked out of school, had you or your father thrown in jail, or even hired someone to assassinate you."
"Don't underestimate what my brother is capable of when it comes to making his enemies disappear."
Katsuya went pale when he realized that Mokuba was dead serious.
"I'm not sure what it is about you," Mokuba said with a pensive frown, "but I think Seto likes you. Not that he'd ever admit to it."
"He did, though," Katsuya blurted out without thinking. His entire face turned red when Mokuba's eyes widened in shock. "Erm, I mean, he said he l-liked me. In the coma place… i-it was raining and… I was upset and he…" He trailed off and scratched his nose in a lame attempt to hide his blush.
When Mokuba only continued to gape, Katsuya sighed and tried to explain a bit better, "It was just a spur of the moment thing, I'm sure. Probably didn't mean much. We were just stressed out from everything."
"Are… are you kidding?" Mokuba said in an awed tone. "What it would have cost him to… Seto never ever does anything spur of the moment. Oh my god, he actually likes you."
Katsuya shook his head, trying to deny the ache that formed in his chest at the other's words. Even if Kaiba did like him, it would never be in the way that Katsuya wanted. According to Mokuba, the CEO had never had a relationship before and so there was extremely little chance that he'd want his first to be with Katsuya, of all people.
"It's such a relief," Mokuba was saying, "to know that he's not completely hopeless after all. You should talk to him more while you're at our place! Maybe we could all do some things together and… oh, you could even move in for good! Seto seems to want you to stay, doesn't he? If you moved in then… Jounouchi? Wh-what's wrong?"
"I… I can't. I c-can't do that."
It was impossible. He couldn't move into Kaiba's home when in reality they barely got along. Everything that had happened to bring them closer to understanding one another had been a big, fat lie – they had been unconscious, nothing had actually happened. How could he trust Kaiba's feelings and his own when it was all based on a dream they had inexplicably shared. And even worse, if he did stay, what would happen if he fell in love with Kaiba and the other man couldn't return his feelings? This tentative friendship that had grown between them would break in an instant and Katsuya didn't want that to happen. He'd rather leave on good terms then remain in the mansion and watch things fall apart.
"Don't you like my brother, too?"
"I…" Not knowing how to answer the simple question, Katsuya bit his lower lip and stared down at the wrinkled bed sheets. When Mokuba expelled a small gasp, Katsuya realized that his left hand was pressed against his chest, gripping the material of his shirt directly over his heart. He glanced up, saw Mokuba staring at it, and immediately let his hand drop. "Um… I…" He averted his eyes again in embarrassment.
"Oh, uh, there's still lots of time to consider it," Mokuba quickly said. "You shouldn't be thinking about stressful things right now anyway. Do you want to play some Duel Monsters? I brought my deck."
Grateful for the change of subject, Katsuya eagerly nodded and reached for the drawer that contained his own deck of cards. "Sure, yeah. A game sounds good."
As they prepared their decks and created a playing field, Katsuya's mind remained on the idea of staying over at the Kaiba mansion. He could do it for a little while, at least; just until things got back to normal. While he didn't exactly relish the idea of going back to the place where he'd ended up trapped in darkness, he felt that it might help with the nightmares to see for himself that the mansion was just a building and not the haunted place he remembered it being. Aside from that, he was bothered by the memory of what Kaiba had done when he'd returned to the hospital room last evening after being gone all day.
The door opened at quarter-to-one in the morning, catching Katsuya's attention, and he turned away from the television in hopes that it wasn't just another nurse coming in to check on him. He wasn't disappointed when the tall brunet he'd been waiting for stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. Katsuya's welcoming smile faded, however, at the sight of Kaiba's face. It was paler than usual and his features were so tight his face looked ready to crack apart. He stood there, unmoving, and only stared blankly at Katsuya.
Nervous at the strange atmosphere, but relieved that the other man had come back as he'd promised to, Katsuya attempted another smile. "Seto? Did—" He cut himself off when Kaiba suddenly dropped his suitcase and approached Katsuya's bed in three long strides. The taller man stood over Katsuya, a frown marring his forehead, and it took everything Katsuya had not to reach out and touch him to convince himself that Kaiba was right there and real and not a hallucination. He'd just spent the first day without Kaiba since waking up and now all he wanted to do was hug the other tightly and never, ever let go again.
Almost like he'd read Katsuya's mind, Kaiba shrugged off his suit jacket and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Move," he ordered quietly, and even his voice sounded taut with stress and exhaustion.
Katsuya immediately shifted over and watched Kaiba slip off his shoes and lie down on his back so that their sides were pressed together. The room was mostly dark with only the muted TV giving off a flickering glow. Katsuya used to remote to turn it off, then lay quietly while taking comfort in the sound of Kaiba's breathing and the feel of the other's shoulder and arm against him.
His eyes were just beginning to droop when he felt Kaiba move and then cool fingers gently wrapped around his wrist. It was only when they landed on his pulse point that he finally understood what Kaiba was doing, and the thought sent an overwhelming flood of emotions into him that he couldn't even begin to sort through.
'Checking that I'm still alive…'
Recalling the moment of his epiphany, Katsuya felt certain that Kaiba was just as affected by what had happened to them as he was. They were both afraid of the other disappearing. Maybe Kaiba wasn't asking Katsuya to move in with him out of pity, but because he needed and wanted him to.
Katsuya bit his thumbnail as he stared hard at his cards. He gently touched a finger to the Red Eyes Black Dragon that he'd been lucky enough to draw in his first hand, then nodded with determination.
Okay then. I'll stay with him for a bit, but I won't expect anything out of it. I'll figure out what it is that Kaiba meant by 'I like you' and then decide where to go from there.
A/N: Since the last chapter was so short, thought I'd post this one right away! Part 2 (Seto's POV) will take a bit longer as I'm still fixing it up. Love the enthusiasm in most of the reviews, keep 'em coming if you're inclined ;)