A/N: I found this extremely old story floating in my old hard drive when I was cleaning it out and, since it had been finished, I figured I'd just publish it so it wouldn't be wasted. Hope you enjoy!
Like Neo Domino City and Satellite, they were destined to never see the bridge connected between them.
"You haven't touched your steak, Mr. Jounouchi," Kaiba purred, eyes traveling the length of his dinner partner. "I had anticipated that such a meal is a rarity for a Satellite native." He punctuated the word with a low hiss, disdained by the state of their former home city. Too many ghosts, too many failures.
But for the man across from him, it had been so much more. It had been home.
Katsuya simply regarded Kaiba with refocused resignation, his plate untouched despite how mouth watering its contents were. "Why should I eat this," he asked, his own eyes narrowing. "When there are children in Satellite going hungry?" Maybe in his youth, he would've attacked the meal without prompting, delighting in the food with abysmal table manners that his friends once knew him for. But he was older, wiser, and have watched too many starving children to act with such careless impulse. Every bit of food was shared and treated with reverence in order to survive. Kaiba would never understand that kind of suffering.
Leaning back in his seat, Kaiba ruefully admitted to himself that not even his plan of giving the man food would deter him from why he was here. For the life of him he could not understand why Jou would choose to live in squalor when he was famous. He could duel the whole lot of Neo Domino City's best duelists a hundred times over and not break a sweat. Such a prestige would have given him a skyline apartment or a languished townhouse like Yugi Mutou had. Certainly spending his childhood in a rundown hovel back when Domino City once stood would have pressured him to live better?
And yet here he was, no longer a teenaged boy with a rough streak but a man; almost forty but still ruggedly handsome, if not more so than before. He was filled out in all the right places and sat with an air of pride despite his disgusting stained jeans and oiled shirt. And, as the blond shifted in his seat, he could see the tarnished leather of his boots, a living relic from meandering into sewers and other disgusting professions the man probably undertook in his age.
And yet, for all of these things, from the shoddy clothes to the scars and the disheveled state of his hair, Kaiba understood why the citizens of Satellite considered him their unofficial leader. He was practically a legend now. Just like him, just like Yugi. Except he hadn't faded into memory like his superiors. He kept going in another way, inspiring through action instead of cards. It was off-putting, but expected.
"If you don't eat, the cook will throw it out," Kaiba sneered, cheating his way to victory by appealing to Katsuya's sense of resourcefulness. His admiring could only go so far and, for the moment, he was more angry with the blond than relieved. "Which do you think is the better option? Having Satellite's beloved rebel live another day, or having him waste food?" He knew he had an answer when Katsuya snarled in response, gripping his fork tightly and then stabbing it relentlessly on the tender meat as he finally partook in the meal. Snorting at another win on their chart of rivalry, he returned to his own meal with more elegance.
Waste not, want not. Katsuya dropped his utensils on his now empty plate save for the bone. His stomach wonderfully full, but his heart still empty; his mind had begun to dwelt on the hungry children on Satellite who could have benefited from even the measly vegetables. Unlike the spoiled youth of Neo Domino, they would have gladly eaten any vegetables put on their plate. And that idea alone left him feeling sick. He had not made his way over here just to dine with an old enemy. He had hoped, despite knowing that it was futile, to get Kaiba to see that Satellite was suffering. To prove that they were still Domino citizens first and foremost.
Kaiba lifted up his tumbler of whiskey, almost snorting with disdain when Katsuya mirrored the action with his bottle of cheap soda he reluctantly ordered their server to bring him. The blond would never touch liquor, too afraid he would fall into its addiction like his deadbeat father. "Stay classy," He taunted, undaunted by the glare that was being sported at him. "For some reason, I'm not surprised you'd ended up being a grease monkey." He almost wished that Katsuya had a middle aged gut to perfect the image. Almost. His gaze wandered over to Katsuya's clothed stomach, obviously flat and obviously muscled from the rough hard work Satellite would usually subject them to. He supposed that for the man before him to dodge and defeat every man in Kaiba's security to get to his office, one had to be reasonably fit.
"I work an honest day's work unlike some people," Katsuya growled back, disgusted by how perfectly right Kaiba looked in his expensive suit. The man was born to richness... possibly even born to look immortal. He had barely changed physically since the last time he saw him aside from the angular features and matured body. "Strange enough," He continued, an ugly smirk growing on his face. "Neo Domino City loves the Duel Runners made by the sweat and blood of Satellite's citizens."
"The best kind," Kaiba responded without a beat, immune to pity. "We also love to drink the tears of orphans. Mine excluded of course. Your point?" Katsuya's eyes darkened, which pleased the CEO. He preferred the mutt angry than melancholy. He said nothing more about motorcycles, which to this day, still bugged him. It seems that youth today couldn't sit still for one moment, opting to ride around in motorcycles to make the stakes more interesting. The only reason he allowed his company to advertise Turbo Duels was to keep up with the growing fad for it. And God only knows that his shareholders only cared for the money. Kaiba himself was still above such a stupid idea. If someone had the balls to duel him, they'd do it like real men, facing each other on the ground. Riding was just an unnecessary distraction.
"Let's stop screwing around, Kaiba," Katsuya said, pushing his plate away. He ignored the eyebrow Kaiba was giving him. "I didn't come here to have dinner and chat the night away. I want a favor."
"What makes you think I'll give it to you?" Kaiba's eyes narrowed, despising every single favor people wanted from him since the day he was born. His cocky mood was draining away, replaced by an aura of years alone, of just mere business that had ruled the majority his life. "Almost twenty years, Katsuya, half of that spent in Satellite since we've last seen each other. And now you've come to me for a fucking favor?"
Katsuya opened his mouth, preparing for an equally searing retort, but stopped. He decided on a more neutral approach to this subject. "What do you care? I think you'd be glad I was gone! Hell, that warrants a favor, doesn't it? You've never liked me, period. We both knew that. I mean..." Katsuya chuckled. "... if not for Yugi, what were the odds of us ever meeting anyway? Zilch."
"Why did you allow yourself to become arrested?" Kaiba interrupted, ignoring whatever sappy crap Katsuya was ready to spill out that would ruin the rest of his dinner. "Why would you do something so stupid... did you know what it did to Mutou?" Katsuya's eyes flashed in warning, sincerely pissed that Kaiba would stoop to such tactics. And then they flashed in guilt over the memory which Kaiba inwardly smiled on. Good, let the mutt suffer for a moment.
The intended gap as Domino City shattered in two, the purposefully rising levels of water between them, separated the gifted from the scum. A utopia beside a dystopia. Aside from the people already living in the slums where Satellite ended, those that could not afford a place in Neo Domino City were ferried out to... 'simpler' living.
But Katsuya and the handful of others like him protested the eventual living arrangements and the ensuing riot that unsuccessfully guaranteed a spot in prison and a permanent deportation to Satellite, now a future hub of criminals and lower class has-beens. That was when it all came apart. What Katsuya didn't know was that Yugi had completely disappeared from the face of the Earth during his incarceration, the rumors circulating that he was unable to comprehend no longer seeing his best friend again or he no longer deemed Japan a worthy place to duel in. Either way, it didn't matter and God only knows what happened to the rest of the mutt's friends. Kaiba didn't bother keeping tabs on them.
The blond remained silent for a moment, opting to simply stare with the most disgusted look Kaiba had ever seen the man give. "I did what I had to do."
"I know." Kaiba reached across the table, invading Katsuya's personal space and the light flinch to touch the corner of those golden brown eyes. His fingers traced the multiple thin strips of synthetic platinum lined meticulously down the left side of his face. Platinum was worse than gold. Platinum meant total ostracizing from anyone in Neo Domino City. Platinum meant no job, no help, no legal dueling, no mercy. Platinum was for traitors.
Katsuya simply sat there, uncharacteristically obliging, as Kaiba studied the markings from forehead to chin, a visual rap sheet of the blond's last ten years in prison. By coming here, Katsuya was almost guaranteed a new mark when he's finally caught by security, maybe even a trip to the Facility for another ten years for trespassing into Kaiba Corp. They were the shameful marks of a criminal, but it only served to darken those brown eyes, make them more vivid. He withdrew his hand and noticed the mutt visibly relax again. "I can call security," He said, nearly mesmerized by the marks. "They can track you in an instant, you know? I can have them drag you all the way to the Facility like the dog you are."
"Would you now?" This time it was Katsuya's turn to purr, a mad glint in his eye taunting not only Kaiba, but what he felt was the rest of what was wrong in the world. "Any more marks and Ushio claims I can have my very own suite there. They might even make it permanent for scum like me. And then I told him he can fuck himself before I outdueled his sorry ass off a bridge." That drove Kaiba over the edge, grabbing the collar of Katsuya's dirtied shirt and practically lifting him off his seat, the table between them shuddering angrily at the treatment. Kaiba, ever the PR-loving CEO, was utterly enamored by trouble, especially by the one thing that had shook his dull foundations of the elite life.
It had always been like this. Kaiba would taunt and flaunt his better genetics, his better mind, his better cards and yet Katsuya would always find those weaknesses and make it his own. He had a rush of fire that boiled the cool machinations and then someone else would be in Kaiba's place: Seto, who he had long thought had killed decades ago when Mokuba left Japan for a different life. Seto pulled Katsuya close like a lifeline, hoping to steal that fire still burning in those hazel eyes and make it his own like all those years ago.
They were now both standing, the small table shoved aside with enough force to shatter the china and dent the silverware. He blatantly ignored the sudden harsh raps against his door; his security had overheard the commotion. "I'm fine, you morons!" Kaiba yelled at the door as voices called out from the other side. "Do your pathetic jobs and leave me be!" The knocks fell silent and they can hear the echoing footsteps leaving down the hallway.
Katsuya used this moment to pull away, straightening his crumpled shirt to give them the distance they needed to get a hold of themselves. The office had wall length windows overlooking all of Neo Domino City and it was around that that Katsuya wandered over to. It was the best night skyline he had ever seen. He could even see the barely lit Satellite along the water and wondered if Kaiba had ever looked in that direction. The factories and the junk yards, it was nothing like the clean bright Neo Domino City. "That was home wasn't it, Kaiba? Satellite used to be Domino City." He can hear Kaiba tentatively approach, ignoring the destroyed china littered around the floor. "The kids... the young ones, they don't know that. Don't know that the trash piles they sit on was once where the first duel champions were born; where they went to school and grew up. How fucking sad is that?"
"Things change, Jounouchi," Kaiba simply answered, staring out towards Satellite. "Accept it." There were other things at work too, but he couldn't just tell the mutt that. Even he couldn't believe it half the time. Goodwin had promised his reason for isolating Satellite were for the good of Neo Domino City and if the public was happy, economy thrived. It was simply business. Evolution.
"You're right, they do," Katsuya conceded quietly, which surprised Kaiba enough to stare incredulously at him. "But for the better, not the worse. Help me with Satellite."
"You want me to help those criminals?" He sneered.
"The only reason we have criminals is because the city sends them there!" The blond turned his head and snarled at Kaiba, fingers pressed hard against his silver markings. "I didn't get these for petty theft, Kaiba. Every single one of them was me trying to get people out of that hellhole! Giving the people something to believe in, something to keep them going. They practically eat up that legend about Daedalus Bridge, because it inspires them!"
Kaiba stepped away from Katsuya, anger curling in his gut as he reached for the whiskey. "Is that why you left? Because you wanted to be some kind of savior to those street rats? It wasn't enough to bite at mine and Mutou's ankles, no, you had to go and become some kind of hero to have purpose in your life, is that it?"
"Fuck you, you son of a bitch!" Katsuya growled, that famous temper flaring. "You and I both know damn well why I left and why you're bitching like an ex-wife... !"
Kaiba gripped the bottle hard, a long forgotten fury burning in his skin. "Don't you dare-!"
"You're mad because I left you. For them. But you want to know the real reason? Life got stale. Everything you offered meant nothing to me. The riches, the glory, it meant shit to me. And when you didn't raise a finger over our own home, you expected me to accept it. And I couldn't. I wouldn't." Katsuya found himself taking to Kaiba's back, but it didn't deter him. "Did you ever even loved me, Kaiba? Or was I just a pet project to you? Looking back, I could never tell. You'd be surprised at how far you can examine your life at forty than you do when you're twenty."
Kaiba gripped his tumbler in a vice like grip, Katsuya's words shaking him to the core. This was a topic that should have been addressed decades ago and the ensuing chain of missed opportunities was quickly overwhelming the both of them. "Shut. Up."
"Half of our lives are almost over, Kaiba, and we have nothing. No wives, no kids, not even a dog. We just have our memories and they weren't even good." Katsuya's voice tapered into weariness that clenched at whatever was in Kaiba's chest that resembled a heart. "At least I have a destiny. A reason to keep going despite all the shit in my life. You just sit around, still the heartless bastard you were twenty years ag-"
It took a split second for him to dodge and the sounds of a piercing crash echoed in the opposite part of the room. He looked over his shoulder to see crystal pieces and amber fluid trailing down the wall. Catching his bearings he came upon Kaiba's wild eyes, daring him to move lest he himself joins the drink on the wall.
"Fuck you, Jounouchi!" Kaiba cried out, loud enough to wake the whole damn tower. "Don't you dare blame me for that! Not when it was you who left me!" Not even a note, a phone call, nothing. Only the breaking news of the third best duelist in the world being shipped out to prison for instigating a riot in Satellite's defense. He had watched his lover's defiant face from a live conference room. He had watched as Katsuya snarled at him through the news camera as he was hauled away into a squad car, daring the world to lock him up for good. And yet, in that very morning, he had seemed to be blissfully asleep in bed when Kaiba left for work that day, dreaming their usual night away in comfort. The image had never left Kaiba. Not even after twenty years.
He had thought it was enough. Like so many others before him, Seto had honestly believed that as long as he provided everything he needed, Katsuya would stay forever. And now he realized that he hadn't. The idea that he could tame and put someone like Katsuya Jounouchi into a gilded cage had been a failure. Twenty years apart had been retribution for this error.
And there they were: two broken men who still couldn't find a niche in life, who weren't even able to hold on to each other like they should have done. And that had been their greatest regret.
Katsuya had then cautiously walked over after a long silence, his expression sober. He didn't want to gauge Kaiba's rage anymore than he had to. He was close enough to hear the CEO's heavy breathing, the small shudder of his well-dressed shoulders from the exertion. He tentatively reached over, mimicking Kaiba's intrigue of his marks to touch the man's face, the first time in twenty years since he had.
And as he carefully rested his rough, abrasive fingertips onto the CEO's cool cheek, that familiar spark ignited between them, as clear and vivid as it was they day they had touched as young men. Despite the anger and the bitterness over the years, the attraction had never ceased. And probably never will be.
But this moment tragically cut short as the doors were thrown open, startling the both of them. Security marched into the room, guns all aimed onto Katsuya.
All too used to being captured by the authorities, he pulled away from Kaiba's stilled form and dropped to his knees, hands automatically placed behind his head in surrender as security surrounded him. He was forcibly pulled up and handcuffed, unperturbed as one officer began to speak of his rights.
"Yeah, yeah, the right to remain silent bullshit, I get it." Katsuya huffed as Ushio arrived into the fray. Their former classmate grinned wildly at such a stroke of luck.
"Well, well, Jounouchi, you really got yourself into the shitter this time. Breaking in and assaulting the CEO of Kaiba Corp? That'll earn you another good ten years if we play our cards right." Ushio patted the markings tauntingly on Katsuya's face and chuckled at the venomous look his new prisoner was sporting at him. "How many of you have I arrested tonight? Once is too many. You and that Fudo kid... thinking you belong in this city." Katsuya could only register confusion, having not known whatever kid he was talking about as he was hauled out of the room.
"Seto." The blond looked over his shoulder at his resigned rival. Ushio looked between them for a moment and signaled security from moving any further.
"The Satellite scum wants to say something to Mr. Seto Kaiba. This should be hilarious to watch." Ushio grinned at Katsuya and spun him around once more to properly face the CEO. Face flaring up by being forced on the spot to say something to Kaiba, he remained silent for a moment until Ushio prodded him painfully in the back with a nightstick. "Say it."
"... you're right," Katsuya said in a hushed tone, meeting Kaiba's eyes properly for the first time in a long time. "I left. I left because I didn't feel wanted or needed. And I was right. Twenty years, I waited for someone to come after me." A bitter smile escaped. "But they didn't, did they?"
Kaiba said nothing. With a snort, Ushio signaled them to carry Katsuya out. "Isn't that cute? No one would ever see you as anything more than trash, Jounouchi, I can promise you that."
Anticipating a long overhaul of living in the Facility for a long time, Katsuya discovered that his bail was paid off and his sentencing was found time served, the only thing left to do was the old song and dance of deporting him back to Satellite. And yet his entire attempt to persuade Kaiba to help him was in vain. He relinquished himself to going back to a heavily polluted city and crime all around.
At least he saw the bastard again. He needn't dare wonder who paid his bail. If he did, he'd hope again and that didn't solve the terrible conditions in Satellite. Another regroup with the others was in order and they needed start over again from scratch. They were going to be free one day or die trying.
Guards around him, he waited patiently for the helicopter to fly him over to the island of perpetual scum where he belonged. It was a common occurrence to do if you had as many marks as he did. In the beginning, when he first got shipped out, he dreamed of Kaiba swooping in at the last second, demanding that he'd be let free. But it didn't happen the first time. Nor the second. Or the third. And after the fourth, well, he didn't imagine it anymore. He wasn't that twenty-something kid who believed in miracles or love anymore. Not when the world was fucked if you were of a lower class or you had markings to denote that you were a criminal on sight.
But there was hope for Satellite. That kid that Ushio was talking about... Yusei Fudo... he was popular in the Facility. They believe he can make it to Neo Domino City and take Atlas' crown, putting Satellite back on the map again. Maybe he wouldn't have to do this alone. Maybe he just needed to sit back and let youth save the world this time, if not this city.
His back stiffened in shock at the sound of his name, that voice, and he was afraid to turn and find that his mind was just playing tricks on him. For a moment, he felt like he was twenty again, still bright to the world, still believing in miracles.
"I'll take it from here." The voice said again and the two guards at his side walked off obediently, leaving him staring at nothing but the polluted shore in handcuffs. Katsuya's chest began rising and lowering quickly now because there was no way Seto Kaiba was here.
"A little late aren't you?" Katsuya huffed quietly as Seto met his side, trying his best to act his proper age instead of shivering all over like a teenager. He was sure whatever dignified air he had back in the Facility deflated as soon as Seto made himself known.
"Twenty years late, apparently," Seto said just as quietly, staring at the bit of land that was Satellite.
"Better late than never, I guess." And they stood there watching. The sun began to set on the horizon and the faint sounds of a helicopter loomed ever closer. They were going to be separated again. Like Daedelus Bridge, whatever was between them was old and halfway built, but never connected. Maybe never will again.
As the sounds of a whirling propeller grew louder, Katsuya found himself turning in his cuffs to kiss a pair of lips he was sure he would never have tasted again. It may even be their last. Given the circumstances, Katsuya may never be able to sneak back into Neo Domino again. Not when Ushio personally swore to put his wanted picture all over the borders. Seto, ever famously the frozen statue, made no move, but he relished in the kiss, letting the intensity and allowing the implications of it being initiated in public would show Katsuya instead.
And when Katsuya withdrew he saw those cold blue eyes light up for a moment, flickering with pain before it chilled over again. Perhaps this was another one of his great regrets. Seto may irrevocably be ice cold with both him and Mokuba gone. His brown eyes softened in guilt and he wanted to kiss him again to bring back that light.
Ushio took the moment to grab Katsuya by the arm and lead him to the parked helicopter not too far off. "I'll be back," He told Seto sincerely. "And maybe I'll forgive you."
"Me?" Kaiba's lips curled into a scowl, but his demeanor had changed. It was cocky and proud. It was the Seto Kaiba that Katsuya had known and loved. "That's the other way around, mutt." Still, something in Katsuya's words shifted something in his chest, something he had thought had been gone years ago.
Katsuya smiled, a ghost of his former self. "We'll see about that. I'll be waiting for you, Kaiba. Halfway across Daedalus Bridge. You better be there this time." Ushio snorted loudly until it was a bark of laughter, amused by such an impossible request. And yet, his words were so sincere, Kaiba believed for a moment that it was possible. That maybe, like the bridge, this thing between them could be repaired someday.
And eventually it did.