Chapter Thirty-One

Jonouchi was finishing his last twenty minutes before clocking out. It was afternoon, and he was pleased that he could leave before it got too late. He honestly just wanted to go home. Maybe Honda would be at work when he got there, and he'd be able to use the computer for a while.

What did Honda even do for a living? Jonouchi didn't know. It seemed like he was always home, but he certainly managed to pay his rent and buy food...

Jonouchi was cleaning the countertop on which his cash register sat to kill time. Business had slowed down to a stop for the moment, and he hoped it wouldn't pick back up before he had a chance to leave. Now he just had to wait for his replacement to show up. She usually ran early, and Jonouchi certainly wasn't complaining about that.

It was ten minutes until the end of his shift when he caught sight of something while staring at the crowd from the concession stand. He didn't believe his eyes at first, and thought it was just a trick of his mind before he looked again for closer observation. When he did, he caught sight of Otogi, which wasn't necessarily unbearable on its own, but before Jonouchi could even decide whether he should hide or not, Kitamura came into view.

What were they even doing at KaibaLand? It wasn't like Kaiba could stop them, per se, but it didn't seem like they should have business there. Maybe Otogi was trying to run into Kaiba. Kitamura, he suspected, knew Jonouchi worked there or at least spent a lot of time there. He'd had that fucking tracking device of a phone on him for a while...

Jonouchi didn't hesitate to escape into the staff lounge when he saw them, walking briskly away until he waited on a chair for his replacement to arrive. Like hell if he was going to deal with those two while he was at work, and in no fit state to handle their crap. He was already half-angsty over what had happened with Kaiba the night before. He didn't need any icing on the cake.

The girl who was supposed to take over for him arrived, and he seemed to have scared her a little unintentionally when he walked out of the room and made a beeline for the register so he could clock out. He had his eyes on the crowd the whole time, hoping that if Otogi and Kitamura were still lurking around, he'd see them before they saw him.

He changed out of his work clothes, leaving the shirt and hat for his uniform in his locker for the next time he was on shift. Then he left the gift shop through the employee backdoor, checking around both sides before walking out. He had to get out of the theme park, and quickly.

He was halfway to the lobby when he spotted them again, this time in a much less crowded area. He ducked into an alcove, his heart thumping in his chest. He couldn't say he was scared, particularly, but he couldn't deal with those two. Not mentally, and certainly not emotionally. He wasn't good at standing around and being constantly insulted.

Jonouchi tried the handle for the door to where he was going to hide. When it gave, he brightened in relief and entered the staff walkways. Technically he wasn't supposed to be there, since he wasn't maintenance staff, but he was still an employee, right?

He just leaned against one of the walls, staring up at the scaffolding and walkways for a while. He wasn't sure where another exit was, and it would be good to wait until Kitamura and Otogi had time to move on to another part of the park before going back out.

Jonouchi eventually slid down the wall and sat, confined in solitude and surrounded by thick stone walls that sealed out any noise from outside. He didn't like so much quiet, with only the occasional sounds of water running through pipes and weird creaking to break it, but there wasn't much he could do about it.

He was trapped with his thoughts. Never a good thing, in his opinion, but there was nothing else to do in this place but think. Jonouchi didn't want his mind straying to Kitamura, but the only other thing he could think about was Kaiba. Trying to figure out what the hell he was playing at, and whether or not they were a serious couple. Jonouchi was too afraid to ask.

Jonouchi hadn't left that morning on very friendly terms, all things considered. He hadn't ditched without saying anything, but he'd hardly said a word and hadn't even stayed long enough for the free breakfast that was offered.

Kaiba was confusing. More than that, he was making Jonouchi extremely anxious. He'd thought they were getting somewhere, and maybe Kaiba had decided to stop being pig-headed and take some stock in the relationship they'd been developing. Now Jonouchi just didn't know. And the implications of them still having a friends with benefits relationship both terrified and depressed him.

Sighing, Jonouchi broke the silence and rubbed at his eyes. Then suddenly someone familiar came into immediate view and Jonouchi jumped, nearly falling against the wall before catching himself.

"Kaiba? Is that you up there?"

There weren't that many people who looked like him. Jonouchi glanced up at one of the grated metal staircases above and looked again. Oddly enough, Kaiba was up there, looking down at him, seeming just as surprised to see Jonouchi.

"What are you doing over here, Jonouchi?"

He sounded slightly annoyed, probably because Jonouchi was hiding out where he wasn't supposed to be. It wasn't like he wasn't taking his job seriously (as seriously as one could take a minimum wage job), he always did his hardest, but it wasn't like Kaiba was around much to see him in action. Jonouchi had never expected to see Kaiba at KaibaLand, just because it seemed like the park would be a major inconvenience to him since so many people would recognize him and might approach him for an autograph. Jonouchi knew Kaiba didn't like a lot of personal attention from strangers.

"I thought you liked working here. If you don't, I could place you someplace else."

"It's not that," Jonouchi replied, his tone neutral but his steady stare making it obvious that he wasn't pleased with the connotation that he was slacking off. What did Kaiba think he was doing, trying to ditch the easiest job he ever had? Jonouchi wasn't like that. He stood, brushing off the back of his pants and heading for the door.

"I'm not trying to ditch, I like my job and I already finished my shift. I just needed to get scarce for a minute or two. Surely you of all people could understand that."

"Yeah, I can," Kaiba agreed, "But you never seemed like the type to hate crowds. Why do you look so rattled?"

"I'm not rattled, I'm fine," Jonouchi lied. He couldn't help but feel a little provoked by Kaiba's presence. He had really no right to be mad at Kaiba but having him just suddenly appear really rattled his nerves. Any other time, and Jonouchi would have been ecstatic to see him. Maybe seeing Kitamura really put him into a mood.

"Look, I know you weren't happy about last night, but I wasn't trying to blow you off," Kaiba spoke up. "I came out here looking for you."

"You did?" Jonouchi paused, stepping away from the door so he could see Kaiba without craning his neck too much. Part of him wanted to be a stubborn jackass and still act difficult, but he couldn't bring himself to do that. He was Kaiba's friend and he felt touched that Kaiba would actually go looking for him. Jonouchi never in a million years would have expected that kind of attention from him.

"Well, you found me," Jonouchi laughed nervously, "I guess it's lucky we ran into each other."

"You seem irritated with me," remarked Kaiba. "If that isn't the case, I'll leave you alone. I have work I can do, I just thought you'd at least want dinner together tonight or something again."

"I'm not irritated with you, promise," Jonouchi yelled back. He felt kind of stupid now. It was weird having to look up so hard just to see where Kaiba was standing. His neck was starting to hurt. It would be easier if Kaiba would stop playing king of the castle and come downstairs if he was going to carry on such a long conversation.

"I mean, shit, you know I'm always up for free food," Jonouchi replied in a joking manner, "Where do you want to go?"

"It smells funny in here. Let's discuss it outside."

Jonouchi was happy to comply. He went out of the door, almost forgetting about Kitamura and Otogi as a breeze hit his face. They still unnerved him but maybe they'd be easier to deal with since Kaiba was with him. Kaiba's presence might inspire bad behavior on their part but at least Jonouchi would be alone. Besides, Kaiba was a hard person to insult to his face and Otogi at least had never had the balls to do it.

"Can we leave the park?" Jonouchi asked as Kaiba met up with him. "Just to give you a heads-up, Otogi and his associate are here. I think at least one of them is looking for you. I don't want to be here for that, if they decide to cause a scene or something."'

Kaiba immediately frowned. He seemed to know exactly who Jonouchi was talking about.

"I'm parked right outside here."

"I'm right behind you," Jonouchi replied, following Kaiba outside quickly and keeping his eyes open for Otogi. He was easier to spot than Kitamura, and since they were probably together, it was an easier task to be on watch for the more flamboyant of the two. "To be honest, I ducked into the maintenance area because I was trying to hide from them. It was probably stupid to do, but I really didn't want to be spotted by them."

He stared at Kaiba's shoes, his hands in his pockets as he followed. He kept up with Kaiba's very brisk pace, surprised by how sprightly he was for a tall guy. Then again, his legs were longer than average. Jonouchi had to work to keep up with him. He was pleased to stop when they reached the car, and he looked Kaiba in the face again while he unlocked the doors.

Jonouchi frowned, looking up once Kaiba was caught in his gaze again, "I was having a decent enough day before those two showed up. Can you believe it? I don't understand why they'd come to KaibaLand of all places in the city, Kitamura hates you and Otogi doesn't like theme parks that much."

"I'll talk to security about it," Kaiba offered, opening the driver side door, "Where do you want to eat? I'm not that picky."

"Since when?" Jonouchi laughed, getting into the passenger seat. It was better to let Kaiba choose, in his opinion. Jonouchi knew his own tastes were very low bar, in that anything that didn't come out of a dumpster was pretty much golden. Kaiba had more 'sophisticated' palate. "I don't even know of that many places to go, really..."

He was hesitant decide but Kaiba was trying hard. Jonouchi hoped it was a good sign. He certainly knew Kaiba better than to think he was just being manipulative, Kaiba was never very good at faking nice. Besides, he didn't have a reason to be. Why would he want to spend time with him if he didn't actually like Jonouchi? His negative thoughts were so bewildering.

If Kaiba didn't genuinely want Jonouchi around, he wouldn't be trying.

"How does French sound? It's different, and you might like the change from what you're used to."

Their native cuisine was fabulous, in Jonouchi's humble opinion, but it was good to branch out sometimes. He liked trying new things and Kaiba always seemed to know where to go to get the best of everything.

Besides, maybe it would put them all in a better mood, if they tried something different together.

"I know a great place," Kaiba explained, "It's pricy because most the food is imported directly from France, but the price is worth the quality."

"Well, I guess that's fine to say since you're paying, right?" Jonouchi raised an eyebrow. "I don't think I've had French food before outside of crepes. Not at an authentic restaurant, anyway."

He was damn hungry, too. He hadn't had any breakfast, and his employee meal was limited to a lunchtime bento box. Certainly not enough to keep hunger at bay long-term, especially during a full-time workday.

"I honestly wasn't expecting you to come looking for me," Jonouchi stated, peering at Kaiba, who was thankfully watching the road. His driving was aggressive enough without him looking everywhere but forward. "I mean, I'm kind of flattered that you did. I wasn't sure you'd care that much."

Usually if they had any kind of tiff, Jonouchi was the one required to make amends. He'd figured the same was the case this time around, he'd been rude and assumed the worst out of Kaiba's questions. All the time, he wondered if it was a good idea to get entangled with Kaiba. Half of him wanted to cut and run, expecting something terrible to happen… but the other times, he couldn't imagine the rest of his life without him. His feelings were so ridiculously intense and having had sex with him only made things worse.

"Of course, I care," Kaiba replied neutrally, "I never not care."

"You say that like it's so obvious," mumbled Jonouchi. "I hardly know what you think because you don't tell me much."

When they reached the restaurant, Jonouchi looked over the menu quickly and screamed internally. He didn't see any prices listed, meaning the food was probably astronomically expensive by his standards. Pocket money to Kaiba, of course, but Jonouchi wouldn't be coming to this place alone anytime soon. Besides, the other patrons around them looked so well dressed and Jonouchi felt like a bum in person. Even Kaiba seemed comfortably apart of the scene, but he always did, no matter how he dressed.

"Order for me please, I don't know what half of these things are and I can't read the menu. This place smells good though." Jonouchi could make out the aroma of baked bread and fresh coffee, catching whiffs from other customers' tables. He detected herbs and creamy, salty smells, as well as seasoned roasted chicken and fish. He thought he picked up on a little beef, but he wasn't sure. "I can't even decide what I'm in the mood for. I'm too hungry to think."

He hoped that whatever they ordered, it would be prepared quickly. Well, relatively quickly. It was a restaurant, so it wasn't going to be instantaneous. Maybe Kaiba could be convinced to get an appetizer.

"Don't worry about it," Kaiba replied. "I have an idea of what you'd like."

A waitress appeared rather quickly, explaining the wine list before Kaiba just told her what to get for them. He ordered Jonouchi a crepe with goat cheese, green onion, tomato, and spinach with salted ham while ordering the rabbit Dijon for himself. It came with a simple vinaigrette salad for them both with a bread basket and butter. Pleased with the choices, Kaiba sat back into his seat with a self-satisfied look on his face before taking a sip of his water.

Jonouchi didn't feel quite as relaxed as he looked, but maybe he was still strained over whatever it was that bothered him. It wasn't just feeling out of place in the restaurant. He was used to that, whenever he went places with Kaiba. The question still played in his head, and he didn't have the guts yet to ask.

"So," he began after taking a deep breath, "What were you planning to do after dinner?"

"I didn't have a plan, actually," admitted Kaiba, "I thought you'd want to go back to your apartment since it's been awhile."

"Yeah, I figured I'd just head back to Honda's place," Jonouchi muttered. He'd been on his way there before Kaiba had appeared. He wasn't sure why, but he couldn't shake the feeling of doom that dwelled inside of him. Kaiba seemed to be able to tell, and it only made Jonouchi feel guilty. "There isn't really anything to do there, but there's nothing new to do out in the city, either. I've pretty much reached my limit for spending money until my next paycheck comes in."

He drew circles under the table on his pants with his index finger. Honestly, he was just trying to make conversation right now. Kaiba wasn't much one for creating or upholding topics.

"What happened to that promo work Mokuba had you doing? It should be paying you well, if he's using you like he should be. Mai always had a busy schedule when she was working for me. She was making at least enough to support her dueling career without the need for a sponsor."

"Well, I did ask Mokuba when he'd have more work for me. He told me he's getting me booked for promos, but I haven't heard back with any dates yet. I figured he's probably just too busy to focus on it..."

Jonouchi sighed. Mokuba was a busy kid. He did work and went to school, and he had a social life.

"He's not so busy that he couldn't be handling your career better than he has been..."

Kaiba shook his head, clearly disagreeing with Jonouchi's assessment, but then the food came. Both their attentions were cut off when Jonouchi immediately took a fork and tore into his meal. He hadn't had anything so rich and decadent in a long time. It was amazing how good the crepe as, despite it being a deceptively simple meal. The salad was great too, and Jonouchi definitely thought the restaurant baked their own bread because it didn't taste anything like the stuff he'd had in grocery stores.

"We can share a piece of cake together if you're still hungry after..." Kaiba offered.

"Cake?" Jonouchi's interest was piqued by the mention of sugar, but even more so by the fact that Kaiba was offering to share food with him. Wasn't he unwilling to touch a plate Jonouchi had robbed just a few weeks back? If that long. Maybe there was hope for them.

"I'm not going to turn that offer down. I don't get to eat rich desserts that often," Jonouchi grinned, "What kind are you planning to get?"

He preferred chocolate, but he didn't know if the restaurant they were in sold it, or if Kaiba had similar tastes.

"Chocolate cake," Kaiba replied. "The taste of their cakes here are more intense than at most places."

"Well, it smells like they know what they're doing," Jonouchi noted. "I like western food a lot, I just usually can't afford to go to the real fancy places like this."

Jonouchi was particularly fond of American junk food, but he already knew Kaiba didn't go for that at all. At least he had Mokuba as a fast food buddy. Nothing was better than a sloppy burger with all the toppings. And Honda, now that they were living together, was also game for that sort of thing. Hopefully their mutual social laziness wouldn't keep them from spending time together.

"Hey Kaiba," Jonouchi addressed after a short silence. Kaiba's attention had wandered to the various posters and paintings hanging around the restaurant. Maybe he was trying not to act too intense. When Kaiba looked back at him, Jonouchi felt like he was about to turn all red across his face, Kaiba's eyes were always so beautiful. He didn't want to make a fool of himself by blushing all the time anymore though.

"Thanks for taking me out," he smiled, "I really appreciate it."

"I prefer having company to eating alone," remarked Kaiba, picking at his leg of rabbit with a fork while smirking just slightly at Jonouchi's expression, "And make a fairly decent dinner companion, so don't think too much of it."

Jonouchi snorted at that. Who else was he going to ask out? His interns? Or Mokuba? That was the only other person Jonouchi could believe Kaiba would offer his personal time to. Mai was not going to happen ever again. She'd try to turn it into something it didn't need to be, or something he didn't want...

Jonouchi knew things between them were much different. Kaiba willingly seeked out his company. They had a friendship, a real one that felt intense to him. It couldn't just be simply for company anymore.

"And I actually managed to get all my work done before I came over to the park," Kaiba continued. He was slow eating his dinner, but that was probably a good thing, because it forced Jonouchi some to slow down too, "So if by chance you want to come over, you won't have to fight my laptop for my attention tonight."

"Are you sure about that?" Jonouchi asked, interested but mildly cautious. Then again, Kaiba had never been misleading, even if he didn't always make his intentions very clear. If he said he was free, then he was asking for Jonouchi's time. It would be foolish to waste that opportunity. "If that's the case, then I guess I'll follow you home."

Much as Jonouchi still felt some lingering tension, he was relieved. Not completely content but certainly not on edge. It felt good to be wanted; he didn't enjoy feeling aggravated with Kaiba all night, especially over something he was acting ridiculous over. Jonouchi didn't want to pressure him out of liking them together, that would be a serious mistake. Maybe if they had more time together that evening, he'd feel better. Maybe get some reassurance. At the very least, he might get laid and that would put him in a good mood.

"What do you do on nights in, anyway? I'd probably play videogames or watch movies, if I had a lot of either of those things," remarked Jonouchi before biting into a piece of ham, "You don't seem too interested in that stuff, though. I thought you'd at least like video games more."

"I read."

"You read?" Jonouchi repeated. "What are we going to do together tonight then, just curl up and have story time together? That sounds too cute for you, Kaiba."

"You can read for yourself," Kaiba snorted, "I'm not going to read to you tonight, I wanted to talk to you... Unless you really want to cuddle up and read together," teased Kaiba, batting his long eyelashes playfully before taking a bite to eat with his fork. "I have a feeling you wouldn't enjoy reading philosophy books from 20th century Europe all that much though."

"Probably not," Jonouchi admitted, laughing. He was a little shocked by Kaiba's flirty jest but he also liked it. "I prefer having my own adventures to reading stories about them. I guess that's just my personality, though. I couldn't focus enough to enjoy reading in school."

He couldn't help smirking a little. Kaiba knew that already. They'd gone to school together.

"Talking sounds fine to me," reasoned Jonouchi after a little more thought. "After all, we should be trying to get to know each other better, right?"

"That's usually how these sorts of things work."

Jonouchi inhaled the rest of his food, while Kaiba was only half done with his plate.

"...I read a lot when I was younger," spoke up Kaiba, although he kept his voice still low enough that it couldn't carry across their table. "It was one of very few pleasures I could enjoy, outside of logic games, puzzles, and music. Gozaburo made me follow a strict classical education. If I was reading above my grade level and got my work done on time, he didn't harass me over the books I'd ask for. It was a good way to get my mind away from my situation..."

"Oh," replied Jonouchi, a little surprised that he was being made privy to this information, "I guess that makes sense. I never got into reading much, but back when my parents were going through their separation, the only way to avoid the fighting and shit was leaving the house. Shizuka had more trouble with everything than I did, so I'd take her to the beach as a distraction. It was her favorite place to go."

He sighed, propping his chin upon his hand as he thought about it. Seemed like half a lifetime ago. Shizuka was nearly grown up and Jonouchi hadn't seen her since Battle City. It didn't feel right that they be separated like that, mostly thanks in part to their mother.

His father was a piece of shit but Jonouchi still felt so much resentment towards his mother for being the one left behind.

Ironically, he and Shizuka had done more bonding during their parents' messy separation than before or after. He and Shizuka still liked one another, but after being forcibly kept apart, they'd lost a certain aspect of their sibling bond. Even during Battle City, it felt weird seeing her around so closely. Maybe their old dynamic would return if they had a chance to stick together again, but it was unlikely that would ever happen. Not with the way his mother was...

"That all happened before she grew into a teenager and became too afraid of the sun to go to the beach anymore," Jonouchi snickered. Even Anzu wasn't afraid of a little bit of a tan, but she'd always been a little more tom boyish, he supposed.

"I wasn't really allowed outside Kaiba Mansion as a kid," admitted Kaiba quietly. "Before Gozaburo adopted me, sometimes I snuck out with Mokuba from the center and we'd walk along the coastline, but that didn't happen very often. It wasn't easy trying to sneak out discreetly with a kindergartner."

Kaiba got quiet for a minute, stirring his wine glass absent mindedly, before he spoke up again.

Like not beating the other boys into a pulp single handedly...

"They didn't let us out that often, so I did what I could for him."

"I'm not really surprised," Jonouchi mused, "You've always taken great care of Mokuba. Back in the day, it was the only reason why I wasn't convinced you were an android or something..."

That had mostly been entertaining conjecture between him and Honda before they'd met Kaiba in person. After that, it had been more like thinking he was ultimately a bad person, but time had changed both Kaiba's attitude and Jonouchi's opinions of him.

"When I was younger, I used to feel guilty about the separation because my mother held me responsible for a lot of the problems she was having. I felt like I hadn't done very well as an older brother. I realized as I got older that I couldn't do much about my parents splitting, though," mused Jonouchi. "My mother was always unhappy, and my dad was a mess. I think their relationship was fucked the moment Shizuka started having eyesight trouble, really. They were a little rocky to begin with, but that was too much for them, I guess."

"It's very unfortunate that things didn't work out between them," murmured Kaiba, "But if anything, you're a stronger person for it."

"You've got a kind of weird way of seeing the silver lining," Jonouchi noted, somewhat amused, "I mean, for a guy who's kind of cynical and pessimistic most of the time."

Kaiba seemed to be thinking about something. His expression was very concentrated, his eyes vacant. Jonouchi had a feeling that they must have treaded into somewhere very personal, and he decided not to continue. He was lucky enough that Kaiba had felt like trying to share at all. Jonouchi didn't need to push if Kaiba was going to willingly offer tidbits on his own time.

It wasn't like Jonouchi was offering to detail his criminal past, either. Nobody wanted to here about that shit.

They were both very quiet for a few minutes. Thankfully not long afterwards, the dessert arrived at the table, and Jonouchi gratefully started to eat. He went at it slowly, even though the chocolate cake slice (which was quite large, to boot) was apparently made of amphetamines. Kaiba was taking his sweet time even more than usual, and Jonouchi didn't want to eat the whole thing. After a couple of bites, he ended up stopping altogether for a moment so Kaiba would actually eat some. What was he waiting for? Maybe he just wanted to avoid getting between Jonouchi and food.

"This is probably the best thing I've ever tasted," Jonouchi noted, finally taking another bite after Kaiba had eaten off the slice a little. He almost, almost added "except you", but he was pretty sure that would make Kaiba's irritation burn a hole through his skull or something. He didn't need to embarrass the guy in public.

"That's the difference between Japanese tasteless cakes and the actual good stuff," sniffed Kaiba, lifting up his nose in that characteristic snobbish manner of his before getting another bite in, "European food has stronger flavoring, and I could never understand why Asians feel the need to withhold the sugar..."

"Don't talk like you're not one of us," Jonouchi teased, "But yeah, the sweets here just aren't the same unless you buy the imported stuff. Sometimes the sugar becomes too much though. Even I can only handle so much."

He would take red bean ice cream over prepackaged, sickeningly sweet things shipped from the US. Much as he wanted the flavor, the sugar almost always was enough to make him sick. It didn't even really taste like sugar...

"I've never really had anything like this before," he continued, taking a little spoonful of the cake. It was dwindling down, and he was still being careful to make sure Kaiba got at least half. "I guess I'm lucky that you don't mind sharing with me."

"Lucky is one word for it..."

Once Jonouchi finished, they received the bill and Kaiba took care of it before getting up and heading back towards his car. Food always made Jonouchi feel slightly more content than he generally was before eating. He felt so much better after getting to sit down and talk to Kaiba. He always felt a certain amount of nervous energy whenever he was around him, but now for the most part, he felt fairly relaxed for once. Jonouchi decided to just watch out the window and enjoy the calm while Kaiba drove him back toward Kaiba Mansion.

Despite the traffic, they made good time. Mokuba didn't seem to be around. When Kaiba reached his bedroom, he appeared quick to change out of his work clothes and Jonouchi watched him get his work things organized for the next day. He knew at this point that Kaiba didn't care if he was watched, so why not? Feeling pretty good, Jonouchi liked watching Kaiba move around with purpose. Maybe he could even try flirting a little. It seemed like now would be a low likelihood of someone getting ticked off.

"What are you doing?" asked Jonouchi, lying on his stomach and watching Kaiba pack his briefcase. He knew the answer but he wanted to hear Kaiba talk.

"Getting everything ready for tomorrow. I'd rather double check in the morning if I'm missing anything instead of trying to get it all done first thing in the morning," Kaiba explained, "Bringing work home is always slightly hazardous."

When Kaiba finished, he placed his briefcase on a chair near the entrance to the room. Jonouchi watched him from the bed, already mostly dressed down but lying on top of the covers. While Kaiba shuffled around the bathroom, Jonouchi bit at his nail, hoping that maybe this time Kaiba wouldn't reject him if he tried asking again. They'd had a great date together (he could call it a date, right?) and everything was almost good enough to make him nearly forget about seeing Kitamura in the park. He'd have to remind Kaiba to get him banned from the park.

Once Kaiba returned to the bedroom and dimmed the lights, Jonouchi moved closer to him on the bed.

"Kaiba," Jonouchi began when the silence started to wear on him, "What's on your mind?"

There was a slight pause before Kaiba broke the silence. It wasn't the thing Jonouchi was expecting to hear from him.

"How old were you when your parents separated?"

Jonouchi paused. He wanted to talk about his childhood? Usually Kaiba didn't ask questions like that, not that Jonouchi was upset. Just a little stunned.

"I was only about seven. Going on eight, I think."

His early childhood was a little blurry. He choose not to think about it if he could help it, and he'd never had anyone really ask him about it. He tended to keep personal issues like that to himself as much as possible. The most he'd ever said to anyone was that his parents were separated and Shizuka had eye trouble, and he'd only mentioned it to his three closest friends. Honda knew a little bit more because they were friends the longest, but Honda wasn't the type to ask much about Jonouchi's family. It just seemed like there was never a good time to bring it up...

"I've only seen my mother once since then, before your Battle City tournament. One time too many, if you ask me," he muttered. Honestly, they'd been at the hospital just prior to Shizuka's operation. An operation for which Jonouchi had provided the money. She could have at least said hello or asked how he was doing. She'd treated him like they were strangers to each other.

"It sounds like a very strained relationship," Kaiba offered.

Jonouchi watched Kaiba move to laying on his back, his hands resting behind his head. His sharp blue eyes were focused on watching him and it made Jonouchi's gut tingle uncomfortably. He tried not to show his nervousness by crossing his arms and tucking his head into them.

"I really liked my mother, from what I can remember of her," Kaiba continued, "She died before Mokuba could know her. I don't think I ever really told him about her, but he's never really asked much about our parents..."

"I don't have that many good memories with my mother," Jonouchi shrugged, "It was fine when it was just me. She was always kind of distant, but not as bad as she was when Shizuka's eyesight started failing. Sometimes I think she didn't ever want to have kids. I seemed to always get on her nerves."

He wasn't sure if the stress of having a sick child had made her coddle Shizuka more, or if it was just her personality to pick one kid to obsess about. Either way, Jonouchi was pretty sure his mother wasn't all there. She acted like she hated him now, for whatever reason. It would make more sense if it had started after he turned into a delinquent in training. But no, she'd started shunning him even before he started middle school.

She was already gone by then.

"I mean, as much as my dad was useless," Jonouchi reasoned, "He at least stuck around. He tried."

"We don't need to keep talking about it if it bothers you," offered Kaiba. Jonouchi frowned at that. "You're starting to look tense."

"I don't want to seem defensive or anything," Jonouchi explained. "I just haven't talked about this shit before. No one ever really asked, either." Jonouchi tried to seem less worked up. He felt uncomfortable on the bed, not so much because of Kaiba but because the room already creeped him out. Now, he was lying around talking about things that were very close and personal, and the weird chills and feeling of being watched was starting to get under his skin again.

"I'm not upset that you asked," offered Jonouchi. "I'm flattered you care to know so much. It's just not a nice topic. I'm sure you know where I'm coming from..."

"Then let's talk about something else," said Kaiba. "What would you rather discuss together tonight?"

"Um," Jonouchi searched for a topic that wouldn't cause any problems. All that came to mind was his minor upset at being rejected the night before. Kitamura was also on his mind, but he didn't want to ruin the rest of his evening thinking about him. "To be honest, I'm kind of drawing a blank. You're the one who appreciates conversation more, so you chime in."

"Well," Kaiba began, "I thought you dyed your hair blond in high school. It wasn't until recently that I realized you were a natural blond. I find that fact interesting."

"You looked at my pubes, huh?" Jonouchi snickered, "How did you manage to notice something like that?"

"I'm an observant person."

"Are you disappointed?" asked Jonouchi with some amusement. "Were you hoping I'd have dark hair?"

Kaiba laughed at that.

"Jonouchi, I couldn't care less about what color you are or choose to be," said Kaiba, rolling his eyes, "As long as you don't become tri-colored like Yugi."

"I don't think you'll ever have to worry about that happening," Jonouchi grinned, "That's quite a look I don't think I'm equipped to pull off. Good to know you'd like despite whatever color my hair might be. Maybe one day I'll surprise you and try being a red head or something, to keep you on your toes."

He was joking, obviously. It was nice to know that Kaiba wasn't fetishizing him. Jonouchi had his concerns, but just barely. Maybe Kaiba was funny about being sincere and having feelings, but he didn't seem like he only liked Jonouchi because of aesthetics... he wasn't Kitamura, by a long shot. Jonouchi had that as consolation, at the very least.

"Sometimes I worry you don't' really want me," Jonouchi muttered out loud, "I mean, don't get me wrong, I like that you want to talk to me and just hang out. That kind of thing is pretty nice, but still."

Jonouchi sighed. He always wanted more. He didn't really know how to explain that without sounding whinny. Especially to Kaiba. The last thing he wanted to hear would be Kaiba telling him he didn't feel the same about him.

"Am I attractive enough to you?" Jonouchi blurted out. "Am I enough for you?"

"What?"

Kaiba just blinked at Jonouchi, appearing as if he wasn't unsure of how to respond. Jonouchi dropped his head lower into the mattress. He knew Kaiba had sexual desires. But sometimes he wished Kaiba would just surprise him, push him into bed or a wall aggressively, make him feel like he needed him. Was all his passion one sided? He could have sex every day for the rest of his life and Jonouchi felt like it still wouldn't be enough.

"I'm just saying, you never seem that interested unless I come after you," reasoned Jonouchi anxiously. "It makes me think I'm pushing myself on to you too much."

"There's nothing wrong with you, Jonouchi," Kaiba answered in a serious tone "I can't explain that enough. You are plenty attractive to me. Sex just isn't my top priority most of the time, I have a lot on my mind."

"You don't seem that interested when I'm around..."

"Jonouchi," sighed Kaiba, rolling his eyes, "I'm tried most of the time. Don't take it so personally. I already told you that I liked you. You shouldn't fret about something so silly when I've told you that I enjoy being with you. Don't obsess over one rejection so much."

"I'm not obsessing..." Jonouchi defended himself half-heartedly. Kaiba was making him feel stupid about it. Maybe he was acting stupid about it. "I just don't get it, is all. I know you get busy and tired..."

He sighed and lay on his back, gazing up at the ceiling. The room was unnecessarily tall, in his opinion. It was like sleeping in a cathedral.

"If it's any consolation," Kaiba replied jokingly, "I would try fucking more if I thought my body would cooperate.

"You're the only person I've ever brought into this house, into my bedroom," Kaiba told Jonouchi. "You shouldn't feel so glum about everything."

"I don't," Jonouchi smirked a little, "I just worry sometimes. I thought you'd want me more now, I mean... I hoped you would."

"You can't expect me to be in the mood all the time, Jonouchi." Kaiba sighed. "That's all."

Jonouchi mumbled, "Well, I guess you are right."

He could feel Kaiba's breath on his face a little, and the proximity made his heart beat faster. He felt the urge to do something, but he resisted it. He was hesitant to try starting anything, concerned that he might be overestimating Kaiba's interest like he had the night before. But he wasn't going to shy away either, as long as Kaiba was near him. He eventually met Kaiba's eyes, waiting for him to do or say something. The quiet was starting to make him feel awkward.

"I'm glad that you aren't ashamed of liking me," Jonouchi mumbled. "It used to worry me a bit. I didn't think you'd handle the whole sexuality thing as well as you have... I didn't at first. It used to make me feel so guilty, like something was wrong with me."

"There's no point in beating myself up over it," Kaiba replied in a joking tone. "I was never like everyone else, and I can't really wrap my head around thinking I'm mentally ill or some shit just because of how I am wired. I've seen some truly sick people, and neither of us are like any of them..."

Jonouchi nodded his head, his mind trailing off briefly as it wandered down memory lane. If nothing else, Hirutani had been pure crazy. There was mild apathy, and then there was reveling in the suffering of others. Hirutani had been the latter.

"I don't really know where I was going saying all of that," Jonouchi admitted, "I barely know what I want, much less where I'm going. I guess as far as things go with us, I'm just following your lead."

Kaiba touched Jonouchi's nose before sliding his finger down his lips. Jonouchi closed his eyes, unsure of what Kaiba was doing but he liked the feeling of his finger, even if it was cold. Kaiba traced the lines of Jonouchi's jaw line and poked the side of his nose before dropping his hand and sighing.

"Do you trust me?" asked Kaiba.

"Yes," Jonouchi replied a bit hesitantly. Not because he wasn't sure, but because he didn't want Kaiba to hear the emotion in his voice. Despite his concerns and insecurities, he trusted Kaiba a lot, probably to a fault. The question made his mind race for answers. "Why do you ask?"

"I wanted to know," Kaiba answered.

They were very close. Jonouchi felt his breath quickening, and he realized that they were staring at each other in the eyes probably a little more intently than he meant to. Lying flat on the bed, he had to look up to see Kaiba's eyes, his gaze a tad softer than he probably meant to appear.

"I don't who too many people who actually trust me," mused Kaiba, "I'm flattered to hear it." He snorted before leaning down further and nearly bumping noses with Jonouchi. "I'm surprised that you feel that way."

"You shouldn't," Jonouchi argued immediately. "I think very highly of you. I thought you would have figured it out a while ago." Jonouchi's eyes were glued to Kaiba's as he lingered so closely that he almost started to tremble from anticipation. Biting his lip, he tried to contain it. He didn't know if Kaiba was messing with him or just being hesitant. Against his wishes, Jonouchi's breathing started to pick up speed again.

"You already know how I feel," Jonouchi said softly, "But you're always surprised when I say it."

"Maybe I'm just surprised that anyone, considering everything I've done, would actually find me likeable."

"I guess I know what that feels like," Jonouchi answered., "I've done things I'm not proud of, too. But we all deserve second chances for past mistakes. That's why I always wanted to be your friend, since the very beginning. Even when you were a total ass to me. I'm just kind of shocked that no one else tried as hard as I did, to be honest."

"I think you know why," Kaiba snickered.

Jonouchi averted his eyes, too embarrassed to keep staring up at Kaiba. There was no need to search his face for answers anymore. Jonouchi wasn't sure what to do with himself, or what to think after what Kaiba had said. He was almost afraid to take it to heart, but the tingling in his chest told him that he probably had already.

Hesitating, Jonouchi softly held Kaiba's face in his hands, still not looking at him, and pulled him closer until their foreheads bumped into each other. He couldn't stand the feeling of Kaiba's amused gaze on him, and he couldn't reach a pillow to hide his face in. So, he hid by getting closer. It almost worked. Kind of. Kaiba had shifted his face slightly before moving a bit lower until he moved his head forward and kissed Jonouchi. Inhaling sharply at that, Jonouchi froze for a second before relaxing, willingly opening his mouth.

Kaiba's tongue still tasted like chocolate. It had been a good idea to suggest cake as dessert, because it certainly tasted better than the entrees they'd ate for dinner. It left him feeling a tad giddy.

Excited, Jonouchi raised his arms and wrapped them around the back of Kaiba's neck, drawing his knees higher immediately so he could open his legs. His thighs were pressed against Kaiba's sides, and he pulled him in as close as he could. As urgent as he felt, Jonouchi slowly eased up as Kaiba forced him to keep a more moderate pace. Sighing when they broke for air, Jonouchi let Kaiba lead. He knew already that he was much quicker about everything, and he didn't want to put Kaiba off.

Jonouchi slid the fingers of one hand into Kaiba's hair, stroking his scalp and tugging slightly against the locks as he allowed his lips to be guided. It felt better with Kaiba coming after him. Soon they started pulling at each other's clothes and Jonouchi felt like his passion was being met equally by Kaiba's.

He couldn't even think clearly enough to stop from moaning out loud. His breathing was getting raspier, as he was trying to breath out of his nose, but once Kaiba pulled away from his lips and went for his neck, Jonouchi was making more noise hissing while Kaiba racked his teeth against his skin. It didn't pinch so much as surprised him, and he wasn't put off by it. Jonouchi liked his sexual aggression, it made him feel more wanted. Kaiba didn't stop his mouth play until his hands began unzipping his pants.

It took every ounce of Jonouchi's will not to buck up persistently. Kaiba was deliberately teasing, brushing his hands lightly over Jonouchi's boxer-briefs before hooking his fingers under the waistband. Jonouchi released a shuddering sigh, trying to control his mounting anticipation without being too loud about it. They hadn't done anything but kiss yet, and he was already losing his mind. He felt ridiculous for it, especially since Kaiba always seemed more in control, but Jonouchi couldn't help himself. Kaiba was just too exciting for him when they were about to have sex.

He gasped and arched his back slightly when Kaiba touched his bare skin, stroking slowly enough that it was nearly infuriating. Jonouchi was already aroused when he started, but after a few painfully long seconds of slow strokes, he had a full erection. It surprised him and he was a little embarrassed at his own sensitivity; it was like he could feel every change in the texture and heat of Kaiba's palm as it ran up and down his skin. The minor changes in pressure as his hand squeezed a little more firmly stood out very clearly to Jonouchi's nerve endings.

When he had a short moment to catch his breath after gasping and releasing his moans, Kaiba kissed him again. Jonouchi couldn't keep it up for long, since he was short of breath and breathing through his nose just didn't cut it. Kaiba seemed to be having a little trouble himself. It made Jonouchi feel less embarrassed. Maybe Kaiba was equally flustered and just better at hiding it.

Jonouchi raised his hips when Kaiba grabbed his pants and pulled them off completely, taking his socks away as well and dumping everything on the floor in a pile. Then he paused, and Jonouchi could tell despite having his eyes closed that Kaiba was looking down at him. He knew his face was flushing, and he felt exposed, but he tried not to move. It wasn't as if he wasn't used to the feeling by now of being watched. It was the downside to being intimate, one he brushed from his mind in favor of enjoying the benefits. He knew what bothered him about it and why, but in his opinion, it was a fair trade for being able to be close. Even if Kaiba was in denial about their connection half the time...

Breathing out a sigh, Jonouchi felt Kaiba's fingers trailing up his torso, starting at his stomach and making their way to his chest. The touch made his skin tingle, and he curled his toes and resisted laughing when he felt light kisses on his stomach. Kaiba was tickling him, probably intentionally now that he knew it was possible. Jonouchi couldn't contain himself for very long and ended up wiggling around and openly laughing despite himself as he weakly attempted to push Kaiba's head away.

"Don't tickle me, asshole," Jonouchi protested, still afflicted with laughter, "There's nothing sexy about laughing in the middle of something like this."

"Don't be so difficult," replied Kaiba back, looking up at Jonouchi before smirking, "I'm enjoying myself."

"By making me giggle like a moron?"

Once Kaiba did as much as he could possibly get away with, he motioned for Jonouchi to get under the covers of the bed before turning around. Complaint as ever, Jonouchi did so, feeling Kaiba tracing some of his scars with a finger in the lamp light before bending down his head to kiss him. Trembling, Jonouchi closed his eyes as he felt his shoulders and neck being touched before feeling Kaiba's mouth going down his spine and lower back before touching the dip of his tail bone. He stopped there and rubbed the sides of Jonouchi's ribs before doing anything more, allowing Jonouchi a chance to think clearly again.

"You don't need to stop," Jonouchi stated, hesitating for a moment before rocking back onto his knees. Kaiba might be a little surprised by how straightforward he was, but Kaiba had been the one also who'd turned him on his stomach. This must have been what he was hoping for. Jonouchi didn't mind doing it that way, either.

"Are you sure about this?" Kaiba asked hesitantly, sounding like he was resisting a laugh.

"Yes," Jonouchi answered sharply. "Why are you so amused by this?"

"No reason."

Grumbling, Jonouchi rested most of his weight on his elbows so he could avoid pushing his ass out too much. Closing his eyes, he soon felt Kaiba's hands slide over his ribs and down his sides to his hips. Then the touch left altogether, but Jonouchi knew by listening that Kaiba was fishing for lube in his nightstand drawer. Jonouchi couldn't help but smirk a little bit, and he almost felt the urge to release a kind of giddy laugh of triumph, but he restrained himself. It just wouldn't do to get all stupid like that.

He made a noise when he felt Kaiba's fingertip press inside of him. There was a cool, wet feeling, one he identified rather easily as lubricant. He willed himself to relax, and Kaiba slipped in very easily. They'd just had sex rather recently, after all, and Jonouchi had been worked out well. He was glad that he wouldn't have to wait so long this time around.

Or, so he hoped. Kaiba slid his finger in and out so carefully that Jonouchi was almost annoyed. He clutched the sheets and shuddered involuntarily when Kaiba managed to reach his hot spot. It was very light contact, but somehow that only made the sensation more acute.

"You can speed it along, Kaiba," Jonouchi urged, shifting his hips slightly to release some of the pressure that was building up. He hoped Kaiba wouldn't force him to be patient like he had the first time. It wasn't even necessary. He really, really wanted more.

He breathed a sigh of relief when Kaiba inserted a second finger and started sliding both in and out of him at once, occasionally parting them to spread him open further. Releasing quiet moans at the increase in pressure, Jonouchi's breathing quickening the longer it went on. Kaiba was pushing harder now, and acting more aggressive, but it was still like teasing compared to actual penetration. Jonouchi eventually started pleading with him to stop playing around, which Kaiba ignored at first. It was probably intentional. Jonouchi got the feeling that Kaiba enjoyed seeing him a little desperate.

Or a lot desperate.

He willingly shifted his weight back onto his knees to improve the angle when Kaiba pulled his fingers away. There was a brief pause, and Jonouchi could hear a slick sound behind him that he assumed was Kaiba spreading lube on himself. It seemed like it took a long time, though, but that had to do with his constant feeling of impatience.

Jonouchi held his breath when Kaiba grasped his hips firmly, one of his hands a little slick; then he released a low moan when Kaiba pushed in easily, his pace infuriatingly slow. Unfortunately, Jonouchi couldn't push back. Kaiba's grip on his hips stopped him when he tried. His fingers only held tighter when he was fully buried, and Jonouchi tried not to move as he listened to the sound of Kaiba's labored breathing.

When Kaiba started again, he was pulling out, moving just as slowly as he had pushing in. Jonouchi didn't see why he would, since he wasn't meeting any resistance. It wasn't as if he had to let him adjust all that much. Jonouchi felt more than ready to get to the good part, but he also knew he wasn't exactly calling the shots anymore.

When Jonouchi got a chance, he pressed back so suddenly that Kaiba couldn't stop him. He cried out loud when he was very harshly and suddenly filled. It didn't hurt, per say, but the sensation had stunned Jonouchi and made his vision go black for a split second. He started to rock forward again, but before he could push back a second time, Kaiba had held him by the shoulder and picked up speed.

Kaiba was thrusting into him now at a quick, steady pace. Either he was too hot and bothered to continue being patient, or he was just giving in to Jonouchi's preference. Either way, he started thrusting faster, setting a much less delicate velocity than before. Jonouchi gladly stood still and let it happen to him; it wasn't as if he could move all that much while Kaiba was pounding into him, anyway.

It was far more intense than any fantasy of Jonouchi's in the past. Or when he 'pretended' that Kitamura's efforts had been Kaiba's. God, how he had been so wrong to do that. There was no comparison...

He rested his head on the pillow, tugging harder and harder at the sheets as his arousal mounted. The coiling in the pit of his stomach was nearly unbearable, and he couldn't stop himself from twisting and dipping his back. He was so close to being overwhelmed completely by the intensity of the sensations. He couldn't have stopped himself from making more noise even if he'd wanted to.

The pillow didn't do much to muffle the sounds. The only reason his vocal responses were broken at all was because Kaiba was pounding into him so hard it winded him. Jonouchi felt sweat on his back and forehead, and his legs were starting to shake, but he refused to collapse. It only became harder to support himself when Kaiba's chest pressed against his back, his lips and teeth working on his neck. Jonouchi could hear his voice growing raspier as Kaiba started talking dirty to him, but he couldn't really stop to clear his throat well enough to reply.

He inhaled sharply when Kaiba's hand wrapped around his erection, and he dipped his spine again, his head jerking away from the pillow involuntarily as he reached his climax. Jonouchi shocked himself too, loudly gasping out Kaiba's given name as his body reached it's peak. Kaiba's name was the only coherent word he could manage at that point, his mind falling apart right before he cried out at orgasm. He couldn't help moaning afterwards either, Jonouchi didn't stop until he was finished and felt too exhausted to raise his voice anymore.

His heart felt like it would stop for a fraction of a second, and he reveled in the fleeting moment of pure ecstasy before shuddering. His head fell back into the pillow as Kaiba suddenly stopped moving. Jonouchi could feel his hands tightening their grip on his sides, and they shook momentarily; then Jonouchi heard a breathless moan of his name, which stunned him even through the fog of euphoria.

Then Kaiba rocked his hips slowly a few times, released a shuddering sigh, and fell next to Jonouchi on his chest.

Jonouchi was too embarrassed to speak. He had a feeling Kaiba had shocked even himself, so he didn't say a word as Kaiba got up and went into the bathroom. Laying silently in bed, he moved to his side, smoothing down his hair and touching his chest until he heard Kaiba return.

"I got a towel for you."

Jonouchi looked over just enough to see it from the corner of his eyes. Taking it, he wiped his groin before moving onto his back. He could feel semen trickling down his ass, it was so gross yet Jonouchi got a tiny thrill from knowing that his body could inspire such a reaction out of Kaiba's. It felt good knowing that he was so undeniably sexy to him, even if it meant dealing with a mess of bodily fluids afterwards. He'd rather deal with the mess than not know if Kaiba had gotten off on him or not.

He dropped the towel on the floor in a ball, hoping Kaiba wouldn't mind the mess. He was already in bed again, touching the back of Jonouchi's hair. Calm again, Jonouchi moved closer to him. Kaiba shifted too until he could throw an arm around Jonouchi's waist, hiding his face in Jonouchi's sweaty hair. They laid still together like that until Jonouchi felt Kaiba's hand drop and then within minutes, he could hear him breathing deeply like he was already asleep.

Jonouchi was astonished by how quickly Kaiba passed out, but he supposed he couldn't blame him. He was barely awake anymore himself, and he was perfectly content to relax and enjoy the physical contact. He got lost in his contentment; any and all concerns he might have had about Kaiba, or their relationship, or what might happen the next day were distant enough from his mind that he couldn't be bothered to worry about it. Jonouchi was just too tired to care.