In hindsight, Kaiba probably should have done a more thorough screening of the landscaping company before he hired them. He should have done background checks, should have double and triple-checked their list of employees to ensure there would be no negative repercussions of giving the company access to the estate. Instead, he’d taken the word of a colleague who’d boasted that his topiary hedges had never looked more pristine, more geometrically accurate since hiring Lower Domino Landscaping. In Kaiba’s defense, he really liked it when his topiary hedges were geometrically accurate, so he, too, hired Lower Domino Landscaping without a second thought to the matter.
So, when he emerged from his bedroom on a beautiful June afternoon and stepped out onto the balcony to bask in the briefest moment of sunshine his work schedule would allow and saw Jounouchi Katsuya, shirtless and in low-slung, torn jeans, hauling a bag of mulch over to the flower beds beneath the balcony, Kaiba was surprised, to put it lightly. He leapt back into his bedroom and slammed the door, heart racing as it pumped adrenaline through his veins. What was Jounouchi doing in his yard? And shirtless, no less?
Suspecting foul play, Kaiba was just about to ring for security to go deal with the problem when he met Roland in the hall, who cheerfully informed him the landscapers had begun work in the gardens today.
So that was it. Jounouchi was employed by the landscapers. Well, wasn’t that just peachy? A whole school year suffered through with Jounouchi Katsuya, only to have him appear during summer break to torment him, as well? Kaiba swore up and down at himself for his negligence, for letting this long-time nuisance so close to his sanctuary. He stalked into his office, still in nothing but his lounging robe, to review the contract he’d signed and see if he could cancel the project or, at the very least, get Jounouchi fired. Unfortunately for Kaiba, the contract did not seem to give him any power over the landscaping company’s staffing decisions, but there was one loophole he could exploit. If, for whatever reason, an employee conducted himself unprofessionally towards the customer, he would be dismissed from the project.
There, now that wouldn’t be so hard to do. Get Jounouchi to act unprofessional? Kaiba wouldn’t even need to reveal himself. He would simply monitor the disagreeable ingrate’s actions from afar and bring the inevitable slip-up to the foreman’s attention.
It was because of this plan that Seto Kaiba spent half of a workday peering out windows and stalking around the manor wielding a pair of binoculars. His morning was consumed with watching Jounouchi out his bedroom window. The blond was re-mulching the flower beds below the balcony, and he was - lamentably - doing a fairly decent job. Kaiba’s eyes tracked Jou’s every movement as he dug out the old mulch with a shovel, back muscles flexing powerfully with every stroke. His sweat glistened in the mid-morning sun, making his skin look shiny and slick. It was just beginning to turn pink, which prompted Kaiba to wonder whether he’d had the foresight to put on any sunscreen. Knowing Jounouchi, he probably had forgotten. The man was forgetful and lazy to a fault. He probably had no semblance of a skincare regimen.
The landscapers quit around noon, when the sun was burning its hottest, and Kaiba finally started in on the project he’d intended to begin hours ago, but the same thing happened to him the next day. He woke up, saw Jounouchi, and got to spying. Kaiba watched from the shade, and Jounouchi worked out in the sun. Still, there were no slip-ups on Jounouchi’s part, but Kaiba stood sentry and took careful watch anyway. Just to be certain.
Kaiba eventually sent Roland to the store for sunscreen.
On the third day of working, Jounouchi was set to the task of pruning back the rose garden, which had become overgrown to the point where the stone path couldn’t even be seen, much less walked on with any degree of safety. Kaiba set himself up under a patio umbrella on the widow’s walk near the top of the manor, looking down on Jounouchi’s progress through his binoculars. Occasionally, Roland would come bearing a fresh glass of lemonade, which Kaiba was always grateful for. It had been unseasonably hot for June so far, and it was almost too hot even under the shade of the umbrella. He was nearly sweating through the very breathable fabric of his summer dress shirt. He could only imagine how unbearable the heat was in the direct sunlight.
Kaiba had a glass sent down for Jounouchi, and he watched with an almost perverted satisfaction as Jounouchi drank it so quickly that some of the icy cold liquid went spilling down his chin onto his sweat-slicked chest. Kaiba licked his lips absently. Jounouchi had yet to put a shirt on during his entire employ, but he did appear to be using the sunscreen, as he showed no further signs of burning. That was good. That was all very good.
Kaiba checked his watch and realized the workers would soon be leaving again for the day. He debated with himself over whether or not he wanted to reveal himself to Jounouchi. After all, he had not given Kaiba any reason to fire him yet. A direct confrontation would be in order. The first insult Jounouchi hurled at him would mean he would be kicked off of the job, never allowed to return to the estate. No more shirtless Jounouchi, parading his well-toned, sweaty body around underneath Kaiba’s bedroom window, grunting his masculine grunts as he lifted heavy bags of mulch and fertilizer and shoveled dirt about the grounds. That would be the desirable outcome, certainly. It was understandable that Seto Kaiba would not want a shirtless and sweaty, albeit aesthetically-pleasing Jounouchi in or around his person. No, just around his person. What? Anyway.
Seto Kaiba had another problem: Mokuba. He’d also been released from school for summer break and was wreaking havoc on the manor. In a desperate attempt to pre-empt some of his little brother’s summer boredom, Kaiba had bought some mathematics workbooks, mail ordered them especially from America, but his genius little brother had finished them all by the second day of vacation. Kaiba was proud, but he was also now stuck with a vessel of energy and nothing to apply it to. Mokuba was like his brother in a lot of ways but not all of them. So, while he was content to sit inside and play video games on some days, he was not content to do that on all of them, least of all beautiful summer days.
It was after the fourth interruption into Seto’s work - actual work because all of his Jou-watching had left him hopelessly behind on approving the PR team’s advertisements for the latest Duel Links patch - that he realized he needed to get some sort of babysitter for Mokuba. And while it was technically Roland’s job description to do whatever Seto Kaiba needed him to do, he wasn’t the world’s most playful person nor the most entertaining. Roland was good for task-driven projects like “get sunscreen” or “fetch the mail” or even “speak to Jounouchi from this angle so I can get a good view of his face”.
It was while Seto Kaiba was pondering this second problem - and taking a break from his work to watch Jounouchi from his office window - that he saw Mokuba idling about in the yard very near to Jounouchi but not so near that he would be seen. Likely, Mokuba did not believe he had permission to interact with Jounouchi, or perhaps he was just being shy. Mokuba had always liked Yuugi and his cohort and gotten along with them well, even Jounouchi, though he had inherited something of a bias from his older brother. It made Kaiba shed a metaphorical tear of pride every time he heard his little brother utter the phrase “third rate duelist”.
Whether it was mere shyness or fear of his brother’s disapproval, Mokuba got over it quickly and approached Jounouchi, who paused in his work on the rose hedges to give Mokuba an enormous smile. The two discussed something with great animation for a moment. Jounouchi gestured towards the hedges with his metal trimmers before - Christ! - handing the trimmers to Mokuba.
Kaiba forced himself to remain calm as he watched his kid brother wield the sharp instrument, snipping experimentally at an overgrown - and quite thorny - vine. His morals were telling him it was deplorable to allow his little brother to get hurt just so he could use it to get Jounouchi fired, but his responsible nature allowed him to rationalize. Mokuba had gotten himself into the situation, had asked to use the sharp trimmers. If he hurt himself, it would be an important lesson.
He did not hurt himself, as it turned out. In fact, he appeared to be having fun with the trimmers. Jounouchi went and got himself another pair, and the two of them snipped away happily together.
Kaiba scowled, turning away from the window. True, this did solve his Mokuba problem, but he rather did not like the idea of Mokuba hanging around with Jounouchi. Still, it didn’t appear he had much of a say in the matter. He didn’t like to be too controlling of Mokuba, when he could help it. If he wanted to spend his summer working for the betterment and beautification of his own backyard alongside the crew Kaiba had hired, well, who was he to stand in the way?
Several hours later, Mokuba came tearing into his office, tracking mud and rose arbor clippings onto the clean carpet and infusing the air with the distinct smells of earth and sweat. “Seto, Seto!” he called happily, “Come down and play with us!”
“You aren’t playing,” Kaiba corrected, “You are doing manual labor.”
“The crew’s leaving for the day,” Mokuba announced, “And I was wondering if, maybe, Katsuya could stay and swim in the pool with us?”
“You mean you. Swim in the pool with you,” Kaiba corrected again, looking up. “You want Jounouchi to stay.”
Mokuba nodded. “I mean us, Seto, you could come, too.”
Kaiba pretended to consider this. While he sometimes chose to enjoy the in-ground pool on particularly hot days, he did not much feel like spending his time with Jounouchi. Being forced to spend his time conducting surveillance on the man was bad enough. “I could, but I won’t.”
“Come on, Seto!” Mokuba whined, “It’ll be fun.”
Kaiba rather doubted that.
“You never play with me,” Mokuba insisted with a dramatic pout, “It’s summer, so we aren’t in school, but I feel like I see you less not more. Come play with me!”
Ah, the old guilt trip. “Mokuba, I play with you plenty.”
“Name one time in the last week,” the boy challenged.
Kaiba did not have to think long or hard. “We played several dungeons together last night.”
“That was a computer game!” Mokuba argued, “You were looking at your monitor, I was looking at mine, and you only talked to me to ask if I wanted to swap loot!”
Okay, Mokuba had him there. “A fair point, conceded. I will join you at the pool, but I won’t be going in.”
“So Katsuya can stay, too?”
“Yes, Jounouchi can stay.”
Mokuba yelled a cheerful “yahoo!” before tearing from the room, presumably to share the good news. Kaiba looked back at his computer, decided to send a few more e-mails and review a few more reports, and then went to his room to change into something more comfortable for outside. Not a bathing suit, obviously, but something more appropriate for being outdoors during the hottest part of the day.
He emerged in a white polo t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts to see Mokuba and Jounouchi splashing around in the water together. It was a sight that made Kaiba smile briefly before covering up the expression in case anyone happened to be looking. Evidently, Roland had repurposed a pair of Kaiba’s swim trunks and let Jounouchi borrow them, for the royal blue drawstring shorts looked awfully familiar to him. He summoned Roland and asked that some lunch be brought to the poolside and then sat down, picking up a book off of a nearby table and opening it up.
“Awh, Kaiba, you’re gonna sit and read on a day like this?” Jounouchi’s brash voice called to him.
Kaiba, expecting Mokuba to come to his defense, said nothing, but when it remained silent, he peered over the top of his book. Jounouchi had his arms folded on the edge of the pool and had propped his head up on them, the rest of his body submerged underwater. “I hope you took a shower before you got in there.”
Jounouchi wrinkled his nose. “Of course I did. Mokuba and I were both pretty gross from workin’, huh, kid?”
Mokuba, who had been preparing to do a cannonball, yelled another happy “yahoo!” and jumped, sending a wall of water splashing around in all directions, including towards Kaiba. Though he didn’t get wet, it got a little too close for comfort, and he stood to move his chair back a few paces.
“Awh, c’mon, Kaiba, have fun a little,” Jou teased. He pushed off the wall of the pool with his feet and began to paddle around. “School’s out. You should be enjoying yourself.”
“Says the guy who was also working all morning,” Kaiba retaliated, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, but now I’m not, see?” Jou spread his arms wide and began to float on top of the water.
Mokuba saw his chance, leaping onto Jou with a hollering cry and plunged them both down under the water. They emerged, laughing and spluttering and splashing each other.
Kaiba admitted privately, to himself, that it did look like they were having fun.
Soon enough, Roland brought out a tray of sandwiches, crust off the way Mokuba insisted, and a pitcher of iced tea. Mokuba and Jounouchi hauled themselves out of the pool and sat down at the table to eat. They were soaking wet, and they dripped pool water all over the sandwiches. Kaiba wrinkled his nose but took one anyway.
“So, Katsuya, how come you’re working for the lawn people?” Mokuba asked. “Why would you want to work during the summer?”
“I guess I don’t mind,” Jounouchi said with a shrug, “It’s not like it’s hard work or anything. Those rose bushes of yours are a pain, though. When’s the last time anyone cut them back?”
Kaiba admired the graceful way Jounouchi skated around the fact that he had to work. Mokuba was young, and though they’d both had an incredibly hard life in the orphanage, Mokuba had been almost too young to really remember most of it. Under Gozaburo, they hadn’t had to do any work aside from studying - which was almost entirely Kaiba’s burden anyway. Kaiba was glad to have been able to give Mokuba a mostly privileged upbringing, but he would have to have a talk with him about Jounouchi’s situation so he would be more sensitive in the future.
Huh. Seto Kaiba, wanting someone to be sensitive to Jounouchi. Considering how many times Kaiba had mocked Jounouchi for his lowly status, that was fairly hypocritical of him.
“Yeah, but,” Mokuba pressed, “I wouldn’t be working on someone else’s yard if I didn’t have to.”
Kaiba flinched at his little brother’s smug tone.
“Well, y’have to consider,” Jounouchi said with patience, still sounding upbeat, “That some people have to.”
“Oh, how come? Doesn’t your dad give you an allowance?”
Kaiba didn’t miss Jounouchi’s wince at the mention of his father. “Nah, he would if he could, though,” Jounouchi said with a shrug. “You gotta make do with what you have.”
“I guess so. Uh, sorry for bringing it up,” Mokuba apologized awkwardly.
“S’fine,” Jounouchi said easily.
“I’m gonna go back in the pool, so, uh, catch you there!” Mokuba said, still sounding embarrassed. He stood and left, leaping into the pool without a backwards glance.
Jounouchi stifled a laugh. “He’s a nice kid, Kaiba.”
Kaiba nodded. “Thank you for entertaining him today. It helped me out a lot.”
“Well, I wouldn’t’ve done it if I’d known that!” Jounouchi said with another laugh, “Jokin’ aside, why don’t you play with the kid yourself?”
“I don’t have time to,” Kaiba insisted, “I’m very busy with several Kaiba Corp. projects.”
“No time for your own brother? That’s cold, Kaiba, even for you.”
Kaiba’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t presume to pass judgement on me Jounouchi. Have you forgotten you work for me?”
Jounouchi smirked, but the expression looked odd on his face. “I don’t work for you, smartass.”
“I’m your boss’s boss, idiot, so don’t trifle with me.”
Jounouchi shrugged. “Whatever you say, man.”
That was odd. Jounouchi usually never failed to rise to an argument.
“Listen, I’m gonna go back to hangin’ out with Mokuba, but this was, uh, fun,” Jounouchi said mockingly, rising from his chair.
Kaiba watched Jounouchi go. He watched the muscles in Jounouchi’s back shift as he walked, the way his shoulders swayed a bit with his stride. He watched those narrow hips carried a well-muscled frame over to the pool’s edge. Jounouchi bent at the knees, the fabric of the swimsuit going tight as he crouched and then leaped into the air, strong arms wrapped around his knees as he executed a cannonball. Water shot up and out, and Mokuba exploded with laughter as it reached Kaiba and drenched his shorts.
There was something unmistakably different about Jounouchi, that was for certain. In every other interaction, Jounouchi never failed to hurl insults back at Kaiba when they started in on each other. Their screaming matches were the stuff of legend at their school, and though Yuugi was his true rival when it came to games, Jounouchi was unmistakably his greatest antagonist. They just loved fighting with one another. So why wasn’t Jounouchi fighting with him now? The man seemed almost mellow, which was definitely uncharacteristic of him. He was easy with his words and mannerisms, answering Mokuba’s awkward questions with uncommon grace. It was just so unlike Jounouchi.
Kaiba got his answer a week and a half later, when Mokuba invited Jounouchi and the entire gang of weirdos to the estate for another pool party. Honda and Jounouchi were engaging Mokuba in some kind of keepaway game with a beach ball while Anzu yelled encouragements to Mokuba from her position seated by the water’s edge. Kaiba had taken Yuugi aside to show him his latest project, to brag about the new tech and to prove himself the superior mind but mostly to find out whether he would be interested in playing in the tournament Kaiba Corp. would be holding to unveil the new discs. They had just finished up discussing the merits of the upgraded holograms and faster drawing feature when Yuugi said, “Thank you for being so nice to Katsuya.”
Him? Nice to Jounouchi? The nerve of Mutou Yuugi, to suggest such a thing!
“Things have been really hard for him, with the whole thing and his new living situation and all.”
Yuugi furrowed his brows. “Did you not know? Katsuya lives alone now. He turned eighteen, and his dad kicked him out of their apartment.”
“Why would I know a thing like that?”
“I just thought,” Yuugi started, then trailed off, “Never mind, I guess. Still, it’s nice of you to have hired the company he works for. Since they got that contract with you, Jou’s been able to afford a lot more things he needs now. Me and Gramps were helping him out, but, well, he likes to not have to rely on us.”
Kaiba nodded dumbly. “Of course.”
“He’s just been so different lately, Kaiba.” Yuugi paused in the doorway to the backyard, hesitating to go back outside. “We’ve all been worried, but things seem to be going okay for him. And somehow, I feel like you’re a part of that, so thank you.”
Yuugi then went to rejoin his friends, leaving Kaiba standing there feeling like a complete idiot. Of course, he’d known Jounouchi had recently turned eighteen, he had dossiers on every major Duel Monsters player in the country. And he’d also known Jounouchi’s life was rough. There were little tells, like how he only had two sets of school uniforms. One set was worn out in the elbows and knees, an old, probably hand-me-down set from his friend Honda. The other set was much newer, but it had a small tear on the left sleeve that Anzu had sewn back together poorly. Jounouchi was always careful with them, keeping them clean so no one would suspect, but Kaiba noticed these details. Then, there was the matter of Jounouchi’s school supplies. For an academic slouch, he took very special care of his pens, notebooks, and his backpack. People who didn’t have much tended to be extra careful with things that would be a hassle to replace. Then there was the past activity with the gang that everybody kind of knew about but seldom spoke of. Still, Kaiba had his ways of finding things out, even if he hadn’t been in school with them during that time.
Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, no one lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the worst avenue in Domino for the fun of it.
But Kaiba would never have suspected that Jounouchi’s father would turn him out of the house. A hard life did not necessarily indicate a poor home life, but it certainly wasn’t a stretch to imagine. Jounouchi had gotten this landscaping job, then, to pay the rent he was suddenly responsible for. Kaiba knew it wasn’t really his business, knew he shouldn’t be allowing himself to care, but when he looked out at the pool and saw how careful Jounouchi was to include Mokuba in his game with Honda, to pick on him just as much - no more and no less - than his other friends, to make Kaiba’s little brother feel like one of the gang (even if it wasn’t a gang Kaiba particularly liked), well, how could he help but feel gratitude towards that person? Kaiba resolved to have a talk with Jounouchi about his situation.
He got his chance a few days later, a Thursday, when the landscaping crew came in to work. It was one of the last days they would be working, the grounds nearing completion, and Mokuba had been bemoaning the loss of his friend and daily summer entertainment all morning. Kaiba himself had been bemoaning the loss of his entertaining - yet deeply embarrassing and completely secret - hobby of watching Jounouchi engage in manual labor shirtless. He’d taken a good, hard look at himself and his choices when Mokuba, just a day ago, had innocently asked why Kaiba spent so much time sitting and staring at Jounouchi. If he wanted to play, too, all he had to do was ask! Kaiba had easily concealed his mortification, but it had forced him to acknowledge several things about himself:
First, he was no longer waiting for Jounouchi to slip up, but rather watching him for pure appreciation of aesthetics.
Second, digging holes with a shovel and hauling heavy bags of mulch and fertilizer was incredibly beneficial for the development of upper-back, shoulder, and bicep muscles.
Third, he did not want Jounouchi to leave.
It had been a long night of pondering, then drinking upon his realizations, but Kaiba had come to terms with his current Jounouchi-obsession eventually. It was a strange concept, but Kaiba managed to find a way to put it in terms his brain could accept. Though Yuugi would always be his rival, Jounouchi lit a different kind of flame within him. With Yuugi, he was passionate about the game, strategy, and proving himself a superior duelist. With Jounouchi, his passions always angled towards getting an emotional rise out of him and now - apparently - towards a physical rise, as well. The shift from negative to positive was made with much cognitive kicking and screaming, but it was made nonetheless, and so it was that Seto Kaiba reconciled his crush on Jounouchi Katsuya and formulated a plan to keep him around.
“Jounouchi,” Kaiba called out, crossing the grounds swiftly to meet the man underneath the relative shade of the large tree he was presently pruning. “A word?”
Jounouchi climbed down from the ladder he’d been standing on, dropping his trimmers and wiping his hands on his jeans. Kaiba followed the action, tracing with his eyes the briefest the slight outline of a bulge against the fabric. When Jounouchi had begun work, the jeans had been loose-fitting, but either they’d shrunk or he’d grown, because they were almost obscenely tight now. “What’s up, Kaiba?”
“The project is set to be completed by the end of today,” Kaiba said a bit unnecessarily. Surely, Jounouchi knew his own work schedule, yet now Kaiba found himself to be just a little bit nervous, standing so close to Jounouchi. He smelled like sweat and grass and masculinity but mostly like sweat, and Kaiba did not mind in the slightest. Something inside him thrilled at the sight of Jounouchi’s dirty, calloused hands and his deeply tanned skin. From this close, Kaiba could see freckles on Jounouchi’s face and shoulders, likely from the sun. The freckles on his shoulders were numerous and dark, little spots of dark brown against the lighter brown of his tan. Seto’s tongue felt heavy in his mouth as he continued to speak, “This will be your last day of work here, yet I find myself with another job opening, and I wonder if you’d be perhaps interested in it?”
“What kinda job?” Jounouchi asked, sliding his hands into his back pockets in a posture of nonchalance, “More maintenance stuff?”
Kaiba’s heart throbbed in his chest. “I need someone to continue watching Mokuba this summer while I’m working. Take him into town, make sure he’s keeping up with his summer studies, feed him regular meals that aren’t just endless take-out bags from Burger World.” He paused, gathering his courage. “I don’t trust just anyone with his care.”
Jounouchi frowned. “Those things all sound like the kind of stuff a big brother should be doing, Kaiba.”
How to make him see? How to make him see? “I may be able to accompany you on some of the outings, but my schedule is unpredictable. And Mokuba seems to like you.”
Jounouchi looked unimpressed. “Did Yuugi talk to you?”
“What do you mean?”
Jounouchi shook his head. “I don’t need charity, Kaiba. If you’re inventing some fake job just to help me out, thanks but no thanks.”
Kaiba scowled. “Does that sound like something I would do?”
“No, yet here you are.”
“Listen, it’s not a job I’ve invented.” Kaiba pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers delicately, as if warding off a headache. “Mutou told me about your current situation, yes, but it’s pure coincidence. I need someone to watch Mokuba, and he likes you. Your financial situation means nothing to me.”
Jounouchi seemed to mull this over. “What does it pay?”
Kaiba huffed in exasperation. “I don’t know, I-,”
“Ah-hah!” Jounouchi cried, ramming an accusing finger into Kaiba’s sternum, “You did just make this job up for me. Kaiba, what the hell?”
“I haven’t had time to think about that yet!” Kaiba yelled back, throwing his arms out wide. “We’ll have to negotiate it!”
“Listen, man,” Jounouchi said, voice quieter and more calm now, “I know what you think of me. You’ve got this superiority thing goin’ on, and you love makin’ me look like an asshole. Don’t bring your little brother into this shit. This is between us.”
“I’ll pay you whatever you want,” Kaiba pressed on, not acknowledging Jounouchi’s protests, “We’ll draw up the paperwork first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Did ya not hear me, Kaiba? I said it isn’t happenin’.”
Kaiba took a long, audible breath, then exhaled slowly. “Please.”
Jounouchi was stunned into silence, lips parted slightly as his next retort died on his tongue.
“Please do this for me,” Kaiba continued, sullenly and in staunch defiance of his screeching pride, “I want to help, but I also need the help with my brother.”
Jounouchi’s eyebrows raised.
“He’s-,” Kaiba paused, finding the words hard to select, “He needs someone, a role model, in his life who’s more-,” another pause, “compassionate. And he can’t spend his entire summer waiting for me to be a fun brother because it won’t happen.”
Jounouchi was silent for a long moment as he sized Kaiba up. Then, “You’re serious?”
Kaiba nodded, feeling more exposed than he had ever been in his adult life. But Mutou and Mazaki were always prattling on about and extolling the virtues of honesty and openness, so he figured this route was his best bet with Jounouchi. It was a purely strategic move, not at all something he actually enjoyed or gained pleasure from. And there was no imaginary, emotional weight removed from his chest when Jounouchi finally nodded his acceptance.
“Alright, Kaiba, you got yourself a deal.”
Seto Kaiba was a man of few emotions, generally speaking. He was relieved, certainly, at finally having solved his Mokuba problem. He could also admit he felt relief at also having succeeded in keeping Jounouchi Katsuya on his payroll for a little while longer. But when he held his hand out to shake Jounouchi’s, a second emotion entered the mix as Jounouchi’s warm hand clasped his. Kaiba felt rough calluses caress his own, soft skin, and a thrill of excitement shot straight down his spine. Jounouchi must have felt something, too, as he did not let go of Kaiba’s hand, not for a good, long moment. The two men stood there, effectively holding hands under the shade of the tree, and Kaiba found that his mind had gone rather blank. All he could process was the sensory information: the warmth of the air, the smell of Jounouchi’s skin, and the steady hand touching his.